Becoming a creative entrepreneur can feel like a wild journey into the unknown. Bouncing between the highs and lows, to say entrepreneurship is an unpredictable road would be an understatement.
From gaining a deep understanding of your target market to pricing yourself for long-term profitability, you need to focus on building the rock-solid foundations your business needs to thrive. Aside from nursing an obsession with growing your biz knowledge, it’s just as essential to nurture your entrepreneurial mindset and engage in meaningful networking with other creatives.
Whether you’re a freelance graphic designer, social media specialist, wedding planner, or anything in between, we’ll uncover the 11 common mistakes creative entrepreneurs often make in business (and how to avoid them!)
One of the biggest mistakes a creative entrepreneur can make is not conducting thorough market research, to understand the gaps and opportunities, before launching their business.
In order to figure out the ‘how’ in your business strategy, you first need to map out the major Ws:
Gaining a deep understanding of your target audience, competition, and supply/ demand market trends will help you with creating a viable solution that solves your audience’s problem.
To gather the initial data and insights, you can lean on online tools like Google Trends, social media analytics, and industry reports. You can join relevant Facebook networking groups and start conversations to gain additional feedback.
Hot tip: If you’ve identified your top competitors or have businesses you aspire to be like, you can snoop on their paid social advertising activity via Meta’s Ad Library tool. Better yet, start building meaningful connections with the current movers and shakers in your industry and learn from them!
Aside from upskilling in your craft, you need to have a well-defined business plan that can serve as a roadmap to guide your business’s trajectory.
Preparing you for the road ahead and keeping you on track, your roadmap should include your short and long-term business goals, marketing strategies, financial projections, and sales targets.
By doing so, you’ll be able to break down the bigger picture into smaller 90-day goals and make steady progress on an actionable list of to-dos, rather than “winging it” as you go.
Building a strong brand and effective marketing strategy is crucial for any creative business venture. Many creative entrepreneurs underestimate the importance of branding and marketing, resulting in poor visibility, limited customer reach and lack of desirability.
If you want your audience to pay attention, you need to build a strong brand story that connects with your audience and inspires them to take action. I highly recommend that you read Donald Miller’s bestselling book ‘Building a Story Brand’ to dive deeper into how you can clarify your brand vision and message.
Besides establishing an irresistible brand, you should also develop a consistent marketing strategy to expand your audience and further your reach. This includes your social media strategy, content creation, email marketing, and networking to actively promote your business and attract new customers.
Whether it’s a lack of market research or a classic case of imposter syndrome, many creative entrepreneurs struggle with their pricing. If you undervalue your products or services, you’ll be faced with low profitability which will make it harder for you to create sustainable income in the long run.
As creatives, we’re often fighting the battle of “charging your worth”. You come up with a number in your head and then you start doubting yourself…
“I’m new to business.”
“I still need to refine my skills.”
“I’m not as good as X and Y.”
Whatever it is, you start comparing yourself with others and downplaying your value. So you subtract from your prices to compensate until you “feel ready” to charge more and end up discounting your so-called worth.
But what if you added that subtracted value back into your prices as self-worth interest or self-kindness tax? Add that 10 or 20% back onto it, believe in yourself and commit to proving your worth.
While you’ll want to be aware of how much others are charging, price-matching the competition isn’t necessarily the best way to go. People pay you based on the value they perceive. For example, if it only takes you 3 hours to create what someone else might take 6 hours to do, charge the 6 hours. If your quality of work reflects 5 years of experience even if you’ve only been doing it for 2 years, charge the 5 years.
Don’t let others or your self-limiting beliefs define your worth. Know your true worth, educate your value and show the world what you’re made of.
Hot tip: Make it a habit to regularly track your expenses and revenue to ensure that you are operating with healthy profit margins and meeting your financial goals.
Yes, creativity can thrive in chaos, BUT running a successful business requires streamlined systems and processes.
Many creative entrepreneurs fail to put the appropriate workflows and systems in place, which can lead to missed deadlines, miscommunication, inefficiencies, customer dissatisfaction, and a lack of work-life balance.
Time is your most valuable resource! Plus, if you’re constantly running behind and feeling overwhelmed, your creativity will suffer and you’ll end up burning out.
From client communications to project management, you’ll want to establish clear workflows and systems to improve your productivity and professionalism. Even if you already have existing processes in place, it’s important to regularly review your workflow and reflect on what’s working and what’s not so you can keep working in alignment with your goals.
Don’t hide, I CAN SEE YOU. Yes, you, you solopreneur and serial hat juggler.
As a creative entrepreneur, I can’t emphasise how critical it is to embrace the fact that you DON’T have to try and do everything by yourself. And that it’s okay not to be an expert on everything.
We all have a unique set of strengths and weaknesses. Using your strengths as a superpower, double down your time and energy in your zone of genius. Then decide if the opportunity cost is worth upskilling in your weak areas or if you’re better off outsourcing those gaps to an expert.
Identify tasks that can be outsourced or delegated, such as administrative work, social media management, copywriting, or graphic design, and consider hiring freelancers or virtual assistants to support you. This will free up your time and allow you to focus on your core creative work and the areas that light you up.
Building a successful business isn’t just about what you have to offer. It’s also about making a continued effort to earn your customers’ trust and support.
Truth bomb: You are NOT entitled to your customers’ hard-earned money or loyalty. You need to work to deserve it.
Every client that chooses to invest in you is a PRIVILEGE. Honour their journey and remember that wherever you go, you’re leaving a trail of PR footprints – so make those footprints f*cking big and impactful!!
From sending regular updates to requesting constructive feedback, putting the work in to foster strong relationships with your customers plays a huge role in your business’s long-term success.
If you’re ever in doubt about how your business is performing or want to identify new gaps and opportunities, rely on the resource and source of truth that’s right in front of you – your customers! Don’t be afraid to ask them what they’re looking for and how you can better serve them.
Often focusing solely on their talents, creative entrepreneurs tend to neglect their professional development. However, in today’s ever-competitive market, it’s essential for us to continually invest in our learning and skill development to stay ahead of the curve.
There are many ways to invest in your professional development including, but not limited to:
Without anyone to “report to”, it’s up to you to stay on top of your professional development so you can keep growing your business and better serving your customers.
Your “why” serves as your guiding star, providing you with clarity, motivation, and direction throughout your entrepreneurial journey.
Entrepreneurship can be challenging, and setbacks and obstacles are inevitable. However, when you have a clear understanding of your ‘why’, you’ll be able to intentionally align your time, energy and efforts with your big goals. It helps you to zero in on what truly matters, rather than getting caught up in the tempting trap of mindless busyness.
As a creative entrepreneur, you’ll also often face numerous decisions, both big and small, that can impact your business. When you have a clear ‘why’, it becomes easier to make strategic decisions that feed your vision and purpose. Focused on moving the needle closer to your objectives, you’re less likely to get distracted or make impulsive decisions that don’t serve your ‘why’.
The more you lean into your truth, the more you’ll be able to show up and create impact. The more you’ll be able to view your business objectively and not let your emotions deter you from making those big, scary, and bold leaps.
Have you stopped having fun in order to grow your biz? Do you catch yourself obsessively checking your inbox and thinking about your business day and night?
Just because you’re a creative entrepreneur doesn’t mean that you need to have your shit together 24/7 and that you can’t “waste” your time on things that don’t directly contribute to your business’s success.
When your biz is doing well, you feel like you’re on top of the world.
But when it isn’t doing so well, you feel like a failure or worthless.
News flash: Your identity and self-worth should never be tied to your business’s success (or lack of).
I want you to make these statements your everyday mantra:
You didn’t leave the safety of your 9-5 job to create a business that doesn’t serve you or takes all the fun out of your life. If you’re not showing up for yourself as your #1 priority, how can you show up wholeheartedly for your clients?
You are in 100000% control of your business and life. Don’t let your biz control how you choose to live and show up for yourself.
If something’s not quite working or you’ve hit a bit of a slump, don’t panic. It’s a chance for you to review your priorities and backend processes to make improvements!
You never want your biz to be “perfect” otherwise you wouldn’t get the opportunity to grow.
The more you break things down, the more you’ll be able to rationalise and make sense of what’s going on – to minimalise the “f*cking kill me now” overwhelm. There’s ALWAYS a solution.
You just need to build the bridge between the problem and the solution, then cross the bridge one step at a time. It’s not about how quickly you can run to the other side, it’s about putting one foot in front of the other.
Remember, building a successful business takes time, effort, and perseverance. Don’t be afraid to seek help from mentors or others who can provide guidance and support along the way.
Stay committed to continuous improvement and learning, and never stop nurturing your mindset. Be kind to yourself, believe in yourself and become your own biggest cheerleader.
With the right mindset and strategic approach, you’ll set yourself up to thrive, turning your passion into tangible profit.