Useful Tips from 12 Successful Creative Business Owners | Natasha Denness Coaching | natashadenness.co.uk (Photo of an office flat lay)

Creative business owners

Stepping into the world of self-employment is exciting and challenging in equal measure. When you’re a one man/woman band it’s your job to oversee everything, from the business accounts to the marketing strategy. There can be a lot to juggle and for many of us, it’s a steep learning curve.

Today I’m sharing 12 tips and words of wisdom from a few creative business owners including friends, local entrepreneurs plus a few former colleagues and clients. I thought it would be interesting to find out what advice they’d give themselves if they were just starting out – the things they wish someone had told them!

Useful Tips from 12 Successful Creative Business Owners | Natasha Denness Coaching | natashadenness.co.uk (Photo of an office flat lay)

‘My tip is to write a business plan. It doesn’t have to be strict or stuffy or full of formal language, it can be written in your tone, and in your style. A business plan is for you, to encourage you to do one thing at a time and to move at a pace that is comfortable and achievable for you. When I started my photography business I was pregnant and a full-time mum and so I knew I needed to move slowly! It’s super exciting running your own business and your head is always exploding with new and exciting ideas, but at the same time, you are required to be an accountant, marketer, blogger, social media expert, designer, website developer etc. So your ideas need the appropriate amount of time otherwise you’ll find yourself being overwhelmed.’

Philippa James, Wedding Photographer
(Self-employed for 20 years)

• • •

‘The idea of not having a steady income can be very daunting at first. My advice is to try not to panic, get good at what you do and do it to the very best of your ability. The universe will provide the rest. It’s also a good idea to have built up some contacts and to be fairly confident with what you will be working on first. You’ll never stop learning and the freelance world constantly pushes your boundaries of knowledge within your field. It’s given me a wide variety of work experience which I couldn’t quite have replicated in a more ‘traditional’ position. The best part of working freelance is you can structure your work around your life and how you want to spend your time. It’s certainly taken me on some weird and wonderful journeys!’

Andy Evans, Video Director and Editor
(Self-employed for 19 years)

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‘Always remember how much your individual skills, personality and creativity is worth. Don’t undersell yourself or your price, stick to your guns and if something doesn’t work, always remember something else will come along. People respect you when you stand up for what you believe in.’

Matthew Spade, Blogger and Content Creator at Buckets and Spades
(Self-employed for six years)

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‘The two things I would tell any aspiring new entrepreneur would be: Create a company ethos and stick to it. You need to figure out why you are setting your company up – is it to help people, to fill a gap in the market, to create something new? Think about how you want your business to make you feel, how you want to treat customers/suppliers/contacts. Set the ethos and always refer back to it, it will keep you grounded and ensure you remain on the right track as the business grows. And don’t do everything yourself. It’s hard to be a one man/woman band but it can be just as difficult to have a business partner who may not share your views. Tap into freelancers and independent experts to help guide you on your way. Ask for advice and take it all on board! If you don’t understand something, keep asking questions until it makes sense.’

Judy Berger, Owner/Director of Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair, the Vintage Kilo Sale and the Vintage Furniture Flea
(Self-employed for 13 years)

Useful Tips from 12 Successful Creative Business Owners | Natasha Denness Coaching | natashadenness.co.uk (Photo of an office flat lay)

‘It’s important not to get isolated if you are working from home, so make an effort to find a supportive group of like-minded people, who are engaged in pursuing the same goal. This will be invaluable when you need to ask for advice and brainstorm ideas. It doesn’t matter if they are near you physically, or it’s a group that meets virtually, as long as you have that kind of interaction with people who understand what you are trying to do. It’s so important for moral support and practical advice as well.’

Julie-Anne Graham, Author and Illustrator and Breakthrough to Love Coach
(Self-employed for 13 years)

• • •

‘Acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses and outsource any areas that you really struggle with. In my case, accounting. No-one is good at everything and the sooner you let go of the pressure to be perfect, the better.’

Carina Martin, Senior Copywriter and Screenwriter
(Self-employed for eight years)

• • •

‘Be clear about your finances. It’s a big jump to go from a regular salary to paying yourself and as a creative, it wasn’t something that was top of my to-do list. All businesses have peaks and troughs but you need to keep a check on these and not lose sight of your finances when very busy. By making sure you keep an eye on any dry patches that may be coming up you will be able to plan for them and perhaps do a little more networking/advertising to bring in new work.’

Lauren Gilberthorpe, Interior Designer at Lauren Gilberthorpe Interiors
(Self-employed for three years)

• • •

‘Collaboration is king! As a business owner, it gives you the opportunity to add strength and power to your business. Working with and supporting others helps with a whole range of things from business promotion to planning. We should embrace the people who do the same or similar work to us because together we are stronger.’

Chaz Snell, Business Owner and Commercial Photographer at The Plastic Goldfish Company
(Self-employed for 15 years)

Useful Tips from 12 Successful Creative Business Owners | Natasha Denness Coaching | natashadenness.co.uk (Photo of an office flat lay)

‘Make sure clients are a good fit with your values and creativity. Try not to compromise this if you can. You’re known for your actions and what you do; so do the work you want to be known for. And don’t compare yourself to others. Your start might be their middle.’

Susan Earlam, Writer and Blogger
(Self-employed for five years)

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‘My tip is an oldie but a goodie. Networking. Social media is great for building your brand awareness and customer engagement, but if you want to build meaningful relationships that lead to sales opportunities, good old fashioned networking is a great way to do this. There are many ways to do this without having to attend stuffy corporate events. Check out Instagram to see if there are any Instameets in your area, or search for photo walks and relaxed networking events on Meet Up. Another great opportunity to meet people locally is to attend training courses and workshops. Primarily you are investing in your own personal development, but generally, these events are a great way to build connections with other businesses which could lead to potential collaborations, marketing or business referrals. It’s great to make connections with other freelancers, or small business owners, for these reasons, and also offers you the opportunity to have a sounding board for ideas, frustrations and could even keep you accountable to your ‘To Do’ list, which is never a bad thing!’

Rosie Jacobs, Co-Founder of Independent Oxford and Owner of A Rosie Life
(Self-employed for five years)

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‘When it comes to working with clients, always ensure both parties are happy with the price and don’t just try getting the most you can. The money side of the business, that can sometimes feel awkward or touchy, should be open and easy to chat through. I always say to my clients ‘I want you to be happy with the price, so do tell me if it this feels too much.’ It just forms a much better understanding and relationship with the client. They hardly ever go down on the price, and if so you can explain your reasoning and thus up-sell yourself and skills at the same time.’

Nick Wilkins, Full Stack Developer at Nick Wilkins Ltd
(Self-employed for 15 years)

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‘Having a bit of a schedule for my week helps me out a lot and I plan my content at least 6-8 weeks ahead. I always allow some flexibility but one of the things I’ve changed that has had the biggest impact is the way I weight my week. Essentially, I will heavily schedule Monday to Wednesday and then Thursday and Friday are my catch up days. I also group my days so that I’m working on similar things throughout the day. Bulk working allows me to have a certain mindset so I can concentrate on one type of work at a time. I also find I work best in terms of things that take a higher level of concentration (so researching, writing) in the morning. If I wait until the afternoon to do these things, I struggle. So getting to know when you work your best – either morning or afternoon – will make it so much easier in terms of when to schedule specific tasks.’

Kimberly Duran, Interiors Blogger and Content Marketer at Swoon Worthy
(Self-employed for three years)

Useful Tips from 12 Successful Creative Business Owners | Natasha Denness Coaching | natashadenness.co.uk (Photo of plants and magazines)

Grow and evolve

A huge thank you to everyone who shared their tips. It was lovely to have so many words of wisdom arrive in my inbox and I was amazed there weren’t any overlaps!

If I were to go back to 2015 when I was just starting out, I would tell myself to make plans but at the same time remain open to opportunities as they arise. These might be through business connections or simply the direction the work and business are moving in. Things will grow and evolve, and it’s wise to trust your heart/gut/intuition, listen to your customers and go with the flow. I must admit the uncertainty of freelance life keeps me on my toes, but the creative freedom far outweighs the fear!

Further reading

How to build a harmonious week as a freelance creative
Six simple ways to nurture your creativity

Please feel free to share your tips in the comments. Thank you for stopping by, I hope you have a beautiful and inspiring day!