How to Manage (and Master) Your Creative Business So it THRIVES!

Managing a creative business can be both exciting and challenging.

You're the boss, and you get to pursue your passion and create something incredible. However, succeeding in the competitive creative industry requires discipline, hard work, and smart strategies.

But HOW can you take control of your business, master your skills, and stand out from the crowd?

In my 13-year-old design studio (and a few more years spent freelancing), I've found several ingredients are required to manage a business well AND receive the freedom, ease, and income I want.

It boils down to mastering your business for efficiency—doing high-quality work in less time. 

Building out each ingredient step-by-step provides consistent monthly income and delighted clients who keep returning and referring me to others. Since attracting high-quality clients is baked into my strategy, I get to schedule projects around my life and be in control of my days, which feels pretty great! 

The 6 in
gredients working together, I call the Project Success Cycle, and it looks like this:


When all of these pieces of your business work together, they feed one another to create stellar projects and build a high-quality and successful long-term business strategy.

We build out all of the 6 pillars step-by-step in my signature program, Behind Design (here, if you want to learn more), but in a nutshell, here are some ways to start so you know exactly what to focus on:

1. Define your vision, values, and goals
It's essential to understand what you're aiming for and why. Take some time to think about your long-term vision and values, and set goals that align with them. These goals could include financial targets, client acquisition goals, or personal development milestones. Having a clear direction will help you stay focused and motivated.

For example, I prefer to keep my business small and focus on a core group of high-quality clients to meet most of my revenue needs. I find this gives me the best chance at earning good money while still having the freedom to live a life I love.

2. Establish clear, simple processes
Developing clear processes for every aspect of your business is crucial to ensure high quality, consistency, and efficiency. From client onboarding to project delivery and invoicing, document these processes to streamline your workflow. TIP: Create processes as you do the work so this doesn't feel daunting, and don't worry about making them perfect immediately. They will evolve with your business.

3. Know your (work's) worth
One of the biggest challenges for creative professionals is pricing their work because there are no "rules." However, understanding the value you bring to your clients and communicating your pricing confidently and transparently is essential. Your messaging and the energy with which you interact should clearly display the value of your services and expertise. You deserve to be paid fairly for your skills and talents. If you show up confidently and unapologetically with your skills, expertise, and pricing, projects pretty much sell themselves.

4. Cultivate client relationships
Building strong, long-term relationships with your clients is essential for business growth. Listen to their needs, communicate effectively, and exceed their expectations. Regularly check in with your clients to gather feedback and address any concerns. Think about where each customer might be in their business journey and offer appropriate additional services to help them move forward and strengthen your partnerships.

5. Manage your finances
Managing your finances effectively is critical for the success of your business. Keep track of your income, expenses, and cash flow. Use accounting software or hire a professional accountant to help you stay on top of your finances. Set aside funds for taxes, savings, and emergencies. Create a budget and stick to it to avoid financial stress and uncertainty. Keep expenses very lean for the first few years so you can further avoid that stress. The niceties can come later as you build predictable revenue.

6. Develop your marketing and sales strategies
Marketing and sales are crucial aspects of any business and can be tough for creatives to embrace.

  • Clients needing creative work are typically found through word of mouth, so it's important first to identify your dream clients and those for whom your skills are best suited. Understand their needs and pain points and how you can help them with your specific skills and areas of expertise.
  • Next, network as much as possible—with clients, former coworkers, friends, family, professional contacts such as vendors—anyone you can think of. Some creatives have great results using social media, email marketing, blogging, and more. Still, please know that these methods are typically a long game. Unless you LOVE creating content and you're willing to invest a lot of time, I suggest staying focused on faster methods of directly reaching potential clients.   
  • Develop your brand identity and ensure you have some type of online presence—a website, portfolio site, or comprehensive profile on LinkedIn. You can improve your presence over time, but most people will check out your online presence before contacting you, so make sure they can find something about you that looks professional.
  • Ensure they can contact you quickly: a form, an email address, and/or a phone number.

7. Time and project management
This one is more important than most realize. Efficient time management and task prioritization are essential but often a mystery to many creatives (I've been there!). Use project management tools or techniques such as time blocking, the Pomodoro Technique, and task batching to organize your workflow and stay on track. Set realistic project deadlines and break them down into smaller, manageable tasks. Monitor your progress and make adjustments as needed to ensure timely completion. Learn how to kindly navigate ups and downs with clients during a project while still adhering to your boundaries and policies. PRO TIP: Always give yourself (and your client) more time than you think you'll need.

8. Self-care
Working hard is fun and energizing until it isn't. Running a business can be stressful, so taking care of your physical and mental well-being is crucial. Prioritize self-care activities such as exercise, meditation, and hobbies. Set boundaries between work and personal life to prevent burnout. Schedule regular breaks and vacations to recharge and rejuvenate. Consider hiring a VA for a few hours a week. Remember, your health and well-being are as important as your business success!

Managing and truly mastering your creative business so you can enjoy freedom and fulfillment requires dedication and continuous learning. But all you really need to start is a commitment to working ON your business.

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