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7 steps to build your creative arts business


Over the years I’ve worked with thousands of creatives. Some were private coaching clients, some came to my Creative Arts Business Summit, some belong to our ICAP Members’ Studio, some attended my classes and lectures, some learned from the magazines I published, and some learned from what I shared in this blog and online.

Regardless of how someone has learned from me, they were introduced to one or more elements of my CREATE! system. This system is how I grew my creative arts business. I go back to it again and again as my business changes.

C = Clarity

What’s clarity got to do with it? Clarity sets the foundation for your business. If you are not clear about where you want to go, what you want to make, who you are trying to serve, etc., you will just not be as successful as you could be. You don’t have to wait until you’re clear on everything to get started, just that as you become clearer and clearer your path becomes easier.

You probably already spent some time deciding you want to create a business from your creative passion. If you are still working with what kind of career you want in the creative arts arena, you might try making a vision board or keeping a journal.

Starting with the end in mind helps you work to get clearer on the aspects that make up that vision, your business. You’ll have lots of questions to answer to help you get clarity.

So where do you start? I like going back to the questions I used to ask as a working journalist. Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?

R = relate

Marketing is really about relating with your customers, building that relationship.

Before someone buys from you, they will likely want to know, like, and trust you so that’s what you need to work toward. After all, don’t you like to know who you spend your money with?

You want to build relationships with your clients, potential clients, vendors, suppliers, joint venture collaborators, the media, and in the process you want them to introduce you to more of your perfect customers.

You spent some time getting clarity about your “who.” You need to go back and refine your answer. Create a distinct picture of your target market. You may actually find that she (or he) looks a lot like you.

For example, Can you describe your ideal client? What is her age? Does she work outside the home? Does she have kids, young ones or teenagers or grown ones? What does she like to read? What problems does she have that you can solve? That will be key as you go along.

You may go so far as to give her a name. It’s like creating an avatar. This will help you when you create marketing materials because you will be creating them for this person. It is so much easier to write advertising copy when you are writing it for someone in particular.

In my case, I’ve created my target client and when I write my weekly ezine, or online newsletter, I’m writing to that person. What’s affirming is that I often hear from many people who say, “you wrote that just for me.” I’ve identified who they are and their problems so I can provide the solutions.

Once you’ve figured out who you will relate to, how are you going to build that relationship? It could be with your newsletter. It could be online. It could be networking. It could be through galleries or craft shows.

E = establish a marketing plan

The next step in the system is E and that stands for Establish a Marketing Plan. The American Marketing Association defines marketing as: the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.

In easy-to-understand terms, it means producing what the customers wants and making a profit for you. You can see it’s a lot more than sales.

When I look at the marketing “plan,” I often refer to it as inviting people to play with you in your sandbox.

Before you do that, you need to know more about your product.

What are its features and benefits? Benefits are what sell a product.

How is it packaged?

What will it cost? And remember that profit is part of the equation.

How will you get it to market?

How will you promote it? You have lots of tools available to you – social media, networking, teaching, galleries/shows, etc. And, the options can be overwhelming, especially when you start out. Pick one or two tools and start there. As you learn how to work the initial tools and have success, add another.

A = action

Nothing happens until you take action.

Once you’ve got the idea of what you plan to do to market your business, you set goals. You’ve probably heard about smart goals – SMART – and that’s what they should be. Now you need to work on achieving them. A great way to do this is with backwards planning. Start with the end in mind. You’ve got the goal and then you work backwards.

I like to use a large planning calendar so I can see the big picture. Mark the important dates so you can see where the time is available to work your goals. Start to plug the steps into the holes so you can work towards achieving your goals.

It might be easy to do this part – figuring out what you need to do, when you need to do it. The hard part comes in actually implementing your plan. That’s where most of us get stuck. We start out in a good place and then get distracted by whatever is in front of us. To get you past this, you need to practice personal discipline, and that means making an appointment with yourself to get the work done. All of us frequently change our plans to suit others. It’s important to train yourselves to stick to your personal appointments. If you stick with this you’ll see results.

It’s about taking small actions every day to slay the dragons. Consistent actions lead to Consistent Results.

T = tracking

Once your business is up and running, it’s key to start tracking what your results are. Unless you are tracking your results, you cannot make any adjustments to your plan to improve your results.

You may have already been doing some tracking, looking at what you are accomplishing on a daily or weekly basis. My most successful clients have a process for doing this.

What else should you be tracking?

At a minimum you need to track your financials.

You should look at your P+L (Profit and Loss) Statement on a regular basis. You might decide to make Fridays your Financial Focus day. See where your money is coming into your business and where it is going out. That’s the purpose of your P+L. What exactly do you look at? Every P&L includes the following categories:

  • net sales
  • cost of goods sold, which includes your inventory
  • gross profit, which is your net sales less your cost of goods sold
  • operating expenses
  • net profit, which is your gross profit less your operating expenses
  • net profit after taxes

Also take a look at your cash flow statement. This lets you figure out what you can afford to spend day-to-day.

You should also track non-financial numbers depending on your business. This could be the results of your email campaigns or the numbers of your social media reach. Again, if you don’t track your results, you won’t really know what those results are.

Knowing you numbers lets you ask better questions. Better questions get better answers, and that’s how you grow your business.

E = evaluate and expand

At some point in your business, you hit a ceiling and can’t grow any further. You are at the point of frustration.

Some of this may be due to mindset, that you can’t see yourself bigger. That’s a different issue to work with than this blog post. If, however, you’ve got the mindset piece under control, the key to expanding your business is to leverage your time, skills and money. Three keys let you do that: teams, systems, and technology. Each will allow you to make strides in your business.

Ask yourself these three questions.

Who is on your team now and who do you need to add to your team for the future? You cannot continue to do it all yourself. Look for someone to work in areas that aren’t your brilliance. You will then free up time to work where you are brilliant.

What technology do you use now and what do you need to add to grow? You are probably already using technology, e.g., your email newsletter or automatic postings to social media. Remember you don’t always have to know how to use the technology. That team you are growing can do that for you.

What systems do you have in place and what systems to you need to add? Any process that is repeatable can be systematized. This will save you lots of time and will let your team handle work that you should not be doing.

! = remember your why

The last step in my CREATE! system is the exclamation mark. One of the areas you got clarity on in the first step was your why. It’s a critical part of growing your business.

We all face struggles in our business. We are challenged as we grow. Mindset issues crop up whenever you aim for a new level. You start to feel like maybe it’s “not for you.”

What to do? One of the things to remember when you’re struggling is your “why.” When you reconnect with the roots of why you started my business and why it is so important to you, you’ll find that you are able to persevere and reach for the next level. Give it a try.

It’s your turn!

Where are you in your creative arts business journey? Where can you use more clarity or systems?

If you would like to learn more about the CREATE! system, you get our free Creative Arts Business Blueprint here.


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