I often get asked how to start a creative biz. I *love* this question because there is no cookie-cutter formula. Everybody’s creative business journey is unique because we all have specific purposes to serve out here in the creative wilderness.
That’s why I thought it would be helpful and fun to share the origin story of my creative business with you today to inspire you to *just start.* I’ll also share my main tips of what I’d wish I’d known when I started out to help you have more clarity and ease on your journey.
(By the way, if you want a clear list of action steps to start your creative biz, you can download my free Creative Biz Checklist right here).
Let’s dive in!
The Beginning (2017-2018)
I started my creative business in 2017 with not much more than a big idea.
See, I wasn’t sure how to start a creative biz. What I did know was that my dream was to connect people to food through art. I wanted to accomplish this mission by visiting local New Mexico schools to teach kids about our local food system.
I was *super* passionate about this idea at the time, but did not give any thought to the following questions for how to start a creative biz:
- Did people actually need or want this idea?
- What was the transformation my biz was going to provide?
- How would I generate sustainable income?
Looking back, these questions would saved me a ton of time and helped me move forward with more clarity.
Making the Idea Tangible
I was so passionate about the idea, and it was what I wanted to do, that I dove right in. I shared the idea with anyone and everyone I talked to.
One of those people happened to be a woman I met at a farming conference who loved supporting young artists, and she wrote me a check for $500 to get my idea off the ground.
I used that money to buy a pop-up tent, art supplies, some start-up business paperwork costs, and food from local farmers. With these materials, I started to pop-up in local spots around Santa Fe, New Mexico to spread the word.
At these pop-ups, I’d offer a deal to anyone who passed by:
“If you make a print with me, you’ll get a bag of free, farm-fresh local produce to take home.”
Most people were curious enough (and weirded out) that they took me up on the offer. We used scraps of veggies to make hand-printed cards and bookmarks together. As we created, we talked about local food, local farms, and where our food comes from. I shared my big vision and business idea before sending them on their way with their bag of local food.
The Idea Spread
As I kept popping up at local parks and trailheads I met more people and the idea began to spread.
I met teachers from local schools which led to teaching opportunities in schools (my initial goal). In addition, I was connected with the local farmers’ market where I hosted a pop-up table for kids and families to engage in this art project. I also linked up with a local tour company to lead farm and art tours in Santa Fe.
So what did I learn during this beginning stage?
What Worked: Getting the Word Out (aka: Marketing)
• The sooner you can start sharing your idea and spreading the word, the sooner you can gain traction, improve your idea, and get connected with your customers.
What I Wish I’d Known:
• I’m incredibly grateful for my journey because it taught me numerous lessons that I now share with my coaching clients to save time and energy in their creative biz. I do wish I would have taken a few steps back at the beginning and asked myself the following questions:
1. Who is my ideal audience (or what I like to call, your community)?
2. What does my ideal community deeply desire?
3. How can I be the bridge that leads them from where they are to what they desire?
These questions would’ve given me more direction and clarity for how to start a creative biz.
The Dream Happened! And Then . . . Shifted
After meeting teachers by popping-up around town, I started to visit local classrooms to teach about local food through art.
This was the dream! This was the big idea! It was happening!
And you know what happened?
I learned that I don’t like teaching kids which is not what I expected. I kept trying to make it work, but something deeper (what I now refer to as your creative biz intuition) was saying this wasn’t the path for me.
So, I pivoted.
What Happened Next: 2018-2020
I pivoted to focus on selling my artwork online and in local art shows. In addition, I sold my hand-printed tea towels and tote bags in local shops. I also started selling my art with a print on demand company for the first time (and fell in love).
At the same time, I also taught art classes for adults with the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and published my very first class on Skillshare in one of their teacher challenges.
What did I learn during this stage of business?
• Pivoting my business
• Trusting my creative biz intuition
What I wish I’d known:
• I wish I’d have asked myself, “What does going all-in on my business look like?” sooner. I was working multiple part-time jobs simultaneously and getting distracted from diving deep.
Taking it Full Time: 2020-2021
In 2020, I was still working another part-time job with a local food distribution company while I built my business. My goal in 2020 was to become a Top Teacher on Skillshare. That was my main focus for the year, and by that fall, I hit that goal.
Hitting that goal, combined with my other business income streams, allowed me to take the leap to full-time in my creative business.
I want to hammer home: going full-time happened 3 years after I started. Everyone’s journey to full-time looks different, everyone’s financial needs look different, and everyone’s situations look different.
Trust and honor your path.
When I dove in full-time, I still had a ton of interests and felt like I had to do *all the things* to make my biz work.
This meant I was:
- teaching on Skillshare
- pitching my illustrations to companies for licensing
- working on a mural for an International Social Media firm
- taking on logo and branding projects for clients and
- selling my art work in my online shop (phew, that’s a lot just to type).
While the approach to do it all worked for a bit (and was quite exciting), it eventually led to overwhelm and burnout at the beginning of 2022.
What did I learn from this stage of business?
• Acknowledging that everyone’s business journey and timeline looks different.
• Focusing intentionally on one-goal at a time to gain traction.
What I Wish I’d Known:
• I don’t have to do *everything* to make my biz work full-time.
• Not all of my passions have to be in my business.
• Simpler can be better.
Present Day: 2022-Beyond
Today, my business looks totally different from my initial idea in 2017.
Now, my bigger biz purpose is to guide, educate, and coach fellow creative women on their creative business journeys. My mission is to empower creative women to start and grow authentic, aligned creative businesses that honor their creativity, give them a lifestyle they *love*, and make a positive impact on this world.
This mission means I am simplifying. I’m stripping away old services that don’t fit this mission. I am pressing pause on products that don’t light me up or serve my clients. I’m diving into spaciousness, ease, and more balance between business and life.
I’m going deep instead of wide, and I know this will continue to evolve and shift over time.
Because that’s the thing. There is no linear path out here in the creative wilderness, and that’s what makes it so dang exciting and life-giving. If there was an A to B, what would be the point?
So, friend, this biz whole origin story is to say that the main answer for how to start a creative biz is:
I encourage you to take one action on your big creative idea that is tugging on your heart today.
What one small step can you take right now that can give you more traction and information to keep moving forward? Let me know in the comments.
Lastly, if you feel like your journey “doesn’t make sense,” or is “taking too long,” or is uncertain?
I’m here to remind you:
Keep going. Don’t stop. You’ve got this.
If you’d like direct support and a guide for your creative biz journey, I’d love to work with you in Creative Biz Coaching.
You can learn more and sign up here:
Cheers to your wildly beautiful creative trek! Talk soon.