Three things you need to know if you want to run a creative microbusiness

14/06/2016 16:38

If you’re a creative person, using your creative skills to earn a living sounds like the dream. Spending the day making things would be pretty good.

But the reality is, you also need a lot of other skills to pay the bills. That includes things like project management, marketing, costing and pricing, understanding intellectual property, or writing invoices.

We caught up with Patricia van der Akker, director of The Design Trust and one of the speakers at this year's Small is Beautiful conference – aimed at people who run, or want to start, microbusinesses. 

'It’s surprising how few people know about the entrepreneurial skills they’ll need,’ she says. ‘Without those skills, it’s going to be very hard to make a living.’

We asked Patricia to share some of the things budding creative entrepreneurs need to know.

1. You’ll spend less time creating than you think

Patricia estimates that, to be successful, you’ll need to spend 40% of your time on making things, 40% on marketing, 10% on admin, and 10% on research and development.

‘People spend a lot of time on making and creating, because that’s what they know,’ says Patricia. ‘But if you do that, noone will know about the beautiful work you’re doing. You need to learn to manage your time, or you won’t be reaching the people you want to reach.’

'It’s surprising how few people know about the entrepreneurial skills they’ll need.’

2. It’s very important to understand your client

‘Marketing skills is a really big part of what you need to know,’ says Patricia.

That doesn’t mean just setting up your social media. It’s about really understanding who your clients are, and the best ways of approaching them.

That helps you figure out all sorts of things – from what you’re going to make to where you’re going to sell it, how to grab people’s attention, and what price point you can set.

You’ll also need to learn how to listen to your clients. That means being able to adapt your ideas – finding a balance between your vision and their needs.

3. The first few years will be hard… but it’s worth it

‘The first three years, I’d say, can be really, really tough,’ says Patricia. ‘You’re trying to balance the combination of things you need to do, and make some money. You need grit.

'But if you have the confidence to keep going, keep learning, and not give up – if you can do that, it’s the most fabulous job in the world.’

A little help

Want more advice? We’ve found some resources that can help:

Interested in creative jobs? Check out our creative industry page.