The Business of Creativity
The creative business is exciting and often misunderstood. Among the thousands who launch one every day, there are many who envision a life guided by the cliché of “doing what you love so you do not have to work another day in your life.” Reality however is not as straightforward or peachy.
No matter how wildly creative your industry is, a business is still a business. In other words, you will still have to knuckle down and pay attention to its more “serious” aspects like cash flow, contracts and basic administration.
Saskia Havekas, internationally acclaimed florist and founder of Grandiflora, recalls having zero interest in the business side and being told by an accountant that it would soon become more interesting to her.
“He was right,” she concedes. “The creative and business are the yin and yang, and have to work together.”
Whether you are about to start a creative business or are in the midst of one, here are the six areas that will help make it a success.
#1: Choose an expertise
Passion for your creative industry can make it very tempting to offer every variation of that product or service to the whole world. Resist doing that. Instead focus on one niche that reflects your strength and market demand. This is how you create a profile, hone your skills and build a reputation. Aim to amass a loyal clientele from people who favour skills and quality over dollar signs. This kind of recognition is the lifeline of any creative business.
#2: Disrupt the daily details
When conducting a competitor analysis, go beyond price comparison and look at what is not being offered in terms of the final product or service. Take a closer look at booking processes, communications and billing systems. Then break the cycle or change the conversation. Disrupt where possible to make business simpler for prospects and clients.
#3: Know your numbers
You do not have to love them but you must understand what the numbers you are looking at mean, especially if you are employing people and even if you are working from a home office. As long as you are running a real business, you need to keep an eye on that bottom line and watch that cash flow. Saskia, who used to focus on perfecting a job no matter what the cost, says she is now able step back and understand why she cannot spend a certain amount of money on a project.
#4: Keep a detailed paper trail
Creative ideas are frustratingly easy to pinch and notoriously difficult to protect. Be fastidious about putting all correspondence in writing just in case discussions go awry and you find yourself staring at a possible litigation case. After each and every phone call or meeting, send the other person an email to recap what was discussed and the next steps. It is tedious but well worth the effort if you ever need to fight for ownership of an idea.
#5: Understand the best use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)
An NDA is a great protector of creative ideas as long as the right one is used for the right situation. Many creatives and innovators ask people who view their ideas to sign an NDA without realising that no two NDAs are identical. Find out whether you need an NDA, what it details it should contain and how it should be worded. If you are ever asked to sign an NDA, seek professional advice first. You need to know what you are agreeing to and a good litigator will be able to spot any sneaky details.
#6: Ensure contracts are solid
Seek legal advice if necessary to ensure your contracts are airtight. Consult a litigator with experience in the creative industry so he or she knows what details are commonly overlooked or misconstrued. Where contracts are concerned, it is never a good idea to cut corners or keep costs low.
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