The 3 Stages of Creative Business Growth

I’m spending a lot of time coaching creatives right now, and I find that I repeat the same advice often on the individual calls. There are three different stages to a creative business’ growth cycle, and it seems that many of us get stuck on the same obstacles as we work through those stages.

3 Stages of Creative Busines Growth

Here’s why:

The first stage is the novice business owner.

This is where everybody begins, and hopefully everyone grows out of. In this stage, a creative business owner sees their business as a gamble – a lottery ticket that could win!

Sometimes you think building an online storefront will help you get rich quick. In this stage, you have that Field of Dreams mentality, believing that “if you build it, they will come.”

Here, you create an online storefront and expect customers to find you and buy.

The next stage is the amateur business owner.

This business owner has better focus and a plan that they want to expand. You have an online storefront set up, but spend most of your time looking for instant gratification.

The amateur is either naïve to, or in denial of, the necessary long-term build.

If you are only naïve to the work it takes to build a successful business, this stage will be the launching pad of a thriving career assuming that once you learn what it’s going to take to build your business, you will follow through.

If you get to this stage and refuse to learn and grow, you will either quit or get stuck here waiting for your “big break.”

This level is where people look for front-page exposure such as, the Etsy homepage or the freshly-pressed page on WordPress. While that attention is nice, it does not produce long-lasting success.

Another pitfall of this stage is unproductive comparison: you may spend a lot of time comparing your sales, salary and popularity with the achievements of those around you.

The final stage is the professional business owner.

This is my hope for each of you. At this stage, you are all in and taking full responsibility for your business’ success.

As a professional, the creative business owner will understand the value of each brick they lay onto the foundation of their creative empire. You will realize that each floor will have a ceiling, and every ceiling will need to be overcome in order to continue to expand. 

This is the stage where the rubber meets the road and you, as a professional creative business owner, put all your hopes and all your wishing into the action and effort that will create the results you want.

The fastest way – the absolute best hack – to get to this last stage is to realize that making this business a success is your job. Listing items on a website does not entitle you to a thriving business.

Our businesses are personal and our perspective is always too close. However, at this stage, you have to take your ego out of the equation. Any information you can gather that will help you reassess your current strategy, especially if your current strategy is not working, should be considered without emotion.

Your business needs you to run it as the objective CEO, and a professional creative business owner will happily take on that role.

Those are the three stages of creative business growth …

Which stage are you?

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5 comments

  • Thank you so much for this well written article. I feel as if you were describing my journal personally. I would say that I find myself in both the amateur and the professional at this stage, but transitioning to the professional. One of the biggest challenges (which I know is also a challenge for others) is time, as I work a full time job as well. But, I am putting as much spare time as possible into my business and trying not to let that hinder me. No excuses, play like a champion! =)

  • This article was pretty cool! I am def in the amateur stage but am working like a dog in my spare time to enter the professional stage! My website is laurendemarcohandmade.com. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks so much, your site has been inspiring for me!

  • Hi Lisa, great insight here – love how you write about waiting to win the lottery as if the idea of the business is enough to make it all happen. And also the bit about ego and entitlement – it’s as though some creative types think they have done “enough” and that they “deserve”some success. Really great insights – thanks.

    I’m sharing this article with my network – g

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