Take Your Creative Business to the Next Level

Last week, I had an epiphany. If I wanted next level success for my creative business, I had to take the necessary risks that would get me there. That meant giving up the busywork that keeps me paid and focusing on my career goals and dream clients. Is that nerve-wracking? Yes, very. But the more important questions is: Will I regret not going for it?

Next Level Success for Creative Businesses

Today I celebrate the anniversary of my creative business. Four years ago on May 27, 2010, I  listed a handful of items on Etsy.com to see how they would do. I started out with less than $100 worth of materials, a homemade shop banner, a lot of passion and a long-standing desire to be a work-at-home mom.

Of my four children, I had two toddlers still at home with me, and my goal was to be supplementing our household income from home by the time our youngest started kindergarten. I applied my entrepreneurial spirit to my growing interest in crystals and opened the Energy Shop. I sold out of my initial inventory of bracelets within a week.

I added more jewelry as I learned the in’s and out’s of a successful online business: product photography, copywriting, and branding. I developed a marketing strategy and advertising campaigns that brought hundreds of new customers through the shop. I learned to serve those customers in a way that made them loyal to the Energy Shop brand and eager to come back for more.

Shop revenue from my first year in business
Shop revenue from my first year in business

Within a year, my business had earned $32,220.73 in revenue. I’ve gone on to make more than $100,000 online, and over the next few days, I’ll tell you exactly how I did that.

I want to kick off this anniversary party with 7 steps you must be willing to take in order to achieve next level success.

1. Back up your own big ideas.

In James Altucher’s amazing book, Choose Yourself! (currently only $3.99 and chock-full of inspiration) he tells the reader to become an “idea machine.” I am (and have always been) an idea machine, but if you’re not, you can read James’ tips on becoming one.

The problem is, for most of my life, only a few people knew I was an idea machine. Even worse, I came off as more of a wishful thinker: somebody who has a million great ideas, but follows through on none of them. I lacked the confidence to use my own great ideas. I was always presenting them as more of a question: I have a great idea?

Meanwhile, the ideas I had the confidence to proudly present turned into huge successes. I mean, I thought up the Energy Shop. I thought up becoming a business coach to other creative entrepreneurs. I thought up a course that would be co-taught by multiple industry leaders so that we could all share our individual expertise. I don’t show up to work; I make the work show up!

When I nervously published the post, If I Knew I Could Not Fail, I Would …, I never imagined the career-altering effects it would have. There were four items on my list:

  1. Focus all of my efforts on group coaching
  2. Lead live, in-person workshops for groups of 100+
  3. Host a women’s retreat for 20 creatives
  4. Start a podcast

I asked everyone who read the article to share their list, and they did! It got really interesting when we looked through each other’s list and wondered:

Wait. Why aren’t you going for that? You could totally do it!

One of my past clients read my list and cut straight to the point when she said,

You should do those things on your list even if you might fail at one or two. – Miriam

You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right. – Me, quoting When Harry Met Sally

Do you know what I did next? I went for the one I wanted the most AS IF I HAD NOTHING TO LOSE. I began planning a women’s retreat, and four other amazing leaders in our industry signed onto the event immediately. I can hardly wait to reveal the details! It’s going to blow your mind, and I’m going to remind you that it all started with this one little idea: “I’d like to host a women’s retreat for 20 creatives.”

Then, I went for another: a group coaching concentrate. I’m going to focus all of my efforts on coaching a small group of dream clients toward the next level of success they want to achieve, and this morning I started the files on my first sign-ups to the program.

The key to turning an idea into a success is taking action. Even though I was working with big dreams from my If I Knew I Could Not Fail list, I only had to take one small step toward it in order to give it life.

Remember: When you tell someone your big idea, many people feel it’s their duty to tell you why it won’t work. Those people aren’t idea machines. People who are idea machines may see fault in your initial vision, but they’ll add even more ideas to ensure its success.

2. Be willing to invest in your business.

You’ve all heard the old saying, “It takes money to make money.” As I was researching for this article, I found a post in which author, Steve Sjuggerud disputed it with this suggestion,

It doesn’t take money to make money. You just need two things:

1. A great idea.

2. To roll up your sleeves and make it happen.

I stand in between the two opinions with my own:

[Tweet “It doesn’t take much money to make money, but you must be willing to invest in your business.”]

I’ve also learned that the bigger the investment, the bigger the return. You do need a great idea. You do need to roll up your sleeves and make it happen. However, you’ll still invest something. In lieu of money, be prepared to invest time and energy … and a whole lot of it.

3. Apply the WRAP technique.

The wrap technique is a little song I wrote to help you bust through a rut and overcome your obstacles. Want to hear it? Here it goes:

The Wrap Technique | Marketing Creativity

WRAP stands for: Weighing Risks Against Potential. As creative business owners, our perspective is always too close. Oftentimes, we chase big new ideas and contemplate necessary next steps for months (or even years!) without taking action.

Here are a few personal examples, conversations between me and myself:

Q: Why am I not learning a new jewelry skill that will take my business to the next level?

A: It’s costly to learn.

Q: How so?

A: It would take a $500 investment just to get started.

Q: For what result?

A: A massive increase in profit.

Q: Is it worth it to try?

A: I mean, yes! Why not?

I’m sitting beside my new soldering equipment as I type this. Here’s another:

Q.Why not hire a virtual assistant?

A. It’s very costly, and I’d have to use credit.

Q. How so?

A. I’d need to put almost $1,200 on my American Express card. I just finished paying that card down by exactly $1,200! It makes me feel like I’m treading the same financial waters and getting nowhere.

Q. For what result?

A. An improved website with more subscribers. I am going to build a lot of products this year, and I need to make lasting connections with my visitors.

Q. Is it worth it to try?

I believe better sign-up forms will help me double my current mailing list in the next few months. If it helped me double my product profits this year, it would definitely be worth it. Last year, I spent more than this amount on resources and membership programs. This year, I’m going to create more resources and get paid in return. I should be able to pay most of what I borrowed back in three months. Hiring a virtual assistant is something I’ve been longing to do for years, and it definitely feels worth the risk.

4. Own your current reality and take responsibility for it.

A novice business owner (and this is where almost everybody begins) thinks that building an online storefront is an easy way to get rich quick. We start out with that Field of Dreams mentality, believing that “if you build it, they will come.” At this beginner stage, you set up shop and expect customers to find you and buy.

The next stage is the amateur business owner. At this stage, you have a storefront established but spend much of your time looking for instant gratification. The amateur is either naive to, or in denial of, the necessary long-term build.

The final stage of a successful creative business is the professional. This stage is my sincere wish for each of you. Here, you are all in and taking full responsibility of your business’ success.

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

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

5. Make the necessary sacrifices.

Last night I was sitting down for a reflection, and I pulled this card: “Make Necessary Sacrifices.”  My initial thought was: oh no, I’m working so hard! I don’t want to give anything up! And then I read the instructions, starting with these beautiful words:

Is your heart set on a particular desire, yet you hesitate to commit for fear of what’s required for success? Are you wishing for more, yet unwilling to change anything to make room for something new?

For every step you take toward your heart’s desire, you must step away from the comfortable routine of the moment. Be willing to make the fleeting sacrifices necessary to achieve your goals, and accept the temporary inconveniences and demands that come with the commitment.

You see, this isn’t about giving anything up … anything that’s important, anyway. It is about saying “no” to what’s not serving your big ideas and future success. Starting this month, I’m saying no to:

  • New designs at the Energy Shop. I have hundreds of pages worth of designs that I can recreate at a fraction of the cost and time it takes to regularly make new listings;
  • Guest posting on blogs that don’t support my new vision for my career;
  • The idea that I should double my workload to support my bigger vision;
  • Busywork;
  • Anything less than my dream client; and
  • Doubt and hesitation.

I’m saying no to all those things to make room for three things I want to say YES to:

  • Workshops and retreats;
  • Dream client group-coaching; and
  • Future collaborations with colleagues.

6. Just go for it.

From Mark Twain,

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones that you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

7. Hire a professional.

In the last four years, I’ve hired graphic designers, virtual assistants, private coaches, copywriters and mentors to help take my business to the next level. If I weren’t already an expert at marketing and advertising my creative business, I would have hired a professional to help me build a strategy for that as well.

Speaking of which, if strategizing and/or selling doesn’t come easily for you, if you’ve been struggling to reach the next level in business, if you need a PR campaign to generate more views, sales and leads and you want a marketing plan that you can use year after year, I would love to apply for the job! Please consider joining my membership program, The Luminaries Club!

It’s a private space for up-and-coming creative business owners to work together as a team, and it’s filled to the brim with tools, resources and trade secrets. Inside, you’ll find a place to connect, recharge and reimagine your career. Click here to join us now!

 

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5 comments

  • Hello! My name is Tierra and I’m 19 years of age. I haven’t started my online business yet. It’s something I’ve been very hesitant about, but I’ve dreamed about it and have even started my business plan around the age of 14. I would really love to be able to attend your summer group counseling event, but I don’t know where to find sign-up information. I would love to be in an environment sour rounded by experienced, business-minded women!

  • While my success has been slow to come, and I’m still not anywhere near where Lisa was in her first year, I have finally made it to the place where I’m selling several items a week. It has been slow going for me and at one point I almost gave up, but my 17 year old daughter convinced me to hang in there a little longer. Boy am I glad I did! One of the best things that I did was I finally decided to subscribe to craftybase for help with my inventory and pricing. I figured if it didn’t work out, I’d just cancel. Within the first week, after adjusting my prices to where they should be, my sales started taking off!! I have more than made back my investment in the subscription from my increased sales! I also think that since Etsy went to Price per click instead of price per impression that my sales have been better. Finally, I upped my budget on Etsy to a price that felt a little uncomfortable for me but I think it paid off!!

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