I’m addressing this because I know we’re in an era where anyone can launch a business and sell something they make to earn extra income or *fingers crossed* one day quit their day job and live the “dream” life.
I have seen more handmade businesses and themed blogs pop up in the last few years than I’ve seen stop signs on a road trip.
I’m not poo-pooing them, I’ve done handmade businesses and writing blogs to both moderate and no success (and when I say moderate…). I love that people have a chance to dream and then chase that dream, the Internet has made that possible for them. But there are a lot out there and, can a creative business actually succeed? That is the question.
The short answer is yes, but it’s not an easy road.
How do creative businesses work and do people actually make a living from them?
First off, I think the reason the creative market is booming, among many other reasons, is because a lot of people realize the need for everyone to be creative. We were created to create, and though for some it means painting and for others it means developing new software, we were meant to use our gifts to benefit others.
And then you have the fact that you can set up a business with almost no capital and do it in your jammies, and you have an attractive model a lot of people will buy into.
What is a creative business?
Simply put, a creative business (in my mind) is one that falls outside the typical business categories. You know, the ones they give you on an online application for something? Usually creative businesses use some sort of creative art or skill like writing, painting, woodworking, and sell an end product with that.
What makes some creative businesses successful and others not?
From what I’ve seen, the creative businesses that take off are the ones who:
- Are in the right place at the right time. I’m no believer in luck, but I do know that being on the tail end of something does little for your success.
- Solve a problem with their product. Creative products are rarely truly necessary, but when someone comes across that product, they believe they need it in their life, whether for beauty’s sake or for practical use.
- Have a group of fans who will support the business. Small business gets more growth, I really believe this, through word of mouth than any other advertising campaign. How many times has a shout out from a bigger brand catapulted a new business into real sales? And how much more likely are you to purchase something your friend says “I love this, you have to try it”? You go farther with others.
- Do something different than anyone else. What makes their product new and fresh? I’ve seen many a copycat that ended up as roadkill because they were creating something that’s already been done. That’s one of the reasons my little handmade businesses didn’t go anywhere.
- Put money into business growth. First profits will actually go back into the business so it can keep growing. It usually takes money to make money. This is one of the reasons they say new businesses don’t start making profit until 3-5 years in.
- Really believe in their product. This is probably the biggest reason I didn’t go anywhere with my first handmade businesses. I wanted to make money doing something I enjoyed, but I was more interested in getting out of a job I didn’t like. Because of that, I didn’t put in the time and effort needed to take it off the ground, and when it didn’t naturally take off, I moved on to other things. And then repeated the cycle. If you’re truly in love with what you do, you’ll stand by it even if you don’t see a single dime for years. Yes, years.
- Can adapt with a changing market. This doesn’t mean that they throw out the product they believe in, but they keep up with market trends and adapt their product for the changing needs of the public. Otherwise they’ll be one-hit wonders, and that’s not a sustainable business model. This also means they ask for input from customers, business coaches, and others.
- Stick with it through the long haul. Real growth takes time. You’re not going to open up shop and within days do enough business to quit your other job. Growing a creative business, especially from scratch, can take years before you may see any real profit. But if you truly believe in what you do, the time is worth it, and even fun.