As a creative business owner, there are so many things that fall on your shoulders. And yet, having a profitable, sustainable business really only boils down to a few essentials. Without these essentials, you really don't have a business. And yes, they may seem obvious, but I can't tell you the number of creative entrepreneurs who come at me without a solid understanding of one, if not all, of these things
Funding (aka Cash Flow)
The first thing that you are going to need is funding. That doesn't mean an investor - although, that can be helpful, depending on the amount of control they wield over your business. Most creatives don't want someone else meddling, which means you'll need other funding sources. That could be loan monies (credit cards, SBA loans, etc.), but let's not ignore the obvious: SALES.
The best source of funding is from the sales of your offers. As my colleague Mike Michalowicz likes to say, revenue is the life blood of your business. Your business simply can't survive without sales.
Luckily, there are only a couple of ways to increase sales: sell to more people, sell in larger quantities, or raise your rates. Most creatives don't charge nearly enough for their offers, so that's usually the first place I look when I'm working with a new client. As I've said before, when you charge more, you can be more generous.
Higher rates doesn't mean you have to be financially out of reach for folks, either. I regularly charge more than $1000/hr for my coaching, which allows me to be more generous inside the Creative Freedom Incubator - where most of my clients are on a pay-for-results model because they're in the early stages of establishing their business. They couldn't begin to afford my rates otherwise. I have other clients with their own financial accessibility statements providing special pricing for marginalized or low-income clients. None of that would be possible if their rates weren't high enough to subsidize that service.
Whether you're serving a handful of clients in a boutique-style business or you're working with millions of people across the breadth of your company, clients are the driving force behind your cash flow. If revenue is the life blood, then customers are the heart of your company. They keep the blood pumping! Unfortunately, there are a lot of creatives that forget this and customer care is one of the last things on their minds.
Don't be that guy!
If you need help tracking and managing your customers, there are a variety of tools to make that happen. Bigger companies can might need help going from salesforce to snowflake while small companies with only a handful of clients may do well with a tool like Honeybook or Dubsado.
But tracking is only the start. What matters most is the relationship. How are you communicating and engaging with your best clients? At the end of the day, the thing that your customers want more than anything else is to feel appreciated. Put in the effort, or lose your customers.
Finally, your team matters. Whether they are contractors that work VERY part time or they're full time, fully-vested employees, your team makes your business go 'round. From data entry to customer support, from social media management to marketing, operations, or admin, your team makes your load lighter. Without them, you'd be back to doing #AllTheThings, so it's important to acknowledge their work on behalf of your company.
Each of these essentials effects the others in a business ecosystem of sorts. A quality team gets better results, which improves customer happiness and improves revenue. When all three are at their best, you've got a leg up in business. When even one of these essentials is flailing, your business struggles to survive. Track how you're doing in each of these areas and make changes as you go to keep things optimized. Need help? Join us in the Creative Freedom Incubator, or jump into the free Rising Tide learning library to start laying your strong foundation today.