How to Build an Intentional Creative Business

When I started my business part-time several years ago, I was in constant battle with myself—not knowing how or where to focus my time in order to build the right business. No matter how hard I tried to focus, I was at an impasse. Stuck on that carnival ride that uses centripetal force to pin you against the wall.

It wasn’t until I left my corporate copywriting job to go all in with my business earlier this year that I realized the importance of intentionality. Going through with this transition forced me to really consider: why was I leaving the security of a steady paycheck to work for myself?

For me, it was the freedom the travel full-time while working at times when I’m most inspired and building something entirely my own. With this in mind, I’ve started taking more deliberate actions to create a business that aligns with what I want and who I am as a person.

Whether you’re just starting out or seeking more alignment in your work life, here are four actions you can take today to start building a more intentional and fulfilling creative business.

Stop identifying as a freelancer

You manage client accounts, scheduling, invoices and all the things your creative business needs to grow and thrive. Give yourself credit: you’re a business owner.

Nothing against the term “freelancer.” I started out as one, too. But there comes a time when it’s beneficial to graduate from identifying as such.

In my experience, people tend to perceive freelancers as starving artists. “Oh, you’re a freelancer? I might know someone who can help you,” they say when you introduce what you do for a living as freelance work. While the intentions are good, the pay generally is not.

As much as I personally dislike titles and labels, the one of “business owner” just seems to carry more clout when it comes to perceived value and pay rates.

Nowadays when people ask what I do, I explain that I own a copywriting business. Maybe you run a design studio or an illustration business or a hand-lettering shop.

Small mindset shifts, such as how you identify yourself in association with your work, radiate outward and shape how others perceive your value. So get out there and radiate your entrepreneurial spirit.

Embrace incremental development

If you’ve been in the business of creative entrepreneurship for some time, you’ve likely heard the term “multi-passionate creative” tossed around.

While I know entrepreneurs who’ve gracefully incorporated multiple creative passions into one successful business, they didn’t do it overnight. Juggling too many interests can be overwhelming when you’re first starting out—or, even worse, it can lead to quick burnout.

Be patient with yourself and focus first on your primary strength, whether that’s graphic design, photography, illustration, writing, hand-crafting, or something else. Once you have a handle on running a single-passion business, you can more easily incorporate your other passions.

In the early stages of business, expect to DIY a lot but don’t let that distract you from your primary revenue generator. If you set a solid financial foundation, you’ll have funds to outsource things like bookkeeping, marketing, and copywriting when you’re ready.

Treat your business as a client

It’s easy to get caught up working IN your business, but don’t forget to set aside time to work ON it. Your business needs love, too! To sustain and grow, you must invest time in things like branding, research, marketing, and product development.

I’ll admit, I recently got pretty lost working in my business. Between client projects and life at large, I entirely stopped working on it. (Moving abroad will do that to you.) With my type A tendencies, I needed a system to prioritize my business. So I set it up as a “Job” in my client management system, Dubsado.

When it came time to redesign my website, I went through my brand copywriting client process step-by-step. I filled out my own brand clarity questionnaire, created brand guidelines, and wrote and reviewed my new website copy just as I would for any client.

Treating my business as a client has not only yielded better results but also helped me to fall more in love with my work, identify areas for improvement in my process, and better empathize with my clients.

Stay in your own lane

As the saying goes, don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20. There will always be creative entrepreneurs ahead of you—but don’t forget there’s always others behind you, looking up to you.

During my first six months in business, comparison paralysis was my worst enemy. I wrote and designed three websites before I finally stepped away from all the noise and created something true to me.

It’s okay—encouraged, even—to seek inspiration from other sources. Some of the best business advice I’ve received is to look to other industries for inspiration. But by staying an arms-length away from other copywriting businesses, I’m able to develop and maintain my own unique voice.

Social media and the internet make it easier than ever to see all the amazing things other creatives are doing. In fact, I’ve connected with some amazing writers through social media. I’m inspired by them—heck, I even share referrals with them—but I don’t look at their businesses and compare mine to theirs.

When it comes to creativity, your “you-ness” is your superpower. It’s what your clients, customers, and fans love about you that no one else can copy exactly. Don’t let comparison take that away from you.

Surround yourself with people who inspire you

This may sound like a bit of a no-brainer but creativity comes in many forms and from many sources. Surround yourself with people who compliment and inspire your unique creativity. Find or create a network that builds each other up because we’re all in this together.

It’s okay to unfollow social media accounts that make you feel anything less than good. Turn off podcasts that encourage you to be anything other than yourself. Stop reading anything that doesn’t spark your creative spirit.

When it comes to building an intentional creative business, the best thing you can do is listen to your intuition. Or, in the words of one of my favorite writers, Alexandra Franzen, go with your hut (heart + gut).

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