Reinvent Yourself – How to start your own (creative) business
March 20, 2015
With recent figures showing only a slight reduction in the unemployment rate to 7.6% and job growth slowing to its lowest in six months, many recent graduates in creative fields like graphic design, interior design or web design are opting to start their own businesses instead of competing for the positions that are available. So, how can you make your business a success? We asked for some tips from the experts – Bruce McCain is director of career services for The Art Institute of Tampa, a branch of Miami International University of Art & Design, and Kathleen Holland is director of career services for The Art Institute of Charleston, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta. Here are five essentials they identified as success factors.
- Self-assess and research . It is imperative that as individuals we are honest with ourselves and truly understand what we are good at and what we enjoy doing. Doing aSWOT analysis (a way to analyze Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) is a great way of assessing that.
- Know your niche. A business plan is highly recommended to help identify both those industries with a need for your services and your competition. This exercise will also help identify whether there might be a smaller, but important, niche market where your business can focus and be profitable. “For example, if you’re a graphic designer, will you be a generalist, offering services to all types of industries, or do you have specialized experience handling retailers that you can build on,” explains McCain. Knowing your niche will enable you to develop a consistent brand identity in every aspect of your business. The business plan also sets the goals and objectives that will guide many of your decisions.
- To incorporate or not to incorporate. Many students in creative fields are familiar with taking on freelance work while still in school. But after graduation, it is important to formalize the business. It’s a good idea to invest in some legal and accounting advice to help you make thedecision about incorporation. There are significant advantages and disadvantages to each type of business structure.
- Develop a stream of business. New business owners often envision being successful within a short period of time. Developing and building a business from the ground up takes time, energy and hard work, but it can be very rewarding. The industry research you did for your business plan will come in handy in determining what a realistic rate of growth means for your industry and area.
- Network, network, network. “ I can’t stress enough the importance of networking,” says Holland. Networking may be your only means of marketing for quite some time – it is important to get in front of as many people as possible and give them your “elevator pitch” (a quick story about your business that you can say in 90 seconds or less). When meeting each person, make sure you take their business card; this comes in handy when writing a “nice to meet you” note the next day. Holland adds, “Yes, you should write a quick note to each person you meet. In this note, you should mention where you met them, refer to your conversation, and remind them what your business does and how it can be helpful to them.”
It takes a lot of hard work to be a creative business owner and there are no shortcuts to success. So put in the time to reap the rewards.
The Art Institutes (www.artinstitutes.edu) is a system of more than 50 schools throughout North America. The Art Institutes schools provide an important source for design, media arts, fashion and culinary professionals. Several institutions included in The Art Institutes system are campuses of South University or Argosy University. OH Registration # 04-01-1698B; AC0165, AC0080; Licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education, License No. 1287, 3427, 3110, 2581. See aiprograms.info for program duration, tuition, fees and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.