Starting a creative business

  1. Paint palette against a pink background
    Melissa Tredinnick

    Melissa Tredinnick UKBF Newcomer

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    This year, lockdown has given many people cause to reflect on the things that are important to them, from where they live to the way they spend their free time. 

    And with increased redundancies on the horizon, many of those affected may be thinking about how they can start up on their own, by turning their creative interests into a business.

    Of course, starting a business in the midst of a pandemic and recession is not a decision to be taken lightly – and the arts, entertainment and recreation sector has been one of the worst hit when it comes to furlough numbers, turnover and pausing trading.

    For that reason, anyone thinking about starting a creative venture should think hard about why they’re doing it, what they want to get out of it, and how they can make it viable in the current climate. 

    Would you enjoy your creative pursuits as much if you were working to a client’s brief and a tight deadline? And when you take into account the other parts of running a business, like winning new clients, dealing with admin, and managing your finances, does the idea still have its appeal?

    For some people, turning a hobby into a full-time job can mean losing an important creative outlet – a way of de-stressing and switching off from the world of work. For others, it offers the chance to make a living doing something they’re really passionate about, and to have full control over what they do.

    If you’re willing to put the work in to build the business from the ground up, there are a few first steps to take.

    Business planning

    Before you get started, you should be clear about your operations, objectives and sales and marketing strategies. A structured business plan is usually the best way to do this.

    As UKBF users have advised in the past, it’s important to keep your business plan focused and fact-based. 

    Make sure it sets out exactly what your business will offer, and who your customers are. Finding a niche is usually the best way to differentiate yourself from the competition and build a reputation as a specialist.

    Conducting market research and a SWOT analysis should help you to stay realistic about your business’s viability, and highlight any potential problems early on.

    Looking at your competitors can also help you to determine the right price for your products or services. At a minimum, your prices need to cover your costs, factoring in the time you’ve spent on the work, but they also need to reflect the value of the product to your customer – so think about the kinds of people buying from you, what’s important to them, and what they would be willing to pay.

    Another thing to consider, particularly with regards to the effects of the pandemic, is whether your business will need physical premises. 

    Using retail space or a studio can be costly compared to operating online only, and as footfall is still low and many people are still working remotely, your space may not be used as much as it would have been pre-pandemic.

    On the other hand, having a physical base for your business can help you to tap into local support, as well as making it easier to manage your team if you start taking on staff.

    Your marketing strategy may be different depending on the option you go for, but in any case, a consistent social media and SEO effort will help to reach customers and raise awareness of your business.

    Accessing finance

    There are a few different options you could consider to fund your creative startup. 

    You could go down the traditional route of seeking a bank loan or securing investment from a private investor – this is where a well-written business plan can come in handy – although during uncertain economic times this is likely to be much more difficult to achieve.

    Alternative methods of funding include crowdfunding, which is particularly suited to creative projects that can drum up an enthusiastic following, or ‘bootstrapping’, which is essentially about building the business with no outside investment.

    Looking ahead

    Even if your business adapts and changes over time, it’s a good idea to have a plan in mind for the next few years. 

    Do you plan to work on a freelance basis for some time, before eventually establishing a creative agency? Or do you want to start growing your team early on?

    Knowing where you want your business to be in the future will help you to make important decisions now, in terms of finding the right clients, accepting or rejecting work, and positioning your brand.

  2. The Byre

    The Byre Full Member

    11,730 5,112
    The words 'creative business' is often an oxymoron. There is something about the dream of being creative that numbs the otherwise sensible business brain. I have seen otherwise perfectly sensible computer programmers that understand the principles of business dealings, go completely stupid when they pick up a guitar or sit at a piano. Common sense flies out of the window as our wannabe band leader or studio owner buys instruments and equipment they neither need nor can commercially justify.

    The £50,000 Arri Alexa movie camera and £100,000 set of Signature Prime lenses become a 'sensible business investment' when even the Big Boys just rent the stuff by the day and use cheap DSLRs with a zoom for tests and rehearsals.

    A £100,000 mixing desk in a £1m studio is bought in the vainglorious hope that famous windswept and groovy musicians will come streaming in through the front door - blissfully unaware that those famous windswept and groovy musicians have better stuff in their private studios at home (and the less famous can't afford the rates and use cheap amateur home recording stuff).

    A few years ago a recording studio opened in a 2m city in the UK. The total investment was £2m. The first year's turnover was £54,000. "Ah well! Never mind - word will get around and things will improve!"

    The second year was £45,000. Year three was £34,000. Year four was £28,000. By 2019, turnover was below £20,000. Not only did those figures represent a thumping loss, but the entire whole turnover was not enough to even cover the depreciation on the equipment! Or as Dizzy Racal said, "Bonkers!"

    The lesson the owners of creative businesses must learn is that it is WHAT you create that is where the money lies - and it is never how you create. The punters are where the money comes from and they don't care if the soloist was recorded on a £100 Shure mic or a £3,000 Neumann - or if a film used £1m worth of camera equipment or a £500 4K bridge camera.

    And talking of film, the Coen Brothers' first film 'Blood Simple' cost just $1.5m to make and they had to raise that money from the three Fs - Friends, Family and Fools. They schlepped from living room to living room for over a year, raising a few thousand here and a couple of thousand there, until they had the money together. The investors got their money back and then some, after which they made their investment pay all over again by selling the residuals to Universal.

    And hats-off to the Brothers when they complained that a studio built a set with three walls when they only needed two. "We want to see every dollar up on that screen!"
    Posted: Sep 7, 2020 By: The Byre Member since: Aug 13, 2013
    Caledonian TV likes this.