Creative Selling: Start with a Plan

As part of the Creative Selling series we will be diving into how to focus on turning your passion into a side business. Whether your are an artist, writer, printmaker or have a great product/business idea – let’s brainstorm how to turn your idea into a viable business

Background: In my career I’ve started several businesses. Some were total failures and others became successful. I don’t regret any of the mistakes because those lessons empowered me to improve and reflect to take actionable positive steps towards future success. With each endeavor I also learned what really mattered to me – what was driving this and was the investment worth my energy.

I bring up this point because I have been burned out by investing so much energy into endeavors (professional career or side business) that really weren’t driving me closer to my personal ‘Why.’ You may have a great idea or opportunity – but if your heart isn’t in it – you will fail at your side business. Owning a business (even a small part-time side hustle) demands passion and focus. You can compensate for lack of passion at first – powered by the promise of money, but you will burn out. You need a balance between financial motivation and true passion for what you are doing.

In business and life you need to think about your personal and professional ‘Why’ – and using that as a guidepost to help drive you forward. Unfortunately in your career there will be frustrations – sometimes we have to do a job or task that isn’t fully aligned with our personal ‘why’ because the professional ‘why’ supersedes you personal goals (ex: I need to pay my mortgage, so I will cold call even if it is uncomfortable; I will get my oil changed – even if I’d rather not sit at Jiffy Lube for an hour).

We will focus on follow-up posts on bring in ‘Creative’ and ‘Passion-selling’ into your ‘9 to 5’ career as well.

Key tips I have learned from owning my own full time business (Firehole Productions Artist Agency) to my current ‘side hustles’ (Adele Lassiter Creative, Adele Lassiter Coaching) are that you have to

Treat your side business as a real business. Yes side businesses are an outlet to sell your passion, but if you don’t have a good business plan in place, the side business will fail and you will get burned out and get bitter with your hobby.

This happened to me when I worked in the music industry (songwriting/business) and I stopped writing music for years. Why – I got too tied to the outcome of the success – I poured too much of myself into the business without really having a good foundation/framework for implementation. I was exhausted and it left no time for ideation. This led to loss of balance. In hindsight a lot of my personal and professional failure here was driven by lack of planning and balance.

Your passion needs to drive your ideation and desire to promote your business; Your passion is your Why – it is the engine, but an engine doesn’t steer the car. You need both: a robust engine (your passion/ideas) and gears/steering/tires/brakes (business success)

Why: you passion (my art business, sales mentoring) – helps with ideation and how you create

Business Plan: The How to power your passion with actionable steps.

I’ll say it again: Treat your side business as a real business! Your hobby fuels is the engine, but if you market your ‘hobby/idea’ as a ‘hobby’ – your buyers will see it as unprofessional. Throwing up your merchandise on a poorly laid out facebook page or website with no description or authenticators is going to rub buyers (even friends and family the wrong way). First impressions unfortunately are everything in e-commerce – so ensuring you put your best foot forward on first glance will help you succeed.

With a well tuned business plan the wheels will become an automatic pilot – able to self drive at times, so you can use your energy to focus more on product creation, ideation and professional growth.

So what constitutes a good business plan? We’ll dive deeper into this throughout this series, but it starts with Why and How.

Why are you doing this?

  • Create a mission statement that you can share with clients. This mission statement should also hold you accountable to your specific goals; why you run the business and what you want to accomplish with the business. Hubspot has good advice on this
  • The mission statement should be both aspirational and actionable:
    • Ex: Adele Lassiter Creative is on a mission to empower the world through art and creativity. We offer fine acrylic landscape and impressionistic paintings that represent wild spaces and National Parks.
    • This is not my mission statement – but an example of one that would apply to my art business

What are you Goals?

  • Is your goal to bring in extra income? Is it to master a skill and share that knowledge/talent/product with clients. (Ex. I paint because I love art, and while I want to generate revenue from art my main focus is connecting with art lovers and pairing my pieces with those who enjoy my art)
  • Where do you see your business in 5 years? Will it continue to be a part time business or do you want to transition your ‘side hustle’ to a full time career?
    • It is important to think about this so you can have a plan to help you scale the business and grow over time so you don’t overextend yourself before you can fully commit to this as a full time business
  • Focus on what you plan to sell (consulting, service trade, creative – writing/arts, apparel, food?) and which market you want to target?

How are you going to accomplish your goals

  • First question you need to ask is how are you going to make money? That might not be the heart of your business mission (your aspirational goal is to create art), but it is the steering engine of your operation.
    • How can you monetize your business?
    • How do you plan to go to market?
    • How do you plan to sell your product? Online, in person?
  • What are the start-up costs associated with your business?
    • This is one of the most important first steps in creating and launching a business. I am going through this currently with Adele Lassiter Creative and it can be overwhelming to figure out what I need to invest in at the beginning to ensure business success.
    • I recommend researching your industry and speaking with others who have started and launched successful businesses.
    • Two problems typically arise with startup costs:
      • You under invest: this ‘under investment’ goes beyond ‘paid startup’ costs it also equates to time, and how you utilize free tools like social media. If you want to run this as a ‘real business’ you need to invest in your business. Your business has value – you need to invest in it (time, ideation, planning, money)
      • The other stumbling block is Overspending on startup costs. I did this when I self-published a book in college that ended up being a failure. I spend my savings on postcards advertising the book, tons of copies of the book to sell to stores, etc…I lost money. I put the cart before the horse.
  • Investing in the right tools:
    • What do you absolutely need on day one:
      • web presence, good website (usually a good bet), business plan, way to track orders…
        • Brainstorm here, research online for your industry and don’t be afraid to reach out to other small business owners in your industry.
    • Make a list of NEED NOW, Need Later (As you scale up) and long term goals
      • For my art business – I need art supplies, a basic website and way to sell online. I am starting with Etsy
      • Need Later goals – I want to sell my art on my own platform (Shopify or Artist Storefront – still deciding); postcards and promotional materials to help market my business
      • Long term goals – eventually I’d like to sell in person at art shows and in local stores; I also want to invest in more computer programs for digital art and expand there.

Focus on Time Management: The hardest part of launching a successful side business is the inability to effectively manage your time. I’m guilty of this. I might stay up too late painting or working on my side business and I am exhausted by the weekend. You have to remember you still have a primary job and that takes priority, but you can effectively block off time to be efficient to ensure you have the time you need for your business.

  • For me, I block off breaks on my schedule for specific business related tasks (30 minutes on lunch break to handle Social Media); setting aside certain nights of the week for ‘creation or business tasks’ and blocking that into your schedule. Time management is important so you don’t get burned out
    • Your side business is a business, but it cannot take up all your bandwidth. You still need time to rest and recharge – so plan accordingly.

These are just a few tips to think through as you start to move your business from dream to reality.

We will continue to dig into business planning and creative strategy.

I will also blog through my own business successes (and fails) as I launch my art business and also work to publish my cozy fiction books.

Keep posted – and please share your business stories. We learn from each other

Check out Adele Lassiter Creative

I am currently selling on Etsy – but also looking to expand to a more customized website in 3 months? Would appreciate feedback on how I can improve with my ‘side hustle’

Follow me on Instagram: adelelassiter

Yosemite Chapel Painting

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