For some people, creativity and business do not mix. For others, creativity is your business. I’m somewhere in the middle. I enjoy creativity and I enjoy business and believe they can co-exist in a healthy way. I also believe that handling the business side of things well, leads to greater creative freedom. Whichever category you fit in, if you’re making any money as a self-employed photographer, artist, artisan, musician, etc. you’re technically a business owner. Here are 5 business-y tips from me to you.
Have a lot of irons in the fire. It always helped me to make a list. What would I like to be doing every day? What am I good at, but don’t necessarily love? What do I not want to be doing, but makes me money? Then, I could identify my ultimate long-term goal (I want to do _____ every day and make a living doing it). When you’re not able to work on your #1, choose to pursue something else from your list that day. Make forward motion. Learn to how to earn a living even in lean times. You’re not giving up on your ultimate goal, you’re supporting it.
#2: Protect what you have.
We live in a crazy world. I personally think an LLC is a great way to protect your personal assets from potential business lawsuits or debts. This is a big topic and it’s best that you consult a lawyer or accountant about what’s right for you. I will say, if the formation of an LLC seems too daunting to you, it’s not that bad. There are a lot of great resources out there that make it easier than ever before (like, LawTrades.com). Also, there’s a great discussion on this topic on Quora (I reference Quora all of the time): https://www.quora.com/Should-I-form-an-LLC
#3: Keep your books in order.
Quickbooks Online (http://quickbooks.intuit.com/online/) is never something I thought I’d care about using. That is, until I got hit with a massive tax preparation bill shortly after I formed an LLC. If you want to save yourself a ton of time and money during tax season and are also sick of keeping (or not keeping) receipts in a shoebox, then I recommend trying out Quickbooks. it’s pretty cheap and fairly easy to use. My wife and I hired one of their experts to show us the ropes and it was definitely worth every penny. If you want to be completely hands off when it comes to bookkeeping, you may be interested in something like Bench.co. Looks interesting. Either way, keeping your business organized will lead to more creative freedom — I promise.
#4: Get really good with what you have
I know that this doesn’t apply to every situation, but that gigantic loan you’re eyeing to build the studio of your dreams probably won’t bring you creative freedom in the long run. If you already have clientele, then maybe that’s one thing. But, if you’re starting from the ground up in any creative field I think this advice applies: The gear/equipment you own won’t a. make you good and b. won’t automatically make you money. It can help, yes. But, limitations are gifts. They push us to learn. Upgrade when you’ve outgrown the stuff you have and can afford to.
#5: Mailbox money
There are a lot of forms of “mailbox money.” I basically see it as income that you’re not necessarily relying on and that is somewhat passive. For example, listing your space on AVVAY is a pretty passive way to generate extra money (had to say it). And things like royalties, e-commerce, ad revenue from YouTube, stock photography licensing, etc. are all great ways to bring in cash apart from your bread and butter.
I’ve mentioned these things not because I think we should always be money driven, but because I think we all value creative freedom. From my own personal experience, my business decisions can drastically affect that freedom. Everyone’s situation looks different. What have you learned through building your business as a creative?