How to get started with a new creative project
…When the aim is to make a living from it…
I’m curious. Do you have a creative project you’d love to begin? Or a business you’d like to get off the ground? This was an accidental theme of last week’s VLOG so I thought I’d share with you my top tips when it comes to starting a new creative project or launching your new business idea.
Build a community first, a business second
So many people have an idea and jump straight from the drawing board to running paid events or offering a download for £99 and they wonder why sales are limited or unsustainable. It’s because they’re skipping an invaluable stage: building the community. Let me explain…
Choosing graphic designers, life coaches and yoga teachers used to be about vicinity and traditional networking but things have shifted considerably, particularly in the last 18 months – now we can choose from anyone in the whole world! Of course, you can’t beat a real life student-to-teacher yoga class on the beach in Tynemouth but more and more people are turning to YouTube videos, online courses and even online coaching programmes to achieve their goals.
And how do we choose these teachers? We follow them. Often for months and months before we invest, right? We watch their Instagram stories. We follow their lives. We read their content and watch their videos. Maybe we opt out of the first opportunity to work with them but we decide to invest on the third or fourth opportunity. I know this is true for me. I’ve spent over £10,000 on personal development in the last two years and I never invested in a ‘stranger’. I’ve always invested in people who I feel I ‘know’ online: thought leaders, people who have helped me in some way, people I trust.
You can build this trust too by thinking less about making money in the beginning and focusing more on building a community around your passions and ideas. By this I mean posting blogs, sharing stories, creating videos, giving away helpful strategies to your community.
This has lots of benefits too. Firstly, it gives you time and space to develop your ideas and clarify your offering. More than this it gives people the chance to get to know you and experience the value you can bring. The easiest way for people to like your Facebook page is for them to read a post and fall in love with who you are and what you’re doing.
What is your community all about? Key to answering this question is finding clarity on three things: (1) Who are you here to help, (2) How do you want to help and (3) What do you love?
Who are you here to help? You might have quite a varied audience at first but I guarantee that if you build a significant audience they will all be connected by some shared values, a shared sense of purpose or a shared need. For example, a lot of people follow DARETOGROW because they’re interested in changing their lives in a significant (not a minor) way and they like the fact I’ve shared my story and I’ve been really open about the journey – the good, the bad and the tears. So who am I here help? People who want to change their lives. People who are fed up of being fed up – they might be in debt or suffer with depression and want to make a change. People who want to build their own business to have more freedom in life. Who are you here to help?
What do I love? This matters because you’re going to spend more time than you first imagined on your creative project or business – they’re demanding! I fell out of love with my first two businesses because they weren’t centred around what I love: helping people change their lives. They key to answering this question is to think about what you love doing so much you’d do it even if you weren’t getting paid. So what do I love? Empowering people. Helping people change their lives. Business. Digital marketing. Personal development. Reading. Dogs. Baking. I bring all of that into my online course in one way or another. What do you love? Express this by sharing content you love to create – a blog offering top tips or advice, a VLOG about your journey, quotes from your favourite mentors, a PDF around your favourite topic. Don’t write about what you think you should write about, share what you love and let people who love what you love find you and connect around a shared passion or need.
Create don’t consume
Now I love watching YouTube, I love reading and I love learning. I spend a lot of time doing all of these things but there comes a time when I have to create something, anything. A post on Facebook. A blog. A graphic.
What separates thought leaders, business owners and creatives from everyone else is that they create rather than just consume. It’s the idea of creating that blog instead of reading it. It’s producing that motivational quote instead of seeing it. It’s putting on an event or a class instead of attending one. Key to getting moving with your creative project or new business idea is becoming a creator, not just a consumer.
It doesn’t matter how big or small it is either. What matters is these three things: (1) Content, (2) Connections and (3) Consistency.
Content: This is the nature of what you create – how does it add value to people’s lives? Does it inspire them? Make them laugh? Does it help them solve a problem? Your content provides an insight into who you are and what you can do to enhance someone’s life. You can have a mix of content – I have a written blog, a video vlog and informative ‘how to’ style videos to mix things up and because different things will appeal to different people. And this is where connections come in…
Connections: When you first post your new blog or video it’s easy to be really excited about all the likes and views…brace yourself…it takes a while to build your connections. Most YouTube content creators say it takes around 50 – 100 videos before they really start to see their audiences grow. Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) said in an interview that he’s here today because he continued posting on Instagram even when people weren’t watching. With your blog, you might have to write twenty or more pieces before you get your first comment.
The best way to build your connections is to create content and share it: show people who you are and what you’re about and make sure there are lots of ways to connect with you. Maybe you could include an option to subscribe to your YouTube channel at the bottom of your blog, or an invite to sign up to your mailing list.
As people start to like your page and join your community, it’s really important to turn up for their transformation every single day. Even if you have a mailing list of five people, email them as if you had a list of 10,000 – those five people are amazing!! They got you started! They took a punt. They turned up for you so return the favour and turn up for them. Your business is made of individuals and it’s important to build connections on that level.
A great way to help you as you get started is to go to local classes or events that you love to attend – connect with the people you meet and follow up when you hit it off. Find other people in your space and like and share their content. Join online courses and Facebook groups and find people who share your passions. I’ve made so many friends and met so many new clients by putting on my own events and I’ve made friends and met new clients by going to other people’s events. As you get more established, look into the boost function on Facebook posts and start diving into Facebook ads – an incredible tool for reaching out to your kind of people!
Consistency: Of course, posting once one month and ten times another month won’t help. People like to know what’s coming, when. Post too often and they’re may unfollow you. Don’t post often enough and they won’t recognise you when your content lands – they’ll have no relationship with you – and they’ll unsubscribe. In the beginning, try to write out a schedule and keep to it. It could be a blog every Monday or a video once a week. You may not do it perfectly but the more consistently you turn up for your audience the easier it will be to build a relationship. A little tip here too…when someone new comes across your offering or your blogs they’re going to head straight over to your social media feeds to start checking you out. By posting consistently each week, even when people aren’t interacting, you’ll build up a real picture for people to see when they do visit your page.
Use what you have
I release a weekly vlog (a video log of my week) and they’re getting quite good, style wise! (If I do say so myself haha). I mostly use my iPhone and Apple iMovie (which is £10 on the App store if not free) but sometimes I use a £20 mic and a £200 handheld camera. I haven’t bought any fancy equipment and I really do use my phone most of the time because it’s so handy. With my blog, I didn’t have a ‘DARETOGROW’ web site in the beginning so I posted my blogs on another site I had or on Linked In. With my first online course, I didn’t have an online platform for it so I uploaded videos to Vimeo and YouTube and sent emails to the people who signed up. You don’t need fancy equipment, you just need to get started. What have you got you can use already?
I wouldn’t recommend investing up front in web sites, cameras and even designers. Do as much as you can early on and learn as much as you can because it will take some time to clarify your ideas. If you have to go back to your logo designer ten times or redo your web site over and over it will cost a lot of money. Of course, if you’ve been creating content for a while and you’re clear on your offering then spend a little money making everything look professional, but don’t let ‘it won’t look professional enough’ hold you back in the beginning. The key here is to just get started and use what you have, even if this means posting your first few blogs straight onto your personal Facebook feed.
If you watch any of the DARETOGROW vlogs now you’ll see I splice in lots of different clips, different music and all sorts. I’ve learnt so much and my style has developed a lot since I started but I would never be here if I hadn’t have begun when I did with vlog number 1 – me, talking to the camera: nothing fancy at all. You can see my first vlog and my most recent vlogs here to compare.
Commit to a specific (non-financial) goal
People have really high expectations of their businesses when they launch them…”I’ll be self employed in three months” or “I’ll turn over £50,000 in year one”. This is of course possible but in my experience things get in the way like laundry, Netflix (let’s be honest!) and the day job. Plus it takes a while to figure out what you’re doing and how you want it to work. Never mind the personal development that comes with it hehe.
When I set up my first business – a web design and marketing agency – I turned over £9,000 in my first year (after an initial year of figuring out what I was doing) and it jumped up to £47,000 in year two. By year four I was up to six figures and it was amazing. With DARETOGROW, it was £17k in year one and £40k in year two and we’re about to hit six figures in year three. With each business I’ve built, I’ve started from scratch – no mailing list, no brand, no idea haha. It takes a little while to get clarity and then a little while longer to gain traction so try not to put a lot of financial pressure on yourself. Give yourself time and space to develop your wonderful ideas, even if this means keeping your job or getting a new, part-time job to pay the rent.
To stay focused, I’d include a lot of non-financial measures of success in the first six months to a year. Could you aim to build a community of 1000 people on Facebook? Could you get 500 subscribers on YouTube or 100 people on your mailing list? Could you commit to launching your first product or event series or course. It’s a lot easier to make a living doing what you love when you launch a product or service to an active and engaged audience who love your content than it is to build a community around a product or service launch.
I like to keep the financials in focus but the reality is that you have to do the work up front to make a living doing what you love. It’s like growing a flower garden. You’ll spend some time picking the flowers, getting the soil ready, planting your seeds and even then you have to wait for them to grow. It could be year three or four before the vision for that garden is realised. It’s the same in business so my advice is to set some big goals for the year and then break them down into smaller, micro goals each month.
For example, my personal challenge this week is to double the number of subscribers I have on YouTube…from 48 to 98. It’s a channel I’ve never really promoted before and I’m just learning how to make it engaging. My goal is realistic and very specific. It helps keep me focused.