My Best Advice on Starting a Creative Business (or any business!)

Recently I’ve be thinking about my 23-year-old self. I was just out of college and landed my first big girl job as a marketing coordinator for a real estate development company. It was honestly an incredible opportunity. I learned a lot, worked a lot, and met a lot of great people whose knowledge and experience was invaluable. But deep down I knew I wanted to start my own creative business. I wanted to call the shots, to use my creative talents, and to make an impact. I picked up a camera because my boss asked if I would photograph the properties we were marketing, and the rest is (kind of) history. I taught myself how to use a camera. I took workshops on shooting, lighting, and editing, and I spent countless hours on my computer figuring out how I was going to do this business thing. Six months later I had saved enough money from booking photo jobs, and I was able to give my notice. My parents thought I was crazy. I mean, I was a 23-year-old girl who just got a dream job right out of college and I was saying “no” to that so I could pursue my dreams of owning my own business. Looking back, I would’ve thought I was crazy too. But somehow I made it happen, and I haven’t looked back (well maybe once or twice). However, I wish someone would have told me just a few tips to help jumpstart the process. I would’ve avoided a lot of stress, very long days and nights, and a lot of mistakes I made just because I was afraid to ask for help. I believe everyone has a story about how they started and the mess they had to go through to get to where they are today. That’s all part of the process, but I wish I had someone on my side, cheering me on, and helping me figure things out as I went. That’s why I’m so passionate about sharing what I know, what I’ve learned, and hopefully make a difference to someone who is in a similar boat. With that said, I think the best place to start is here: the three things I would tell someone who is just starting out or has dreams of starting something new. Here they are…

1. Take the time to know who you are and what makes you different. Then celebrate that.
I’ve been there. Just starting out, having big goals, seeing what other successful people in your industry are doing. You look around and think “I need to do, look, or act like that in order to be successful.” It’s not wrong to be inspired by successful people in your industry. The truth is, they are successful because they’ve probably figured out what works best for them. We all have unique strengths and talents, and taking the time to figure out who you are and what makes you different will bypass a lot of the mess and stress of thinking you have to do it like everyone else.

2. Welcome failure. But don’t stay there. Dig deep and learn from your failures.
This is a big one. Failure is hard, and it’s easy to run from failure. It’s easy to stay in our comfort zones, not pressing forward or even worse, not starting at all. But it’s in the failures, the hard days, the hard conversations, that we grow. If you’re willing to press into the uncomfortable areas, you’ll grow, you’ll learn, and you’ll gain experience and skill to keep going and keep getting better. Eventually you’ll gain confidence from pressing into those uncomfortable areas. So welcome failure, but dig deep and push through.

3. Don’t be afraid to reach out. Ask people who have been there and are already doing what you want to do. Most likely they have valuable insight and have made mistakes and learned from those mistakes so you don’t have to. It’s easy to take a back seat and think we can figure it out ourselves (I thought that early on), but if you have resources available (whether free or paid), why wouldn’t you use those resources to get to where you want to go quicker?! To me, that’s a no brainer.

kelli in office

So there you go! My 3 best tips if you’re just starting out or are thinking of starting. It’s no walk in the park starting a business, but it is worth it if you’re willing to put in the hard work. I’ve been doing this for 11 years, and I still have hard days, weeks, months, and years, but at the end of the day I get to call the shots, make an impact, and create the life I want to live for my family.

What do you think? If you’ve been in business for a while, what advice would you give someone just starting out?