Two weeks ago we heard from Patricia van den Akker, Director of The Design Trust, about how to write a creative business plan.
This week she’s back with tips on how to keep it alive and make sure it’s something you use every day, not just something you do once and then forget all about.
If you’ve started your creative business plan, let us know how you’re getting on in the comments below. Or if you’ve got any tips to add to Patricia’s, share them too.
Thank you again to Patricia for this fab series of guest posts – I’m really excited to have her on board.
1. Commit from the start
Many creative businesses only write a business plan when they are looking for money from a bank or funder. But planning your year ahead can really help you to get more things done and minimise stress. Instead of running around like a headless chicken, you’ll know which direction you and your creative business wants to go.
If your intention from the start is to actually use your business plan and to make it a living document (instead of something that gathers dust in your drawer) then it is far more likely that you will use it.
So, do you actually commit to turning your ideas into reality – or not?
2. Keep it simple
Many business plans are far too complicated. Start with identifying just three main goals for this year.
What do you really want to do, be or have in the next 12 months? What do you want more of? What do you want less of? How much money do you want to earn this year? Which clients do you want to work with? Which trade shows you want to visit or exhibit at?
Be as specific as you can and write your three goals down in a couple of simple but clear words. You should be able to remember them by heart.
3. Know why your goals matter
Why is achieving these goals important to you? What will you really get out of them? Take a bit of time to discover your answers …
If you start digging a little deeper to why these goals really matter to you, you will identify your true values what drives and motivates you and your business.
Do you want to be famous or recognised by your peers? Do you want to get more financial freedom or be successful with your creativity? Do you want to proof something to somebody? Would you like to be able to afford a holiday or spend more time with your family?
Really understanding why your goals are important to you and what you’ll really get out of them when you succeed, will be hugely motivating in making them happen.
4. Be creative
Write your goals down in a place that’s easily visible for you. Write them in your diary or online notebook where you see them often.
Can you make them more creative and visual by selecting a powerful image or creating a collage or large brainstorming poster? Can you hang this in your studio or turn it into your computer screen?
A client of mine wasn’t motivated by money, but wanted to increase her income to £30K. What she really wanted was to go to India for six weeks, and she realised that she could take time off if she earned that amount. She selected a beautiful, colourful image of India on her phone screen to remind her regularly and to motivate herself to keep promoting herself to potential clients. It really worked for her to pick herself up, and yes, she did get to India!
Business goals don’t have to be boring – be creative and make them work for you!
5. Don’t do it alone
Many creative businesses are sole traders, who work by themselves. That can be very lonely, but it can also be easier to fool yourself, or continuously move your goal posts.
Planning by yourself is a bit boring. Share your plans with others – your partner or children, friends or family, people you work with, suppliers and even clients. Let them ask your questions about your vision, your goals, what you really want. Brainstorm together.
Others can help you with insights about yourself and help you become more specific with what you want to do, be or have in 12 months time.
Your work will often impact others anyway (such as your family), so it is far better to involve them from the start.
It is proven that if you plan with others it is far more likely that you will achieve your goals. It might take a little longer at the start, but you will save time and minimise misunderstandings in the long term!
Tell others what you want to achieve so that they can help and support you to succeed. Tell potential partners, clients or suppliers what you are thinking about and see if you can co-create new products or services.
What are your joint goals created with others?
6. Create accountability
Being more accountable for what you want to do or achieve can be a great motivator to keep you going (especially when the going gets tough!).
To start with identify specific actions and deadlines and share these with others and write them down.
You can have a ‘business buddy’ – somebody who is supportive, but also a critical friend, with whom you can share your business plan and goals with confidentially. Meet up every month (online or in real life) to go through the actual ups and downs of being a creative business. Have a coffee every first Tuesday of the month to check how you are doing against your end goals. Discuss what went well, what you need to improve on, and what you want to let go. Make sure you get constructive feedback, and return the favour.
I regularly announce a new service or product with a launch date in a very public way. This helps me to get really focused and creates accountability for me as I will want to make sure that I don’t miss the launch deadline.
I have regularly seen new designers’ and makers’ decision to exhibit at a trade show or craft fair create a real deadline so that they work towards the launch of new work and stop the procrastination!
Be creative and find some accountability that works for you!
7. Make time
Your annual business plan can be easily turned into a smaller ‘to do list’. Start with writing your deadlines down in your diary. Then break your goals down into smaller actions and deadlines, and identify how much time you think you will need for each. Write these smaller deadlines into your diary too. Block time out in your diary to do the work. (Tip: Add 20% extra time, as you always underestimate how long something will take!)
I personally use little yellow sticky notes with a short description of what I need to do to put in my diary to give me a bit more flexibility. I plan four ‘writing days’ each month, keep Monday morning free to clear my desk and inbox, and try to do my accounts every first Monday of the month.
Unless you put it in your diary it won’t happen because you won’t make the time for it.
8. Regularly review
Have a monthly ‘Business Plan Review Meeting’ in your diary to record how you are doing against your forecast. Put ‘this meeting with yourself’ in your diary, and spend 30 minutes or so to check how far you have got, and what needs more work that month. The first Monday of the month is a good time to do this, so that you can also check what the month ahead has got in store for you.
9. Enjoy the journey
Business planning isn’t just about achieving your goals, it is also about keeping an eye out for other opportunities and challenges on the way. But having a simple overall business plan will ensure that you keep going in the right direction at least, and that you are not constantly overwhelmed by other people’s demands.
Are you pleased to get a difficult or boring job out of the way? Is a big client finally showing some real interest? Take some time to celebrate not just the end-goals but enjoy the highlights of the journey too!
Running a successful creative business is often about determination and resilience to keep going. It isn’t a sprint, but a marathon, so make sure that you enjoy what you are doing and share with others.
10. Make time to celebrate
I see many creatives who are constantly chasing the next goal – often before they have finished the previous goal or actually truly enjoyed what they are doing or have achieved. As a creative you will often feel that there is still so much more that can be improved.
Make sure you make some time once in a while to celebrate, to stand still and be proud of what you are doing. Be in the moment, instead of working towards a better future. It will minimise burn out.
What is your reward for successfully reaching your goals? Have a massage or lovely dinner, enjoy that extra long holiday in a quiet period, or whatever takes your fancy! Enjoy turning your ideas into reality.