I believe that anyone who is serious about starting or growing a creative arts business should have a chance to learn the best success and business strategies. I also believe this is best done away from your studio with other like-minded creatives who will understand and continue to support you.
The place to do that is the seventh annual Creative Arts Business Summit on April 26-28, 2018.
That’s why when someone turned in her ticket for this year’s Creative Arts Business Summit (CABS), I decided to offer two partial scholarships. Two lucky winners will be able to work directly with me and a group of other creatives for three days at the end of April.
For many who have attended CABS over the past seven years, this has been life changing. I want that for you, too.
Here are the rules:
Send us a note or a video indicating why YOU should receive the scholarship. Be sure to mention how this will make a difference in your business and life.
Written entries should be no longer than 300 words and videos should be no longer than 3 minutes!
If you choose to do a video, clearly mention the website www.CreativeArtsBusinessSummit.com in your video so people who watch it know where to learn more about this event you’re talking about.
Over the years I’ve worked with thousands of creatives. Some were private coaching clients, some came to my Creative Arts Business Summit, some belong to our ICAP Members’ Studio, some attended my classes and lectures, some learned from the magazines I published, and some learned from what I shared in this blog and online.
Regardless of how someone has learned from me, they were introduced to one or more elements of my CREATE! system. This system is how I grew my creative arts business. I go back to it again and again as my business changes.
C = Clarity
What’s clarity got to do with it? Clarity sets the foundation for your business. If you are not clear about where you want to go, what you want to make, who you are trying to serve, etc., you will just not be as successful as you could be. You don’t have to wait until you’re clear on everything to get started, just that as you become clearer and clearer your path becomes easier.
You probably already spent some time deciding you want to create a business from your creative passion. If you are still working with what kind of career you want in the creative arts arena, you might try making a vision board or keeping a journal.
Starting with the end in mind helps you work to get clearer on the aspects that make up that vision, your business. You’ll have lots of questions to answer to help you get clarity.
So where do you start? I like going back to the questions I used to ask as a working journalist. Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?
R = relate
Marketing is really about relating with your customers, building that relationship.
Before someone buys from you, they will likely want to know, like, and trust you so that’s what you need to work toward. After all, don’t you like to know who you spend your money with?
You want to build relationships with your clients, potential clients, vendors, suppliers, joint venture collaborators, the media, and in the process you want them to introduce you to more of your perfect customers.
You spent some time getting clarity about your “who.” You need to go back and refine your answer. Create a distinct picture of your target market. You may actually find that she (or he) looks a lot like you.
For example, Can you describe your ideal client? What is her age? Does she work outside the home? Does she have kids, young ones or teenagers or grown ones? What does she like to read? What problems does she have that you can solve? That will be key as you go along.
You may go so far as to give her a name. It’s like creating an avatar. This will help you when you create marketing materials because you will be creating them for this person. It is so much easier to write advertising copy when you are writing it for someone in particular.
In my case, I’ve created my target client and when I write my weekly ezine, or online newsletter, I’m writing to that person. What’s affirming is that I often hear from many people who say, “you wrote that just for me.” I’ve identified who they are and their problems so I can provide the solutions.
Once you’ve figured out who you will relate to, how are you going to build that relationship? It could be with your newsletter. It could be online. It could be networking. It could be through galleries or craft shows.
E = establish a marketing plan
The next step in the system is E and that stands for Establish a Marketing Plan. The American Marketing Association defines marketing as: the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.
In easy-to-understand terms, it means producing what the customers wants and making a profit for you. You can see it’s a lot more than sales.
When I look at the marketing “plan,” I often refer to it as inviting people to play with you in your sandbox.
Before you do that, you need to know more about your product.
What are its features and benefits? Benefits are what sell a product.
How is it packaged?
What will it cost? And remember that profit is part of the equation.
How will you get it to market?
How will you promote it? You have lots of tools available to you – social media, networking, teaching, galleries/shows, etc. And, the options can be overwhelming, especially when you start out. Pick one or two tools and start there. As you learn how to work the initial tools and have success, add another.
A = action
Nothing happens until you take action.
Once you’ve got the idea of what you plan to do to market your business, you set goals. You’ve probably heard about smart goals – SMART – and that’s what they should be. Now you need to work on achieving them. A great way to do this is with backwards planning. Start with the end in mind. You’ve got the goal and then you work backwards.
I like to use a large planning calendar so I can see the big picture. Mark the important dates so you can see where the time is available to work your goals. Start to plug the steps into the holes so you can work towards achieving your goals.
It might be easy to do this part – figuring out what you need to do, when you need to do it. The hard part comes in actually implementing your plan. That’s where most of us get stuck. We start out in a good place and then get distracted by whatever is in front of us. To get you past this, you need to practice personal discipline, and that means making an appointment with yourself to get the work done. All of us frequently change our plans to suit others. It’s important to train yourselves to stick to your personal appointments. If you stick with this you’ll see results.
It’s about taking small actions every day to slay the dragons. Consistent actions lead to Consistent Results.
T = tracking
Once your business is up and running, it’s key to start tracking what your results are. Unless you are tracking your results, you cannot make any adjustments to your plan to improve your results.
You may have already been doing some tracking, looking at what you are accomplishing on a daily or weekly basis. My most successful clients have a process for doing this.
What else should you be tracking?
At a minimum you need to track your financials.
You should look at your P+L (Profit and Loss) Statement on a regular basis. You might decide to make Fridays your Financial Focus day. See where your money is coming into your business and where it is going out. That’s the purpose of your P+L. What exactly do you look at? Every P&L includes the following categories:
cost of goods sold, which includes your inventory
gross profit, which is your net sales less your cost of goods sold
net profit, which is your gross profit less your operating expenses
net profit after taxes
Also take a look at your cash flow statement. This lets you figure out what you can afford to spend day-to-day.
You should also track non-financial numbers depending on your business. This could be the results of your email campaigns or the numbers of your social media reach. Again, if you don’t track your results, you won’t really know what those results are.
Knowing you numbers lets you ask better questions. Better questions get better answers, and that’s how you grow your business.
E = evaluate and expand
At some point in your business, you hit a ceiling and can’t grow any further. You are at the point of frustration.
Some of this may be due to mindset, that you can’t see yourself bigger. That’s a different issue to work with than this blog post. If, however, you’ve got the mindset piece under control, the key to expanding your business is to leverage your time, skills and money. Three keys let you do that: teams, systems, and technology. Each will allow you to make strides in your business.
Ask yourself these three questions.
Who is on your team now and who do you need to add to your team for the future? You cannot continue to do it all yourself. Look for someone to work in areas that aren’t your brilliance. You will then free up time to work where you are brilliant.
What technology do you use now and what do you need to add to grow? You are probably already using technology, e.g., your email newsletter or automatic postings to social media. Remember you don’t always have to know how to use the technology. That team you are growing can do that for you.
What systems do you have in place and what systems to you need to add? Any process that is repeatable can be systematized. This will save you lots of time and will let your team handle work that you should not be doing.
! = remember your why
The last step in my CREATE! system is the exclamation mark. One of the areas you got clarity on in the first step was your why. It’s a critical part of growing your business.
We all face struggles in our business. We are challenged as we grow. Mindset issues crop up whenever you aim for a new level. You start to feel like maybe it’s “not for you.”
What to do? One of the things to remember when you’re struggling is your “why.” When you reconnect with the roots of why you started my business and why it is so important to you, you’ll find that you are able to persevere and reach for the next level. Give it a try.
It’s your turn!
Where are you in your creative arts business journey? Where can you use more clarity or systems?
If you would like to learn more about the CREATE! system, you get our free Creative Arts Business Blueprint here.
Do you regularly celebrate your accomplishments? I am not surprised if you don’t. Many entrepreneurs are so focused on what is next that they do not take the time to appreciate what they have accomplished. That is why most of my clients and students take time weekly to look at what they accomplished and celebrate that. It is part of their weekly Success and Strategies Summit.
What exactly is the Success and Strategies Summit and how do you have one? It’s a process where you look back at your week, plan the next week, and celebrate your accomplishments.
You only need to set aside 20 or so minutes once a week. It doesn’t really matter whether you do it at the end of the week or the beginning. What matters is that you set aside the time to do this. Put it in your calendar and treat it like the important appointment that it is.
Review the past
Your first step is to go back and review the week. Ask yourself some questions.
What worked well, what didn’t, what did you learn? And what you learned may be a specific skill or knowledge or it may be something that you learned about yourself.
What were your challenges? What fell through the cracks?
What adjustments do you need to make for next week?
Plan the week
With the answers to the questions, look at what you need to accomplish in the next week to move forward on your goals. At the same time, be sure your goals are still in alignment.
Pick your top three priorities for week. Yes, only three – you don’t want to end in overwhelm. These are things that will move your business forward. These are things that you’ll feel great about accomplishing.
Next, actually schedule time for this in your calendar. Be sure to include time for any other non-negotiables, like self-care.
This practice will set you up for success since you are starting the week with intention. You are not facing a calendar with lots of open spaces. You know what you need to accomplish. And, even if you don’t accomplish everything, you’re better off than you were without this tool.
Celebrate your successes
As you look backed at worked worked last week, make note of all the successes you had. These could be big or small. Maybe you sent your newsletter out. Maybe you got a nice compliment from someone who bought your jewelry. Maybe someone sent you a photo of your art hanging in her home. If you take the time to look at all you accomplished – big or small – you will be amazed at how much you did.
That brings us to celebrating. I love to celebrate all that I am accomplishing. Acknowledging your accomplishments is a big step in building your confidence. That in turn leads to more successes.
The celebrations do not need to be big. They just need to be for you, something that recognizes what you did. For you it might be downloading a new song from the Internet. It might be a nice glass of wine with a new novel. It might be a dinner out. It might be a bike ride through the park with your partner.
One of the things I like to do is keep a rewards jar. As I think of wonderful ways to celebrate, I put the idea on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. When I’m ready to celebrate, I pull out a paper and surprise myself with something special.
It’s your turn!
Do you have a practice to reflect on your past week and plan the next? Do you have a plan for celebrating your accomplishments?
We recently welcomed a new group into our Members’ Studio. We have lots of resources all geared to help you build the creative business of your dreams.
I know that too many options can be overwhelming. What’s needed is clarity. It’s so easy to get bogged down with all the options. What if I do this? Or that?
Ever been there?
What do you need clarity on? When I work with some clients, that’s our first step. Clarity is really the foundation of success both in your business and your personal life. And, once you get clear, it doesn’t mean you always stay clear, unfortunately. I think it’s a continual path as you and your business grow.
You need to be clear on the direction you are going. What is your end goal? If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?
You need to be clear on who your client is. We can’t be everything to all people, though I do know people who try. In one class I taught, I had a student who wanted to turn every quilter into an appliqué artist. While that was an admirable goal on her part, her time would have been exhausted trying to accomplish this. She would have been more effective targeting beginning quilters to get them started.
You need to be clear on the financial realities of your business. Where does your income come from? What are your expenses? How much do you need to earn to provide support for yourself? Do you really want a business or a hobby?
Those are just a few of the many areas that require clarity. I’m sure you can find other areas where you are searching for clarity. It could be something big, like what my coaches call your “Big Why,” or it could be something smaller, like the name of your new painting.
It’s easy to figure out what you need to be clear on – you hear the muddled voices. How do you find clarity? Here are a few approaches to tune into the right little voice inside so you can listen.
Create a vision board
The easy approach is to go through magazines and find things that resonate with you. It could be colors, words, pictures of places you want to visit, quilts you want to make or techniques you want to learn. Glue them onto a piece of poster board and leave it in a place where you’ll see it. I find that just searching for the items to put on my vision board helps me get clearer.
Keep a journal
Note your day’s activities, how you felt about what happened, any insights you might have. You might even ask a question and brainstorm on ideas or let the answer just come to you. Go back and read your earlier entries. The more you journal about something, the clearer it becomes.
Be grateful. If you are grateful every day, you can start to replace confusion with clarity. This is my favorite, and I keep a gratitude journal.
Change your environment
Spend time alone in nature. You may feel most at peace in a certain type of setting. For me it’s the water. So when I need to gain clarity, I will often sit by the water. Clarity often comes just “being,” and this environment lets me “be.”
Let it go
Let go of the question. Sometimes by no longer putting your attention on something the answer will just come to you.
Here’s a quote on clarity from Scottish writer Richard Holloway that I like:
Simplicity, clarity, singleness: These are the attributes that give our lives power and vividness and joy as they are also the marks of great art.
Where do you need to find clarity? What’s your favorite way to do this?
When the muddled voices are whispering to you, take time to get clear.
Do you ever look at what others have accomplished and think you can’t possibly do that? We all have that comparison gremlin to contend with. Do you then fall back on your standard excuse? I just don’t have time!
I’m going to challenge you on that.
I wrote about “you management” as opposed to “time management” a few weeks back. Today I want to share a simple concept that might make a difference in your day.
Let’s call it Take 15.
I know that you can find 15 minutes in your day. It might mean taking 15 minutes less for lunch. It might mean getting up 15 minutes early. It might mean giving up 15 minutes of that Netflix or Fixer Upper binge you’ve got going on.
If you are still saying that there’s no way you can find 15 minutes, take a look at what you do during your day. What you spend your time on is what you value. Do you really want Netflix to define you?
So go through your calendar and see where you are spending your time and look for that 15 minutes.
Now that you’ve found it (or maybe more than 15 minutes), what are you going to do with it?
Here are some ideas.
Your dream project
Start on that dream project you keep putting off because you need more time. It could be the book you want to write or the painting you want to start or the class you want to teach. You say you need more than 15 minutes. Of course you do. But you only need 15 minutes to start. No one says you have to finish the project in 15 minutes. You only need to start.
If the thought overwhelms you to work on a big project because you don’t know where to actually start, get out some post-its or index cards and write down the parts of the project and start with the first one.
Your everyday projects
Sometimes it’s even hard to get going on simple projects you have. For example, a quilt you need to piece or the proposal for your next book. Or the book that will help you learn something to put to use in your business.
Again, it it seems too big, break it down into small tasks that can be completed in 15 minutes.
Your personal projects
You can take this same simple concept and apply it to your everyday life. This might be cleaning out the garage. (OK, that’s on my list.) Or adding strength training to your day. Or drinking more water during the day. Or starting a meditation practice.
Funny thing is that once you start with that 15 minutes, it’s likely to turn into 30 or 45. Remember, it’s all about little steps building to big results. It was the starting that was holding you back.
Where did you find that 15 minutes and what are you doing with it?
Over in our Creative Passion to Profit Facebook Group we are hosting a challenge to help creatives increase their visibility and grow their businesses. On the first day I asked the members two questions. Why Do You Create? Why Did You Start Your Creative Business?
You’ll find a great deal of variety of answers. Some people were raised with creative parents; some were not. Some expressed their creativity from childhood; some put it on hold and it re-emerged as adults. Some started their businesses with purpose; some started accidentally. You will probably resonate with something someone wrote. You can read the responses or join in here.
Have you ever thought about what your why is? You know, why you do what you do? Why you are in the business you are? Why art or creativity chose you? And why you chose to make it important enough that it is your business?
Frederick Nietzsche said, “He who has a why can endure any how.” I believe that when you know your why, it helps you figure out meaningful goals that lead to creating a meaningful life. It acts as an anchor when you need to find the courage to keep going or even just to take the next step. It helps you stay motivated and can lead to a life you can only imagine. It even helps you get out of bed in the morning.
Finding your why
That all sounds good, but how do you really find your why? Your why may just come to you easily or it may take lots of thought. (I was in the lots of thought category.) It may also change over time as your life circumstances change.
For years I never really gave it much thought. I was working to add income to our family coffers. When I first started my business, it was actually at our accountant’s suggestion. He saw I loved quilting and thought I could turn it into a business on the side. That was great, and I never really gave it much more thought. As the years went by, the business grew and changed. I earned a graduate degree in journalism and thought how wonderful it would be to combine the quilting and journalism together, which I did. Again, not really giving it a huge amount of thought as to why beyond I enjoyed it.
About eight or so years ago, I decided to actually put real thought into the process. I can now articulate what I do and why behind it. I believe it is so important to start to do the work of our why that we spend time working on this individually at the Creative Arts Business Summit. And, my private clients also do this work.
Knowing this absolutely makes a difference. Once you figure out your “big why,” you complete your tasks, reach your goals, make a difference in the lives of those you serve, and live your own life with so much more ease.
One of the ways I went about discovering my why was with what I call the circle exercise. Start by drawing three overlapping circles. (This is also called a Venn Diagram.)
In each circle put what you are passionate about. Then look for how they intersect or what they have in common.
For me, I put creative expression, learning, and girl power in my circles. Once I realized how they connected, I realized why I was doing what I was and what it meant to me on a deeper level.
The brain dump
An easy way to start thinking about your why is to just write down whatever you can think of as a possibility. Don’t edit yourself as you do this.
Examples I’ve seen include to send your kids to private school, to make more money than the ex, to honor your grandmother, to make a difference with kids. The options are varied and endless.
Prompts and questions
The following prompts and questions can help you with either exercise above if you are stuck.
Complete the sentence: “I am doing this because ….” or “I’m doing this so that….”
What are your innate strengths? What are things you are naturally good at? Sometimes you dismiss these thinking everyone is good at this thing. And how do these connect with your passions?
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What is it that drives you to take inspired action?
What was your youthful joy? Ask people who knew you as a child what they remember about your strengths and passions.
Remember that your why is the driving force behind your actions. We need strong, or Big, Whys to keep going.
Our Big Why can also change over time. It is a good exercise to revisit yours occasionally.
If you are like many people, you decided to get a better handle on your time this year. Some people call this time management. How is that working out for you?
Funny thing is that we all have the same 24 hours in the day. Some of us just do a better job of managing ourselves. We really can’t manage the time. Here are five tips to help you do that.
Know what your time is worth.
Your goal as a business owner is to turn your time into money, so I think you should know what your time is worth. Here’s an easy way to figure it out. What do you want to make this year from your creative arts business?
For our example and easy math for me, let’s say $50,000. Let’s also say you take two weeks vacation, so that leaves 50 weeks a year that you work. Divide the $50,000 by 50 weeks and you get $1,000 a week. Divide that by five days in the week that you plan to work and that gives you $200 a day. Divide that by 5 hours a day that is productive and you get $40 an hour. Let’s double that to cover overhead. Now we have $80 an hour.
Your next step is to ask yourself if the task at hand is worth $80 an hour. A good exercise is to track your activities and look at them in this fashion. Is driving to the post office worth $80 an hour? Is grocery shopping worth $80 an hour? Is cleaning your house worth $80 an hour? Is packing your own product to ship worth $80 an hour? You may decide you need to continue doing these tasks, and that’s OK. You just need to know the value of the task.
Try this using your own goal number. What did you discover?
Track your tasks.
For the next week, record your business activities. At the end of the day, go back and note whether the activity was A (administrative/technical), M (managerial) or E (entrepreneurial). Then go back and decide whether these tasks could have been deleted, delegated, systematized or automated.
Your goal is to replace those activities that aren’t valued at your hourly rate, so that you can work on activities that are worth your hourly rate. It’s about working in your brilliance.
Try time blocking.
This is the idea of pre-assigning blocks of your time for specific activities. It lets your days be more productive because you’ve shifted to an “appointment” mindset with all your activities, not just outside appointments. It also lets you control your time because you decide when activities take place.
Look at your tasks (see previous step) and see what activities can be tackled in blocks. Here are just a few activities to consider: packing and shipping time; creative and design time; customer product intake on one afternoon and evening a week; time for bookkeeping; business development (marketing time); and time to write that book that you keep putting off.
Plan your day the night before and use a list.
At the end of each day, review what worked and didn’t with the day and plan what you need to accomplish the next day. By doing this the night before you’ll start the next day fresh and not spend time trying to figure out what to put on your to-do list. You will likely spend less time worrying about the next day that night because you preplanned it. And, I’ve heard that often your mind will work on those activities while you are sleeping, and you’ll come up with ideas you wouldn’t otherwise have.
Learn to say no.
This is a biggie, as it’s so easy to say yes to every opportunity. When you are asked to do something, consider whether it will move you closer to your goals. If so, then it might be appropriate to say yes. If not, can you find other compelling reasons to say yes? If not, then don’t hesitate to say no. Remember if you say yes to every opportunity you get without considering how worthwhile it is, you may have to say no to the really great opportunity.
Here are some time management quotes I really like.
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” H. Jackson Brown
“The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot.” Michael Altshuler
It’s Your Turn!
What are your keys to managing yourself to better manage your time?
Last weekend I met a good friend Mariellen for tea. She was still telling me that she was just about to get her new business launched, something I had heard for several years. I waited to hear her latest excuse.
Over the years I’d heard lots of reasons or excuses from Mariellen. She didn’t have the money. The time wasn’t right; she was too busy. She was afraid she’d fail at it. Her kids needed her. Her parents needed her. She needed new headshots, but she had to lose weight first. She couldn’t launch without the website being ready. The photos of her work weren’t good enough and she needed a new camera. She had just volunteered for a major project at the local art guild. She was clearly waiting for the stars to be aligned. Does that ever really happen?
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been a master at excuses myself. At some point, thought, I decided the excuses were, well, just excuses. And, frankly, I got tired of them. And, I’m pretty sure people who heard them were bored with them. If I wanted to get anything accomplished, I needed to do something about it.
What I discovered was that I wasn’t tired of the successes I would have when I gave up the excuses. Big or small, they were exhilarating. I could see progress and that energized me and spurred me on. It was the commitment I made to myself that was key.
Getting past excuses
Here are some simple ideas that may help you to move beyond excuse-ing?
Become aware that you are using excuses.
Look at the excuse and try to see what’s behind it. Ask yourself if the excuse is even true. Do you really need a new camera to take better shots of your artwork, or are you afraid of putting yourself out there?
The thing about holding onto your excuses is that if you believe your excuse and don’t take action, all the possibilities are still open. It’s only when you take action, that you risk failure.
Envision the outcome without the excuse getting in the way.
You may find that re-igniting your vision is enough to put away the excuses. At this point take just one step forward, like the Nike slogan. Just do it!
Reframe the excuse.
This is most effective if you find limiting beliefs. An example might be if you think you are too old to become a successful writer. You could reframe this to see how much life experience you have that will be beneficial. And look for examples of authors who got their start later in life. Millard Kaufman, who co-created the Mr. Magoo character, started his novel at the age of 86.
Find the motivation.
This could be internal or external. Internal might be the pride that you’ll feel after completing what the excuse is holding you back from. External could be doing this because of your family. You might even hold up a reward for yourself as motivation.
Do you want this year to be fulfilling or filled with tired, sad excuses again? It really is up to you!
What excuse or excuses are holding you back? Can you commit to giving them up?
Yesterday I was lucky to attend a church service at the Washington National Cathedral where Brené Brown delivered the sermon. It was followed by a forum, a conversation between Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde and Brené. (I feel like I know her well enough to just use her first name!)
It was a magical experience from the setting to the content. I took lots of notes and want to share some of what I heard and learned.
We tend to hang around with people who believe like us.
Brené referred to this as sorting into bunkers. These people think like us, and they hate the same groups of people that we do. We don’t even necessarily know or like these people, but we have “common enemy intimacy.” That is not true belonging.
Loneliness is a byproduct of sorting.
We don’t make real connections in our bunkers. In fact, loneliness is such a problem that on Jan. 17, UK Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a minister of loneliness. Studies found that loneliness can kill you, so if you feel this way, you aren’t alone.
The bunkers and the loneliness have led to a crisis of spiritual connection.
Brené purposely says this isn’t about religion; it’s about spirituality. She defines spirituality as “the deeply held belief that we are inextricably connected to each other by something that is greater than us and something that is rooted in love and compassion.” For her this is God. She says for others it could be fishing. For those who follow this blog, it could be art. It’s about a belonging that’s not in bunkers. It’s about a real connection with people that you know and don’t know.
True belonging is a practice.
It helps to set an intention when you are practicing. Staying in your belonging can be hard. It’s not about fitting in. It’s about your being present with other people without sacrificing who you are. We belong to ourselves, and that’s what you are practicing, vulnerability and uncomfortableness included.
7 elements of trust
Trust refers to trusting yourself and trusting others. Brené shared a checklist that works in both instances. It’s an acronym with the word BRAVING. The seven elements are boundaries; reliability; accountability; vault; integrity; nonjudgment; and generosity.
4 elements of true belonging
True belonging, being true to who we are, is a challenge. It requires you to stand alone, in a wilderness, as Brené says. She shares four elements, which she says are a paradox.
Many artisan entrepreneurs feel uncomfortable with the money side of their businesses. It’s not uncommon. You want to spend your time creating not thinking about numbers. Of course, you are in business, and your goal has to be to make money. If you don’t make money, you won’t be able to run your business. You won’t be able to grow your business. You won’t be able to share your art beyond your family and close friends. And, the world will be less because you aren’t sharing your art with a wider circle of people.
Now is a great time to put some good habits in place on the financial side. If you take these steps, you’ll reap rewards both personally and financially.
Understand your money story
We all come to our business with a story about money. It will have good elements, and it will have not so good elements. For example, your story might be, “I’ve just never been good at handling money.” Or it might be, “Other people deserve this financial success more than I do.” Or, ” Money just isn’t important to me.”
Take some time and journal about the stories that you have about money. The stories came to you honestly. They were what you heard as a young child, what you saw on television or the movies, and what your friends or spouse believe and share.
Once you understand where your money story came from, you can ask yourself if it’s true and if it serves you. Just because you came to them honestly, doesn’t mean they are true. They might just be an opinion, and a false one at that.
Rewrite your money story
If you know that your story isn’t serving you, then you can do something to change that. If you know it’s just not true, you can reject it. Often when you write them down, you can see them for what they are.
You will need to reframe some of your limiting beliefs. Using my first example above, you could reframe your belief that you have never been good at money too,
“I’m smart and can learn one step at a time to understand my finances.” Of if you believe that money just isn’t important, you might reframe this to say, “I value money for what I can do to help others in the world.”
Once you reject or reframe your story, it’s important that you live into it. You can do this by being aware when a limiting belief about money shows up. (Keep that journal handy.)
You can also use affirmations on a daily basis. A friend who is a financial specialist suggests sandwiching your new affirmation with two statements that you know are true. For example, the first statement would be, I live at …. Your second statement is the new affirmation. Your third statement is, My daughter’s name is …. By including two true statements, you are setting your brain up to move faster on the new affirmation.
Both understanding your money story and rewriting it are ongoing processes. Keep an ongoing journal so you can make it a habit. You’d be surprised how a limiting belief can creep in to your every day.
Separate personal and business money
When you start out, it’s easy to pay for your expenses from your personal money. You already have a checking account and a credit card. As long as you keep track, you figure you are in the clear.
Not so fast. The specific term for what you are doing is “commingling” funds and it’s a bad idea. One problem is that in the United States, the IRS is very particular about what you can deduct for your business. When you have only one account, it’s hard for them to understand why you have deducted monies from your personal assets. Using a separate bank account is a way of being sure that you’ve tracked all your business expenses.
And, if you are a LLC or corporation, you are opening up your personal assets for creditors in the event of business problems. The legal term for this is “piercing the corporate veil,” and you don’t want that to happen. You and your spouse, if you are married, have worked too hard to get yourself in the financial position you are. You do not want to put your personal assets at risk.
To make your business life easier, take time to get a business checking account and a business credit card.
Look at your numbers
Growing your business depends on your looking at and understanding key numbers in your business. While you don’t have to be the person who does the bookkeeping, you need to understand what the numbers mean. Take time to learn what is involved in bookkeeping and how to read a financial report. Set up a system to look at your numbers on a weekly basis. You can’t make adjustments if you don’t know where you are in your business.
Pay yourself first.
When you worked at a corporate job or worked for someone else, you expected and likely received compensation. Why should your creative arts business be any different? Make it a habit to pay yourself first. This could be $10 or 10% each month. It doesn’t matter. In the beginning it may not be as much as you like, but you are sending a message to yourself and your bank account that you are a real business and deserve to be paid like one. As your business grows, you can adjust the amount you pay yourself.
Watch your expenses and your debt
Look at your expenses on a monthly basis and understand how they move your business forward. Understand what the ROI is for the expenses. A good example of this is to look at your participation in a retail or trade show. How much did you spend and how much did you make? Was the expense worth the return?
Years ago I went to a seminar and remember the speaker selling us all on a program that he offered. A woman in the front row asked about the program and said that she’d already spent $XX and hadn’t made the money to break even. She was living above her means already. The speaker encouraged her to put the course, a hefty five figures, on her credit card and then pay it off later. In my mind, that would have put her further in debt, since she had no plans to make the money to pay it off other than a wish and a prayer. Perhaps she’s comfortable with that situation. I’m not. At times you may need to have some debt. Just be smart about it and know how you will pay it off. Debt is a major stressor, so think about your personal situation and mindset before you dive in.
Invest in the foundation of your business
You’ve heard of the self-made successful business owner. It’s not really true. No one becomes successful by him or herself. They always have people who help build the foundation of their business. This could be hiring a business coach, joining a group coaching program (like ICAP’s Members’ Studio), finding a mastermind, even taking a course. Learn what you need to build the right foundation and set out to do so.
Understand the value of your time
When you started your business on a thread, you did just about everything yourself. As your business grows, it’s time to look for others to take over some of what you are doing. Spend time figuring out the value of your time. Use that to decide if it’s smarter to hire someone to do some of your tasks. For example, if you can make $35 an hour working in your brilliance, it makes sense to hire someone at $10 an hour to do tasks that free you up.
What financial habits do you have in place? What financial habits will you add?
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