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How to sell your work without selling your soul: Three tips for creative start-ups

Tuesday, 17 December 2013 | By Rose Powell

Start-ups powered by creative talent and vision can be deeply rewarding if the entrepreneur behind the company can find a way to balance the commercial and creative aspects of their work, according to Tony Shannon, business advisor at the Enterprise Connect Creative Industries Innovation Centre.

 

Shannon spoke at a 66meetups event last night for creative start-up founders, coordinated by ATP Innovations. He told StartupSmart he gave his presentation with a one slide presentation, the word “customers” emblazoned across the screen.

 

Connect with your customers as people

 

Shannon says the biggest tip he has for creative entrepreneurs is to take the time to get to know their customers as people, rather than as pressure.

 

“Keep the customer in mind and let it become a personal customer view rather than just an amorphous bland customer that won’t be excited. You’re not working for the man, you’re making people’s lives better,” Shannon says.

 

Accept that you need to balance your creativity with commercial constraints

 

The vast majority of creative start-ups need to alter their offering slightly to find customers.

 

“I’m not sure you can run a business without selling your soul a little, because you have to match whatever it is you’re making with some customers,” Shannon says. “This means changes for 99% of the players in the creative industries to meet the market.”

 

Shannon says many entrepreneurs don’t anticipate this compromise, but you can enrich both the business and creative sides of your business by working through the difficult rebalancing questions.

 

“A lot of successful people with have two sides to their work, the more commercial aspect that if done right, can fund the creative aspect. But the hardest bit is balancing that bit,” Shannon says.

 

Embrace the creativity of the business elements of your start-up

 

According to Shannon, the happiest creative entrepreneurs are those who embrace the commercial constraints or aspects of their business and learn to enjoy them.

 

“Take heart in the fact you’re providing a service for someone and they love what you’re creating. Then look for the creative rewards in doing the deal, building a spread sheet or perfecting your business plan. It’s another way to express to yourself,” Shannon says.

 

According to Shannon, by embracing the lateral thinking and dynamic approach needed to run a successful start-up, you may find whole aspects to your creativity you didn’t anticipate.

 

“People have to look for the creative joy that you get from the more commercial side of things. You don’t need to be dragged away from the pure creative work and into a whole new field, it’s about finding balance,” Shannon says.