I recently came across a fantastic infographic by FotoSeeds called “Create Sustainably” & it really spoke to me. It cleverly laid out the difference between The Hobbyist & The Professional Photographer. Both are fantastic & have their own set of virtues. It demonstrated how both of these ventures have striking similarities with some crucial key differences that sets them apart & how running a business as if you’re a professional when you are truly a hobbyist can actually be detrimental.
I won’t rehash the entire graphic as I think it speaks for itself; I will say that it’s a great read and a lot of fun to get through, all the while being slyly informative. If you’re currently thinking about upgrading your hobby to a full-time business (’cause, why not? People love your products & they’re beginning to pay for them, right?) or you already have and are in the beginning stages (yay for you, congratulations!), keep reading. While the FotoSeeds infographic focuses on photographers, it can really be applied to any creative or handmade business, as does this new series.
Having worked for both corporate & start-up businesses (and now as a successful owner), myself, I have found that in addition to the fundamental foundation laid out by FotoSeeds, you will also need 5 things in order to truly succeed as a business owner.
PART ONE: CLARITY – ARE YOU A HOBBYIST OR A PROFESSIONAL?
One of the main things that sets The Professional apart from The Hobbyist is a proper business model and sound financial structure.
Sure, ok… this sounds really boring, right? I mean, you already have momentum and a few sales under your belt and can’t you just keep getting more sales and go from there? No. You can’t. I mean, you can, but at some point, things will start to unravel & you’ll be left with a big gooey mess.
A business is a serious thing. It has legal consequences and boundaries and governmental regulations that need to be addressed. These will, of course, vary from country to country, state to state, province to province, but they shouldn’t be ignored! If you are really serious about becoming a business that operates on its own, brings you a proper income and can sustain itself, research what that entails in your local area.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
• Find out the difference between “Sole Proprietorship” and “Limited Liability Company” and which would suit you better at this stage.
• Review what licenses you’ll require in your area & if you want to use a business name, how to search it so that it’s not already in use.
• See if there are any grants available to you.
• Create a business plan that details the next 5 years of your business intentions & includes real finances, such as investing your own capital or needing a business loan.
• Research similar businesses and competition in your area to see if your business will be viable in that market.
• Invest in a support system; don’t rely solely on friends & family for advice & help… reach out to the professionals!
There is a lot of information out there on the interweb; try typing in “starting up a business” in whatever search engine you use. If it seems like it’s too much, ask for help or advice, especially from a financial advisor or small business lawyer. If you’re pretty savvy at working up a financial structure that includes a balance sheet & projections, then great. If not, hire an accountant. Trust me. The money might seem like an extravagance, but they will end up saving you money in the long run if their experience outmatches yours.
There are some great resources out there for starting up your own creative business, but not all of them will work for you. Spend the time to review several to see which one fits your personality & venture. If you are doing this alone, you are going to be wearing a lot of different hats, including artist or creative, bookkeeper, administrative assistant, customer service rep, marketing guru, designer, packaging whiz & mail runner, to name a few… and you won’t be good at all of them.
Sorry, but them’s just the facts!
You will be excellent at one or two at the most, good at maybe one or two more and average or poor at the rest. Dig down deep and be truthful with yourself about which ones you excel at and delegate the other jobs to someone else. If money’s tight and you have to do everything yourself, ASK FOR HELP!
WHO SAID THIS WAS GOING TO BE EASY?!
Owning your own successful business is one of the most rewarding things you can do… it’s also one of the hardest.
Expect to work long hours, make big sacrifices, make no actual profits (or simply lose money) in the first 2-3 years, increase your stress levels, learn a lot about yourself, expand your limits, reveal your true people skills, sleep less, worry more & get discouraged. Sounds horrible, right? Why would anyone in their right mind want to put themselves through that? Well, if you do decide that you want to become a professional and take on this mammoth adventure, you can also expect to gain immense satisfaction, work the way that suits you, do what you love, create for a living, be your own boss, call the shots, give back to or serve your community, live out your dream.
Sounds great, right? Well, it is… so, now you need to figure out if you want to be The Professional or The Hobbyist. Think long and hard; it’s a soul-searching question. No joke. As FotoSeeds says, “Create Sustainably”.
… stay tuned next time for PART TWO: YOUR IDENTITY & BRAND.
Geri Jewitt — The Languid Lion
Geri Jewitt is a designer gone rogue from Corporate who now owns The Languid Lion, handmaking eco-friendly invitations + stationery, paper decorations & illustrated art prints in her Paper Boutique as well as helping those who are in need of fresh design! She is also the editor of The Lion’s Den, a blog where she writes about love, life, design, colour + handmade.