9 Ways to Run a Smart Creative Business


Illustration by Thomas James

Is your business smart enough?

As artists, we tend to be motivated by creativity and inspiration.  That’s great, but it’s important to remember the value in taking a strategic, analytical approach to business, so that you can maximize your potential to get clients, save time and money, and find success in your chosen market.

Right now, there might be artists less talented than you getting the projects you want simply because they’re running a smarter business.  The nice thing is, it’s never too late to start doing this yourself.

Here are 9 ways to start running a smarter business right now:

1. Know the Industry

One of the reasons artist representatives are so valuable is their knowledge and understanding of their target market. They live and breathe the business of Illustration every day, making connections, doing research, reading blogs, and staying up-to-date with current trends and and events.  If you don’t have an art rep, you’ll need to do this for yourself in order to become a player in your corner of the industry.

2. Create a Promotion Strategy

Rather than spam everyone you meet, take the time to build an effective mailing list, as well as a plan to create a personal brand and market it to the right people on a regular basis.  You will benefit much more from a concrete strategy than a haphazard approach to promotion. Here’s a resource that can help.

3. Know Your Budget

Too many famous artists died dirt-broke to deny the importance of managing your money well.  Make your budget a priority to protect your business from being crippled by financial surprises.

4. Manage Your Time

Create an effective schedule that works for you.  Stay aware of how much time you have to work with and organize this valuable resource to be sure that your priorities are being met.

5. Create a Social Networking Strategy

As with your other promotional efforts, it’s a good idea to have a general plan and schedule for social networking.  Otherwise, you might end up wasting countless hours getting lost in friend requests and retweets.

6. Stay Organized

Keep your mind clear and your thoughts direct by making lists, creating a system for cataloging paperwork, and maintaining a clean and orderly workspace.  Nothing will hinder your creativity more than a life in disarray.

7. Stay Current

The elements that affect your business are constantly changing.  Try to stay on top of developments in the areas that are relevant to you, such as social networking, technology, and the inner-workings of your particular niche.  This will help you to adapt and keep up with the pack.

8. Look to Your Peers

Keep an eye on your fellow artists and freelancers to see how they’re running their business and try to determine what they’re doing right.  You can learn a lot by looking outside your own situation for ideas and inspiration.

9. See the World Through Your Clients’ Eyes

A big part of your job is satisfying the needs of your clients, and the best way to do that is to understand them.  Try to ascertain the goals of those in your niche, so you can figure out how to best help them along the way.  Taking the time to do a little extra research will increase your value as a creative professional.

Although we may feel helpless from time to time, it’s amazing how much control we have over our own success.  If you do your best to run a smart business, you will not only be more of an asset to your clients, but you will have more clarity and freedom to create your next masterpiece.

Do you make use of any of these ideas?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Thomas James

Thomas James

Thomas James is an Illustrator who has worked with The New York Times, WIRED, Pentagram, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and many others. You can see his portfolio at thomasjamesillustration.com.
Thomas James

Posted by Thomas James on 01/23/14 under business
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