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Tips For Running A Creative Business (pt.1)

Today I thought i’d share some of my own experience of setting up and running creative businesses to help you get on the right path from the get go and build a strong foundation from which to thrive and more importantly to evolve.

Lets face it, its rare that an idea or project ever goes exactly as we envision it when we are dreaming and scheming at the start of a new venture. Even with the best laid plans, most sophisticated equipment/software or the latest formula for success.

I am going to share 5 tips that continue to help me 10 years in to being self employed and 6 as a creative business owner, with the hope that they may help you cut out some unnecessary crap to avoid overwhelm early on. Its important not to take on too much or spread yourself too thin.

1. Planning, for the long and short term – When I first graduated I worked with a business mentor linked to my uni. She was exactly what I needed at that time but with hindsight her advice though it provided me with a structure for a while, was far too ‘businessy’. The main focus of our work together was to create a business plan that fit within certain guidelines. This proved way too rigid a frame work for me as a creative textiles graduate. Where was the colour, texture, mood boards and abstract thinking?

The advice i’d give to my younger self now is to think about this idea of a plan more loosely with perhaps 1, 3 and 5 year goals for what i’d like my life and creative business to look like at the start, and then work back on small achievable steps along the way. I’d ask myself to think more about the life I want to live and use that vision to create a more 3 dimensional plan for my future… fewer graphs and more inspiring goals. If you can’t maintain some level of inspiration to carry with you along your business journey then is there really any point? Once I have a vision I could create quarterly goals and then think about breaking these down into SMART goals to create measurable steps and to hold myself accountable (more on SMART goals to come)

2. Getting organised – Once you have figured out a starting point you really just have to get started. All the research in the world won’t necessarily lead to success… if you don’t get stuck in and physically DO the thing then you will never know what this business really looks like, how it works and what to do next. At this point its really easy to take on too much and say yes to too many people/projects… try and set yourself some realistic expectations, or you will quickly burn out which will have a negative impact in all areas of your life, not just your new business. I use a combination of sticky notes, a weekly/daily to do list and this PROJECT PLANNER to help me see, plan and manage my projects, social media and down time. For long term projects and goals I have an A2 white board sectioned off into 12 squares in which I plot my year on a quartterly rotation… little and often is my top tip here. Staying organised from the start will allow you to see what is and isn’t working and move accordingly. This leads nicely into my next tip…

3. Test and Change – When I set up the first evolution of my creative business (which feels like forever ago) I really had no idea just how much things would change as I grew. In fact for years I didn’t even realise I was growing! I was scared to let go of the ideas/plans/things I had decided on at the start. Instead of thinking about this as an opportunity to test, change and improve I just saw FAIL. If i’d only have shifted my mindset a little I would have been way more open to new projects, ideas and possibilities and probably have become more confident in myself and skills sooner. Once I realised that what didn’t break me just made me stronger, I was way more willing to put myself out there, approach more exciting projects and opportunities and let go of the things that weren’t working and put them in the experience bank. It also allowed me to push myself way further than I knew I could go which with hindsight was pretty amazing. I’d say that you will generally have a good measure of your own abilities just by knowing you… but do not underestimate the power of moving out of your comfort zone to try a new idea or skill. Because it’s not until you do that and try that on for size that you can really feel how it will fit you. And practise. Don’t try and give up straight away, try again and see if it is easier second time around. For example – It has taken me about 5 years of teaching myself photoshop to feel confident with the basics, and its only through necessity that I got to grips with it. Test, change, test and repeat until you find a fit.

4. Book Keeping aka turning your hobby project into a business – accounting for the numerically challenged ie me. I have never been fond of maths, spread sheets or receipts… so you can imagine that from the start book keeping and keeping my finances organised, as a freelancer and then small business owner, was never a priority and always something that got pushed to one side and caused me stress! Or later when I set up S+S it was one of the things delegated to my dear business partner because she was the ‘tech whizz’ and me the crafty one. This was great until my business changed and it all became my responsibility! That’s when I really freaked out and quiet honestly would work myself up into such a stress about spread sheets and invoicing that book keeping = tears. So now after months of research and trying different methods I have found something that seems to work really well for me! I use a combination of paper envelopes to organise my monthly receipts… keeping a little of that old school charm… and accounting software and an app to stay up to date with monthly accounting. I tried several uk branches of popular programmes but have found Quickbooks by far the easiest to navigate. They not only offer a Self Employed package which costs around £3 for the first few months and then £6 per month after that. They also offer a super smart Invoicing Option to help you keep on top of who owes you what for all your hard work! Obviously i’d advise you trying a few companies but for me this works a treat. I have synchronised my business bank acc up so I can input all my book keeping transactions automatically. Plus there is the option to download my annual tax return into a spread sheet format to hand over to my accountant simply. I am so happy to be excited about book keeping and I don’t even care who knows… good bye accounting stress!

5. Community, the importance of having different kinds – By now you will no doubt have got to know that I love to share… and often overshare. I don’t see the point in keeping all the good stuff (or bad) to myself. Nothing ever gets solved that way. If I learn something new and helpful, I want to pass it on… its in my nature, I love to help others succeed. Alternatively if something seems like a bad idea or a lack of judgement I also think its important to voice concern (thats by no means to say i’m always in the right!). However I am lucky enough to be part of communities who are around for the good and bad parts of being a creative person and business owner. And have different groups where it is appropriate to share different things. I am me and am pretty comfortable with that these days, but also know when to share certain thoughts/ideas or info depending on the audience… and I think this is key to growing communities and maintaining friendships. There is an ongoing balance of give and take, and we all hold different opinions. So perhaps we should be searching out different communities and groups of people in which to grow. Online, email, private fb groups, in person meet ups, old friends you see once a year, creative peers, local business communities, Etsy teams… the list goes on. And they are all super valuable in their own ways. I think the best way to feel the magic of being part of a community is to identify a few that feel right and regularly maintain a presence within them. They are like house plants that need regular input, care and planning. Too many shoots and you will become overwhelmed, so don’t try and jump on board every Twitter chat or hashtag prompt. Find what feels like a happy medium, dip in and out of groups, stay in touch and make time to help others.

I hope you have found this post helpful, please feel free to drop me an email with any thoughts you have or any tips you’d like to share! Find more over on the Women Who Create Blog here

Big love

Amy x

nb – The opinions in this post are all my own and I have not been paid to mention other companies or software packages

Craftivist Collective founder launches School of Gentle Protest to help people become more effective and kind activists

A new YouTube web series has been created to help individuals and groups tackle prejudice, injustice, corruption and inequality wherever they see it – without resorting to aggression and hostility.

In these challenging and uncertain times, more people than ever are looking to take a stand for what they believe in. But many feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start, while others often have good intentions but are taking action without a careful strategy.

The School of Gentle Protest will cover lots of issues such as how to challenge a friend or stranger who has said something harmful, how to campaign by encouraging people in positions of power and becoming their critical friend rather than an aggressive enemy, how to attract and intrigue people to join your protest rather than force your message onto them, and much more.

Participants in the School of Gentle Protest will get access to weekly vlogs featuring the likes of Orsola de Castro (Co-Founder of Fashion Revolution), JP Flintoff (Co-Founder of School of Life), Catherine Howarth (CEO of Share Action) and Tom Baker (Head of Mobilisation at Save the Children UK). There will also be ‘homework’ that will be enjoyable and question your thinking; things like films to watch and activities to do and offline events to attend. There will be an event in Lincoln, home of Magna Carta, at the start of Fashion Revolution Week on Monday 24 April

The School of Gentle Protest is being launched on 20th March by Sarah Corbett, founder of Craftivist Collective, in collaboration with www.1215.today, a project inspired by the Magna Carta which encourages discovery and debate around human rights. Sarah will deliver six weeks of the school curriculum online during her virtual artist-in-residence with www.1215.today.

The daughter of a political councillor and vicar, Sarah grew up in a low income area of Liverpool and has been involved in activism since the age of three. She has worked as a professional campaigner for over a decade for a number of NGOs, most recently Oxfam. One of the leading spokespersons in the craftivism movement, Sarah set up the Craftivist Collective in 2009 and has since worked with the likes of Unicef, Secret Cinema, the Victoria andAlbert Museum, Bauhaus University and Helsinki Design Week, amongst others.

She said: “If we want to make the world beautiful, kind and just,  then we need activism to be beautiful, kind and just. Shouting and screaming at people often creates walls not bridges. Gentleness is not a weakness, it’s about treating everyone how you would like to be treated, whether they are a victim, perpetrator or bystander, encouraging them to be their best self and improve our world for all.”

“Gentle protest has been used effectively throughout history for long term change by people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela – they never demonised anyone and not only helped change laws but also hearts and minds.”

“Activism is a craft like any other and with over 10 years as a professional campaigner I am passionate about doing activism with courage and care. I wanted to create the School of Gentle Protest for people who are feeling overwhelmed, who don’t know where to start, how are nervous of activism, and also for those who are taking action but without a robust strategy. I hope these resources will give people the tools they need to  protest against systemic, structural or societal injustices in a thoughtful, loving and effective way rather than a violent or unkind way.”

Ann Jones, Project Director of www.1215.today said: ”Sarah’s kind of activism is thoughtful, non-threatening and totally beguiling. Just what we need Today!”

After her online residency with www.1215.today Sarah may continue to develop the School of Gentle Protest on an ongoing basis after receiving feedback. She is asking people to send in their problems and questions, from which she hopes to continue to produce fresh material for the web series.
Editor’s notes

CRAFTIVIST COLLECTIVE: Founded in 2009, the Craftivist Collective produces projects, products and kits to help individuals and groups across the globe change the world one stitch (or sentence) at a time using slow, gentle, beautiful activism. You can find out more at www.craftivist-collective.com.

SARAH CORBETT: The daughter of a political councillor and vicar, Sarah has been an activist since the age of three. She has worked as a professional campaigner for a range of NGOs, most recently Oxfam. She has delivered workshops and talks around the world, including TED Talks and Do Lectures. Sarah founded Craftivist Collective on the back of a massive response to her blog, A Lonely Craftivist, from people and organisations around the world who wanted to join in.

www.1215.Today: Launched on 14 June 2015 by the University of Lincoln, www.1215.today is a virtual House of Culture where people aged 14-24 from all over the world can discover, debate, create and connect through the arts, while exploring their individual rights and what matters to them.

Women Who Create Weekend Event Tickets Live. Early bird tickets only available util March 31st!

After months in the making I am so pleased to share my latest passion project with you all today on the blog. Those of you who follow the fortnightly women in business blog series or are on my mailing list will already have heard a few whispers about this exciting event… but today early bird tickets are on general release and full details are available to all my wonderful followers!

What it’s all about

A weekend of creative inspiration, relaxation, confidence building, slow crafting and business/career motivation for women looking to connect with like minded folk and spark changes in their life and career

Bringing together individual business expertise from self made creative entrepreneurs. Come and spend a weekend with 6 women who want to change the world… and help you change yours!


Who is it for

An event for 15 creative women. At any level in their career, from planning start up to seasoned pro, this weekend is for those ready to implement big brave and exciting changes in their lives, careers, and future plans.

You will leave the weekend with a wealth of practical and creative skill to empower your next steps and future planning. A vibrant mix of personal experience, accredited technique and intuitive learning. You will have also spent a weekend becoming part of a fantastic community, meeting a group of equally amazing women who are on the same path as you.

Focus in on what a creative lifestyle looks and feels like to YOU. And leave with the confidence to live the future you dream of creating.


What is included in the price

A welcome drink at our meet and greet on Friday night – venue tbc

Welcome pack – including worksheets, journal & stationary to accompany the weekend, welcome drink, membership card + more secret treats

A 2 hour business clarity and creative visioning session with Els Pontin Creative Coach

A 2 hour colour tiles technique problem solving session with Super+Super’s Amy Phipps Founder of the WWC series/weekend

A 2 hour stress/anxiety management, confidence building and self hypnosis techniques session with Claire Culley aka Thrive Hypnotherapy

A 2 hour plant propagation and garden crafts session with Lyndsey Haskell of What You Sow
*tutor specific items – all materials, hand outs, tools also included
CATERING **Brunch, light lunch, afternoon snacks + tea and coffees on both Saturday & Sunday included in your ticket fee and are provided by Gabriella and Molly of Planted (YBF nominated vegan food start up)
Additional goody bag for early bird sign ups – available to first 10 to book before April 16th – first come first serve.

*COMFIRMED Includes discount codes, personalised stationary, coloured tile kit, printed planner pages and more!

Find FULL DETAILS and book your early bird ticket before they sell out (available until March 31st ONLY)! Only 15 spaces on this event because we want to keep it small and special.

Early bird tickets have begun to sell fast… with £150 worth of bonus content & goodies included I am not surprised! Plus our venue The Forge Bristol is a totally stunning to spend a weekend honing your creative skills.

 

Please feel free to email me for more details and keep an eye out on the new Women Who Create Website for tutor bios, extra event content and more info about this first exciting women in business event!

Amy x

MOLLIE MAKES / ROPE BASKET DIY. Hello Folks! Its Thursday afternoon and by now those of you who are already subscribed to Mollie Makes Mag will have received your copy of issue 77 and be enjoying the ‘Spring Has Sprung’ theme!

I am thrilled to be featured this month with a new fast craft project to help brighten and organise your favourite crafty spaces or work station… dust off that hot glue gun and turn to page 16 for my Boho Bright Rope Basket DIY this weekend! Its simple to create a multitude of shapes and sizes of Berber style baskets to suite your organisational needs! I use fine stiff bristled paint brushes and pop colour acrylic paints to achieve a modern boho look.

Pick up your copy now in all good book sellers & news agents! And find more craft project DIY’s in the Super+Super craft book series here x

Women Who Create / Ami Lou Sharpe. This fortnight we welcome Ami Lou aka sosoyoyo to the women who create series. Bringing us bright and playful illustrations and designs sosoyoyo combines a love of the slightly cheeky with colourful and modern designs to create prints, soft toys, greetings cards and pins.

Tell us a little about your background…

I grew up in Derby. Then did my degree in Theatre Acting at Bretton Hall, after that I studied Graphic Design at Shillington College, Melbourne, Australia. I’ve been working as a designer for the past 12 years and have managed to incorporate my love of children’s illustration into my career too. I started Sosoyoyo because I wanted to turn my illustrations into products. Sosoyoyo has been on the back burner for about 5 years but after having my daughter in 2015 I realised it was now or never, I had to bring my ideas into fruition.

 

Do you have creative habits or rituals within your work that help you stay focused and happy?

I’m an avid list maker and try to stay on track by giving myself specific tasks to achieve. To stay happy while I work, I listen to creative Podcasts, like Blogtacular or Design Sponge’s ‘After the Jump’; they inspire me and provide good company when working alone.

What two things can’t you live without?

Obviously the first one has to be my family. They’re my world. Creatively though, a good fine liner pen is a definite ‘must-have’.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Seeing other people make and create something with passion inspires me no end. It gives me the energy to believe in what I’m doing and keep going.

What is the meaning of ‘creative’ to you?

To me, it means putting your imagination into action. Some people say they’re ‘not creative’ but I believe everyone is. Creativity is a wide spectrum of being able to paint a gallery-worthy masterpiece to finding a clever way to get your kids to eat veg. They all require imagination and effort.

If you could collaborate on a creative project or idea with anyone… who would it be & why?

I adore the work of Camilla Prada. I’d love to collaborate with her on designing a new plate.

Do you have a favourite piece of equipment that inspires your day-to-day process?

A simple blank piece of paper, the possibilities are endless.

What is the best thing about running your working for yourself?

After having my daughter I wanted to be able to work from home, running Sosoyoyo as well as my design business allows me to do that. I also love the buzz of selling something I’ve made.

What is your proudest creative moment in your journey so far?

I produced and directed a play whilst living in Australia. It was probably the biggest thing I’ve done and the most out of my comfort zone. I’d love to do it again, but it’s harder now I have a child.

What one piece of advice would you share with fellow women who create to help them on their business journey ?

Connect with other like-minded people. Working on your own can be tough, you need to get out there and realise you’re not on your own. I joined Studio NL’s “Hustle” group last summer, hearing inspiring stories from other creatives has spurred me on no end.

Follow Ami over on FB here and brows her collection of hand made items over on Etsy here! x

Women Who Create /  Ebonie Allard. Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Ebonie to the blog to add a punch of power to the start of your week with her infectious energy and entrepreneur enabling skills. Read on to hear the totally inspiring story of how she turned her life on its head to become the business maven she is today and how she helps misfits like many of us to get to where they want to be in their creative business lives!

Tell us a little about your background…

I’ve never had a proper job. I started out in the film / tv and events industry. I have a degree in scenic art. After working hard and partying harder I would burnout and then take myself off on yoga or fasting retreats around the world. I swung on that pendulum for a while, then in 2009 I started a business called My Girl Friday. A series of unfortunate events meant that I ended up in five figures of debt and living out of my car while bootstrapping a startup. Through pure determination and a willingness to do whatever it took I made the business a success. In 2011 I had 17 freelancers working for me, and while on the outside it all looked great, it wasn’t. A longish story shorter, I jacked it all in and moved to Bali and when I came back I started my current business as an Entrepreneur Enabler.

Do you have creative habits or rituals within your work that help you stay focused and happy?

I’m really clear on my WHY, and what my version of success looks and feels like. I check in with my Value Filter™ every day. I schedule my week to include fun things; getting out in nature & seeing the people that matter to me first and foremost.

What two things can’t you live without?

My iphone (I run my whole business from it) and real conversations, the kind where you see & hear the other person completely.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Nature and being in silence. I absolutely love people and stories and the bubbling of creativity, but it starts with a pause which I really connect to alone, out in nature.

What is the meaning of ‘creative’ to you?

To me, ‘creative’ is using my imagination, staying curious and becoming aware in new or different ways.

If you could collaborate on a creative project or idea with anyone… who would it be & why?

I’d love to write a story of maybe a chapter each with all sorts of creative people like Amanda Palmer, Neil Gaiman, Caitlin Moran, Vivienne Westwood, helena bonham carter, Tim Burton, Emma Watson – oh gosh, I could go on forever with people I’d love to have involved in this… oops

Do you have a favourite piece of equipment that inspires your day to day process?

Not really, I do like a good notebook and pen.

What is the best thing about running your business?

The freedom, and the woman I’ve had to become in order to make it work.

What is your proudest creative moment in your journey so far?

Opening the box to the first order of books fresh from the printers…

What one piece of advice would you share with fellow women who create to help them on their business journey

Endeavour to know yourself, to make peace with all of who you are, and then choose to become someone that you are proud of.

Thank you Ebonie! Find loads more over on Ebonie’s blog here or check out her super active facebook page here for daily prompts and offerings x

Women Who Create / Amy Buxton. This week I am happy to welcome self professed bookworm and dog mama Amy to the series!

Tell us a little about your background…

Ok, so I have always been a total bookworm, ever since I was a child and dearly wanted to be a writer, ever since I read the Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy. That secret ambition stayed with me all through high school and then I went to university and studied English, as I think I was about to accept that I needed to be a teacher. I took a left turn by taking a junior job at a publishing house when I was 30 and finally found my inner strength to go it alone a year later and I’m now a freelance writer!

Do you have creative habits or rituals within your work that help you stay focused and happy?

I’m a creature of habit, so before I work, I need to have a coffee on my desk (the ultimate cliche), my dog in her office basket, a kiss from my husband and a quick scour of newspapers online. When that’s all done, I’m ready to go!

What two things can’t you live without?

My husband and my dog! As a bonus, my hubby makes all the coffee, so two birds, one stone.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Anyone, anywhere that is doing something for themselves! Self-employment is scary, so you go humans!

What is the meaning of ‘creative’ to you?

Having unique ideas and finding a platform that works for you, to help you express them. It can be anything from angry graffiti through to fine art or creative writing, as long as it gets your idea across, it’s creative and successful.

If you could collaborate on a creative project or idea with anyone… who would it be & why?

I’m quite dystopian, so I would probably be willing to give a limb to science if I could write a TV series with Charlie Brooker!

Do you have a favourite piece of equipment that inspires your day to day process?

A novelty virgin Mary pen that my mum gave me!

What is the best thing about running your working for yourself?

Total creative freedom and regular hug breaks with my dog and husband, who also works from home! Oooh, endless toast runs too!

What is your proudest creative moment in your journey so far?

Honestly? Getting my first paid freelance gig! It will always remind me of how far I’ve come and that I really committed to something scary and challenging. It wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but it was amazing to see my first freelance byline.

What one piece of advice would you share with fellow women who create to help them on their business journey…

Keep the faith! You embarked on the journey for a reason and you need to use that initial impetus to sustain your determination, even when things get tough or look like thy aren’t moving as quickly as you want them to. Your self-belief will make other people believe in you and that leads to clients or customers!

Yeah! Thanks Amy.. you can find more over on her website here x

Creative Seasons / Spring Craft Project Inspiration

Hello folks! I have created a mood board with a few key images that will inspire my spring creative seasons projects & craftivism and wanted to share this with you. Small and special projects are high on my list this season. As well as working on a craftivism project inspired by the ever inspiring Sarah Corbett’s ongoing gentle protesting methods with the Craftivist Collective!

It’s taken a while to find what felt like the right direction for this first ‘creative season’ of projects. But small nature/nurture outdoorsy and plant inspired ideas feel right and a fun way to get other’s involved too! I am also going to use up lots of ends of yarn and scraps of fabrics for these first project to help spring clean my craft stash… And challenge myself a little further! Find full details about the mood board images and more on the Spring Craft Project Inspiration Pinterest board. I will also be posting more about these projects on my IG as I continue to curate this first season and share some progress. Feel free to tag your spring craft projects too using #creativeseasons

a mood board featuring spring craft projects

Title image care of The Craftivist Cllective. Clockwise from top left

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