A few weeks ago in my little Northern California hometown, I taught a workshop called “Online and Real-World Tools for Entrepreneurs.” 15 people showed up, and the workshop was a wonderful success. Because I have so many friends and other interested people far away, I thought I’d use this space to post a re-cap of the workshop so I can share it beyond the local community.
Essentially, the workshop was designed for creatives and/or entrepreneurs who were looking for tools and resources to take their project or business to the next level. I emphasized the focus on local resources and community as a way to step-up your creative game and to make yourself and your business look more professional. A lot of times we can get weighed down by the sheer force of the unknown – where to get graphic design? where to get business cards? how do I start a website? how do I get a logo? And so on.
At the end of the workshop, each participant shared their own experience in being creative or an entrepreneur, and this ended up being one of the most beneficial parts of the workshop. So, I encourage you to share with your friends or peers about your process and see what unfolds. Reflecting with like-minded people can be one of the best tools in the box.
Here’s what else we covered:
First of all, I talked about online tools. If you are a creative artist or entrepreneur, the internet is full of resources to help you be seen and to look professional.
- Selling Online: Etsy, Squarespace, Shopify, Instagram – Which platform is going to be best for you? Each one has benefits and drawbacks. Do your research and decide what will be best for your needs. A good way to sell on Instagram is to register with an Instagram commerce service, like Pay With Penny (www.paywithpenny.com)
- Outreach, Audience and Community: Social Media + Blogging – What is the best way to reach your audience? In this day and age, social media seems like a no-brainer. While blogging isn’t for everyone, it can be a great way to share about your story and your process
- Resources: Marketing, Networking, Discovery – Being online and engaging in social media isn’t just a way to put yourself out there, it’s also a way to call things in. Once you start engaging and exploring, you’ll be amazed with what you learn from other people.
- Branding: Websites, Image, Projection, Audience (again), Consistency – not every brand or business needs a website, but if you want one, there’s no reason not to have one. I think that having a website can feel really good for the validity of your brand or project. Keeping your “vibe” consistent across all the boards is important. Customers really like that.
- Smartphones and Mobile Technology: Photo Capabilities, Mobile Aesthetics – Mobile technology is the face of the future and the future has arrived! Make sure that your website is mobile-optimized, and make sure that any links you have on your profiles can take people easily to your website or shop.
Next, we covered real-world resources – that is, resources that you have amongst your friends or local community that can help you build a brand or business. A lot of what you need is easier to come by than you might think:
- Look around you: what resources are close to you and easy to use? Use them first! This can include local print shops, your friends who are artists and illustrators, etc.
- Local artists (logos, signs, stamps, posters). Think outside the box in terms of what you need and how you can make it. You can design your own, you can have a friend draw it, and so on. You don’t need to pay a lot for graphic design to get what you need.
- Collaboration with other artists: Limited edition lines, events, etc. Collaborating with other like-minded people or other business owners who inspire you is one of the best (and my favorite) ways to build and broaden your audience.
- Community resources: Look for local co-operatives or art spaces where people can make things with tools you don’t have. There will be things you cannot do on your own. Actively look for people who can do what you cannot.
- Image and branding: Things don’t have to be expensive to be valuable: Consistency and clarity are all that’s needed for a professional looking brand. Figure out what you want for your logo or aesthetic, and then use it across the board. Keep it simple.
- Barter and buying: When people help you, what can you offer in return? Many people and friends will work for trade. Start with your pool of friends, it’s likely that much of what you need is in there. Remember, too, that barter is a good starting point, but to free up cash, you will need to be able to spend cash. Paying people for what you need is a good way keep things professional and to invest in your brand and business.
- Stickers and stamps – leaving your mark. You can usually get a stamp made with your logo on it for super cheap. You can then use the stamp to make tags, business cards, etc. Stickers are also a great way to always have free gifts on hand and spread your brand that way.
- Business cards – When you are designing a business card, keep it simple. Simple and strong will go far. Avoid cluttered aesthetics.
At the end, I left everyone with these final thoughts that I think are valuable to anyone looking to make a profit from their creative endeavors or businesses:
- Invest in yourself: Some things will cost money no matter what. Consider these essential expenses for forward movement. Forward movement = growth. Cash moves two ways.
- What works best for you to make yourself look good? There are so many things to do when it comes to creating a brand – decide which ones are easiest for you and start there.
- Be easy to connect with: Have an easy-to-read email address and easy web access in some form. Don’t make people work for it – they probably won’t.