Creative Entrepreneurship Essentials

These are the Creative Entrepreneurship Essentials that form the basis of all my work helping creative entrepreneurs to be even more successful, in my work as a creative industries business adviser, trainer, speaker and author.

These entrepreneurship essentials also apply to my own business and the strategies I devise and follow to keep my business relevant, competitive and profitable.

– Success – what does it mean for you?
– Creativity and Business / ‘T-Shirts and Suits’
– Two kinds of Creativity: “a-Creativity” and “i-Creativity”.
– Your Unique Business Formula – the building blocks of your successful creative enterprise
– Designing Your Creative Business™ : a method to devise a ‘blueprint’ for your business that delivers the success you want
– Marketing. It’s about choosing the right markets that fit your work and your Business Formula (it’s not just a bunch of promotional activities)
– Business Growth, Scalability, the ‘Exit’ and the ‘Creative Lifestyle Business’
– COVID-19 (update 2020)

More details about each of these below…

My website has a lot of information, including many free resources for creative entrepreneurship, videos, blogs and details of my two books, toolkit publication and Creative Industries Guide. Most of the information, advice and inspiration does not go out of date because it applies constantly. However I endeavour to update information and add new examples. My website ‘tree’ grows, with new branches, and I prune its outer leaves. But most importantly, I nurture the roots and strengthen the trunk. These are the foundation of the tree, so to speak. As time goes on and circumstances change, I always return to these roots.

This page sets out the fundamentals of my approach to creative entrepreneurship. It serves to illustrate the essence of my thinking.

It also acts as a directory of my most important ideas, perspective and techniques about creative entrepreneurship. Please use it as a starting point. All the other content grows from these Creative Entrepreneurship Essentials. There are links at the bottom of the page to use as starting points.

Success. What exactly do YOU want your success to look like?

What exactly do you want to define as success? Is it just about money? Or does it include other factors such as following your creative passion, doing meaningful work to be proud of, earning recognition for your expertise, achieving job satisfaction, collaborating with others. Does success also include a healthy and happy ‘work-life balance’? Perhaps there are other ingredients too. It’s different for everyone. There is no standard definition of success. Each of us needs to be clear about our own unique definition of success so that we can pursue it through our work, our business formula and the profitable growth of our enterprise. What’s your definition of success? When working with creative entrepreneurs I ask them this question, because if they are not clear about where they want to go, I cannot help them to get there. The danger is that without a clear definition of success, we just get busy doing work, without deliberately designing our businesses to deliver the success we want, and can end up with what I call “the wrong kind of success”, for example making money but being trapped in a business so that we can never take enough time off for the other important things in life.

Creativity and Business. How we can get the best of both worlds: creative satisfaction and financial reward.

Creative work on the one hand, and business methods on the other, are not trade-offs. We don’t have to choose to be true to our values or to make a good income. We don’t have to ‘sell out’ to achieve commercial success. It’s not even a matter of ‘balancing’ creativity and business, as if they somehow counteract each other. No, the two of them can complement and strengthen each other. They can be combined in harmony. But only if we plan it that way, devising a Business Formula that works for us. We need to marry our creativity, values and ambitions with the right selection of cool business techniques that we can use in our own way, for our own purposes, not necessarily following conventional business practice. I call this powerful combination of creativity and business “T-Shirts and Suits”.

“T-Shirts and Suits” – a metaphor for combining creative talent with smart business thinking.

“T-Shirts and Suits” is the name of my first book: ‘T-Shirts and Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity’. This book sets out the essence of my work, it’s my manifesto and my roadmap. I wrote it specifically for creative people who want to be smart with business to achieve both creative and commercial success. I’m proud to say that it has been published in translations in 14 countries so far. It is also available as a free eBook on my website as a PDF download. Why do I give it away for free? For two reasons, which are different but not in conflict: Firstly, I want to share my expertise and experience abundantly with creative entrepreneurs worldwide, so that creative people can generate income, establish businesses and achieve the success they crave. Secondly, though I make no direct income from giving away the eBook for free, it’s a profitable technique for my business because it leads to other income. The eBook acts as my brochure, it illustrates my knowledge, approach and style. And it is my advertising and publicity. As a result, I attract paying customers for my business advice consultancy, I am invited as a paid keynote speaker at events worldwide, and creative people attend my interactive training workshops. “T-Shirts and Suits” has also become my brand; it’s the name of my one-person company through which I conduct all my business; and it’s a registered trade mark.

Two kinds of Creativity: “a-Creativity” and “i-Creativity”.

The word Creativity has become strongly associated with art of all kinds: the art of the painter, musician, writer, actor, designer, photographer, architect, dancer, film-maker, etc. Clearly, these people and their work are truly creative. But there is another type of creativity, that we find in all fields of human endeavour. This kind of creativity is not necessarily ‘artistic’; it’s about ingenuity, problem solving, thinking differently, breaking the rules, innovating and ‘thinking outside the box’. This creativity is everywhere and we can find it in agriculture, education, manufacturing, politics, healthcare, warfare, banking, science and other sectors of the economy. So I suggest we acknowledge both these kinds of creativity, and instead of using one word for both, we use two words: “a-Creativity” for Artistic creativity and “i-Creativity” for Ingenuity in non-artistic activities. I explained the problem with the word ‘Creativity’ and set out this proposal in my talk at TEDx Napoli. The importance of this is that we can use both kinds of creativity in our enterprises: “a-Creativity” in the studio and “i-Creativity” in the business office. Instead of ‘switching’ off our creativity when moving from the studio to the office, we can keep it switched on, to think creatively about how we do business. We can use a-Creativity in the studio and i-Creativity in the office. We can be creative with our marketing, contracts, systems, organisational structures, intellectual property rights and our methods of generating income. Yes, we can use creativity to devise a Business Formula that delivers.

Your Unique Business Formula – the building blocks of your successful creative enterprise

A Business Formula is not a business plan. Business plans can be long and detailed, yet based on flawed assumptions. They might describe the financial model but not the system for success in broader terms. They might be necessary but are not sufficient. First, we must construct what I call a Business Formula. This brings together the essential building blocks of our creative business. There are four main factors which must be integrated: (1) Your specific definition of Success; (2) Your creative talents and passion that drive you and provide satisfaction; (3) Your Competitive Advantage that will allow you to outmanoeuvre the competition; and (4) The market niche(s) and selected customers you have chosen strategically because they ‘get’ you and your value, so they are prepared to pay the right price. We can creatively construct such a formula that fits together in a realistic and achievable way if we are smart. This becomes the foundation as we build the business and add more details (which might develop into a business plan). From this Business Formula we can devise our strategies, do great work and generate income. The article ‘Create Your Own Unique Business Formula’ explains all this in further detail. It’s available on my website as a free download in several languages. It’s a guide to creating a Business Formula that is part of ‘Designing Your Creative Business’.

Designing Your Creative Business™ : a method to devise a ‘blueprint’ for your business that delivers the success you want

‘Designing Your Creative Business’ is a deliberate and well thought-out method for achieving the success you want by carefully selecting a business model that fits with your creative, commercial and lifestyle goals. It’s a smart process that enables us to get the best of all worlds: cool creative work, combined with financial reward, plus a happy lifestyle. The DYCB™ Process is set out in the Designing Your Creative Business ‘Toolkit’ publication. This Toolkit is used in my consultancy advice with businesses, in my ‘Designing Your Creative Business’ interactive training workshops. And it can be used independently.

Marketing. It’s about choosing the right markets that fit your work and your Business Formula (it’s not just a bunch of promotional activities)

The word ‘marketing’ is often used as a fancy word for selling, promotion and advertising. Yes, these aspects of marketing are important and can be called ‘Operational Marketing’ or ‘Marketing Communications’. But it doesn’t work if you are focusing on the wrong customers! It doesn’t work if you are operating in markets where you cannot profitably compete! It doesn’t work if your Business Formula isn’t viable. So before getting into a frenzy of promotional activities we need to stop and think. What do I really want to achieve? What can I do better than rivals (my competitive advantage)? With which customers can I be my authentic self? What type of customers value what we do and are prepared to pay well for it? These are the strategic questions we need to answer first. My work as a marketing consultant isn’t about using promotional techniques but helping businesses to align with the right markets, where advertising is almost unnecessary and where ‘marketing’ isn’t embarrassing or painful. This is strategic marketing and it is part of any successful Business Formula. My book ‘Chase One Rabbit: Strategic Marketing for Business Success. 63 Tips, Techniques and Tales for Creative Entrepreneurs’ is the complete guide to strategic marketing. It’s available as an eBook, Audiobook and Paperback.

Business Growth, Scalability, the ‘Exit’ and the ‘Creative Lifestyle Business’

There are many ways to grow a business, depending on what you want to achieve (and what’s realistic). Some businesses grow in size of operation (people and premises), others grow by ‘scaling up’ (especially with digital products), some grow in terms of sales (but not necessarily profits), some businesses enable the owners to ‘make money while they sleep’, some grow to a size where they are bought and the owner ‘exits’ with a large payout. Some businesses deliberately remain small but are highly profitable. Some businesses can by systematised, others need to use interpersonal trust. Some businesses are designed to deliver a lifestyle for the owners as well as profits. A ‘Creative Lifestyle Business’ allows the owner to integrate ‘work’ and ‘life’ as they go along (instead of deferring ‘life’ until the weekend or retirement). In the world of scalable high growth startups that venture capitalists love, the term ‘lifestyle business’ is used in a derogatory way for those entrepreneurs who don’t have high-growth businesses that might one day be sold for millions. Some people have lifestyle businesses deliberately, because that’s what they want, not because they are ‘failures’ in the game of “growth to exit”. The point here is that there are many ways to grow a business. We can choose. But we should understand the choices and know what we are getting into from the beginning, by spending the time to ‘Design our Creative Businesses’ from the beginning, or restructur them at some point (“RE-Design Your Creative Business”). As a business adviser I can help business to scale, grow and exit; I can also help businesses to increase in profits, not size; and I can help creative entrepreneurs to build creative Lifestyle Businesses. It’s up to them, not me. (Personally I have deliberately designed my business to be small, profitable and give me the lifestyle I want. I haven’t ‘failed to grow’ because I reject the idea that only bigger is better. Small can be beautiful too.) Some advisers and consultants try to impose a one-size-fits-all textbook model of growth onto all businesses, believing it’s the only way to grow a business, even when it’s totally inappropriate or unrealistic. On the contrary, I work with business owners to help them grow their businesses in any way that works for them, led by their own definition of success, their values, their personal style and their goals. Together we design their creative business and devise a Unique Business Formula that suits them. It’s a conversation, a partnership and I am honoured to be part of their journey.

Epilogue: COVID-19 Changes Everything (May 2020)

The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic is a healthcare and financial crisis of unthinkable proportions. Many people have died and the death toll will keep rising, all around the world. Many businesses have already gone bankrupt and others will follow. Around the world, many creative, digital and cultural enterprises are in crisis. Income has vanished or reduced. Old business models are no longer working. There will be even more pain. The world will never be the same again, that’s for sure, and we cannot yet compute the second and third level effects on the creative economy. I know that many creative businesses are in crisis. My own business has been affected. Many are looking for new ways to generate income, pivoting and diversifying in an attempt to survive. Some will change their business model temporarily, others permanently. Yet others will go under but the owners will start again, perhaps in a different way. As in all crises, there are opportunities. Many business owners will ‘RE-Design their Creative Businesses’ in a better way. So right now I’m working with businesses on three levels: emergency measures to survive (eg managing cash flow); temporary diversification and pivoting (new products/services for current or new customers); and in thinking ahead to devise a better Business Formula for the post-pandemic future. I don’t pretend to know what the future holds and  I don’t have magic answers. But I do have a lot of experience from my own businesses (including mistakes as well as successes) and from the hundreds of creative enterprises I’ve worked with over the last 20 years in more than 50 countries. People tell me I know some cool stuff and that work with them in a creative and helpful way. I’ve always given away some things for free (and will continue to do so) and I’ve always done a number of pro-bono projects each year. During the COVID-19 crisis I’m doing even more unpaid projects and giving away even more free resources. But I’m in business too and I need to earn money, including from new sources. I’m offering special rates on business advice and adapting my presentations and workshops for the current situation, then delivering them online. Some products are on sale at a ‘pay what you want’ price. And I welcome donations to acknowledge the value of my work, past and current, including the free resources I’ve been distributing for years and continue to make available. Your feedback on my online information and materials are also welcome, as are your suggestions for new content and projects, to guide me in the right direction as I RE-Design my own business for the months and years ahead.

Contact me if you would like to have a conversation about RE-Designing your creative business or if you would like to discuss any idea for how we might collaborate on a project, event, service or product to help creative entrepreneurs to survive and adapt during the current crisis and beyond.

Main links to the Creative Entrepreneurship Essentials

Five Steps to Business Success as a Creative Entrepreneur (more…)
– How to be a Successful Creative Entrepreneur masterclass (video) (more…)

Creativity and Business / ‘T-Shirts and Suits’
Book: ‘T-Shirts and Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity” (more…)
– T-Shirts and Suits – the concept, brand, networks and the business (more…)

Two kinds of Creativity: “a-Creativity” and “i-Creativity”.
TEDx Napoli talk (video and article) (more…)

Your Unique Business Formula – the building blocks of your successful creative enterprise
Create Your Own Business Formula. Article to download in English and other languages (more...)

Designing Your Creative Business™ : a method to devise a ‘blueprint’ for your business that delivers the success you want
The DYCB™ process, toolkit, workshops and further information (more…)

Marketing. It’s about choosing the right markets that fit your work and your Business Formula (it’s not just a bunch of promotional activities)
Book: ‘Chase One Rabbit: Strategic Marketing for Business Success. 63 Tips, Techniques and Tales for Creative Entrepreneurs’ (more…)

‘Ideas in Action’ articles which feature business examples from creative enterprises using smart business ideas to become even more successful. These features are published as case studies of best practice in the creative, digital and cultural industries internationally. They supplement the 11 ‘Ideas in Action’ case studies in the book ‘T-Shirts and Suits: A Guide to the Business of Creativity’ (more...)

The T-Shirts and Suits® Creative Business Growth Framework combines creative talent with smart business thinking to achieve business growth success. It is primarily designed for enterprises in the creative, digital and cultural sectors. However its general principles can be applied to businesses and organisations in every sector of the economy (more…)

Business Growth, Scalability, the ‘Exit’ and the ‘Creative Lifestyle Business’
– How to Design a Creative Lifestyle Business (more…)

– Creative Business Responses to the COVID-19 Crisis (more…)

If you like this page and want to say thanks, or encourage me to publish more free information for creative entrepreneurs, you can buy me a coffee!