#HandMadeChat No. 52: Top Tips For Successful Creative Entrepreneurs

On Thursdays, Indie Business Network hosts #HandmadeChat, a Twitter talk show to educate, train and inspire creative and artisan entrepreneurs to become profitable business owners. While the show is aimed mainly at entrepreneurs who make and sell handmade consumer products, the topics and discussions can empower and encourage the growth of any small business.

This chat was sponsored by Brushes by Karen. Finest quality brushes, makeup, and accessories.

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Our guest was writer, blogger and creative soul, Andrew Zahn from Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Andrew is the author of the popular e-book, The Ten Commandments For Creatives. He is also an actor with a passion for helping creative entrepreneurs add structure to creativity so they can pursue their passion and make a living at the same time. Here is some of what Andrew shared some of his top tips for successful creative entrepreneurs.

WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF “CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS?”

Andrew Zahn: Creative entrepreneurs are artists! Even if they consider themselves businesspeople, they lean toward artistic thinking, believing and doing. I think many artists may shy away from believing they are entrepreneurs, but we actually are. We ideate, create and share our work. It's a process where fear is put aside, dreams are followed and results are (often) tangible. Very, very exciting!

WHAT ARE THE TOP 3 THINGS A CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR MUST DO TO START A BUSINESS ON THE RIGHT FOOT?

Andrew Zahn: I've heard it said that we'll all be exactly the same five years from now EXCEPT for the people we meet and the books we read. I love that quote. With that in mind, the most important things for creatives to do get their businesses started on the right foot are to:

1. Meet and mingle with people who are doing what you want to do and learn from them — remain teachable and open to new ideas.
2. Read, read, read. I'm guilty of not reading enough, but even reading blogs of people I admire can give me some creative fuel for my day.
3. Steer clear of naysayers. They're negative because they're afraid, and fear as no place in the life of an entrepreneur.

WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR SUCCESSFULLY COMBINING A CREATIVE MIND WITH A BUSINESS MIND?

Andrew Zahn: Know how you work best.

If what you're doing isn't producing results….than STOP DOING IT! (Yes, I yelled that.)

Do something different. I change my setting frequently to get some inspiration. I walk a lot, even at my day job as a PR Manager. Just the other day, the VP saw me walking through the parking lot and asked me what I was doing. I said, “If taking a walk was good enough for Steve Jobs, it's good enough for me.”

In her book, The Artist's Way,, author Julia Cameron recommends going on Artist Dates. Even a five minute Artist Date can inspire me for the next hour of work.

One more thing on that topic: play. We toss around the phrase, “work ethic,” but I think creatives need to also have a good “play ethic” to succeed.

HOW CAN CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS LEVERAGE THEIR PERSONAL BRAND TO SELL MORE PRODUCTS?

Andrew Zahn: People love stories, and stories sell.

If your personal brand doesn't have a story, you won't sell as much. Create your brand story and you'll have more customers wanting to buy what you sell.

Author and speaker, Simon Sinek, did a great TED Talk on this which challenges creatives to “Start with Why.” Why do we do what we do? If we are compelled by what we do, we will compel others to buy our story….and consequently, our products.

As a sales representative and a corporate sales trainer for a multi-milliondollar company, I can tell you that you'll always sell proportionately to how you feel. Make others feel good about themselves and they'll buy from you–which all goes back to what story are you telling … or selling.

CAN CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS BE SUCCESSFUL WITHOUT A PERSONAL BRAND?

Andrew Zahn: That's a good question and depends on one's definition of success. If success is simply creating and being happy doing that, then yes. Sure.

But I'm of the opinion that most creative entrepreneurs want to sustain their creativity monetarily. There's no shame in creating for satisfaction of creating AND for profit. Without a personal brand or a brand story, the chances of succeeding are nil — unless your product is in high demand at a low cost.

HOW CAN CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS BEST LEVERAGE THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA?

Andrew Zahn: Learn. Learn. Learn! My wife and read Twitter Power, by Joel Comm, before we got into business. It was empowering to learn the online language of Twitter.

I also reached out to people who were using social media better than I was to learn what they were doing. I followed their example, and saw my Klout score rise to the 60's in a matter of a few months.

Finally, use the tools of social media so that you spend 10-15 minutes per day on it, and then go about your business. I generally schedule my updates the night before, and then respond to blog comments or mentions the next day for a few minutes.

Use social media as a tool for connection, not a time-waster. Be smart and social media will work for you, rather than you working for it.

WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO TRANSITION FROM TRADITIONAL WORK TO SMALL BUSINESS OWNERSHIP AND CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURSHIP?

Andrew Zahn: I'm right there with you. I still have a day job, and I love it. Here are my tip tips:

1. Stop hating your day job. Use your day job to support your dream job.
2. Write down a plan. My wife and I sat down several years ago and wrote a week by week plan of what we wanted to see our businesses do, and we are on track — actually, ahead of track — from where we thought we'd be now.
3. Do dream, but also DO! As creatives we can be a bunch of dreamers, always dreaming, wishing and hoping. That's good for a time, but at some point, you have to leap and make things happen. That's why it's important to write down your goals, and have a schedule and plan to accomplish them.

WHAT ARE THE TOP 3 REASONS FOR FAILURE OF CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURIAL VENTURES, AND HOW CAN WE AVOID THEM?

Andrew Zahn: 

1. No long term vision.
2. No business plan.
3. Excuse-itis.

The antidote is simple: write down your vision statement, mission statement and your business plan. Put it in black and white. Describe your business in a one sentence elevator pitch starting with “I help ….” Be accountable to someone better than you, who will not allow you to make excuses while you execute your plan.

It's not always easy…but it's always good.

AS A NEW DAD, WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR HOW CREATIVES CAN MANAGE PARENTING AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP?

Andrew Zahn: I've heard it said that if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. The busier I am, the more I streamline and prioritize what really needs to be done.

I used to blog three days a week (and managed social media for a company and blogged for them) before my wonderful daughter came. I dropped the social media management because I was building someone else's brand, not my own, and I'd learned just about all I could learn.

I also only blog 3-4 times per month because I'm finishing up my second book with two other awesome guys, and am starting another business with my wife this summer. (Details later!)

More About Andrew Zahn

Andrew Zahn is an all-around nice guy. Andrew is the author of the popular e-book, The Ten Commandments For Creatives. He is also an actor with a passion for helping creative entrepreneurs add structure to creativity so they can pursue their passion and make a living at the same time. He's currently a Public Relations Manager for a multi-million dollar nationwide company. He also wrote this great blog post about the artist's double life as a traditional employee and a creative project manager. He is married to Sarah Zahn of Sugared Beauty, one of our Indie Business Members, and they are the parents of a newborn baby girl. Together, they host a fun blog, A Couple Comments.

Connect with Andrew:

Website
Facebook
Twitter

Watch the Simon Sinek TED Talk Andrew mentioned at this link.
Learn more about The Artists Way here.
Learn more about Joel Comm here.
Learn more about Sarah Zahn and Sugared Beauty here.

When Is The Next #HandmadeChat?

The next #HandmadeChat will be Thursday, May 30, 2013, at 8pm ET, with Allison Kontur of AliMar Labs in Cuyahoga Falls, OH will share on the How To Grow Your Business With Private Label Services..

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.