Marketing Tips for Creatives
Our #1 Marketing Tool for Running a Creative Business
Someone recently asked about our #1 marketing tool for running a creative business.
To be honest, there was no magic wand or get-rich-quick scheme that got us here. It’s taken TEN long years and a LOT of trial and error for Bittersweet to become something sustainable for the two of us and our daughter, Griffin.
When I filed for an LLC a decade ago, I had a few hundred dollars in the bank and zero experience in being an entrepreneur.
I didn’t go to business school or have any financial support from my parents (well, I should say ‘parent,’ as my dad passed away when I was a kid, but that’s a different story for a different day).
You may or may not know that I didn’t even finish college…
What I did have was a lot of determination to make things work. There was no backup plan, no safety net…if starting my own graphic design business didn’t take off, I was going to be screwed.
Those first few years were filled with fear that I’d fall flat on my face. Fear that no one would hire me or even worse - that no one would even know my business existed.
From printing stationery on my cheap-o inkjet to recruiting Thomas to help me stick double-sided tape on the corners of 400 individual cards because my client liked the look of layered wedding invitations, I did whatever it took to get this thing off the ground.
That’s my secret sauce. It’s the one ingredient that keeps me going every single day.
I REFUSE TO GIVE UP.
I want the same for you, too. If failure isn’t an option (cue the cheeseball Nike shirt), you have no choice but to figure out a way to make things work.
This might mean that you sacrifice trips to Starbucks and cancel Netflix or that you don’t eat out for a few months. This might mean that you have to sell your house and move back into a 1-bedroom apartment so your spouse can join you in your endeavors (we did that, too).
If failure is something that haunts you in your sleep, trust me — you’re not alone.
After ten years of doing everything I possibly can to keep this business going, I STILL have days when I’m afraid it will fail. I STILL have days when I’m worried we’ll never make another dollar.
It’s not failing that matters - it’s learning to embrace the bad so you can focus more on the good. I’ve failed at more things than I can count and have made all kinds of products & services that ultimately flopped. That being said, there were a few things I did right.
Marketing Tips to Steal:
Bootstrap your business until it becomes profitable. Without knowing whether or not your next idea is going to take off, it doesn’t make sense to drop thousands of dollars on fancy equipment or custom branding that you will likely outgrow in a few months.
Invest in advertising. If I’d known about Facebook ads ten years ago, I could have retired by now. Yes, they cost money, and YES, they work.
Create a website that’s clean, functional, & easy-to-update. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly or never gets updated because you are too afraid to mess with it, this is costing you a ton of money in missed connections from clients. Give them an easy way to book you!
Create a consistent brand. I’m not just talking about pricing guides + marketing materials - your brand goes far beyond your logo & visuals. Create a voice that’s unique to you and your business, and carry that voice throughout every aspect of your business.
As much as we want to continue serving creatives for the rest of our lives, we also want to see you succeed at whatever it is that gets you excited each day.
You’re going to fail at a few things, and you’re going to be okay after that happens. I personally think failing adds a lot of value and character.
Keep pushing through all the wins, loses, + everything in-between.