After ten years as a self employed photographer I decided I didn’t want to live paycheck to paycheck; I wanted to create an income that would have multiple streams, be passive, and allow the opportunity for me to work in one location.
I started in 2020, but then the pandemic happened, and my priorities had to shift to my family. 2021 is a fresh start, and the first step is a plan. I’m going to outline how to create a business plan for creatives and how you can use this same plan effectively to kickstart your business.
So if you are an artist, photographer, videographer, designer, knitter, calligrapher, or whatever creative passion you have, and you want to turn that creativity into an income, this article has everything to get you going.
What Is Your Niche?
I want to cut the waffle that I’ve read in other business plan articles and get into the actual plan building. But I need to touch on deciding on your niche first, because if you don’t get this right, no amount of planning will help you.
Let’s say you want your business to focus on photography, that’s still a wide subject. You can still rank in Google and YouTube for it, but it will take a herculean amount of effort.
If you niche down to say food photography, now you’re more focused, not spreading yourself out thin.
It’s a smaller audience, obviously, but if you can target that audience you can create content that speaks directly to them, and not to just a portion of your audience.
So maybe you miss out on the eyes of car photographers, but what you’re doing is building a targeted audience.
Defining Your Audience
My niche isn’t business, it’s business specifically for creative people, not business for hairdressers or business for restaurants.
Sure I’ll not have relevant content for those other businesses, but for creative people, I’ll have focused information written specifically for them.
So how do we find that audience? How do we get the relevant content we create to be in front of the eyes of those creatives who are looking for that information?
Your audience is everywhere online:
- Google (and other search engines)
Your content needs to be on most of these platforms in one way or another, available to anyone looking for it. Your job is to create good content and make it as easy as possible for eyes who need to see that content to find it.
For me the business plan is actually part of a longer list of steps you need to go through when starting your creative business. You can check it out in my article for ‘How to Start a Creative Business’ which includes more steps like naming your business, branding, what is tax, which gear etc.
The business plan is the second step, with the first being deciding your niche which we have touched on.
The basic ingredients of a business plan are:
- Overview – what your business is.
- Who you are and what you are selling.
- How you plan to execute this plan – clients and marketing.
- Financial Overview – this should be your business model:
- How you will make money – Photography, Video, Digital Products, Consultancy etc.
- Projected Revenue
For the first and second point most of you will already know what your business is. If you don’t, the answer is it’s your creative passion!
The meaty bit I want to get into is how do you create a working business that turns your creativity into value for your audience.
1. Create a Website
This is the most important step in the plan. There is a great phrase which is: “do not build your home on rented land”. What I mean by that is, do not build your entire audience on a platform you do not own!
If all of your audience is on YouTube and your channel gets taken down or YouTube disappears, that’s your entire audience gone. Think of anyone who built an audience on Vine, or MySpace, Beme, or Facebook pages (before they killed growth for pages).
When you build an audience on YouTube or any other platform, you are helping build YouTube’s platform, not your own. You own that audience by proxy. YouTube decides with its algorithm and updates how the content is shown to viewers.
You may have heard of issues like shadow banning or YouTubers’ videos not showing in their subscribers’ feeds.
The same thing happens on all other social media. You don’t own your audience there either and they decide how well your content performs.
That doesn’t mean don’t create audiences on social media, you still should; it’s just that social media platforms should not be the main platform for your audience.
A website is owned by you, the content is delivered the way you want it to be, and with the right SEO, it will get to the right viewers. No algorithms.
Creating a website is the second step for your business and I recommend a wordpress website. Websites need to be light, fast and wholly owned by you, so don’t go the Squarespace route.
Don’t be fooled by anyone telling you creating a wordpress website is hard and needs coding skills. I don’t have any coding skills and I have built a few websites now and they’re simple to build with drag and drop templates.
To get started, you’ll need a domain name. Check out my article on ‘How to Name a Creative Business’ which has 250 examples to help you.
2. Drive Traffic to Your Website
There are lots and lots of ways to drive traffic to your website. The easiest would be to run ads, if you have the budget. But like me you probably don’t, so I recommend three ways to drive traffic to your website:
- Organic traffic and SEO building (Search Engine Optimization)
- Build an email list
- Concentrate on one social media platform i.e. YouTube
Organic Traffic and SEO Building
Once you have your website running you need to fill it with content. So whatever that might be, writing pieces, photos, videos etc.
That content needs to be search engine optimized with the right keywords to target the right people.
SEO is a massive subject that requires more than one article, so I’m just highlighting it for you so you know it’s important for driving organic traffic to your website. The next step is to use the linked articles to learn how to find the best keywords, how to optimize your articles, titles, and text.
Build an Email List
An email list is such an underpromoted asset that every content creator should be focusing on.
If you have access to the email inbox for thousands of people you know are interested in the content you have to create, for marketing it is the most powerful position to be in. Because you have direct access.
You don’t need that person to search for your content when they need it. You can deliver that new content straight to them instantaneously.
The most important aspect of having an email list is that it is a targeted audience that you have built and own. You can’t lose it like Vine subscribers.
Some great ways to capture email addresses are to get viewers to sign up to newsletters. Or to sign up to receive an eBook or free digital product.
Essentially you need to offer a small amount of value in return for the email address. Later on in a newsletter or a call to action email you can promote new content or products.
Because of the way you capture your email addresses you can understand what that person’s needs are. If they signed up to your free ‘How to Paint Roses’ eBook, you have an idea of what else would work.
Use my links for how to build an email list with Converit and start building your email list.
One Social Media Platform – YouTube
I recommend concentrating on one social media platform when you are starting out. Simply because you will be overwhelmed with the amount of work you have to do at the onset.
Everyone is different, so judge for yourself how much you can handle, but for myself, creating content for a website and YouTube is plenty. If you stretch yourself too thin, the quality will drop.
YouTube is the best platform to build another platform for content. All the same cons are still present, you will still be at risk of losing that audience you build, but as I said you can’t avoid social media, there are too many eyes there.
The reason I picked YouTube over the other platforms (although Pinterest is a close second) is that YouTube is video content, which is consistently growing. Short form video is actually the fastest growing format now.
YouTube is the second biggest search engine behind google so all the content you upload is searchable. You don’t search for content on Instagram, and content you upload there years ago will probably not get any more views.
Instagram is very evanescent, you see a photo once and never again. If I create content I don’t want it to be seen for a split second while someone scrolls on.
Partly that’s because of the nature of Instagram, whereas with YouTube you can create evergreen content that can be found years later so long as it’s still relevant.
The first step is to create a YouTube channel, which you can check out in my article: ‘How to Start a YouTube Channel for Creatives’.
3. Create a Shop
There are two focuses you can follow, creating informational content or shop content or a combination of both.
In a shop you can have digital content like merchandise, prints, digital tools, and tutorials. I’m not going to focus much on original physical goods as this is not strictly passive. The focus of my strategies are all passive income.
You can either create a shop on your website or in my case I prefer to use dedicated shop sellers like Gumroad and Sellfy, which have some great tools that work well in a wordpress website.
4. Create a Course
Courses are another great passive income stream that can generate money for years and years.
They will take a lot of effort and time. A good course should be multiple hours of content for the buyer and have lots and lots of information to digest.
I’ll touch on this more in a video, but the problem I have with courses, especially for business is that the value from a course should be more than the value you get from your YouTube videos.
So if the course is better than the YouTuber’s video content, does that mean there’s less value in your YouTube? A lot of time it is, and you can tell when the video you watched that you thought would answer your questions is actually a soft sell for their course.
Only make a course if it’s content you can’t deliver on YouTube. For me right now I will make it so that my YouTube is not a bridge page to get you to buy a course.
My YouTube channel will have everything you need to create a business, I’m not going to save anything for a course.
5. Create Social Media
My use of all the other social media platforms will be to drive traffic to the three platforms that I’ll concentrate on, website, email list, and YouTube.
I will try to spend most of my time on these three platforms and as little time as feasibly possible on the other social media. Remember time is your most precious commodity. Don’t waste it spreading yourself out too thin.
When you build your business to point you can outsource, you can then add another platform to build on.
For example I would then focus hard on Pinterest. I would hire a virtual assistant whose job it is to create pins daily using Tailwind tribes and other strategies.
Applying the Plan
So how do you apply this plan to your business if it’s a different type of art medium? For example, how would I advise a painter friend who sells personalized painting prints?
It’s still 99% the same structure. Build a website with a shop, or a website linked to an Etsy page.
On the website, have links to products and write some articles about how they paint, or what to look for with personalized prints etc. This is where keyword research comes in.
I would maybe swap YouTube with Pinterest and join some tailwind groups to drive traffic back to your selling platforms.
I would still advise capturing emails so that you can update people directly when you have new prints available, incentivised by offering discounts.
You can apply this plan to almost every creative field with just a bit of tinkering. But the basic backbone of the plan is same.
I hope that having this plan in place for how you can now kickstart your business and start growing.
Each section is really a sub topic of its own that merits its own article, so make sure as you follow each step you also click on the linked articles to go even more in depth, because I’ve only been able to touch on each.
Artist / Photographer / Writer