New Creative Businesses Need to Focus on This, Not That

Creating a new business can be very overwhelming.  There are so many things you read about online and it can be hard to know where to start.  For most creative businesses, there are some key items you can focus on to get started in the right direction.  Slowly expand your knowledge and capabilities overtime and you will lessen your frustrations for trying to do too much too quickly.  

New Creative Businesses Need to Focus on This, Not That - left side art

This article was developed in a list format to act as more as a checklist.  It might not be all inclusive for your specific needs, and you may need to adjust it a bit depending on your situation.  But it is a good starting point with links to other more in-depth articles.


If you are just starting out, your list of to-do's can seem like it is never ending.  This list was developed to get you started on the right foot.  There are a lot of links back to articles I have posted on this site which give more detail about certain topics.  

Get this:

  • Website with your own domain
  • Develop your Logo and Brand. Not ready to do this on your own? I can help! Click here.
  • Collect emails through your site: MailChimp has a free account that is great to get started with
  • Social Media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram) 
  • Legal (T&C’s, Privacy Policy): RocketLawyer is a great resource
  • Adobe Creative Cloud (Ai, Ps) to create your own illustrations and edit your own photos; free online training
    • The Creative Cloud is about $50/month and you get access to all of the Creative Suite programs which if you purchase them individually they can run you $2,599.00 for Adobe's CS6 Master Collection. 
    • If this is too much for you, you can pay a monthly subscription to Adobe Illustrator CC or Adobe Photoshop CC for $19.99/month.  It is nice to start with the monthly subscriptions if you are not ready to commit.
  • Need some fancy fonts or some new textures? CreativeMarket has weekly freebies!
  • Set up your ecommerce store, through your own site, or a platform like Etsy
  • Business bank account; you’ll need your own EIN
  •  Stripe or PayPal
  • Business cards (small pack) in case you change your initial logo 
  • A decent laptop with good screen resolution and a big enough screen for you to comfortably work on 
  • If you’re doing videos or audio: A lavalier mic usually gets much better quality than the built in mic on your laptop. Use the camera on your phone especially if it’s a good one like the iPhone’s.
  • Movie editing software (use iMovie for Mac, or for Windows, you can download Windows Live Movie Maker from download.cnet.com for free.
  • Simple Excel/Pages for tracking your expenses
  • Buffer (free) to schedule your social media posts
  • Google Analytics and Web Master Tools.  Be sure to index your site.
  • Professional headshot rather than a selfie if you want to have your photo displayed (or at least fake a professional photo with some help from a friend and Photoshop)
  • Google Drive (free) for file sharing

Note: This is not legal advice, but general guidelines for you to follow.  When in doubt for what to do in your particular situation, it is best to contact a lawyer!  I recommend RocketLawyer.

Concentrate on this:

  • Clear About page so people understand what you are there for
  • Knowing your customer
  • Research your competition and learn about your target market
  • What product or service should you offer
  • Pricing points for your products and services (spec out your market and get an idea for what range you should be pricing your products)
  • Develop a seller-buyer contract
  • Legal: you may not need to get an LLC or incorporate right away unless you think you’ll have liabilities right away.
  • Expanding your social media network
  • Blogging in your niche
  • Schedule to keep yourself on track
  • Provide good, free content
  • Utilize simple SEO by using keywords that fit your specific market throughout your blogs and site content

Here is a guide guide to get started if you’re thinking about creating your own online business.

Not That

It is easy to spend money and hard to make money.  Don’t get wrapped up in the hype of paying for expensive tools, software, or coaching programs until you really know what you need.  There are a ton of free resources out there for you to try first.  Regardless if you pay for something, it does not always mean you are going to get great quality.  

Don’t get this:

  • Pay for photos.  There are free photo sites listed here. This can be a time killer too, so be careful how much time you spend on this.  You can use your Adobe Illustrator CC or Adobe Photoshop CC packages to design your own in a small amount of time.  
  • If you do not have liabilities, you may want to wait before getting incorporated as this can be expensive.  Here's a breakdown of my costs for getting an LLC for Left Side Art.
  • Copyrighting your business name.  Copyrights are effective as soon as you create something.
  • Fancy camera and large set ups for creating videos or photos, unless this is the main focus of your business
  • Pay for advanced training through sites like Lynda or CreativeLive
  • Pay for expensive one-on-one training by experienced bloggers
    • This might seem like a good idea now, but at least get your feet wet and see what you can do on your own first
  • BoardBooster (Pinterest) or similar applications until you know you have enough to pin and that’s the platform you want to focus on
  • Pay for Facebook or Twitter promotional ads
  • Pay for a service like 17Hats for scheduling and tracking payments with clients, delivering contracts, etc. (until you have enough clients where you think it will be worth it)
  • LeadPages, until you have something to really promote

Don’t worry about this quite yet:

  • Advanced marketing techniques
  • Advanced SEO techniques with tools like Moz or LongTailPro
  • Guest blogging, most will want you to have an established site
  • Marketing materials other than a basic set of business cards
  • Finding advertisers or sponsors
  • Webinars, ecourses, or YouTube videos if these are not your main product
  • Fancy accounting software, or even an accountant
  • Worrying about affiliate links from too many different accounts
  • Using too many plug-ins or advanced features on your site until you get a good idea of how you really want your site set up, or you may find yourself redoing a lot of things and trying out too many different options - time killer.

Most importantly, whatever you do when first starting out, don’t do the compare game. Comparing yourself to other creative businesses that have been online for many years will only lead to frustration, or you will find yourself concentrating on things that simply are not going to help you in your current state.

Start small, grow big.  You will grow your business to the level you desire with time, patience, and dedication.