When I started my business a few years ago, I was in a constant tug of war with myself. I did not know how to hone in and focus my time in order to build a sustainable business. No matter how much I planned and tried to focus, I was stuck. There were so many days that I felt like a hamster on a wheel just running with no final destination in sight.
It wasn’t until I experienced terrible burn out and stepped away from work that I realized the importance of intentionality. I looked into the mirror and asked myself: What is your why? Why are you in business?
For me, it was the freedom to create a life that I have always dreamed of and be inspired constantly by ability to create.
With this in mind, I’ve started taking more deliberate actions to create a business that aligns with what I want and who I am as a person.
Whether you’re just starting out or seeking more alignment in your work life, here are four actions you can take today to start building a more intentional and fulfilling business.
STOP IDENTIFYING AS A FREELANCER
You manage client accounts, scheduling, invoices and all the things your creative business needs to grow and thrive. Give yourself credit: you’re a business owner.
Not that I have anything against the term “freelancer.” But there comes a time when it’s beneficial to elevate from identifying as one.
In my experience, people tend to perceive freelancers as someone that moves from one project to another. “Oh, you’re a freelancer? I might know someone who can help you,” they say when you introduce what you do for a living as freelance work. While the intentions are good, the pay generally is not. As much as I personally dislike titles and labels, the one of “business owner” just seems to carry more clout when it comes to perceived value and rates.
When people ask what I do, I explain that I own a creative agency. Maybe you run a wellness business, photography studio, or design studio, small mindset shifts, such as how you identify yourself in association with your work, radiate outward and shape how others perceive your value. So get out there and radiate abundance and commitment to entrepreneurship.
MASTER SOMETHING FIRST
If you’ve been in the business of creative entrepreneurship for some time, you’ve likely heard the term “multi-passionate creative”, I used to throw around the term multidisciplinary studio in regards to my practice.
While I know entrepreneurs who’ve gracefully incorporated multiple creative passions into one successful business, they didn’t do it overnight. Juggling too many interests can be overwhelming when you’re first starting out—or, even worse, it can lead to quick burnout.
Be patient with yourself and focus first on your primary strength, whether that’s graphic design, photography, illustration, writing, or something else. Once you have a handle on running a single-passion business, you can more easily incorporate your other passions.
In the early stages of business, expect to DIY a lot but don’t let that distract you from your primary revenue generator. If you set a solid financial foundation, you’ll have funds to outsource things like bookkeeping, marketing, and copywriting when you’re ready.
TREAT YOUR BUSINESS AS A CLIENT
It’s easy to get caught up working IN your business, but don’t forget to set aside time to work ON it. Your business needs love, too! To sustain and grow, you must invest time in things like branding, research, marketing, and product development.
I’ll admit, I recently got pretty lost working in my business. Between client projects and just life, I entirely stopped working on it. With so many moving parts and responsibilities, I needed a system to prioritize my business. So I set it up Andrea Fenise Creative as a project in my client management system, Trello.
When it came time to redesign my website, I went took my business through my client process step-by-step. I went through my brand guide, created brand guidelines, and redesigned my new website just as I would for a client.
Treating my business as a client has not only produced better results but also helped me to fall more in love with my work, identify areas for improvement in my process, and better understand my clients.
STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE
As the saying goes, don’t compare your chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 20. There will always be entrepreneurs ahead of you—but don’t forget there’s always others behind you, looking up to you.
During my first six months in business, comparison was my worst enemy. I wrote and designed three websites before I finally stepped away from all the noise and created something true to me.
It’s okay—encouraged, even—to seek inspiration from other sources. Some of the best business advice I’ve received is to look to other industries for inspiration. But muting out the noise, I’m able to develop and maintain my own unique voice.
Social media and the internet make it easier than ever to see all the amazing things other creatives are doing. When it comes to creativity, who you are is your superpower. It’s what your clients, customers, and fans love about you that no one else can copy exactly. Don’t let comparison take that away from you.
SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO INSPIRE YOU
This may sound like a bit of a no-brainer but creativity comes in many forms and from many sources. Surround yourself with people who compliment and inspire your unique creativity. Find or create a network that builds each other up because we’re all in this together.
It’s okay to unfollow social media accounts that make you feel anything less than good. Turn off podcasts that encourage you to be anything other than yourself. Stop reading anything that doesn’t spark your creative spirit.
When it comes to building an intentional business, the best thing you can do is listen to your intuition. One of my favorite quotes came from my swim coach, Lead with Your Heart.