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How to start your (creative) business
Weigh potential with research, networks
Published Thursday, May 23, 2013 1:14 pm
by Brandpoint

Many recent college graduates and professional adults are opting to start their own businesses, particularly in creative fields like graphic design, interior design or Web design.

With recent figures showing only a slight reduction in unemployment and job growth rates moving at a sluggish pace, the timing is ideal. But what does it take to make a new business a success?

Bruce McCain, director of career services for The Art Institute of Tampa, and Kathleen Holland, director of career services for The Art Institute of Charleston, identified the following five essentials as key success factors in starting a business:

1. Self-assess and research.

It is imperative that you are honest with yourself and truly understand what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. Doing a SWOT analysis (a way to analyze Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is a great way of assessing that.

2. Know your niche.
A business plan is highly recommended to help identify both those industries with a need for your services and your competition. This exercise will also help identify whether there might be a smaller and important niche market where your business can focus and be profitable.

If you’re a graphic designer, will you be a generalist, offering services to all types of industries, or do you have specialized experience handling retailers that you can build on?

Knowing your niche will enable you to develop a consistent brand identity in every aspect of your business. The business plan also sets the goals and objectives that will guide many of your decisions.

3. Decide to incorporate or not to incorporate.
Many students in creative fields are familiar with taking on freelance work while still in school. But after graduation, it is important to formalize the business. It’s a good idea to invest in some legal and accounting advice to help you make the best decision about incorporation. There are significant advantages and disadvantages to each type of business structure.

4. Develop a stream of business.
New business owners often envision being successful within a short period of time, but developing and building a business from the ground up takes time, energy and hard work. The industry research you did for your business plan will come in handy in determining what a realistic rate of growth means for your industry and area.

5. Network, network, network.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of networking,” said Holland.

Networking may be your only means of marketing for quite some time - it is important to get in front of as many people as possible and give them your “elevator pitch” (a quick story about your business that you can say in 90 seconds or less). When meeting each person, make sure you take his or her business card; this comes in handy when writing a “nice to meet you” note the next day.

“Yes, you should write a quick note to each person you meet,” said Holland. “In this note, you should mention where you met them, refer to your conversation, and remind them what your business does and how it can be helpful to them.”

It takes a lot of hard work to be a creative business owner and there are no shortcuts to success. So put in the time to reap the rewards.


Great post, it really important for all graphic designer creating a business to take this steps into consideration.

Posted on May 24, 2013
There is a GLUT of graphic design's and web designers in the charlotte area. Charlotte Area colleges are pooping out 100's and 100's a year to an area that is over run with designers. From my experience there are at least 300 resumes for every one job offered in the graphic design field. Opening a business in this field, is Charlotte is a VERY poor decision! AND I wish the colleges and universities would be HONEST with their students and tell them simply... when you graduate in the field of design YOU will NOT find work.
Posted on May 23, 2013

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