Congratulations!

It’s a bouncing baby bi-sexual, mixed-race, multi-genre hybrid Independent creative story house!

July marks nine months since Lorem Ipsum first stepped gangly legged onto the runway of public existence. We wobbled down the catwalk, stumbled a little, didn’t know which way to look to smile at the cameras, forgot the designer shoes behind and realised at the end of the runway that we still had on our fluffy bunny slippers.

Luckily, just as we were being blinded by the lights, Eskom decided it was load shedding and we were able to save the day for all by pulling out a lighter and candle and creating a quiet light in the roaring and chaotic darkness.

It’s been quite a trip.

If we had known nine months ago what we know now we would never have thought we were qualified to run a business.

Luckily, we didn’t know what we didn’t know, and so with courage and an ethos that’s bigger than we are, we started our Lighthouse brand and embarked on the great adventure of telling stories for authors, brands, and even on occasion, other publishing houses.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

17 TIPS ON HOW TO RUN (OR SURVIVE) A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS

 

  1. Get an accountant. Unless you are an accountant (in which case, hire a marketing team) you need an accountant. A good one will make your life easier and connect you to all the right tools.
  2. Be prepared to change everything you think you know about actual business. Being a successful creative professional (and even one who has been a manager and done the management courses) does not mean you know anything about actually running your own business. There is a LOT of admin.
  3. Stay true to the mission. To do this, you and your business partners need to sit down before you even agree to work together and define that mission. Write it all down. Highlight the important bits. Make sure you know why this particular business is important to you, and what you hope to achieve in your best-case scenarios. It is essential that you be aligned in this – it is your base – your true North – your lighthouse. Without it you are setting yourself up for mediocrity.
  4. Go into business with someone who will put up with you on your worst days, because you will see theirs and they will see yours. Get to know each other and invest in your relationship as much as you do in the business itself.
  5. Get a business coach. Really. We can not stress this enough! Our business coach (Leoni the brave – destroyer of weak ideas) has been with us for 8 months already and we intend on keeping her around for a long time, yet. We recommend RainTree Business Coaching. These women are beyond genius, it’s borderline witchcraft.
  6. Buy good coffee.
  7. You can’t work all the time. You may need to work strange hours and have meetings with your international clients at 2am, but you also need to take time to walk on the beach (lockdown allowing), visit your friends, and do the things that make you YOU.
  8. Accept help where it is offered – be it an interest free loan, a free notebook, or some sage advice from someone you trust.
  9. Don’t be afraid to “fire” the clients who don’t work with you and your ethos. It may sound crazy, but you did not take the giant leap to work for yourself, to end up working for a client whose work destroys your soul. We went through some turmoil over a client who (after many internal debates and arguments) we eventually agreed not to work with. We were desperate for the money, we had no idea what we would do without his small retainer, but we were spending far too much time creating work we hated. We learned something about ourselves through that experience – we don’t serve “Mc Donald’s”.

This “kitchen” creates dishes made with only the finest ingredients, blended with expertise, flambéed with passion and seasoned with pure love. That’s how we roll.

How to run (or survive) a successful CREATIVE business

  1. Fill your cup. One of the most dangerous things for the creative professional is creative burnout. Writers call it writers block, but it exists in all forms of creative work. Those hours that you spend staring at your screen, willing ideas to come forth, or busying yourself with the endless admin because you are too terrified to face the void of idea-less-ness. You must take time to do things that are not chores, not work, just for your happiness.
  2. Feed your creative self. My business partner recently took up pottery. She’s never done it before, but she was curious about it, and she loves it. It has nothing to do with our trade. But it feeds her creativity.
  3. Eat, sleep, and hydrate. Never underestimate the importance of a good diet, getting enough sleep and staying hydrated. A little gentle exercise can go a long way, too. So please, go buy some fruit.
  4. Get excited! Every now and then you need to create something for your business that excites you, even if it doesn’t have immediate monetary value. For us it has been working on social empowerment projects (soon to be released) which educate on social issues that are important to us – because it reminds us why we are doing what we’re doing and it keeps us facing our lighthouse, or even being the lighthouse, that we first set out to be.
  5. Accept failure as part of the process. But, try to fail fast. The faster you fail, the faster you can pick yourself up, assess the situation, make adjustments, and keep going.
  6. Not everyone will like you or your brand. Thank God for that! If we all liked the same thing we’d all want to marry the same man (or woman, or them, or trans-gender bi-sexual miracle human. Or possibly a dog). The point is – if you do what you do and you do it well – your vibe attracts your tribe. We have been incredibly “lucky” in stumbling upon some of the most amazing clients, and equally lucky in “losing” some who were just not meant for us.
  7. Don’t borrow money with a high interest rate.
  8. Don’t be scared to ask for what you’re worth. We started out as timid creatures who struggled to ask for the money we’re worth. We would either feel guilty (Oh but they’re an NPO, we want to help them – until they screw you over) or we’d be too scared (We can’t quote that much! We’ll never get the job, it’s too expensive, we need to make money now, we can charge more next time). Here is what happens when you under-cut yourself on a quote:The client perceives you and your work as less valuable. Because you are cheap, you must therefore be low quality – because you get what you pay for, right? You end up spending huge amounts of time doing work that is not covering your bills – and you don’t have time to go looking for clients who can. You will end up resenting the relationship.

Now that is not to say you should start out charging the highest fee possible. If you are a brand-new intern or a junior level creative with a lot to learn you may have to accept that learning as part of your ultimate payment. But you do need to know yourself and ask for what you’re worth. If you really want to help someone out on a small project – pay it forward. It’s better to bater or work for free than to undercut yourself.

Imposter Syndrome. Don’t let it fool you. The surest sign that you’re really a creative professional is that you suffer from crippling doubt from time to time. Take a look at the facts instead. Is your work good? Do your clients like it? Do they want more? Do you love what you do? Do you dedicate time and energy to your constant improvement? Chances are, if you’re in a creative profession, it’s because you’re a creative professional.