Finding work in the creative industries is becoming increasingly difficult, but before we all give up and become undertakers, there is another way. Hundreds of young creative people set up their own successful creative businesses every year – we spoke to some of them to get their top tips…
Be prepared for set backs
Nico Perez quit his job four years ago to set up the music-sharing website Mixcloud, where DJs can share playlists and radio shows for free. But, while the business is now enjoying international success, things weren’t always plain sailing. “We flew 3,000 miles for a 10-minute interview with a start up incubator programme in California,” explains Nico. “We got turned down, but the whole experience really confirmed for us that we wanted to work on the project. So we quit our jobs anyway. It was a tough decision, but looking back it was the right one.”
Lesley Taylor of the Page Turners Project – which uses creative workshops to inspire young people to read books – argues that people setting up a creative business need to take the long view. “You have to be patient. I read somewhere that it takes three to five years for things to really take off. So, if you can prepare for that financially, then do.”
Be realistic about your finances
“For the first two years we didn’t have any revenue at all,” says Mixcloud’s Nico. “We were surviving pretty much on odd jobs here and there. Most of us are DJs, so we were doing that. I did photography and web design work, some of the other guys organised a New Year’s Eve event: just small things to raise some extra cash.”
“We knew that we wanted to help new and developing designers and graduates get their work out into shops,” says Polly who set up Wrap – a large -format illustration and design magazine, which publishes work by artists from all over the world and doubles up as wrapping paper. “But, if you have a good idea, give it a go as a project first. Stay on at your job, for a bit anyway, and see where it gets to.”
Do something you believe in
“Your business has got to be something you really love and believe in,” says Lesley. “Otherwise you will probably want to give up when it gets tough.”
For Nico, the passion was as much about filling a gap in the market as his love of music: “We noticed that this was this problem on the internet, that you couldn’t really find good radio shows or DJ mixes easily or directly. So we thought we could fix that and start a little company to do it.”
Give yourself a deadline
“You can set your own deadlines, but having a live brief that you have to stick to is better, because you can’t push them back,” says Wrap’s Polly. “We ended up producing the first issue in eight weeks, because we won a competition as part of London Design Week.”
Use social media
This will come naturally to young, creative people, but it really is important to network and reach out to people online.
“Having a website, blog and online shop is so easy now that you don’t have to invest lots of money to get something out there,” says Polly. “We’ve also found Twitter really useful: not for direct selling, necessarily, but just to make contact with people in the industry.”
Talk to people
“I’ll go out and talk to anybody,” says Lesley. “You never know where help may come from.
“We spend a lot of time visiting the people that sell Wrap, getting feedback from them, as well as our customers,” says Polly. “When you work in industry, you realise that if you want to make something, and have people buy it, then you’ve got to make something that people want. It sounds obvious, but it’s really important and something people don’t always think about.”
Don’t forget the personal touch
“If someone buys a copy of the magazine from our website then we always send them a handwritten thank you note, and we always write nice letters to our stockists” says Polly.
“Be prepared to do a few freebies for people to build up good will,” advises Lesley. “As long as you make it clear that it is a one-off.”
There we have it: passion, prurience, just enough pressure and a whole lot of patience.
Image: From Wrap magazine
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