Creative Business 101

I've had a lot of wonderful creators ask me about running a creative business.  This is a topic I discuss at a lot at conventions and on twitch.  On this page you'll find my thoughts, tips and tricks related to creative business.
Getting Started
  • I truly believe that everyone is creative and has something unique to share with the world.

  • Choosing to sell products you create either full or part time requires that you also learn some business.  Even if you plan to hire someone to handle the business side or partner with other companies, some business savvy is good so you can understand the services they are providing to you.

  • You'll want to gather information from my creators and businesses so you can choose what works for you.

Don't most projects/businesses fail?

What makes one fail at running a creative business is:

  • A lack of knowledge/research

  • Not really making an effort (you will need to work hard)

  • Not being adaptable enough

  • Fear.  Fear is the big one.  Fear leads to poor choices or inaction.  Running a creative business IS scary.  You'll have to learn the best way to handle fears, unexpected things, and stress.

  • BUT... for those who love creating it is also very rewarding.

What's Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is using a service like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc to raise money for a project.  Those who support the project get "rewards". There are many benefits to crowdfunding:

  • You may want to fund something before investing a lot of your own time and money.  Or if you have a project that just needs production (printing etc) this is a great way to cover that cost.

  • This process provides you with MORE than just money.  It helps you see if an idea will sell and how well it will sell.  It also helps you get feedback for this project and improve future projects.

What Crowdfunding Service do I use?

Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the top crowdfunding services for one time projects.  If you are doing a non profit project you will also want to look at options like GoFundMe.   Indiegogo has a better back end system, it's easier for creators to use.  However, Kickstarter has better promotion of "similar projects" and is generally more trusted by backers (even though Indiegogo is actually more secure for backers in many ways).  For these reasons I use Kickstarter for most of my projects, with Indiegogo being my second choice.

What about Subscriptions?

Creators also have the option of offering monthly/yearly subscriptions using services like Patreon, Ko-Fi, and Only Fans.  This offers three major benefits:

  • Recurring income on a regular basis

  • Feedback, involvement, and inspiration from your fans

  • Moral support and encouragement

I recommend offering this sort of subscription once you have a large enough fanbase from Kickstarter and in person events that people are starting to ask you for it.  I started on Kickstarter in 2012, and Patreon 5 years later in 2017. Providing regular content is a fairly heavy workload, so you want to be sure you can get enough interest to make it worth the effort.  Personally I still recommend Patreon over other services, but you should see what features work best for you. 

Kickstarter 101
  • The most important advice I can give creators who want to run a kickstarter project is: DO YOUR RESEARCH!
    Back other projects, talk to creators, ask questions.  Look at every similar project you can find including those that have failed too.

  • START SMALL:  Start with a small simply project so you can iron out issues, learn the process, and build confidence with backers.

  • Kickstarter DOESN'T do the work for you: You need to have a plan as to how to reach your target market of backers and put it in action BEFORE you launch your project.

  • When they say 30 days they mean it: Running a project for 2-4 weeks is best.  Longer projects will get the same or less funding.  It's just shopper psychology.

  • Launch on a Thursday, end on a Thursday.  It's the best online shopping day of the week.

  • Make a modest base goal: What's minimal version of your project? Then have stretch goals to turn that into your dream project.

What rewards & products do I offer?

The key with rewards for kickstarter and pateron, or products you sell online and at events is perceived value. If you are making something that has expensive printing costs (like a book or a deck of cards) consider pairing it with items that are cheap to print (like bookmarks and stickers) so your backers/customers feel they get more for their money.  It's always good to have items for folks without a lot to spend as well as special collectors items for those with more funds.  When in doubt about what people might want and how to price it ASK.  You can ask your fans, or fans of similar things, and even other creators. Knowledge is power!

Budget, Production, and Shipping

Budget for Kickstarter and Patreon needs to take into consideration both money AND time.  What's the cost to you?  What's a good markup?  How much time do you need? ALWAYS allow extra time and money in your budget.  I suggest at least 10% additional funds and time.  As a rule of thumb I figure out when I expect to ship and add a month minimum - that way folks always get their rewards on time or early.

On demand printing & royalties

It's important to plan for the future of your business too.  You may not be able to keep all your past products in stock into the future.  Many products like books and decks of cards can also be offered on demand. I use a combination of bulk printing and stocking items myself as well as having my older books available on demand though my publisher.  This means they handle printing and shipping when a book is ordered and I am paid a royalty.  You never want this to reduce the value of getting a signed copy of something from you.  Generally speaking I offer lower prices, signed, and collectors copies of items on Kickstarter.

Online store options

There are a lot of options for an online store.  This website (which includes my store) uses Wix.  I highly recommend them as an affordable way to have a great website and store.  With Wix you will also be able to take credit card AND paypal payments and even support payment plans.

Don't spam your fans or other creators

I don't know about you, but I HATE spam.  So it's not something I will ever do to promote my business.  When I do post on social media or send out email newsletters I try to make sure every post includes new content and that there are not more than a few emails in a month.  I also won't add anyone to my email list unless they ASK to be on it.  This means I reach fewer people, but I reach people who WANT that news/information.  If you are looking to grow your business over time you want people to keep reading your updates and posts, so treat their time with respect!

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