The Millennial PhD: Creative Survival at Work & Beyond

Ep 18. How to Start a Creative Business in 2022

March 25, 2022 Carmela Season 2 Episode 18
The Millennial PhD: Creative Survival at Work & Beyond
Ep 18. How to Start a Creative Business in 2022
Show Notes Transcript

Is entrepreneurship calling your name? Have you always been creative? Thinking about ways to turn your creative passions into a business? This episode is all about tangible, actionable starting tips to get you from big idea to getting your work out into the world. 

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Dr. Carmela Muzio Dormani - aka your host, Mela - is a sociologist, dancer, and creative consultant.

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Speaker 1 (00:09):

Welcome to the millennial PhD, a podcast about creative survival and beyond. My name is Dr. Carmela Muzio Dormani, and I'm a sociologist, dancer and creative consultant from New York. In these episodes, you'll find inspiration, ideas, and actionable tips for building new pathways forward in work and life. You'll hear from artists, activists, creative entrepreneurs, PhDs, and professional pivoters. We talk about radical humanity and practical steps to follow your dreams, even in the context of challenging social conditions. Before we jump into today's episode, a quick reminder to follow the millennial PhD on Instagram. And to please take a minute to rate and a review the millennial PhD on Apple podcasts. Your rating really helps the show reach as many listeners as possible. You can learn more about me and get access to free creative resources on the millennial PhD Instagram page I hope you enjoyed the episode. 

Welcome back to the millennial PhD. I'm your host, me, and this episode is about how to get started as a creative entrepreneur. Okay, so this week, if, if you're listening to this in real time, this week I'm celebrating the launch of my own small business. I just started, I just put it out there on social media, um, for the first time. It's a consulting and creative services business, um, with a little bit of one on one coaching thrown in there as well. And even though it just came out on social media, I've been working on it for probably the last year and a half. I've mentioned in some of the other solo episodes that there was a good amount of mental work for me to get prepared for the idea of entrepreneurship, to think about how the skills and experiences that I've accumulated through academia and through my life as a dancer, um, could come together into something that would be providing a, a, a useful service for people. 

So I've put that out into the world. I did book my first and second client over the last week or two since I've been talking about it, which is very affirming. It's very exciting. And the purpose of this episode is just to talk about what some of the initial steps can be for you if you're trying to launch a creative entrepreneur real journey of any type. Um, so if you're new here, like I said, uh, I'm me, I'm the host. I'm a sociologist. I'm a sociology professor, and I was, have also been a professional onto South Sudan here for a number of years. And so I, what I do do here is I bring those experiences together and I alternate. Sometimes I have interview episodes where we have guests on who share their expertise because some really amazing people, um, some, some Broadway professionals have been on some entrepreneurs, some folks in the tech industry, TV writer. 

There's been some amazing creative people here and some amazing entrepreneurial strategists, <laugh>, especially in recent episodes. So this episode, the information that I'm gonna share, it's pulling from my experience so far and the journey that I've gone through over the last year and a half or so, but it's also kind of more collective and collaborative than that cuz it's drawing as well from some of the, the expertise and, and inspiration that I've been able to draw from all these amazing people that I have been talking to. So go ahead and scroll through the previous episodes and see if there's someone in there that you'd really love to hear their perspective, cuz the interviews are great. Um, and, and there's a few previous solo episodes that are also interesting. But here I'm just gonna synthesize some of some of that info into basically starting steps, a couple of early steps that we can start with. And when we think about creativity or even the idea of creative, I use this a lot because it's because it's broad, right? And it is really broad. 

Uh, sorry, just have to pause to make sure we are recording. And we are. Um, I use the term creative and it took me a while to wrap my head around how broad of a term that can be, right? Because there's the arts and then there's this super broad term of creativity, um, or creative work, or the creative industries. And these mean different things to different people. So for you, if you're thinking about, I, I come from the dance and performance world more or less with my, with my artistic work, but the, there are opportunities to be creative in so many fields and in so many different types of business. So I had not previously to some of the, the, the work that I've been doing in setting up this business. I had not thought about marketing as creative. I had not really thought about, uh, working with people necessarily in the consulting or coaching type arena as creative. 

But those things definitely can be. Um, and it's really amazing to see the different ways that folks who have come on this show have infused creativity and their artistic practice into their work, including folks who are like yoga practitioners and, and wellness practitioners. Um, so really broadly speaking, finding the way that you can apply your creativity in your artistic lens. There are potentially more options out there for you than you might necessarily be thinking of. Um, so let's dive in. Let's get started. There's basically, I'm gonna share pretty much three major starting points, um, to go off, at least for today. This is a little bit of a mini episode. Try to keep the solo episodes a little bit on the shorter end cuz I know we, we like to have some bite sized, um, bits of content. So the first thing, as you're starting out, some of us listening maybe in all different stages of this, but even if you've already been active, even if you've already sort of started to think about what you wanna do, is maybe something you'd wanna return to, the first thing you really need to be in touch with when starting out on a creative entrepreneurship journey is your starting point of imagining your big creative vision, right? 

So it can be really helpful to write this out. It can be really helpful to just speak through it with somebody, What is the big major goal? And then before that gets too overwhelming, we are gonna try to focus in on some parts of that that really feel like they could come to fruition. So the major piece of advice that I've gotten from so many people as I've been beginning this creative entrepreneurship journey, and that you'll see all over the internet as well, if you're Googling, um, reading blog posts, et cetera, about this is to niche down, Okay? Niche down means be as really as specific as possible about the the type of person that you're trying to provide services to. What those services can be. What are the topics that you're gonna be an expert at, whether it's services or, um, you know, if you're selling something in specific goods, the more specific that you can be, the better. 

Um, and that being said, my spin on this advice is to say, don't get stuck on this either. Okay? So folks are all over the place saying, niche down, it'll help you niche down, it'll help you, and it will, My experience tells me that research tells me that speaking to other people tells me that, but at the same time, it can be really, it can really stop you in your tracks if you feel like, Oh my God, everybody is telling me niche down. Get really specific. Get really clear on my, who my clients are and what I provide and my areas of expertise. And that in and of itself, that's gonna stop you in your tracks. I would say don't let it push past it a little bit. And most importantly, go through the processes, think through, you know, use all the free tools that are online and everything. 

Think through what your exact niche or niche, whatever is gonna be. And then do whatever you want anyway. Um, and the reason I say that is because the most important thing above all else is to get started. And for me, this has been the part that I, I am sure this is the case for other folks out there. I could get stuck in my head forever just thinking about how to refine my specific areas, my specific areas of expertise or the, the, the ideal client or what I'm gonna provide. So rather than spinning my wheels, part of what has been helpful for me and for many other folks that I've spoken with has been to start to take an action step to put something out there. Start, start, Excuse me. Start sharing the content that speaks to you. If you're using social media, uh, as part of your business or start putting down, put putting together the, the type of class that you would wanna take or the type of programming that you're excited about, or start designing the, the sticker or the candle or the coffee being company, whatever it may be that, that you feel excited about and you have some energy behind. 

Because at the end of the day, no matter how much time you spend up front trying to niche down, it's probably gonna change once you get started. Okay, So this, hopefully this is gonna be like a little bit liberating because it feels, again, it can feel really like there's a trap at the beginning where it, you know, in the indecision can be really, um, you know, it can really, really slow you down. And that's totally okay. I'm very indecisive as well. And I would just say move past that. Put out what's speaking to you. Don't ignore the advice, Ning down because the, the marketing experts tell me it's critical. Um, but I would say most important is to move, move first and see what works, because that's the reality of it. Even the people who look like they're very, very together with all their materials. 

Now, first of all, scroll back, <laugh>. If you're looking at them on social media, scroll back a couple of years and you, you may see that how much they're programming or they're offering has changed over the years. You see people grappling and trying different things, okay? So sometimes by the time we see people and we see their creative business, it's fully formed or it seems fully performed, It seems like, Oh wow, what a perfect model. This person, they've got like all the colors that match and like they've got their really clear offerings and it's so clear what they provide and their expertise. Scroll back a little bit or, or, or go back in the timeline to see where they were because it's probably shifted, which means the critical thing is to, to really get started and put something out there. Okay? So the second thing that I would recommend is to take a moment, go through some exercises to identify the overlap between what the world needs or what, what you, what, what feels critical. 

What you wanna offer, what you, what what you feel is a critical offering that can, can solve what's out there in the world, um, for whatever you feel like your client base is or the people that you're trying to support, um, and what you're great at that you like to do. Okay? So make a ven diagram if we're thrown it back to middle school or whatever, whenever it was that we were making a lot of Venn diagrams. And you go in one big circle, write down what do you think are are critical needs for the world or for your community or the community you're hoping to serve. Make another circle. Writing down your skills, things that you're good at that you also like to do. Doesn't have to be your number one passion. It does not have to be your number one love and passion, but things you, you like spending your time doing that you're good at. 

And see, look for the places where those things overlap. Um, and this is, I'm, I'm not a practicing Catholic, but I have realized as I go through this that this is informed by kind of Jesuit social teachings, um, <laugh>, which, which, you know, I went to a Jesuit college and, um, these are helpful tools and they're echoed in, in a number of environments as well, not just there. Um, if you are having trouble identifying any either things that go into either of those circles, but I find that usually the second one is the tricky one. The stuff that you're great at that you like doing. One, I have a, a free, I have an online resource that's in my Instagram link, uh, to LinkedIn, my bio at Mela uio that you can check out that goes through that process a little bit. Gimme a call. 

If you wanna talk one on one, hit me up in my dms, I mean email at the millennial PhD or forget me, call somebody else. Uh, talk to, uh, uh, a colleague, a a friend. Look for the con the ha to have these conversations with someone. And you may also wanna think about what have you been told over time that you bring into a space? And I know that there's something I hundred percent know that there, there are things that you're contributing to space as you move into it. Um, and sometimes we're really hard on ourselves and we can have a lot of negative or limiting self speak about, you know, being very harshly critical with ourselves and looking at ourselves with very a harsh critical eye. And so we can be like, if other people say like, Wow, you have great energy when you come into the room, or I love talking to you, you give great advice on this. 

Or, um, wow, you, your writing is really good. Or anything, right? It doesn't have to be super clear. Stuff like that. It can feel easy to dismiss the things that other people say about us and say, they're just being nice but me, I really know and I'm gonna be super mean to myself. Um, so think about if you're stuck there, think about what have other people told you you have brought into their lives or that they feel you're good at. And again, if you're feeling totally at a loss for this, think about reaching out to somebody. There's, there's free resources and there's things that you can pay for. You can pay for coaching. Um, you can look for one-to-one coaching. You can look for group coaching if that feels more comfortable. And a lot of folks who are coaches and consultants have, again, these free resources that you can look into that they can be helpful. 

You know, use the free stuff if that's, if that's what's gonna be helpful for you. Um, because I know that there are things that you can contribute. Um, so you're gonna wanna think about that overlap between those things that I know you can contribute and that you feel happy with and that you feel like are strengths of yours. And how do those fit in with things that the community needs? And it might surprise you, right? For, in fact, I feel like for a lot of folks that I've talked to about this process, it can be surprising even though it's a very simple exercise. And that's because we, we get tied up thinking about, um, you know, the most. So what we think is the most critical, maybe the most critical need that exists, and maybe that's not something that's our fit, but maybe there's something else that, that we can really strongly contribute to. 

So this process can help with overwhelm a little bit. Um, and you're definitely gonna wanna, wanna think about that, and it's something you can return to at different stages. So take the pressure off. It doesn't have to be perfect right now. And number three, the third kind of major piece of start off advice. If you're thinking about starting a creative business of some sort, you're going to want to right up front, as you're going through this process, you have your big creative vision. You're thinking about meshing down, you're thinking about where your strengths overlap with what your community needs. The next thing you're going to wanna do is identify a first offering. It is so tempting to map out the whole thing. I'm gonna have this business and I have this two to five year plan, and I'm gonna offer these, these three things. Now it's gonna be four things. 

And, you know, I could also do this, and this is a struggle for me because I'm, I have multiple interests, um, multi-passionate, like so many people who are probably listening to this right now. And it will be easier to grow and to pivot and to shift and to gain an understanding of what works and what doesn't work. If you focus in on one early offer, just like with the first piece of advice, this is not meant to stop you in your tracks. It's just to say, if you have three ideas that you love, just pick one. Just pick it. Just even if it feels like they're equal, just arbitrarily pick one. In that case, get it as clear as possible. If it's what, if it's, you know, you're gonna sell it, you're gonna make a particular item and sell it. If it's, you're gonna give piano lessons and or, or dance classes, or you're going to provide research or marketing or social media consulting or whatever, pick one thing, spend a couple, spend a little bit of time making it as clear as possible, clear as in other people can understand the value that you provide with that offering. 

And then put it out there. And this is easier said than done. And I know that, um, that being said, you putting out a first business offering, it's like, I, I think of it like learning a language kind of. Um, when you're in the process of learning a language, there's only so far that studying can get you at a certain point. You gotta just start talking to people. Um, and you have to get comfortable with the idea that you're probably gonna make a mistake, probably gonna mispronounce something, say the wrong word, or you're not gonna understand what somebody's saying to you or, uh, they're not gonna understand you and it's gonna be really awkward. And that is, that is <laugh>. That can be, you know, it can be challenging, it can be anxiety inducing and whatever you can do to get comfortable with the fact that there's gonna be some awkward stuff. 

Like you might put out a class that nobody comes to, or one, or only one or two people come to, and there's strategies to help with that as well. But it's, as far as I can tell, at least as a solo person, as an individual person, you know, not like a Silicon Valley backed venture. Uh, starting at creative business is more or less, this is an essential starting point. You gotta throw something at the wall and see what sticks and you, the hardest thing to do is that first, that first thing, but it's so exciting in another sense because it's the thing that's gonna tell you, it's gonna show you how people respond to it, and it's gonna show you what works and what doesn't work. And you can see the ways that, that it can be improved or that it can be shifted a little bit. 

Um, and I will say also, I know some people may be thinking about not having an audience to put that offer out into the world too. But even if you don't have, let's say you don't have social media or you don't have a, a large social media following, even starting with, uh, a network of people, your friends and family, your colleagues at your job, anyone, you, you know, your former classmates, whoever, anyone you, you can think of, if you could put together a list of 20 or 30 people that you have their email address and just send them an opening, an opening email saying, Hey, I'm starting this thing. This is what I'm putting out there. Would you be interested? Do you know anyone who's interested? This is what I can provide. Again, it can be scary, but this is a starting point and the perfectionism that a lot of us are taught to have, it's, it's really best if we can toss some of that out the window. 

I will also add as a caveat to this, that it, this is a great opportunity after you throw that first offer at the wall and see if it sticks, this may be a good opportunity to return to step number two, where you're taking a moment where you were looking at your strengths and how they overlap with what the community needs, and maybe reevaluate a little bit and see if your perspective has changed. Maybe a strength has emerged that you have not expected, or maybe you realize that you're pulling on something that's not, not your strongest, not in your real house. For me, I realized I had put together this whole program to do this kind of mid-sized class, um, collaboration, mentorship thing. And I realized as I was about to put it out that, um, I'm really most comfortable either one on one or in small groups or in a, a classroom as a professor. 

And I was putting together this program that was right in the middle of those thing, those two things, right? In a, a kind of structure that I'm super uncomfortable with, which is like about a 10 to 12 person conversation for whatever reasons doesn't matter. But I reevaluated it and I went back and said this, Why am I playing to my one the one group size that's not my strength, and I've reshaped it and put it out in a different format so you can always go back, right? And that's the thing. And the time's gonna pass anyway. So you might as well have, um, have some data basically to see what's working and what's not. Okay. So again, I would really recommend if you're at the start of this process, there are resources out there to support in this. These are big important things, kind of getting clear on a niche, getting clear on your skills and how they overlap with community needs, and getting clear on what a particular and specific first offer is going to be. 

That being said, like I've mentioned a couple of times, coaching is available, it's available for me, and it's also available from a ton of other people on the internet at all different stages and it at all different price ranges as well. So this is something I had turned up my nose at the idea of coaching previously, but eventually I did work with a coach and it's just really helpful to have somebody working with you along the way to accompany you and bringing your vision to fruition. So that may be something to look into if it's not in the budget for you, I, I feel you, there's free stuff all over. So I would say don't dive into like a thousand different free resources, but pick two or three, you know, do a little Googling, pick two or three people who, who provide kind of, uh, coaching accompaniment or guidance for creative businesses and dig into their stuff, dig into their blog posts, their podcasts, Um, their, they, you know, a lot of people have a book out now. 

Um, a lot of people offer free a free call I offer free initial call. So use that stuff, um, and see, see where it takes you. That's it for, for this kind of starting episode on getting a creative business going. I hope that there were some useful stuff in it. As always, just a gentle reminder, connect with me on Instagram at meam uio, M E L A M U Z I O. You can also find me and please rate and review the show. It really helps it reach other people. And you can do that in Apple Podcast. I think you can do it now in Spotify as well. So if you have a minute to go in and rate the show, maybe the comment, um, saying whether or not you enjoyed it, that would be wonderful. And yeah, next week's episode will be we'll feature an interview. We alternate back and forth between solo solo episodes and interview episodes. So thanks for, thanks for spending time with me. Have a great day. That's it for this week's episode of the Millennial PhD. You can find more content, resources and information on Instagram at the millennial PhD in this collective moment of reevaluating our relationships with work and exploitation. I look forward to connecting with you and building stronger bonds of community and collaboration. I would love to hear from you via email at the millennial with any feedback, comments, questions, or concerns, or if you're interested in coming on the show as a guest. That's all for now. It's been real. See you next time. 

Speaker 2 (26:10):