Tips for launching a new creative venture

Is your dream for 2018 to finally launch your creative business? We asked four creative business owners (and CWC members) from a range of industries to share their top tips for getting a venture off the ground.

It’s never too late

Kellie Robinson, photographer and owner of Colour of Life Photography

Kellie Robinson Photo by Vicky Palmieri Photography

Kellie Robinson Photo by Vicky Palmieri Photography

I am a lifestyle photographer based in Trafalgar, Gippsland, and I launched my business, Colour of Life Photography, in 2013. Photography has been my passion for—eek—25 years, but I fell into an unrelated field after my schooling. The arrival of my children made me determined to make my hobby a career. I still marvel that I get to do this every day and that I built this myself.

What do you wish you knew when you launched your business?

That I didn’t have to spend all the money and have all the gear. If I had kept it simple from the beginning and stuck with what my heart was telling me, I wouldn’t have done a big circle back to where I began (with lifestyle photography). By keeping it simple and perfecting the gear that I had, I would have saved a lot of money, time and effort. But then again, it brought me to where I am now, so all lessons are good, aren’t they?

What has been your biggest obstacle and how are you overcoming it?

Seeing myself as an artist. I studied photography when I was in high school but I never considered myself an artist. I can’t paint… I can’t draw… I just like taking photos. I still have that stuck in my brain. It took me over twenty years to call myself a photographer and I still pinch myself when I do, so baby steps for me I guess. In the meantime, I’m continuing to educate myself and practice my craft. If I have learnt anything, it is that it is never too late. It wasn’t too late for me to make my hobby a career and it won’t be too late for me to call myself an artist when the time comes.

What is the best advice you received when launching your business?

Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to seek out support from like-minded people. You don’t have to sit in solitude if you are a solo entrepreneur—there are so many supportive individuals out there to help you in all aspects of your business.   

Photo by Kellie Robinson

Photo by Kellie Robinson

Delegate and trust

Suzan Freeman, owner of Where Things Happen letterpress print and design studio

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My love of letterpress printing began in the 1990s while studying design at the University of Newcastle. After graduating, I escaped to Sydney and London, working in print (packaging, design and advertising) and later at integrated agencies. Since moving back to Newcastle and becoming a mother, my desire to build a business doing something I loved became very important to me. I thought it would mean saying adios to the long hours and stress of working for the big fellas (she says typing at 11pm on a Monday night).

In 2011, a designer friend and I found an 1852 Albion hand press for sale in a scrap metal yard on the outskirts of Newy. We fell in love. Since then, I have been gifted a 1920s Arab treadle press and managed to buy a black ball 1940s Heidelberg platen. I love working with each press, finding out about its individual abilities and temperaments. I also love collaborating with other creatives who have a passion for making things happen. Every day is different. I hope I never stop learning and evolving.

What do you wish you knew when you launched your business?

I wish I had more confidence in my own abilities. It’s taken many hours of unpaid work to develop the techniques and an understanding of each press; sometimes there aren’t enough hours in a day.

What has been your biggest obstacle and how are you overcoming it?

Knowledge. There are fewer and fewer people to ask. Some retired printers are amazing and have gone out of their way to help me, while others are simply not interested. Let’s face it, it’s a male dominated industry and I’m regularly asked if I have a handy boyfriend or husband (insert eye roll).

What is the best advice you received when launching your business?

You can’t do everything, so find help from people who are specialists in their own areas. Delegate and trust.

Letterpress work by Where Things Happen.

Letterpress work by Where Things Happen.

 

Don't take on projects that don't feel right

Allison Smith, architect and director of Studio 15b

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Studio 15b is a small architecture and interior design practice. I started the business as the founding director in 2013. We aim to provide a practical approach with our small team giving personalised service and individual attention to each project. We have a wide variety of experience in residential, multi-residential and business fit-out projects.

What do you wish you knew when you launched your venture?

Being the sole director of the business means you can never totally switch off. It’s difficult to take a holiday without having to do some work and to keep one eye on the business. This is one aspect for people to consider before taking the big step of starting a business. On the reverse side, there are many advantages, such as having the flexibility to work the hours and times that suit my lifestyle. I’m very glad to have taken the plunge.

What has been your biggest obstacle, and how are you trying to overcome it?

Having a baby while running a business. I managed the hardest part by being extremely organised, having huge commitment to the challenge (working nights, weekends and any chance I got), dedicated staff plus a supportive husband and grandparents.

What is the best advice you received when launching your venture?

An older, wiser architect once said to me, 'Don’t take on projects that don’t feel right for whatever reason.' He said you are better off sitting on a beach earning nothing and enjoying life rather than dealing with people who don’t respect you or projects that are not adding value to your business in some way.

The Golf House project by Studio 15b. Photo by Christopher Frederick Jones

The Golf House project by Studio 15b. Photo by Christopher Frederick Jones