Ten Essential Business Tips for Creatives

To be happy and fulfilled, creatives need to spend the majority of their time creating. To be successful in business, creatives need to spend some time (not a lot!) taking care of basic business concerns. Here’s a list of essential business tips to keep you focused on what’s most important.

1. Make Good Offers and Promises

Don’t sit back an wait for work to come to you. Make offers to help your clients improve their business. If you think you can improve their branding…say so. Make and keep promises that are valuable to your clients. Promise delivery dates and milestones.

2. Over Deliver

Over-deliver….always. Delight your client with something extra they are not expecting!

If you produce videos, provide a DVD of outtakes from the production. Over-delivering will immediately differentiate you from 99% of your competition and will drive WOM (word of mouth) through the roof.

3. State Your Conditions of Satisfaction

Before beginning work, state your conditions of satisfaction (COS) verbally and in writing. What do you agree to deliver? When? When do you expect to be paid? What must happen for both parties to declare they are satisfied?

4. Confirm Satisfaction

Immediately after delivering your work, confirm that the client is satisfied. Now is the time to ask for referrals. If they are not satisfied, why not? Review the conditions of satisfaction with them. Who deviated? You or the client?

5. Invoice on a Timely Basis

Immediately after confirming satisfaction, send your invoice. The transaction and feeling of satisfaction is fresh and rooted in the client’s mind. This will contribute to you getting paid faster.

6. Get Paid

If you diligently adhere to the first five commandments, getting paid on a timely basis is usually a no brainer.

However, if you do not receive payment within your specified payment terms, be proactive about collecting your money. Don’t let your psychology take over. “It’s unprofessional to request payment”. “The client might think I am desperate for money.” Hogwash. Its your money!

Be firm and prompt about collecting your money.

7. Create a Strong Support Network

Being a creative entrepreneur can be lonely. To be successful you need a group of peers who share the same ambition for success. Cultivate these people. Meet with them on a regular basis. Share best business practices. Don’t whine. Motivate each other.

8. Create a Strong Contractor Network

If you are doing good work, making good offers, and keeping your promises, you will encounter a joyous problem…you have more work than you can handle. What to do? Find high-caliber contractors that can help. Its not easy. Most people do not share your ambition or commitment to quality.

Be constantly searching for those people you can trust to increase your capacity to do more.

9. Evolve to Fixed Price Engagements

Billing by the hour is a nice safe place to start. However, to fully leverage your talents, you must evolve to offering fixed price engagements to your clients.

Become an expert at defining the COS and estimating the time involved. Then be bold. Offer a fixed price fee. Clients will love you. They don’t like the uncertainty of open-ended, hourly projects.

10. Niche Thyself

Become an expert in a few industries (ex. healthcare, manufacturing). Build your identity in that community.

Domain experts command a higher price for their services. Why? They remove risk for the client. If you know my business, you will be more productive and your offers will be more aligned with my concerns.

This was a guest post from Scott Miller.

Scott Miller is a serial entrepreneur, having started service and software companies.  Scott is presently founder and CEO of the Bee, an online invoicing and bookkeeping tool for creatives and other small service businesses.  Scott writes about best practices for service businesses at Get the Bee.



  1. Hey Scott (and Alex),
    Thank you for this solid post with great business tips!

    In the first paragraph, you mention that creatives need to spend the majority of their time creating, which I totally agree with.

    However, saying they should spend “not a lot” of time on business skills and activities isn’t quite accurate. Creatives need to know that acquiring and implementing business skills and activities DOES take a lot of time, and the time they spend doing so is directly proportionate to the level of success they hope to achieve.

    Should biz time eclipse the amount of art time? Absolutely not. But, for the Ambitious Creative, these two activities should be given ALMOST equal priority.

    You got me curious about The Bee. Gonna have to check it out.

    Thanks again, Nikolas Allen

  2. Hey NIkolas-

    I think we agree on the importance of creatives acquiring business skills. What I had hoped to convey is the importance of spending the majority of your time doing what you love…creating!

    The business side of things can seem daunting at first, and take up a bunch of time to become proficient, but its been my experience that the time decreases after some level of expertise is achieved.

    I think balance and interest is the key. If business stuff interests you…do more. If not, look for opportunities to outsource what you can.

    Have a great day!

    Scott Miller

  3. Memo to self: bookmark this article!

    When plodding along it’s hard to keep a focus on all the things you should be doing continuously. Like all the points in your posting.

  4. Hey Christian-

    It is hard to keep focused on 10 things! It may help to take a close look at your business and start by picking the 3 items on the list to work on for now that will have the most immediate impact on your business. Once it becomes habit, add a fourth, and so on.

    To your success!


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