Forget The Formulas: A Manifesto For Big-Hearted Creative Business Owners


If you've been reading this blog for a while now, you'll know that I'm all about doing business on our own terms, by our own rules, and in our own way.

I don't believe in any of the one-size-fits-all formulas, quick-fix strategies, and step-by-step blueprints that are sold to us as the secret to success as a business owner.

I believe in getting to the heart of our business, taking focused, purposeful, and meaningful steps forward with our work, and doing everything from a place of courage, integrity, and intention. It's not the quick or sexy way to get to where you want to be, but after three years now of coaching big-hearted creatives and supporting them to bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be I've seen time and time again that it's the only way to truly make big things happen along the way.

So today I want to share with you a six-part manifesto for any big-hearted creatives who want to build and run a business from a place of integrity, intention, and courage so you can truly build an impactful, fulfilling, and sustainable creative work and life for yourself along the way.

1. Discover what impact, fulfilment, and sustainability actually look like for you

We're constantly being told - by society, the internet, the media - what a successful and meaningful career looks and feels like. But until we know what an impactful, fulfilling, and sustainable creative career actually looks and feels like for us, we won't truly know what we want to cultivate and build along the way. Ask yourself:

  • How do I want to feel in my business? Inspired? Focused? Energised? Motivated? Connected?
  • What does a financially sustainable business actually look and feel like for me? (Here's a blog post to help you get specific about your numbers)
  • What impact do I want to have in the world through my work? To inspire people? Entertain? Educate? Encourage?
  • What does success really, truly, mean to me?
  • At the end of each week, how do I want to feel? What would fulfilment as a business owner look and feel like for me?
  • What versions of success do I need to let go of that don't truly serve me or align with my own values and vision?

2. Get to the heart of your who, what, how, and why

A trap I see some big-hearted creatives fall into is when they focus first on the strategies and formulas to grow their business before they fully have clarity around what their business is, what they do, who they do it for, and what they want to become known for in their business. And without getting to the heart of these things we're building a business without any foundations and will soon find ourselves with a whole lot of strategy but no business to actually implement it for. I have an article here to help you get to the heart of your big-hearted business, but some back-to-basics questions to ask yourself are:

  • What is the mission statement for my business?
  • What do I offer and provide to my clients and customers?
  • What do I sell and how is this business going to be profitable?
  • Who are my target clients and customers? Why will they be attracted to my brand?
  • What do I want to be known for in my business?
  • What do I want to share through my business?

3. Forget the myth of overnight success

We've been told a lie that we can build an impactful, fulfilling, and sustainable creative business overnight with just a snazzy website, clever sales funnels, and targeted social media advertising. But the truth is that real, meaningful, and lasting success as a creative business owner takes time - first you have to discover and find clarity, focus, and direction with your own business, and then you have to slowly build relationships and trust with your target market along the way too. It takes time, dedication, courage, and a whole lot of focus, patience, and grit to keep going, to keep showing up for your business, and to keep slowly but surely taking steps towards where you want to be.

When we buy into the overnight success myth, we'll sooner or later burn out when we realise that it's the exception to the rule, not the reality. And instead of pursuing overnight success, what I think we should be focusing on is longevity - on building a business that can be impactful, fulfilling, and sustainable for you over your entire career, not just for the next six months or year.

And once you forget the myth of overnight success, you can stop being distracted from quick-fixes and step-by-step blueprints and instead dive deeper into your business and how you can make incredible things happen with it along the way.

4. Build relationships, not just an email list

We all know how important it can be to build an engaged and thriving email list when you're running an online business. It's where our core people are, it's where we'll most likely make most of our bookings and sales, and it's also where we can have direct access to our community instead of having to work around the algorithms of social media platforms. But something to remember is that we're not just building faceless numbers through our Mailchimp or ConvertKit account - there are actual living, breathing humans on the other side of those subscriber numbers and they want to connect with you as a living, breathing human being too.

People buy from people after all, and if you truly want to build a business that matters, that resonates with your community, that is financial stable, that if fulfilling for you to run, and can thrive for many years (and decades!) to come, I think the most important thing is to focus on building relationships instead of just subscriber numbers along the way.

Some questions to ask yourself as you explore this:

  • Who are the people I want to connect with through my brand? What conversations do I want to start with them? Why do I want my work to resonate with them?
  • Why will my clients or customers buy from me? What will connect with them about the work I do?
  • How do I want people to feel as they navigate and engage with my brand? How can I facilitate this through my website, copy, content, and digital presence?
  • What type of relationship do I want my community to build with me?
  • How can I humanise my list building strategy and email marketing? How do I want to connect with my community through this medium?

5. Share your own message, your stories, and ideas

Anyone can regurgitate information and ideas that they've consumed from elsewhere. We can build a brand that's a close-to-copy of the other successful brands we see in our industry, but my encouragement to you today is to do something a little different.

There's a reason you wanted to start your business. There's an impact you want to have the world, ideas and stories you want to share, and an awesome and fulfilling creative life that you want to build for yourself too. You have something incredible to say - you've just got to be brave enough to say it.

In a noisy online world with lots of people offering the same type of services and products, the best way to stand out and build your own thriving community is to dive deep and share your own message, stories, and ideas. To cultivate your own message, to take up space with what it is you really want to share, and to ultimately become known for what you want to become known for. Be brave enough to build your own brand on the foundations of your own message, stories, and ideas, not on the foundations of others who have already found success. That's how you'll make your own magic happen.

6. Give your business the space and time it needs to thrive

You are capable of building a thriving, impactful, fulfilling, and sustainable creative business. I believe that from the bottom of my heart - I work with clients with wildly different backgrounds, business experience, starting off points, and business ideas and they all are building for themselves big and beautiful businesses along the way. The biggest thing that defines whether or not they'll actually bridge that gap and get to where they want to be is whether or not they are brave enough to give their business the space and time it needs to thrive, to be patient as it slowly but surely starts to grow, and to be brave enough to not ask of it what it's not ready to give them but instead do the work to get it to where they want it to be.

To finish

I have two questions for you before we wrap up this post:

  • Are there any formulas, blueprints, and quick fix solutions that are distracting you right now from building an impactful, fulfilling, and sustainable creative life? How can you let them go and focus on finding intentional focus, clarity, and direction with your business instead?
  • How can you give your creative work and life the space and time it needs to thrive? What does that look like for you in this season?

Here's to forgetting the formulas and building an impactful, fulfilling, and sustainable creative business instead that can thrive for many years (and decades!) ahead to come...

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Photo by Annie Spratt via Unsplash