Everything connected to the survival of your business will to some extent come down to money. As we all know the creative industry is pretty much running off air and water. There is very little paid work with which to make a reasonable living unless you’re in that lucky top per cent and you have to be savvy and cut throat in business to avoid being taken the piss out of.
Many of our most creative people are living hand to mouth, freelancing and facing zero hours contracts every day. If you are skilled in a second industry use it to fund your business dream and don’t assume that because you are talented or because you are told a degree will get you a job that you will be able to live off your abilities. I’m thinking of becoming a prostitute to fund my business. No, just kidding. But yes it can get quite desperate and you’ll start thinking about the alternatives once you find yourself living off Pot Noodles and value brand cornflakes.
Because there are lots of creative people working for the love of it and therefore working for very little this under cuts those of us who need to be paid. However, the final market for creative work is limited anyway. For example, since online publishing became the norm, very few magazines are paying photographers for images and if photographers aren’t getting paid for their images, they are less likely to pay a creative team or post edit freelancer to help create them. And whilst you might want to be paid, you can bet there is someone else out there willing to do your job for free. So guess who is going to get the job. This situation sucks. But it’s the way it is. Everyone can be, and invariably is, undercut. Be aware of this.
The way to get dependable work is to get contracts with bigger companies who will all have in house teams doing their production or subcontract to a select list of freelancers. Often but not always they are paying their people. But these opportunities are few and beware of working for free to try and get into a company. It doesn’t always pay off.
Offering a service that can’t be got for free (in my case alterations) does give you a more reliable market which may be enough to keep the wolf at bay. But you may have to work hard at your marketing to get noticed and clinch those all important deals. It’s not an ideal situation, but for me at least it is relevant to my industry and better than doing office jobs.
There are several things you can do for yourself as a small business owner to help take the sting out of those unreliable paychecks:
1. Make sure you know what you can claim for in business expenses to balance up your taxes. It will save you lots of money.
2. Find out if you can claim Working Tax Credits. It could be your lifeline. You could get up to £200 a month which could be the difference between keeping your head above water and giving up on your business dream.
3. Follow up every potential work lead especially informal business approaches or friend of friend introductions. Right time, right place is more likely to get you work than answering job adverts. So cold call, email and introduce yourself to new businesses starting up in your area that might need your services.
4. Brush up on your customer service. The better your manner, the more indispensible you make yourself and the better your people skills, the more likely you are going to be remembered, turned to again and recommended. Customers report back to firms as well. Good reports about you will encourage companies to stick by you.
5. Be a people person even if they sometimes drive you nuts. People probably are your business.
6. Be reliable – always and get people out of tricky situations with your skills.
Next time: Perspective