• Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

How to create a strategy for your creative business

Is it me, or does everything feel a tad overwhelming right now? With the economy slowing, new business barely coming through, and social media engagement tanking, it’s no wonder many of us have lost focus. Sure, Threads has been fun. But that’s taken us even further away from being productive, and now our minds are scrambled as to what to tackle next.

What we crave is focus. That magic word that will solve all our problems, help us become more efficient and get us back on track after many years of chaos. How do we focus? By putting together a fresh strategy for our business, that’s how.

What is a business strategy?

If the very word ‘strategy’ adds more confusion, and you assume you’ll need fancy pants diagrams and charts to figure this out, think again. A business strategy outlines specific ways to position yourself, achieve your goals, and grow your creative company. It’s a plan, essentially. Nothing intimidating. And you don’t need to wear a suit.

A strategy takes into consideration your values, your vision and helps you to stay on course. Put simply; it’s an efficient way to manage your business and make it a success. It’s a focus with clear objectives. It gives you everything you need to reach your goals.

Where does strategy apply?

For any creative business owner, the ultimate aim is survival. You want to be attracting new clients and maintaining existing ones. You want to stay relevant in a competitive industry. And you want to find new opportunities in which to flourish.

However, just thinking about ‘strategy’ can send your mind whirring, so allow us to break it down further. It’s helpful to consider a strategy for different areas of your business. For example, your marketing strategy or your pricing strategy. Perhaps your social media strategy. Or your sales strategy. Advertising, PR and media, brand… It’s productive to list them individually, so you can tackle them one by one.

Create separate documents or task lists for each type of strategy. Perhaps you’ll start with social media, given how Threads has recently launched. Or maybe you want to think about pricing now the cost of living crisis is in full swing. Whichever you choose, start with one and put it on screen, so you can keep returning to it over time, tweaking it as you go.

An example to get you started

To add some context, let’s look at your marketing strategy. Let’s say you’re a freelance graphic designer and you’re in business because you love providing value to low and no alcohol brands that are at the tipping point of a major growth phase. You are passionate about helping them realise their vision through brand, packaging design and wider campaigns.

So when we consider your marketing strategy, the ultimate goal will be to grow your business by attracting these particular clients, using the right messaging via the right platforms, whilst remembering existing ones. Here’s how you might put that into action:

  • Develop your portfolio: Start by reviewing your website to see if it “speaks” to your audience. Are you showcasing existing work related to drinks brands, and demonstrating what you’re capable of? If those projects don’t yet exist, could you start a side project and create the work you want to attract? It’s instant content for social media, too.

  • Seek out where your clients are active: Review your efforts and check you’re not wasting time on things that potential clients just don’t engage with. Like Twitter…are those beer brands even there? Or are they only on Instagram and LinkedIn? What sort of content might they find valuable? What could draw them to you?

  • Widen your network: Let people in the drinks industry know you’re available for work whether you spark conversations on LinkedIn or attend relevant events in real life. Get to know the sector. What awards do they enter? Where do they hang out? What’s important to them?

  • Send your projects to trade magazines: If you’ve completed a project you’re proud of, send it off to journalists and editors connected to your industry. Your dream clients will most likely read those publications and spot your work if you get featured. For extra tips, read our guide on winning over journalists.

  • Do a great job for existing clients (because people talk): Bend over backwards, be lovely to work with, and go above and beyond. And when you’re done, ask them for a testimonial for your website. They might naturally recommend you to others in the drinks industry, too. Don’t forget – it’s easier to keep existing customers happy than win new ones, so treat them well.

  • Be proactive: Send clients recommended news articles related to low and no alcohol. It shows you care about their success. Update them on fresh developments in their industry, too. For example, Threads! Are your clients aware of it? Have they sorted a strategy yet? Could you be the one to offer some suggestions? I.e. “I can achieve X, resulting in Y, costing you Z”?

What will you do to kick your marketing strategy into action? These are just a few ideas to get you started. Still, there are loads more…like making friends with other freelancers, getting yourself listed on professional networks like The Dots, and even sending out a printed campaign that grabs attention when everyone seems to be online. It all depends on your target market.

The questions that determine whether you’re on the right track

Ok, so you’ve compiled a basic strategy for your business. So far, so good. But if you’re still confused, what next? When you’ve pulled together a rough plan, think carefully about the answers to the following questions:

  • Why are you in business? What are your goals? Your values?
  • What is your unique selling point? Your core strength?
  • Who are your ideal clients? Where are they active?
  • What problems are these clients suffering from, and how could you solve them?
  • Does your strategy help you achieve your goals?

Because a great business strategy needs to provide satisfactory answers to these five main questions, according to Indeed – it’s like an anchor that steadies the ship and keeps you on course, no matter the destination.

If you haven’t done so, get back to that drawing board. Even the process of getting this bit right will help clarify your approach. It’ll help you focus, saving you time and money in both the short and long term.

To conclude

Having a strategy doesn’t have to be complicated. You’re not a huge corporation with lots of staff; you’re a solo business owner trying to juggle a million things at once. We get it; it’s challenging. But having a plan, no matter how simple is the right way to go.

Whether you prefer a fancy task management system to guide you or just brief scribbles on a Post-it note, the key is to get you thinking strategically about how you run your business and make it a success. Start with one aspect of your company and go from there. Make July the month you finally get to grips with social media, for instance, now that Threads, Bluesky and Mastodon are the new kids on the block. Determine whether you even need to be on these platforms by considering your strategy: your goals, your customers, your values.

All will make sense once you start to draw it out. Before long, you’ll see marked improvements in every part of your business, from how you operate and efficiently use your time to the clients and the work you attract. You might even feel happier. It’s a no-brainer. So what business strategy will you consider first?

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