Over the past few years, we’ve seen a huge shift in the popular perception of a successful business-person, leading to the rise of the creative entrepreneur. Maybe it began with Steve Jobs focusing on form equally with function. Or, maybe, it’s just part of a trend of individuals trying to lead more balanced lives, nurturing both their analytical and creative tendencies.
One thing is for sure: carving out a path in business requires innovative, out of the box thinking. But what separates a creative entrepreneur from an artist, or a branding maven? Read on for an exploration of the defining characteristics of creative entrepreneurs.
7 Signs You Might Be a Creative Entrepreneur
1. You apply your gifts in a non-traditional way
2. You understand zeitgeist
3. You have excellent taste
4. You see the value of good design
5. You use creative thinking to solve problems
6. You can turn your creative expression into an entire brand
7. You’re up late at night, or the first one up in the morning
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From a young age, we are taught that creatives are “different” than their peers and that their two options are careers in the arts, or “selling out” for soul-crushing 9 to 5’s. The truth is that creative-focused individuals can thrive in a business environment, because their powers of observation, aesthetics, and thinking outside the box can benefit a business tremendously.
Is this you? Let’s find out.
1. You Apply Your Gifts in a Nontraditional Way
It’s easy to think that a creative entrepreneur can only be a designer or an artist, but this just isn’t true. We all have creative instincts, whether or not we make them the center of our life and career. Everyone has talents, passions, and hobbies ripe for transformation into commercially viable ventures.
Let’s say that you are an amazing cook. Back in the day, the most obvious career path might be that you become a chef. But in today’s economy, your options are limitless.
You can make a blog, vlog, or a podcast. If you have an interest in health or a great sense of budgeting, you can develop downloadable meal plans for folks lacking in your culinary gifts. Start a clothing store that screenprints and pays homage to your favorite ingredients. The list is endless.
Being a creative entrepreneur is all about applying entrepreneurial drive to your creative pursuits and, likewise, bringing your creative mindset into your entrepreneurial life. If you’re able to think outside of the box, you can surely identify ways in which your unique talents can benefit and connect with others.
Sometimes, this is a small action, like choosing to supplement the physical products you sell online with instructional PDFs and videos. Other times, this can mean creating a business that disrupts its industry. However big or small the actions of a creative entrepreneur are, they make it hard to pigeonhole the person behind them.
Allowing a creative pursuit guide you beyond the confines of a more traditional route means that you are many things at once. A creative entrepreneur may identify as a teacher, a specialist, an artist, and a designer, while also rightfully identifying as a business savvy professional.
2. You Understand Zeitgeist
Whether they’re tuned into the culture at large, or a specific niche or subculture, every creative entrepreneur has their finger on the pulse of their era. Art, music, fashion, and writing, might not seem like the most obvious components of building a consumer-driven business, but creative culture inevitably trickles into the mainstream and has a significant influence.
Do you keep up with what’s popular in underground music trends, high fashion, or the local art scene? Chances are, your cultural savvy can inform your business choices.
By being dialed into what exactly which creative projects are connecting with listeners, readers, collectors, and shoppers, a creative entrepreneur has a sense of the current market, upcoming trends, and even the next big thing. Creative ads catch the attention of consumers by balancing a unique, artistic sensibility with smart messaging. Companies like Apple have a knack for this in their advertising.
By blurring the lines between art and consumer culture, a creative entrepreneur can surprise customers with unique, exciting products, and reach a different market from more traditional businesses.
3. You Have Excellent Taste
If this applies to you, you probably already know it. Maybe you get a lot of compliments on your vintage finds, your record collection, or creative projects you’ve completed. You can argue that good taste may be subjective. However, patterns like this imply that you make informed decisions based not only on an informed foundation but with a greater sense of aesthetic.
How does this look for a creative entrepreneur? You can make a pile of cardstock and gel pens into branding materials that look like a million bucks. It’s easy for you to upcycle scarves from the dollar bin at your thrift store into unique handbags. You can scour estate sales for totally unrelated items, and then curate them into a collection that speaks volumes to your niche.
Having great taste and a savvy creative business sense often means that you don’t need a lot of overhead to get your brand off the ground. Most importantly, you are able to curate brand experiences that resonate with consumers and remain in their minds long after the initial interaction.
4. You See the Value of Superior Design
Maybe you didn’t go to business school or intern at a venture capital firm. It doesn’t matter, because you have other skills, interests, and talents that are equally applicable to business. If you have an eye for good design and an empathetic understanding of user experience, you have a fantastic foundation on which to build a business.
The idiom, “build a better mousetrap” continues to be relevant not because people love killing mice, but because people hate killing mice, and would like a contraption to it do for them, preferably with a superior design and technology.
While most parts of our jobs and lives are not nearly as unpleasant as emptying a mousetrap, the same principle holds true. You are looking to make some aspect of your customers’ lives easier, faster, and more pleasant. If you’ve made the choice not to compromise your design goals in your business, this is the mark of a creative entrepreneur.
Understanding the critical function of design is essential, especially as more businesses are becoming digital-first, and need to make an immediate positive impression on potential customers and clients.
If you’re starting a business, highlight design. Use your sense of aesthetics to ensure a clean website, intuitive navigation, and, of course, consistent, effective brand imagery. At the same time, in an increasingly competitive, delivered-right-to-your-door marketplace, physical products need a strong packaging design to wow customers.
Every creative entrepreneur understands the significance of making a memorable impression, from the details of a top-notch online store, to pitch-perfect social media, to the little thank you cards that come packed with every order. Being a stickler for design makes all the difference in a showstopping brand, and a creative entrepreneur always keeps an eye on the details as well as the big picture.
5. You Use Creative Thinking to Solve Problems
Sometimes, you need to get creative about how you run your business.
Take Ronnie B Goodwin, for example. This photographer wanted to focus on taking pictures, not on shipping prints or agonizing over what image might look good as a t-shirt. So, when he set up his Selz store, he took a very creative approach to structure his business. Instead of selling physical products, Goodwin chose to sell downloadable files of his photographs that the customer could then apply to everything from a beach towel to a coffee mug.
This bold choice simplified the delivery system of his business dramatically, making fulfillment completely digital and hassle-free. Creative problem solving like this can totally transform your business model. By letting go of artificial limits, you open the door to rapid growth and maintainable success. Rather than replicating existing business models, a creative entrepreneur rethinks both the basic nature of the product and the customer experience.
Whether you’re ready to disrupt industries, or wheatpaste your brand’s posters in the streets at night, a creative entrepreneur taps into innovative techniques to structure, grow, and promote their business. It doesn’t require much time, energy, or even people for a creative entrepreneur to make this type of business choice.
They see these moves as an obvious solutions, even though it probably seems like a very calculated, whimsical choice to outsiders. A creative entrepreneur follows their intuition and inspiration, rather than taking a more traditional approach to solving problems.
6. You Can Transform Your Creative Expression Into an Entire Brand
Selling artwork, jewelry, or ceramics are all inspiring, valuable pursuits. But if you can connect your product to customers in an inspiring, aspirational way, you’ve got something special- a lifestyle brand.
Maybe you use escapist imagery, like featuring a dreamy tiny home on social media that you would love to have as your studio one day. Maybe your brand connects with busy urbanites looking to balance their lives and connect more deeply with their neighborhoods.
A creative entrepreneur digs deep to find an aesthetic that resonates naturally with their niche and applies to their lives beyond the obvious applications of the product.
Once your business has transformed into a full-fledged brand, you can rapidly scale your empire. From branded shirts to digital workshops, a creative entrepreneur can connect with their audience in a way that many traditional, type-A business types just can’t fathom.
Your customers feel connected both to your vision and to you as a person, so a strong sense of brand loyalty develops. Cultivate that loyalty with peeks behind the curtain at your process- a virtual tour of your studio, or an engaging look at the thought process and history behind your products.
Whether customers can’t get enough of your quirky sense of humor or your otherworldly artwork, making that connection is invaluable. Once it’s established, you can sell everything from enamel pins to journals and sketchbooks, to accessories that complement your main products.
7. You’re Up Late at Night, or the First One Up in the Morning
This one is just an odd trend we see among creatives. For some people, a second wind of energy kicks in after ten at night, and it’s not for organizing your sock collection or going out.
There’s a very specific niche of people who get a huge rush of creative energy late at night, to the point of sacrificing sleep to focus on writing, making art or music, or researching their interests. If this is you, you’re probably most productive in the late hours of the night.
Alternately, many creatives find that the quiet focus of the early morning is perfect for digging into their pursuits. These types create while they’re still fresh before beginning the workday with all its distractions.
One reason that this is so common for creative entrepreneurs, is that they just can’t keep this circadian rebellion in check. Working for themselves is a near inevitability, because the alternative is running on four hours of sleep, and being miserable in a conventional workday because of it. It’s also about maximizing time and focus- taking hold of the periods where you feel inspired and riding them out.
If you felt these points were relevant, you might just have what it takes to become a creative entrepreneur.
We live in an age where ecommerce can connect your product to people all around the world. Older models of distribution are being disrupted. Online communities are springing up not just around hobbies and interests, but around niche aesthetics, high-quality handmade goods, and reverence for the individuals who choose artistic trades.
More and more creative individuals are investing in themselves and their brands, and this market continues to grow. It may just be a makers’ Renaissance or the best time for an artist to connect with buyers. One thing is certain, there’s never been a more opportune time to branch out, and become a creative entrepreneur.