If you’re just starting to sell the things you make, you’re probably also starting to feel a bit overwhelmed by all the things there are to do. Early on, everything seems equally urgent — so where do you start? That’s why we created this short to-do list to help you figure out where to prioritize your energy, so that you can set yourself up for long-term success.
1. Choose a name — and lock it down.
Once you’ve decided on the name you’re going to use for your creative business, it’s a good idea to register your usernames on social media as well as purchase a custom website domain. You might be thinking, Hold on! I’m not ready to start using social media or building a website… I’m just getting started, remember? It’s okay if you’re not ready just yet. However, it’s better to get the usernames and the domain you want early on, rather than wait to find out that your name has already been taken!
2. Set short-term goals.
You might already have a long-term vision for your creative business. If you don’t? Leave that for later. All that you have to worry about for now is what you want to accomplish in the next three to six months. What do you want to achieve with your business in this time period? What are the milestones you want to hit?
Once you have a few goals, work backwards to set benchmarks for the next month, the next week, and for tomorrow. These benchmarks will help you track your progress and let you know if you’re on track to meet your goals.
A side note: While it’s okay (and totally expected!) not to achieve everything you set out to do, it’s also important to be serious with yourself about these deadlines. Since we set these standards internally, it can be easy to brush them off or let other things in our life (such as our day job, our family commitments, etc.) come first. But the more often you are able to deliver on your promises to yourself, the more trust you will build with yourself. When you can trust that you’re going to do the things you say you’re going to do, you’ll feel confident. It may seem that the secret to success is having a lot of discipline, but the truth is, discipline is all about building trust.
3. Carve out time to work.
If you’re working another job while you’re trying to get your creative business off the ground, carving out time can be difficult.
Get out your calendar and mark out at least 1.5 hours a day, five days a week, to focus solely on your business. The consistency is important, because when you consistently show up to be creative, you will start to build momentum (plus, creativity will become a habit!).
It’s also important not only to schedule the right quantity of time, but to set yourself up to ensure you’ll also getting the right quality of time. During your hour and a half of focused work, silence your phone. Find a quiet place to work where you won’t be interrupted. Give yourself the space you need to truly focus.
Most important of all, be sure to safeguard that time. Life will give you every reason and every opportunity to do something else with that hour and a half you’ve set aside for your creativity. Don’t give in. This is your sacred time to develop your craft and start creating a life that you love. Treat it as sacred.
4. Always be learning.
Keep trying to improve your craft. Assume that there is always something else to learn. Take courses, read books, go to conferences. Collaborate with other creators in (or outside of!) your field, and see what you can learn from the way they do things. Ask for feedback from your customers. Be open.
5. Stay organized.
As business picks up, you’re going to need to be able to rely on a system of organization that works for you. This is a great time to start experimenting! If you’ve never been much of an organized person, a great place to start is with a simple calendar or planner. This can help you keep track of your deadlines and short-term goals and also the tasks that you’d like to get done each day.
Experiment with online project management tools like Trello, Asana, or others. Try out online and paper calendars – does it work better for you to see your calendar on your desk above you, or do you prefer to have everything on your phone, or both? Do you need to start each day with a fresh paper to-do list, or do you prefer to use Reminders, Evernote, or another to-do list app?
Finding the system that works for you now will pay dividends later on.