Ten ways to get set for 2021

Philiy Page has been a freelancer in the creative industries for almost 25 years – working variously as a photojournalist, writer, publishing assistant, lecturer, camerawoman and feature film production manager. She founded Creative Women International to help women in the creative industries reach their goals, creating mentoring and online courses, as well as hosting a popular podcast and writing a book, The Business of Creativity. Here, she shares her ten top tips for finding creative business success in the new year…   

1. Set the right goals

‘New year’s resolutions can be unhelpful if we don’t set them right, and invariably end up not sticking to them. I always recommend people come up with SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. It’s good to break down our goals into manageable chunks. We often overestimate how much we can do in a day, and get disheartened when we don’t finish our to-do list, but can achieve more in a month than we think we can. It’s good to set a goal for three months or a year, and work backwards to find the ways you can work towards that. I also recommend scheduling celebrations for when you achieve goals. It’s something freelancers often don’t do, but it’s an important part of the system.’

2. Allow yourself to be vulnerable

‘No one has all the answers, and sometimes showing vulnerability and asking for help can be the best way to build relationships that can help your business. Especially in 2020, it’s had a really positive response for me, and led to some really helpful collaborations. After the year we’ve had, a lot of people have been struggling, and it can be good to admit that, and that you don’t have all the answers. On the other side, it’s a good time to be kind, and if you can find ways to help other people and their businesses, it will pay you back.’

3. Get your finances in order

‘A lot of freelancers and businesspeople make basic mistakes with money. A lot forget to factor in their taxes, and a lot don’t add in time for development, research or training – and, as a result, end up short-selling themselves and their businesses. Now’s a good time of year to really analyse your incomings and outgoings, and find smart ways to boost your income. It might be doing short courses or putting a blog behind a paywall, but there might be ways you haven’t thought of.’

4. Add value rather than discount

‘It can be tempting to offer discounts when things are hard, but it’s hard to come back from that. I always recommend adding value instead. I often think it’s a good idea to pitch with different options – say a gold, silver and bronze package, where the bronze will cover what they need, but the gold offers more, whether it’s an extra video package or whatever. I’ve earned 500 per cent more on jobs by pitching clients something they didn’t know they wanted. One university wanted some written content from me, but I ended up pitching a course and support group for female entrepreneurs. I always find it helpful to take myself out of the equation, and think of myself as a tool for solving a client’s problems.’

5. Give yourself the best friend treatment

‘Especially when things are hard, it’s very easy to do down on yourself, and dwell on things you should have done. But we can all be better at speaking to ourselves the way we’d speak to our best friend – reaffirming that we’ve got this, and we’ll ride it out.’

6. Find time for creative top-ups

‘A lot of freelancers and creative businesspeople live with a misplaced fear that they’ll never work again, and that they have to say yes to absolutely everything. But it’s really important to make time for creative top-ups, where you’re doing something different, whether it’s training, videos, talks or whatever. I recommend setting aside development days, maybe once a month or every few weeks, where you think about your goals and just try to learn something different without too much pressure or too heavy an agenda. I also find it helpful to make time for different creative things – during lockdown, it’s been making masks, but it can just be going for walks. I also recommend not scheduling too many Zoom calls a day, as it can be incredibly draining.’

7. Learn to network from home

‘When a lot of us are working from home, it’s easy to feel like we’re missing the opportunities you get from bumping into people. But we’re all more connected than we think, and can still reach people when we’re working from home. There are usually three broad levels of contacts: the family and friends who really know us; the uni mates, colleagues etc who we could write a warm email to; and the people we know on LinkedIn, or friends of friends. I recommend using the first and second groups to reach the third, rather than cold pitching. It’s amazing how many people they’ll know, and who can help you. Again, a lot of it is about being prepared to ask people for help.’

8. Get your emails sorted

‘A lot of emailing is being clear about what you want and what you can offer, and not apologising – which is something women are often particularly guilty of. I recommend removing the worlds ‘hopefully’ and ‘sorry’ from your email vocabulary, as they can sound unconfident and unsure. At the same time, it’s important to be clear what’s in it for them, and to show you’ve done your research. Flattery works – saying you liked X, Y and Z they did – and it’s good to make clear that you can make their life easier.’

9. Choose jobs wisely

‘It’s important not to let panic run your decisions, and to choose when to say yes and no wisely. As tempting as it is to say yes to everything, it’s still important to factor in what it will cost in terms of time and emotions, and exactly what the pay-off will be. It’s more important than ever that we look after ourselves and our mental health, and sometimes saying no can be empowering and useful too.’

10. Visualise the endpoint

‘Most successful entrepreneurs say that the most important aspect of their success is mindset. If doubt starts to creep in, your business will be doomed. It can be really helpful to visualise success every day – accepting the award, signing the books, whatever it is – because it will help your brain to get comfortable with success, and will ward against impostor syndrome. You have to be realistic and break down the steps to success, but visualising the endpoint has been proven by neuroscience to help you get there.’

The Creative Women International podcast can be found here, as well as on Apple, Spotify and other podcast platforms.