How to know if you’re running a creative business

Published by Nela Dunato on in Business, Thoughts

I talk about “creative business” a lot here on my blog, in my newsletter, in my services pages and my free offerings. My goal is to address the type of people I most want to help. Some of you may be wondering “Does my business count as creative? How do I know? I’m not an artist, can I still call my biz a creative business? Will someone get offended if I do it?”

I get where you’re coming from. It’s that old “I’m not really creative” belief that a lot of people struggle with. In this post I’m going to share my definition of creative business, and what this might mean for you.

How to know if you're running a creative business

First, let’s get the basics out of the way

I’m a firm believer that every person is inherently creative.

I also believe that creativity is not a “right-brained” thing. You can still be profoundly creative, even if you’re into numbers, systems and fixing stuff.

The word “creative” has become a buzzword lately, and it looks like everyone defines themselves as a creative-something-or-other to make sure that people understand that yes, we are creative, even if what we do may not be traditionally considered as creative (law, accounting, systems management etc.).

I’m using this word all the time as well, because I want to make sure that my right people, the people whose one of their top personal core values is creativity, are able to find me and recognize me as their right person.

I just want to make one distinction that will make the rest clearer.

Creative person does not a creative business make

Every person is inherently creative, and this can imply that every business is inherently creative. That may be true. However, something being inherently creative and something being practically creative are two different things.

If you don’t express your creative gifts, then you’re unable to build your business around them. In order to build a creative business, you actually need to do the work. This type of creativity is not just airy fairy visions, but turning these visions into a reality other people can experience.

While every person has the potential to be practically creative, and hence have a creative career, not every person chooses to do so – either because they lack the awareness of their gifts, or because of fear of failure.

You have a choice whether you want to have a creative business or not.

It’s not like some people are born into it, and others are not. You get to make whatever you want out of your life, and I believe that talent is just a cop out. (It’s interesting how all the artists I’ve talked to about it agree with me. We’re not special, we just practiced a lot.)

So now we’re back to our original question.

What makes a business “creative”?

Creativity is the ability to form new ideas and craft new artefacts that were never expressed or made beforehand. It means taking all our knowledge, experience, history, influence and inspiration, and compiling it into an original result.

This can take on many forms in business.

Perhaps you invented a new gadget, and now produce it in a factory and sell it all over the world.

Or you paint, draw,sculpt or craft things and sell these in galleries, on a local market, your webshop or Etsy.

Or you write books and publish them, either traditionally or by yourself.

Or maybe you compose music, perform shows and sell your albums.

Or you write software plug-ins and sell them on marketplaces, or your own website.

Or you package your expert knowledge into books, workshops and courses.

Or maybe you use your creativity to make custom things for your clients – like a designer, illustrator, developer, copywriter, seamstress etc.

When we look at these different types of businesses, we have no doubt that their owners are performing creative tasks as a central part of their enterprise. We’ve crafted our own definition of a “creative business” according to them.

But what if your work is none of the above?

What if you sell consulting or coaching? What if you’re a teacher who is more concerned with nurturing her students’ creativity than her own? What if you heal others?

Can you still consider yourself a creative business owner?

On the surface, your business model may be different from the other creatives we mentioned, but if you look a bit deeper, you’re bound to find many ways you use your creativity to do your work.

The most obvious way is your marketing. Every business who wants to compete online needs content marketing to attract new clients. (If you want to identify the best online marketing channels for you, I encourage you to download my free Authentic Promotion Guidebook which leads you through the process of creating your custom content marketing plan.)

This content requires you to pour your expertise, experience and passion into every single text, image, podcast or video you create. You’re making something original, valuable and creative.

So, that was rather easy?

There’s more to it, though.

I’m sure that you’re not approaching your work formulaically. You approach every new person with a curious mind, and are determined to give them exactly the kind of experience they need.

Every new person is a learning opportunity for you, and you take your time to figure out the best solution to their specific problem. Sometimes this solution may be a thing that you often do with people in their situation, but other times the old and tried solutions don’t work for them, and you need to get creative.

Creativity hand-lettering

After all, if you want to get ahead of your competitors, you’re pressed to find solutions other people haven’t thought of yet, or aren’t presenting them the way you are.

As long as you’re really putting your heart and mind into your work (instead of just regurgitating the things you learned in all those certification courses), and are constantly looking to improve the way you do things, you are a true creative powerhouse.

Can any business be creative?

I think it can. Any job can be creative as well. If the street sweeper finds a new way of holding a broom for better efficiency and speed, that person is an inventor. Let’s not underestimate anyone’s ability to bring creativity into their work.

But are you taking advantage of that?

Are you pushing yourself to use your full potential in your business?

Are you moving past the lessons that your instructors have taught you, and combining it into new, original solutions that are even more effective?

Let me know in the comments – is your venture a creative business?


Some blog articles contain affiliate links to products on Amazon or Jackson's Art Supplies. I’ll get paid a few cents if you buy something using my link, and there’s no extra charge to you.

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