Career advice from creatives who’ve made it big

The 'hows,' 'whats' and 'whys' of starting a successful creative business
Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Who doesn’t love Etsy? A platform literally bursting with creativity and craft, it’s the online go-to for unique, handmade homewares, jewellery, art and clothing made by artists and makers who are running their own creative business.

It’s not as easy as it looks however. More than simply building a website in a weekend and taking photos of a bunch of your creations, starting, running and growing a creative business can have its trials. By and large however, the outcomes are encouraging. “There are so many positive stories that flow in from our Etsy seller community around the globe about how Etsy has enabled them to making a living doing something they love,” says Dayna Isom Jounson, Etsy trend expert. “One of the most common themes from our female sellers is that they are proud to be able to run a business on their own terms –  one that grants them greater flexibility than many traditional jobs – and grow at their own pace.”

Dayna’s top tips for up-and coming-Etsy designers?

1. Make something you love

If you’re constantly creating something that brings you joy, it will never feel like monotonous work.

2. Set unique goals for your business

It can be something as simple as “sell one item a month” or “create asocial media post once a week” highlighting products from your shop. Whatever your goal, make it achievable, flexible, and scalable—and remember to celebrate when you reach it!

3. Find the right balance between managing your business and being a good maker

Moving from hobbyist to business owner means you will now wear several hats in addition to being a maker. Being a business owner means writing customer service emails, paying bills, packing orders, re-ordering supplies and so much more, so it’s important to make time for the business side of being a maker.

“Setting an attainable work/life balance means removing pressures and accepting sacrifices.”

Dayna Isom Johnson, Esty trend expert

Lauren McKay from HooDooLouLou (

How to start a creative business Part 2 | Home Beautiful Magazine Australia
(Credit: HooDooLouLou)

How easy is it to start a small business of your own?

“Starting a business is easy, maintaining a successful one is a bit harder. Be ready for late nights and early mornings and buckets of tea.”

How do you negotiate the life/work/family/creative balance?

“I work from home so my work life and family life are fairly intertwined. My outside studio is spilling into my inside studio which is spilling into our lounge room so it’s hard for me to keep the many facets of my life separate. which is fine, I am my work and my work is me.”

Do you work alone or in a shared space?

“I work from home but am rarely alone. There are always people in the house or fur babies who demand my attention by sitting on whatever I’m working on.”

Lauren’s 3 top tips for running a successful creative business?

1. Network

“Talk to your market neighbours, join groups for creative people in your area, go to meetups, talk to creative people you admire online, make friends with the people in your creative community, do trades, collaborate. Forge these fierce alliances with people like you and build your own little support network.”

2. Be Present

“Online presence is a must in this day and age if you want to survive and social media has made that relatively easy with free platforms like Instagram. This doesn’t mean you have to upload a post every day or blog your entire life just to make up content, but be present. Schedule time to scroll, comment, like. Interact with your customer base by answering questions and allowing them to provide feedback. Keep everyone up to date with what events or showcases you’re doing. Utilise the stories function by uploading a behind the scenes or work in progress shot and show everyone a bit of what goes into making your product.”

3. If you’re good at something never do it for free

“And this is the big one. See value in what you do, don’t let anyone tell you “it will be great exposure” because at the end of the day you have bills that need paying just like everyone else. Your time is valuable.”

What’s the best thing about running your own business

“Being my own boss. I can control every aspect of the process from design to production, branding and customer service.”

Oonagh Joyce from HandmadeOJDesign (

How easy is it to start a small business of your own?

“To be honest I never thought I would start a small business like this, selling things that I make! I didn’t think I had the confidence or the creative ability so that was definitely the first hurdle to overcome. Putting yourself out there in the first place is a really huge step and then the rest just follows on.”

How do you negotiate the life/work/family/creative balance?

“I am incredibly lucky in that working from home allows me a lot of flexibility in all those departments! Finding a balance can still be tricky though so I just try to be relaxed about it all and prioritise in the moment. For example, I might be working on a new card design but if my almost one-year-old son, Ezra, wakes up from his nap then the card gets put on hold and we’ll have a cuddle and play instead. Sometimes I can get a few things done when he’s awake but you would not believe the amount I can get done in a 2-hour nap! I must admit though that running your business means you’re always on the clock but it is quite nice being kept awake by thoughts of new ideas.”

Do you work alone or in a shared space?

“I got the most amazing conference desk for $20 from someone on Facebook and I set it up where I can keep an eye on my son while getting a few things done. I do miss the sense of support and community you get from working in a shared studio but right now I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Oonagh’s 3 top tips for running a successful creative business?

1. Believe in what you do and trust that you have something to offer.

2. Get a rubber stamp with your logo so you can brand all your packaging and whatever else you might feel like branding.

3. Focus your creative energy on something specific so that your shop and your image are cohesive.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

“Going to work with no pants on.”

You might also like:

Part 1: This woman’s creative side hustle changed her life

Part 2: How this woman carved her own creative career path

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