Creative Entrepreneurship: A Guide to Fuel Your Career

creative entrepreneurship

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Creative entrepreneurship is an intimidating process that can feel outright impossible. Thankfully, it’s just like any other goal – starting your journey is often the hardest part.

While I’ve always known I wanted to become a creative entrepreneur since I was a child, there’s no shame in getting started now. In fact, more people are turning to freelancing and side hustles than ever before

My guide will break down creative entrepreneurship, help you avoid common pitfalls, and get you closer to realizing your goal.

Defining Creative Entrepreneurship

Creative businesses are shrouded in a myth of ‘do art and make money’. While that’s not entirely inaccurate, it’s pretty reductive – you’re still going to have to run your own business.

Below are fundamentals to help you distinguish between creative entrepreneurs versus hobbyists.

Starting Your Own Business to Generate Income

Whether you want to replace your day job or have a little extra disposable income, creative entrepreneurs are business owners. Art is your foundation, but your goal is still to make money.

starting your own business to generate income

For example, someone who enjoys doodling fun designs and logos in their spare time is not a creative entrepreneur. Now let’s look at a professional example. Graphic designers, fine artists, or commercial illustrators will market themselves to complete projects for clients. This commitment to generating income is a simple distinction, but it makes all the difference.

Pursuing a Career With Marketing and Networking

A hobby, you can do at any time for any reason. Creative entrepreneurs spend just as much time creating as they do marketing and networking – in fact, sometimes they do the latter more!

Developing your business acumen – another way of saying business sense – includes connecting with people and getting to know them. Someone you network with at a convention could be a regular client six months down the line.

Focusing on Business Value as Much as Your Artistic Voice

While your creative skills and vision are important, they still won’t generate much money if you don’t focus on business value. Put simply, business value is how you solve problems for businesses or your customer base.

I’ll explore business value further below and why it means the difference between a successful creative entrepreneur and a struggling artist.

Developing Your Skills as a Creative Entrepreneur

developing your skill as a creative entrepreneur

Famous creative entrepreneurs may have unique upbringings and challenges, but they all need a blend of the following skills.

Narrow Down Your Hard Skills

Hard skills refer to more technical skills that yield defined results for business clients. Sculpting, painting, and drawing are just a few hard skills you can add to your portfolio.

This step is essential so you can start putting together marketing materials like an online website or social media account. These hard skills have quantifiable results that people can instantly see, such as in your online portfolio, a magazine, or a video. In other words, they’re hard proof you can walk the walk.

narrow down your hard skill

Narrow Down Your Soft Skills

In contrast, soft skills are more subtle but no less essential. While hard skills may get you gigs, soft skills increase your chances of repeat work and positive word-of-mouth.

Consistently meeting deadlines, communicating consistently, and asking smart questions are just a few valuable soft skills. Even if you create jaw-dropping paintings or sculptures, few people will want to work with you if you’re flaky or rude.

Hash Out a Marketing Plan to Get Your Work Found

As a creative entrepreneur, you’ll have to get comfortable with putting yourself out there. Nobody can hire you and appreciate your work if they don’t even know about you.

The good news is that self-promotion can take on many forms to adapt to your personality and lifestyle. If you’re extroverted, you may enjoy visiting art fairs or art conventions to promote your work.

If you’re more introverted, blogging on online platforms or social media can also bring interested visitors to your portfolio. According to a recent study, nearly 75% of art buyers used Instagram to find creative entrepreneurs to purchase from.

hash out a marketing plan

Put Together a Portfolio so Buyers Can Find You

A common misconception about becoming a creative entrepreneur is having a lot of bells and whistles in your portfolio. While shiny animations or a custom site are certainly impressive, a simple portfolio can still easily bring clients to you.

It’s never been easier to put together a professional and easy-to-navigate online portfolio to showcase your artistic skills.

Put Together a Business Plan to Guide Your Career Growth

Your entrepreneurship skills will yield more financial fruit with the aid of a business plan. This essential document will outline the vision, goals, and value of your business model.

Creative entrepreneurs can sometimes struggle with trying to achieve everything at once. A business plan that clearly outlines the skills you offer and your ideal client base will keep you on the right track.

put together a business plan

Get Legally Covered so You Can Work Without Worry

Want to enjoy creative entrepreneurship worry-free? Getting legally covered by your province, district, or state will ensure you don’t run into any fines or copyright hurdles.

Some of the most common ways a creative entrepreneur will get legally covered are:

  • Purchasing a business license
  • Protecting your intellectual property
  • Registering with their local business department
  • Applying for copyright protection for a logo, project, or product

A great place for creative entrepreneurs to get started is Law Depot, a legal resource that has free templates for necessities like confidentiality or privacy policies.

Most Common Types of Creative Entrepreneurship

most common types of creative entrepreneurship

Want to see the different creative industries you can try joining? Below are ones you’ve likely heard of already, but we’ll look at them with a business value focus.

Commercial Illustration

Commercial illustration is one of the most broad choices for creative entrepreneurs, but that’s also its power. This skill is the backbone of many industries and business models such as:

  • Publishing houses
  • Game design
  • Marketing firms
  • Fashion studios
  • Web design

It’s also a popular skill set for side hustles, as many artists enjoy publishing their illustrations on shirts or pillows.

Fine Art

fine art

Whether you love oil painting or are passionate about acrylic, you can run a successful creative business in fine art. You’d be amazed by how many businesses and individuals are eager for handmade, one-of-a-kind paintings.

Just a few niches that would enjoy your unique talents are:

  • Custom portraits of people or pets
  • Custom paintings of original characters
  • Murals
  • Public art projects
  • Art competitions
  • Art collectors

Graphic Design

graphic design

Another profitable business you can start is in graphic design, a skill set so synonymous with everyday life that it’s easy to take for granted. The global graphic design market sits at around $48 billion, a pretty impressive figure if you’d like a slice of the pie.

This creative industry is essential for all sorts of industries such as:

  • Food and beverage
  • Technology
  • Pet care
  • Filmmaking
  • Digital Marketing
  • Social media marketing

Graphic designers also regularly combine their skills with other creative pursuits like video editing, illustration, and photography.



If you enjoy crafting mixed media decorations or geeky figurines, you’re in luck. There’s still a large demand for handcrafted sculpture – Etsy’s best-selling items include decals, beads, and sculpted wall decor.

Just a few of the customers you could sell your new ideas to include:

  • Small and large film studios
  • Art collectors
  • Exterior art
  • Custom commissions for individuals


If you have an eye for fashion, jewelry could be a successful business. The online jewelry market is showing an impressive growth rate, with some buyers spending hundreds of dollars on jewelry every year.

Many creative entrepreneurs sell their originals or jewelry design ideas in areas like:

  • Fashion
  • Wedding
  • Fine art galleries

Developing Types of Creative Entrepreneurship

developing types of creative entrepreneurship

Some of the most successful creative entrepreneurs go down the less-beaten path. You may just find your creative calling with these less common, yet increasingly popular choices.

Creative Consultation

Creative consultation (sometimes referred to as coaching depending on where you live) is how you blend artistry with education. Many creative entrepreneurs enjoy nurturing the artistic journey of others.

Creative consultation services hit a sweet spot for people who may not want to pursue a college degree, but still want to polish their skills. You can help people with all sorts of issues such as:

  • Establishing a healthy work-life balance
  • Helping them create their own schedule
  • Finding a new target market for their art

You can even turn your creative consultation into online courses to enjoy a little passive income.

creative consultation


When nearly 30% of all Internet users watch live streams every week, there’s a profitable venture awaiting you. Livestreaming your creative process could be a fantastic source of generating income doing something you love.

Some artists make money by livestreaming their painting process, showing people in real time how they complete a piece. Others enjoy livestreaming casual conversations about creative topics such as self-promotion or branding. Yet more have a business where they make creative products in real-time, then sell the original.

If you need inspiration, just visit the live section of YouTube or the front page of Twitch.

React Channels

An increasingly popular subgenre of content creation is the react channel. This video channel revolves around people reacting to all sorts of art such as films, shows, and music videos.

These channels are popular as both entertainment and deeper analysis. Some viewers enjoy the comedic portion of a react channel that specializes in comedy films, while others choose channels that focus on game design analysis.

These channels often earn money through a mixture of donations, affiliate marketing, or ad revenue.

The Pros of Creative Entrepreneurship

the pros of creative entrepreneurship

Becoming a creative entrepreneur is difficult, but it’s worth it. The benefits of becoming a business owner can be wonderful enough to overcome the fear of starting the journey.

  • More Control Over Your Personal Finances

Have you ever wondered what your life could be like if you could work hours that suit you? From setting your own prices to choosing certain days off, this financial freedom is priceless.

A downside to traditional employment is having little to no room to turn down assignments or take days off. This restricting type of environment can erode creativity and lead to issues like burnout.

According to a freelancing study, nearly half of all freelance respondents stated they chose their path so they could have greater control over how much work they take on.

Creative entrepreneurs often have multiple streams of income, which is its own form of job security. If one project falls through, you have several more you’re still working on.

  • Greater Mental and Emotional Fulfillment

Starting a new business as a graphic designer or a web developer is just as much about emotions as it is about money. Caring deeply about your creative work is what makes the blood, sweat, and tears worth it.

According to a recent study, a significant portion of freelancers actively chose freelancing because they enjoy what they do more. They also enjoy a greater level of autonomy and flexibility in their work environment.

  • Improved Work-Life Balance in Many Areas of Life

When nearly half of all people in a work-study would leave their job if it kept them from enjoying life, this benefit can’t be overstated. Becoming a creative entrepreneur frees up your schedule in countless ways.

Just a few of the benefits I’ve enjoyed for over a decade are improved sleep patterns and no commute. I also love having the ability to choose who I want to work with mainly in areas that interest me.

Creative entrepreneurs can enjoy even more benefits, but let’s take a look at the downsides so you can get the full picture.

The Cons of Creative Entrepreneurship

the cons of creative entrepreneurship

Below are a few challenges you’ll likely face as you become a creative entrepreneur.

  • Financial Success Will Be Unstable to Start With

Shifting from a regular monthly paycheck to the ‘feast or famine’ cycle of entrepreneurship can be jarring. In fact, one survey found landing clients to be the biggest challenge for roughly a third of their freelance respondents.

Does that mean you’re guaranteed to make little to no money? Not at all – in fact, creative entrepreneurs can sometimes make more than full-time, salaried positions. However, your first few years will be bumpy as you build a reputation in your target market.

  • Personal Discipline is an Absolute Must

Are you someone who needs external pressure to complete tasks or remember obligations? Personal discipline is a massive challenge for many beginning creative entrepreneurs and may trip you up even more than finding clients.

The good news – reliable discipline is a skill you can develop, not an inborn trait. There are many fantastic online resources you can turn to for help with things like scheduling calls or tracking your expenses.

I’m fond of the Freelancer’s Union, a non-profit organization with free online resources for creative entrepreneurs on all things business, legal, and self-promotion. It’s a prime place to build your intellectual knowledge and transform this risk-taking venture into bite-sized steps.

  • Taxes and Marketing Have a Steep Learning Curve

Creative entrepreneurs-to-be are often afraid of the learning curve behind marketing and taxes. Since this fear stops many from getting started, the best thing you can do here is ask for professional help.

When shifting over to freelance taxes, save up a little money to sit down with a tax professional. You can also check out the Freelancer’s Union or resources like NerdWallet.

The Difference Between Value and Vision

the difference between value and vision

As I wrap things up, a mindset shift you need to adopt is differentiating between value and vision. If I had known this before becoming a creative entrepreneur, I could’ve saved myself a few years of missteps.

While your artistic vision is extremely important, becoming a successful creative entrepreneur means understanding how you solve business problems. For example, how does your design business help a brand bring in more customers? Does your commercial illustration help a book fly off the shelves on release?

Creative entrepreneurs can also use this approach when selling to individual customers. Your mixed media wall art can meet customer demands for decorating a living room. Another example could be appealing to a target audience who enjoys wearing custom jewelry to parties or special occasions.

Let’s break this down into a simple equation using an example of other entrepreneurs, like fictional jewelry makers.

The artist’s vision = crafting original and elegant jewelry that emotionally moves the viewer.

The artist’s value = offering businesses high-quality and unique items that will make their store stand out from others in the same industry, increasing both sales and word-of-mouth.

Creative Entrepreneurship is More Achievable Than Ever

creative entrepreneurship is more achievable than ever

Becoming a creative entrepreneur doesn’t have to be a lofty dream. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can start learning and building the financial freedom you deserve.

Developing your entrepreneurial skills doesn’t have to be a solo venture. Check out

Art Pricing Secrets: Ethically Pricing Creativity. The Formula That Works to pick up some foundational skills.

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