I’m a planner. In fact, sometimes I like the planning and dreaming more than the execution.
But occasionally, that means I put the cart before the horse. And I get worked up about things that might happen. Things that could happen. Things that are unlikely to happen.
And so I put myself in a tizzy over something that it turns out isn’t all that important. Or relevant given where I’m at.
In my law firm, I tend to attract people like me–planners.
In fact, a couple weeks back, I met with a new client. About 10 years ago, she started a handmade business. But after trying for several years to get it off the ground, the sales were still few and far between. So she gave up and closed up shop.
Since then, she found a satisfying creative 9-5 job, got married, bought a house, and had two kids.
She’s currently on maternity leave from having her second child. And because of the cost of childcare in San Francisco, she’s considering staying home with the kids for a few years.
But she and her husband are concerned about giving up her steady income. So she’s considering starting another handmade business.
So she’s started to create a plan on how to make that happen. But she’s racked with worry.
- What if no one buys her products?
- What is she going to make?
- Will she start hating her hobbies when they become her business?
- What if she succeeds?
- What if she fails again?
- What if she gets sued?
- What does she have to do?
- What can wait until she figures out what her products will be?
- How will she juggle a newborn, a three-year-old, and a brand new business?
- Will her husband resent her choice not to go back to work?
- Will her husband support the costs involved in starting a new business?
She came to our meeting not only with a bundle of worry but a list of projects she wanted to hire me for:
- creating an LLC
- filing a trademark
- writing website policies
- writing a wholesale contract
- writing a product disclaimer
At the end of the meeting, I told her that if she decides to move forward, we’d only be doing the first one. And I gave her a timeline and triggers for when I thought she should tackle the rest.
But until she could give me some solid answers on what her business will be, I’m not even going to start on creating her LLC.
Instead, I told her that we needed to return to business basics. And I gave her homework. And her homework assignment was to fill in the Creative Business Model Canvas. Things like:
- her ideal customer
- her products (other than they would be knit/crochet based)
- if she was selling the finished product or the patterns/kits to create the finished product
- how customers would find out she’s selling her products
- what made her products different than those already on the market
- costs involved in selling her products
- what success looks like
- what she was measuring progress against
- potential collaboration partners
I told her to think of this as the underpainting of a canvas. Right now she’s going for broad brushstrokes and basic blocking.
What she created wouldn’t be perfect. What she wrote wouldn’t exactly match what her business would become.
But I wanted her to start with a basic roadmap. I wanted her to start with an idea of who she was creating for and why they should buy from her. (I also thought it might help bring her husband on board because he is a Silicon Valley startup founder.)
So while “writing a business plan” doesn’t seem like a legal project, it’s actually the first legal project.
And it doesn’t matter what stage you are in your business.
Over time you might be fine-tuning, rather than working on the broad brushstrokes.
But it’s also okay to pivot and make alter things based on a change in your own priorities and life! (In fact, this summer, I’ve been making some changes in my business. So that I have more flexibility to spend time with my family as we soldier through a rough patch!)
That being said, I do think there are five business basics legal projects that every creative business should tackle. (After you come up with your plan.)
- getting your financial house in order
- getting business insurance
- picking the right business type
- getting permits and licenses
- writing a contract
Is there anything you are currently doing in your business that’s putting the cart before the horse?
Does your creative business have a business plan?
I think every creative business should have a plan. But it doesn’t have to be long, formal, or traditional.
You should create a plan in the way that works for you. Because it’s important to not only create a plan but use it as you make decisions for your business.
But it’s also important to remember that this isn’t set in stone. Because it’s almost impossible for a new, young business to predict what it’s going to look like five years in the future. And so what you put in your business plan will inevitably change and evolve over time. And that’s good.
Which is why I created a quick and easy way for you to create a business plan. And I call it the Creative Business Model Canvas. Grab a PDF copy by entering your email below.
Your privacy is important to us. Learn how we protect it here.
Want to dive in deeper? Then check out these resources:
- Check out this 48-minute workshop where I walk you through the Creative Business Model Canvas and explain why a business plan is critical.
- Once you’ve filled out your Creative Business Model Canvas, members of the artist’s Courtyard can share their Creative Business Model Canvas’ here to get ideas and feedback.
- Once you’ve got your business plan, read this article to discover which legal projects should (and shouldn’t) go on your to-do list.