Welcome to Do-What-You-Love Letters, our newest blog series aimed at answering all of your questions about running a creative business!
I know things can seem pretty overwhelming when you're just starting out, and I too am learning something new every single day, so it has always been my philosophy that sharing is caring.
I get lots of questions from friends looking to open an Etsy shop, quit their day job, or start something crafty on the side looking for advice, opinions, or sometimes just some reassurance that they're on the right rack. And, while I don't know it all (heavens, no!), I am happy to share my own experiences, tips, and resources so that it might help make this crazy process a little easier to navigate.
So, without further ado, let's get to our first letter…
"Hey! I'm headed to the library for some business-related books to (hopefully) get motivated to launch my Etsy shop finally. Any recommendations? It can be specifically craft business related, biz in general, or even just something to get the creative juices flowing. Let me know!"
-- text from an anonymous friend
This is a great question because I loooooove books and have learned much of what I know now about business by reading (devouring) creative business books and e-books.
The following are some of my favorites, and a few that are on my "To-Read" list for the future:
If you are an artist, graphic designer, illustrator, etc. and you do not own this book, STOP READING (seriously) AND GO BUY THIS BOOK IMMEDIATELY. Consider it a required text. It's chock full of super handy information like how to properly price your work (always a struggle), coming up with contracts, copyright issues, and more.
2. Craft, Inc. by Meg Mateo Ilasco
This book gets down to the nitty gritty of running a craft business. It covers it all, from product creation to pricing and marketing your work. A one-stop shop for planning! There's even a separate planner to go along with it with worksheets, pockets, and charts. No-brainer!
3. The Right-Brain Business Plan by Jennifer Lee
Does the thought of creating a business plan put you to sleep? Spreadsheets, projections, summaries, blaaaaah…. This book walks you through the creation of a business plan specifically for right-brainers like us. There's lots of collaging, dreaming, and vision boarding that lines up perfectly with all of the parts of a traditional business plan. You get your planning done in a way that makes more sense (and is more fun!) for you.
4. Jump, Trust, Repeat by Jessica Swift
If you're interested in making a living from your artwork and venturing into the online retail or licensing world, why not learn from someone who's been down that road? Jessica Swift's e-book is a fun-to-read retelling of her journey as an artist, filled with lots of resources, links, and tips with an extra helping of "YES! I CAN TOTALLY DO THIS" oomph!
5. The Handmade Marketplace by Kari Chapin
This book covers it ALL and has recently been updated to make sure you're on top of the most current trends and processes of running a handmade biz. Branding, Blogging, Press Releases, Podcasts, Craft Shows, Consignment…. Seriously. Everything.
6. Renaissance Business by Emilie Wapnick
Talk about a game-changer! Holy moly did everything fall into place after I read this book! As a creative person with tons of interests, I've often struggled with trying to narrow down my interests to find the one thing I want to do for the rest of my life. Well here's a little secret… you don't have to narrow them down! This book is all about embracing all of your dynamic interests to create a career and life that allows you to do everything you love. Why choose??
Business in General
7. The Art of Earning by Tara Gentile
Oh, money… why do you torture us so?! I recommend this book to everyone I meet that is a creative business person because it absolutely changed the entire way I think about money, pricing my work, and making an income from doing what I love to do. Plus, going hand-and-hand with the whole theme of value-based pricing, this one is offered at a "Pay-What-It's-Worth" option.
8. The Big Moo by 33 Contributors (edited by Seth Godin)
Or really… anything by Seth Godin. The man is a genius. He's a business and marketing guru who writes about topics that are lightbulb-inspiring for any small business owner, not just crafters and artists. The Big Moo has been one of my favorites and it's a compilation of essays written by 33 different contributors all about how to be remarkable. I personally recommend the audiobook, narrated by Godin himself.
9. The Anti 9-to-5 Guide: Practical Career Advice for Women Who Think Outside the Cube by Michelle Goodman
My sister bought me this book as a gift while I was still working my traditional job at a local university. She knew I had recently discovered Etsy and wanted to work toward doing that full-time, and this book was a great kick in the pants to get started. Michelle Goodman takes the idealist notion of making a living doing what you love and blends it well with practical, implementable (is that a word?) steps and tips for putting your dreams into action.
10. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
While I feel as though a lot of the stories he writes about seem a bit unrealistic, and I don't I feel like most of us even want to outsource the majority of our business to someone else (that's why we're doing this right? Because we love it?) it's worth a read simply to get your mind to consider a completely different way to live and run your business. Before reading this book the notion of outsourcing my weaknesses so that I can focus on my strengths hadn't even crossed my mind. Plus, it's fun to read about people who have used Ferriss' process creatively to accomplish a better work-life balance.
11. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh
Although this book is focused on a big business (Zappos! shoes) it is a great behind-the-scenes look at how hard work, creative thinking, and a bit of risk can grow a small startup into an online giant. There is lots of focus on thinking outside of the box when it comes to marketing and workplace atmosphere, and offers little nuggets that even the tiniest one-person-shop can implement.
12. The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau
This one is light and fun and a quick read, but one that is sure to spark some ideas. Chris Guillebeau writes about 50 case studies of people who have built fun and creative businesses with startup costs at $100 or less, and have ultimately created a better life for themselves. Not a lot of practical step-by-step advice in this one, but lots of interesting cases and "why didn't I think of that" ideas.
13. 642 Things to Draw by Chronicle Books
100% geared toward getting your juices flowing. Zero business advice, tips, or even paragraphs in this one-- only 642 doodle prompts and a lot of white space to create. I use this book (the sequel actually, "712 More Things to Draw") to wind down before bed. Great for those times when you're having a hard time being creative.
14. I Just Like To Make Things by Lilla Rogers
I bought this book shortly before taking Lilla's "Make Art That Sells" course and having finished the classes, I can tell you that this book is basically the text book version of the course. Contains information about all of the different industries of art licensing (wall art, paper goods, kids apparel, etc.) as well as fun hands-on activities for each.
15. Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith
Totally off the wall and so much fun! I discovered this book when my little sister had to complete it for a 7th grade project. I bought my own shortly after. Each page contains a different activity to, as the title says, wreck the journal: "Fill this page with circles". "Add a stain to this page", "Take this book into the shower with you"…. Some seem silly, strange, or even gross, but essentially it all boils down to letting go and letting the creativity fly.
16. Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte
Danielle LaPorte is like that popular girl in high school that you want to hate but then you find out that she's pretty, smart, and nice!? Well dammit… This woman is everywhere on the interwebs these days which makes one think that there's gotta be a gimmick. She has to be full of fluff, right? Well, here's the thing… she's the real deal. So far, I'm loving this book. Her words are poetic. Her topics (finding your superpowers, the strategy of desire, visioneering, etc) seem somewhat hippy-dippy at first glance, but nothing she says is frivolous or filler. It's all intentional. I've already had quite a few lightbulbs go off and lots of "Yes! Exactly!" moments.