5 ways to grow your creative business this year

Since sharing my successes of 2016 I’ve heard from loads of you with really specific & interesting questions. It seems like a lot of us are either running a creative business online, or would quite like to be, so I thought it’d make sense for me to start sharing a bit more about that side of my work. Plus, between you and me – I love this stuff.
Look out for a couple of creative business posts a month going forwards.

Where to start?


The obvious place to begin this is by telling you which things I believe have made the biggest difference. Below are the 5 ways to grow your creative business that I’d recommend to anyone trying to up their game or launch something new. I genuinely don’t think I’d be earning without them.

1. Get your goals down on paper. When I was working to quit my job, I had a really clear goal: match my monthly salary so I could go self employed. Once I’d achieved that, I started to coast. I was working hard, and constantly, but there was no bigger plan to it all. I was just doing whatever came my way. When I finally realised this and set myself some goals, magical things started to happen. I went from earning £1k a month to earning £40k in one day. Even my dumbass ‘Make Mark Hamill my best friend‘ project ended up paying off for me, once I announced it on Twitter & made it a daily joke. When we make a pledge in writing, we immediately start thinking about how we can get it done. Don’t underestimate the power of planning. 

Grab my free printable planning sheet

2. Business podcasts. I studied business at A Level, & was kind of awesome at it (one of my exam papers was made into the sample answer for future students! ). I always tell people it was the one subject I studied at school that I’ve actually found useful in my real world life. You don’t need an academic qualification to have a successful business, though – marketing is just understanding how people think; strategy is just common sense mapped out. These days I listen to a whole heap of online creative business podcasts, and they’re constantly inspiring me, motivating me and filling my head with new ideas. (Look out for my post on my favourite podcasts, next week!)

3. Invest in yourself. I’m a huge proponent of taking yourself seriously and investing in your skill set. I bought mentoring services with Jen Carrington way back when I was still with the NHS, and it really helped me focus, pinpoint my goals and get serious about my blog. Later, we worked together again to design my new revenue streams and for me to understand about launch strategies and how I wanted my business to work. Janet Murray’s mentoring services have helped me get to grips with my media plans for 2017, and given me a whole list of pitches to send to the publications I want to work with. You can’t be an expert in everything, and it’s ok to ask – and pay – for help.

4. Make time to be creative. It’s so easy to get bogged down in the working and neglect the thing that got you into this business in the first place. Creating to a brief is fine, but it is not the same as creating purely for the fun of it, and it is in that time that we have new ideas, develop new skills and create our most exciting work. Think of it like a football player – how much time do they devote to practice, and how much to actual matches? If you only ever compete and play matches, you’ll never have time to try anything new.

5. Be annoyingly tenacious. When people ask how I’ve achieved what I have, this is the answer I most often give. It’s probably a bit annoying as they’d prefer I gave them some holy grail secret, but it’s the honest truth, and it’s also completely achievable! When I want something – when I really really want it – I don’t quit until I get there. I have off-days and times when it feels impossible, but then I always wake up the next day with fresh determination and a new angle of approach that I haven’t tried before. There are a thousand angles to look at any problem from, and until you’ve exhausted them all, you haven’t failed. Keep trying. Keep putting yourself out there. You never know which will be the winning pitch.

What are the key things that have helped you find success? Any creative business topics you’d like me to talk about in future posts?

  • Oh, I can’t wait for the podcast blog post! Loved this one too – so helpful and inspiring! xxx

    • Yesss I’m so glad to find my fellow podcast fans. It’s the only way I can handle car trips and housework! haha x

  • Love this post! I’m starting a few podcasts this year, cannot wait!

  • This is so useful and incredibly inspiring – I’m really looking forward to future posts! x
    Sophie Cliff

    • Glad to hear that Sophie! It motivates me to keep going 🙂

  • Thanks Finja! Glad you liked it x

  • krissy @oftheeveryday

    truly inspirational. am so in awe with the world/brand you created. my hands are itching after reading this to try it all out. your writing is just ??. now if only i knew what it is i want to be when i grow up. could you figure that out for me ???

  • Thank you for detailing this stuff, Sara!

    Writing goals seems like a good starting point and one that lots of us just skim over. I was self employed for a couple of years, and like you, my goal was just to earn like-for-like each month. Once I’d done that I didn’t really know where to go with it, and it started to get a bit… lost. I wish I’d written some proper goals down as that might have pushed me in a different (even if not necessarily better) direction!

    Thanks again for this, and I’m looking forward to seeing which podcasts you recommend! 🙂

    In future posts, if you’d be willing, would you consider talking about how you make the best use of the time you have please? I imagine you have a million things you could be doing for your business all the time, and I wonder what advice you could give about prioritising it, planning it, making it fit into a schedule. What does a typical day or week look like for you, for example?



  • @this_is_the_house

    Interesting post Sara, thanks for sharing. Number 4 particularly resonated for me – I realised recently that I absolutely cannot create anything to a brief. I’m a Fine Artist so that’s OK, but it’s good to get it out of the way! I think being clear about what you won’t do is really useful – I’m a big fan of the ‘essentialist’ approach. This might be something you could explore in future posts? x

  • I love that there is no ‘holy grail secret’ in here – it’s just no-nonsense advice, and all so achievable. Also love a flipping printable!

  • Thank you for this Sara! It’s really interesting and you’ve got me thinking that I need to start properly planning out my goals again. I can’t wait to read your favourite podcasts post, I’m always on the lookout for new ones!
    Peta xx


    • It’s so easy to fall out of the habit of goal setting, isn’t it? And yet it makes such a massive change. Love that you’re a podcast fan as well. They’re the only way I ever get any cleaning done!

  • Nothing beats hard work! Thank you for the free printable, I think it complements the one I used on my free course for setting goals <3 I'd be honoured if you would check it out: http://bit.ly/Goals1DTJ

  • Saving this to come back to again and again. Gotta love you and your honestly, Sara 🙂

    • 😀 thank you Erin! That means the world <3

  • Becca

    Can’t wait for your podcast post! In need of some new inspiration/points of view. Love all the advice in this post actually – how would you feel about becoming my business mentor?? 😀 😀

  • Pingback: Weekly Round-Up #2 – This Stuff Is Golden()

  • Louise

    Absolutely love this – so inspiring and helpful. And YES to podcasts, I actually don’t mind doing chores when I have a few new episodes to get through! x

  • Pingback: Working With Brands | How To Successfully Manage A Blog Collaboration - The Online StylistThe Online Stylist()