Looking to start a creative small business, or already running one and trying to improve it? Running a creative business takes careful planning, persistence, a unique skill, and a time investment, but when you can find a way to turn a passion into a creative business, the work hardly seems like work at all.

Operating a business where your intellectual capital is your golden ticket requires a calculated approach that differs from the stock standard business model. Even so it has to find a place in the market and will fall into a general category, i.e. a novel or play is obviously creative and does not yet exist but clearly competes with other works of fiction and, in that sense, cannot be seen as completely unique. The same is true of inventions and designs. Virtually all of them do a job that is already being done in one form or other and so would be seen as substitutes or improvements and be evaluated accordingly. It follows that some market research is therefore essential to test the validity of the idea and ascertain whether it has a place in the market.

With literary works there is a long established practice of bringing them to market through the publishing industry or, in some cases, directly on to radio or TV. The initial approach is usually, but not necessarily, through agents who know where to place such work, but it is a precarious process. Relatively few first novels or plays are published each year and the procedure is time consuming. It could well be two to three years, and often longer, from starting to write to publication so, for most aspiring writers of plays, novels, poetry, etc., it is almost essential to start as a part-time occupation and accept that it will take several years to become established.

In more recent times we have seen growth in self-publishing and use of the internet as a promotional medium and individual copies of books can be produced at quite low cost but, for most producers, the difficulty is in marketing the finished product without a means of gaining support from the retail industry.

For people with a craving to write, markets exist for communicating special skills, knowledge or expertise on specific subjects. Publishers of technical subjects can be approached with merely an outline or synopsis to demonstrate how the subject will be covered, supported by a couple of sample chapters to indicate style and competence. Advances can be secured with this approach, based on the publisher’s estimate of likely sales. Freelance writing for journals and magazines can also generate income and, if this field is of interest, the market could be researched quite readily by identifying magazines that deal with your chosen subject and approaching them direct.

Actors and musicians usually follow a vocation and most embark on formal training at an early age in schools of music or acting academies. For most it is implicit that by following such a vocation they will be self employed and probably rely on agents to promote them. They differ from most one person businesses in this respect, but several chapters of this book could still be of value.

Inventors divide into two categories – those who are producing something completely new and those who are seeking a different process or product to replace something that already exists. The probability is that something entirely new falls into the product category as any new process is likely to be a substitute. It should, therefore, be subjected to critical questions:

  • What purpose does it serve?
  • What need does it satisfy?
  • How will it be used?
  • Who will use it?
  • Does it compete with products of a different nature?
  • How large is the ultimate market?
  • How will the product be delivered to the market?
  • Who are the main players in the market?
  • Can the invention be protected by patents or copyright?

If you are a truly creative person do not dissipate your talents by taking on management responsibilities you are not qualified to handle. Confine yourself to determining the value of the concept by:

  • ascertaining how it fits into the market
  • the competitive advantages of your product or design
  • assessing the value of the existing market for the existing competitive product and estimate the extent to which an improved product could extend it
  • identifying the producers/marketers of the existing product and their likely reaction to a new competitive product