3 Reasons Why Creative Businesses Fail in Their First Year

Back image of woman in olive jacket, long blonde hair, black hat and hands grabbing either side of hat

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment my first online business failed. It was a hard blow though, because it came with a lot of “I told you so’s.” In case you’re interested, Carte Blanche Wellness was really going to rock the health blogging world… but only in my dreams.

Let’s just put this out in the open: Most businesses will fail at some point. Whether it’s a series of small stumbles or one big cataclysmic (too dramatic?) failure, the road to success is a bumpy one. And, the scary truth of the matter is, that creative businesses can often fail in their very first year. I know — ouch, right?

But don’t worry. I’ve been in business long enough to have a few fails to my name and these experiences have helped me help my clients work through similar, shall we say, “interruptions”.

3 reasons why online businesses fail in their first few years

Today I’m telling it like it is, so you’ll know what to be on the lookout for, what not to do in your new business, and the traps you’ll be so glad you avoided.

Your new creative business might just be among the casualties if:

1. You don't want to invest, ever.

I understand why you’d hesitate when it comes to making big investments in your business. But you still need to have some basics in place to give yourself and your business a shot at success.

A great way to decide where you should make your first investments is to ask yourself “what is holding my business back from being its best?”

If your answer is your mindset, then it’s time to do your research and bring a business coach onboard. If you’re muddling through your bookkeeping and business taxes, it’s time to enlist the services of a CPA or other tax professional. You’re a professional, right? Then it is probably time to hire professionals, too.

Do an inventory of yourself and your business, pinpoint your blocks, then figure out what you need to get past them. Especially during your first year of business when you might not yet be making a ton of money. The somewhat tired “you need to spend money to make money” cliche is very true in most cases. Just make sure you’re spending it in the right way by clearly identifying an ROI on that investment.

2. You regularly burn yourself out.

A potential client wants to hire you, you say yes. Seems simple enough, right? At the very, very beginning, it’s so exciting when someone is willing to pay you money to do something for them — it might even seem too good to be true! (Trust me, I remember those days.)

It might seem hard to imagine when you’re just getting started, but you can overcommit yourself, stretch yourself too thin, and end up in deep trouble with clients because you’ve taken on more work than you have time for.

Never forget to take good care of yourself as you feel out the life of a business owner. Respect your time, your schedule, and your sanity.

3. You get excited about #alltheideas…

You’re stuck in creation mode when you really need to execute. Hobbyists start projects, and entrepreneurs deliver them.

I get it, we’re creatives — we love to bring things to life. There’s nothing quite like introducing something brand new to the world that simply didn’t exist before. And these creative breakthroughs all start with a spark, an inspired idea. Before you know it, you’ve chased after one idea, then another… and then you wake up one day and realize you haven’t implemented much of anything. Ick.

So put the ideas back in the jar, for now and dust off one that you abandoned or wandered away from.

And one last one, because I couldn’t stick to three… this one’s a big one, too:

Deep down, you don't want to do the work.

There’s something that seems so glamorous about owning a business: working on your own terms, flexing your creative muscles every day, and making a difference. But when a new creative business begins to stall, it’s often because the business owner mistakenly thought the glamour pretty much summed up the life of a creative entrepreneur. And most of the time? Nothing could be further from the truth.

There’s so much more to running a business than scrolling through your beautiful website, launching exciting collaborations, and reveling in all the social media love. There’s hustling to get gigs or make sales that pay the rent… days spent at the computer... nail biting over a product flop… unwashed hair in a bun (can anyone say LAUNCH?)... all of the admin everything… and so much more.

It’s definitely not all flash and excitement. The photos of me bragging about attending or speaking at some workshop and getting paid for it are just the tip of the iceberg. Of course I’m bragging—do you know how cool and special that ish is for ME?? LOL

What you don’t see are the mornings I wake up to a negative account balance, because somehow my Stripe disconnected from my bank account, a month ago. Or the nights working until 2am because I feel inadequate compared to others in my industry, and I’m determined to change that (< ha, ha, definitely not what I’d recommend!)

Some new business owners aren’t motivated to get things done without the instant gratification of 10,000 Instagram fans. (And, if they hit that dream milestone, there’d probably be some new reason why they’d avoid the work.) If you want to be a successful creative business owner, you’ve got to love the work, and you’ve got to be tuned into your why.

Remember: Your business is not destined to fail just because it’s new.

I’ve been full of tough love today, but there’s something I want you to know: yeah, your business is vulnerable in its earliest days, but you have a great chance of making it all happen and becoming very successful. Think about it: why not you? Why not your business? Decide you’re going to make it happen, educate yourself on best practices like the ones we’ve covered here today, then go out there and make your dream a reality.

At the end of the day, what it really all comes down to is...

Commitment. Commit to growing something, commit to the value you’re providing, commit to your why and commit to putting your energy, your trust and your good sense into your new venture. When you’re that devoted to something, even when failure inevitably comes your way, you will just dust yourself off and get back to work.

Now I want to hear from you!

Did you make it out of your first year of business alive? (I’m assuming you did!) What advice would you share with a brand-new creative business owner? Let’s hear it in the comments!

And, if you're wondering if your business is living in Law Law Land (aka, you have some stuff to do to get legally legit), be sure to head over to our free quiz, mmmmk?

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