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Making it big as a creative entrepreneur

Here at eporta, we pay attention to the topics that come up within our community. So we know how tricky it can be to balance business demands as a creative – there’s not a lot of assistance out there, and as a result people can feel a bit lost.

That’s why, in partnership with Decorex, we’re running free bookable, One-to-One sessions with Aneeqa (our CEO - top 35 under 35 entrepreneurs in the UK) at their trade show on Sunday 17th September. Aneeqa will discuss everything the creative entrepreneur needs to know about running a successful business (e.g. finding more clients, prioritisation, accounting, hiring) and will talk through your specific issues as a business. Lots of you have asked her to meet in the past, so now you can book your session here!

Can’t wait until September? Here are her five top tips to start you off:


1. Be clear on what you want your business to be

First things first – you need to think about the guiding principles that will define your business. What do you want to be known for? And what does success look like to you?

Aneeqa thinks of her principles as “The North Star” – the focal point which sailors used to navigate their way across oceans. “For me eporta needed to be a global business, one that creates relationships between interiors buyers and suppliers all over the world”, says Aneeqa. “And it needed to be a platform that was genuinely useful to them and made a significant impact in their day-to-day working lives.”

A great team culture has also always been crucial to her definition of success. “I wanted to create an environment where everyone was excited to come to work each day and feel as though they’re making a big impact. We spend more time at work than at home, so it’s important that we got the culture spot on - everyone has the right to be happy. ”

Once you’ve decided on the North Star for your business, make these principles your focus and be strict in following them. This will ensure that they become part of your brand DNA and help you create the kind of culture that you want.

2. Get outside of the friends and family comfort zone

When trying to do something new you’re going to need the help of your loved ones – they can help spread the word about your company, offer vital support when things are tough and be there to celebrate every triumph.

However, unless they’re going to become your sole client base, do not rely on friends and family for feedback. As Aneeqa states, “they are totally incapable of giving you the unbiased views that you need to develop. Negative feedback is the quickest way to make sure that you get better at what you’re doing and become more successful.”

“When creating eporta, I approached people who had no reason to be positive about what I was doing, and asked them for honest feedback on my product. Sometimes this was harsh to hear! Mostly, it involved me simply asking them to buy it and when they said no, asking why. The information they gave me was used to update and iterate the platform, and I’d say it’s one of the main reasons eporta has been successful.”

3. Know your worth

We see a lot of great talent undervaluing their work by pricing themselves down. We’ve already written a blog around how interior designers charge for their work, but what does Aneeqa recommend?

“Do your research and be totally confident around costs for every project. By knowing exactly what you need to make each undertaking commercially viable, you can start charging the right amount.

“Another key aspect of running a successful business is knowing when to turn down work. Too many interior designers we work with tell me about how they spent more time working with a client than they thought, and it made the project unprofitable. Unless you’re an industry newbie, you should know what your time is worth and charge accordingly. If a client isn’t willing to pay your fee, they don’t appreciate the value you’re adding so just move onto the next one. There are plenty of clients out there who do, it's just a matter of figuring out the best way of getting to them.”

4. Work with people that complement you

This requires a long, hard look in the mirror. What are your weaknesses? And where are the gaps in your experience? Be honest with yourself and then be sure to hire or work alongside people who will pick up the slack.

“My priorities are speed and ensuring that we’re seeing steep growth as a business every week”, Aneeqa states. “Making sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed is something I rely on the team to do. To succeed, you need to divide and conquer responsibilities and that means having people in your team that can do their role better than you.”

Aneeqa also knows about the importance of chemistry. “eporta has a strong culture, where everyone’s voice is heard. New starters tend to fit in really quickly, but there have been a few instances where it unfortunately hasn’t worked and we’ve had to let people go. Don’t be afraid to do this if it happens to you – rather than focusing on the decision being not great for the individual, think about the impact on everyone else in the team. Making a difficult decision now will make for a more positive working environment in the long run.”

5. Be proactive not reactive

While it’s easy to get tied up in the day-to-day management of your projects, you need to think about what you’ll be doing in 2-3 months time. This means making sure you’re not scrabbling around for new clients whenever you’re at the end of a project. Ensure that making new contacts and building your network is a constant priority and you’ll be sure to see your business grow.

You must also set aside the time and headspace for you to prioritise what you need to achieve each day. Focus on what’s important to drive your business forward and don’t get bogged down with the less vital tasks. Aneeqa relies on her time outside of the office to do this: “Weekends and evenings are a great time to focus as there are minimal distractions.”

One of Aneeqa’s top practical tips is to use the Trello app to manage her workload. “I recommend it to everybody and now the whole team uses it. Trello offers a more visual way to keep an eye on your priorities, which is particularly great for anyone in the design industry. And it’s free, so anyone can use it.”

For more of Aneeqa’s thoughts on how to make your business a success, as well as get help with any specific issues, come along to Decorex 17. It’s on at Syon Park from 17-20 September, and you can book your tickets to attend Decorex, as well as your personal session with Aneeqa now.

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