Getting Back to the Basics of Running a Creative Business

There’s a lot of noise out there.

Between blog posts, newsletters, social media, podcasts, and webinars, we’re inundated with content on a daily basis. 

On one hand, this is a huge benefit for creatives in business. All of these outlets provide advice, insights, and how-to’s on areas of business you might not know much about. (And most of the time, you’re getting the content for free!)

But on the other hand, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the things you need to do to get ahead. Heck, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the things you need to do just to keep up.

Information overload coupled with an uncertainty of what you should be doing to create a successful business often leads to discouragement and burnout. 

There have been many moments (even recently) when I’ve gotten caught up in the noise and haven’t been able to see the forest through the trees. 

In those moments, I’ve learned to take a step back and start over at the beginning. 

If you’re struggling with where to start or what to do next in your business, here’s my simple 4-step solution for getting back to the basics.

Getting Back to the Basics of Running a Creative Business | Elle & Company

1  |  Start by taking a realistic look at your season of life

Running a business is going to look different for you depending on your current circumstances.

The risks you’re able to take, the income you need to bring in, the time you’re able to pour into your business - all of those factors are going to vary during different seasons of your life.

That’s why setting expectations based on what others in your industry are doing often leads to frustration and disappointment. Their circumstances may allow them to pour more hours into their business, hire help, or take on more clients. 

Instead of trying to keep up and measure up, take a step back and set some realistic expectations for yourself. 

Start by answering these questions:

  • What are your biggest priorities? 
  • What are the non-negotiables in your life right now; those things that aren’t up for discussion? 
  • How much time and energy do those non-negotiables require?
  • How much time and energy does that leave you to pour into your business?
  • How many hours a day/week/month can you realistically dedicate to your business?

If you struggle with balancing all of the items on your plate, sit down with your calendar and map out what this is going to look like for you. 

Then, based on your answers to the questions above and without comparing your business to others in your industry, consider what success looks like for your business.

  • What is your #1 business goal? Why?
  • What are your #2 and #3 business goals? Why?
  • What is your measure of success?
  • What would make your business worth the time and energy you put into it?

Instead of measuring your business up to others around you, give yourself some grace and consider your current circumstances. 

Getting Back to the Basics of Running a Creative Business | Elle & Company

Take some time to evaluate the season of life you’re in, set realistic expectations, and define what success looks like for you individually. 

2  |  Consider your strengths

Burnout and frustration also start to creep in when you feel incapable or ungifted. 

This often occurs when you’re looking to others in your field and measuring your talents up to theirs. 

Instead of focusing on everything you don’t feel adequate in, consider these questions:

  • Why people follow along with you, book your services, or purchase your products? Or if you’re just getting started, why should they follow along with you or buy from you?
  • What value can you offer?
  • What makes you different from others in your industry?
  • What do you enjoy doing?

Sometimes it’s difficult to answer these questions objectively; it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. So you might reach out to some other people who are familiar with your industry and might be able to point out your strengths. 

Getting Back to the Basics of Running a Creative Business | Elle & Company

Once you answer these questions, keep coming back to them time and again. Focus on capabilities and talents.

Because if you’re constantly trying to measure up and keep up appearances, everything you put out - whether it’s products, services, content, etc. - will come from an inauthentic place, and you won’t be able to sustain it.

If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, feel capable doing it, and think that you’re making a difference, you’ll quickly lose steam and motivation.

So keep your focus on what you do well, the value you provide, and the things you enjoy doing.

P.S. I’m not giving you a pass to avoid the areas of your business you don’t enjoy doing (like bookkeeping, emails, or contracts); those have to get done and you can’t avoid them. There are many necessary areas of entrepreneurship that you don’t want to do but have to do. However, in terms of the services, products, etc., it’s important to focus on your strengths.

3  |  Evaluate what’s working

Sometimes in our anxiousness to keep up with what everyone else is seeing success from, we lose sight of all the things we’re currently doing right.

By focusing on the latest trends and strategies, we often lose sight of the the things we’ve either previously or currently seen success with.

So consider these questions:

  • What are some of the biggest wins you’ve had in your business?
  • What accomplishments have gotten you to where you are today?
  • What strategies, systems, and offerings are currently working?

There are always things to work on and improve in our businesses, but you don’t have to take action on all of them today or ditch what you’re doing well. 

Getting Back to the Basics of Running a Creative Business | Elle & Company

Don’t let what needs to be done keep you from celebrating your current wins. Don’t discount what you’ve already seen success from.

4  |  Create your gameplan

Success starts by taking action.

But you can’t take action if you’re aimlessly wandering around and taking guesses at what you need to do next in your business.

So once you’ve gained some direction by setting realistic expectations, considering your strengths, and evaluating what’s currently working, it’s time to create your gameplan.

Start by looking at the most important items that need to be taken care of.

  • What are the most important areas of your business?
    • What tasks are involved with them?
  • Which areas of your business bring in money?
    • What tasks are involved with them?
  • Which areas of your business could you function without?
    • What tasks are involved with them?

List and rank your priorities. Then consider how you can work smarter or lighten your load. 

  • Which tasks can be delegated?
  • Which tasks can be combined?
  • Which tasks can be removed?
Getting Back to the Basics of Running a Creative Business | Elle & Company

Once you have your priorities in order and a list of tasks that need to be accomplished, pull out your calendar and create a plan for getting it done.

Having already blocked off time for your personal non-negotiables, start setting aside time to accomplish your high-order tasks. 

If you have a tendency to underestimate the amount of time a task will take you, tack on a little extra time to give yourself some wiggle room or challenge yourself to get tasks done in a shorter window of time. Set a timer, if you have to, and try to beat the clock.

Continue to schedule in your business tasks according to their order on your priority list. 

Getting Back to the Basics of Running a Creative Business | Elle & Company

If you run out of time in your calendar, you might have to let the lower-priority items fall by the wayside during this season.

If you find some extra time in there, you might be able to implement something new in your business or dedicate more time to one of your high-priority items.

Regardless of how you go about it, write out a realistic gameplan and create action steps to help you stay on task and meet your highest priorities. 

If you need a little help, I created a free workbook that walks you through all of the steps listed above.  By opting-in below, you'll receive the workbook as well my weekly newsletter, which contains one simple, short, (and often clever) 15-minute action step.

My Back-to-Basics Workbook


I created a free workbook to walk you through my simple gameplan for getting your business back on track!

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If you feel overwhelmed, frustrated, or burnt out in your business, take some time and go back to the basics. Evaluate what a realistic workload looks like right now given your current season, focus on your strengths, and create a gameplan for carrying it out. 

And once you do, come back here and let me know how it goes in the comments. I always love hearing from you.