Online Business for the Rest of Us: How to Craft Your Livelihood Online Without Following the Crowd

My current position as a transformative brand + web designer hasn’t come easy. I started my freelancing journey like many designers and developers do: Set up website, take some clients, get paid, and “squeee!” Freedom!

That’s the picture I had in my head anyway. Let’s just say it didn’t go quite that smoothly, plus, the little work I did get, I really didn’t enjoy. Sometimes just freelancing can be like doing the same work you did at a job, but you don’t have the boss to deal with things you don’t want to.

I realized early on that instead of freelancing, I was an entrepreneur. Hell, I’ve known this my entire life. I’ve had numerous creative businesses from graffiti-stenciled, reusable tote bags under the name Proletariat to my current obsession with making black leather, macrame shipwreck-noir necklaces called Optic Redux. Don’t get me started on all the ideas for businesses I’ve had in the past.

After this realization, I switched my path to becoming an online entrepreneur. The joys of building a business online were only squelched by the sheer amount of information out there on the subject, most of which was not written with someone like me in mind. I’m not interested in making 6 figures in 6 weeks, nor do I want my online presence to look, feel or sound like anyone else’s.

I’ve distilled the information that I feel is most pertinent to my kind of people down into a transformative method that uncovers their real purpose and gets them up and running online. The following are the major steps of this method for you to apply to your own journey of building a creative livelihood online.

Define Your Business

When we have a creative business idea, we tend to rush into the design and website phase of the process. It’s difficult to NOT do this because we love this part, the creative bits! Colors and lines and shapes, oh my!

What I have learned is that you need to slow down and ask yourself some deep questions like:

Why do I want to start this business? Who do I want to serve and how can I best help them? How will they interact with my brand and hire me/buy from me?

From this, you get a more definitive direction for your brand.

Design a Distinctive Brand

This is something I feel so strongly about, it’s difficult to keep this short. If you are the type that considers yourself individualistic, ignore what everyone else is doing online and design a logo, color palette and design elements that are uniquely YOU. This is difficult to do at first because we see the other creatives out there doing their thing and consider plugging who we are into their formula for quicker results. Don’t do this!

Back it up and always approach your brand from a place of your absolute core values and intentions. The rest will follow. Start by creating a moodboard in Pinterest of the inspirations you have for your brand, and what you would like your customers or clients to “feel” when they land on your online presence.

Craft Your Content

The content on your website and what you create to distribute to the people you want to work with needs careful attention. This is the meat of your website and needs to be squared away before you put one up.

Think long and hard about how you want someone to feel and what you want them to know about your work when they come to your website. This takes practice and, admittedly, is not easy. The more you get to know your ideal clients and talk with them, however, you’ll be able to write the copy on your website and blog posts in a way that speaks directly to them, and builds their trust.

Decide on the best ways to share your expertise with you people that work for you. Do you not have time to blog? Come up with a downloadable PDF guide with information that will help them in a way only you can. Photographer or modern maker? Send them gorgeous lookbooks of your most recent work so they keep you in mind next time they need what you have to offer.

Set Up Your Online Home

This is what I call our websites. They are the home base for your entire business and should be crafted with care. It is an extension of who you are in real life, so make a great first impression in the first few seconds when your special people land on your site. Make sure you create a clear path to have them hire you or buy from you.

People like to do business with people, so bring out your personality as much as possible. You are not an entity, so don’t try to sound like one. If you are one person, bring your people into your world, and let them know just why their lives would be greatly benefitted by working with you. Always focus on benefits and results when describing your services or offerings.

Gather Your People (AKA Marketing)

Give, give, and give some more is the one thing I want you to take away from the idea of “marketing.” Sharing your expertise on a regular basis should be carved out of your schedule to ensure you attract the right people and make them love you.

Plus being consistent. Showing up on a regular basis for them is the single-most act that will separate you from a lot of service providers or modern makers out there. Always be genuine when you are interacting with anyone, not fake, salesy, or desperate.

As long as you give your expertise away, you will be rewarded with a flood of people that want more engagement with you and what you have to offer. Sound crazy? Give it a try and see.


This method is much more in depth than this article as you can imagine. That’s why I’ve created a free email course with these 5 lessons complete with exercises for creating a one of a kind brand and website. Your Creative Business, Up & Running is a calm and focused method for going from idea to livelihood online.

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