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Are you using each of these steps to build a smooth operating creative business? In which areas do you need improvement?


  1. Define your target customer, how you will solve their problems and determine where to find them.
  2. Create a brand that will resonate with the target customers and differentiate you from competitors.
  3. Create marketing materials that will reach target customers.
  4. Capture potential clients and nurture a relationship with them to create “leads” aka “opportunities.”


  1. Capture a lead for a potential project.
  2. Qualify the opportunity during a brief phone call with the potential client. Are you a good fit for them? Is the project a good fit for you? If so, proceed to next steps.
  3. Create a proposal that outlines the services you will perform for the client and how they will solve the client’s problem.
  4. Present your proposal to the client in a face to face meeting or over a video call. If the client responds well to the proposal presentation, proceed to next steps.
  5. Create a contract. Your contract should detail the objectives, scope of the project, rounds and revisions, estimated timeline, price, invoice schedule and “what is NOT included” (This last one was a game changer for my agency. More info about it can be found in my courses.)
  6. Send the contract to the client and get an official signature for acceptance.


  1. When your contract is signed, it is time start the project. Create milestones for each of the rounds detailed in your contract. At my agency a typical design related project might look something like this:
    • Round 1 (Agency delivers initial design concepts.)
    • Round 1 Feedback (Client provides feedback on R1.)
    • Round 2 (Agency makes changes and delivers revised designs.)
    • Round 2 Feedback (Client provides feedback on R2.)
    • Round 3 (Agency makes changes and delivers revised designs.)
    • Round 3 Approval (Client approves the final designs.)
  2. Create and schedule invoices as detailed in your contract. I recommend breaking projects into 3-5 phases and invoicing based on the project phases.
  3. Collect payments from the client.

Post Production

  1. Close out the project by collecting on the final invoice and providing your client with the final deliverables.
  2. Do an internal post-mortem on the project. What went right? What went wrong? What changes can you make in your process to improve outcomes in the future.
  3. Ask the clients for more projects and/or referrals to new clients. This should be standard operating procedure for your business.
  4. Nurture client relationships until more opportunities come.

After a project is completed, keep your client relationships fresh as you continue to track interactions with them. Keeping in touch with clients and understanding their ongoing business challenges is key to your success as a creative entrepreneur. During your client interactions, new opportunities will come and you repeat the cycle outlined in this article.

Michael Janda

I am Michael Janda, an executive level creative leader with more than 25 years of experience in both in-house creative departments and agencies working with some of the greatest brands in the world including Disney, Google, Fox, ABC and NBC. I create books, courses, workshops, lectures and other training materials to help creative entrepreneurs run successful businesses.