When growing a creative business, keep these 2 things in mind - Technical.ly Baltimore


Mar. 13, 2015 12:01 pm

When growing a creative business, keep these 2 things in mind

B'More Creatives hosted a panel discussion at Betamore this week.
B’More Creatives panelists in the Betamore living room.

B'More Creatives panelists in the Betamore living room.

(Photo by Stephen Babcock)

John Sherman learned to embrace rejection on the road from TV news reporter to video production company. For Brooke Hall, growing a marketing agency meant moving beyond a freelancer’s mentality.

At a Tuesday night panel discussion hosted by B’More Creatives at Betamore, local business owners broke down methods and lessons they gained from growing a creative business. For each panelist, growth involved embracing new territory. Here are a pair of takeaways:

1. The value of “no”

While “yes” is probably what everyone wants to hear, panelists had a couple of different takes on the idea of “no.”

When building a business, Brooke Hall of What Works Studio said, being in the position to say “no” to potential clients making unreasonable demands is incredibly important. “To say: ‘I’m only in a position to do this caliber of work or I’m not going to do it at all,” Hall said.

However, John Sherman of Storyfarm said the time to say “no” is up to every business owner.

“It’s hard to be in the no-saying business and the growing business at the same time,” Sherman said.

Later in the discussion, Sherman said business owners shouldn’t be the only ones issuing the nos. Sherman said he’s learned a lot from hearing “no” because of what he learned after getting turned down. He had this piece of advice: Seek rejection.

“Businesses never fail,” he said. “People just get tired of hearing no.”

2. Freelancer or entrepreneur?

Many designers and other creatives start off as freelancers. But for those who want to scale their business, there’s a difference between being a freelancer and being an entrepreneur who seeks to scale their business, Hall said, paraphrasing Seth Godin.

As she grew What Works, Hall said the company reached a threshold where the company needed to hire an employee. At that point, she said, her role changed.

“I went from being a creative to a manager very quickly,” she said.


Even though it was unchartered territory for her, Hall said she grew to like focusing on the things that came with the growth, such as scaling the business, and having things like, say, an office. The decision to hire the first employee was hard, she said. But with the growth the additional worker brought, the decision to hire the second was easy, she said.

“If you realize you are an entrepreneur … then you just have to take that risk,” she said.

In finding that first employee, Hall’s partner Justin Allen said to seek someone who is competent, but also “someone that you admire.”

The mix of admiration and transition from freelancing played out in real time for Linda Brown Rivells. Her first hire at Eye Byte Solutions was once a freelancer. Now, Abby Townsend is the company’s vice president.

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