About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Four common challenges among creative entrepreneurs

I have worked in the creative industries for over 24 years and run Creative Women International®. The UK has a thriving creative economy with 95% of creative industry businesses run by small teams or solo creatives. This means that more creatives are taking risks and starting businesses on their own. Technology has also changed the way we work, with more start-ups appearing in remote places.

All of this is encouraging, but you might often find yourself doing everything alone, which can feel isolating. This is when mentoring can really help you move forward. In the 10 years I have worked as a mentor, no matter which country they are from, or even at which point they are in their careers or with their businesses, creatives all seem to experience these four common challenges.

1. Lack of confidence

Lack of confidence can strike at any point, whether you are a start-up or someone who has been working for years. What I have found is that a lack of confidence seems to affect more women than men.

Through mentoring, we address where the lack of confidence is coming from. It might be rooted in how your parents encouraged your own learning, or negative memories connected to school. It could be down to the way that your peers have responded to your ideas at work. I encourage all mentees to figure out where these feelings are coming from and build a plan of action from there. We might look at skill sharing, posture and voice work, or examining the knowledge gaps that are holding them back.

Although this is one of the most common challenges that I help mentees with, there isn't a quick way of fixing it, as it is linked to such personal experiences. I see this as a positive, because if they do the work, the reward lasts a lifetime.

It is in the moments of growth that our greatest fears rise to the surface and we believe that someone will uncover us as a fake.

2. Imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is another challenge that can strike at any time. The main symptoms revolve around a feeling of you shouldn't be there, or that you don't have the skills for the job, presentation, etc. The irony is that if you are feeling this way, you are likely to be moving forward. It is in the moments of growth that our greatest fears rise to the surface and we believe that someone will uncover us as a fake.

70% of us will experience this feeling during the course of our careers. The positive to take away from this is that you are not alone and your boss has probably felt this way as well! And there are things you can do the moment it strikes.

These are the three 'quick-fixes' that my mentees have used with positive results:

  1. The first is to say out loud to yourself why you are feeling this way. It might be something like "Because my peers will laugh at me when I present this talk".
  2. The second is to find the truth in the statement. How can you prove that your peers will laugh at you?
  3. The third is to come up with something that you can do immediately to help that feeling go away. It might be as simple as reassuring yourself that there isn't any truth in your statement and that it's actually coming from a place of fear around public speaking, which you can get support for. Or it might be as simple as not giving yourself a hard time. This one I call 'The Best Friend Test' - would you speak to your best friend like this if they told you they were feeling this way? If not, don't do it to yourself!

Listen to my podcast that talks through other ways of dealing with imposter syndrome and also the positive sides to the syndrome.

3. Understanding financials

This is one that my mentees struggle with all of the time. The danger with not understanding turnover and profit is that you can't plan or predict the future financial stability of your business. Nesta have great resources to help you with this, including the Creative Enterprise Toolkit.

Relating to finance, is a struggle with correctly pricing products and services. It can feel daunting trying to calculate your pricing when you are starting out. There are things that you need to take into consideration, like the cost of your time or materials to create and prototype, but also the overhead costs to bring your product or service to market, things like hosting your website and heating your studio – which many creatives forget to include.

4. On-going support

Ukraine pitching competition March 2018 - Kateryna Nosko, winner of mentoring with a UK associate.jpg

Kateryna Nosko (one of Philiy Page's mentees) presenting to fellow creative entrepreneurs at a British Council event in Kiev, Ukraine.

Building a business can be hard. We spend so much time creating on our own, that we forget we need emotional support as well. Seek out support from other creative entrepreneurs. I encourage my mentees to find others who aren't working in the same industry as them.

This might sound like a strange thing to suggest, but it actually has many positive benefits: You aren't in competition, you have different networks to share, and often you can see a way around each other's problems as you aren't starting from the same standpoint.

Support is something that I suggest building into your business plan early on, whether it comes from mentoring or finding online communities. We've all had difficult days, but knowing that someone can help pick you back up again can be the best way to future proof your business.

In case of questions, please contact Philiy Page: [email protected]


Philiy Page

Philiy Page is a Creative Enterprise Programme workshop associate, based in the UK.