GIRLBOSS – on running a creative business

Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to speak at #GIRLBOSS, an event run by the Colour Association of Australia’s WA chapter. Along with florist Rebecca Const of Fox and Rabbit, stylist/journalist Emma Bergmeier-Varian from Dropstitch and stationery designer Kelsie White from K Gets Organised, I spoke about my experiences as a creative person finding my way and being part of the Side Project team.

Whilst doing what you love might sound like the most natural thing in the world, it doesn’t always come easy. Running a creative business, even as a side project, requires confidence and perseverance alongside talent and practice.

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Lisa, Rebecca, Teresa (me), Kelsie and Emma
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Thanks to CSA WA’s Paul Green-Armytage for these two photos

Although all four of us had different backgrounds and disciplines, there were some interesting recurring themes. Here’s some of the advice given on the night that anyone (not just girls!) can benefit from:

Fake it ’til you make it

All four speakers studied in fields other than what they’re currently working in, and all of us mentioned sometimes feeling like we were in over our heads. Even if you have a qualification backing you up, it’s easy to feel like you’re punching above your weight and undeserving of praise. There’s even a term for it: Impostor Syndrome. The fact is that no one knows what they’re doing 100% of the time, and everyone goes through times of self-doubt – confidence comes with time and practice. If you’re pursuing something you are passionate about, whether it’s a side project or a career path, giving it your best is all you can do and is probably better received that you think.

Start small

Don’t assume that you have to invest thousands of dollars in equipment, create hundreds of products or be a master of your craft before beginning. Florist Fox & Rabbit began in Rebecca’s parents laundry; Kelsie began with a small range of products designed for herself and friends; Emma took her camera to events and started interviewing people with cool outfits. All of these ladies have now grown their passions from these humble beginnings, rather than being paralysed waiting for the exact right moment. And of course Side Project has grown beyond our wildest dreams just three issues in, doubling our teeny print run and reaching people all over Australia and even further afield. Put your work out into the world and grow from there.

Find your tribe

Side Project mag would not be possible (or would at least be very difficult!) with one person instead of the three of us team members, plus the range of helpers and contributors we meet along the way. Even if you’re not part of a team, having creative people who understand and appreciate what you do giving feedback and encouragement is essential. Thanks to the internet it’s become a lot easier to find other people who are into the same things as you!

Also mentioned was having a mentor, particularly for those wanting to really grow their new business. Rebecca meets with her mentors monthly and goes through particular topics to check in on her business, which sounds like an awesome way to learn (any magazine editors out there want to mentor us?).

Just look how cool we are

Have confidence to charge what you deserve

Emma pointed out that creative people are often timid when it comes to invoicing, deciding on what to charge, chasing up payments – the whole boring admin side of running a creative business. Some people – even family and friends – might not understand the work that goes into a project and severely undervalue it, and this can be hard to deal with. Tying in with the ‘impostor syndrome’ mentioned above, it’s easy to lose confidence and not see the true value in your own work. Whilst being realistic is important, at some point you need to say this is what my work is worth, and have the confidence to uphold it.

You are an inspiration

Having the courage to pursue something creative is not something everyone has the strength to do, even if they’d like to. For that reason I find people have immense respect for those who have made a success of it, and may even be inspired to begin their own journey. I was certainly extremely inspired by my fellow speakers and fellow Side Project team members. Your hard work isn’t something to be downplayed or nonchalant about, it’s something to be celebrated!

We love colour!

Being a Colour Society Australia event, we of course had to talk about the huge role that colour plays in our lives and creative practices. Emma spoke of her love of sunset reds, oranges and yellows, which show up often in her fashion styling work; Kelsie loves her bright, happy colours which spread joy through her stationery; Rebecca mentioned her favourite pink but also the play of light and shade that plays a huge role in floristry. I talked about the way we work with a loose colour palette to tie together each issue, including our bright front covers which (as Sam puts it) “reach out and punch you in the face”. I love to see the way our zines sit with other publications, as the colours make them difficult to miss.

Colour moodboards from Issue 1

It was a fantastic and inspiring night – a huge thank you to Lisa and CSA WA for inviting me to speak and listen to the other wonderful speakers, and to Paper Mountain for providing the excellent venue. We hope to see more events like this in the future!

Kelsie from K Gets Organise has written about her experience and tips for growing a creative business in Issue 3 – pre-order to get your copy!


About Teresa

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By day I work as a digital designer for Bam Creative; by night (and by weekend) I dabble in various personal projects including illustration, lettering, calligraphy and handling the digital aspects of Side Project magazine.

6 Responses

  1. Mel

    thanks for sharing this Teresa :)!

  2. Rebecca

    Such a great re-cap of the night Teresa! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Team Side Project

      You’re welcome Rebecca, it was lovely to meet you!

  3. Natalie @ Ozzi Cat Magazine

    Such a light and inspirational article! As a designer at my day job, I love your work! As a small magazine publisher and Editor, I admire how and what you do. Great start! I can easily see that the magazine’s future looks bright 🙂 Best wishes! xx

    • Team Side Project

      Thanks Natalie, so glad you enjoyed it! All the best with your magazine work as well 🙂


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