While the fundamental elements pumping up company prices are always the same (brand strength, physical and digital assets, office location, etc.), every type of business accrues value in a slightly different way. B2B companies will always benefit hugely from the possession of long-standing professional relationships, for instance, as prospective buyers will know that they rely on those links provided they maintain some operational continuity.
In this post, though, we’re going to be looking specifically at businesses in creative industries. Entrepreneurialism is in the midst of a boom, and creative professionals — be they writers, painters, musicians, or even bakers — have more viable routes to making money online than ever before. It’s increasingly common for a creative person to whip up a side hustle, earn some extra money, then want to part with it so they can move on to something new.
Are you in that position of running a business as a creative but wanting to sell it for one of many possible reasons? If so, you’re in the right place. Let’s take a look at four tips that can help creatives attract buyers for their businesses and reap as much monetary reward as possible.
Focus on website optimization
For obvious reasons, creatives tend to generate interesting content, but that doesn’t always make their websites similarly engaging — and this can lead to difficulties when dealing with potential buyers. Someone who runs a copywriting business and depends on referrals, for instance, might only have a very basic website that looks distinctly underwhelming.
Thankfully, building a great business website doesn’t require formal coding expertise. It’s readily possible for people without technical skills to create websites that look great and run well. The key is finding the right platform. There are many options, ranging from standard blog-centric foundations like WordPress to niche-targeted ecommerce systems like Big Cartel, with each one featuring a unique set of strengths and weaknesses.
When there’s a site in place that doesn’t meet the necessary standard, it’s possible to move from the original platform to a different one. This process is called migration, and it can seem very intimidating: when you move your website, you put your trust in the new foundation. But for small-scale sites, it doesn’t need to be a big deal. It largely comes down to creating a new site with a similar design, copying over the content, then swapping it with the original.
Now, someone with an established business site may not want to migrate to a new platform (though they should certainly consider it), and there are various reasons why. For instance, they might be so accustomed to the dashboard for the existing site that they can’t bear the thought of needing to learn a new system. When that’s the case, they can still make some positive changes by finding useful plugins and themes. It can also be worth getting a dedicated website developer to perform a site review and provide some suitable recommendations for how tweaks can be made without requiring a migration.
Seek validation from industry figures
It isn’t typically easy for non-creatives to assess the value and potential of creative enterprises, which complicates matters when there are businesses to be bought. Due to this, a creative who’s looking to build hype for their business would do well to seek validation from someone with influence in their industry — someone with a marketable name that can spark a positive reaction from a businessperson with only a very broad awareness of the field.
For example, a digital artist offering a clothing range could reach out to a tastemaker in the fashion industry, asking for feedback. If they got positive feedback, they could feature it on their site as a testimonial, and use that testimonial to prove their quality to prospective buyers. After all, when you’re not sure what makes a T-shirt design good, it’s great to have the endorsement of a recognizable figure to make your decision easier.
This process can be hurried along with some incentives, of course: there are influencers who’ll take payment to promote products or brands, and it’s possible to get somewhere through taking that approach. But the problem with such promotions is that they tend to be quite transparent and product-centric. It’s far better to ask for unbiased feedback then pick out the most positive comments to highlight. That way, they’ll sound much more believable.
Create fleshed-out brand guidelines
When a creative sells their business, they’re obviously unlikely to stick around to keep working on it, and that can cause problems when the selling point of the operation is their designs. Having the aforementioned expert testimonial can help attest to the quality of a company’s foundation, but that foundation will only go so far if the core strength is removed.
This is why it’s so useful to create comprehensive brand guidelines that make it abundantly clear how designs for a creative business should be produced. There’s often a formula that can be followed to get decent results regardless of the specific designer, so a potential buyer could hire a fresh team of artists and get them creating perfectly on-brand designs.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Brand Guidelines | Canny Creative
A good set of guidelines should feature everything from logo versions to font options, making it relatively easy for unfamiliar designers to get up to speed. It should also explain the reasoning behind the decisions wherever possible, allowing for a new owner to make interesting changes without totally going back on the previous course.
Lay out a realistic roadmap
Lastly, a compelling way to show a prospective buyer that a business is worth investing in is to clearly showcase a profitable path forward. This should involve using real financial figures from previous years of operation and extrapolating from them (while taking industry events into account) to show that it’s entirely possible to take over the operation and make money.
Obviously a new owner won’t be compelled to follow that path, and may wish to take the company in a different direction altogether — but for anyone who wants to place a safe bet in a business that can keep going without too much tweaking, an identified course is a great bonus. Additionally, it isn’t always possible for a new owner to start working on a company right away, so they may want to leave it on autopilot for six months while they wrap up another project.
Remember that this roadmap needs to be realistic, though. Setting out a fantasy scenario in which everything goes perfectly won’t impress anyone. It may even lead them to suspect that there’s something rotten at the core of the company and the current owner is trying to offload it before that rot becomes impossible to miss. The goal needs to be plausible.