6 Practical Tips to Build Your Business

Before we start a business, it all starts with an idea. Real flowers that don’t die on you, organizers that will make tangled electrical cords a thing of the past, canvas cup holders with an attitude–the possibilities are endless. To bring it to life, planning and strategizing are must-dos, but we also have to do more than let our ideas and business decisions simply take permament residence in our heads. 


According to Entrepreneur, while it’s crucial to deliberate on important decisions, overthinking every simple decision can affect how your employees perceive you and dampen your creativity. It can also cost you money. We turn to our fellow creative entrepreneurs in Common Room for their most practical business tips to help you keep moving in your own venture.

1. Do competitive research.

For Madz Sablada of Izzo Shop, designing a bag that sells starts with determining its function—she has come out with wallets that double as mobile phone holders and affordable camera bags that don’t look like camera bags geared for students. Afterward, she visits shops and goes online to look at products that offer the same functionality. In her Common Room interview, she shares that doing research makes her more competitive with pricing and she makes sure her product still remains unique.

2. Build a cohesive portfolio.

If your business means working freelance offering your creative services to potential clients, then it’s important to have a cohesive portfolio—whether you put it up on your social media account or website. 

Illustrator Ella Lama shares in this fun and helpful Common Room Q&A with her sister Marie how “your portfolio should act as a magnet for future work that you would like to attract.”  While others might advise to put a mix of client and personal work, Ella prefers to have mostly personal work on her website ellalama.com (and simply include the clients and brands she has worked with in her About page). “True enough, it attracts projects that I enjoy working on.”

3. Have an Excel file for everything.

For finance-related matters, if you’re doing it on your own, sharpen your skills at Excel and spreadsheets to keep track of the money coming in (your receivables) and out (payables). Full-time artist Cheryl Owen, in an interview about choosing art as a career, recommends you register your business with the BIR to make everything legal. You can do so as sole proprietorship, especially if you’re a small business or a freelance artist, designer, writer, etc.

4. Know the details of online selling (especially the charges).

Elly Ang, owner and creator of Danger in Design, had already been selling her intricately designed enamel pins via Etsy since 2017. If you’re going to set up shop in a big e-commerce site, there are many things to consider–especially the fees. 

“You have to balance your shipping and your price,” advises Elly in her Etsy 101 video for Common Room. “Because even though the cost of my shipping to international is only PHP180, that’s not really PHP180 going to the US, so the rest of the price is within the [cost of the product] itself.” Take note that an online marketplace like Etsy takes a percentage from both the product price and shipping, so you have to remember this when pricing your product so you don’t lose money.


5. Find an affordable courier.

For Hannah Armada of Studio Haebi, when it comes to shipping her enamel pins internationally, “the cheapest possible courier that you can ever find in the Philippines” is PhilPost. Hannah recommends the government-owned postal service as the rates are affordable (they have a spreadsheet of it per country, per zone, per weight) and good for small things like trinkets or postcards (below 500 grams). She offers detailed steps in preparing your package and how to ship it when you’re already there at the PhilPost office in her  Common Room how-to video, here.


6. Overdeliver.

When it comes to winning projects, Common Room’s Roma Agsunod has several practical tips in one of our how-to videos, here. From preparing your rates and terms ahead of actually pitching for a project to how you respond to your client’s email, the goal is to make your clients happy that they will become repeat clients. 

One way to do this is to overdeliver. When Roma gets approached by clients, she tries to give bonus inclusions that they can actually use. In a  felt plush making workshop she was contracted to conduct during quarantine, she wanted the participants to really be able to start their own business (as was the objective of the client). So on top of teaching them how to make felt plushies, she also taught them how to make magnets and keychains. When you overdeliver, chances are your client won’t only appreciate it, you’ll likely be part of their roster of suppliers the next time they need the same service or product you’re offering.

-written by Mabel David-Pilar
Mabel has been a writer and editor for many publications including a teen fashion magazine and a book on the most endangered Philippine trees. She spends most of her time writing, illustrating, stalking Common Room’s online shop, and making ferments. Together with her sisters, she co-created startersisters.com to celebrate fermentation and eating more plants!