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Interview: Katy Cowan, Creative Boom

Inspiration

Katy Cowan, a creative living in Manchester, started her blog Creative Boom in 2009 to celebrate, inspire and support the creative industries. Today she’s built up a following of 40,000 on Twitter and 14,000 on Facebook, and has received support from names as big as the BBC, The Guardian, Adobe, Vimeo, Creative England, the Arts Council and the UK Government.

You set up Creative Boom four years ago. What was your original site like?
It was a free WordPress theme site – it was pretty much a blog for creatives, with the main focus being on exposing new talent. I wanted to support other creatives and help them raise their profiles. We’d just suffered a nasty recession and talking to people on Twitter I realised there was a growing number of creative freelancers out there struggling to find  work. I wanted to help. I was a freelancer myself and had some spare time on my hands, so came up with the idea for Creative Boom – to celebrate, inspire and support the creative industries. So off I went – and the site was very organic. I added/changed things depending on what my audience wanted.

That was four years ago. Since then, Creative Boom has transformed so much, going through so many different designs, layouts and themes. Today – following its most recent update – Creative Boom has gone back to its roots and has returned to being my own personal blog about creativity. Somewhere I can share people’s inspiring work while offering my own tips and tricks on running a business.

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Why do you think Creative Boom has become so successful? What do your readers look for?
I think I’ve always offered the personal touch. People know Creative Boom is run by me and they like that. I’ve made lots of great friends over the years and I’m grateful for its success. I would also say that its success has been down to social media and the fact that I’m so active on Twitter/Facebook. I actually talk to people and support others. It’s never just been about me – I love helping others, so I think that’s part of its success too.

Plus I’ve never been afraid to make changes when things aren’t going well. I’ve never rested on my laurels. I’ve always strived to make improvements and listen to what my audience want. Sometimes I’ve made mistakes – but these have only led to better things.

I guess readers look for inspiration. Most of my audience are small businesses or freelancers, people who often work from home. I think Creative Boom is like an old comforting friend. It’s there to support them, add inspiration to their working day and offer tips and advice to be a success – well, that’s what I hope people get from my blog.

What’s next for Creative Boom? What are your biggest opportunities?
I’ve recently changed Creative Boom from what was becoming a news-heavy corporate online magazine and growing monster of my own making – back to being a creative, fun and friendly personal blog about creativity. I simply want to go back to my original ethos and enjoy what I’m doing again.

I think I’d lost focus and I was going off along the wrong track, trying to do too much when all I really needed to do was keep things simple. But the site and community had become so incredibly big that I was afraid to make changes. I didn’t want to upset anyone, especially as Creative Boom has been so much hard work over the years. I didn’t want to mess things up.

After a much-needed holiday (the second in four years where I’ve not had to worry about Creative Boom) I came back refreshed and thought ‘Enough!’ I decided that there was no point in running a website if I wasn’t enjoying it. And so I’ve drastically changed everything and have gone back to basics – focusing on what I set out to do in the first place – champion creativity!  (And no more boring press releases!!)

What are the key things you’ve learned about creative people in the last four years?
That people are very kind, loyal and generous. I’ve got friends on Twitter who’ve been following me since the very beginning and I’ve been very lucky to meet some of them in person recently. I can’t tell you how friendly the creative industries are! I’m humbled that so many people have thanked me as well. It’s nice to know that my blog has made some difference.

How has running Creative Boom changed the way you think and act creatively?
Creative Boom has been the best ever learning experience. Creatively, I think the same as I ever did – I encounter a problem, screw my face up for several weeks while I try and figure things out – talk to people, read blogs, get advice from more experienced wise owls – and then I get it sorted. I’m very much a do-er. I don’t like to spend too long thinking about things – I like to put things into action, and fast. I figure – if things go wrong, I can always change things – and I’ll have learnt important lessons along the way. It’s a no-brainer really.

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