Founded by creative mastermind Ruth Stephensen, Creatively Squared is the innovative visual-content hub connecting brands with talented content creators to produce the highest quality creative on the market. Giving people from all walks of life the inspiration and motivation they need to create, Creatively Squared is continually building their creative community to develop the contenext wave of highly-skilled content producers.
We sat down with this Changemakin‘ lady to find out how she grew her business from budding Instagram community to thriving creative collective…
What do you do when you’re not makin’ big change with Creatively Squared? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The thing that literally gets me out of bed is my love of my family, coffee and sunshine. I start each day combining all three with a walk in the fresh air along the Brisbane river with my husband and son. In terms of what motivates me my business and passions are pretty much one and the same. I live for empowering people to be more creative — including myself!
Tell us your story! How did @creativelysquared come about and what motivated you to start posting on Instagram?
When I first became active on Instagram around 5 years ago I discovered a world of like-minded creators who introduced me to the art of product styling and content creation. I began regularly participating in styling competitions and was very active in feature hubs and community hashtags. However, I found that these hubs were often really niche or geographically limited and I felt disappointed that all my Insta pals didn’t always feel included to play along with me.
My inspiration for starting the Creatively Squared account was to create a place that was inclusive and welcoming for all types of creators. I wanted to give people from all walks of life the inspiration and motivation they needed to create. We made sure we were global from day one and began holding weekly creative competitions to challenge our community to create something new each week. Our entire account is featuring their ideas and artwork to celebrate our diverse community of creators.
“We made sure we were global from day one and began holding weekly creative competitions to challenge our community to create something new each week. Our entire account is featuring their ideas and artwork to celebrate our diverse community of creators. “
What inspired you to create Creatively Squared and what was the biggest challenge of getting it off the ground?
The Creatively Squared community were my inspiration! They were so talented, genuine and creative that I knew big brands would want to work with them, they just had no idea how to find each other. The biggest challenge we faced was ensuring our customers could trust us to deliver content that was on brand and resonated with their consumers. Growing a double sided marketplace is a bit of a juggling act because you need to continuously balance the needs of both sides to ensure all parties are supported and getting value from the platform.
How is Creatively Squared doing things differently?
Brands are struggling to create the volume of visual content they need to maintain an active digital and social media presence. Traditional advertising messages and commercial style photography doesn’t always translate well online and often fails to resonate. We’ve seen that online audiences are increasingly conditioned to ignore ads and are more responsive to authentic and creative images.
We help solve these problems by putting our customers’ products into the hands of incredibly talented people and they capture branded images in creative or real life situations. Previously our customers would have to work with an agency or book teams of photographers, stylists, talent and commercial studios to shoot custom photos of their products. We’ve simplified this process by matching our customers with a mini-team of verified content creators who produce a volume of custom images that are all shot to brief.
“Our goal is to create fulfilling employment opportunities for creative people. We believe you don’t need expensive equipment or a formal education to do great creative work. Our mission is to help creative people all around the world to unlock their full potential and get paid for doing work they love.”
How has Instagram helped to grow Creatively Squared?
Instagram is the gateway to our talent pool. Through participating in our weekly creative challenges we support them to up-skill, experiment and build an impressive folio of content creation work. Our Instagram community enables us to identify and recruit the best creators to work with our customer base.
What do you wish you knew when you were just starting out?
That it’s okay to decline work if it’s not a good fit. It’s important to understand who your market is and even though it might feel crazy to turn down work, some customers just aren’t the right ones to partner with.
What’s the biggest misconception about the content-creation industry? How are you trying to combat that?
The biggest misconception that there is a correlation between followers or likes and creative ability. People constantly confuse content creators and influencers. Of course they aren’t always mutually exclusive — some influencers create amazing content — but engagement metrics are generally not a good indicator of an individual’s ability to take amazing imagery. We value our content creators purely on their creative ideas and visual storytelling, not their popularity.
Do you find Instagram to be an effective marketing tool?
Instagram is an incredible channel to build community, create brand awareness and communicate with your audience. The opportunity for companies to invite their customers to be part of their brand story and actively co-create their visual identity is just fantastic and I wish more brands would use the platform for this purpose.
What are your fave Instagram features and why?
I am a glutton for Stories these days, it’s just such an easily digestible way to consume content on Instagram. I’m also finding the save function really useful where I can create a mini-database of amazing creators and inspirational content to come back to later.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Creative apps! I download and road-test a million of them. I’m totally obsessed with finding new and innovative ways to edit, animate and create content through my phone.
What’s the biggest mistake other businesses make on Instagram?
Some brands treat Instagram as just an extension of their advertising campaigns and don’t create or distribute content that is fit for purpose. Instagram is not the place to recycle your catalogue photos and your audience doesn’t want to hear a sales pitch. Audiences on Instagram need more personalised content and the opportunity to feel like part of a brand’s inner circle.
“Instagram is not the place to recycle your catalogue photos and your audience doesn’t want to hear a sales pitch. Audiences on Instagram need more personalised content and the opportunity to feel like part of a brand’s inner circle.”
What challenges have you faced as a woman in business?
Growing a business and a family at the same time has been a challenge. My co-founder is also my husband, and when our son was born 18 months ago it was just the two of us managing every aspect of the business.
Many outsiders questioned whether the business would survive us starting a family but we were determined to make it work. Fast forward to now and we have emerged from the haze of sleep deprivation and have grown to a team of 9.
How are you using Instagram to empower other women?
Our global community is 90% women and empowering them to do their best creative work is why we exist. We see potential in people that they haven’t always realised yet. When we assign our content creators work we prove that, regardless of their background, their talents are valuable and they can earn an income doing something they love. We adore hearing messages from our creators saying that we have enabled them to work in a flexible manner and contribute to their household.
What’s your advice for other women wanting to start their own business or follow their passion on Instagram?
Just do it. But be patient! Instagram is a great way to test if an idea is viable or not without a huge investment. But you can’t expect instant results. The platform isn’t geared for growth the way it used to be. It’s hard to get traction and many businesses may need to move to a ‘pay to play’ strategy to get momentum. I might be alone in thinking this, but I actually enjoy the ads I get served on Instagram! It’s a great way to discover new products, gadgets and apps.
The three most important things to make waves on Instagram are to be original, consistent and authentic. Serve your audience visuals they’ve never seen before. Show up every day, communicate and be present — even if you think no one is listening. And always be your real-life authentic self. I know the word ‘authentic’ gets thrown around a lot online but to truly connect with a person or brand online your audience needs to know how to relate to you. They can’t celebrate your wins without understanding your struggles so make sure you show them both sides of the coin.
“The three most important things to make waves on Instagram are to be original, consistent and authentic. Serve your audience visuals they’ve never seen before. Show up every day, communicate and be present — even if you think no one is listening. And always be your real-life authentic self.”