What Happens When It Works?

by seansblog-admin on May 24, 2018

The secret formula.  The hidden process.  The new technique. Proprietary software.

When you strike on something that works for you, your art and your creative business, what do you do?  Do you keep it under wraps, available only to you?  Or do you share, trying to let everybody in on what you have discovered that actually resonates?

Truly, no judgement either way.  If you believe that your path to success is in full lock down mode, then that is fine.  We have codified the value of intellectual property and the rewards due to the creator.

On the other hand, there is the value of the network.  The idea that if you discover a better way, sharing it, teaching it, letting it see the sunlight of everyone’s eyes is how others learn to absorb what you know and as a group we become better together.  Open source coding, of course, is an amazing example of what I am talking about.

In the end, it is about the value of the tool versus the value of the use of the tool.  If your use of the tool you created provides success to you alone, then you will keep it proprietary.  If improving the tool makes YOUR life better, you will seek to share it.  The better the tool the better you will be able to use it.

All of that said, no one has THE answer since there never is one answer to a problem where human interaction is concerned.  So leave the sermonizing to someone else, instead offer what you believe so that those that can see their way to your way of thinking might be convinced to leap.  We are all looking for the third person in.

And the biggest effort is often a single step.  Way back when Prestonand I did not know what to call him to describe what he did, despite the fact that he had been doing it for over fifteen years at that point.  Sure, he started as a florist, but had, by the time I joined him in 2003, long since transcended just flowers.  He certainly was not a planner as all he did was decor and decor specialist sounded awful.  If those who focused on home decor were interior designers, why couldn’t Preston be called an event designer since he focused on event decor?

Preston’s willingness to call himself an event designer changed his conversation with clients.  Many many others have followed suit and fifteen years later the concept of event design lives vibrantly in the event industry and has spawned many practices and tools in support of event design alone.

To which I say, what is the one thing you are doing or have changed that will have ripples in the industry if you were to talk about how it works for you, your art and your creative business?  No line-item pricing?  Getting your production budget one hundred percent up front? Using 3D rendering/virtual reality in your presentations? Creating a YouTube series?

We have all had enough of systems and programs and methods based in a pedantic view of a placebo.  Yes, the system might work for you in the short run until you are forced to explain the foundation.  If you have no answer, you can either seek the foundation or find another system.  With a foundation, you can build your own path, stand in your own light.  Another system is an answer to a problem someone else has created and solved, derivative in the very worst sense.

I said this to my son today and it is as true for creative business as it is for all of us: self-acceptance is perpetually seeking the end to a never-ending story that only gets better the harder we look. If we have others generous enough to offer what they have discovered it will only make our story better, if not change it altogether.

So go find your third person and, if ever possible, be the third person in.


What Makes A Great Client?

by seanlow on May 17, 2018

Great clients are made, not born.  This, to me anyway, is axiomatic.  You have to have a fantastic process that is intended to serve and enrapture those clients that care about you, your art and your creative business.  The more you guide your clients, embrace their fears and fulfill their visions, not just at the end of the project but every step of the way, the better the work will be.  To be specific, if you are practiced in the art of transferring power, willingly, from your client to you and your creative business you will have earned the trust to overcome requisite obstacles and earn the permission to do what you do.  Before a client signs with you, they have all of the power (and money).  You want their business and it is theirs to give.  As you move through though, clients will hopefully make narrower and narrower decisions (and payments) until they are left with an ultimate yes and a zero balance on your fees.

All of that said, great clients also have attributes that make them great presuming there is a fit in your process with who they are.  There are three primary attributes you should be able to assess: 1) Motion In Fear; 2) Resolute Decision Making; and 3) Patronage.

Motion In Fear

All clients of creative businesses are scared.  The result you offer is uncertain no matter how many times you have done it before.  Ahem, that is why it is called creative business.  Some clients want certainty where there is none and drive you and your team crazy when they cannot remove the fear of uncertainty.  Unless you have a business built to deal with these clients who want this kind of access (this would be the one place that hourly fees might work), you need to appreciate the difficulty this client represents and actively seek to avoid them altogether or place strict boundaries around your unwillingness to deal with their active and ongoing uncertainty.

On the other side of the coin are those clients who embrace their fear but look to you, your art and your creative business for solutions to their concern.  If you are powerful in your ability to communicate your ideas, these clients will find solace in your vision.  They will still have fear but can live with it as they have intention for how to resolve it.  These clients embrace where you are heading and can live with the uncertainty that you may not get there.  All of this said, if you are not a good presenter, these clients will run over you as they will likely try to take over design to allay their fear.  If yours is more of a collaborative process, these clients are not for you.

Regardless of how a client moves through their fear, the one thing you and your creative business cannot do is to tell the client to not be scared.  Yes, you are confident in your ability to design and execute and the client wants to believe in your ability, but fear is not rational and needs acknowledgement before it can be resolved.  Not, “don’t be scared” but rather, “I see your are nervous, here is what we are going to do.”

Resolute Decision Making

Resolute decision making is a natural offshoot of how a client moves through fear.  You might think the client that says, “I trust you, do what you want.” is the dream.  More like a nightmare since they trust you until they do not and then they never will again.  You and your creative business are not mind-readers and your path is always informed by those who you are meant to lead.  Instead, the dream client is the one that can make decisions as you would have them be made.

If you enjoy a ton of collaboration, these clients can work with you to build a decision on top of the last decision until design is completed.  However, if you think “too many cooks kills the broth”, the collaborative client is not for you.  Again, for those with deep and powerful presentation skills, having clients who are capable of making large, permanent decisions is the dream.  These clients see what you see, say yes and allow you to move on without ever looking back.  The clearer you are with all that you do (when, why and how), the better these clients will be.  Options for these clients is a non-starter — they want to be guided and if you refuse to guide their fear will explode and you will literally get nowhere until you finally choose.  Resolute decision makers demand confident exposition.


Clients who want to own your work as their own are of value if, and only if, you can see your work as it is without need for acknowledgement.  Being truly comfortable behind the scenes is, of course, possible, but you have to appreciate the strength it takes to be there.  We all know those clients who refuse to call your work yours and instead seek to marginalize you at ever turn.  Ultimately though, we should all seek acknowledgment for the art we put into the world.  These are patrons who endow your creative business and do so in the effort to find the fantasy they seek.  When the fantasy manifests, they deeply acknowledge the craft, talent, experience and wisdom it took to make it happen.  Patrons come in all forms — they can be complete collaborators and demand an absurd amount of attention, but then turn around and celebrate your work to whoever will listen.  There is even a certain amount of redemption in PIA clients if they can see their way to patronage.  Not that it is ever an excuse to be awful, by the way, just that it can be a modicum of humanity.  In the end, great clients show respect, professionalism and integrity that is given to them by you, your art and your creative business.  Success is in the relationship and candor as to what it means to be an artist for someone who cares.

The entire point is is for you, the creative business owner, to figure out the characteristics of what makes an amazing client for your art and your business.  Then share it with the world so that the world knows who should show up.  Much better than just hoping and praying that Mr. or Mrs. Right will magically appear.


What Is Your Responsibility As An Artist?

May 10, 2018

I have danced around this topic for a long time.  I am of the firm belief that art changes the world and creative business owners are the stewards of that change.  Whether someone’s home, a wedding, a visual design, fashion, food, the work of creative business owners is transformative and influences how we all think […]

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The Power Of Inclusion And Saying No To The Wrong Client

May 3, 2018

At first blush, you would not think that a discussion on how we can improve diversity in all kinds of creative business would be related to finding the right client for your particular creative business.  And yet nothing could be more profoundly linked. The point of asking for all aspects of creative business to be […]

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All Creative Businesses Sell Luxury

April 30, 2018

A BBC Collective member shared this article from Entrepreneur Magazine about selling luxury.  The article was written in September 2015 and is based on the author’s (Vincent Bastien) book, The Luxury Strategy. Even though it is a few years old, Bastien’s premise that the strategy to sell true luxury is different from selling luxury as fashion […]

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The 80/20 Issue and Being An Expert To Get To The Next Level

April 23, 2018

The 80/20 Issue The 80/20 issue is from Vilfredo Pareto and dates back to 1906.  He was writing about wealth and said that eighty percent of the wealth is held by twenty percent of the people.  FYI, in the U.S. today it is closer to ninety percent, but that is a topic for another day. The […]

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Style Me Pretty Goes Dark

April 12, 2018

Just when it seems are moving along to move along, the wedding industry gets huge news that  Style Me Pretty is going dark in a few weeks.  AOL (now OATH) has announced that they will not be archiving the site but will instead be shutting down. Of course, there are marketing and SEO concerns from […]

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Commissions Are Not Kickbacks

April 5, 2018

I have heard for years that commissions are devil-spawn.  Nobody should take them or give them.  They give all creative business a black eye.  Nonsense. Kickbacks, hidden vendor discounts, and all things under-the-table, these are devil-spawn and give all creative businesses a black eye.  Why? Because the client does not know what they are paying […]

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How Do You Approach Your Busy Season?

March 29, 2018

Chop wood, carry water. Head down.  Just get through it all. Maybe farmers enjoy getting up at four in the morning to milk cows.  Every day.  Or maybe they just see it as a sense of duty and responsibility. Not much emotion either way. We are fast approaching the time when all creative businesses are […]

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Is It Ever Okay To Fire A Client?

March 15, 2018

The issue of whether it is ever okay to fire a client was the topic of my bi-weekly column for Editor-At-Large this week. Here is the link. All I can say is that nothing pushes creative business owners’ buttons more than this topic.  My thoughts in the column were no exception.  I have received comments […]

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