Managing Production

by seanlow on August 16, 2018

Here we are in the dog days of summer and out comes the, well, outliers.  People behaving badly, meaning those clients who look for cracks, find them and turn on the jackhammer.

Whether it is a client refusing or just plain ignoring the necessity of having to make decisions to move your design process along or questioning payment and the value of your art during (or after) production, there is no more frustrating experience.

I talked about client ghosting in my latest column for The Business of Home.  While not all decisions are the same, it is not up to your client to determine what is important and what is not; that is your job.

Managing and valuing production, however, requires a whole other level of conversation.  Suffice it to say that many many creative business owners fall down here because they have not done a good job of differentiating between objective and subjective.  I am sure you thought I was going to talk about production and how you have to justify the value of what you are creating and the necessity to be paid, fully and unconditionally beforehand.  Of course this is important, but if you do not separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff, there will always be an element of distrust since you are trying to get paid for the ideation of your art through its creation.  Will never work out.

If you do not understand, and/or cannot articulate, the difference between conceptualization and execution, you will be forced to accept that some of the so-called value you are providing for the creation is really what it costs for you to think about it.  And in our digital world, the premium on the thing disappears when I can see ten other things that look just like it.

It leaves you with selling fear.  What I do costs this much because of the quality it represents and if you do not have this quality you will not be happy.  This may very well be true, but clients will never believe you when they can see all of the alternatives and because you have not charged them appropriately for conceptualization.  Your desire to sell the fear of not doing it as you say will backfire.  The answer is to say definitively that what I imagine for you will cost this much to create.  Period.

Even though I have been talking about the difference between subjective and objective literally since I began as a consultant in 2009, we have now reached the time when your refusal to distinguish between the two (because, hey, it does take work and forces you to say why what you dream about matters) is what will force you, your art and your creative business to the bottom.

Clients may be gross and try to reverse charges or undercut your intrinsic value.  However, they do it because they can or at least feel like they can.

All of which leads me to the ultimate point, in creative business, the client is NEVER right.  Good service is about mutual respect, not acquiescence.  It is about a willing on both sides to engage in honest communication with what it will take to imagine and produce art.  Your job as both an artist and creative business owner is to lay it out plainly and specifically how EXACTLY that is going to happen.  Your clients’ job is to show up, make decisions and pay you.  If either of you do not do your job, you need to be fired.  Pretty harsh?  Maybe, but the alternative is to hand the keys to the inmates in an insane asylum all in the name of good service (the client is always right).  Accommodation is just another word for mediocrity and has no place in creative business.

Accommodation also leads to the right client never showing up.  You are left with those clients who believe your best is determined by them and not you.  And when that happens you really have no business at all.  So be intolerant before you ever need to be and convicted in why it matters to everyone, you, your employees, your art and, most of all, to your client.


To What End?

by seanlow on July 26, 2018

Seth Godin had a great post on Wednesday about the power of productivity talking about business/busyness.  It really is a conversation about intention.  Are you able to move towards the goal you set out for yourself with singular purpose?  Yes, I am a powerCapricornso this everything to me.  However, even if moving towards an intended goal is not your jam, there still has to be an element of intention in your creative business.  To have real intention though, you have to have real goals.

I am guessing you think real goals are attainable ones, like in any good business plan — number of projects, project size, revenue for this year and beyond.  And partly you would be right.  Knowing what your business looks like at the most basic nuts and bolts level is important for you to have your feet on the ground.  But it is not what I meant by real goals.  By real goals, I meant who do you want to be?  How do you wish for the world to perceive your art, the way you conduct your business?  Who is your art for?  More important, who is it not for?

When you reach a certain point in your creative business, you let your portfolio and your reputation do the talking for you.  You are hiding and it is a mistake.  Same if all you are doing is projecting the future on where you have been.  Ten projects this year, hope for twelve next year. Instead, name your goal in a way that is profoundly you.  Perhaps that is based on a project, perhaps on a vision, perhaps on personality trait, it really does not matter.  For instance, if you want your clients to live their best lives because of what you do, that is awesome, but what does it mean?  Form? Function? Combination?

For too many creative professionals, your goals suck because they are derivative of either what history has dictated or what the world around tells you you can become.  So the goals are not really yours as you stand today.  Being productive to get to those goals then is fools play since you may not want to be there anyway.  Better to set out using the (re)definition of what makes you relevant as an artist and business owner and then building the path that will get you to embody the definition.

It is all about investment.  Anything is possible but not if you are investing in the very thing that will never let you get there.  None of us have unlimited resources and using your resources without knowing your goal and without really giving yourself permission to own the authenticity and singularity of the mission will inevitably be a lot of wasted energy.  Ten thousand likes with no clients is a very sad story to tell.

I have been trying to teach my eleven year old son lately that courage (he says bravery and that works too) is being able to say that you know you do not know.  It means two things.  First, ask for help from those who might.  Second, the future is uncertain and nothing any of can do will ever make it otherwise.  Put the two together and it means leap.  Challenge yourself, your art and your business to be the version you could never imagine it to be.  Do you really think Steve Jobs or Jeff Bezos really knew what Apple or Amazon would become?  Of course they did not, they just knew they had to leap.  Along the way, they asked for help.  A lot.

Achieving goals, that is the doable part.  Defining what those goals should be, that is where the demons live.  The value of authenticity is limitless.  Choosing to go there means being plainly naked for all to see and judge.  There is no greater risk and all of us run from it at some point.  The question for today is are you willing to come back? Pretty can beget pretty but it will never be real (or sustainable).  If you are to get where you truly want to go, you are going to have to imagine what you and your creative business most want to be and let go of the rest.



July 18, 2018

Change sucks.  The only reason to ever change anything in your creative business (or your life for that matter) is if the (potential) benefit outweighs the pain you will have to go through to get there. The part to remember is that there is never change without pain.  Necessarily you will be giving up something […]

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Pricing In The Luxury, Power Luxury, And Ultra Luxury Market

July 12, 2018

All luxury is not the same.  We as creative businesses need to better at saying what area of luxury we inhabit.  There are three categories that come to mind: luxury, power luxury and ultra luxury.  Each of these markets demand a different business model to reflect the needs of the clientele who inhabit each level. […]

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DNA of Pricing For Creative Business

July 5, 2018

With all of the noise out there about how to make money in creative business, charging what you are worth strategies (well, really tactics but is there really a difference ?:( ) and everyone out there with an opinion on the “right” way to do things business wise, we need to take a moment to […]

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June 28, 2018

The coming recession. All things Trump.  Unyielding competition. Slowing business.   Upheavals in the industry. All of it, intentional or not, is meant to strike fear in your creative business.  Meant to cause you to act from a place of temerity and over-inclusion to avoid the perils of being left out of the bomb shelter when […]

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The Cost Of Delays

June 20, 2018

Why is it so important to get money for production in advance?  You avoid the cost of delays. Pretty straightforward, except there are so few creative businesses that get paid well enough in advance to avoid the pain of delays.  I wish I could specifically state why this is, but I cannot.  What I can […]

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Interior Designers: Introducing The VW COLLECTIVE

June 14, 2018

As many of you know, last June I launched The BBC Collective for Event Professionals.  Together, I am so proud to say, we have made meaningful change in the industry and we are just getting started.  The change comes from a willingness to erase the proverbial box and question everything, together.  My mission is to […]

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Center of Gravity

May 31, 2018

I was always good at school.  Some kids are great athletes, artists, musicians.  I was and am a great student.  Mind you, it does not mean that I was the smartest – far from it, only that I understood how to play the game of school really well.  And knowing how to play the game, […]

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What Happens When It Works?

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 […]

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