The 4 P’s

by seanlow on September 7, 2010

I cringe at rules, proscriptions, formulas — anything that tells me how I have to do anything.  It feels far too confining for me and creates an illusion of safety: if you do it this way, things will all work out.  Mostly, I just hate being told what to do.  There is no net and the only person that has the “right” answer for you is you.  That said, there is a huge difference between being unconventional and being reckless.  Not to be overly outrageous, but without core principles your creative business will fail.  I translate core principles into the 4P’s: Passion, Philosophy, Platform and Process.

Passion: The unending, visceral, overwhelming desire to create the art that you do.  There are far easier ways to make a living than to run a creative business.  Nobody needs what you provide.  Your clients hire you because they think you and your art can transport them to wherever they want to go.  Hard for me to ever imagine that you would be able to honor and embrace this responsibility if you were not deeply passionate about what you create.

Philosophy: What is the purpose of your creative business?  To be famous? Rich? A means to an end? The end? What do you want your clients to feel about you, your art and your creative business? Your employees?  Vendors, friends and family? You?  Your creative business has to have a purpose beyond delivering your art.  Your business is simply the vehicle through which you can share your message.  The integrity of what you believe is what infuses what you are selling regardless of whether you are creating it for yourself or a client.  Your clients buy the message as much as they do the art.  Soulless art is an oxymoron and is unsustainable as a business.

Platform: If you do not deliver to your clients what is most valuable about you and your creative business, you cannot hope to get paid what you need.  What makes Apple different from Dell?  The Flip different from SonyTarget different from Hermes?  The better question is why each cannot sell the others’ products?  Platform – each of these businesses message is designed to elicit a response (i.e., sale) from the audience that cares most about it.  If you are confident about your philosophy and what you are truly passionate about, designing (or fixing) your platform will become obvious.  I just finished Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (the CEO of and, for me, the coolest part of the story was how they created an extranet for their vendors.  Zappos’ vendors can see how their inventory is selling and at what rate on a real time basis – they have the keys to the store.  Instead of taking all of the power from Zappos, the extranet turned vendors into partners and made them more, not less, invested in Zappos’ success.  Transparency is a key part of Zappos’ platform, derived from their passion for customer service and their philosophy to deliver happiness.

Process: Nobody will be able to see your passion, philosophy or platform if you do not have a defined process.  Yes, you have to write it down so that everyone – clients, employees, vendors, colleagues, even your mother – knows what comes next.  There is not just comfort in everyone knowing how you do things, there is trust and faith.  Talking the talk is necessary, but walking the walk is what defines a creative business.  Tell me what you are going to do and then do it.

Fall is the time all of us think about what is to come and plan for the future.  My prayer is that you use the 4P’s to help guide you.  They are meant to be accomplished in order: Passion first (what gets you out of bed), Philosophy (what do you want to share with the world), Platform (who do you want to share it with and why) and finally Process (how you are going to share it).  Will it guarantee the financial success of your creative business?  Of course not.  All that the 4P’s are meant to do is to help you satisfy your soul —  to make sure your creative business best reflects all that is most important to you as an artist and human being.  I would like to think that the rest will take care of itself.


1 macey September 7, 2010 at 7:32 pm

I am passionate about my wedding decor and planning business. My philosophy – I transport my clients and their guest to a new experience…creating pleasure and respite from their otherwise hectic and stressful lives. I ensure that processes are written and everyone is on the same page. My product is high-end and I support it by delivering professional service and quality to all my clients…everyday. I am very proud of my creative business because I made it a “business”. While this satisfies my soul, my pockets are empty and I am wondering if “financial success” will eventually come. So everyday, despite my passion I ask myself …Am in the right business and market? and have I made the right choices for me?

2 seanlow September 7, 2010 at 8:26 pm

You left out platform Macey. So often, that is the one that is the hardest to grasp and have the courage to put out there. Instead of asking whether you are in the right business and market, why not ask whether the way you do business is right for your market? Hope it helps.

3 Natalia September 8, 2010 at 4:47 pm

What a great post! I especially was touched by the section about platform. It seems like so many creatives out there are creating for the sake of creating, rather than thinking about what overall message they are sending out to the world and their clients. If there is no cohesive platform that is presented, how can people be expected to have confidence in your business?
I’m guilty of doing this too, and will definitely be rethinking my approach to clients and the platform that I present to them.
Thank you!

4 Renata Gross September 8, 2010 at 6:15 pm

BIG thanks!
I needed to read something about that today… I am in a ‘wave’ of unmotivation lately… It’s important to remember about the base of things! I will work on it again! I believe when we get lost it’s necessary that we go back to the ‘roots’!

5 amber perrodin September 9, 2010 at 9:35 am

Interesting and Informative. Thanks.

6 The KarmaLady September 11, 2010 at 7:24 pm

The KarmaLady likes this site and especially the post about the 4 P’s. As the Denver Website Reviews Examiner, the KarmaLady wrote a full review of the Website “The Business of Being Creative” and made a video review found on youtube here:

7 ramyad wedding photographer london September 12, 2010 at 11:12 am

I’ve been searching on a blog post or website that will help me define my photography business, my purpose and my future and your post has helped me greatly to step in the right direction.

I am updating my website to create a platform that is special to each and every bride. I am also updating my process and one of the main parts is my welcome pack. Thank you for planting a few more seeds to help me on my journey.

8 Tom McCallum September 12, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Great post, and just a comment to help emphasise importance of Platform.

Among the four P’s noted here, Platform is the one that has to start with your market (and philosophy to target that market) before even the platform itself.

Zappos (as mentioned by Sean) has some truly fantastic elements to their platform. However, they first had to establish/research/believe/sell to their investors that a) people need shoes, and b) if they offered free shipping and returns, they could, through amazing customer service, they could capture a portion of the shoe market that make them enough money.

Whatever business you think you are in, you had better make sure it is the same business your potential clients think you are in AND that there are enough of those clients out there to support your business AND that they are willing to pay you enough to support you at the level you need (to meet your needs).

It is definitely not enough to do creative work that you are passionate about. You also need a) enough people out there to provide you sufficient clients, b) clients who will pay you what you need (you have to be able to charge for your creativity and passion), c) something (platform is a big part) that makes them come to you rather than someone else.

Today I was coaching someone who is jumping off the corporate treadmill to enter a highly specialised artisanal field involving specialised and custom work in a highly niche market. Creativity and Passion ? Check. Platform for this ? Yes, for that niche. However, big enough market to support him in this ? Perhaps not… so advising him to leverage his core niche work and modify the Platform to allow him to gain clients and revenues from complimentary products and services.

As always Sean, great blogs… and they get me thinking.. so I give back.. the most important word on the internet is “share”, not “search”.

9 inspiraDESIGNS inviting custom wedding stationery October 6, 2010 at 10:26 pm

I think I have found the website I have been looking for, to help me think about all the fine detail. I sometimes get caught up in how many tweets I made this week, instead of stepping back and looking deeper.

I live and breathe my work everyday. Inspiration is set off by the little things in life, like flower blooms in the park my daughter and I frequent. Doing what I love doesn’t feel like work. It allows me to provide excellent service because of my love for the process.
I love having conversations with my brides,grooms, sometimes mothers. Wedding stationery is a very personal aspect that helps to tell a story. I strive to relieve my brides of the stress that can be overwhelming during wedding planning. Its more than just the wedding. Its an aspect of preparing for a new journey (together) . I get inspiration from each couple. Keeping in mind their budget, their vision is translated into print. I get to know my customers, and love seeing their pictures once the day has come.
I operate on a platform of accessibility, by offering custom design services, as well as a library of designs.

Thank you Sean for the motivation, and inspiration. Your blog is a treasure trove of information. Better get to reading!


10 Sangeeta May 5, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Thanks for the inspiration and always gentle push to do better 🙂 I’m looking forward to your talk further elaborating the 4 P’s at Engage in Cali!

11 Naomi September 8, 2011 at 11:48 am

Awesome post and awesome session on Twitter yesterday. I’m definitely sharing this with our community. I intend, going forward, to implement and apply the 4P’s in my thought process in every aspect of my life. Thank you, once again, for such amazing and useful content.

12 Wedding Photographer Santorini January 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Good post. I am still trying hard to promote my photography business.

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