We all play chicken with value delivered and value received. The desire to “lock the customer in” is everywhere. Contracts on your cellular phone, gym membership, car lease, even your home mortgage are awesome examples. The theory goes you want to protect yourself from interlopers and competition. Creative businesses are right there too. Big deposits, close to the vest on everything until the first born is pledged, etc. Except it just does not work and skews your creative business towards being really good at one night stands and terrible at even summer romance, let alone relationship.
If the goal is to get to yes and not permission to show what you have, then value delivery itself goes kaflooey. The goal of every creative business has to be to deliver and receive value at each critical point in a project’s process. This does not necessarily mean money, although that is the easiest way to think about it. Value can also be received by permission to go on, final decisions, authority to execute. For the most part, creative businesses only have four critical value points: 1) reputation/experience; 2) ideation (love that word); 3) execution planning; and 4) final execution. An example, an interior designer is recommended to design a home and his portfolio is perfect for the potential client. The client loves the designer and hires him. The presentation blows the client away and she agrees to the budget set out by the designer. The process of procuring all items/construction elements goes without a hitch. The client leaves her house while the designer installs. Client walks in to a finished home, down to the candles and flowers and gasps with joy. The question is when/if the designer gets paid for each critical value point.
If the goal is to get to yes, the designer will work very hard to collect as much as possible up front and leave very little room for what is to come. If the goal is to get to let me show you, the whole point will be to create a series of one way narrowing valves to create the purest distillation in the end. The axiomatic point is this: if you are not matching value delivery with value received as best as you possibly can, you make it very hard to move on. In the course of relationship, human nature almost never remembers receiving too much value if it is then followed with not enough. Yep, we only remember getting too little for our money. Locking a client in only sets you, your art and your creative business up for this situation mostly because you will not have enough to give later or will have not earned the right to give it even if you did have enough.
The scariest place to be for any artist is to be judged on her art. So we hide, we rest on our laurels (or portfolio, first meeting, referrals) and refuse to be authentically judged. We live in the idea that it will all work out in the end, believing the end is all that really matters. The lie we tell ourselves. The truth is that the middle is everything and it alone makes the end’s success or failure inevitable. However, the willingness to be judged is the definition of respect for your art, your creative business and your clients alike. Laying it out there and saying, explicitly or implicitly, “here it is, what do you think?” offers opportunity for you to get paid for the statement – multiple times. In the effort, you get to say what matters, not your client, where you may be judged and where you, your art and your creative business may not.
So ask yourself where value delivery and value received do not match in your creative business. What would it mean if you fixed it? My guess is that, if nothing else, you would be far better at communicating what matters to you, your art and your creative business. And knowing deeply what matters is the first step to actually getting paid for it.