Please Do Better

by seanlow on January 25, 2017

As I am sure it has with just about everyone reading this, politics and what is happening in America has consumed me and made me really contemplate what is to come. Some of you see positive in what is to come, others not. I am firmly in the other camp. Apart from standing up for what is most important to me and my family, my solace and where I feel most powerful is my work with creative business owners. If I can help artists create businesses that celebrate the size and breadth of their work, give them a powerful voice when it comes to their business, then their success, their ability to change the world is that much more secure. My purpose, my mission.

So to switch fully into the creative business arena, I have to say that I am saddened by just how many creative business owners refuse to even consider another way; refuse to acknowledge that their actions are part of the problem of marginalization running rampant throughout all creative businesses; and refuse to acknowledge the depth the problem of marginalization is in creative business.

If I handed you a scalpel, told you to watch a few videos on YouTube, maybe cut into a few oranges, you probably would not think yourself a cardiac surgeon and would not dare to hold yourself out as one. And those that would would be exposed very quickly by anyone who cared to check the background of the person they were allowing to physically invade their body.

So why oh why oh why do creative businesses allow those who either cannot or are not yet ready to stand in the same light as they who are uniquely qualified to do the very thing the client seeks? Simple. Fear and disrespect for the value you offer. While these characteristics are problems in the pre-information age, today they represent the seeds of demise to so many brilliant and fantastic creative businesses, both established and on the rise.

Specifically, I am talking to those of you who have been in business for more than three years. After three years, you are past the novice stage, have garnered real clients with real budgets who deeply respect what it is you are there to provide. If this is you and your creative business, you matter. You are the leader. You are the future of your industry. You can do better. You need to do better. You have to do better. For all of us.

After three years, you know who your ideal client is, know how best to serve her and what is required financially of your client to do great work. Whether it is a ten dollar client or a ten million dollar client, it does not matter so long as you know that she is YOUR client. And if you do not know, please accept that that is not good enough. We need you to know everything about her so you can do outrageously well for her above all others.

Presuming you do know who your ideal client is, quit having your creative business treat her like every other creative business, speaking the same language as they do, acting the same way as they do. Because it is easy and the way you have always done it is, again, not good enough. She deserves better from you, your art and your creative business. Create a process, a financial structure, a way of relating that is outrageous to everyone but her. Nothing is expensive in this world to those that see the value. It might cost a lot of money but that does not make it expensive. To those that cannot see the value of you, your art and your creative business, you will always be expensive no matter how much you cost. Ignore these people. Dare to look different from those around you because, you are, in fact, different.

Here is my fear and why I continue to be so stirred: in today’s information age, when your clients cannot instantly and intrinsically perceive the value you, your art and your creative business offer them (like they would a cardiac surgeon), they will seek to marginalize you, your art and your creative business. They will reduce you to the value of the thing you provide and you will always, always be subject to those willing to provide that thing for less.

For those of you who have earned the right to be outrageous in how you create for your clients, please live there without compromise, not because you can but because it is your obligation. If you are willing to redefine how your creative business works to do its best work, then you set the stage for those that follow. We all crumble when those who should be paragons act with intransigence or, worse, with callous disregard for their place in their industry. Sure, you may lose to those that are determined to meet the lowest common denominator. But if you give in, we have all already lost. Just a matter of time. So please go the other way. We all rise when you dare to be iconic and invite, nay demand, others like you to act similarly. That is how voices rise and great art is manifested at every level. For me, it is where hope lives.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alison Ellis January 29, 2017 at 10:50 am

The way we treat our ideal clients should always be front of mind and what we do for them, how we meet and exceed expectations is where we add value that cannot be measured. You are a huge inspiration for many of us in this regard….our voices must rise! Thanks.

2 Maria Bayer February 1, 2017 at 11:40 am

Sean, one of my students brought this post to my attention, and I’m so happy they did. I couldn’t agree with you more, and you speak of one of the most critical aspects of running a business: If you cannot show your value, your clients will always think you’re expensive. What I love is how you frame it from the perspective of marginalization and if they don’t show their value, that they’ll always be subject to those willing to provide it for less. Thank you for sharing how important it is for all of us to believe in our value and communicate it, and in doing so, lift our creative industries higher.

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