We all have visions of a better self. Better art, better business, better clients. We imagine that we will do what it takes to get to wherever there is.
Grand statements are thought about and sometimes even made. The shiny new website, social media platform, office, even a new graphic look can be enticing as manifestations of the new creative business you aspire to be.
Too often though, changes do not happen or, even if they do, they belie the tough stuff that really matters and remains unattended. It is like sprucing up your car with fancy everything and forgetting that you still have cheap (or worn) tires. At the end of the day, the rubber hitting the road will always be critical to your success.
To that end, what is the one change you can make today that makes you sweat? The one change that you know in your belly is the right change for your creative business, but fear of the unknown is stopping you? How can I inspire you to dare to be different? Not shiny, window-dressing different, but substantively different.
I wrote about how line-item pricing is not only fools-gold, but ultimately destructive for creative businesses back in August of last year. Who of you has dared to give it a go? And if you have not, but think you should have, why haven’t you?
Here is where I have empathy and maybe even a little sympathy. THIS IS HARD. Change sucks and the more intrinsic and base the change, the more it sucks. Resistance will come from everywhere – clients, potential clients, employees, colleagues, and, most of all, from that Lizard Brain shouting at you to quit rocking the boat. Except.
You had the conviction to start in the first place. The overwhelming desire to create art for a living. To move clients with your talent, your training, and, ultimately, your wisdom. Why play safe now? You might think you are actually safe and, if everyone is invested in the same same, you might be right. That is, until the powerful minority grows loud enough to say to potential clients, “Hey, pay attention to the tires, ours are better, let us tell you why.” And since they are coming from their own bellies, their own gained wisdom in refusing to accept what is as all there is, that they will get loud enough to one day (very soon) kick your ass. They will win not just with the better mousetrap, but with the intention to use it create deeper, more meaningful relationships with their clients. These who dare embrace the very change you fear will meet their resistance with a handshake (and maybe even a hug) instead of with a fist.
If line-item pricing is too much, here is another change for every creative business owner to implement right now: Stop allowing anyone (clients, employees, friends, media) to ask what you cost. A loaf of bread costs two dollars at one store and maybe a dollar fifty at another. The bread serves the same purpose and, if you can get it for less, you should.
Instead, speak of your creative business as an investment. When we invest in anything, we have expectations beyond the transaction. You invest in financial instruments because you hope they grow bigger. You invest in your home because you hope it appreciates and provides a wonderful environment for you and your family. You invest in things you care about. Investments are not burdens, they are desires. Costs are burdens – something we have to bear to get the thing we need.
I cannot think of a single creative business that should not identify itself as an investment not a cost. Sure it is easier to just answer the question, “What do you cost?” Then again, those who choose to say, “We are an investment, not a cost, let me tell you why” have just started down the road with new tires.
Find your change. Meet your resistance. Dare to be radically authentic to yourself, your art, and your creative business. Any grand statement you think might make all the difference will not. Conviction every day is what does. Make the one change, stick with it and go from there.