The Happy Business

by seanlow on February 21, 2017

Creative business is the happy business. Even if you do commercial work. You exist to transform. You transform by surprising, delighting, energizing, inspiring clients with what you intend for them. They live in the afterglow once your creation comes to life.

So why oh why would you ever make the business of your creativity pure drudgery? Or worse, boring, stiflingly rigid with nonsensical agreements that do nothing for your business or your clients? You wouldn’t you say? Were that true, I would happily be done writing. Instead, I see a sea of packages, form agreements, boilerplate everything and I literally want to scream. I can only imagine what your clients feel.

Since 2017 is the year of challenges from me so far, here is another one: if you must use packages, you are only allowed two (high and low) and the high package must be AT LEAST three times as expensive as the low one. Also, if a ten year old cannot understand what they get for their money and why they should pay for it, start over. You have to be able to define what your creative business stands for at every level. You packages support your definition, they, themselves, are not the definition of value. No way around it, you have to do the work to define why your creative business is worth what you say it is.

Speaking of why a client should pay for what you offer, do not forget about when you offer it. Time is relative and has relative value. For pure design, time is a silly measure of value. Flux Capacitor Issue (not linking, I have given the example many times and I will talk for a half hour to the first person who explains what I mean in a comment). However, production of any design is a measurable event and can be estimated as to who and how much is needed to effectively produce the creation. For production, getting paid for your and your creative business’ time there makes total sense.

The point is: your creative business offers different things at different points of a project. Stop getting paid as if you do one thing always. It does not mean you have to change the method of payment calculation (i.e., flat fee vs. hourly), it just means you have to clearly define the value proposition that exists at the particular stage of a project. Ahem, the value proposition needs to make sense. Or you can let your mind-numbing package do the work. Your choice.

Next, quit making the final promise and instead focus on checkpoint promises. Who cares if clients will love it in the end? A) Of course they will or you would not have a business; and B) even if they do not, what will you do about it then, the proverbial pooch will have already been screwed. Instead, give your word about the next step, give it again, then keep it.

Here is an example: production budget. You say that the project will cost $10,000 to bring your creation to life. They agree. You present your vision (without prices).

During the presentation, you affirm that the production budget is $10,000. Client agrees. You sit down with client to go over production budgets. It is $10,000. Promise kept. Then move on to the next promise. Maybe when a certain element will be finished. All the way until the end of the project. Incremental promises kept along the way make the final one inevitable.

Beware the cruel temptress of getting it done. It is too easy to just let it all slide, to just focus on getting the project finished. Everything in the name of moving on.

Slow down. Evolving relationship, deepening trust, building investment are the foundation of transformation. Let your business be creative. It is there to support your creativity, not be the hurdle you and your art need to overcome to find success. Invest in the intimacy that matters – being the steady hand in the face of uncertainty. You need your business to be a reflection of that steady hand and the only way to do that is to have it be a reflection of who you and your art actually are. Make sense and make promises. Then keep them. No better recipe to create happy than that.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Sam Jacobson February 22, 2017 at 9:03 am

I like the idea of the little promises building trust. Super important. Robert Cialdini’s groundbreaking book, “Influence,” discusses the effectiveness of what he calls “commitment and consistency” in persuading people. Get your prospects and clients to commit to small measures, fulfill your promises to them, and then work your way toward bigger ones. If you are doing this in the name of delivering a fabulous product or service full of excellent value, you are giving your clients exactly what they wanted. Good for you. Good for them.

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