These days, the financial and technical barriers to independent creative work have decreased significantly. Almost anyone can own a fancy camera and an Adobe subscription, but if you attempt to compete with everyone who offers some form of digital wizardry, you'll only end up fighting for the attention of buyers who think you're just like everyone else. Strong business attributes, high quality, contextual experience, and expertise make your service potentially viable in the marketplace, but your uniqueness is what generates demand.
Stop focusing on what your competition is doing, and instead focus on the things that you control. Potential clients need to understand what differentiates you from other people who do (approximately) what you do, and they will base those opinions on what they see, hear, and read. Your work can't just speak for itself—you need to give it context. You also need to create opportunities for buyers to get to know you and realize how well you fit with them and their projects.
The following steps show you how to present your creative business as an exciting alternative within your niche or local market, with the goal of helping clients to find, hire, and pay you for your creative work.
Step 1: Hone Your Creative Vision
Your business needs a marketable, repeatable approach to the work of being creative on demand. If you want more work, make your vision understandable for your potential clients:
- Identify what's most important to you as an artist. If you're a photographer, do you love capturing weather systems? Fashion? Theater?
- Clarify and describe your creative approach in words. A photographer's composition, point of view, use of light, focal length, and styling are all part of the approach. Condense that information in a way that will be understood by non-photographers who can pay you for that creativity.
- Make your creative vision a distinguishable visual theme across your work. Everything you show on your websites and in your portfolios should fit that theme.
Step 2: Document Your Process
To generate more revenue over time, you need to be able to repeat successful actions. Document the process by which you have moved clients successfully from first contact through a finished project. As you fine-tune this description and share it with prospects, you'll find that they become more comfortable earlier in the sales experience.
Step 3: Build Additional Value
In general, buyers feel that the pool of creative talent is quite deep. Therefore, you need to offer something that makes working with you especially beneficial to your potential clients. Look for ways in which you can exceed the call of duty and go beyond the creative work (without spending too much time or money), while making a notable impression on the client. Limousine pickup? A glass of wine? Online booking? What value can you offer that your competition doesn't? How can you make choosing you more enticing?
Step 4: Create Good Memories
Cheap prices and competency don't equal a lasting impression. Sincere conversation, laughter, pleasant surprises—experiences like these give people good feelings that live beyond the moment. Consider what you could change about your communication style or in your workflow to create special memories for clients.
Step 5: Develop an Auteur-Like Attitude
Creative work is a technical craft, but clients won't pay a premium for a button pusher. They want to buy brilliance, inspiration—creative "super-juice." Auteurs have a discernible vision that they can claim as their own. Think of film directors whose work consistently explores the same themes and ideas, regardless of cast, setting, or script. Make sure that your process documentation and your workflow reflect your unique vision.
If you want clients to be willing to pay for them, you must find the confidence to take control of your creative vision and process. Wrangling your artistic sensibilities is essential for making your creativity stand out in an increasingly noisy marketplace. After all, if you don't know what makes your work unique, how will potential clients be able to distinguish you from anyone else?