Archives for August 2014

Tough Love: The Business You’re Really In

“Everybody want to be famous, nobody want to put the work in.”  ~comedian Kevin Hart & friends

 

I love this little video clip, firstly, because I’m a huge Kevin Hart fan. But I also love it because its message can be applied to what many of us are spending so much time online trying to do: create a successful business that will support us financially, and fulfill us creatively.

Yep, everybody want to have a successful business, nobody want to put the work in.

Of course it’s not true that nobody wants to put the work in, because plenty of people have created successful businesses that provide creative fulfillment and a comfortable living. We follow many of these people online, do we not? So we know it can be done.

But when it comes to creating the same thing for ourselves, as creatives we’re often too willing to give up too soon, whine about how challenging the whole thing is, or complain about having to . . . gasp . . . market ourselves. (Fact: I originally titled this blog post “Get Schooled on Marketing or Stay Broke.”)

And it’s the “marketing ourselves” bit that I hear the most complaints about from fellow creatives.

A few short years ago I was in that camp, until I realized I had two choices: either hire someone to do my marketing for me (not possible at the time, and not ideal even if it had been financially viable), or suck it up and do it myself, without complaint or self-consciousness.

Now, as someone who has worked in PR, advertising, and marketing and sales for most of my adult life, you’d think I’d be fine with marketing myself. But you would be wrong. Naturally, it’s much easier, and way less uncomfortable, to sing the praises of others through persuasive marketing communications than it is to step from behind the safety of my laptop and do the same thing for myself.

But it wasn’t until I finally decided to stop window-shopping having a business and actually do the challenging and time-consuming work involved in getting some traction for it (which I wrote about at length here), that everything started to change: more resonance with my ideal audience, more email sign-ups, more inquiries about my services, & more clients.

And then one day as things were starting to improve, I read something on A-list copywriter and brilliant marketer Dan Kennedy’s website that drove home this lesson like a shot to the face, wherein he talks about the “one truth businesses don’t like to hear.”

And that truth is this:

The business you are really in is the business of marketing and the thing you do, for example a dentist, a realtor, and info-marketer, etc., is secondary.

Kennedy goes on to say that being a better doctor, lawyer, carpet cleaner, or maker of stuff will not make you wealthier, but marketing your business better will.

I know many of us are squeamish about this prospect, and I get it, but we simply must get over that if we want to get off the feast-or-famine roller coaster, for one, and stop taking on projects and clients that make us want to drive off a cliff, for another.  And paying the rent and eating 3 squares a day is pretty important too, I might add.

So if you’re dreaming of that day when you’ll be able hire someone to do all your marketing for you so you can decamp to your creative cave and simply make stuff, then you’re going to have to find a way afford that marketing help first.

And that means you have to get good at marketing your business yourself NOW. So find a way to like it, or at the very least, find one way to market your business that you absolutely will do and that you don’t hate, and keep at it until you either see some success from that method or you determine it just ain’t working, in which case you try the next marketing method.  And so on until you find the one that you’re willing to do that does work.

P.S. – Just as I was about to hit “publish” on this post, I read something great over on Itty Biz, one of my favorite go-to places for biz and marketing advice that feels like the perfect companion piece to this one, called 10 Perfectly Good Ways to Market Your Business, and What to Do If You Don’t Like Any Of Them.

You should check that out.

Which is the Better Path to Creative Fulfillment?

creative fulfillment

If you do creative work, which is better – working a day job that has nothing whatsoever to do with the creative thing you like to do, or working a day job that features at least some elements of the creative thing you like to do?

You might think, duh, obviously a day job that features elements of the creative thing you like to do is the better choice.

But I often wonder if this is true. Is it really better to be the person who has a creative career – for example, let’s say this person is a writer and works in an advertising/PR agency – so on the plus side they get to write every day – but what they really want to do is write a novel or a screenplay or a book of essays, only they don’t have the energy left over at the end of the work day to make it happen?  

Or, is the optimal choice to be the person whose put-food-on-the-table job has nothing to do with their creative calling, and because of this has the mental clarity and space to do their creative thing on the side exactly as they please, with no compromises, and arrives home at the end of each work day full of energy and inspiration to do their creative work?

Because the advertising/PR agency person, while earning a living writing, would have a demanding job that required a lot of overtime and unfortunate office politics to deal with, which would likely leave them feeling depleted and uninspired at the end of the day, without the wherewithal to write.

(And you know what that means. Another night of indulging in your favorite Bravo-lebrities while downing a few glasses of wine, eating Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Caramel Fudge right out of the carton, and mentally planning your exit from said day job while giving your boss what for on your way out the door. And possibly not leaving your house from Friday afternoon until Monday morning many weekends in a row while employed at this advertising/PR agency. Not that I would know. Ahem.)

The point is, this kind of relationship with our career, creative or not, doesn’t leave us much time or mental space to write that novel, screenplay or book of essays, or whatever form our creative output happens to take.

On the other hand, the person with a job not related to their creative calling, one they aren’t overly emotionally invested in because it’s simply what they do to pay the bills, might arrive home eager to get to work on their creative project. They’ve left the job at work, and aren’t assaulted by the kind of needling gremlins that come with a career you’re expected to try to “get ahead” in, so they have a mental clean slate. They have the bandwidth to be fully and totally focused on their creative output.

I’ve been on both sides – I’ve had relatively low-stress jobs not related to writing that were meant simply to pay the bills, and high-stress, time-consuming, career-oriented jobs where there was a significant amount of writing involved, but also office politics and other assorted craziness. (Such as siblings who owned the business screaming at each other in front of my office door, a place of employment my best friend dubbed the “snit factory” for its silly territorial battles and dysfunctional silent rages.)

I generally get into a more fulfilling creative groove when I’m not preoccupied by office politics, heinous deadlines, and the crushing responsibility to pick out an “outfit” 5 days a week. On the other hand, the deadly combination of underearning and lackluster work you can’t work up much passion for ain’t no picnic either.

So obviously I don’t have the answer to the what-kind-of-day-job-is-best-for-doing-your-creative-work question.  But I’m hoping to get the discussion going, so please leave a comment here and let’s debate the perils and pleasures of each approach, shall we? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts!