Chapter Nine: Going for the Gold
As creatives, we don't always acknowledge our power, and therefore fail to harness it to its fullest potential. We forget that we are infinite beings with infinite power to adapt and create. Once we get in the groove of making money and meeting the basic business needs, it's easy to fall into the trap of playing small. By playing small, I mean not playing bigger. Upping your own game when you work for yourself is a challenge. Why make life more difficult than it needs to be? Why risk fear and rejection when you don't really need to? Why tempt fate unnecessarily when you already have a good thing going?
In the artistic world, gold may mean different things: an Oscar, an Emmy, a Nobel Peace Prize, a revenue figure, or a mint 1970 Chevy with spinners. Ultimately it’s up to you to define your gold.
WHY YOU SHOULD STOP DOING WHAT YOU’VE BEEN DOING
In our field of smoke and mirrors, it's important to have something new to talk about. New projects create momentum, which ultimately attract new and bigger, higher-paying clients. If you're playing the same old game over and over it’s going to get stale and it's likely that you will be replaced with someone cheaper. Going for big clients helps to sharpen your tools and make life easier in the long run by challenging you a little bit here and there in the short run.
For freelancers, clients change over time. Their needs change, technology changes and their willingness to pay a premium for your services changes. Getting out in the world and staying connected is important. It's easy to get stuck doing the same client jobs and making just enough money. Repeat clients are necessary. However, banking your entire business on them can be dangerous.
In other words, continuing to do exactly what you have been doing is the biggest risk you can take. You need to hedge your future to some extent. The world is evolving and you must, too. Upleveling is the antidote to not falling behind the times. It's the growth hack you've been looking for.
Executive coach Loren Margolis stresses the importance of becoming familiar with discomfort in order to grow in your business. She recommends starting with small activities to challenge yourself. Choose a different thing to do each day that scares you. Repeat for one year. What was once extremely uncomfortable becomes a piece of cake over time. Timothy Ferriss takes it a step further and recommends taking this experiment into the public eye: Negotiate for a cup of coffee at Starbucks, lie down in a public space for 10 seconds, or hug a random person. Discomfort is a muscle that requires daily exercise. The more you practice, the more easily you will be able to adjust and thrive in new and unfamiliar circumstances.
When we are out in the marketplace, seeing what clients want and are willing to pay for, we can refine our service offerings and take existing clients on the ride with us. We never know what a potential client will go for until we try. Test-marketing new services and new service strategies is key in a world that has become so automated and where clients can go almost anywhere in the world and hire people to do the same thing for a lot less.
Basic services from marketing to accounting to personal assisting can be outsourced to many countries around the world for pennies on the dollar. Unfortunately, this now includes a lot of creative services. We know that to some extent you get what you pay for. The bean counters, however, see it differently. It's imperative to separate yourself from everyone else that does (or appears to do) the same thing that you do. It's important to distinguish your level of experience and the tangible outcomes from such experiences.
BECOME AN EXPERT
It's crucial to not just provide a creative service, but a larger strategy behind it that meshes directly with your clients' goals. Strategic creatives offer something that others cannot. This requires knowledge of the client's business and practices. Once you've achieved this, you become indispensable.
Pitching new ideas and services that deliver a strategic outcome makes you an asset to the success of the proposed project. People thrive on ideas, and non-creatives lack the tools necessary to conceive them, budget them and implement them. You are providing a tremendous service to a client if you know his or her business or need and can provide creative solutions that will provide the desired outcome.
When you promote yourself to the rank of chief creative officer, you're taking weight off the client’s back and fueling the long-term success of the project. You're also creating a platform for growing your service offerings and expanding the relationship. You are building trust and your brand as an expert.
Becoming an expert versus a creative-service provider is a game changer. Who would you rather have taking your picture, your cousin with an iPhone or Annie Leibovitz? Most of us would choose Annie Leibovitz. We want a portrait that transcends time and elevates us to a new level. A portrait that means something and has value.
Transforming yourself into an expert involves determination and commitment, but I guarantee you are already closer than you think. An expert is defined as anyone who has 10,000 or more hours of experience in his or her work. How many do you have? How many do you need? How can we start positioning your experience to be more in line with an expert?
The first step is owning who you are and what you do. Have the confidence that you are an expert and are offering a unique service. Then look at areas that may require a little bit of upgrading and upleveling. Make a list of what you want to do and how you want to be seen. Narrow down the field that you are looking at. Put it in the most divisible terms possible.
Let's take a look at all the areas of our lives and business that we can control and think of ways to uplevel them. Even thinking about expanding your business can result in positive mojo that helps to move you toward your goal. Simply deciding to not do the same thing you've been doing in the same way is a start.
The next step is to take serious inventory of your life and business as it is. What do you love? What do you not love? What energizes you? What feels stale? What do you want more of? Money, success, fame, awareness connection? What do you want less of? Bitchy clients, long work days, no time for vacation or personal interests?
Be honest and clear about where you are and ideally where you want to go. If there were no restrictions on resources or time, how would you elevate your business? I've outlined ideas below to help get you started and hopefully jog your creative mojo into finding your upgraded flow. As mentioned, gold may mean different things – an industry statue, a number in your bank account, or gold lamé pajamas. And in order to get it, you gotta define it.