Chapter Seven: Selling Yourself
The social currency of personality is something we often overlook or undervalue, yet it is a major factor in getting hired in the creative world. People need to like you. Oftentimes this can even supersede talent. Liking you, feeling understood, and resonating with the type of work you do are much bigger factors than anything in your portfolio. Attunement and similarity help a client to trust you and internally promote you to others on the team who likely have to justify a hefty budget for your existence.
People who hire creatives don't just want a job done, they want an experience. Sometimes they want to live vicariously through you. Other times, they want to esape the office and take a vacation in your studio. Knowing what attracts clients to you most is huge. With that intelligence, you can craft a sales strategy that looks and feels nothing like a sales strategy. It becomes a seamless conversation that requires little to no effort.
Designer Frank Lloyd Wright was the king of immodesty. He sold himself often and unabashedly as “the world’s greatest architect.” He explained, “Early in life, I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility. I chose honest arrogance and have seen no occasion to change.” His air of self-importance and pomposity paid major dividends just as his notoriety fueled public interest his work. In the end, Wright’s self-generated narrative won out; he is consistently cited today as “America’s greatest architect.”
We've previously discussed the power of being able to state, “I am the only artist in the world who does X." This may seem like an impossible task. After all, how do you really know that you are the only one in the world who can do something? You don't. But you can deduce through internet searching how many or how few people there are in your genre and keep narrowing it down. This level of specificity is important.
We live in a globalized world where there is a perception that there are far more photographers, graphic designers, artists, etc. than there actually are. The illusion of unlimited abundance in creative human capital inevitably drives down our perceived value. The client mentality is, “If it doesn’t work out with you, if the price isn't right, then we'll just hire someone else, one of the million other creatives out there.” It's a little harder to say, “Oh, we'll just find another catsuit photographer who will do it for less.”
The cure for this ailment is defining yourself more specifically or finding your niche. Niche marketing, or “micromarketing,” essentially will reduce your competition and increase your visibility and exclusivity, and reduce your marketing costs because you automatically generate better word-of-mouth sales. Digital experts at ThriveHive say that with niche marketing “a business is choosing to play to its strengths and highlight them for the people with whom it will resonate the most.”
Anyone who has hired or searched for creatives in specific areas knows firsthand how difficult it is to find the right person for a project. It's not because there are so many, it's actually because there are so few that meet the criteria for the project and have a style that resonates well with the material or is the right fit for the budget.
While there may indeed be many who can technically do the work, there are too few in reality who have the right vision and background experience to develop the project with the appropriate style. Also, not all creatives have the same capacity to meet a particular timeline. This is an exceptional talent that is undervalued in the market. The ability to produce a final outcome within a given time, no matter what, is something that only seasoned professionals tend to excel at.
In order to sell who you are, you need to know who you are, and more importantly who you are not. If you’re positioning yourself as doing “everything,” people will compute nothing of what you do. Marketing expert Al Reis argues “The secret lies not so much in positioning yourself in the market – but more so in positioning yourself in the customer’s mind.” The clearer you are on this, the easier it will be. It may take a bit of work getting to know yourself and, ideally, getting more familiar with how others view you. Your friends, family and clients can help with this.
WHEN YOU HAVE CLARITY:
· Clients find and connect with you immediately.
· Clients hire you faster with less haggling on fees.
· Clients are more confident in you and the work you are producing.
· You have more creative freedom to do what you do.
· You get paid on time.
· Your life is a dreamsicle.
WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE CLARITY:
· Clients are constantly eyeing up your competition and cross-negotiating.
· Projects require longer lead times and more meetings.
· Clients micromanage you and your workflow.
· Clients haggle more on fees.
· You have less freedom to do your job the way you want to do it.
· Clients are more likely to complain about the final product/service.
· Collecting final payment becomes more difficult.
THE LOVE VERSUS HATE EXERCISE
Figure out who you are not. Journal these questions:
What do you hate?
What annoys you?
What do you dislike most in others?
Then flip it around:
What do you love?
What inspires you?
What pulls at you emotionally?
What do you love doing?
What adjectives would you use to describe yourself and your work?
How would others describe you?
If you don’t know, ask.
Clients with core values not in harmony with your own spell problems. Don't be afraid of stating exactly who you are and who you are not. You're not trying to be something you're not, therefore you excel at who you are and what you do. It is an ultimate trust builder.
YOUR DISTINCTION STATEMENT
What makes you different?
Look at your peers and how they present and position themselves.
Who would you hire or not hire if you were the client? Why?
What makes someone attractive through the lens of the client, beyond the tangible work?
What do you love/not love about a creative you've hired in the past?
What would have made that experience better for you?
What do you want your clients to feel as a result of working with you?
Professionally, what separates you from your peers? Your years of experience? The way you deliver a project? How you interact with your clients?
Getting detailed in these areas can provide a wealth of information that will help move you forward.