If there's one thing that creatives tend to do that drives me bananas, it's this:
They grossly undervalue their work.
This behavior taints nearly every aspect of their business, and turns them into burned out, underpaid, and suspicious business owners.
If you can't effectively convey the value of what you create, then it's hard for others to find the value in it, too.
This leads to working with customers that are not that cool to work with, and want to negotiate terms that you may not be comfortable with (hence, the burnout, underpay, and suspicion).
Whether you sell a product or service direct to customers, or work with a middle man through wholesale, you have to understand this:
You are NOT at the mercy of your customers. You do NOT have to accept all the terms that are laid out in front of you. You can absolutely say NO to jobs, projects, and agreements that do not align with your values as a business owner. You can negotiate the terms that are important to you. You have to be prepared to move on if your non-negotiable terms are not accepted by the other party.
And you have to let go of the fear that standing up for what you want in your business (and life, for that matter) will repulse people and leave you standing alone with empty pockets and no respect.
It doesn't really work that way. In fact, standing up for a cause, creating something you love, and sharing it with the world in exchange for fair compensation is how you become the best and most successful version of yourself. It's how you afford to continue doing only the things that you love. And it's how you continue to create amazing work that delights customers and keeps them coming back for more.
You have the right to be picky about who you work with, too.
So how do you convey the value of your work in a way that makes you feel amazing and makes others feel like they can trust you?
1. Start acting like the person and business you aspire to be.
Ok, so this? Is some woo-woo, hippy-dippy manifestation brilliance coming into play. You don’t have to believe in everything-happens-for-a-reason doctrine. But trusting in the things that are on their way to you, and ACTING like they are already here, works. It’s about putting your energy and focus on the things you want in your business and life. When you can clearly see where you are going, it’s much easier to get there.
For example, let’s say you want to have your work featured in a big magazine. Pretend like that achievement already belongs to you and that you deserve to be in that magazine. Reach out to the magazine with an idea for a product feature. You’ll start to figure out how one actually gets into this magazine (and others). You’ll figure out what this magazine looks for in the businesses that it features. You will be focusing on how to do this one thing, and evolving into the type of business that gets magazine features. Reach out for big opportunities, even when they feel a bit out of reach.
2. Price your work properly.
This is big, you guys. HUGE. Without going overboard with pricing strategies (a whole other blog post), I will tell you that if you are selling a physical product, it’s a really good idea to price for wholesale.* This ensures that you make a profit, whether you sell in bulk to retail stores, or on your own site via direct sales to your customer. If you are selling a service, make sure that you are pricing in a way that doesn’t make you loathe providing the service and covers all the work you put into providing the service.
Look around your market. What are the high and low end prices? Don’t be the low end. Actually, you can be the highest! The whole goal of pricing your products or services appropriately is to make a profit. You don’t want to simply break even. That’s a no no. You want to make extra money on each product so that you can invest that money back into your business AND pay yourself a living (thriving!) wage. Nothing sleazy about that!
Wanna know what's sleazy? Creating a sub-par product and charging as little as possible for it out of desperation.
Just because you enjoy what you do, does not mean you should feel guilty asking people to give you money for it. Understand that your product worth is not only tied to the direct cost of materials and labor that you put into it. It has SO much more to do with the lasting benefits that you are providing to your customer.
3. Implement processes and methods of creating your work that feel special.
If you are doing the bare minimum to bring your product to market, chances are it will not be a very good product. The values that you embody in your work through material selection, product presentation (especially photographs!), and the customer experience will translate directly to the perceived value of what you create.
Treat your work like it is important. Buy the good supplies. Invest in things that will help you take your business to the next level. You can find efficient, affordable, and smart ways to run your business without being cheap about it. It kind of drives me insane when I see business owners that only want to invest their time or energy on free resources. Sometimes, you gotta put down a little cash on products and services to grow your business. Do it. Also? It’s good karma to invest in other businesses.
4. Talk about your work confidently and with authority.
Question: who will you trust more? The person that can’t look you in the eye or clearly communicate their ideas, or the person that speaks clearly and makes eye contact when they talk about something they love to do?
There’s power in sharing your passion with another human being. Don’t be afraid to let that come through, both in your work and in your conversations about it.
Sometimes we doubt ourselves, way more than we should. If you are building a business, you have to get in the habit of telling people about it without shrinking away or downplaying what you do. Practice your ten second pitch. Then your thirty second pitch. Say it out loud (yes, I am advocating that you talk to yourself). Write it down. Look up different words to describe your work. See what feels nice rolling off of your tongue. Learn to describe what you do like it’s your favorite thing to do (it is, isn’t it?).
And don’t assume that everyone thinks you are full of shit.
5. Show up, consistently.
There are going to be days when you don’t feel like showing what you do to the world. Some days, it’s going to feel redundant, ridiculous, and unimportant as hell--like you are barely making a dent. Some days, you will question everything. But that doesn’t mean you should stop pursuing what you want. Consistency might be one of the most important factors of running a successful business. By creating new work regularly, and sharing it with your customers, you are building trust with them. You are showing them that you aren’t going anywhere and that you take your work seriously. The longer you do this, the more robust your body of work will be, which will also contribute to your credibility.
What are ways that you convey the value of your work? Is there anything in particular that you struggle with from the five points above? Share your story in the comments below!
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*If you are not following me on Periscope yet, do it now! Last week I hosted a broadcast on how to convey the value of your work and went into detail on pricing for wholesale. These broadcasts are a great opportunity to ask questions and get answers in real time. The app is free, and it’s becoming one of my favorite ways to share information about running a creative business and give sneak peeks of what I am working on. Find me there @caseydsibley.