As most of you will have noticed, the current economic climate isn’t particularly rosy when it comes to available work for us creatives.
Let me rephrase that. The current economic climate isn’t particularly rosy when it comes to available work for a large proportion of us creatives. There are many people out there who, for various reasons, still do earn a very good living from creative projects, and many who are doing better now than they ever have in the past.
Just like with all industries that get hit by an economic correction, the weak don’t survive and many of the strong remain. A difficult economy coupled with increasing competition over the next few years will pose various threats to creatives, especially independent workers.
Is there anything we can do to put us in the best possible position, so that we not only survive, but so that we succeed well too?
Be aware of the following key things that could make all the difference for you as a creative worker over the coming years…
1. Being your own brand
This is mentioned a great deal on Red Lemon Club, but bears repeating for this post. Simply, brands are memorable and brands are credible. A brand will attract people to you.
Having a brand doesn’t necessarily mean having a logo or a brand name, though this will add depth to your brand. It means attaching a particular style to the way you work. This applies to your website, how you describe yourself, the style, attitude and message in your work, how you deal with customers and how you present your work.
All of it needs to be consistent and recognisable. If you can get to a stage where the work you do exhibits something of your own brand, you are a cut above the rest.
2. Focusing on one skill
This may generate some resistance from those of you who advertise several skills under one brand, but I’m going to step in here.
Things are only going to get tougher with competition increasing from the many more people becoming freelancers all over the world. If you are trying to make money with more than one creative skill, you will be spreading yourself thin, and you will likely find yourself buckling under the pressure.
My advice is to focus daily on becoming extremely good at one thing and honing a distinct style in the process (by all means expand your skills in other things, but focus on one from a commercial point of view) and just watch your value grow over time.
“Focus daily on becoming extremely good at one thing and honing a distinct style in the process.”
3. Having a marketing plan
If you work for money as an independent creative, be it part time, or full time, you are in business, and businesses need proper marketing plans. You need to know who you intend for your products and services to be seen and used by. You then need to have an idea (at least an idea!) of how, when and with what you will promote your stuff at an on-going rate.
Those of you who don’t know how to bring prospects and previous clients to your brand, will struggle.
4. Regularly building your network
Yes some of you think the idea of networking is plain grim. Yes it can sometimes take extra effort to reach out to someone and hook up with them. But you are doing yourself and your business a massive disservice by letting your social network, both real world and online, go stagnant.
Keep building it, rekindling old relationships and sparking new ones. Knowing a solid network of people will be your backbone, especially in tough times. Write emails, ping people, engage on social networks, go to meetups, buy cool people lunch.
“Keep building it, rekindling old relationships and sparking new ones.”
5. Having a solid financial setup
Ahhh, so tedious yes? Again, this relates to the fact that if you want to be earning a living or an income of some kind from your creative pursuits, you need to be viewing it as a business. You guessed right, a business needs a proper financial structure and plan in place.
I hope to cover the details of this through Red Lemon Club soon, but I’d advise you get a book out on the basics of finance in business, and what you need to be doing as a freelancer or self-employed person to ensure you survive financially (obviously everything relies on an income in the end).
This should cover how to use a balance sheet, in-goings and outgoings, tax and when it’s due, and profit and loss.
Hiring an accountant will put you in good stead too, but having one will not automatically protect you from eventually going bust. You need to know what you are doing from a financial perspective. Strong businesses are always financially literate.
6. Striving for excellence
Especially in tough times, you just cannot settle for the average or mediocre. So many people are using things like the recession as an excuse to cut corners, then they wonder why their businesses are shutting down.
You need to be striving for excellence more than ever, because excellence sells. This applies to the quality of your work, the service you provide, how you deal with people and how you present everything. Even the small things are important. This is even more important than you think.
Show that you care about every detail of your business and your work, and people will be drawn to you.
“You need to be striving for excellence more than ever, because excellence sells.”
7. Genuinely caring for others
Sounds a bit gooey right? But this is a post that is effectively about standing out. Caring about people, including your clients and customers will set you apart. Going beyond what is expected will set you apart even more, and benefit you in surprising ways over the long term too.
As always, your comments are really encouraged, and I’ll try and respond to questions you have.
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