Do you struggle to find time to market your creative practice? Well you’re not alone, finding the time to market yourself is an almost universal struggle for creatives. It’s not that you don’t know what to do. Many of you spend all day, everyday, helping your clients with aspects of their marketing. It’s just that you’re so busy that you don’t pay attention to your own, right?
I’d like to suggest that the claim that you don’t have time for marketing is not a valid excuse, rather, it’s a symptom of other fundamental problems with how you’re running your business.
First of all, let’s remember the important connection between time and money. If I gave you a million dollars, I bet you’d be able to carve out some time to work on business matters. But you don’t have a million dollars, you’re burning the midnight oil to produce enough work just to keep yourself moving forward. However you slice it, time pressures are usually a symptom of a profitability problem. So let’s translate our excuse statement to “I don’t have enough money to market.”
In doing that, we can now ask, where can I find enough money to market? Well, from the profits on your work, of course. And so you keep working as hard as you can, on whatever you can get, hoping to finally build up some cushion. And hustling like that, leaves you even less time for marketing. There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza.
Having no time, or money, is not the reason why you can’t market, it’s the result of not taking control of your marketing in the first place. And the control part of that statement is of the essence.
Most creatives rely on reputation, word of mouth, and a bit of networking in order to keep themselves busy. This approach can lead to seasons of plenty, but it never results in control. And you’re going to need to gain control of your client acquisition process, if you’re ever going to patch that leaky bucket.
What exactly do you want to control? You want to control the quantity and quality of your client base. Controlling the quantity means that you always have more demand for your services than you accept. Controlling the quality means that you can take the best work, from the best clients, at optimum rates or fees. Just imagine if you could generate the same amount of revenue (or more) in half the time, or less. If you could make that happen, you’d have plenty of extra time to work on marketing, or take a much needed vacation.
By failing to invest time in your marketing, you are perpetuating an endless cycle of scramble, of feast or famine, of being overworked and underpaid. But before you resolve to get off that road to nowhere, you should understand that simply increasing the time you spend on marketing is not necessarily going to fix anything. You need to control your marketing before you exert more energy on it.
So how do you get this magical power of control? The power of control comes from focused positioning. You know this, you tell your clients all the time that before you can develop a brand, or an effective campaign, that they have to have a specific audience clearly in mind, and speak that audience’s needs.
But if I had only one word to describe the branding of the average creative practice, it would be “vague.” And the more vague your branding and positioning language, the harder, and less effective, your marketing will be.
There are degrees of vagueness. Words like creativity, passion, and branding have high degrees of vagueness. What clients would not be included under the umbrella of those words? But adding some limiters to these words, increases their specificity, thus reducing vagueness.
Creative photography, passion for print design, and branding for startups, are examples of decreasing vagueness. By adding terms we reduce vagueness, increase specificity, and by necessity, limit your audience. And the idea of limiting your audience can be terrifying to many creatives.
But it gets scarier, because those examples are still pretty vague. And so we need to add more words, words with higher definition, that will decrease vagueness, in order to increase effectiveness, even more.
For example, portrait photography for athletes, print design for health store point-of-purchase displays, branding for artificial intelligence startups. The more terms we add, and the more limit, the degrees of vagueness decrease. And the less vagueness in your positioning, the more impact and control you will have in your marketing.
When you increase the specificity of your brand, you will discover how much easier it is, not only to find your market, but to speak clearly and effectively to them. Less vagueness equals more control. Increase the vagueness, decrease your control. And the less control you have, the more effort you need to exert in marketing, with the least effectiveness. No wonder creatives eventually bail on marketing when they have vague positioning.
Having no time to market is a symptom of vague creative branding. Do you have the courage to reduce the vagueness of your brand and services?
If you’d like to understand more about how less vagueness leads to greater marketing control, as well as specific tactics for marketing with a focused positioning, check out chapters 3 and 7 in my book, Blazing the Freelance trail.