- Just follow your passion!!!
- Find your life’s purpose and build a business around it (yes, just like that!)
- Be your authentic self (and everything will be fine)
As a creative business owner, is there anything more unhelpful than rally cries like these? It’s like a therapist telling you “cheer up” when you’re feeling depressed and sending you on your merry way.
When you’re struggling to figure out how to get from where you are in your business (stuck) to where you want to be (flourishing), what you actually need is less rah-rah and more real strategies that will give you the perspective, actionable steps, and support you need to make real strides in your business.
If you’re OVER feeling overwhelmed and are ready to figure out exactly what you need to do to move your creative business forward, these steps will get you firmly on track.
Step 1 – Know what you want to achieve and why
Have you ever asked yourself what you really want your business to do for you? Do you want it to be a vehicle for fulfillment, excitement, acclaim, fame, impact, or oodles of money? The first step to building the business you want is to get real about what you want and why. After all, you can’t chart a path to something that’s not clear, even in your own mind.
List everything you’d like to be, do, or have in the next 30 years, 10 years, 5 years, and 1 year. Brainstorm this on a huge piece of paper and don’t overthink or edit. What are the patterns you see? Do material goods feature highly? How about thought-leadership? What about collaboration and innovation? None are right or wrong, so resist the urge to judge. Where you land will largely influence the kind of business you create, the business model you’ll choose, the people you collaborate with, and the people, brands, or organizations you target.
Step 2 – Identify where you add value
Did the title of this step trigger your resistance or fear? It can be really difficult for us to acknowledge we have something of value to offer, let alone shout about it. Just the prospect of it can trigger imposter syndrome and a swift retreat. I get it, but if you want what you say you want, it’s time to let it go. Here are a couple of ways to identify what you have to offer:
Reflect on the question “Where do I add value and how?” When we get still, journal, look back over past projects or experiences that went well, a lot of the answers bubble up. Most of the time, we’re either too busy, or too distracted to tap into our own knowledge and wisdom. Try the following exercise:
Grab a piece of paper and draw a line from top to bottom down the center. In the left column list all the benefits people get as a result of working with you. That might include: a brand identity that up-levels their brand. Keep going until you’ve exhausted every little think you can think of. Now, for each thing you list, ask “So what?” and write down your answer in the right column. So, for the example above, the answer might be, “So that I can attract higher-quality clients who will pay higher fees.” That’s the value you bring.
- Ask past clients or people who regularly engage with you what they like most and value about you. I promise you’ll hear more lovely things than you’ve heard all year and will be surprised by what’s meaningful to them.
Step 3: Connect the dots
Is there any better feeling than finally figuring out how the pieces of the puzzle all fit together? When you’re a small business owner, it can often feel like you’ve got blinkers on and you only get to see one piece of the picture at the time. Without knowing the benefit of a bird’s eye view, it’s almost impossible to figure out what parts to focus on and in which order, but there is a way!
Seek creative entrepreneurial communities or mentor relationships where you can benefit from experiences of those who have been there and done that. The more you surround yourself with experts and/or people further along than you, the more you’ll be able to piece together the puzzle and make an informed decision about what your next best action is and who can support you as you execute it. Start researching on-line communities, masterminds, in-person industry networks, meetups and check them out. Reach out to icons in your industry and ask if they’d be willing to share their advice and story with you (hey, you never know!). Be a sponge, get excited about learning from others, and over time, you’ll get clearer and clearer.
Do you see a common thread forming here? When we gain clarity around what we offer, where we fit, and how to deliver our expertise, we create a space in which we thrive. That means more joy, more fulfillment and more income!
If you’re ready to move your creative business forward in leaps and bounds this year, I’d like to invite you to schedule a free introductory call with me. Click here to get started.