Getting the Heart of Your Business to Work With the Business-Side of Your Business

Oh my! You know that feeling when you realise your last blog post was back in January - and it’s now the end of March?! Whoops! And, to add to that, I haven’t created a video for a while either… So it will come as no surprise then when I write, ‘it has been a busy start to the year’.

However, it’s also been a good start to the year, in many ways. I now have a studio space at Sunset Framing and Gallery, to help separate my working life from my home life just a little better… It’s a work in progress as I am still a workaholic, but it is nice to leave the house and be in a creative environment surrounded by creative people.

At the end of last year, I got brave and submitted my portfolio to the Nuovo Group, who are an Australian greeting card publisher. And guess what?! They selected a large number of my designs for their greeting cards. This was such a big lesson to me - as I was always nervous to submit my portfolio, thinking, ‘I’m not ready. My work isn’t good enough”. Turns out, that was just anxiety kicking in, and a fear of rejection. So this year, one of my goals is to submit my portfolio to places I am keen to work with at least twice per month. What’s the worst that can happen? They say ‘no’ or I hear nothing, and I try again next year with new work in my portfolio. Advice: JFDI.

I’ve also been clarifying what kind of work I am wanting to do, and getting a little more strategic about it. I think this is a natural progression in any business, but it can take a little longer for creative freelancers, particularly those who can lack confidence in areas, as we are keen to get whatever work we can and, well, let’s be honest, to be liked and accepted (as we all do, and often this is what it comes down to).

This has actually inspired an idea for a zine that I might work on down the track… Hmmm…

Here is the challenge that I see many creatives face: Your business is born of your heart’s passion… but you still need to separate your business from YOU…

What I mean is this: You might be a kind-hearted person that wants to help everyone - but giving everything you make away for free to charity is not a good business decision - your business needs cash flow to survive… Or, you might be an introvert who prefers to stay away from the spotlight - but hiding yourself is not a good business decision - your business needs visibility… Or, you might be someone that lacks positive self-worth - but pricing your work as though it is not worth much is not a good business decision - you need to price your work according to the value that others will receive from it… Does this make sense?

This has been a lesson for me, in particular, the last point. I realised that as I lacked positive self-worth, I was attributing a lower value to my work than what others were receiving from it. But if, in my mind, I separate the business-side of my work away from, well, ‘me’, I could look more objectively at what it is worth.

I know, from chatting to various creative business owners, that this is a struggle for many. One strategy I use, that actually my very wise sister taught me, is to ask objectively, “What does my business need?”. Does it need to be visible? Does it need to price things according to industry rates? Does it need someone to be at that upcoming networking event? What does it need?

Another strategy, and I would suggest you use both together, is to look at your business from the perspective of your customer. (After all, without them you would not be in business!) What value are they deriving from it? How does it help them? Often, when we look at this, the other issues that we fret about fall away. Are they enjoying when they get to connect with the person behind the brand, seeing what inspires them? Are they loving that they get to find pieces they identify with, that will help create their home? Do they love that they get to find your products in their favourite gift shop? I don’t know - what is it?

Many of you know that I love listening to podcasts - and one of my favourites would have to be the Creative Pep Talk Podcast. Just love it. In one episode, they were using the example of making t-shirts… Imagine that you have this awesome idea for a t-shirt, you make it, put it up on one of those t-shirt sites to sell, but no one buys it. Then a sale comes - yippee - so you decided to buy yourself a t-shirt, but you don’t buy your design, it’s just not what you would wear. You instead buy something designed by someone else… Which, incidentally, is what everyone else is doing… Now imagine that, from the outset, you designed a t-shirt that you would want to wear - a meeting-point between what you love to design, and what you (and others) love to buy. I think this is where the passion and heart of your creative business meets with the “business-side” of your business, the part that needs to make profit to survive.

I hope this is making sense to you… If I were to draw it, I would have a little dude wearing a grey suit and tie hugging that crazy looking heart shaped dude dressed in rainbow colours… you know? Anyway, this is an idea I hope to explore further, and it’s been just one of the many lessons I have learnt so far this year….

This week, I am making a week-long vlog to catch you up on lots of other things that have been going on, so stay tuned for that soon. And please do let me know your thoughts on my ramblings above. Talk soon!