4 Ways Creative Entrepreneurs Can Improve Their Sales

It has never been a better time to be a creative, well designed products and experiences are in demand - yet many creative shops and entrepreneurs are struggling get paying customers. Here are 4 things creatives can do to help boost their sales:

Do The Work, But Share The Experience

The industry standard of posting your portfolio isn’t enough to stand out anymore. When potential customers look at the work you’ve done they are just seeing the final product you created for someone else, maybe even a competitor. This doesn’t given them the reassurance they probably need to make a decision to hire you.

A way to make your body of work more interactive is to convey the story behind the process of making the final product in an easily consumable manner for the your ideal client. Create a timeline of the project with milestones and details around the problem the client had when they approached you, show your firm’s unique approach and showcase the solution you created. A short video showing the behind the scenes work before and after engaging the client can also be useful, the goal being to visually convey to your prospect how you will help them solve their problem.

This material should be incorporated into discussions prospective customers, since it provides a roadmap for the potential project they may be hiring you for and can help you justify the value of your services. Buyers appreciate being educated on how to avoid mistakes and insights into how their final product will be made, it reinforces their confidence in your ability to deliver. Often, talking about what the process will be and the how the client will be involved distracts them from focussing on the price too much. When you advise them on how to get the best final product, they are more approachable versus being pitched or sold on hiring you.

10,000 Contacts vs. 10,000 Hours

In an article from The Atlantic (link) it was mentioned that young designers are no longer interested in putting in their 10,000 hours because they recognize that 10,000 hours is less important now than 10,000 contacts. I can’t agree with this enough, whilst the quality of your work as a creative is still important, you need to have a market that will pay you for your efforts. Most creatives focus so much on their work, they don’t dedicate enough time to engaging potential admirers or paying patrons until the very end.

If you want to be profitable, you must invest time in building your personal network. Go where you potential customers are - don’t just wait for them to come to you. It’s not about just showcasing the final product, engage an audience by showing them how you work and how your creative approach is different - sharing the process is a way for you to share your story.

It’s also critical to build relationships with your peers - not just for competitive insight and inspiration, but as a way to garner referral business. In the ad world, agencies often rely on referral business from their counterparts that don’t necessarily have the expertise or resources in house for certain projects. Often you don’t have to actually sell anything, if you have invested the proper time to build a relationship and have kept in touch, when the time comes for potential work, it’s a much easier discussion on deliverables and budget.

Diversify

Something that impresses me the most about creatives today is their multidisciplinary expertise. Often they aren’t just photographers - they are photographers and designers, or illustrators and videographers. What bothers me is that they don’t mention it as openly, mostly because they consider their second skill as just a hobby or they don’t feel comfortable offering it as a service.

This is something creatives must capitalize on as it can help provide them additional revenue streams with past or existing clients. I’ve come across many design and creative agencies who make the mistake of only being known for one type of service with clients. When they make the effort to mention that they can provide additional services their customers are often surprised. This should not happen - once you have a prospect or client’s attention and trust ensure that they understand exactly what you do beyond just the scope of what they maybe looking for. It’s worth mentioning, as sometimes client’s aren’t aware of what other services can be of use to them.

Numbers Matter, Do The Math

Many freelancers and creatives have a hatred of the hourly rate as it’s often a pain point in their negotiation with customers - “the rate is never the actual rate”. It is critical for you as a creative to know what your time and expertise is worth and to price both accordingly. Track your time accordingly, see where you can use technology to help speed or automate some of the work that takes you away from the creative process.  

I suggest moving away from an hourly rate and focus on developing packages for your services. This allows you to have the client focus on tangible outcomes, with a defined process and timeline for delivery. With package pricing you can build in profit margins, expenses and buffers in case you need to discount or cut back deliverables. This is why it’s critical to invest time in mapping out what you want to sell and calculating whether its feasible to do so.

Don’t be afraid to say “No” to prospects that demand too much for too little, often these clients can actually take you away from earning more business elsewhere by eating up your time and attention. Stress kills creativity. Your prices should increase every year as you add-on more projects - you must always be testing the market to see where and what the demand is for your expertise.

A love of doing the work is a requirement, but so is the need to be able to convey how the work will be done for the customer. While mastering your craft make sure you spend time sharing your journey to your potential customers. Go show your work and meet your market where they are, don’t wait for them to find you - build an audience and connect with your peers. Experiment and always look to expand your creative services - you never know if you existing clients may need additional help. And remember numbers don’t lie, do the math and make sure you package your services to always make profit.