When Creatives Need to Become Business People

Article first appeared on Equites.com 

We all heard that creative people use the right side of their brain, and analytical thinkers use the left. This theory is pseudoscience, by the way. There is no scientific backing for it, yet people allow themselves to be placed under a label. I say, break away from silly labels that could be holding you back!

Creative people, especially, fall victim to the idea that since they are creatives, they can’t do business-oriented activities. They believe they can’t balance a budget, sell their product, or be bothered to think about marketing.

I talked to Russell Nohelty, author of Sell Your Soul: How to Build Your Creative Career. He is not only a writer and creator, he is a publisher who spends a great deal of his time trying to convince other creatives they need to build better businesses.

In your book, you talk about artists and creatives underpricing their work. Can you expand on that—why do they do it? How do corporations view creatives and their work?

There is a trend among creatives, and all business people frankly, to race toward the bottom when it comes to pricing instead of focusing on providing value for the price they charge.

Unfortunately, somebody in the USA will never be able to compete with somebody in the Philippines when it comes to price alone. It costs so much less to live in the Philippines. You also will never be able to compete with somebody coming right out of college because they will be cheaper than you. Knowing that, price shouldn’t be the cornerstone of your proposals. You should focus on the other things that you bring to the table.

Additionally, people undervalue their work because companies undervalue the work. Since a logo or a website isn’t returning actual dollars to a company, CEOs tend to treat the creation of them as worthless, or close to it. However, a great logo or website CAN convince more people to buy their product and make their product stand out in the marketplace, so there is a lot of value there once companies see it. Creatives need to educate customers on why they are paying a premium for a premium product.

The thing is, once somebody is inside your ecosystem they are willing to pay a premium for your services. However, until they know, like, and trust you they are going to treat you like anybody else. So it’s better to spend a lot of time entering people into your ecosystem and funneling them through, so that they understand the value you offer and are willing to work with you at a fair price.

Why is creating great content so important?

Great content is the foundation for any creative business. Once you can create something amazing over and over again, then you are in the game. Once you can make a great book, then you can compete with Stephen King. Once you can make a great piece of art, you can compete with Andy Warhol. Before then you are just spinning your wheels. It’s important to note, though, that making great content is just the baseline before you can build a great business. It’s not the destination. It’s the starting point.

What do you mean by “Make it once, sell it forever?”

You only make a product once. Whether that’s a book, a piece of art, or even the prototype for a necklace, a good physical product can be easily reproduced and printed again and again. Therefore, it behooves us as creatives to make the best product we can that one time, because we will be able to sell that piece forever. For instance, 1984 was written once, just one time. However, it’s been printing money for the Orwell estate and publishers ever since. George Orwell has been dead for many years. However, his book is still hitting the top of the Amazon charts even all these years later because he spent the time to make something great.

You really have the numbers down, calculating ROI, long-term investments, etc. Creatives can often be afraid of numbers. What advice do you have for them?

Get over it. You run a business so you must become okay with numbers. They are the foundation of your business. Knowing your revenue and expenses means you know if you are going to be able to pay rent and buy groceries. The numbers are what prevent you from having to worry all the time about when your next paycheck is coming. You must know your numbers if you want to survive.

Is there a secret to being lucky? Would you rather be lucky or talented?

Luck is just being ready when opportunity presents itself. If you as a musician who really wants to play in a band, but you suck at your instrument it doesn’t matter if you meet Eric Clapton tomorrow or never because he’s never going to give you the time of day. However, if you get amazing at your instrument and practice until you are incredible, then people will start to take notice and “lucky” things will start happening for you.

You still need to put yourself in the position to win once you are great, but you won’t get any lucky breaks until you are amazing. Look at American Idol. Those people were insanely talented BEFORE they got on the show.

You are a master salesperson. How can (often shy and humble) creatives, or anyone really, become a salesperson?

I don’t think that I’ve sold anything in my life. People usually think that sales is about convincing people to buy something they don’t want, and I don’t do that.

When it comes down to it, I’m able to clearly articulate the value of my product to people who want to buy it, and convince customers that the thing I am selling is the thing that they already want. I’ve never convinced somebody that didn’t want my product to buy it. I’ve only convinced people who already wanted something like my books that they were right for them.

That’s the trick. People already want things. People love buying things. Your job is to find the people that resonate with your message, add them to your ecosystem, and convince them that your products are going to fill a need they already have in their souls.

If someone is not a creative, what value will they find in your book? Is this for everyone?

Everybody can get value from Sell Your Soul: How to Build Your Creative Career. I did a survey of several dozen books, interviewed experts, and found the business practices common among them. Then, I combined them into a single book, and added my own thoughts on business.

This is really a book for people who make things and every business makes something. My goal was to introduce people to a way to make sales without feeling gross about it. There are millions of people who are scared to sell because they don’t want to feel slimy about it. If that sounds like you, then you can get something from this book.

Your book bolted to the top of Amazon charts. Congratulations. Why should people grab it?

Sell Your Soul: How to Build Your Creative Career is the no-BS guide I wanted when I struggled to make a living as a creative. It’s filled with tried and true lessons from my own business growth, and filled with value. Honestly, most business books have a couple of tidbits which you have to comb through the book to find. This book starts with valuable insights and keeps them coming throughout the book.

If you’ve been struggling to build your creative career, or any career for that matter, I am supremely confident this is the guide you need.

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