Thoughts on Creative Entrepreneurship | Time is Valuable
In the last few months, we've received an increasingly high number of inquiries from people seeking advice and guidance. It's so exciting to see so many of you allowing your creative entrepreneurial spirit lead you to turn your passions into your career. More than six years ago, I was in your shoes too. Dreaming, making plans, and researching things I don't enjoy (business licensing, tax matters, legal necessities, accounting software...you get the picture!) all for the sake of making sure I could successfully turn my ideas into a successful, functioning company so that I could spend my days doing what I do enjoy. I may not know you, but I do know your heart, your overwhelming desire to do something that matters, and your thirst for knowledge that will help you do it well.
I often receive emails and calls from eager creatives (just like you!) asking for a coffee date, phone call, or online chat session so that they can ask me questions. The same story accompanies each request... he/she doesn't have the money to pay for a coaching session because they're just starting a business (or thinking about it!) but they'd like to know if I can meet with them anyway. When you're just starting out, chances are that your funds are limited. I get it. But here's the thing... the most invaluable piece of advice I can give to anyone preparing to start a new business is this:
Time is Valuable
Your time... meaning your labor... is your most valuable asset. Your time is the energy source that will power your business each and every moment, and ultimately, it's exactly what you'll be selling to your clients. You can't keep giving it away for free. It took me way too long to learn that lesson. Sure, there's a time and a place for giving your time. For example, a joint marketing collaboration with other vendors/partners (such as an editorial photo shoot), or a philanthropic cause (such as donating your services for a charitable fundraiser event) can represent undeniably worthwhile reasons to provide your time on a pro bono basis. There are also many times that it makes sense to provide your services merely at cost, knowing that there's another benefit in it for you even if you're not going to net a financial profit. But... there's a big "but" here... I think that all too often, creative entrepreneurs start to rationalize meetings and "pick-your-brain" sessions as networking opportunities and therefore something we should all do for free. Networking is important. Relationships are important. So important!!! But grabbing coffee and getting to know each other is a different type of meeting than grabbing coffee so that one person can ask the other one for free business advice and professional guidance.
If you want clients to pay you what you're worth, then you need to build up to a place where you are charging what you're worth. This career is how you earn a living! When you start a small creative business, there's no HR department sending you a paycheck each month. You have to earn every single penny and if you don't... you don't get paid. It's hard work and it requires sacrifice.
If you're seeking advice, educational opportunities and professional guidance, remember that those you seek to learn from deserve to charge you what they're worth. This can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes, but it's a powerful pill with a purpose! When a client books a one-on-one coaching session with me, I'm going to devote time prior to the session preparing for it, arrange childcare for my daughter, juggle my work schedule to ensure that I have time clear on the calendar for the meeting, and possibly turn away other meetings or opportunities in order to be present for the meeting. That client deserves my very best and I intend to give it to them wholeheartedly. My time is valuable. And here's the thing... if I'm going to be asked to train someone who ultimately seeks to become our company's competition, then I want to be sure I'm training someone who is going to really elevate our industry, run a legitimate and successful business, and develop as a colleague to whom I'm proud to support and refer business. I want to make sure that that he/she is as serious about this as I am. The wedding and event industry has long suffered from a constant influx of business owners who undercharge for their services. Those businesses usually fail within a few years, but the damage is done. While those businesses are operating, and even long after they aren't, they introduce a price structure to their local markets that significantly undervalues the work they do and the entire industry. This all cycles back to the same thing... time is valuable. You have to charge for it - and so do we. Otherwise, our businesses are just hobbies, and in full disclosure... I can't afford to do this as a hobby (and I'm guessing you can't either)!
I've spent so much time thinking about this over the last year. I have never once regretted spending money on continuing education. Workshops, conferences, and coaching sessions with mentors have been incredibly powerful. Betsy and I both firmly believe in allowing ourselves opportunities to continue to learn. If you're serious about starting, growing and maintaining a business, then you need to invest in yourself. Set benchmark financial goals that allow you to attend workshops, purchase online tutorials, or book one-on-one coaching. You will not regret it. And perhaps the most powerful benefit, whether you realize it or not, is this:
When you start to value your professional growth and education, you'll start to value your own work and be more confident in charging what your worth.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, so be sure to leave a comment! If you're interested in learning more about our coaching program, reach out and let us know!