Explaining your value to others – rethinking networking and pitching
In this final part of my series on the True Value of Your Creativity I am wrapping up by offering some ways in which you can go about explaining your value to others. If you have been following this series you should have been convinced by now to complete my time tracking challenge and address reducing time spent on non-core business tasks and potentially increasing your rates. If you’d like to go back and find out why I make these suggestions you can read Part 1 here.
There may be several ways in which you go about finding your prospective clients: through cold sales; networking; or even just responding to people who approach you directly. In all these contexts the way you speak about the value of your creative work is paramount. It may be that you need to rethink this if you are going to position yourself in a higher price bracket as you previously worked. Conversations need to revolve less around the cost and more around the work. “Let the work speak for itself” is a mantra I’ve heard from many small agency owners. To add to this there are two ways in which you can help the work speak for itself:
Add value to their world
As people we are more than just our work, more than our business. When we meet new people we can start the process of ‘adding value’ before we even show them our work. I really hate the way ‘adding value’ has been assigned to the category of marketing jargon. If we really break it down all it means is that we show our prospective clients we are about more than just doing work and delivering projects for them, we actually exist outside of our industry and want to help them in theirs. What connections do you know that can help them? What insights do you have into the way your industry can help theirs as a whole, not just in the single project that they might need you for? Is there any experience that you have gleaned outside of your current service offering that could interest them? If you are reading this and thinking it smacks of ‘over-servicing’ or over-selling then think again. I’m not suggesting giving your work away for free (let’s save the topic of free pitching for another time). If we think of this prospective business as the building of a relationship rather than a mere transaction then being in it for them is a natural first step. And just because we ‘give away’ some free advice and even a bit of time helping them out, doesn’t mean we automatically become a mat to be walked on. Getting a sense of time-wasters is definitely an earned experience but you can start to limit the time spent on people who are showing no interest, but probably not as soon as some marketing training camps would suggest – seeds of a caring relational manner can take root but fruit of that might not be seen for years. And of course once you are in a project with a client then you’ll have your contracts to guard you against over-servicing but by that point you should have built a firm foundation for open communication so neither party is surprised by the terms you suggest.
Tell your story
Only you are you. Bleeuurrrh! Find me a gold script font and paste that over the top of an epic landscape so I can spew all over it. Has anyone else had enough of being told they are unique? That they should believe in their dreams and make them happen? Yet another brilliant concept that has turned sour, this time not by marketeers but by society at large.
Let’s try and put this in black and white and avoid the trite optimism: There will always be someone cheaper than you. Keeping your prices low and using cost as your value conversation only serves to attract penny-pinchers (notoriously terrible clients) and continue to undermine the value of creativity throughout our whole industry. So in the absence of that to attract your prospective client you have your excellent work to stand on. Your mountains of excellent work done for innovative and enthusiastic clients who let you push the envelope and think outside the box. No? Perhaps you’ve not quite got as much creative work as you would like, so what then? You can sell your story. You are a person capable of excellence so show it in the way you communicate your story. My husband calls it his design methodology. If people come to him, they’ll expect no bull-shit results, framed around a theory of polarity in design. It’s simple, easily communicated and in the time it takes to drink a pint in a pub people are genuinely excited about what he’s capable of. What is your story? Taking time to define, refine and visualise this is worth doing for the sake of communicating your value.
I work with creative professionals who are passionate about creative excellence in their discipline. You want to keep the main thing the main thing, reducing the distractions of the rest of the business to offer this as much as possible for every client. Perhaps you used to believe this was possible, perhaps you never really articulated it before. I hope that through this series you have re-focused your aims towards these ideals. But the reality is not ideal. Actioning even half the suggestions in this series seems so unlikely you will either crumple under the weight of it or give up before you’ve started. But I hope I’ve helped you to see how integral this process of valuing your work is to the long term health of your business. If you need some help taking steps to aligning your business to the true value of your creativity then I’m bursting with enthusiasm to help you out. Please take a look at my services to find out how.
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