Whilst we typically think of “creative entrepreneurs” as those who produce creative work such as photographers, graphic designers, visual artists, writers, videographers, etc. the term “creative entrepreneur” really describes any entrepreneurial person who is accessing their creative abilities to help others solve a problem and make a living doing so.
As somebody who likes to study social and business trends, what I have observed in recent years is some interesting trends:
1) The rise of the freelance economy – there were approx. 4.1 million freelancers in Australia as of October 2015, an increase of 370,000 from the previous 12 months.
2) The rise of coworking and the digital nomad revolution – refer to this handy infographic for more info on this trend.
3) A noticeable shift towards embracing and harnessing creativity in the education system – the most popular TED talk of all time is Sir Ken Robinson’s “Do schools kill creativity?” 2007 talk with over 9.6 million views on youtube.
Now whilst my clients are not typically from creative industries I have hired and mentored creatives in the past, and I’m aware that there are some challenges that those running creative businesses seem to face more than in others.
One of those challenges is around how to market and grow a sustainable creative business.
To dig deeper into this area I turned to creative marketing consultant and business advisor Anfernee Chansamooth. I first met Anf when he and his former business partner were running a facebook advertising agency in 2013 and he’s helped me a few times with growing Linkfluencer.
Anf shared with me that when he is not performing his duties as Marketing Lead for small business coworking community Hub Australia, a space where a lot of creative entrepreneurs and agencies call their home, he’s busy researching the challenges that creatives are facing and creating resources to help their businesses flourish.
Anf shared these 3 signs that a creative business needs better marketing.
Marketing Problem Sign #1: Not enough time
Anfernee explains, “Whilst a perceived lack of time can be the result of poor time management skills, often it has to do with the entrepreneur taking on the wrong type of clients or too many low value clients. If the issue is with the latter, then this is a marketing and branding issue.
How much time are you currently investing in marketing and sales?
At the minimum 25-20% of your week should be focused on improving your marketing and putting a marketing system in place to attract new and high value clients.”
Marketing Problem Sign #2: Not enough money
I’m sure you’ve heard of the “starving artist syndrome” i.e. where entire groups of creatives (artists) find themselves unable to monetise their creative talents and build a sustainable career or business.
Having spent a great deal of time researching, observing, interviewing and training creative entrepreneurs over the past two years Anfernee believes that the “starving artist” (or “starving creative entrepreneur”) is largely the result of a self-perpetuating group mindset or belief that has been adopted by individual creative entrepreneurs.
Anfernee mentioned that whilst he’s certainly met creative entrepreneurs who are struggling financially (and many are juggling part-time or full-time jobs whilst trying to build their business), he has also met dozens of creative entrepreneurs who are financially successful.
One of those success stories is his client Scott Lee – founder of The Unspoken Pitch, a digital design agency that helps medium-sized businesses create dynamic presentations. Scott has done remarkably well for himself by building a 6-figure business in less than two years.
So what makes a creative entrepreneur financially successful?
Anfernee shares, “What is working for successful creative entrepreneurs like Scott is that they’ve been able to identify a good intersection between their creative talents, and a specific audience with money who have a specific problem that they can actually help solve. I call this the ‘creative ideal client sweet spot’.”
“Identifying your ideal client is not enough, being able to put yourself out there, express your value in terms of the benefit to your potential clients (which is where solid marketing strategy is essential), and delivering real results are also necessary”, adds Anfernee.
Many creative entrepreneurs will take on the wrong type of clients i.e. ones they don’t particularly like or don’t really inspire them, because those clients continue to pay them something. However this leads to eventual burnout for the business owner.
Marketing Problem Sign #3: Not enough creativity
Anfernee flagged that the third sign of a business with ineffective marketing is a creative entrepreneur who complains about finding big paying projects with terrible deadlines and low creativity.
Anfernee’s thoughts: “This can either be an issue with targeting, poor branding or a lack of credibility in a business’ marketing and lead generation process. Does your website and Linkedin profile mention who you work with (your ideal client) and what types of projects/problems you can help them with?
Do you have clear examples of past work and client testimonials? Have you made a list of the top 10 companies that fit your ideal client profile and have you reached out to them via Linkedin or other channels? Start there.”
Anfernee is currently developing an 8-week online course (he’s calling it “Accelerator”) to help creative entrepreneurs attract more clients online, and he publishes a regular podcast and blog content on his website focused on supporting entrepreneurs to grow their business.