I was asked this last week: “As a business owner, do you set and keep hours, or do you hustle all day, every day? ”
This question has often haunted me. In 2005, I sold books with Southwestern Advantage in Flint, MI. We started selling before nine a.m. and finished after nine p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and on Sunday we went to training and team meetings. It was an exhausting hustle, but exhilarating.
I didn’t make it through the summer.
Fast forward seven years to 2012. It’s summer again, and my new job requires travelling 7 months away from home. I would have to leave my newborn son and my wife at our new house, 20 miles away from the nearest family.
I quit. I have not held a 9- 5 since.
Another five years down the road, I’m building a successful business and trying to keep these lessons in mind as I set goals and help others set goals for tree business.
Work is important.
Family is more important.
Rest and worship is more important still.
Prioritizing goals is essential to great business building, and the highest priority goals should not be business.
Family, spirituality, faith, worship, self-care, learning, and rest are some of the areas in our lives that should receive priority. This should be reflected in our schedules.
For example, my schedule includes regular nights at home doing dinner and bedtime so my wife can study and dance. I try to avoid social media from Friday evening to Saturday evening so that I have uninterrupted family time and tune to pray and rest.
It would be much easier to commit solely to the business, but the harder goal is to be more than a successful businessperson.
So, today I define success that I am sitting in a room, writing on my phone, keeping the scary things away for the two beautiful children playing in the photo above.
And now I publish this so I can play outside.
What non-business related goals are you crushing this week?
Before you wonder what is wrong with your sales and marketing stats,
Before you look at your SEO and SEM,
Before you split-test your CTA or headline,
Before you consider whether you have the right target market,
Ask yourself these questions:
Do I really understand what I am offering?
If you do not know what product or service you are offering, your metrics will not help you. Find something that you can do that other people want before you look at metrics. For example, I have started a board game company, a book publishing company, and several network marketing endeavors, but none of those were things that people would actually pay me for. Then I started blogging and got paid.
Find something you do that other people want, before you wonder what marketing statistics are.
Do I think people need this?
If you don’t believe in what you do, why should anyone else? One of my current marketing clients spent some time blogging for other people on Blogmutt and then decided that an outsourced content writer was not her cup of tea. So she started writing Greater St. Louis Parks, and now has a site that she and I can recommend to anyone who travels through or lives in the greater St. Louis area.
Do I love Doing My Service or Using My Product?
Again, you may think someone else needs the product, but if you have no means of connecting with your target audience, then you become a push salesperson.
Take some time to really consider these questions before any other question in your business. Only when you know that you do understand your product or service, you see that people need it, and you love the product as much as your customers do, only then can you truly succeed in marketing it: you understand your business, your product line, and most importantly, your target market.
Have you heard the oft-quoted meme that 90% of businesses fail within the first 3 years? Or 5 years? Or 2?
Have you heard that 75% of statistics are made up on the spot? (Get the joke?) Yeah, business failure is one of those statistics, but according to a blog I found reading other blogs yesterday, the real number is 33% of small businesses will close due to failure in the first 6 years.
In a similar manner, the NY Times tells us that there are 10 reasons small businesses fail, including the math doesn’t add up (too small a market, etc.), poor management (lack of focus and vision), and being in a declining market.
Whether it is 90% of businesses who fail or 33% of businesses, starting a small business is hard. One of the hardest things you could possibly do. To make it easier, I am going to show in this post how marketing helps your business survive.
The one idea I want to take from this definition is in the middle of the post:
“However, since the emergence of digital media, … [marketing] has increasingly become more about companies building deeper, more meaningful, and lasting relationships with the people that they want to buy their products and services.”
Marketing is about relationships.
This is what has inspired me to look at marketing as an art form, as a collaborative creative process. If you have ever played in a symphony, you realize that certain types of art require a collaborative creative process. Marketing is one of these arts.
Good marketing involves input from customers, from the public, from your business alliance partners, and more.
So, an original definition of The Art of Marketing:
The art of marketing is a collaborative process using the best of design, content, and analytics tools to create a beautiful process where customers are served by a business.
The art of marketing uses the best design, content, and analytics to beautifully serve your customers.
Now, there are two types of great artists: those who work from their art, and those who work for their art.
Johann Sebastian Bach worked from his art; as a worship leader and performer, he was constantly creating music for his patrons in order to earn an income. He did not become popular until long after he died, when his art was discovered by Felix Mendelssohn.
Neither of these great artists are the ideal we want in a wealth consumption world, but when it comes to keeping your business alive through the first 6 years, they are both inspirational.
Surviving the first 6 years requires a dedication to your business that many other people will not understand. “I am going to be rich.” is not a statement that will keep you going. A marketing minded mission gives you the strength to continue working when customers cancel, when your emails get ignored, when no one visits your website for weeks.
All of these things may happen to you, and what will you do to keep going when they do? The marketing mindset helps get through mortal wounds of a profit-motive business.
“I cannot get clients.” – Consistent content creation is key to getting new clients. A marketing artist creates for the joy of creation and failure to acquire new clients is motive to find other solutions while continuing to work on your business. In the 10 years I have been learning marketing, I have worked at over 10 different jobs and business ideas, including giving maternity shots to over 7000 cows. If I can do that while practicing my art, what can you do to provide while your business grows?
“My clients don’t pay enough.” – Art understands different levels of involvement. Some people want to enjoy art, some people want to participate. Some patrons need a single small item, others want consistent new content. Combining art and business understands that diversity in customer levels is key to practice.
“I don’t have enough products or services.” – Marketing is about finding the product mix that your customers need. Art is about creating for the joy of it. When you combine art and marketing, you will create out of habit and this problem will be reversed.
“I don’t know who my ideal client is.” – This is understandable if you are just starting out. As an artist, remember that your first client is yourself. I have heard many marketers say that you are not your own ideal client, and I disagree. Your first client is yourself, because if you do not enjoy what you do, why do you expect anyone else to?
“I don’t have ANY clients.” – Find something else to do. Seriously, if you have no clients, find some work to do and find a place where you can get paid to do your work. Online, I have found work at Freelancer, Thumbtack, Wyzant, and Blogmutt. Offline I have found work from my coworking spot, my church, family, and local music stores who needed teachers. Keep looking for a client until you find one, and you might learn something about your own aesthetic along the way.
The First 3 Years
Getting through the first 3 years of a business is going to be the hardest part. But, treating your marketing as an artist will help in all aspects of your business. As such, here are the final 5 areas the art of marketing will help you grow your business through the first 3 years and beyond.
Plan to Fail
I once heard of an author who bought all the copies of his first book because he thought it was not fit to publish. I have seen master potters throw 3 to 5 pots, breaking them down each time, until they find one they like. It took me 4 years to realize I was a poor violinist, and another 4 to actually sound good.
Artists fail all the time.
In business, do not plan all your success on one product. This does not honor your target market, does not help you plan for a product lifecycle, and does not give you opportunities to succeed when you do fail.
If you plan at least 3 product lines (currently mine are writing, consulting, affiliate sales, full-service marketing, tutoring, and violin teaching), you can succeed financially even if you have a 66% failure rate.
Give Yourself Time
Do not start a business when you need income yesterday. Two of my business failures were because I tried relying on them to provide for my family too early. Here are some things you can do to give yourself time to start a business:
Get part time work – Many part time jobs are easy enough that you can think through your business while doing repetitive tasks.
Drastically cut costs – What can family, friends, and customers do to help you out? This is the point where bartering makes sense, and if you have to spend time living in your parent’s house or your brother’s spare room, that’s ok.
Learn to DIY – You don’t know how long it will take to find something that clicks. During that time, you might have to do a lot of menial tasks because you cannot afford to do otherwise.
Learning an art takes time, and you need to give yourself that time in your business. Make certain that you are actually making enough money to pay for your four walls (food, housing, transportation, clothes) before you cut the cord to your part or full-time job.
Test, Change, Test, Change
In marketing speak they call this split-testing (try out two variations of a marketing theme and keep the better one), in music it’s called woodshedding.
Again, you don’t know what will make your business successful, so practice many things and keep what works.
Build Collaborative Relationships
The vision of the solitary artist is as romantic as it is false.
Vincent Van Gogh would still be a moody artistic failure if it wasn’t for his sister-in-law’s belief in him, even after he died.
Handel’s Messiah never would have been performed without the support of nearly one hundred other musicians: violinists, trumpeters, flutists, choral singers, operatic stars, and more.
The more your business grows, the more you will need collaborative relationships.
Focus on Your Art
Starting a business is not for everyone. Mike Rowe tried to work with his hands many times before he built a business empire in show business about people working with their hands. There are still many successful business people who work within other businesses, and there is no shame in that.
If you want to start a business, it has to be larger than your desire for financial or schedule freedom. Starting a business, growing a business, and keeping a business is a passion, you need passion to drive it.
For me, my marketing is my art, for a counselor it is the finished product of healthy children. For an inventory handling business, your art is happy clients enjoying your product.
The art of marketing is a great tool to ensure that your business continues now and in the future. If you do not have the time or energy to do your own marketing, why don’t you send me an email and see if I can help you with your business?
Life is difficult, marketing too. Even when marketing gets difficult, it helps to find the good in your life. The Jacobs Brothers with the Life is Good T-Shirt company have a great story to remind us how to get and stay ahead of depression when doing marketing, sales, or just staying alive.
I just saw their story on Inspire More from September, where they talk about how their mother would have the entire family recount something good that happened to them that day.
This attitude of joy and appreciation stayed with them until they were adults and they were able to build a $100 Million t-shirt company. I love their t-shirts and don’t have enough of them, but I am definitely planning on getting more after reading their story.
One of the best resources for dealing with the difficulty of life and marketing is appreciation and joy. My wife and I try to take time each night with our children to share one thing we appreciate about each other around the dinner table. Besides dinner table appreciation, I also try to take time each day and think about 3 or more things I appreciate about each member of my family, and about my business.
In order for appreciation to be successful, it needs to be true, specific, and current. For example, if I told my wife that I appreciate how much energy she puts into changing our kids diapers, it would not work because it is not current. The two kiddos above have been out of diapers for a long time.
On the other hand, when I post to my personal Facebook page
I appreciate her constant commitment to being a mom. This is all three of the prerequisites above: it is true, specific, and current.
Appreciation in Marketing
Practice is very difficult, and it takes time to remember what you are doing well and to verbally express it. I appreciate that my business has grown to the point where I have earned more in the last 8 months than I have in all my other business adventures combined. Good things that have happened to my marketing include a lead from LinkedIn bringing in a new client, Facebook business challenges have given me room to grow and expand my business.
So many good things to be grateful for.
When you are looking at the dreary days of practice for marketing your business, take some time to think through the good that has come into your life. Even if you are homeless and broke, what relationships are you grateful for? (My wife and kids, my parents and siblings, and many more were on my list)
Leave a Comment
Please leave a note in the comments about things you appreciate in business and life. Let’s take some time to share the joys of building a business, of creating content, of caring for our families, of earning just enough to survive, or whatever brings happiness into your life.
Art is more than just a skill; it is a commitment to creative habits, to learning and crafting an aesthetic. I remember still towards the middle of my high school experience when I had to face the choice of whether I wanted to become a professional artist on the violin.
I had played violin since I was four and was one of the best student violinists in 100 miles, but I knew that I would have to be much better if I wanted to develop that into my lifelong profession.
I decided to keep it a hobby.
Qualities of an Artist
Although I did not commit then, I knew what it takes to succeed as a professional artist, as an innovative creator. Fast forward an indeterminate number of years later, I am committed to a different art.
This art includes design and composition, writing and performing. It also includes leadership, relational intelligence, mathematics, and writing skills.
But, the skills necessary for an artist are not as important as the character traits it takes to survive and thrive as an artist; hence the reason I did not succeed as a professional violinist (I still play and teach), I did not have a fundamental artist’s trait: passion.
So, here are 7 character attributes you will need to succeed as a marketer.
Passion for the People, Product and Process
When you are marketing, passion for the product does not cut it. There is such a tremendous learning curve for each marketing system, you get to learn about ideal customers (people), business partners (people), the process by which you get a product or service to the market (process and product). And without passion, why would you learn all that!?
As a Christian, I understand faith in something larger than myself, but even if you are not a theist, you still need to have faith that the world is not coming to an end tomorrow and that the universe is generally in your favor if you do the right activities. Also, you will need tremendous faith and trust in fellow humans, because marketing is all about understanding both your ideal customer (target market) and your co laborers in the marketing project.
Extroversion of Some Degree
Introverts can be marketers, but they will have to break out of their comfort zone substantially. Why? Because marketing is about getting the right products, services and brands in front of the right people at the right time so that they can enter into a relationship with that brand.
Marketing is about people. Yes we get to play with technical things in the dark of our living rooms, alone, after the kids have fallen asleep, but without people to look at our work, we will never be able to earn a living.
Rest. Another one of the attributes that I attribute to my Christianity, but there are many good reasons beyond religious ones to incorporate an attitude of rest into an artistic marketing mindset.
Did you hear when the CEO of Yahoo missed a major meeting with advertisers because she slept in? She is well known for saying that people who need 8 hours of sleep a night are wasting time.
This is silly. From an artistic mindset, rest helps you recover from work, get a new viewpoint on your creative process, helps your brain restart, and helps you incorporate diverse strands into the creation you are making.
An unrested artist creates factory products; this marketing, be different and rest.
A Learning/Teacher Heart
If you want to truly learn something, teach it to someone else. This truism is essential to marketing, because you will be constantly learning and teaching others. Marketing and sales are designed to creatively bring customers into relationships with a brand where commercial transactions take place. You cannot do that without understanding basic principles of teaching.
A Diligent Heart
I did not commit to violin because I knew that I would have to practice at least an hour a day and max out at 5. Every day except rest days. I did not want to commit to that, but it was necessary.
In the same way, I do commit to work on learning and practicing marketing an hour a day. When I am busy writing for clients, I still need to spend at least an hour learning and practicing.
Like all arts, marketing and sales require persistent commitment to habits of creativity. Twyla Tharp, a dancer, has a great book called The Creative Habit. Look it up.
Is the Art of Marketing for Me?
If you are reading through these attributes and think, that sounds hard, it is.
The art of marketing is a commitment that takes significant amounts out of you, but if your passion for what you are marketing, who you are marketing, and why it is important is great enough, you will put up with any amount of labor to practice your art.
I still play violin, but I do not really practice. I also still sing, but I do not practice that either.
I do practice marketing
What art do you practice in your day? How do these attributes reflect on what you are passionate about you are doing? Please leave a comment!
Wahoo! Today is controversy day in my 30-day challenge (Exactly 15 days behind, but who cares?).
While I love and understand the principles behind creating relevant content for a specific audience in mind, this post is about writing for yourself.
Content marketing needs to be focused, relevant, helpful, and targetted to specific questions and needs. Good content is shared, linked to, and talked about and increases user engagement on your website.
But, how do you find out what good content is? Analytics plus a big dose of experience are necessary for fine tuning your content creation.
I want to talk about experience; specifically, I want to talk about the experience we all need as writers to craft a conversational style, to practice writing our thoughts and viewpoint while getting valuable feedback from real audiences about what works, and what doesn’t work.
5 Types of Writing I Do That Will Not Generate Money
A bit presumptuous, you think? All of these types of posts generate money for someone, but they are not my niche (business marketing materials), but I still write and publish them on various forums.
Politics – I know, there are political commentators who make millions of dollars doing it (Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh, to satisfy and enrage both the American Left and Right). But, I am not one of them and will likely never be one, because I get so bored with it. I practice writing about politics for multiple reasons though: sometimes I find something interesting, I get so tired of people’s ignorant comments, or I want a challenge.
Poetry – I don’t often publish my poems, but sometimes I create something that I want to share with more people than my wife (who always laughs at my poor love poems I write her. Don’t worry, they are designed to make her laugh because they are poor poetry).
Fiction – I have not written much fiction before, but I am starting a new sub-domain today about a group of people who incorporate Greco-Roman styles of fighting with local self-government during the Zombie Apocolypse. Why? Because I find the idea interesting (see my reason for politics above). I read fiction voraciously, which means I have and will continue to write it, even if it never makes me a penny.
Spiritual Instructions – I love God, and I love others. I love teaching about loving God and others. I love being repetitive. Love, lovely, do…..
OK. Enough of that. But seriously, I write about spiritual and religious topics because of my passion for them. I have not received direct payment from them, yet.
A freelance writer is always wearing too many hats.
Entrepreneur. Writer. Marketer. There are many more roles an individual must fulfill. Here are a few of mine:
It is always tempting to try to do it all, but I was reminded of the need for team members today when I was struggling with mid-week brain fog caused by too little sleep (the whole being a dad thing) and a need to refresh my business focus.
Cue a phone call from my other half, an administratively-minded, creative person who loves to make lists (See her beautiful face kissing mine above). She was able to take 20 minutes out of her day and help me think through mine as I took a walk around the block (thus increasing my vitamin D intake for the day and getting some needed movement in).
Types of Personalities on Your Team
It is tempting to always do things on your own when you are bootstrapping a writing career, but it really does help to have other people to listen to you, to help you think through your business, and even to work on projects with you. These are some of the personalities that any freelance writer may need to find:
Designer – Yes, we writers tend to be creative. No, we don’t have time to do it all. An art and design portfolio is different from a writing portfolio. When it comes to creating logos, websites, color schemes and more, we often will need other people to look over our work or sometimes offer us a much needed “save.”
Administrative Assistant – Ever sit at a computer, staring at Facebook, thinking: “I have a reason that I logged onto here?” I do it all the time. Many times my administratively minded wife offers a great save by reminding me of what is on my list today.
Idea Sounding Boards – Thinking is hard work. When you surround yourself with people who wish you well and who engage in their own creative processes, you will be able to come up with great ideas and increase them through creative interactions. This post was an idea my aforementioned wife gave me. I also have an idea for a post on creativity that came from my son telling a story about how Nemo touched Captain Hook’s boat and then he and Dory fled from the crocodile by hiding in the whale (Creativity does not have to be creating something new, just improvising).
Financially Minded People – Accounting is hard work. I love math and accounting, but it is still hard work. When you are busy writing, you need to have people around you who understand finances.
Legally Minded People – Ditto.
People Persons – Many writers choose the business because they are introverts who love the idea of hanging out by themselves and writing. If that is you, you will need to ally yourself with some good friends who are extroverts; they would love to introduce you to their friends who need a writer.
Places to Find Helpful Personalities
OK. You get that you need help on your writing journey, but where do you find these people, especially if you are an introvert? The following are places that you can easily find people who want to help you with your business.
Coworking Spaces – I just landed a new client because of a contact I made in a coworking space. A coworking space is a place to get out from under your children’s feet or find a new place to make connections. If you are a people loving parent, you need to get out from home and coworking is cheaper than restaurants. If you are an introvert, you need connections, and a coworking space will encourage networking.
Family – Spouses, children, parents, cousins, and even your great aunt are all great sources for proof reading, sharing content, and other necessary parts of a successful business. One of my best posts on The Writer’s Cue connected with several of my extended family members, who then shared the post.
Customers – Once you land a customer, they can provide you valuable resources, both in finding new clients (referrals) and in their own creative process (as a freelancer, you become a part of their team).
Friends – I had a friend in college who I loved to sit with. I knew that if I sat with Jackie, I would meet someone new. When you make this kind of connection, do not be afraid to stay connected. People like Jackie are gems, because they usually take joy from helping other people connect. There are other friends who have helped me with cars, with non-profit volunteering and more. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
So, even if you are alone, your freelance carreer cannot be lonely. You need help, and there are many people around you who love you and are willing to help you out.
September is half over. This month has been a roller coaster of ups and downs; how do I pick myself up after more than a week away from this blog?
I wanted to do the post-a-day challenge, but I didn’t. I wanted to do list-building challenges, but I didn’t. We had planned for a trip to the beach on Monday that did not go as planned. I am now working on a Saturday because of financial reasons…
September is half over. I have learned and experienced so much this month. While going on our trip to the beach, my wife and I experienced the wonderful love and grace of God and family helping us out through some unplanned expenses.
I have learned more about using a service mindset to close marketing accounts. I have seen my views on this website respond directly to the work I put into it, and that validates me as a writer and marketer.
I have landed 3 new tutoring students this month and just closed out my tutoring schedule!
This is my wife:
She is dancing again after 5 years of consistent physical therapy, chiropractic, and deep-tissue massage (And blogging). She got a call-back about teaching in a local studio this month. Amazing.
I am so blessed, the only reason I feel like I cannot continue this site is because I fell behind on some lists. I fell behind because I was:
Preparing a proposal for an inbound marketing customer.
Finishing first edits of a book for a customer.
Taking time with my family.
Learning additional things this business needs.
Finishing an amazing study on Joy with my wife and our Pastors.
Spending time each day meeting with my beautiful children.
I am grateful and appreciative of the life that God has called me into, and I look forward to helping more of you start and market your own business. I look forward to helping you write engaging content and learn how to grow as a content creator.
Leave me a note on how you have been blessed this week?
How do you set goals when there is too much to do and too little time to do it?
As a business starter, father of two under 5 years old and husband of 6years, there is never enough time to get everything done. Ever.
Maybe you are one of the privileged few who have set an agenda, created daily habits, and regularly plan and execute a limited number of goals to achieve success!
Or maybe that person is a myth.
With real life, habits form slowly and they are often disrupted by the people around us.
Procrastination becomes an essential part of our self-management because it is easier to waste time on mindless tasks than it is to transition to productive tasks when you only have 15 minutes between cars, children, and whatnot.
Setting and Achieving Goals
I often create overwhelming goals. It always helps to come back to my goals, review them, and adjust them as needed.
While my goal this month is to do list building challenges and a blogging challenge, I want to look at the specific goals I have for finding and connecting with actual people this month.
How Many People?
Part of the list building challenge, I am setting the goal for my personal list, one of my customer’s lists, and for views to my website.
25 New Subscribers for My List
100 New Subscribers for Aletheia Christian College’s List
1000 Total Views on My Blog
With writing, editing, teaching, tutoring, dadding, and husbanding, these goals are less than I was planning when I started the challenges a week ago, but a goal that cannot be adjusted in mid-stride is not a good goal.
What are your goals for this month? Who are people that you need to connect with?