Marketing is hard work, and it’s costly. Of course, when we measure those costs against the cost of not marketing, they become a no brainer. But what is the cost of a marketing program for creative entrepreneurs? And what should you reasonably budget for your marketing?
Hard Costs of a Marketing Platform
There are some hard costs associated with marketing. Email marketing platforms cost money, LinkedIn Sales Navigator (very important) costs money, stock photography may cost money (when you can’t find a good image on unsplash.com, that is). And hosting a website is another expense.
But platform costs are nothing compared to the biggest cost center of a marketing program, namely your time. Time is an extremely valuable and costly resource.
Factoring the Costs of Your Time into Your Business Expenses
One of the overall business failures most creative entrepreneurs make is not taking fully into account the real costs associated with your time. A classic example of this is when you calculate your target hourly rate based on billing out close to 100% of your weekly available work hours. This fails to account for all the time you need to spend on your business, rather than in your business. Every business has overhead: administrative tasks, financial management, and especially marketing. When you factor in all this overhead, you’ll be hard-pressed to achieve more than a 60% billing capture rate on average.
This basic misallocation of time is the reason so many creatives end up working way more than forty hours a week—and why they never seem to have time to devote to their marketing. When you adjust your rates to account for your overhead, the value of your time will go up all the more. Since your time is extremely valuable, and marketing takes a significant chunk of it, you really don’t want to waste any of your marketing time.
How to Allocate Your Marketing Time
Of that 40% overhead associated with running a creative business, I generally recommend 15-20% go toward marketing. Realistically, at least in the early years (or until you get your creative business starts hitting on all cylinders), you’ll probably need to spend forty-five to fifty hours per work week—which, using these percentages, would give you between 7-10 hours for marketing each week.
If you were to set a dollar value to your time, let’s say $100 per hour for simple math, you’d be investing $700-$1,000 of your time toward marketing. Those are valuable hours, so how should you use them to ensure they don’t go to waste?
Content Strategy and LinkedIn Prospecting
There are two main time commitments to marketing a creative professional service. One is executing a content strategy, and the other is prospecting and engaging on LinkedIn.
Breaking down these primary marketing tasks a bit further, I would suggest that you factor in at least 45 minutes per day (an hour would be better) for LinkedIn prospecting and engagement. That alone takes up 3.75-5 hours of your marketing time! The rest of that time should be devoted to creating, publishing, and promoting your content via your website, email, and social media.
Spending Time Does Not Always Equate With Results
Being disciplined enough to consistently use the time you set aside for marketing is a necessary prerequisite to any effective marketing program. But results are not derived from time and effort alone. Those efforts must be directed properly—hitting the right targets with the right messages. This is why PinPoint Positioning is so important. If your marketing efforts are untargeted, you might only get a 20% return on that investment. But if your marketing is sharp and targeted, you could potentially get a 2x or more return on that investment.
Therefore the quality of your marketing is essential to making your investment in it pay off. Frankly, it’s the low ROI from past marketing efforts that cause many creatives, who have at least made the attempt to market, to give up on those efforts.
What is the Cost of Doing Nothing?
But let’s consider for a minute the costs of not marketing at all. Sadly, the risks and costs of not marketing are similar to the risks associated with not buying insurance. You don’t feel the pain of not buying insurance until you total your car, or your house burns down. But then it’s too late to insure those assets. Similarly, creatives often wait until business stops, or they suddenly lose a key client or two before they realize the importance of a marketing program. The costs of waiting until that happens can be catastrophic, but it will never bother you until the event occurs.
Unlike car crashes and houses burning down, which are relatively rare—and hopefully will never happen to you—you can almost bank on the fact that sooner or later you will hit a new business dry spell, or your client contact who loves your work moves to a new job and their replacement boots you to the curb. This is just a fact of life in the creative business.
And so you need to give attention to your marketing before that kind of crisis occurs—and that you do so in a way that maximizes the costly investment that you make in marketing.
If you want to make sure that your efforts are worthy of your investment, consider our 12 Month Comprehensive Marketing Program for Creative Entrepreneurs, which will help get you on the path to a steady stream of great opportunities.