There’s no question that being a creative entrepreneur is not the easiest path. Going into business for yourself demands considerable effort, diligence, determination, and plain hard work. A fellow entrepreneur friend of mine used to joke that the best part of being in business for yourself is that you get to choose your hours. You alone control which of the 80 hours a week you want to work. There is some truth in that hyperbole, especially when you’re just starting out. But that can’t last forever. You might have to hustle and grind to get things rolling, but eventually you need to get strategic, and find a more sustainable path.
The early startup stages of creative entrepreneurship are pretty exciting. Everything is new. You’re full of hopes and dreams for the future. It’s a thrill to land your first client, and cash your first check. This kind of energy can take you pretty far down the road. But for most of us, who don’t thrive for long under that kind of intensity, we need to find a more sustainable gear before we grind to a halt.
Some business gurus exalt in the hustle and grind. I can understand the appeal. It calls for strength, toughness, and resolution. Those are good qualities to cultivate. But brute force, frenetic activity is no virtue if you exert it in the wrong direction. And high octane endurance is not the only path to success. You can choose to work smarter rather than harder, and that path can lead to even more success in the long run.
The competitive spirit that underlies the hustle and grind approach to running your business has its benefits, but there are also corresponding weaknesses. If your entire focus is on doing more work, more outreach, more networking, more marketing, you can get so distracted that you might fail to recognize when you’re doing the wrong kinds of work, networking in the wrong places, or marketing with the wrong message to the wrong prospects.
Sometimes you need to stop the frenzy, step back, evaluate, and reconsider your direction. The hustle and grind mentality can undermine your ability to do that. And so it becomes a self perpetuating cycle that only ends when you finally wear out.
While resolution is good, we also need to practice a degree of humility as we engage in entrepreneurship. Those two characteristics don’t tend to blend. Some might even say that entrepreneurship is characterized by a marked deficiency in humility. But that doesn’t have to be the case. It is entirely possible to combine sober mindedness with entrepreneurship. And if you want to ever escape the hustle and grind, you’re going to need a dose of humility.
That’s because the alternate path starts with PinPoint Positioning. That is, narrowly defining what you do, who you do it for, and how that benefits them. PinPoint Positioning by definition limits your field, and requires you to restrict your ambitions as you build expertise in one particular area.
This kind of commitment to focus doesn’t not fit well with the hustle and grind mentality. So if you are an off the charts extrovert, or if you thrive in chaos, you won’t choose this path. But if you know that you’re not such a person, and you long for more stability and control in your business, this is the alternate path.
While the path of PinPoint Positioning does have a very different pace of life, and while it does reign in the hustle, in the long run it will beat the hustle and grind both in terms of impact and profits. We’ll make a greater impact in our work when we apply ourselves to one area of expertise. It won’t be as broad, but it will be much much deeper, and more valuable to our clients, and so more profitable as well.
Running a business is hard, there’s no getting around that. But if we apply our efforts carefully, and strategically, we can build a creative practice that grows and builds momentum without being forever dependent on our grinding it out.
Until next week: don’t let the business of creativity overwhelm your creative business.