Have you been relying primarily on referrals for new business? That’s great when work is flowing, but terrifying when it stops. The answer to overreliance on word of mouth is to establish a constant and directed marketing program—so that you control your pipeline, finding great clients that let you do your best work.
Marketing Takes Time
But marketing takes time. And effective marketing must be maintained consistently, not in fits and starts. I wonder, though, if your typical work week regularly affords you those few critical free hours to focus on your marketing? Not that there’s such a thing as a typical work week for creatives, right? When business is flowing, we can barely keep up with all the demands on our time. Between client communications, general business administration, and the creative work itself, we often find ourselves working well beyond forty hours a week and regularly having to work nights and weekends.
And besides, maintaining a consistent marketing program presupposes the establishment of that program in the first place. Which requires many more hours on the front end—strategizing, structuring, and creating content. Where are you supposed to find all that time?
Marketing During Dry Spells
As a result of marketing neglect, and dependence on referrals, every creative experiences dry spells. It’s at these moments that you realize your need for better marketing. And so you begin to redesign your website (again) or update your portfolio. You make progress on those items, for as long as the dry spell lasts—and if work picks up you abandon those efforts—until the next dry spell.
Wasting Time on the Wrong Marketing Priorities
This is a bad cycle, but you know what makes it even worse? When creatives finally launch that new website, or post a new article, the results are minimal to none. You see, energy directed in the wrong place is just a waste of time and effort.
So what’s the solution? How do you get your marketing in order? And where will you find the time to straighten this out for good?
Imagine a Different Future
Before I can answer that for you I need to paint a picture of what your creative practice can be like on the other side of solving your core marketing problem. Let’s imagine a day after you’ve faithfully maintained an effective marketing plan, month after month, for a year or two. And you now have a steady stream of qualified opportunities. It’s more than you can take on, which is the goal of marketing—always having more opportunity than capacity. Such a situation would require you to say no to some of this excess opportunity, allowing you to select only the best and most profitable projects and clients.
Having more opportunity than capacity results in more freedom and control over your work life than ever before. With that freedom you can easily afford to set aside a handful of hours each week for marketing, to keep that steady flow coming. Doesn’t that sound great?
What’s the Path to This Future?
So how do you get there? How do you overcome the big time investment hurdle of starting a marketing program to reach this future? And how will you maintain these efforts as you wait for those opportunities to build up? After all, it takes time for marketing to gain traction—typically six to eighteen months before you see consistent results. And so every day you put off starting this process is one day further into the future before you enjoy its fruits.
Step one is simply the commitment to start, with a resolve to get over this hill.
Resolve and Sacrifice
There are two ways you can find the time to set up a long-term, sustainable, and effective marketing program. One is to add extra time to your current level of work, to attend to your marketing program. For a season you’ll just have to work harder to get past the initial hurdles.
The second is to tighten your belt for a season, and simply forgo some paid work, and prioritize your marketing until it reaches a level that’s easy enough to maintain. This second option is to be preferred, even though it is most painful in the short run. The lack of revenue will create an urgency that will keep you focused and get you there fastest. This path also allows you to focus all, or at least most of your attention. You will have better results than squeezing marketing into extra hours, which, as you get more and more tired, makes you less focused and less efficient. It’s also the path that you’re more likely to give up on.
Either way, you have to sacrifice, giving up personal time to accomplish this work or the costs of saying no to some paid work in order to devote time to this essential aspect of running your own business.
Don’t Make Costly Sacrifices in Vain
If you’re going to make sacrifices to accomplish this important goal, make sure your time, or money, is used properly. Don’t spend this time redesigning your website. As a creative you will never be satisfied with your site. Its flaws stand out like a sore thumb to you, and its unrealized potential will always mock you. Don’t get sucked into that time sink.
What your website (and other marketing platforms) need is not a new design, but a better articulation of your PinPoint Positioning. So your first task is to establish this clear statement, and then support it on your website. Then you need to establish a content strategy that revolves around your positioning. After that, it’s just a matter of sticking to a routine of creating content on that strategy and pushing it out into your channels. The best channel for marketing a professional service is LinkedIn. You can read more about how to leverage that platform in a previous article.
We Can Be Your Guide
There is one other path to getting to a better, more stable future. You could engage HOLTER Marketing to speed you along, and do most of the heavy lifting of getting your marketing program running. With our guidance, you’ll still have to do the work of landing on a PinPoint Position, but once you do, we set up and run your program—including generating content, and engaging prospects on LinkedIn building them into connections, leads, and opportunities. Then, once things are set and rolling, we’ll train you to take over, so that marketing becomes just one more business skill you maintain for your creative practice.
If you’re not quite ready for that, download our eBook, Six Marketing Wins for Creative Entrepreneurs. It contains a checklist of the most important things to do as you make the most of your time investing in better marketing, toward a better future for your creative practice.