The long tail of business problems in creative entrepreneurship

You may have heard about “the long tail” with respect to the digital business models of companies like Netflix and Amazon. In a nutshell, the fewer, but most popular “hits” make up about 50% of all their sales—the head of the tail—but the remaining 50% is made up of thousands and thousands of much less popular, rare and niche titles. Each one only provides a few sales, or views—but grouped together, they contribute the entire other half of total sales.

The “Big Three” Business Problems for Creatives

When it comes to business problems, the head of the tail usually includes cash flow, controlling your schedule, and finding new clients. And if you solve those you’ll be 50% of the way toward success! But the remaining 50% is not so straightforward. There are lots of little things that might need adjustment and change. Any one of them might not be making a huge impact, but taken together, they can really drag your business down.

So while it makes the most sense to get the “big three” nailed down as quickly as possible, you also need to have a plan for addressing all the rest. There are plenty of smaller matters related to the logistics of running a business: tax planning, business formation, running and evaluating financial reports, building and maintaining your website, managing email accounts, writing content, evaluating projects, the list goes on and on.

And even the big three issues of cash flow, marketing, and time management—when it comes to solving those problems—the solutions are multifaceted and involve a wide range of decisions, efforts, systems, and new habits.

A Key Skill for Creative Entrepreneurs

Part of the skill in being an entrepreneur is the ability to problem solve, prioritize, and manage these details as they present themselves. That’s not to say that every entrepreneur is equipped with the solutions from day one. In fact, most aren’t. But being able to evaluate and respond to them, learning as you go, is an essential entrepreneurial characteristic. If you tend to run away from problems rather than run toward them in order to solve them, then perhaps being a business owner isn’t the best choice for you.

When I contrasted creative startups with their more typical Silicon Valley cousins in my article, “What if there were a Shark Tank for Creative Startups?,” I noted that creative entrepreneurs lack exposure to experienced advisors in the form of investors and venture capitalists. We creative entrepreneurs are often on our own. Instead of accessing a well of experience that can predict likely problems—so we can be prepared with strategies, we keep play a never ending game of Whack-a-Mole.

Business Advice for the Whole Tail

But there are resources to help. And, shameless plug time, that’s why I write these articles, produce my podcast, and offer a Better Business Plan for creative entrepreneurs. It’s also why I structure my mentoring services around a long-term model. You can probably solve some of the big problems through a short-term consulting engagement—but it’s all the remaining “long tail” issues that can become overwhelming. Creatives need resources and advice to manage the ongoing maintenance of running a business, and they can’t get them from the ordinary sources that other kinds of entrepreneurs have.

What are Your Long Tail Issues?

In producing my content, I have to prioritize the biggest issues most frequently, but I also like to get down into the details of management and implementation. And so here’s your opportunity to get some help on some of the long tail issues you might be facing. Just shoot me an email, or use the comment form on my website, or just message me on Linkedin, to ask about any of the smaller matters you need to solve. I’ll try to respond directly, or perhaps I’ll answer some of the issues in future articles and podcasts.

So, what annoying gophers are you trying to whack today?

Are you ready to take the struggle out of finding new clients?