Getting Your Systems in Order as a Creative Entrepreneur

Getting Your Systems in Order as a Creative Entrepreneur

Systems? Creativity? There’s no way these two things go together.

And yet, as I see it, to not have systems is to waste a lot of time.

Now, I will say at the outset that systems should exist to serve you – not the other way around. To serve systems, unfortunately, is to become a slave to them. And, that works about as well in business as it does in creativity.

The purpose of systems is to boost your productivity. No, scratch that – the purpose of systems is to boost your effectiveness.

Increase Your Effectiveness with Systems

My business coach, James Schramko holds that the obsession with productivity is generally misguided. This is because productivity is all about getting things done.

This is akin to using a hammer to hammer nails, drill screws and saw through two-by-fours. A hammer was intended for one of these tasks, but not all of them.

What I’m saying is this – in productivity, every task looks the same. You can’t differentiate one from another. You can’t help but see all of them as being equally important.

In practice, that’s never the case. Some tasks and projects are always more important than others.

What matters is effectiveness – prioritizing things that will move the needle in your business.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the 80/20 rule, which states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. If you can identify the 20% that’s making a difference in your business, you’ll be miles ahead of most.

Here’s another way of looking at it:

If you’re focused on urgent tasks, you’re probably not dedicating enough time to important tasks. You see, low priority tasks are almost always urgent, while high priority tasks rarely are. That’s an easy way to distinguish whether what you’re working right now is high value.

What is a System?

Now that you understand the difference between productivity and effectiveness, it’s time to define what a system is.

Systems are processes, procedures and policies. Some people know them as Standard Operating Procedures (or SOPs).

Ever since I read David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, I’ve been using a yellow legal pad for my to-do lists, and a desktop calendar to keep track of my schedule. That is now a system embedded in my business.

Systems enable a business to scale and grow. You may be able to take your business to a certain point without systems, but inevitably there will come a point when you simply can’t expand any further. To lend credence to this point, I’ve interviewed over 100 successful business owners and they all told me the same thing.

Systems help you identify the steps involved in every task you need to carry out, which can help you speed up your work. And, if you want to hand tasks off to your volunteers, community members or employees, you can simply give them your procedure documents and they’ll be able to take over (assuming your documents are easy to understand).

The goal of this section is to introduce you to the concept of systems and not to help you earn an MBA, so for our purposes systems are checklists.

All Repetitive Tasks Should be Turned into Checklists

Nothing could be simpler than a checklist. It starts at step one and sequentially outlines every step necessary to complete a specific task.

Despite its simplicity, it’s an elegant solution to help you improve your effectiveness.

Let me ask you a question:

Do you ever find yourself doing the same things in your business repeatedly?

I’m sure you can think of a few things, whether it’s setting up your camera, answering emails, posting to social media or otherwise.

All these tasks can be – and should be – turned into checklists.

Why do I say that? Well, repetitive tasks may not exactly be sexy. But if you find yourself doing them all the time, there’s probably a good reason for it. There’s a strong chance they’re important to your business. And, if you find a few that aren’t, then you can take this opportunity to eliminate them.

There’s nothing glamorous about posting to social media. But it needs to be done. So, you should have a checklist detailing each step that needs to be followed. Your document should contain information like when to post, what to post, what platforms to post to and so on.

Then, once you have your checklist, follow it. Not only will tasks be completed in less time (try timing yourself) – you’ll also be able to achieve consistent results every time. So, with systems your overall effectiveness increases.

Harness The Power of Tools

Every task you need to do should ultimately be subjected to delegation, automation or elimination.

I’ve covered the delegation and elimination pieces already. Now it’s time to look at automation.

Does this mean that some tasks can be put on autopilot? Essentially, yes.

Now, I’m not necessarily talking about using AI here, although that could certainly be a part of the equation. What I’m saying is that there are plenty of apps and tools out there that can help you minimize time spent on repetitive tasks and maximize time spent on creativity.

There is almost always a setup process and sometimes a maintenance process with tools like these. But if it eases your burden and allows you to spend more time on your art, it would be worth investing into automation, would you agree?

I’ll offer a couple of examples.

I’ve used a variety of social media scheduling tools through the years. Then, I found Meet Edgar. Meet Edgar allows you to create a library of posts and have them go out at specific times according to your calendar. Assuming you have a lot of posts queued up, your social streams will stay fresh without you constantly having to manually post to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Similarly, I like to use a tool called Repurpose. Among other things, it will take your podcast episodes and turn them into YouTube videos automatically. Once you’ve connected your accounts, this all happens automatically. Incredible.

This is just the starting point. There are so many other great apps out there depending on what you need to automate, so don’t be shy about Googling solutions that could make your life easier.

You May Not be Able to Systematize Creativity – But You Can Systematize Everything in Between

There are many aspects of creativity that can be systematized.

Consider the example of a painter. Every time they go to paint, they need to set up their easel and canvas, their paints and brushes, water jar and paper towel, and anything else they need.

Do you see how this process could be boiled down to a checklist? Even though you’ll probably do this dozens, hundreds or even thousands of times as a painter, having a checklist for your process can speed things up and help you get to the important part – painting – faster.

Developing Yourself as a Creative Entrepreneur

Developing Yourself as a Creative Entrepreneur

Maybe you don’t believe in all that “personal development crap”.

I get where you’re coming from. I think it’s relatively normal to be a skeptical, especially as a creative.

And, through the ages, creatives have a history of being exploited. No wonder we’re always on guard.

But if I decided not to share about personal development with you, I believe I would be doing you a major disservice.

That’s because personal development has helped me overcome many mental blocks and obstacles. It’s gotten me to the point where my mind is quieter than it’s ever been and I’m able to act on what I say is important to me.

Isn’t there something in your life you say you want to do, but you keep putting it off? What’s going on there?

It’s not that you don’t know what to do. You probably know the exact steps you need to take. And yet, you’re stopped by something.

That’s where personal development comes in. It has the potential to change all that.

Get the Reading Habit

Some of the most popular posts on The Music Entrepreneur HQ website have to do with books.

The stats show that people don’t do a whole lot of reading once they leave college or university. But maybe creatives are the exception. I personally know at least a few creatives who actively read to stimulate their mind and generate new ideas.

So, maybe you don’t need to be told to read. Where you may be thwarted is in what to read.

Now, any kind of reading is beneficial. It keeps your mind sharp. It makes you a better writer. And, it can help you generate new ideas.

But if fiction books are all you read, you should consider expanding your horizons a bit. I want to challenge you to dig into topics like:

  • Personal development and self-help.
  • Leadership and management.
  • Business and entrepreneurship.
  • Marketing and promotion.
  • Finances and money management.
  • Spirituality and beliefs.

This is where growth happens. It’s okay if most of your reading is dominated by fiction. But consider adding a little bit of personal development material into the mix.

Listening is a Two-Way Street

Another great resource for personal development is audio. Podcasts, audio courses and audiobooks are the obvious place to look.

You can subscribe to podcasts entirely for free, and there’s plenty of great content out there, regardless of what topic you’re interested in learning about. You can even listen to industry or competitor podcasts to get a sense of what’s going on in your niche and what your peers are up to.

Audio courses can usually be found through independent providers – typically entrepreneurs, much like yourself, who are creating educational content to help people in their niche. Cost will vary, but most of this material is quite helpful.

As for audiobooks, I recommend using a site like Audible, which is an Amazon-owned company that sells audiobooks. I think it’s best to read and listen to books, not just one or the other. But whether you want to buy audiobook versions of the books you already have or pick up books you don’t already own is up to you.

Go Old-Fashioned

There used to be a time when people would apprentice under a master to learn their craft. Students had mentors they could turn to when they didn’t understand something or needed some guidance.

As an entrepreneur, you should have a mentor (or even a group of mentors) you can depend on. Don’t try to do it all alone. Don’t get stuck in your own head.

I’ve made many poor decisions because I didn’t have a 360-degree view of what was happening in my business. If I had asked a few of my friends and mentors for their opinions, I probably could have avoided some of those mistakes.

When you’re working hard, you can easily lose sight of what matters. This is especially true if you’re on the verge of burning out, or you’re already burnt out. So, don’t rely on your own brain for everything. Get guidance and feedback on an ongoing basis.

Since mentors can see things you can’t, they can also help cause breakthrough in your business or career. Seek out mentorship. Find someone who’s accomplished things you’d like to accomplish and ask for their advice.

It’s All About How You Enter the Room

Please go to events and conferences, and don’t get too caught up in what’s good or bad. You’ll figure that out as you go.

Learning is all well and good. But if you don’t get into groups to learn from others, be present with them, and discuss and act on what you’ve been learning, it doesn’t do you much good. I’ll talk about why that is a little later.

Some of my biggest breakthroughs have come as result of going to seminars. Sure, there are some books and podcasts that have had a huge impact on me. But of the hundreds of books I’ve read, there are only a dozen or so that made a difference. Of the thousands of podcast episodes I’ve listened to, I’d venture to guess it’s only a few dozen that made a real difference for me.

Now, I’m not going to give up on books or podcasts. But it’s altogether too easy to hole up in your ivory tower and read books and listen to audio and think you’re making progress. Plus, it’s comfortable.

Conferences and events, on the other hand, can shed light on what people have done with the material you’re learning, and how they got it out of their head into a form that lives in the real world. And, that’s the only place it lives.

Get into the Game

What you learn makes no difference unless it exists in the world.

And, I’m sorry to be the one to break the news, but nothing that lives in your head lives in the world. Whatever is in your head is not real.

This is the reason I encourage people to write their goals down with pen and paper. Once you’ve done this, your goals exist in a material sense. But they did not exist prior to you writing them down.

So, act on what you learn. Test it out for yourself. Learning makes no difference unless it takes physical form.

Clear the Way for Something New

I used to think that personal development was all about more, better or different.

But what I’ve discovered is that there is no breakthrough in more, better or different. You can improve a little bit every single day. But that doesn’t lead to quantum leaps in your personal growth or mindset. Doing more of something, doing it better or doing it differently is what you’ve been doing your whole life – and you may have seen some change. But I’m guessing you haven’t seen much breakthrough.

I now believe that personal development is about clearing the space for what you want in your life. If you can’t seem to get started on something you know is important to you, it’s because there’s mental, emotional and/or physical clutter you need to unload. It’s because you need to cause completion in areas where you feel blocked and incomplete.

Once you’ve made the space for it, creating new possibilities becomes easy.

How to Engage in Creative Alchemy as a Creative Entrepreneur

How to Engage in Creative Alchemy as a Creative Entrepreneur

In 2017, I defined Creative Alchemy as follows:

Creative alchemy is the art of combining your skills and talents to create something unique.

I know plenty of creatives that aren’t just good at one thing. Some who play music also paint. Some designers are also sculptors. And, still others engage in just about every artistic discipline imaginable.

Entrepreneurs can’t help but connect the dots between seemingly desperate entities and see the possibilities.

If you’re a musician that also likes to paint, then there’s almost certainly a way of bringing the two mediums together. For instance, you could host a CD release party/art exhibition hybrid event.

We see this in the niche business world as well. Consider the example of Nerd Fitness, which is a nerd-friendly fitness website with gamification elements that make the process of getting in shape more fun. So, it’s a hybrid community for nerds who also want to feel and look their best.

If you don’t consider yourself multitalented, or you’d prefer to dedicate yourself to a single artform, that’s fine. Creative Alchemy may not be for you. But if you’re beginning to see some possibilities emerging, read on.

Do Everything You Love

Emilie Wapnik is the founder and creative director of Puttlylike. Her website is a community dedicated to a group of people she calls “multipotentialites”.

As I’ve already shared, there are creative and artistic people who are good at a lot of different things. Wapnik is one of those individuals and she encourages her tribe to pursue every passion they have, without compromise.

Now, let’s be realistic here – you need to go about this in a structured way. If you don’t, you’re not going to get anything done.

This might mean choosing what project to focus on right now, maybe for a 30- to 90-day timeframe, while you forsake all other interests. Or, maybe you could triage projects and work on the top two or three that you find most compelling. And, as you finish one, perhaps you could bring another in.

If you visit Wapnik’s website and read a few of her blog posts, you’ll certainly get some ideas on how to develop that type of structure around your projects.

I don’t think Creative Alchemy is a license to pursue everything you want to do simultaneously. It’s the discipline to take massive action on what you want to do now so that you can free up your time to engage in the next thing you want to do later, and then the next. 

But if Creative Alchemy is something that has captured your imagination, then recognize that there is a way to try your hand at every artistic medium that intrigues you.

And, ultimately, it’s the practice of combining these passions in meaningful ways. But to do this right, you will need to be a both/and thinker instead of an either/or thinker.

Live Like There’s No Tomorrow

Another Creative Alchemist I’ve had the pleasure of talking with is Jules Schroeder, Founder & Visionary of Unconventional Life. She was a guest on my podcast and I was a guest on hers.

If you visit her personal website, you will quickly see that her interests and passions range from music and public speaking to travel and Acro dance, and a great deal more. And, her visitors have even told her that her website is a little all over the place.

But Jules’ story is positively inspiring. In 2015, she got into a wakeboarding accident that left her paralyzed in her neck. Apparently, she was visited by a white figure and six black shadow council members in her hospital bed. She was then told that she had more work to do in the world and was asked whether she wanted to continue.

Unwilling to go on paralyzed, her neck miraculously forged together, and she got a second lease on life. So, she made a vow to make the most of her time here. No wonder she’s so motivated and action-oriented, right?

I like the idea of “living like there’s no tomorrow”, because in a very real sense, today is all there is. Yesterday is a memory. Tomorrow will just be another today. So, it’s all about what you make of the now. And, now is now.

If you had no constraints in your life – temporal, financial, physical, mental, emotional, psychological or otherwise – what would you do? What would you pursue? What would your life look like?

People let a variety of things stop them from experiencing and engaging in life, and it ranges from a “sore leg” all the way to a debilitating health condition. You can’t move ahead by “coping” with this. You can only move ahead by clearing this clutter and making space for the new.

I’m not making light of any disadvantages, any challenges, any problems or issues you may have. But just know that many have let those things stop them from pursuing their dreams. Will you?

Connect the Dots

This book is not about me. It’s about you.

I was somewhat reluctant in profiling myself in this section of the book. But as a purveyor of Creative Alchemy, I felt it was my responsibility to share.

I don’t have a shortage of ideas when it comes to combining my skills and talents in compelling and unique ways.

As my bio says, I’m a musician, studio engineer, author and content creator, designer, teacher, speaker, coach, entrepreneur, investor and community builder. And that’s the short list!

I’ll give you one example of where many of my talents could all come together: video.

For instance, I could utilize my art, my graphics, my music and my voice to create unique video content. It would be a lot of work, because it’s the meeting place of several disciplines. But if I brought it all together, I know I could create something unique.

In my experience, this is not something you would ever be able do inside of a job. That’s partly what makes it so counterintuitive.

But there are many aspects to creative entrepreneurship that are counterintuitive. So, don’t fight against it. Embrace the tension. That’s where the growth happens.

You Aren’t Limited to Just One Thing

I will never discount the importance of focus.

But just because you’re focused on one thing doesn’t mean you can’t be focused on many things.

Meanwhile, focusing on many things at once is a challenge. And, you would need to manage your schedule extraordinarily well to do it all at once. Even then, you’re going to risk burnout.

But as a mentor of mine once explained, we can all handle about two or three things simultaneously. So, don’t overload yourself. Decide what matters most to you and pursue that. Choose two or three things and take massive action on those.

And, when it comes to Creative Alchemy, you’re allowed to combine several mediums. Yes, it will be more work. You will need to allow for more time to complete each project you work on. But you can also captivate the world by fusing different disciplines together. That’s what’s cool about it.

A Brief History Of Seattle Punk And Its Impact On The City

Hey, musicpreneur!

Today I’ve got something a little different for you via past contributor Victoria Greene, who explores the impact of grunge on Seattle. This seems timely based on recent events.

By the way, if you think you’ve got something worth sharing with our community, you can always check out our submission guidelines.

With that, here’s Victoria!

Very few artists are completely original; even great artists build upon what has occurred before, and add their personality and talent to create their own original expression. – Stephen Tow, The Strangest Tribe: How a Group of Seattle Rock Bands Invented Grunge.

When people say Seattle punk one word comes to mind: grunge. Below I’ve given you a brief history of grunge and what the impact of this punk movement has been on Seattle.

“I hate Mr. Epp and the Calculations… ”

… Pure grunge! Pure noise! Pure shit.” So said Mark Arm, of his own band (Mr. Epp and the Calculations), in a 1981 letter to the Seattle zine Desperate Times.

Arm wasn’t just some snot-nosed punk-spit with a fancy for self-deprecation. He would later go on to form Mudhoney, the band who grunge artists themselves considered the scene’s watermark. As Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder said:

When it comes to grunge or even just Seattle, I think there was one band that made the definitive music of the time. It wasn’t us or Nirvana, but Mudhoney. Nirvana delivered it to the world, but Mudhoney were the band of that time and sound.

But it wasn’t until 1988 when Arm formed Mudhoney. In between plenty happened to fire Seattle’s punk scene.

“Ultra-loose GRUNGE… ”

“… that destroyed the morals of a generation.” That was the tagline used by Sub Pop (more on them shortly) when promoting Dry As a Bone, the second EP releases by Arm’s band, Green River. Formed in 1984, Green River were early punk pioneers.

The group released two EPs – Come On Down (1985), and Dry As a Bone (1987) – and one album – Rehab Doll (1988) – before disbanding in 1988. However, Green River’s influence was felt strongest in the bands that formed from the group’s ashes – Mudhoney and Pearl Jam.

Mudhoney formed the year Green River broke up, while Pearl Jam started in 1990. By the time Pearl Jam got together, grunge was swollen with bands. But before we get there, a quick wind back…

“This isn’t metal, it’s not punk… ”

“… What is it?” Sub Pop is now one of Seattle’s most successful punk exports. That’s all down to grunge. In 1987 the record label released Sub Pop 100. Sub Pop would put out many records crucial to the pre-commercial explosion of grunge, with Jack Endino producing.

Endino’s quick, gritty, and cheap approach to recording meant that the records put out by Sub Pop had a shared sound – sludgy, sloppy, and screwy. Among these records were Mudhoney’s self-titled first LP (1989), Nirvana’s maiden album, Bleach (1989), and Soundgarden’s debut EP, Screaming Life (1987).

Soundgarden were predicted to be grunge’s breakthrough act. In Chris Cornell they had a frontman with fearsome lungs and cheekbone charisma, while his bandmates provided a rock sound that locked both forwards and backwards. But it was Pearl Jam, just a year after forming, who cracked the mainstream with 1991’s Ten.

“I don’t have a TV in the car I live in.”

Pearl Jam eased open the doors to the mainstream for grunge but Nirvana ripped them off the hinges, poured gasoline on them, and tossed in the match. This caused pop to explode, with Seattle emerging from the flames.

Kurt Cobain may have been living in his car when Nirvana released their game-changing sophomore LP, but it wouldn’t last long. Nevermind hit record stands on September 24, 1991 and knocked Michael Jackson from the top of the Billboard 200 less than four months later. The impact was seismic.

Seattle couldn’t have been hotter.

Its bands ruled the charts, airwaves, and music channels – with Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and their peers’ fusion of punk, metal, pop, hard-rock, and lo-fi, scorching the earth.

Its style became the fashion of the day, with ripped jeans, flannel shirts, long-hair, and battered baseball shoes filling the streets.

Its stars filled the newspaper columns  – Cobain in particular, who was both a menace to America and the future of its music.

But Seattle punk’s time in the sun was to be brief. Less than three years after the release of Nevermind, Cobain was dead. Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, and many of their peers remained, but the commercial impact was drained. By the mid 90s pop-punk had swamped the chart, and California had claimed Seattle’s flame.

Grunge is (Not) Dead

It may be nearly 30 years since grunge’s heady days, but the punk movements impact on Seattle lasts to this day. What did Arm, Cobain, Cornell, Staley, and Vedder bring to their town?

The spirit of DIY, of doing things your own way. Not decidedly to be different (though, being different is no obstruction) but because it’s the best way.

  • It can be seen in its folk schools. Started as an alternative to the established academic methods of education, these institutions let people unpick themselves from the fabric of modern, tech-driven, society.
  • It can be seen in its businesses. Seattle is one of the most febrile areas in the US for startups. The current Seattle business listings are full of companies started by creatives in their spare time, for love (not money, which have come to global attention – just like grunge).
  • It can be seen in its alcohol, its arts, its politics, its theater, and, of course, its music. If you are a musician seeking inspiration for how to make your way as an entrepreneur, there are some excellent places you can turn to help you make your way in business on your own terms.

Conclusion

Kurt Cobain might be gone but grunge is not dead. Grunge was founded on a spirit of integrity, liberalism, and equality. Most of all it was about doing things your own way and succeeding as a result.

Grunge didn’t make Seattle independently minded but it showed the world it thought and fought for itself. Today Seattle continues to show those DIY qualities to the world.

Serving Your Audience as a Creative Entrepreneur

Serving Your Audience as a Creative Entrepreneur

You’re at the heart of your creativity. So, it’s easy to mistake yourself as being the most important person in your career.

I can already hear you saying, “Wait, what? I’m not?

Well, your career wouldn’t be possible if not for the people that support you on your journey.

I’m talking about the people that interact with you on social media, leave comments on your blog, join your email list, buy your products and more. You can’t take these people for granted.

Today, customer expectations are higher than ever. And, it’s entirely too easy to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths when you consistently underdeliver. Now, I’m not saying you won’t make mistakes, but your reputation is something that must be protected.

Let’s talk about serving your audience as a creative entrepreneur.

Connect & Engage

Musician Jonathan Coulton was once a computer geek with a day job. Eventually, he was able to make the leap to stay-at-home dad and full-time musician.

He’d been planning to leave his job for many years to pursue music. But before long, he found himself in his mid-30s with a mortgage, a wife and a daughter. With his wife’s blessing, however, he began writing and releasing one song per week.

His songs were full of novelty, with plenty of references that would make a geek smile. And, they caught on fast.

Soon, he found himself answering upwards of 100 fan emails per day. It was taking him four to five hours daily just to process all the messages.

Sound like a good problem to have? I agree. But Coulton was quick to mention that having to answer that volume of emails was a lot like working a day job.

It wasn’t long before he hired an assistant to help. Regardless, the point should be clear – Coulton felt it important that each of fans got a personal reply. Do you know anyone that’s shown the same level of dedication to their inbox?

It’s not about what you think you would do in a situation like that. It’s about what you do when success suddenly descends on you. Someone who’s gone through the momentum of it will confirm that these are two different things.

Add Value to Your Audience

There are many ways to add value to your audience.

In the world of online marketing, marketers often employ a strategy called content marketing. Essentially, it’s the act of creating content that serves and helps your target audience on an ongoing basis, ultimately ushering them onto taking a profitable action.

You need not look far to see examples of this strategy in action. For instance, have a look at SuperFastBusiness. A quick look at the blog and podcast section of the site will show content on a variety of topics online business owners would find valuable – running a membership site, how to improve your marketing funnel, engaging your community and more.

I do the same thing with The Music Entrepreneur HQ. I publish content on a variety of topics musicians and music entrepreneurs would find valuable, whether it’s booking shows, designing a band logo, steps to become a professional guitar player or otherwise.

The content is free, but it serves a purpose. And that purpose is to generate traffic to the website, build trust and get visitors to subscribe to my email list or purchase a product. Content is a powerful traffic generation tool.

No matter how you go about it, giving something away for free is a great way to build your audience. You don’t necessarily need to give it all away. But it is a good idea to think about what you can do on an ongoing basis to connect with your visitors, prospects and customers.

Understand Your Audience’s Interests & Needs

It’s all good and well to add value to your audience. But this won’t do you much good if you don’t know what they want to begin with.

Today, people vote with their attention. An often-quoted marketing stat shows that the average person’s attention span is about eight seconds, which is less than a goldfish.

I don’t buy into that statistic, even for a moment. But it is true that if you have someone’s attention, they’re far more likely to do business with you. People buy from those they know, like and trust. That’s something that hasn’t changed in a long time and it isn’t about to change either.

When you are truly serving your audience, you aren’t just creating content or a product. You’re creating something they’ve specifically asked for and want.

So, you need to pay attention to your audience. Read their blog or social media comments and their emails. Survey them. Check your analytics (i.e. with Google Analytics and Facebook Insights).

There’s a good chance you will build a more profitable business if you pay attention to your audience’s interests and needs.

Under-Promise & Overdeliver

When you think of “sales”, what words immediately come to mind?

Pushy? Aggressive? Manipulative? Intrusive? Slimy?

I know, sometimes sales can sound like a dirty word. And most of us have that experience of being pushed into buying something we never intended to buy to begin with.

But if you’re a creative entrepreneur, then the importance of sales should be obvious. Without sales, you wouldn’t have revenue. That’s a problem.

In business, I would suggest under-promising and overdelivering, and that flies in the face of traditional sales, which was often manipulative.

Traditional salesmen often focused on getting the sale instead of adding value to their prospect. They overpromised and underdelivered, because by the time the customer had made a buying decision, the salesperson had built up her product to be the best thing since sliced bread.

That’s the opposite of what you should do as a creative entrepreneur. We want to under-promise and overdeliver. That extends into anything you’re selling. We should go the extra mile to delight and surprise our prospects and customers. That will keep them coming back for more.

Be a Rock Star at Customer Service

There is a limit to what you can do as a solopreneur. So, building your team and having skilled people work in the right departments can help you manage the work involved in creating a standout customer experience.

But you know as well as I do that big companies don’t always have the best customer service, right? How many calls have you made to utility or communications companies that force you to menu surf for five to 10 minutes (i.e. “press one if you want to hear your current balance…”) before you could get a real person on the other end to help you solve your problem?

Whatever you do early on to surprise and delight your customers may not be sutaintable or scalable over the long haul. In other words, you may not be able to do it forever.

But it’s still worth it to put your best foot forward. And, when you’re ready to bring on your team, you should systematize the customer experience so that you can offer the same quality experience every single time.