Note from Michele: If I had to pick one thing that conscious, heart-centered, spiritual entrepreneurs worry about, it’s how to stand out from their competition. But, here’s a little secret: when you’re creative, it’s actually super easy to stand out because, quite honestly, you have no competition. This article from my good friend Samantha Bennett, founder of the Organized Artist Company, has some great tips to help you get started. (And these are particularly valuable if you’re a multi-passionate entrepreneur.) Take it away Sam!
Got a lot of ideas? Hate the idea of being put in a box? Horrified by the idea of being stuck doing just one thing forever?
Congratulations! You’re a creative person.
And you’re not alone. I’ve spent years working with tens of thousands of creatives, helping them to embrace their unique personalities to find success.
To help you do the same, let’s take a look at the following three areas:
- Choosing the best projects for you.
- Combining your skills to create a magnetic business culture.
- Using your true core values to amp up your marketing.
• Choosing the Best Projects for You: Do You Have to Pick One Thing?
I’ve never met a single-disciplinary creative. And I’ve never met an entrepreneur who didn’t have several serious hobbies. Because creative people love trying new things!
Conventional wisdom says, “In order to be successful, you should just focus on one thing.”
But We-Who-Like-to-Focus-on-Several-Things-All-at-Once practically froth at idea of being chained to “just one thing.”
(I’d go as far as to say it’s possible that you’ve even occasionally prevented yourself from becoming “too successful,” just so that you don’t feel locked into having to do one thing forever. Funny how we sabotage ourselves sometime, isn’t it?)
I find that I am most productive when I’ve got three to four fairly-huge projects going on all at once. And usually, one of them is downright impossible. (For example: completing the first draft of my second book in seven weeks, or planning a glorious wedding in three months with a budget of $5000, or hosting a 100-person event with 100% attendance …)
Which brings me to a question for you: What impossible things have you done in your life? What impossible thing would you like to do this week?
Now, concentrating on several projects at once might look like chaos to the average person, but for those of us who are:
- easily bored
- resistant to authority
- in love with complexity
- skeptical of prevailing trends
- waking up with new ideas in the middle of the night …
… we are generally deeply gratified by combining our many interests and skills to create a business life that is memorable, profitable, and meaningful.
EXERCISE: Focus on Several Things. Make a list of all the big, somewhat impossible things you’d like to accomplish in the next year or so. Then narrow it down to the two to four that you’d like to do first. Put the remaining projects in a folder labeled “Percolating.” Now, start creating daily action steps for those two to four you chose to focus on. Spend at least 15 minutes a day moving those projects forward.
• Combining Your Skills to Create a Magnetic Business Culture: How to Stand out in Your Field
I recently spoke about prioritizing your projects and overcoming procrastination at a conference for CPAs in Atlanta. I did my usual thing, passing out worksheets so my presentation was as interactive as possible. When we got to the “how to pick your projects” worksheet, one conservatively-dressed woman asked, “What do we do if the projects we want to work on most have nothing to do with our business?”
“What’s your project?” I asked.
“Comedy writing,” she deadpanned.
“Perfect!” I exclaimed. “Welcome to your zillion dollars. Write a lead magnet that’s equal parts jokes and sound tax-planning advice. Email your clients funny reminders about their P&Ls. If you can make a dreaded task like accounting fun—or at least enjoyable—you will never want for work. Your competition will simply melt away. Better yet, it’s the only marketing you’ll ever have to do. After all, who could resist telling their friends about their hilarious CPA? What a perfect way to stand out?”
What a relief it would be for your clients to get something entertaining as well as informative. Frankly, when all you ever do is talk about your specialty, you come across a little dull.
Injecting some of your favorite hobbies, skills, talents, and even obsessions into your work gives your clients another way in which to relate to you and help you stand out. And it might even help you attract better clients, for you.
As Seth Godin reminds us, people run in tribes. And people in the same “tribe” tend to share a value system—a point of view on the world. Working with clients who “get you” means that you’ll have more fun day-to-day, and in theory, that should lead to longer, more lucrative relationships.
So… what skills do you have that you can leverage in your business? Can you combine your passion for vegan cooking, your love of animals, or your fervor for the Grateful Dead into a theme that threads through your whole brand?
Maybe you could:
- Offer a fabulous vegan recipe in your weekly email (I once got a recipe for Moroccan Spiced Carrots in an email from the retailer Roberta Roller Rabbit, and I’ve gotta tell you, I’ve considered that store a personal friend ever since!).
- Let the local animal shelter hold an adopt-a-pet event in your parking lot, and encourage visitors to Instagram a photo of themselves with a kitten in front of a step-and-repeat featuring your logo.
- Have on online flash sale at 4:20 pm every Wednesday (Weednesday?) or a special offer on Jerry Garcia’s birthday.
EXERCISE: Spend five minutes listing 10 of your favorite things, and then, jot down ideas for ways you could tie those things into your business and marketing.
• Using Your True Core Values to Amp up Your Marketing
An exciting alternative to using your hobbies in your marketing is to use the quirks of your own personality as the foundations for your brand marketing.
After all, the thing that makes you special can also help you stand out and make you/your work famous.
Having trouble thinking of what you might select as your “thing”?
Consider a quality you were criticized for as a child.
The quality that got you in trouble as a kid is the character trait that can now be celebrated. (Really! Stick with me.)
Let’s say you were the troublemaker in the back row, always throwing spitballs and getting sent to the principal’s office. I encourage you to lean into that rebellious, anti-authoritative tendency. Be the Rebel Queen of Dry Cleaning!
If you were the hyper-active jokester, then take a hint from Johnny Cupcakes, who famously packages their limited-edition t-shirts with weird prizes: sticks of gum, heads ripped off of Barbie dolls, or odd, hand-written notes designed to catch you off-guard and make you smile.
And if you were the one who skipped recess in order to read in the dim library, you might want to start using stories from your literary heroes to illustrate your points, or create verse to entice new clients.
(This is not an abstract example. I myself have grown a mid-six-figure business mostly by sending poems to my list. Heck, I even won a marketing award for it.)
And think of how much more fun you’ll have when your marketing is truly expressing your personality and your (real) core values.
How much more fun would your marketing be if you could truly express your core values?
Your (Real) Core Values
Let’s be real: the core values of most businesses are meaningless pablum.
They are designed to be hung as a poster on a wall in the lobby and then promptly ignored.
But as small business owners, we want our work to make a difference. And the best way to do that is to have a strong, personal list of core values that drive every decision you make.
EXERCISE: Complete the following to get clear on a few of your core values:
- I think the world would be a much better place if only people were a little more:___________________.
- The quality I admire most in my best friend is: _______________.
- Even if I am sick, tired, exasperated, or even drunk, you can always count on me to be: _____________________.
I played this game a few clients recently, and here are some of their answers:
Now—let’s keep playing:
How would you market a lawyer who was kind, empathic, and patient?
How about a child-care facility that was aware, strong, and over-protective?
Or a country-music bar that was truthful, hilarious, and kind of a smartass?
Are your idea wheels spinning? Of course they are! Because the creative brain loves themes!
And when the themes seem counter-intuitive or contradictory, that appeals to us even more.
A tender-hearted hedge fund manager?
An innocent used car salesman?
A punk rock yogi?
So link up your three words with your profession and see what ideas bubble up for you.
NOTE: This can be fun to do with a creative friend, as sometimes it can be hard to see connections when you’re analyzing yourself.
Anything you can do to show up more fully, more authentically, and more joyfully in the world makes the world a better place.
So the next time you’re stuck trying to think of some way to set yourself apart from your competition, please remember that you have no competition. Your own complex personality means that you stand alone; there’s plenty of success for everyone.
One last note on combining contradictions and finding success:
You are allowed to be successful and keep your privacy.
You are allowed to make money and have lots of quiet time.
You are allowed to be both shy and boisterous, productive and lazy, generous and judgmental.
You are not binary, and the world is not an either/or proposition: it’s a trapeze act.
So be daring—and use your uniqueness to dazzle us all!
FINAL NOTE: If you’re wondering where the story about the Vegan Plumber is, I must confess, there isn’t one! Ha!
I created her/him for the sake of title so that I could, now, 1600 words later, demonstrate how compelling a combination of apparent contradictions can be.
After all, you’re still thinking about it, right? So again, I ask you: What unusual qualities, skills, or talents can you combine to become the most memorable business in your space, eliminating your competition and helping you stand out?
To take what you’re learned today further, I have a free gift for you!
Get your very own “how to pick your projects” worksheet and free training in the Procrastination Domination Starter Kit at StartRightWhereYouAre.com.
Michele again … along with the great resource from Sam, you may also want to check out my Love-Based Online Marketing book, especially if you’re looking for more great tips and strategies to market yourself online.