Can Makers Make Money As Entrepreneurs?

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Synopsis

It’s common for the “highly creative” to find sales and marketing hard to stomach. There’s a constant tension between sales functions and the reason we have to do these functions in the first place: our creative work. Is it even possible to be a true maker and an entrepreneur and make money?

There’s a difference between the daily rhythm that successful managers must maintain and the daily rhythm makers need. Makers, such as programmers, writers, or anyone who is consistently creating high-value ideas, require long expanses of time to dig deep into their work. Managers, on the other hand, do well going from meeting to meeting to keep their employees moving. In her recent book, Entrepreneurial You, Dorie Clark refers to Y Combinator Paul Graham’s essay “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.” Since life defaults to the manager pattern, Clark warns that entrepreneurs of all kinds must be sure to guard their time as makers to consistently create high-value work. 

But what about the maker entrepreneur? What about those of us who thrive on long expanses of solitude for deep work, but who also need to build our brands? It’s common for the “highly creative” to find sales and marketing hard to stomach. There’s a constant tension between sales functions and the reason we have to do these functions in the first place: our creative work. Is it even possible to be a true maker and an entrepreneur and make money?

After reading her new book, Entrepreneurial You, I knew Dorie Clark would answer this question with a resounding “yes.” Designed to take the guesswork out of the methods now available to monetize our knowledge, the book is a refreshing splash of water in the face of the creative who regards money as either a mystery or an afterthought but actually needs it to live. I interviewed Dorie to dig deeper into this topic and explore how “maker entrepreneurs” can apply the ideas in her book to thrive financially without compromising their work. The article below is structured with my questions to Dorie in bold, her responses in regular font, and my commentary in regular italics. We began, of course, with creativity. 

What element of creativity is most foundational to your work? 

When I think about the work I have created, such as written products, I think that what has been most helpful for me in a lot of ways is structure. Structure is not what people think of when they think of creativity; they think of the opposite. It’s like the proverbial example that the structural requirements of the sonnet force you to think of something new within those constraints. People go off the rails when they are all about the ideas and not as much about the structure. If you start with the structure, you realize it is not that difficult to do and you can learn to fill in the blanks with the valuable information. 

As creative professionals, we know that constraints drive creativity. We know that true creativity combines both divergent and convergent thinking. We apply structures, such as a creative problem solving process, to do our best creative work. It makes perfect sense, then, that we would need structures to move our business forward. Entrepreneurial You is all about giving us that structure. 

Many maker-types become drained at the thought of marketing and sales. They want to focus on creating deep content. How might they use your book to help them become more comfortable with the sales/marketing/money-making aspects of their work?

Some people who are really passionate about their particular form of creativity bristle at the idea of marketing or sales because they feel they are going to be required to do things they don’t enjoy. For them, the whole point of creativity is to have the autonomy to focus on their art. They didn’t sign up to be forced to do a series of unpleasant things that make them feel bad about themselves, which the idea of selling does for some people. It’s loaded. But there are two points that help us get around this. 

1. If you do your marketing right you have to do very little selling. If selling feels uncomfortable to you, the answer to that is to get really good at marketing because when your marketing is strong (when people know who you are already and they come to you) then all sales entails is saying to the people who like your work, “Hey I have this thing. Would you like it?” They ask how much it costs and the transaction is made. 

2. The good news is there are a lot of ways to market yourself. Some may be uncomfortable to you, but you can choose. Play to your strengths and build your brand that way. 

Entrepreneurial You is divided into three sections: build your brand, monetize your expertise, and extend your reach and impact online. In the monetization section, Clark begins with a  chapter called “The Courage to Monetize.” She writes, “Charging what you’re worth is key to creating the long-term impact you desire.”  She then details a menu of ways to monetize, including coaching, consulting, speaking, podcasting, blogging, vlogging (video blogging), and organizing conferences or mastermind groups. Clark stresses throughout the book that you should not aim to do all of these. Choose which money-making strategies work for you. Use the proven structure that she has laid out as a broad creative constraint and tailor your own strategy within it. But if you’re an ideator, you may find value in all of the ideas and find it hard to choose. So I tossed that question to Dorie. 

In your book, you’ve presented a menu of good ideas for monetization. You are clear that each person should choose from them and not attempt them all. So, how does one choose without becoming overwhelmed by pressure to do them all? Do you have any additional tools to help?

All of us face the pressure that it would be nice to do everything. As an entrepreneur, your to-do list is theoretically infinite. Personally, I choose only two strategic goals every six-month period. Obviously there are things you need to do no matter what, like answering emails, but in terms of broad strategic priorities, I pick two at a time. I ask this question to help guide me: What, if I do it now, will enable me to get more leverage and do other things in the future? 

In 2016, I knew I wanted to create an online course but didn’t know how. What could help me do that better? I decided to write this book about entrepreneurship, interviewing people who have done online courses to give me more information and help others at the same time. It is all about strategic pacing. I do have an online course called Be More Productive that goes into depth about goal setting methodology. 

In the book, Clark spells out the nitty gritty about how specific strategies make money. She interviewed dozens of people who have successfully implemented these strategies, and she even includes dollar amounts. What should speakers aim to charge at every experience level? How many people do you need on your email list or blog to earn affiliate income and what specific dollar amounts can you expect per thousand subscribers? I appreciate Clark’s honesty and transparency in sharing this information. It may make you, a creative who shies away from money conversations and is driven by your passionate commitment to helping the world, a bit uncomfortable but it is invaluable information to have if you want to put actual food on your table as a result of your work. But even with all the necessary conversation of money and monetization, there is a deeper purpose to the book. 

How might creative professionals become more comfortable with the idea of monetization, even if it is antithetical to how they typically think about their work?

We all need to make money in some capacity in order for it to be sustainable. My hope for Entrepreneurial You is that by laying out different options and showing different business models, it will spark ideas about possibilities. Perhaps it will even help maker entrepreneurs become creative about their business models. Maybe it will inspire you to be creative in terms of how you deliver your art to people, how you craft an offering. There might be interesting possibilities and breakthroughs for people as they think about, “Oh, I conceived about this as a live workshop, but what if it’s an online course instead?” The underlying goal is not just to lead to more money, but to find ways of reaching new people.

Note: For this article, I directly applied Dorie's advice from Entrepreneurial You and signed up for her online course affiliate program. I have been following her work for nearly a year and have found it useful and high-quality. Connect with me via my twice-monthly Sparkitivity Strengths Report to receive more expert insights on how to support your greatest strengths (and those of your employees, co-workers, family, and students) so that you can live your best life ever. 

Copyright 2017 Sparkitivity, LLC. All Rights Reserved. 

Tags: art entrepreneurship, creative makers, kathryn p. haydon, promotion, sales and marketing, sparkivity

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