The foundation of leveraging your creativity for cash, impact and legacy is having a solid legal + business strategy. As a content creator in your business (or maybe content creation is your business) you need to ask yourself some key questions up front. Each and every time you create. Remember, your creative work can include:
- Blog posts
- Book drafts
- Course curriculum
The questions that I’m giving you are important for two huge reasons:
- It will help you see your creation within the context of an overall business strategy.
- You’ll have clear direction on the very next steps you should take in rolling out the creative work.
- It will make you focus on the work that needs to be done to actually protect the work without missing important steps along the way.
Here we go…
- What are 2-3 other ways that I could use this creative work? For example, maybe you take a really great photo of a Chicago street scene and want to immediately share it online. You could possibly license the photo to a stock photography site, make it available for sale, include it in a book of your work or maybe even license it to someone who makes products or greeting cards. I don’t want you to come up with your full strategy here, but just think about the possibilities.
- Would me using this creative work in one of these other ways further my overall business purpose or vision? Let’s look again at the photography example. If you don’t ever want your work mass produced, then you probably don’t care about licensing it out for products or stock photos. However, those other ideas — including it in a collector’s book or selling it as an exclusive, might serve that underlying vision of yours.
- What is the best outlet for me to share this creative work? If you’ve identified some other ways that this particular creation can generate revenue for you, you want to make sure that where you share it now is in alignment. For instance, you may decide to keep it off of social media altogether to limit access to it. Keeping with the photo example, you can house it on your website, and restrict the ability to download it. Then, link to the photo from your website.
- What can I do now to protect my copyright ownership in this work? There are simple things you can do on your own. For example, you can make sure it’s watermarked, you can add language to your website that tells your audience they can’t republish the work without your permission. If this was a creative work that someone else had a hand in — let’s say you wrote an e-book and it has illustrations — you need to have a conversation with the other creator about how to handle rights in the book. Unless a written work-for-hire is already in place then they still own the work and have rights to it (yes, that means they have a right to your profits once you sale the book) unless a different agreement is put in place.
- What do I need to do next to protect my copyright ownership in the work? For the photos, your next steps may be registering with the U.S. copyright office. For the e-book example, your next step would be getting a formal copyright assignment and release from the illustrator. Either way, you need to pinpoint that next step (my post on a 3 step system to protect your creative work will help you here.
I know you may be thinking…”Patrice this is a lot.”
This is not intended to be a lengthy exercise. Nor am I asking you to flesh out a full strategy now. I’m asking you to spend 10 minutes brainstorming on the opportunities to leverage your work when you are in creation mode. Start to develop this habit now and it will make a huge difference in your business – you’ll be able to see more opportunities for revenue, you’ll start to recognize where you can generate income in your business beyond trading dollars for hours and you’ll stop leaking (yes losing) money that you didn’t even realize you were losing.
There’s an epidemic of wastefulness among the entrepreneurial community. Andrew Sherman talks about this epidemic in his book, Harvesting Intellectual Property Assets (if you haven’t checked it out you should). Intellectual property is a valuable commodity. People don’t protect it. Don’t leverage it. And, then it becomes a wasted resource. Typically, companies (yes, small business too) will at some point have an intellectual property audit done to uncover wasted intellectual property. I’m charging you with the task of tending to yours along the way, so that it doesn’t collect proverbial dust, and you can actually make money from it now.