As I continue to build my own, creative business, I’ve learned several #geniuscodes that are helping me create a thriving business that I love. I am still learning and growing, but part of my mission is to share my experiences and lessons with you – my creative entrepreneur peeps. Enjoy this #geniuscode resource.
#geniuscode one. Competition is Your Business Best Friend.
A while ago, I blogged about how competition didn’t exist (yea, really). I’d never felt competition existed in my own business, and had the good fortune of avoiding that downward spiraling, comparison game. I’d created my own lane from scratch and after a couple of Google searches, early on, I knew that the path that I’d chosen was bare. However, a few years into the game, I noticed that a couple of other attorneys serving creative minds surfaced.
And, it shook me. Naturally.
I started worrying about losing business, that the others would do this whole creative law thing better than me. I had a host of other ridiculous insecurities. I have no problem sharing this because I know that I am not alone.
This is the thing. Even though you may set out to create your own path, someone will always follow suit. That’s the nature of the beast. After calming down from my temporary panic, what I’ve learned is that this “follow the leader” cycle keeps us, creative entrepreneurs on our toes. If I am honest with myself, I started to get really comfortable with my business. When you are the only one doing something, you automatically stand out and become the go-to for the peeps that you serve.
Turns out, the rising “ competition” isn’t my foe like I thought. They are help mates who jarred me wide awake and made me step up my game. Not that I was doing “nothing” because I work. Most of the friggin time. But, as most service providers will attest, my clients’ needs came first and then working on my business. So a lot of the real detail-y stuff (mostly related to branding and marketing)? Yea, I didn’t have time for that. But, it became clear that it was time to pay attention.
One of the best decisions that I made was to rebrand. Why? Because my previous brand didn’t clearly convey what I did or who I served. It was cute, and that was all. I was also losing out on organic web traffic to my website because, there was such a disconnect between what I actually did and what folks thought that I did. With a little push from a friend, we decided that a rebrand would make it clearer to folks exactly what I did. Without having to provide a 10 minute explanation…
My next steps involved taking current inventory of what I was already doing in my business and figure out how to make it stronger. A lot of times, we, creative entrepreneurs rush to add some new project to our list, rather than stepping back and tightening up what we already have. Lastly, I did a survey to determine why people liked working with me, or even wanted to refer me to others. What I quickly learned, was that it wasn’t just because I was different. Every survey response mentioned my passion, and how I encourage their big ideas not just in a woo woo “you can do this” way, but in an “okay here’s how the law can help you make this happen” way. I took the feedback and incorporated it into my services and how I work with clients.
What I want you to get from this is that, if you start out being solo in your creative entrepreneur lane – that’s great. But, it will be temporary. So, when your competition creeps up, don’t look at it as negative.
View your competition as positive reinforcement that you are fulfilling a need in your industry. Then, step up your game.
Get up close and personal with the details of your business and the things that make you great at what you do. Figure out how to weave those bad boys into everything that you do. Then, “competition” won’t matter.They don’t matter because you are unique, and only you can do you in business. With focus, and a strong team, you can bring all of your creative genius to the forefront and make waves in your industry. Also, it is important to remember that, there is enough of the pie to go around.
Let’s take a homework break. Download this Competitors + Business Best Friends worksheet and get to work:
#geniuscode two. Combine Your Multiple Passions into One Epic, Creative Business.
The very first thing that I did in the initial phase of my business was to figure out how to weave my multiple passions into one business. Initially, I did this for purely self-serving reasons. I wanted to be happy and fulfilled. I knew enough people, young and not young who weren’t happy in their careers. I didn’t want that to be me. It wouldn’t be me.
When we finally figure out what we want our life’s work to be, we deserve to enjoy it, right? Being our own boss is not the only joy of entrepreneurship. (I know we all swoon at the thought of setting our own hours). The true joy of entrepreneurship is designing a business, that will allow us to enjoy the lifestyle that we want. Whatever that may be. The other true joy is in the ability to serve clients and customers in a way that we believe will truly make the greatest impact. But, we can only serve them well if we first treat ourselves well. And the truth is, we are multi-passioned. There are multiple things that make us happy, that give us super-sized bursts of life…
I asked one of my favorite entrepreneurs, Ashleigh Johnson, creator of Dope Do-Gooder her thoughts on creating a business based on multiple passions. Ashleigh is a business coach to women entrepreneurs, but her coaching is based on astrology (dope, right?). This is what she shared:
I’d been obsessed with astrology for years, and the moment I seriously considered profiting from my hobby, everything changed. One day I did five calls in a row, and while I was due for quiet afterward (I’m an INTJ), I was energized. The work I put in to this business didn’t stress me; it empowered me. That’s when I knew I’d finally cracked the code. I got deeper into astrology because I wanted to understand what made me who I am, especially my dreams, desires, flaws, and fears. I wanted to use that knowledge to help people the way it helped me. Once I knew where that deep desire to help people came from, I decided to use what I knew. The manta of Aquarius is “I know”, and I know I’m meant to help people live their truth. It was a liberating feeling to know I could work with my passion.
Status quo will have you believe, that you have to follow one passion over the other. Status quo is wrong. Dead wrong.
You can’t be a Jack (or Jill) of all trades. If you are the master of all, then you are actually the master of none. Right?
Just like with anything else, designing your business is all about balance. Here’s a secret. You don’t want to incorporate each and every passion into a business venture. Because, at some point, you need something for yourself. You need to be able to work that passion in a way that’s not tied to income, but because it brings you pure joy. Work it in a way that is not watered down by other people’s preferences.
What is the one passion that you will keep tucked away for yourself?
Now that you know what passion will not be incorporated into your creative business, let’s discuss the process of weaving “you” into your creative business. First, I want you to spend about 20 minutes doing a passion brainstorm. Here is another worksheet that I created to help you…
First, write down each and everything that you like to do because it gives you enjoyment (i.e. makes you happy, makes you “go”, gives you life). Once you get everything down on the worksheet, prioritize that list from order of “most passionate” to “least passionate.”Next, I want you to assess how often you are doing those things on a regular basis. Assign a percentage to each passion that represents how much time you spend on it each week. Is there alignment? The activities that bring you the most amount of passion, should have a larger time percentage assigned to them. Is that the case?
Next up, state how each of your passions can translate into a service or product that can benefit other people. Even if you don’t see a way that it can directly translate into income, think about how that passion can serve your business. I’ll give you an example. I loveeee to write. It’s one of my favorite pastimes, and has been for as long as I can remember. I incorporated a blog into my business model because it’s something that I am naturally passionate about. I knew that I could authentically connect with other creative entrepreneurs through my blog.
On the business side, I knew that blogging could be part of my overall marketing strategy for my business. Today’s readers could be tomorrow’s clients. Now, had I tried to incorporate blogging as a marketing strategy without the passion behind it… it would become a part of my business that I dreaded. Instead, I enjoy it regardless of if it leads to new clients or not or if anyone reads it or not. It serves me by feeding this love for writing and serves my community by giving the goods on creative entrepreneurship. Spend some time on this step. You may not immediately see how your passions can align with a service or product. You may want to get feedback from other people as well.
Whatever you do, don’t rush your passion meets profit process.
Once you’ve figured out how each passion can align with a service or product, then you will play around with how they can be grouped together into one business. In some instances, and from a legal perspective, it may be wise to create multiple businesses to separate the liability of some of your business activities.
I’ll give you another example.
I also have a passion for good food, performing and visual arts, and indie brands. In the summer, one of my passions is exploring Chicago’s festival scene. A few years back, I decided that I wanted to do a street food and art fest that would highlight our food truck and independent arts scene (aka the business purpose). However, I created a separate business entity for this event, because it would have been a huge liability to house a festival under my entity for legal services. If something happened at the fest, then it could affect my entire legal business. Big no-no. Making this judgment call requires a bit of common sense, and attorney consultation.
By the time you’ve done these exercises you will have a pretty good idea of how you can incorporate your passions into a single business. Now, remember I said that when I initially did this, it was for completely selfish reasons (yea, my happiness). Along the way, I realized that it also helped distinguish me from other attorneys in a way that was completely authentic. Because each aspect of my business is truly me (from how my services are offered to my process of how I work with clients) it can’t be duplicated. Period.
Lastly, I am able to work what appears from the outside looking in, ungodly hours on my business and I don’t mind. It doesn’t feel like work. It feels like I am dabbling in my passion, and I happen to be serving clients in the process.
Need a little inspiration? Check out my interview with Rashida B, creator of I Heart Fame who has successfully and genuinely worked her passions into one business.
#geniuscode three. Create a Master Plan for Your Creative Business.
First things first. I believe that so many entrepreneurs fail because many fail to plan. Let’s be honest, passion can only take you so far.
Think about it.
- How many of your friends have a business?
- How long did they spend in creation mode before they launched that business?
- What did their creation mode consist of? Research, eh? Forecasting, nah?
- How long did their businesses last? (Oh they gave it up last year, huh?).
Now, answer those questions as it pertains to your own business.
Let me tell you a little bit about my start.
My initial inspiration for starting Creative Genius Law came way before anyone knew it existed. I was working full-time so my availability was pretty limited. I loved my job so I was in no hurry to leave. That meant, my energy and time could be focused on research and planning rather than rushing into launching a business prematurely.
Although I had full-time income, my cash was stretched pretty thin. For that reason, I had to be really selective about where I invested cash in my new business. I had a graphic designer create my logo. But, my first website? It was done by me. It wasn’t that I was being cheap, I just had to choose wisely. Because, I’m no web pro, it was as simple as you can get yet professional and sleek (by an amateur’s standards). It was far from the dazzling website that you see today. Far. from.
Although I cut that particular corner, I did invest in other areas of my business. One of the first things that I did was hire a business plan consultant. I knew of people who did their own business plans, and maybe some can. I knew that wasn’t a wise move for me. So, I paid a consultant and it was one of the best decisions that I’ve could have made. Why? Because preparing a business plan is intense. It requires you to think about all of the hard questions, look at your business in plain black and white, put numbers to it and get serious. Let me just say, after completing her 20 page questionnaire (actually, that joint might have been longer) one thing was clear. I had some more work to do. I wasn’t ready to start anybody’s business.
So, I researched, stayed in planning mode, answered her tough questions and finally, got the business plan done.
So yes, even before I had business cards.
Before I had marketing material.
Before, I had social media pages…
I had my plan and that, geniuses, laid the foundation for a successful business.
Let’s get this straight. I am not sharing this with you for you to go “oh that’s nice” and keep doing the same as everyone else. I am sharing it because I want you to do business differently, so that you and your dream are not a statistic. I want to be perfectly honest. I don’t have business ownership figured out. It has been very much a process of trial and error, but the key is that I keep pushing. I’m okay with the evolution. I tweak, rework and do things over. Even better.
There is one tool that I added to my genius arsenal over a year ago that helped me get more focused and make some real progress.
Enter… The One Page Business Plan for Creative Entrepreneurs aka The Game Changer.
I was introduced to this tool by my sister, while in the process of developing a new business. I immediately felt that this was a business planning tool made just for me (and my creative clients). While I initially had my full business plan done a few years back, the truth is that I didn’t do much with it except for revel in the fact that I had it. It does provide a larger framework for my business, but I do not refer to it from day to day.
As an entrepreneur, there is always a never ending list of things to do. Everything feels like a priority. Always. I was getting things done, but often felt like I was spinning my wheels and not working like a true CEO.
So, I took a stab at the one page business plan and have been rocking with it ever since.
Why the One Page Business Plan for Creative Entrepreneurs is so fantastic…
A business plan provides a road map for your business. If you are seeking funding, potential investors and lenders will want to see a traditional business plan. You have to make that happen. I also recommend creating a one page business plan. As a creative entrepreneur, you need to make sure every action that you take in your business is moving you towards the big picture. The one page business plan can be used to regularly determine whether your activities are tied to your goals and objectives. The fact that it’s abbreviated means that you will be more likely to refer to it when making day-to-day business decisions.
It doesn’t collect dust peeps. The one page business plan includes the following five major sections:
Vision: What is your vision for your business? How will you change the world or your industry? Think in terms of who and what you will impact.
Mission: What is your mission for the business? In other words, how will you work towards your broader vision?
Objectives: What will you achieve? Breaking your objectives down by quarter and make them measurable. For example, “I will grow/increase sales to ____________ by December 31.”
Strategies: How will you meet your objectives? For example, if your objective is to increase sales to XXX amount this year, then you could consider the these strategies: My minimum client project will be $______, I will serve, 4-6 new clients each month with average total sales of XXX; I will speak at one conference per month with the goal of securing at least 2 new clients from each conference.
Plans: This is the final section of your one page plan. The nitty gritty, get ‘er done roadmap to executing those strategies. Let’s continue with our example above:
- Restructure my fees and service pairings to reflect my minimum client project of $___ by January 1st;
- Develop a one sheet that will be used for conference and workshop bookings by February 1st;
- Identify 5 conferences that are a good fit, and pitch each of them by March 1st;
- Develop a follow-up sales process for each prospect that I meet.
Your plans should be be concrete and have a firm deadline. I mapped my plans out so that they carry me through six months. I also limited the plans to 10 high level bullet points. Remember, the goal is to keep this business plan to one page.
Once you’ve completed the plan, you should use it regularly to:
- Cross-check your to-do list, making sure that your activities support your big picture;
- Conduct a monthly review of your business to make sure you are moving towards the goals and objectives that you’ve established.
- Realign your efforts anytime you feel like you are spinning wheels and not making real progress.
Recently, I learned about Amber McCue of NiceOps by participating in her annual Planathon. She offers this free opportunity to help small business owners do their annual planning at rapid pace. I found the Planathon to be so helpful that I purchased her workbook, Fresh Start. It includes a process for creating a 90 day action plan for your business. I think it was the missing piece of the puzzle to really translate my one page plan into concrete, day to day action steps.
No homework for this section, but I have a treat for you. A cool wallpaper download for your computer (or as my friends and I say for your “lappie”). Grab it.
#geniuscode four. Use the Law to Make Cash From Your Creativity.
Let’s be honest. Most times when you think about the law, you don’t think about using it as a way to make money or as a vehicle to expand your creative work. You think about it as a way to dig yourself out of trouble. (You can confess. No judgement here).
That is the status quo way of looking at the law, not the genius way.
I use the law as a way to support goals, and to move business ideas forward. I look at it as a tool to help expand your business, so that you don’t have to trade hours for dollars your entire life, and be a slave to the starving artist mentality.
Is your inner skeptic, saying… “Yea right Patrice. How can I use the law to make cash from my creativity?”
It’s okay, I’m not offended.
Let me explain…
A trademark is a type of intellectual property, that commonly refers to a name, slogan, brand, logo, or combination of, that identifies the source of a good or service (sound and color are less common forms of trademarks). Trademark ownership transforms your brand name from a temporary loan, to an asset that you actually own. And, guess what? Once you own it you can build value in it. And when it’s valuable, then you can lend it to others for a fee.
The same with copyrights. A copyright is a type of intellectual property, that refers to your exclusive ownership of original literary, dramatic, musical, architectural, choereographic, pictorial, graphic, sculptural and audiovisual works. Examples of how copyright protection would extend to your business include your website or blog, training manuals and materials, and marketing collateral. You own the copyright in your work the second that it is published, but there are very important benefits to copyright registration that I explain in this post.
Licensing is when you grant someone else permission to use the trademarks or copyrights associated with your products or services. In the product realm, Disney grants licenses for other people to produce and sell products featuring Disney characters. In fact, they’ve even sued a baker for selling cakes featuring Disney peeps (there’s power in owning your intellectual property). In the service realm, you can license out the use of your brand name, branded systems and methodologies for use by others.
Often, people see the law as stifling creativity. But guess what?
You are the master of your creativity. The law gives you leverage, while protecting it in the process and turning your creative juice into cash.
Once you’ve registered your trademarks and/or copyrights, transforming your brand and creative work into an asset, then you need to have a licensing agreement drafted. The licensing agreement lays out the terms of how you will create opportunities for others, by lending your creativity for their use. It gives them the law of the land, and clearly explains what they have to do to play. In licensing agreements, the licensor is the person granting the license (hopefully, you) and the licensee is the person paying for the license.
In addition to the licensing agreement, you should have the following:
- Licensing handbook: Will provide additional details on the rules and regulations of the licensing opportunity.
- Marketing collateral and promotional messaging (as appropriate): To ensure that the brand message is consistent and unified.
- Confidentiality agreement: You may want to make the terms of the licensing agreement itself confidential as well as the specifics of the licensing opportunity and behind the scenes of the business. This can either be incorporated into the licensing agreement or provided as a separate agreement.
At this point, hopefully, you are not cursing at me in your head, and hurling your laptop across the room because I’ve completely overwhelmed you with all of the things that you should be doing.
I am simply trying to get you to think beyond today, and see how the law can nurture your creativity. Don’t overlook the possibilities. Knowledge is power, and having clarity on what is possible, can help you do the proper planning now, so that you don’t miss out on major opportunities.
- Start to budget for a professional trademark search and registration now.
- If you are a service provider, start to journal your process of how you provide a specific service.
- Start to think about how your service can be structured as a branded system, and then give that system a name.
- If you make and sell a product, start to think about other channels where you would like to see your product distributed.
Now for my example of creativity + law done right….
The fabulous Danielle LaPorte (girl crush swoon). I love Danielle’s story of how she created The Desire Map method of goal planning. It started unintentionally while doing new year’s goal setting with her then husband. They began to ask themselves the “why” underlying specific goals and trying to identify the feeling that they desired from achieving each goal. Once she recognized the power in this approach, then she intentionally built it out into a full methodology, shared with other women seeking a deeper connection with their goals. Danielle went from releasing The Desire Map book, to the audiobook, guided meditations, planners and journals under the brand’s name.
Recently, Danielle launched The Desire Map licensing program and it’s taking off like wildfire (heck, I would love to incorporate her methods into my law practice some day).
She owns her trademark, which gave her ownership of her brand and the right to take this genius step. She also owns her copyright protected work. She has a licensing agreement in place, that lays out the terms, and grants others the right to use her company’s intellectual property, specifically the copyright-protected creations and the trademarks. She has a gorgeous licensing handbook to provide the additional terms of the program (aka the law of the land) and the system for teaching her methodology to others.
It’s clear that she’s poured her entire heart into it. Not only will Danielle be able to reach more people with her message, but she is empowering a group of women who can now use her methodologies to build their own business. Swoons again.
That’s it for now good peeps.
I want you to really stretch your imagination to think about how your creativity can supercharge your business.
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Your partner in creativity + Creative ESQ,