We all enjoy creating for fun or for clients. We’re at it most of the day, building, scaling and innovating.
But when do you have to flip the switch and market some of that work?
Self Promotion Sucks
Many creatives hate promoting themselves, but if you don’t you’ll get no work.
I was on a call yesterday with Jon Persson (owner of cultmethod) and we discussed this problem at length. We create a lot of content, but how can we make it reach more people and clients too?
If we spend 100 hours on case studies that no one ever sees, is it worth making it in the first place?
Equally, if we market ourselves a lot and only have a handful of things to show, we may turn off potential clients because we don’t have enough proof of our skills. Even if your handful of projects are incredible.
Where do you strike the balance? How much time should you spend marketing yourself compared to creating the work?
Angels and Demons
I constantly battle with this idea, and it’s one of the main reasons I posted nothing for almost a year in 2018/2019. I just didn’t see the benefit.
The marketer in my brain would say that I need to create one amazing design and sell it to one thousand people. Because it will get me to work.
Even if only ten of those thousand people becomes clients, that’s better than nothing! Then from there you can build up your portfolio and gain new customers more quickly.
Whereas the creative in my brain says, I should make one thousand design projects to attract dream clients. By making that work and sharing it regularly, I will eventually reach the right people. It’s only a matter of time.
It’s like having an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other, just yelling back and forth into a mind-numbing loop.
Don't Forget Time
Then a third creature called Time comes into play. How do you find time to make the work and execute on the marketing side effectively?
You could spend a put a lot of effort into marketing yourself, but if you only have a shit project to share, you’ll get poor results.
I know I am probably overthinking this but, unfortunately, that's just how my brain works. Strategizing to the point of beating a dead horse rather than executing on anything.
Finding the Balance
Striking the balance between marketing and designing is one of the most unused skills creative business owners have. Which is why we see many agencies pop up with two founding partners. A designer and an entrepreneur. They complete each other’s gaps and split the tasks.
If we all marketed ourselves a little more, put an extra hour in each week, we could probably all get more work. But I also recognise how difficult it is for people to promote themselves and put what they do out there. It becomes a real struggle.
However, without some marketing, you’re unlikely to build the business you want as you can’t just expect the work to come to you all the time.
I'm Not Perfect Either
I include myself in these generalisations by the way. I am not perfect either.
I have a problem with lead generation at the moment that I hope to at least begin to resolve soon. It’s just one of those tasks I keep putting off because it doesn’t sound enjoyable. Even though I know it’s necessary.
I’ve got to build a website, put together a contact form, write blog posts with good SEO and network and dfgkjndfgkjndfg. Not my cup of tea at all.
Give me a design problem and leave me to it.
We Could All Do Better
I am planning on updating my websites and socials soon to help generate more leads but, I am nowhere near perfect at it yet. It’s something that will require constant improvement.
This is a massive topic with many different pathways to explore but I think this conversation is one not many people are having right now in the design industry.