Issue 4 : Creating value

Why do your clients choose to work with you and not your competition?  What should you be doing that would make clients willing to pay you more and not shop around?

Many creative business owners operate reactively. You do whatever the client demands.  Consequently, you work in a client-pleasing mode, accommodating clients that don't respect your process and don’t want to pay you what your work is truly worth. 

But when you and your business are seen as a valuable partner, working with (not for) your clients, where your leadership and service is a key factor to their success, your clients won't question your fees and won't shop around. 

This issue of POMEGRANATE is all about creating value. Value is a topic dear to my heart and a concept I have devoted years to defining and understanding. Here are a few thoughts to get you, and your clients(!) able to see your true value.

Happy reading...



Creating value

Every creative business owner wants to know "How do I grow my business?". This question is always followed by "How do I get better clients?" and "How do I bring in bigger profits?". Good questions.  But these aren’t the questions to ask if you really want your business to grow. 

I am a big believer in having a solid marketing plan and a perfected strategy for enrolling clients but even the best marketing plan will get no results if you don't first focus on creating value. 

There are two kinds of clients out there - clients who are looking for the lowest price and clients who are looking for the greatest value.  Who would you rather work with?

If you want to do the best work you can do, get better clients and charge more for your work begin by creating value in everything you do. Ask yourself "How can I create more value in my business?" With this question, you will start investigating what your clients really need (sometimes they don’t know themselves) and planning how you can serve them better (not just please them) in everything you do.  

When you have a value-based mindset everything in your business changes. Your marketing activities get easier; you write fewer proposals, your obvious value justifies your high fees and you worry less about the future. Wouldn't that be a much easier and nicer way to grow a business?

Clients come to you (and stay with you) for one reason only - they get some kind of value.  If a proposal you presented got rejected or a client you've been working with decided to leave, or you are not attracting the right kind of clients you are probably not creating obvious value. 
My business coach said to me once "when the value is clear the decision is easy". This simple mantra keeps me focused on making sure everything I do creates value for others. When I know I am creating value and I see evidence that my work is producing tangible positive changes for my clients, then I know I'm on the right track. 

Here are six strategies for creating value:

1. Pay attention to the way your clients use your work. Instead of delivering work and immediately going on to the next project, stop and ask the clients how they utilize the work. Get a better understanding of how the work you created impacts your clients. Create a process where you stay in continuing communication with your clients after the work is delivered to measure results and track change. By learning how your clients use your work you will have insight into how to improve your products by creating work that achieves your client’s goals. You can then use this information in the way you talk about your business. 

2. What's the ROI? Will your work help your client make more money, save time or become more competitive?  Have a clear understanding and a clear way to articulate the return on investment that will justify the client’s decision to buy from you.  ROI is not always easy to measure but if you ask your clients to help you get this information you will be seen more as a partner and less as a vendor.  If you can clearly see the ROI your work creates you can show how valuable you are to your clients. 

3. What are the benefits? Your clients want to know "what's in it for me?".  Make sure they understand how your work can make their lives better. This functional value can give your business a nice competitive edge.  Ask your clients how they benefit from your work and ask them how your work could benefit them even more.  Your clients will tell you if you ask.  

4. Put higher service into your marketing. Produce marketing related activities that feature helpful information that benefits your clients. For example, if you post articles on your website make sure the content truly benefits your intended readers and serves their needs. "It's all about them" should be your focus in every marketing activity you engage in. How are you giving, helping or serving? If your marketing activities are not serving your clients and providing them something of value chances are your marketing won’t see the results you hope for. 

5. Be clear on your purpose. The clients who are looking for greatest value will connect to your WHY before they connect to your WHAT. Passion attracts passion so define your mission and let people know why your business exists. Your purpose needs to be bigger than you, something that will create big change in the world, something that could be your legacy. This will be the fuel that runs your business and the measuring stick for you to know that you are on the right track. When your purpose is well articulated you have a better chance of attracting the kind of clients who are in line with your passion. 

6. Become the expert. People value and are willing to pay more for expertise. Your expertise should connect to whatever your clients need help with. Hence, your expertise needs to be more than design or brand development or whatever you consider your specialty. Focus your expertise on the problem you can solve for your client. 

To create a valuable business figure out what really matters to your clients. Pump up the value in everything you do and your business will grow organically. Your answers may not be obvious. Keep trying different things. Look for ways to improve. Look at every activity in your business and keep asking "Am I creating value?". If your answer is YES, you're on the right track. 

This month's question comes from a caller who attended the Effortless Marketing webinar I presented recently (download the webinar recording here). Christopher Shell, owner of Design Rangers in Colorado Springs asks:

"We want to go after bigger clients and market ourselves better but we seem to always put our current client's work in front of our marketing so we have no time to get to it.  I am struggling with finding time and willpower to market my business. I find that the only time I have is late at night because that's the only time I can find. How do I find more time and willpower to do this work?"

Dear Christopher,

Your business will grow and take care of you if you commit to taking care of yourself first. Just like we are asked in case of a decrease in cabin pressure inside an airplane to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first and then take care of the person we are traveling with this rule applies to your business as well.

Time bows to authentic commitment and it stretches to accommodate it. When you bring the same level of commitment to yourself as you bring to your clients you can find the willpower and time to do anything you want. Time is a man-made construct. If you need more - make it.

It is up to you to CREATE time.  When you commit to your business, creating time will be much easier because your commitment will make marketing a priority over all other activities.

Time hasn't been lost that you need to "find". Any successful project you do for your clients has two key factors in place - a schedule and a commitment. Do the same for yourself.  If you truly want to take care of your business and devote time to your marketing, make marketing your most important project and raise the level of commitment to it appropriate for your most important project.  

Send me your burning business question and if it is selected for this column I'll treat you to a complimentary 30 minute coaching session! Send your question to


This month I attended my first TED Conference. I've watched TED Talks for years now online and for the first time I got to experience TED in person. Needless to say, it was one of the most inspiring weeks I've had in a long time. Being that I'm an official "TEDster" now, I'll be curating what I think are the most important and powerful talks to help you grow as an entrepreneur. This month, I present Susan Cain who talks about the power of introverts.

I chose this talk because our creative industry is heavily populated with introverts. In my current mentoring group, five out of the six participants are introverts. My ArtCenter class has 8 students, all are introverts.  I’m an extravert myself and needed to learn how to communicate better and celebrate the introverts in my life (including my own husband!).

Susan was one of my favorite speakers at TED this year. Susan does a great job of showing how introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.