The way you run your business is a marketing tool, so be professional in everything you do (including your website, answering machine, attitude, consistency, charity work, punctuality, how you deal with customers). You are a walking, talking representation of your story and everything you do reflects that story. Everything you do is an act of marketing. Define that story and live it. Make decisions based on it. Package yourself properly to project the story you want to convey.
Take a good look at all your points of contact with customers. Do they match the image you want to project? People decide whether they want to work with you based on the story you project, the impression they get. You can mold your story any way you want to. You will make better marketing decisions by having a long term, long range plan and outlook. Don’t compromise your artistic, long range vision for short range success that may do more harm than good. Knowing the story you want to project and holding true to that is just as important as getting your feet in the door.
You can set yourself apart with a professional approach. Make them say ‘WOW’ with your professionalism. Being professional means that you do what you say you will do, when you say you will do it, and you do it well. Yes, you are an artist, but you are also a creative person in business for yourself. Diana Krall is a Grammy nominated smokey voiced jazz vocalist who also happens to be beautiful. She is one of the biggest selling recording artists in jazz, and magazines like Newsweek and Vanity Fair have taken notice. But in jazz, if you sell more than ten records or play up your looks, you are a sellout. ‘I am excited about the music. I play it with integrity, and I don’t compromise my vision’, Krall says. ‘But I am also aware of the market and the need to sell records. I am a girl who likes clothes and likes to look nice. So why shouldn’t I have a beautiful cover’. Why not, indeed?
You can’t fake integrity. To succeed in the long run, you will need more than talent, skill and ability. You need integrity, honesty, courage, character, empathy and generosity. You have a code of ethics that says, ‘I keep the promises I make, I am never late, I always do the right thing’. Integrity comes from making tough choices, and making the right choices about how you conduct yourself.
When you are struggling, it is hard to turn down work. It is tempting to take on jobs that jeopardize your good name. Don’t do it. When things are going well you may feel you can do no wrong and may take poor choices about work as well. You get bloated with self importance. How do you know what the right thing to do is? Trust your instincts. I had a bad vibe about a client, and I was right, I never got paid and he stole my ideas and used them in a not so flattering way. Turn down work with people who are known to be bad (and have proved it in the past) or whom you know nothing about. Turn down work that you aren’t suited for. Turn down work with unrealistic deadlines. Turn down work where they could care less about quality and you would be embarrassed to put your name on the work or appalled if anyone found out.