[Note: This is an excerpt from my book "Creative Freedom: A comprehensive guide to personal and financial freedom as a creative entrepreneur". If you'd like to be the first to get updates and excerpts, make sure you're on my mailing list, so you don't miss a beat!]
Suppose you saw this "advertisement" on social media. You'd no doubt roll your eyes, scratch your head, and maybe even wonder aloud "Who do they think they are? Beyonce is like The Highlander... there can be only one!"
The Highlander franchise might belie that notion, but I digress.
Regardless, you'd likely consider this ad complete nonsense and skip right on past - no matter how badly you'd like to be the next Queen Bey.
And yet, how many times have you been lured by other similar, yet equally absurd promises?
Depending on the circles in which you travel, you may have mixed emotions about the phrase "earn six-figures a year." After all, earning six or seven figures is the holy grail of many online business coaches and so-called internet marketing gurus.
The phrase "earn six-figures" is often followed by such deceptive codswallop as "in your sleep" or "in your pajamas" or "part time from anywhere".
These inflated promises are often found co-mingling with sentences like "all you need is a laptop and a dream."
While it's true that some people have done those things, the reality is that very few people can replicate their success - and when they do, success doesn't happen overnight. There's no "blueprint" or "formula" that's going to give you those kinds of results overnight.
I regularly write about the fact that those kinds of results take time. Jeff Walker, developer of Product Launch Formula, said he got fewer than 10 buyers the first time he launched. He had to launch more than once before he hit seven figures. Beyonce only became Beyonce after years of focused effort, a few heartaches, and more focused effort.
The same is true about building your own Noble Empire. You have to keep showing up consistently, iterating, focusing on what works and discarding the rest. That's how you build a reputation and make a good living doing what you love.
But too many creatives settle for subsistence-level income in their so-called business. It's time to stop the madness. (Tweet this)
That's why I am a firm believer that every creative entrepreneur needs (yes, I said needs) to build a six-figure company. I call it the Six-Figure Imperative.
At its core, The Six-Figure Imperative is both a mathematical equation and psychological illustration (Fusion creatives, rejoice!). In most casts, a healthy company needs to make at least six figures in order to pay the owner a living wage and still be able to cover the business expenses. Sure, there are places in the world where you can live on less (or might need more), but that's a fair baseline for most creatives, and I don't know many people aiming to live closer to the poverty level - which, in the US, is just over $20,400 for a family of 3 (higher in Alaska & Hawaii).
All you Chaotics out there, breathe a minute and let's explore these numbers. If you want to pay yourself $50,000 per year (before taxes), your company needs to bring in at least $100,000. That's based on the Profit First approach that I use with all my clients. Developed by Mike Michalowicz, the Profit First approach recommends that owner's pay be half of the company income.
So, $50,000 x 2 = $100,000 business revenue
Special notes: Once your business revenue is over $250,000, your owner pay percentage will shrink, and your profit sharing percentage will grow. If you want your take home pay to be $50,000, you'll need to add your taxes on top of that number before you multiply. I'm no tax pro, so you'll have to do that math on your own, but this gives you a baseline idea of how it works.
Now, all you Linears can sit back for a minute while we cover the psychological illustration. Most creatives see the six figure mark in one of two ways:
The Six Figure Imperative works to break that psychological block by showing you that six figures is not only reasonable, it's important to the long-term health of any full-fledged business.
When I say "six figures" I mean it as a baseline. I hope you're able to make as much money as you desire with your Noble Empire. Eight figures? Go for it. Ten? Why not? More? That's okay by me, too. But for most of us, the low-end of six figures is a useful rule of thumb.
But there's a big gap between $100,000 and a million. Where should your personal baseline be?
If you're living in a major metropolitan area, where rent is obscene, the low end of six figures might not even cover your mortgage. I saw an apartment listed in Nashville for $8,000 per month. And a girl's gotta eat, right? So your six-figure baseline might be closer to $250,000. That puts you owner pay at $125,000 per year. $96k for rent and $31k for all your other living expenses.
Only you can discern what will really work for you. Maybe you have no kids, or maybe you have seven. Maybe you have no debt, or maybe you've got thousands of dollars in student loans that still need to be paid off. Once you determine your living wage, you'll be able to determine the baseline income goal for your personal Six-Figure Imperative (and also helps you make the six-figure distinction).
There's one last clarification I need to make. The Six-Figure Imperative applies to full-fledged businesses. If you're a creative entrepreneur with a "side hustle" or a hobby that happens to earn some income, this may not apply to you. Creative Freedom is focused on helping creative entrepreneurs build a full-fledged business that's healthy, profitable, and sustainable. The Six Figure Imperative is meant for any Noble Empire that's designed to pay you a living wage and stand on its own. That means you don't need to prop it up by pumping your own money into it all the time, and you're not running it down to zero to keep your personal bills paid. You don't need a job to keep it afloat because it swims on its own.
That doesn't mean that your hobby can't make six figures. It doesn't mean you have to quit your day job to do what you love. There are many stories of creatives that have a day job that pays the bills so that they can create on their own terms. Jim Henson started life that way. But at some point, he decided that being a creative entrepreneur was his path, and he built a company that paid him well - and was able to feed and clothe an army of employees to boot. You dream may not be as grand as Henson's was, but The Six-Figure Imperative can help set you on the path for healthy growth, whatever size your company may be.
If you're ready to set your own Six-Figure Imperative, and grow your creative business in a sustainable way, the doors are open to my new Portable Coaching program. If you need start up money, we recommend qvcredit as our legal money lender Singapore. They are tuned in for tech and innovation start ups. Designed for creative entrepreneurs in the start-up phase of growth, Portable Coaching is an easy, affordable way to get the help you need to grow your business. Beyond early start-up? I also have two openings for one-on-one advising. These spots fill fast, so check it out today if you're curious!
It may sound silly to you if I asked “what does your business taste like?” or “if your business were an animal, what would it be?” And yet, these are not uncommon questions to ask in the branding process. While there's not enough time and space to develop your brand in a post like this, here are some things to keep in mind as you develop your customer experience.
Your answers to these (and other) questions can paint a striking picture of your creative brand.
I loved MacGyver (still do!). To me, he was trustworthy, reliable, and he had an unmistakable brand. He never used a gun (except once, in the pilot episode of the show), he ate healthy food, and he had a mullet that every girl seemed to love. I'm pretty sure he was a Fusion Creative. He wore jeans, drove a Jeep, and was never without a roll of duct tape. He used his brain to solve the problems of the world. On the rare occasions he put on a tux, he looked like a fish out of water – he even confessed that he felt like a fish out of water! He preferred his jeans and tennies, his Jeep, and his handy roll of duct tape to the high-falutin airs of some Embassy dinner.
In fact, you might say he was trustworthy and reliable because he had an unmistakable brand. You always knew what to expect from MacGyver.
I had the opposite reaction when I watched Alias. Sydney Bristow was super smart, but hard to trust – even though I knew she was the hero of the show. She was a double agent, always in and out of disguises (most likely a Chaotic creative in the making). She was likable, but it was hard to know who she really was or which side she was on. I loved the show (even after they jumped the shark with that whole Rambaldi subplot), but it took several seasons before I felt like I really knew what to expect from her.
Whether you want to admit it or not you are a character. As a creative entrepreneur, you have to craft a persona – and I strongly encourage you to make it as true to life as possible. BRanding professionals will talk in terms of Archetypes. They'll use terms like "hero" or "innocent" or "maverick" but for creative entrepreneurs, this is more about how YOU want to show up on your best days. Young Steve Jobs dressed like a business man (mostly). As Jobs mellowed over the years, he stopped wearing business suits and became known for his iconic black mock turtleneck and jeans. It was a character, to be sure, but one that was true to who he was as a human being. Did his "archetype" change? Who cares? All I know is he became more likeable, more approachable, and that's the image he wanted to portray for Apple (even if he was a megalomaniac behind the scenes).
Lady Gaga insists on being outlandish in her own way – even when she's dressed conservatively, she'll have a thick layer of glitter eye shadow and long, color-coordinated fingernails (like she did at the 2016 Super Bowl). They are the calling cards of her brand experience.
You need to decide now what you want to be known for – before someone else decides for you. There are countless tales of performing artists who are “made” into a persona by their agents and producers. Don't let that happen to you – even if you don't have an agent or a producer. I tell my clients all the time:
You train people how to treat you based on what they've come to expect from you and what you've come to accept from them.
Knowing what you want to be known for isn't just about your Great Work. Sure, it's important to deliver a quality product or service, but who is delivering it (your character) and how it's being delivered is just as important to the story of your business. Tiffany's could use any color box and still command their lofty prices, couldn't they?
Well, maybe not.
Tiffany's gift box has become synonymous with “excellence, exclusivity, and flawless craftsmanship” according to their own website. Founded in 1837, Tiffany & Young, as it was then known, started as a store for “stationery and fancy goods”. Then, in 1845, founder Charles Tiffany (a Linear Creative by all accounts) published the “blue book” - a catalog of their “exquisitely handcrafted jewels” that featured the distinctive blue shade on the cover. It's said that Tiffany selected the color because turquoise jewelry was a popular gift at the time.
Whatever the reason, Tiffany cultivated a marketing story equally attractive when they started using the color on their boxes and gift bags. It was the one thing you couldn't buy in the store. The box would be given gladly to you - free of charge - when you “bought a little something” to put inside it.
“The rule of the establishment is ironclad,
never to allow a box bearing the name of
the firm, to be taken out of the building
except with an article which has been sold
by them and for which they are responsible.”
- a 1906 news article about Tiffany's
Eventually, the color became so synonymous with Tiffany that the company trademarked it – along with the box, the bow, and the name, “Tiffany Blue Box®.” When they filmed “Breakfast at Tiffany's,” 40 armed guards were hired, not to protect the jewels so much as to ensure not a single box left the premises. They also filmed on a Sunday, which required Tiffany's to open on a special day just for filming.
Now, you may not need to go to these lengths for your own company, but if your brand is built on prestige, excellence, or luxury, these might be the minimum lengths you would go to position your brand in the marketplace. This is why it is so critical to get clear on who you are and what really matters to you in the first place. Perhaps, like Tiffany's, you don't want to work on Sunday. That's an important boundary to set in your business. Maybe you want to be seen as friendly and accessible – in which case, applying gold foil to your business cards might be a bit “over the top” for your brand.
It's your business. You get to decide. And decide you must - before someone else does.
This was an excerpt from my Raving Fans Toolkit, which is part of my forthcoming book "Creative Freedom". Be sure you're on my mailing list to get your free copy of the Toolkit as well as first notice when the book launches!
In the meantime, tell me your thoughts! What kind of a character are you crafting in your business? What are the "hallmarks" and signature moves of your brand? Share your ideas in the comments and let's be a rising tide for everyone.
First, an announcement: Des is BACK from L.A., and we had a great session this week, recording tracks for The Fine Line. We laid the final tracks for our sexified version of Aerosmith's "Dream On" as well as the understated Eagles tune "I Can't Tell You Why." I am looking forward to sharing that track soon with our patrons and sponsors. If you haven't already pre-ordered your copy of the album, you can do that here.
In all, The Fine Line will feature 15 songs, including 2 originals. While most of the songs have been jazzified to some extent, the notable exceptions are a 1950's "motown" version of VanHalen's "Why Can't This Be Love" and a melancholy version of Avicii's "Addicted To You". The entire album is an intimate piano/vocal affair, and Des and I are hard at play to deliver the pre-orders in September.
Here's a sneak peek at the new album cover. What do you think?
You probably don't need me to explain that it's a double visual metaphor - songs from the past into the future, and "the fine line between the American Dream and the American Nightmare" as Don Henley once said.
Also, I gotta give props to Heidi at HSB photography for doing an amazing job on the photo shoot!
Okay, now on to the post!
As a creative entrepreneur, I used to struggle with day-planners, schedules, and anything that came with too much structure. That's my Chaotic side lashing out at my need for a little bit of Linear sanity. Since none of the traditional tools worked for me, I developed my own back in 2009, thinking it would probably go on the heap of "tried and failed" attempts to get my life and business squared away.
Well, here we are, 6 years later, and it still works like a charm. I've tweaked it a little over the years, but the core steps have stayed the same. This week's episode of Creative Freedom reveals my simple 5-step PEACE System that keeps me on track every day - focusing on what really matters, and giving myself permission to let go of what doesn't move the ball down the field.
Oh, and you'll hear one of my all time favorite tunes from a now defunct 80's band with a drummer that used to write songs with Madonna.
It's just enough structure that Chaotic creatives can play around and keep things loose, while giving Linear creatives the ability to get as granular as they need to stay sane. Fusion creatives like me can be flexible, depending on the kind of day we're having. I really surprised myself when I developed this concept. It's something I've been able to stick with for years now, and I attribute much of my success to using it - and I attribute much of my failure to the times when I get lazy and don't use it!
Not sure about your Creative Freedom type? Be sure to take the quiz and find out.
What works for you? What have you tried that didn't work? Share your comments
Recently, a new subscriber reached out and asked me about uncovering her "Great Work" in the world.
First of all, I LOVE it when people email me their questions! If you've got a question, hit me up in the comments or send me an email.
But to answer her question, I had to look deeper at what she wrote. Turns out, she's one of those "Jack of all trades" kinds of people. You know the type: someone who makes you sick because they're really good at a lot of things... but they can't figure out what their ONE THING is in order to make a career at it.
Oh, I know this problem so intimately well... because I'm one of those people.
For years I worked with coach after coach who told me to pick one thing, focus in on one thing, and get good at one thing and let THAT become my income driver.
Problem: Getting good at something isn't an issue. I'm a quick study and can pick up a LOT of things quickly. Then, my learning addiction kicks in and compels me to go deep in the topic so I'm GOOD at it, too.
Yeah, it's kind of annoying to me also. hee hee.
Over the years, I've had so many jobs and career paths that I was starting to think something was wrong with me... but there's nothing wrong with me. In fact, I'm part of a rising number of people that I call "Fusion" Creatives.
With a rise in demand for Liberal Arts and General Studies type degree holders in the workplace, we're seeing a resurgence of "renaissance" types who are versed in a variety of topics, and can hold their own in multiple environments.
Like being at the nexus of creative entrepreneurship, for example.
As a musician and a business coach, I've been pressured for years by coaches and peers to hone in on one thing... but that's like asking me which of my kids gets to live in a sacrificial offering. Not gonna happen. I'd cut out my own heart first.
...but the world hasn't been ready to deal with us until recently. Books like Barbara Sher's "Refuse to Choose" have helped give credence to "Scanners" as she likes to call them. We're not flighty, we're actually incredibly valuable - even if we have a hard time seeing it ourselves.
This week's episode of Creative Freedom unveils a glimpse into this
Fusion types often think of themselves as not creative when compared to their Chaotic friends and colleagues. Chaotics are the type we most often think of as the "creative" people of the world. They can be artsy, or crafty, free-spirited, and willing to "go with the flow". Chaotics are also pretty good with people, communication, and have a strong connection to their definition of the Divine. Some people call them "right brained" but that's a misnomer that's been debunked in recent years.
So us Fusion types tend to feel a little "less than" when compared to our Chaotic colleagues.
Fusion types also find that they're the "creative ones" when compared to their Linear colleagues. Linears are the type that think more strategically, enjoy working with patterns, numbers, and figures, and often find themselves at a loss when it comes to building strong relationships, networking, or handling customer service issues. Some people call them "left brained" but - as you can guess - that's a misnomer, too.
And yes, Fusion types tend to feel a little intimidated (or overwhelmed) when comparing themselves to their more financially successful Linear colleagues.
But I said "potential" and potential not acted on is wasted. Fusion types can be good at just about ANYTHING. They just need to hone in and stay consistent, while having the courage to keep sharing their unique blend of Linear and Chaotic awesomeness. Chaotics marvel at Fusion's ability to stay on track, meet deadlines, and generally get stuff done (as a one-woman show, I might add). Linears appreciate the creative streak and courage Fusions have to be "on" with people.
In short, we're pretty freaking awesome, and we have a hard time seeing it because everyone around us is more Linear (or Chaotic) than we are. So instead of seeing our unique blend as fantastic, we worry if we'll measure up.
But when we DO finally stay consistent, we are the Creative Freedom type with the greatest capacity for financial and personal success.
Each type also has blind spots that slow down their trajectory. For Chaotics, it stars by having a choke hold on your creative vision. For Linears, it's being too focused on bottom-line results. For Fusions, it's perfectionism and comparisonitis that keeps us stuck.
When you learn your Creative Freedom type, you shine a light onto those hidden areas so that you can take action and see success more easily. I stumbled on all of this entirely by accident over years of working with clients and noticing the patterns they were demonstrating.
If I did my math applying the 10,000 hours concept correctly, it takes about 10 years of consistent effort to reach world class status. At 40, I should be world class at about 4 different things, if I applied myself properly over the years. That means, I've got another 30-40 years (or more) to master a few more things. Heck, even Tony Bennett has established himself as a painter as well as a singer!
Fusion creatives don't need to pick just one thing. YAY! Instead, we need to think of our talents like a rock band - like the Eagles: you've got a lead singer, and others singing backup. Everyone in that band sings at some point in the show - and they've all got years of practice at honing their craft. No one is ignored, and they all get to shine.
THAT is how a Fusion makes the most of their gifts and talents. Put one or two out front while the others provide "back up" and have the courage to experiment and rotate them out from time to time - just make sure you keep practicing and honing your craft before you make a big leap. You don't see the Eagles trying something new at their shows - that's what rehearsal's for.
Have you been the Jack of All Trades in your circle? How have you created a meaningful body of work with your skills and abilities? Did you take the quiz and learn your Creative Freedom type? If so, what is it? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments and let's be a rising tide for everyone!