If I’m so fabulous, why am I not making any money? This question haunts talented, brilliant people who are praised, but do not see their value expressed in their paycheck. Somewhere along the way they got this idea that being talented, providing a superb product, or delivering an exceptional idea was how to make money. Along the way people are told – “you are so amazing, you’re going to make so much money.” and as your bills accumulate and your checking account begins to look like loose change you found in the couch, you wonder how can this be? It’s not unusual to feel anger or resentment as if you’ve been duped. It probably seems like every human being you know is making more money than you, which then compels you to start feeling guilty about your resentment. Sound familiar?
I encounter this destructive cycle frequently with clients. I get it because I was there at one time too. When you are building a business and you present quality work and people respond to it enthusiastically it’s natural to assume that this will follow a financial reward, and that IS after all what everyone is telling you. You are going to be a gazillionaire! And you might be, but here’s what you need to know: your fabulous product or service isn’t going to be enough. You can’t eat praise or buy yourself a fabulous bag with compliments. You need some of that green paper with all the dead white guys on it to live.
I started my own company 3 years ago. To the outside world it appears that I assembled a rocket in my backyard, procured a tank full of badass rocket fuel and skyrocketed, and that is exactly how it didn’t happen at all. It’s true, in three years I have transformed my professional and personal life, but it did not happen overnight and no rocket of any kind was involved.
Monetizing your work is a process. It’s a process that you can learn and perfect, but make no mistake it is a process, and if you want to make money you need to learn how. Learning how to make money is as important if not more important than the service or product itself. This is completely counterintuitive to the ‘build it and they will come’ model.
I can’t possible calculate how many people have said some version of, “There’s nothing like this in the marketplace” or “I am better than any one in market” or “What I provide is different, better” And it goes on. I have no doubt that these statements are in fact frequently true, but if you want to make money being the best (fill in the blank) you will still need to hone your business development skills. Sorry. You won’t just be discovered. That’s always the hope – that some really great contact will see your work, send one tweet or tell their important contacts and you’ll be richer than Oprah.
You need to redefine your relationship with your business and understand the role of revenue generation.
- Don’t fall into the trap of giving your product away to people who can afford it as some opportunity or promise for future work. It RARELY if ever happens. When people start saying things like, “it will be great exposure,” I get worried. I don’t need 10,000 people to know me I need a few people to pay me. Having said that, there are times that you can break this rule, but do it with a strategy in mind.
- Understand the difference between quality business development and stuff that looks like it, but makes no money. Networking is great IF you know what you’re doing and what you’re trying to get. Just “getting out there” isn’t going to equal money. You have to have a plan understand what you’re really trying to get and how to get it.
- Don’t get seduced by how great people are telling you are or thinking that one big client or success will change your life. It might, but it’s unlikely. It’s great to get press or land a big or important client, but no one event or transaction determines the future of your business. When you hear people promote themselves as an overnight success, dig a little deeper and ask questions. By overnight, they generally mean a few years.
- Great sales people are expensive because the SINGLE only revenue generating activity in a business is selling. I am often asked if I think it’s a good strategy to find someone to work on commission only. The assumption is that great sales people are just walking around looking for a product to sell. They’re not. You can find someone who is down on their luck or in between projects, who might try pedaling your wares on the side until something better comes along, but this won’t generate revenue and it can compromise your brand to have someone who lacks commitment and dedication. I don’t recommend this strategy. If you want a salesperson, you need to hire one or be one yourself.
- Know that monetizing your business is about skill not luck. You create your own luck. The great news about making money is that you actually have a lot more control and agency in the process than you think and you can LEARN to do it if you choose. It’s not luck or a personality type it’s simply skill and skill can be acquired and honed. Stop telling yourself you aren’t good at it and learn how to get good. Nothing will make you feel more empowered in your business than the ability to create a dollar out of thin air on your own terms doing the work you love.Being fabulous is just the beginning. Earning a living and getting paid well for your work is another set of skills entirely, but if you so choose, you can become fabulous at making money and yes, you can do it elegantly and ethically.