9 Things to Consider When Starting your own Business

Beginning your journey with your own new business can be a wonderful experience, but also a daunting one. While working for yourself can certainly be a hugely rewarding path to take, it comes fraught with dangers – not least of which is the disappearance of your weekly pay cheque.

Are you ready to take the plunge? Great. Here are 9 things to consider when starting your own business.

The three elements of a sale

No matter what your business, its products and / or services, there are essentially just three parts to any sales deal – the buyer, the seller and the product (or service). Are you sure that at least two of these three elements are known to your target market? In other words, when you approach your first prospects with your own business, presenting its products, will that prospect recognise at least two of these elements? Will they, for example, know what your type of product is or does (even if they don’t know you)? Will they relate to others who use your product? Do they know you already, even if they weren’t aware that you are now marketing whatever your product is?

Your family’s opinions have no value (and that includes your own!)

The fact that your wife, husband, daughter or mother thinks your idea is great does not count. Your product or service has (hopefully) not been designed according to your tastes, but those of the identified target market.

things to consider when starting your own business

Money, money, money

Quite apart from the resources you must have in order to build your product or design your service, you must have cash to run a viable marketing campaign, e.g. build a website, advertise on Facebook, print flyers, etc. One of the great business adages reminds us that “Running a business without promotion is like winking at a good-looking girl (or boy) in the dark. You know what you’re doing, but nobody else does”.


You’ve simply got to believe in what you’re doing. Coming back to the point above, that does not mean your friends and family can give you confidence. No, it’s about research, research and more research.


Yes, things will get sh*tty at some point. It’ll also get lonely. C’est la vie. Get on with it.

Target market personae

Marketing research is critically important, but it’s not exciting or sexy. Knowledge is intricately linked to confidence, above. Carry out lots of research, including as objective a SWOT Analysis as you can manage. Learn as much as possible about the marketplace, competitors, pricing, distribution channels used by others, etc, etc. Segment the market. Then focus – and I mean really, really focus – on one or two target markets within the overall market. You do not want to try to be all things to all people. Develop a persona that represents each of your one or two target markets, as if each of them is one single real human, and put all your effort into them.

Of all the things to consider when starting your new business, this is the key.

But you’re not doing this blind. You’ve carried out thorough research and that research has told you there’s a market out there for your product.

Get used to having coffee with strangers

Hopefully, you will have some pre-existing relationships to bring to this new business. They might be past clients with your previous employers; they might be suppliers from your last job. No matter. You’ll still need to build lots of new ones, so get out there and meet people.


You don’t expect the first person (or business, if you’re in the B2B space) you encounter to purchase on your first meeting. No, it will take time to build that business, recalling the AIDA Formula, namely

A – Awareness

I – Interest

D – Desire

A – Action

Your task is to move targets through each stage, from at first knowing your new business exists, to becoming interested, then wanting to act, then purchasing your product or service, thanks to your impressive marketing and great product.

“Nobody gives a damn about your business but you”

I’m also very fond of this saying. It reminds us not to be too precious about our lovely shiny new business. What it’s telling us is that your targets have loads of things on their mind and their world is not going to change just because you’ve set up a business. No. Your job is to provide value to your market. If you provide genuine value to the correct target market, you’ll make it.

Keep in mind these things to consider when starting your own business and the very best of luck. Break a leg!

Things to consider when starting your own business – Resources

The internet is full of helpful articles on tips and tricks for the new business owner. Be disciplined – grab yourself a coffee every day for at least two weeks and dedicate 30 minutes to reading every tip you can find. Then distill and go for it!

The network of 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEO) offer regular training programmes in ‘Start your own Business’. Find your local LEO at https://www.localenterprise.ie/Find-Your-Local-Enterprise-Office/.

Service Gaps Model for Exceptional Customer Service

I’m not a big fan of marketing and business development ‘models’ in general, but I do like the Service Gaps Model. It’s old-fashioned, perhaps, but still works for me and the many service businesses I deliver mentoring to.

Essentially, the Service Gaps Model is a way of reviewing the performance of a business, as measured against what the customer had perceived the service would be before experiencing it.

But crucially, it also measures performance against how management had declared it should be. In other words, actual performance is measured against both internal and external preconceptions.

Let’s put some meat on this.

Imagine a person walks into a restaurant and orders the full breakfast for Euro 8. She imagines that this would include not only the fry but also tea and toast. In fact, she is surprised to be charged an extra Euro 1 for this. This is a service gap.

On the other hand, imagine the manager of the above restaurant prescribes that the breakfast should include two sausages and two rashers, along with the rest. In fact, there is a new recruit in the kitchen who has been putting three of each on the plate since he arrived yesterday. Again, this is a service gap.

Service Gaps Model

Service gaps can result in fluctuating margins and disappointed customers. And we all know that the disgruntled customer goes away and tells twenty friends about the experience…

One of the Seven Ps of Marketing is People. While it’s clear that people are critical to the success of any business, this is particularly the case in services. Training of staff is important, but then so too is the role of management in determining the level of service that should be delivered to the customer and ensuring that it is both appropriate and delivered upon.

Understanding the Service Gaps Model gives insight into how providing exceptional service that surpasses customer expectations can drive your business forward and make it stand out from others that have not given due consideration to this powerful marketing tool.

Service Gaps Model – The 5 gaps you need to close :

  1. Customer perception of what they will receive (Expected Service) v Management perception of what the customer will expect.
  2. Management perception of what the customer will expect v Management specification of what the service should provide.
  3. Management specification of what the service should provide v What actually happens.
  4. What actually happens v What was ‘promised’ through communication and promotion.
  5. What actually happens in the eyes of the customer (Perceived Service) v Customer’s prior perception (Expected Service).

Service Gaps Model – What you need to do to close gaps and deliver the type of outstanding customer care you’re aiming for :

  • Carry out marketing research, talk to your customers, ask questions and listen to what customers say and want.
  • Communicate clearly to your customer what he will receive and when. Do not over-promise and under-deliver and be sure that every marketing claim is justified.
  • Commit to service quality. Train and match the right people to the right job.
  • Preach uniformity, standardise tasks and levels to be delivered. Lead by example and do not cut corners.
  • Improve two-way internal communication between front-line staff and management, as well as between marketing, design and technical / production departments.
  • Work as a team towards a common branding goal, recognise and reward the delivery of quality service across your team.

Remarketing Tools from Facebook and Mailchimp

As a small business owner, you’re probably using Facebook Pages and some email marketing system or other. Mine’s a Mailchimp, thank you for asking. But are you using the powerful remarketing tools these platforms offer?

Placing the Facebook pixel tracking code on your website allows you to build audiences on Facebook of website visitors who have taken actions, as defined by you.

For example, imagine you have an online shoe shop. You could build an audience on Facebook of people who visited, say, your ladies’ boots page, but did not purchase, i.e. did not visit your post-purchase ‘confirmation’ url.

Alternatively, if you don’t sell online, you could still use the pixel to simply count website visitors, irrespective of what actions they do or do not take on the site. The ‘audience’ (or group) thus built can be advertised to down the road.

To get into remarketing (aka retargeting) using the pixel, learn more from Facebook here.

Remarketing tools from Facebook and Mailchimp

Mailchimp, meanwhile, is a wonderful email marketing system. The basic idea here is to gather email addresses legitimately and forward occasional newsletters via email. However, the system offers much more, including remarketing automations. Here, you set up certain “if, then” scenarios and craft good emails to be sent when the trigger occurs.

For example, let’s imagine you’ve sent a newsletter and one of the articles is selling a certain event. You might set up an automation to forward a second, more in-depth email about that event, to encourage bookings. Or a follow-up video link, perhaps.

Learn more about Mailchimp automations here.

Remarketing tools from Facebook and Mailchimp

I use both these tools and would highly recommend that you start to experiment with them also. They build brand recognition, play a role in brand reinforcement and, ultimately, help drive sales.

Remember that book you looked at on the website of that huge worldwide book vendor, but didn’t purchase? Have you noticed it popping up on your Facebook newsfeed … Or that flight you checked, but didn’t book…

That’s remarketing (or retargeting) in action, right there.

How much Time do you Waste each Week?

There’s no such thing as “not enough time”. There is the time that there is and none of us can increase or decrease it. I wonder how much time do you waste at work each week?

We often hear others, and indeed ourselves, uttering those great words “I don’t have time for that”. Again, there’s no such thing as not having the “time for that”. If I say that I don’t have time for that, I’m simply saying that I’m not prepared to allocate time for that. It’s a question of two things : time allocation and wastage of time.

how much time do you waste

Whether or not we like to acknowledge it, the fact is that we all choose what to do with our time and, consequently, what not to do with it. Sometimes, we choose to waste it. Indeed, sometimes that’s perfectly fine and we call it ‘downtime’, ‘vegetating’, or whatever you’re having yourself.

But here’s the thing. Unconsciously wasting time can be a terrible hurdle to you getting on with your business. I hear people regularly telling me about the time they waste, for example, on social media. Mindlessly scrolling down the Facebook or Twitter feed. Engaging with stuff they really don’t need to be engaging with. A tap of the ‘like’ button here; an inane comment there; now and again a love heart…

I’m a big fan of social media. It’s a wonderful place to learn and communicate stuff, with Twitter being my favourite. It’s also a great way of driving people to your website and, ultimately, making sales for your product or service. But if you’re running your own small business, like I am, you’ve simply got to control the time spent on these platforms.

I used to be very good. Then I went through a phase where I started to spend too much time on them, looking at cute photos of cats and reading unimportant news stories. I’ve now gotten much better again, thankfully. I can tell you that just these last two weeks, I’ve sent proposals to a number of target clients which I wouldn’t have forwarded had I been wasting too much time on things bringing no benefit to my business. Now it’s up to me to follow up.

Nor, by the way, do I spend my evenings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or whatever. But that’s another story and you might reflect on how much of your precious family time gets wasted glued to smartphone screens …

How much time do you waste each week?

So here are some tips on, yes, reaping the benefits that social media offers your business but, no, not wasting time looking at that cool video showing goats leaping across a mountain gorge.

1. Just because it’s coffee time, doesn’t mean it’s ‘get distracted’ time.

2. Make a list. You hate lists? Doesn’t matter. Make one anyway and do it every single working day. On the list, jot down small jobs and break up big jobs into smaller tasks. You’ve got a huge tender document to complete by Friday? Do one section today, one section tomorrow, and so on.

how much time do you waste each week

3. Schedule your posts for your Facebook page and other platforms. Do that on, say, Monday morning before 10 am. Then all you have to do for the rest of the week is interact and engage with those commenting, which is what it’s supposed to be all about anyway. Right now, I’ve got 15 scheduled posts already up.

4. Never visit your personal ‘newsfeed’, aka ‘home’ on Facebook during office hours. Indeed, only use the Facebook Pages Manager App when on that tool for work.

5. Stop checking your social media, email, etc, so often.

6. Get yourself a task timer.

7. Turn off the radio, stop talking to time wasters, etc.

8. Stay focussed and resist the temptation to drift …

So sit back and reflect on how much time do you waste each working week. I’m sure you’ll realise that improved time management is achievable, if you put your mind to it. And by the way, did you watch those crazy goats?

Customer Care at the Cleaning Company

It’s a few years since I met these people, but the client’s name recently popped up in a conversation. This cleaning company has been very successful over the years and I remember them as one of the most impressive small businesses I’ve come across.

First, their business is spread quite widely across the country. Despite this, they retain excellent customer relations because they put it at the very core of everything they do. This is not just lip-service, but genuine quality customer care. They’re all the time talking with their customers, reviewing budgets and what can be achieved within the means of the people who employ their service. They talk to them as fellow humans, not as paying customers, and they’re not trying to sell a service the customer cannot afford.customer care at the cleaning company

Second, they do as they say. With many services that call to the home nowadays – like the tv guy, boiler guy, phone and broadband guy – the customer receives no more than a vague “morning” or “afternoon” slot for the call around and is expected to just sit at home and wait. As if they had nothing else to do with their lives. Not so here. This service gives a tight one-hour window in which they will call around. Much more reasonable, much more acceptable, much more customer-centric.

Third, the business keeps in touch via email. But not just any old humdrum marketing-heavy newsletter. No. These regular emails don’t mention the services of the business at all. There’s no pushiness; there’s no up-selling. It’s fantastic.

Learn More

If you’re in a service business, you could do a lot worse than consider the quality of customer care at the cleaning company. And while you’re at it, read this post on the importance of people in services marketing.

Here’s a nice article on customer care from thebalance.com.

Keep getting better.

Tips for the Start of a New Year

Let’s face it, we all reflect at the start of each New Year. How’s our business going? How did last year end up, compared to our plans and aspirations of 12 months ago?

With that in mind, here are a few tips for the start of a new year.

Get out

First, go somewhere new to think. Go into town and visit a coffee shop you’ve never been to before. Bring a pen and paper … remember them? In fact, do this a few times during the year, not just in early January.

tips for the start of a new year

Get scribbling

With said paper and pen, start throwing down some ideas – lots of them – about what you feel you could or should be doing this year that’s either the same or different to what you did last year. Something worked really well last year? Great, keep it up, but advance it, fine-tune it, improve it and bring it to an expanded audience. Something else didn’t work? Fine, get rid of it. You know the adage : if you keep doing the same wrong thing, you can expect the same poor results.

Get after a lost client

Each year, through natural attrition, we lose maybe 20% of our clients. That’s okay, especially if we’re happy enough to have lost some of them. Who doesn’t have a client they’d be happier without? But if not, then get on the phone, email or whatever and see if you can win them back. Where that’s not possible, then at least learn a lesson.

Get into something new

Your market is constantly evolving. You must evolve with it, or ahead of it. In 2017, I generated over 20% of my turnover from a product I didn’t even offer back in 2016.

Note that there are essentially three components to any sale : the buyer, the seller and the product.

For example, if your buyer knows you and appreciates the products you currently offer, then you have an opportunity to offer him something new and relevant. Equally, if the buyer doesn’t know you but does know or can relate to a similar buyer to him who has bought from you and he understands the product you’re offering, again you have an opportunity. Indeed, here are some tips on how to present a new product or service.

Get mental

Outside of work, but directly related to it, go get some physical exercise. Get into walking, cycling, swimming, team sports or whatever you fancy. Regular exercise will help you feel better both physically and mentally and that can only be good for you and your business. Right?

Tips for the start of a new year – resources

Here’s a nice list of practical things to do marketing-wise from the blog at Wix.

Here are 9 goals to aim for, from Entrepreneur Magazine.

And here’s what Social Media Today has to say – 18 digital strategy tips. Pay particular attention to Number 18!

Happy New Year!

What’s Instagram all about?

In the seemingly endless struggle to get a grip on social media marketing, many small businesses tend to blindly jump onto every platform they come across.

But just because Mary next door says she’s gone on Instagram and it’s “doing wonders”, doesn’t mean you and your business should blindly follow suit. Same goes for Facebook and all the rest.

The important question to ask yourself is : who is in my target market and where do they hang out, whether on- or offline?

As a generalisation, Instagram is mostly populated by females (about 60%), and over 90% of users are aged 35 and under. It’s great for fashion, food, travel, sports and the like, but know that there are relatively few 45+ on there and not as many males of the species either.

Having said that, it’s comfortably the fastest growing of the major social media platforms.

Instagram is about visuals – striking photos and lively videos. Indeed. the use of filters to doll up your photos is encouraged. This makes travel, food and fashion great. If you want to follow one Irish account, go check out the wonderful Jennifer Wrynne.

what's instagram all about

So, what’s Instagram all about?

Well, here are some things you need to bear in mind when considering it :

  1. You cannot place a live link in your post or video. In other words (at least until you become an Instagram rock-star), the only place you can have a link to your website is in your bio. What does this mean? It means that somebody who sees your photo and likes what you’re about cannot get straight to your website to browse your products or services. What does this mean? It means massively less sales as a direct result of you being on Instagram than, for example, being on Facebook. [Check Update May 2018, below]
  2. As a result of the above, you need to look at Instagram as being a PR / publicity tool and not as a sales channel. It’s great for initial brand recognition and subsequent brand reinforcement.
  3. Having said that, 70% of your posts (on average) will not be seen by your followers. It’s like Facebook in that regard.
  4. Sharing (in Facebook parlance) the posts of another person or business isn’t really an option.
  5. Show your personality. As mentioned above, Instagram is about your brand. Try not to be stuffy and overly serious. It’s a fun platform!
  6. You can sign up for and view Instagram on a PC, but you can only upload via your mobile phone.
  7. The use of multiple hashtags is not frowned upon, in the way that it is on Twitter, so use them to get your posts found. You can happily use 10 hashtags or more per post.
  8. Use the Location option when posting, if geography is relevant to your target market.
  9. Stories are a series of photos and/or videos that you deliver over a 24-hr period, counting from the first element. They then disappear. They’re fun for an event, workshop, special short-term offer, super announcement, store opening and so on, but don’t last. Why bother? Because they place you at the top of the screen, in the very best ‘real estate’, as the yanks would say. Aha!
what's instagram all about - stories
Note “Stories” at the top of the screen

What’s Instagram all about? It’s about branding and enjoyment, but recognise it for what it is and what it isn’t. And, oh my gawd, don’t spend all your days and nights on it …

Update May 2018 :

Verified shops selling physical products (not services), through their Facebook Pages, can now have live links within posts that direct people to an online shop for the product featured in the post. Read https://help.instagram.com/277800139422805.

A Flying Leopard Cannot Change Its Spots

A few short years ago, amid great fanfare, Ryanair announced to the world that it was changing the way it did business. Changing its spots, if you will. The airline, declared Mr. O’Leary, would “try to eliminate things that unnecessarily piss people off”.

Apparently, this change of heart was due to some significant shareholders being worried about the capacity of one of the world’s biggest airlines to grow yet further under its previous ‘customer service’ regime. Read this 2013 Conor Pope article.

Now, I should declare at the outset that I’m a huge fan of Ryanair and thank it enormously for the massive expansion in the number of destinations we can all fly to non-stop from Ireland and, of course, for its low fares. The over-the-top rules and regulations that characterised its modus operandi never really bothered me. Indeed, I specifically bought a cabin bag that didn’t break its dimensions rule. I never allowed it to weigh more than the permitted 10kg. I never put a bag in the hold.

But this year has seen that, it would appear, a flying leopard cannot change its spots.

flying leopard cannot change its spots
Screengrab of Ryanair’s Website

Just a few short years into its new cuddly, friendly skin, Ryanair has reverted to type with its new, unnecessary splitting of groups (often, families) that book but don’t choose the option to pay for allocated seats.

So, off to Girona we went this summer without taking up this option and, lo and behold, we were placed all over the plane. Not even two of the five of us were on the same row, on either the outward or homebound legs. And all the other families around us were complaining of the same. For that matter, neither flight was full, so that wasn’t the reason. Clearly, it’s policy. In the past, we never once paid for priority boarding or seat allocation, yet always got to sit together. No longer so, it would seem.

Conor Pope wrote about this in the Irish Times in June 2017.

Luckily, our youngest is now 13, so it’s not a big deal for us.

You’ve heard it before, “don’t over-promise and under-deliver”.

In your marketing communications, if you make some sort of promise or declaration about your customer service and the experience your customers will have, be sure that your customers will indeed have that experience.

Oh, and try not to unnecessarily piss people off.

And I haven’t even mentioned the outrageous cancellation of hundreds of flights this autumn …

IBYE 2018 is Launched by Minister for Enterprise & Innovation

Press Release :

Local Enterprise Office Roscommon confirms €50,000 county investment fund available

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Frances Fitzgerald T.D. and Minister of State for Business, Pat Breen T.D., have launched the national search to find Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneurs (IBYE 2018) through the Local Enterprise Offices.

IBYE is a programme run by the 31 Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs), including LEO Roscommon, with the support of the Department of Enterprise & Innovation and Enterprise Ireland. The competition is open to people between the ages of 18 and 35 with an innovative business idea, new start-up or established business.  Now in its 4th year, IBYE has an investment fund of up to €2 million. The closing date to enter this year’s competition is Friday, 29th September 2017,  and there is a €50,000 county investment fund on offer to local winners and runners-up in Co Roscommon.

Visit http://www.ibye.ie/

IBYE 2018 promo pic

Speaking at the national launch, the Tánaiste said: “Building on the success of previous IBYE competitions, this Government wants to support more young entrepreneurs right across the country through the LEOs. Ireland has a well-earned reputation as a country that supports and fosters enterprise. Our young entrepreneurs are talented, innovative and dynamic. Last year, 180 young entrepreneurs won investment funding for their businesses through IBYE, helping them reach their export and job growth potential. I would encourage all young entrepreneurs, between the ages of 18 and 35, to talk to their LEO about the IBYE 2018 programme and the valuable supports available throughout the various stages of the competition.”

Minister of State for Business, Pat Breen T.D., said: “IBYE offers a very significant stepping stone into the world of running your own business for young people aged 18 to 35. It’s not just the scale of the investment fund on offer that makes IBYE so important, IBYE 2018 entrants can go on to receive intensive enterprise boot camp training from their LEO under the programme, to help them establish and develop their entrepreneurship careers. Now in its 4th year, IBYE has proven to be a great success in all the regions with more than 1,800 applying across the country last year. I would encourage young people with a business idea or currently running a business to apply for IBYE before the deadline of 29thSeptember, 2017.”

Louise Ward, Head of Enterprise at Roscommon LEO, said: “The substantial investments available under IBYE are a very important part of the programme and will help more young entrepreneurs here locally to grow their businesses and create more jobs. Other business supports, such as management training, networking and one-to-one mentoring are also at the heart of IBYE. Last year, 450 young entrepreneurs all over the country benefitted from these business supports and 180 of them won investment funding to help start and grow their own businesses, so the rewards are there for participants, as well as for the winners. Taking part in IBYE will help Ireland’s young entrepreneurs move their businesses to the next level with the support of their Local Enterprise Office, whatever stage their business is at.”

IBYE 2018 is run locally by Local Enterprise Office Roscommon across three categories:  Best Business Idea, Best Start-Up Business and Best Established Business.

With an IBYE investment fund of €50,000, LEO Roscommon will award up to six investments to three category winners and three runners-up at county level. The local winners in the Best Start-Up and Best Established Business categories at county level will receive investments of up to €15,000 each and the two runners-up will each receive up to €5,000.

The Best Business Idea winner at county level will receive an investment of up to €7,000 and the runner-up will receive up to €3,000 of investment. These winners at county level will progress to Regional Finals early next year and the National IBYE Finals will be held in March 2018.

Previous Co Roscommon winners and runners-up of IBYE have included :


Mark Bannon, Vizor Technology Ltd., Bealnamullia, Athlone (Best Business Idea and Overall County Winner)

Niamh Cunningham, Irrelevant Fish, Lisacul, Ballaghaderreen (Best Start-Up)

Mark Molloy, Honest Bread & Cakes Ltd., Roscommon town (Best Established Business)


Oz Ibrahmi, Hex CNC, Knockvicar, Boyle (Best Established Business and Overall County Winner)

Mark Bannon, Vizor Technology Ltd., Bealnamulla, Athlone (Best Start-Up)

Enda Mahon, Progrip, Cloonee, Ballymoe (Best Business Idea)


Desmond Dolan, MistCalls, Cortober  (Best Business Idea and Overall County Winner)

Kyle Flynn, Heather Fed Fowl, Ballyfarnon, Boyle  (Runner-Up : Business Idea Category)

Kyle McLoughlin, Boyle Posude T/A SubTeacher.ie, Boyle (Best Business Start-Up)

Neil Patrick Collins, Cryptic Clique, Castlerea (Runner-Up:  Start-Up Category)

Eoghan Kenny, Project 5 Creations T/A BeltLock.ie Rathpeak, Ballinasloe (Best Established Business)

Brian Larkin, Centrepoint Autos, Hodson Bay, Athlone   (Runner-Up : Established Business Category)

IBYE 2018 – Categories :

  1. Best Business Idea (pre-trading) – up to €10,000 investment fund through every LEO (€7,000 for category winner and €3,000 for runner-up, through every LEO)
  2. Best Start-Up Business (up to 18 months) – with up to €20,000 investment fund through every LEO (€15,000 for category winner and €5,000 for runner-up, through every LEO)
  3. Best Established Business (over 18 months) – with up to €20,000 investment fund through every LEO (€15,000 for category winner and €5,000 for runner-up, through every LEO)

IBYE 2018 – How to Enter :

Local entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35 should visit the IBYE website at www.ibye.ie, to submit their applications online.

The closing date for entries is Friday, 29th September, 2017 and there are no entry fees.

Further information for Roscommon entrants is available from https://www.localenterprise.ie/Roscommon or by calling me on 086-8318748.

The Creatives Dilemma

The Creatives Dilemma – A Curious Matter.

Way back in 2009, I was asked to carry out a study of the professional lives of almost 100 creatives – crafters, artists and designers – living in the West of Ireland.

The overt aim of the project was to research what workshops, training and other support inputs the designers would like to avail of. However, it also revealed worryingly low levels of income among the group. Over the almost 10 years since, I’ve worked with a large number of creatives and repeatedly come across what I term “the creatives dilemma”.

For those of us looking in, a creative might seem somebody who would be comfortable in the realm of marketing, no?

After all, they’re creative, right? And we all know that large marketing and advertising houses are constantly seeking ‘creative’ minds for their client projects, to spin their latest advertising slogan or develop their rejigged branding look.

But artists, crafters and designers are another breed of creative entirely.

creatives dilemma
Creatives like to create. They like to paint, sculpt, weave, dance. They don’t like to market, sell, meet, or put themselves out there in any way.

I’m generalising, of course *.

This creatives dilemma results in the low levels of income encountered and the sense of isolation many (particularly rural) creatives experience. Resulting low sales are a barrier to realising their true potential, unless a buyer or influencer just happens upon a creation they just happen to like.

When I mention pro-active marketing to many creatives, or how they might get themselves ‘noticed’, their eyes glaze over. I can sense their internal voice saying something along the lines of “oh, just let me get back into my studio”.

Indeed, once back in the studio, another dilemma is encountered. This one, Scott Barry Kaufman describes thus :

” I am often torn between two extremes– inspiration and self-doubt. There are moments I feel I have stumbled upon a great truth, a new discovery. This enlivens my spirit and motivates me to further explore and share. Explore and share. The deep drives of the artist. Yet, what happens when we explore and discover that so many others have trod the same path, have been inspired by the very same questions and have already reached satisfying conclusions? This inevitability can bring out the defenses, the self-doubt. What do I possibly have to contribute to this world? What can I say that hasn’t already been said? “

A Solution to the Creative Dilemma?

But getting back to my own take on the creative dilemma.

In my opinion, there is clearly a need for some kind of third-party marketing person, perhaps initially joint-funded by local authorities, the DCCOI and/or other micro-enterprise support agencies. Such a person could take charge of the sales and marketing of a group of creatives from, say, a limited geographic area and for, say, a defined time period. The aim would be to generate awareness of them and make some sales. But, and this is the point, such a scheme would require legacy. There would need to be transfer of knowledge to the creatives in the ultra-practical areas of selling, marketing and “getting-out-there”. The marketing person would inevitably depart, but the creatives must have learned both about strategy and practical marketing skills.

* Note : There absolutely are exceptions to this generalisation and some creatives are excellent at promotion, marketing and “putting themselves out there”.