If you want to stay in business, you have to learn to sell, even if it’s not your forte.
When someone asks me what I do, I often answer that I’m a writer. Yes, I’ve got a business and I do a lot more these days than sit down and pound away on my keyboard. But inside, I still think of myself as primarily a writer. It’s what I do when I’m not focused on other parts of my business.
I’ve had to figure out how to get those other parts handled when all I want to do is write. I’m not the only one, either; when your business is based on your own creativity, odds are pretty good that you enjoy actually designing or writing or creating something new. It can be tough to balance your creative work and actually go out there to sell. But sell we must, assuming we want to stay in business.
Here are a few tips to help you balance the two parts of a creative business:
1. Focus on making a set amount every day. I routinely tell myself that until I’ve made a certain amount in a given day, I can’t write. It can be a painful process, but because I’m thinking about the minimum I need to make every day, I can almost always make enough sales early in the day — and it’s inspired me to market as much as possible so that I wake up with the day’s quota already full.
2. Build a profile for big customers. Any time I create a new product, I build a profile of customers who could potentially put in big orders. I research that profile thoroughly and write it up, which plays to my creative strengths — depending on what your skills are, use them to make this prospective customer as real as possible. Then I invest my time in getting my products in front of those customers.
Sure, I invest time and energy in selling individual products, but going back to creating a quota, the more big customers I can land, the less selling I need to do.
3. Create visual reminders of what you’re working towards. I keep pictures and notes on my desk that help me visualize specific goals I’m working toward. This technique doesn’t work so well for big broad ambitions; rather, I’ve got a picture of how I’d like to remodel my house and the amount my business needs to earn for me to be able to afford that next step.
4. Reward yourself (and your team) for doing well. There’s a reason that the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is still remembered long after others have disappeared. As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to want to work every hour of every day, often on one very specific part of our businesses. It’s common to offer rewards to your team when you meet certain goals, but it’s just as important to reward yourself — even if it’s just a nice meal if you’ve gotten all your work done.
5. Develop mental systems for selling. One of the reasons that many creatives can struggle with sales is because there’s a logic to doing creative work: if I use certain vocabulary, a written project is going to appeal to a certain audience. But when we move over to the business side of things, we’re learning entirely new systems — which may not match up with our experiences of how things are supposed to work. Getting a mental system in place that makes sales sensible is crucial.
6. Hire the right team as you grow. As an entrepreneur, you’re moving in the direction where you have to have help in order for your business to run. As you’re hiring your team, think in terms of not only who will free up the most time for your creative work but also who will help you the most in terms of sales. Entrepreneurs need to be able to sell, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t bring in team members who manage most of the process for us.
Thursday Bram is the founder of , an online content creation and consultation firm.
is an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business’s development and growth.