Two things have been changing the way I think about the value of what I do: Systems Thinking and Value-Based Fees.
I just finished a class in my masters program called Systems Thinking and Organizational Learning. I was fascinated by the concept of systems thinking and how processes and systems can be managed in order to identify problem areas. By taking time to define and map out my workflows and processes, I have been able to identify where I work efficiently, and where I lose steam.
Systems thinking has also enabled me to see the reality of how much value I inject into a project. I do not just focus on the creation of work that looks great, functions smoothly, and tells a story, but I am able to find the nuggets that need to be projected and the tertiary information that can be eliminated.
I have been reading a few books by consulting guru Alan Weiss in order wrap my head around a different form of business thinking: value-based fees. While his language is centered around consulting, it is relatively easy to apply what he is saying to the work of creativity. If the creative business owner chooses to do the difficult work of tackling and defining what a return on investment would be for the work they do, then they can grasp the concept of value.
One way that Weiss defines value is in his past-present-future model: A consultant (creative business owner) builds upon his or her past experiences, to do work in the present, for the benefit of a client’s future, which then feeds back into the creative business owner’s experiences.
Most creative business owners do not have a problem with communicating past experiences and showcasing the current work being done. The problems enter when trying to talk about what the client received in economic terms of value.
How to Establish Creative Value
I’m still doing the work of establishing the creative value in the work that I do, but here are a few places that I am starting to look at:
- How did the project affect the client’s bottom line?
- Did the outcome match the project’s goals and objectives?
- How was the client changed because of the process?
Just because I am a creative business owner does not mean that I should forsake the basics of running a business. Perhaps that is the difference between the labels of “freelancer” versus “creative business owner”? One embraces the restrictions of other people’s expectations (freelancer), which the other enters the free market to not only make a living, but also a profit in order to effectively change the world.