The value of any creative business no longer (solely) rests on the quality of its final product. Whether it is a sofa, a photograph, a floral arrangement, lighting, stationary, or a shoe, there is too much great stuff out there for you to rest on your work alone. You might be that good, but not so good as to stand wholly apart. Today, you need an amazing process to get to your final art as much as you need to be able to produce amazing art. Done well, it means putting the spotlight on your creativity and getting paid well for the brilliance between your ears much more than the brilliance between your hands; to get paid for inspiration far more than perspiration. Engaging and connecting your client to your process is the key determinant of your success as a creative business. Communicate your ideas well and you will earn trust to continue building the relationship. Your final product will then be the by-product of the relationship, not the definition.
All of which brings me to the importance of presentation. If you do not invest in the theater of presentation, you are asking for trouble. Skip presenting and you are dead even if you do not know it yet. Presenting used to be hard and expensive. A client knew that creating a rendering, organizing materials and ideas was difficult. Very few knew AutoCAD and even less could afford to use it. Even if you could put together a PowerPoint, printing in anything other than basic Kinko's style was not happening. The result: one sample, one room, one big investment to give enough of a taste of what was to come to convince a client to take the leap.
Today, Marriot design rooms virtually in 3D instead of building demo rooms and lobbies, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars and six months of design time in the process. Google Sketchup is $500. Forget about the wealth of freelance talent out there to use it. With Pinterest, how can you not know what a client loves? And how can you not find the perfect image of what you are thinking about if you cannot/will not create one for yourself?
The tools available to tell your client's story have never been more accessible. And we all know a killer presentation App is just around the corner. Clients are right to judge how you tell your interpretation of their story as much as anything else. Simply, how you present is the single most important linchpin to the value of your art and your creative business. Just take a look at the difference in philosophy between Vicente Wolf and my friend's interior designer.
Read Vicente Wolf's brilliant post on how he presents his design vision to his clients. To me, it is required reading for all creative business owners to see how someone like Vicente approaches his presentations, where he places the value of his creative business. Vicente is decidedly low tech, but thorough in how he “paints the colors” for his client. You may or may not want to present how Vicente does, that is not the point. Look at how methodical and detailed he is to every moment he is communicating his vision. If you are his client, how can you not appreciate the thought that has gone into his design? The perception of value is clearly on his creativity not the stuff he intends to use. Your faith in him is defined by his communication of his vision his way.
Juxtapose that with a story friends told me about their experience with their interior designer. The designer came highly recommended and had worked with several colleagues and friends. Her fee was $5,500 plus 20% of items chosen. My friends shared several Pinterest boards, took her to places whose design they liked, and talked with the designer for several hours about likes and dislikes. What did the designer show? Ideas in three genres that did not at all represent what was discussed. No floor plans, no specific ideas, just pictures of items that my friends had found online. The result: incredible frustration and distrust of the designer and whatever vision she might have had. Instead of wanting to maximize the relationship, they just want to get through it. They feel like they have invested too much of themselves to start over, but do they value the designer and her talent? No. Strong relationship? Not even close.
If only my friends' story was an outlier. I see it over and over ”“ the unwillingness to invest in process and the theater of presentation. I suppose it is because it is not the norm and, why bother, if the work will speak for itself. So not true and, even if it did, think of all the opportunities lost when a client only wants to be done. Today, it costs virtually nothing for your creative business to reveal the soul of your art before you have to deliver it. Next to nothing to create and be paid for an immutable relationship with your client. Here is my prediction: in the (very near) future all value to you, your art and your creative business will be put squarely on your ability to present effectively.