This month I read Seth Godin’s book The Practice: Shipping Creative Work. I often pick up Seth Godin’s work because he’s been at this business thing for so long and I really appreciate the different perspectives and wisdom he brings to all things business. This book really focuses on getting from idea to personal project and/or passion and/or hobby to bringing your work to the masses. This is a much bigger part of our work than we often take time to think about, so I really appreciated getting perspective on it, especially as we begin this new year.
The book begins with some important reminders that the majority of our creative work is done in service of others. Seth Godin and I both agree that whatever service we offer isn’t right for everyone, that not everyone will love what we offer, and that’s OK (and is something we’re going to talk about more later). But I know that it’s a whole lot easier to be in the thick of things with creative work or with clients when I keep front and center, or at the very least in the back of my mind, that I’m helping them, that I’m providing a service that benefits them and adds value to their lives in some way.
I also really appreciated that Seth addressed two of the biggest challenges for people who do more creative work (which is a good percentage of us): the first being the struggle over being comfortable with promotion and selling to people. But he reminded that not only are we being of service by sharing with people about things that can help them, they’re often excited, glad and thankful for that information. Think about the last time you had a really happy client, or you witnessed a really happy client: for example maybe if you were out at a restaurant and heard the couple at a table near yours telling the manager how awesome their server was and how delicious the food was and how they can’t wait to come back. You can hear the excitement and happiness in their voices, and it makes you happy too. So sales and promotion aren’t all bad.
The second big challenge that Seth addresses is the whole “free” stuff topic. In the book Seth says “generous doesn’t mean free…money supports our commitment to the practice.” Seth has a free blog that anyone anywhere can read, and I agree with having free trials, blogs, or other content for people to get to know you and what you offer, so it’s not a question of if free should be removed from the business world, we agree it shouldn’t. But it’s absolutely acceptable for you to draw a line and say that you give/donate/offer x, y, or z for free and beyond that you invite people to support the work you put into the world.
Finally, Seth talks about how any business owner has to decide if they want to try to create for everyone or they want to focus on a more specific audience. We’ve already established that not everyone will love (or need) what you offer, so technically you can’t create for everyone, or please everyone, so you should focus on a smaller audience that truly appreciates what you offer. I find it a bit both ironic and fascinating that Seth is so vocal about this in the book and yet his blog has thousands of people who read his blog each day. Like most of us, Seth started small and has been able to touch countless people over the years which helped him grow this large audience. Maybe you don’t have dreams or plans of going as big as he has been able to do, and that’s OK, all you have to do is start with your small circle and the (slightly) larger group that it grows to, and do your very best to serve them.
One final thought: the book is sub titled “Shipping Creative Work” and that’s because as awesome as it is to create for yourself or your immediate family and friends, the creative gifts that we have really are meant to be shared with (shipped to) the rest of the world. What creative efforts are you sharing with the world?