Help other people

There is an interesting truth about business success that many creatives don’t understand (or don’t want to recognize) – it’s not just about what you are good at or what you are passionate about; it’s about what people are willing to pay you for.

Why do people pay for things?

They pay when someone can help them solve their problems.

For example, when you are sick you see a doctor. You willingly pay your doctor because he helps you feel better by giving you a diagnosis and by dispensing medicine.

Or you are concerned about growing old, so you buy skincare products that promise to have anti-aging properties. Again, you are willing to pay good money for these products because they help you to solve your problem, which is an intense fear of looking old and haggard.

If you are thinking of doing your own thing – starting a small one-person business or becoming a freelancer – you must continually ask yourself: are you helping people to solve their problems?

Are you providing real value and making other people’s lives better?

If you are, then there is a good chance that you might succeed, because it means there is actually demand for what you offer.

A very good example of someone who hit the sweet spot of convergence between passion + skill + value is Brett Kelly. He is the creator of Evernote Essentials, originally a book but now a multi-format resource about how best to use the app Evernote.

He liked using Evernote, he was very good at it, and apparently, there is a whole bunch of people who really want to learn to become better at it. It is this huge demand that has made Evernote Essentials such a big success (over 75,000 people have bought the product).

I know creatives don’t like the idea that they exist in a market with supply and demand forces. It’s boring; they just want to create or make their art. But we cannot deny the reality that whatever we do, it is a form of economic activity, and we are subjected to the same forces that other businesses are subjected to, no matter how good our art or creativity is.

If we want to have some form of success, we must create value for other people. In other words, we must help others.

Another example I love of an awesome small business that combines passion + skill + value is Elmastudio, a WordPress theme studio run by a husband and wife team. Their income comes from selling the beautiful WordPress themes they create (passion + skill), but the main reason they can make a living off what they do is because their themes help people to create beautiful websites, even if they have no web design skills. Elmastudio solves a real problem in people’s lives.

Since we are on an example spree, here’s another one.

One of the best food blogs I have ever seen is eatingthaifood.com. It’s successful, I believe, because it’s not just a self-indulgent blog about the author’s favorite food. Its success must lie in the value it provides its readers. The blog is updated regularly with new eating finds throughout Thailand (a great resource for a foodie traveling there), and it has a wonderful recipe section – with great photography and easy-to-follow instructions – that teaches people how to cook authentic Thai food. The last I saw, there were 274 comments on his latest recipe. That’s a lot of demand!

So… in the work we do as a creative entrepreneur, it’s often not about us, but about our viewers, readers or clients.

By putting them first, by doing our best to give them great value and by doing everything we can to help them solve their problems, it’s hard not to be successful. In fact, our viewers, readers or clients might even beg to pay us.

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