5 Business Mistakes Musicians (and other creatives) Make

WARNING: marketing lingo is distributed quite evenly throughout this post. Sorry not sorry.

I had the privilege to study a marketing postgraduate. I call it a privilege because it completely changed the way I think about how we choose to work – whether it’s a 9-5 job, or a hobby or interest we are pursuing. The lecturers and tutors I was able to learn from taught me some incredible business principles that continue to shape how I frame my own service provision. Marketing is not just advertising– marketing considers literally every angle of the service you provide. Do you answer your phone, texts or email enquiries promptly? Do you start working each day at a suitable time to complete your tasks? Do you deliver on what you say you will provide? Do you over charge or under charge? Is your website completely frustrating to navigate? Do you have a suitable portfolio available to potential clients? Does your personal social media activity colour how people perceive your business?

These following 5 mistakes (there are more, I may write more on this later) apply to anyone that runs a business (sole trader or otherwise). Musicians and creatives (myself included) have so much to gain from thinking more strategically about how we run our music (and other creative) businesses. I don’t profess to be a genius at these myself but I want to share them because they are just GOLDEN and help create really strategic and efficient business. Believe me when I say they have helped me and I really hope they assist you as well.

  1. Business Mistake #1: Whingeing

Instead: make changes

This applies to people in all industries and from all business sizes – you CANNOT complain about something you CHOOSE to do. If you’re whingeing about something within your business it’s a sign something needs to change in the way you manage your business, or maybe you’re better off doing something else.

LISTEN TO YOURSELF. Whatever you’re talking about with others/thinking about consistently is what you need to change.

  • Is money as issue? Look at your budget.
  • Are you complaining about a colleague or business partner? Re-assess the relationship and make changes to it as needed.
  • Do you always say you don’t have enough time? Look at how many projects you are trying to be involved in and/or manage your time better.
  • Want to be opening a new arm to your business/services but “don’t have the skills”? Get some training and get the skills/hire the people who do.
  • Do you simply hate this career path? Stop doing it.
  1. Business Mistake #2: Overselling

Instead: be realistic with what you can offer to clients

Be careful with what you promise – DO NOT over-promise on something you cannot actually deliver. Write down what your killer strengths are within your business and pitch those to your clients. These might be services you already have a track record of providing, or something you’ve been working on in the background that has shown actual and real potential as a service option. Be good at these things – VERY good. Do not offer a service you have not nailed yet.

Another great thing to do here is take a look at others within that service area – what is their level of skill and performance, and how do you compare? Don’t just write it off as impossible, or something you are the BEST at – really assess it. Are you halfway to having the skillset you need? Or further away? How does your final result stand up against others in that area? If you don’t have the skills yet, get some training. Practice. Gain some experience. Ask someone in the industry to take a look at what you’ve done and take in their feedback. Then offer it.

  1. Business Mistake #3: Underselling

Instead: value the quality and results of your services for what it’s worth

Do not sell yourself short (financially or in the quality of services you provide) – this does not make you appear humble – it makes you and your service appear cheap and lacking in quality as a service provider. Please please please please do not offer anything for free. EVER. Again this makes your product seem cheap. You might think it’s a great “marketing tool” (*shudder*) – NO! It just attracts the wrong kind of client – the client who wants everything at top quality for NO PRICE. That is not a good client to attract – your business will never benefit from them.

Again, know what you do really well and be confident in telling clients about it. If you haven’t mastered it yet, don’t pitch it.

  1. Business Mistake #4: Expecting to become a millionaire

Instead: do a solid and real assessment of what your expected income and expenses will be and have a strong financial plan to meet it

So many people start working for themselves because they think it means they’ll be rolling in cash as a result. WRONG WRONG WRONG. Some people are lucky and they do have some decent cash as a result of a business, but as income increases, so do expenses. You’ll often find that these rich kings are also completely savvy at investing, much better than the average business owner. Alternatively these guys may also be dodging financial corners that get them busted with the tax office later down the line.

Some of the common pitfalls are:

  • not having any kind of financial plan or budget– you’ll spend money you don’t have, you’ll forget you have financial obligations and before you know it you won’t have a fund to support new business ventures.
  • not be prepared for expenses– ensure you consider travel expenses (and include these in invoices where possible), superannuation (of you and staff), tax, insurances, gear repair, necessary bills, an emergency fund, advisors (tax agents, lawyers).
  • making unwise business decisions with big financial implications– the best business owners (and beneficiaries) are those who invest wisely. Don’t rush to spend money thinking money will come back in instantly as a result.
  • spending money you don’t have– if you don’t have the cash for that item sitting in an account right now, perhaps you can’t afford it just yet. Running a line of credit, using credit cards or applying for a loan work well for the diligent amongst us, but there’s a large percentage who cannot manage these well.
  • not listening to financial advice– financial advisors have some incredible advice to hand out. Listen to them and actually try some of their suggestions. If it doesn’t bring about the result you are after then sure, stop doing it. But don’t be so arrogant as to think you know everything about finance.
  1. Business Mistake #5: Jumping In Too Quick

Instead: let yourself feel excited – but step back after that and think rationally

Never let your emotions lead a business decision – ever. It’s completely fine to be excited or scared about something – let yourself feel those emotions. But the idea must be tested rationally. Can you actually DO this? Do you have the skills? How will it impact your business financially? Do you have available time?

If you are generally a more emotional person, perhaps you need a business partner or advisor who can be a rational ear for you. Bounce the idea off someone else (even a professional business advisor) and really listen to their opinion. Consider it – don’t just write it off. Others can often have insights you don’t have. They might assist you avoid a massive financial pothole, or help you set up something incredible.

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