If you were going to start a business in the physical world and wanted to sell products, you would invest a good bit in advertising and hope the customers came rolling in. From there it would be up to you to wow them with your sales techniques and provide good customer service in hopes that they come back. Well when you are starting an online business things don’t work that much different when you are trying to sell products. You build a store, invest in advertising, and provide great customer service and hope the people keep coming back to your store and not the millions of competitors.
But what if what you are trying to sell is yourself? What I’m most familiar with is writing and music so I apologize if some of you are getting tired of examples that relate to those two subjects. Let’s say for example if you are a musician and you are trying to stand out from the crowd or you are a writer trying to promote a book you are self-publishing. Social networking sites can be a good source of millions of potential customers for your creative outlets but I have found that they don’t work as well as we all might like. On MySpace.com for example people use 3rd party websites to rake in thousands of “friends” that they can then promote themselves to. The problem is that everyone is doing this same thing and of 99% of your “friends” really don’t care what you are trying to sell them through your bulletin posts because all that most of them are trying to do is get thousands of friends as well and most of them have probably never even been to your MySpace page.
In economic hard times and the ever growing sea of other creative professionals on the Internet it’s no longer a viable business model to simply exist on the Internet and expect people will give you their money. Unless you are at the top of your creative field, which I hope none of the people reading this are arrogant enough to claim that they are. So what then is the solution?
The solution lies in giving your website visitors something valuable in their lives. Whether that is free advice, interesting articles about topics relevant to them, or free music or artwork. The idea is that if you add value into their lives, then they will (hopefully) at some point add monetary value into yours. Musicians who work in the Electronica genre have been masters of this concept for years. Artists routinely release several full length digital albums completely free of charge and build a huge following before they start charging money for their art. And when they do start charging money they find out one of two things: That their music has really affected people’s lives and they want to continue that experience or that their art wasn’t as powerful as thousands of free downloads had led them to believe.
Another example is one of my favorite authors Jeffrey A. Carver. Not only does he maintain a blog that he updates regularly with answers to readers questions but he is the author of WriteScifi.com, an extensive online writing resources for people wanting to get into writing Science Fiction and Fantasy and it’s completely free of charge. Talk about giving your website visitors something valuable.
So make yourself valuable. Don’t always look at the quick dollar but rather take the long view and actually be something to people. The old business models don’t apply to creative professionals in an online world.