You Are the Product

This article is in some ways a continuation of Wednesday’s article, Raising the Value of You. Once again I will be discussing the field of creative professionals on the Internet, though the concepts discussed in this article apply equally well in many areas of business.

If you are a creative professional and you want to succeed at online business then you need to start thinking of yourself as a product that you are trying to sell. And with any product you need to arm yourself with knowledge about the product so you can determine how best to market it, package it, and price it.

To know how to market the product of you you need to know what your target audience is. If you are writing a blog about fishing then your market will probably be something like males from 20-50 who are in to fishing. This knowledge should affect your website design, your written voice and choice of words, and where if anywhere you plan to buy advertising for your blog. But more to the point of thinking of yourself as the product, you need to determine what sort of image you are going to present to your adoring fans-to-be. I believe that you should be yourself, it’s who you are best at being anyway. But the Internet gives you a little leeway in this. If you make your life to be a little larger than real life, as long as you are a competent writer, your readers won’t know. I think a much better route to take however is one that stretches you to become more than who you are now, to try things that you’ve never done before. This helps keeps you as a product fresh, and it keeps things interesting for you as well.

So what kind of packaging is best for you? Shiny plastic with slick graphics or a brown paper bag? Logic dictates that you want the most professional look that you can possibly create (or buy) for yourself. Strangely enough though some of the people on the Internet who are the best at making a living doing what they do, do it with fairly substandard looking sites. Sometimes the presentation isn’t as important as the backbone that drives a website. Walk this line softly. Strive to look professional but don’t get too caught up in all the bells and whistles of Internet technology that you lose site of creating great content.

So what about price? How much are you worth? If you are selling a service then you should be charging whatever your market can bear and if you are really good at what you do and market yourself well, that could be a good deal. But if you are just starting out in the service field you may want to consider offering lower prices to attract some clients. There is a flip side to this method however, if you sell yourself too cheap you are making yourself look like a startup when your potential clients might not otherwise have any notion of that.

But about those of us who are not actually selling anything, does price still apply? Maybe not directly, but there ways that it can. In the earlier example of the person writing a blog about fishing from above, he’s not selling access to the blog or any products himself. But he can sell advertising and needs to determine what that is worth to potential advertisers. Again the principles of setting price that I discussed above apply here but with one small problem. Even if he is really good at what he does, website stats don’t lie and neither do search engine rankings. Potential advertisers won’t be fooled if you don’t have the traffic to back up what you are trying to charge, unless they too are startups and don’t know any better.
In the end, you are the only one who is going to sell yourself to other people so you better have a good idea of what you are and how the public will see you.