As I move into my 10th year of business as an arts entrepreneur, I am reflecting on the lessons this past decade has taught me. Last month I illustrated how just because you can doesn’t mean you should; the month before that the significance of acting and being with confidence; the month before that I shared the importance of Being a Yes.
This month I want to discuss the process of finding alignment with prospective clients.
A few years ago, I was hired by an advertising agency to create marketing images for a high profile international company. From the outset, I had a bad feeling. I don’t know exactly why but my gut said that this was not a good idea. I dismissed my intuition and took the job anyway. I’ll admit, it was lucrative and…exciting. However, after 2 shoots of the several planned, I fired the client. I wasn’t exactly sure why – I just knew in my core that they weren’t a good fit for my brand. About a year later, this company was involved in a complicated and sordid drama of crime and malice. While I regret not trusting my intuition and taking the job in the first place, I am grateful that I didn’t do more to contribute to their ill will in the world.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and naturally I have a few stories of jobs I maybe shouldn’t have taken but did – while wearing my rose colored glasses of idealism. Not every job is ours to take – not every gig is designed to help us meet our bottom line. How do we discern what is in alignment with who we are and what we stand for?
I developed IM ON IT distinctly for this purpose. When assessing whether to do business with a potential client, consider this acronym as you decide whether to move forward: IM ON IT stands for Intuition, Mission, Opportunities, Needs, Imagine, and Tackle.
First, it starts with intuition. Intuition is a noun defined as “the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning.” I don’t think decision making relies on intuition but I do think it starts there. Sometimes red flags aren’t easy to spot but it’s important to observe what your interactions with prospective clients make you feel. This is a pretty good indicator of how your business relationship might be for you.
Second, if you don’t have a mission, get one; create a mission. Consider how the prospective client’s intentions either align with, or contradict, your mission. There is a world of information in this one strategy but it starts first with devising your mission.
Third, begin to recognize and define the opportunities of working with the prospective client. What does the collaboration make possible for you, for them, for the world? In addition to fiscal gains, are there other benefits to be had?
Fourth, conduct a needs assessment of what might be missing in the relationship or in the scope of the project. What are the missing elements that you would have to produce or generate in order for the collaboration to succeed? How hard is it to produce these missing elements? Do they cost you time, money, energy? How much? Is the cost worth the potential return?
Fifth, imagine what is possible with your collaboration. Given the inventory of the needs and the opportunities, what picture does your collaboration paint? What great things get created as a result of the synergy you and the potential client might have?
Finally, tackle the project. Once you prove that this is a good fit for you both, get it done. Work your magic together.
Intuition, Mission, Opportunities, Needs, Imagine, Tackle: IM ON IT. This is your ticket to alignment with prospective clients. Try it out and see what develops. A little assessment and reflection go a long way in creating a sense of purpose, alignment, and accomplishment in your business venture.
About Elaine Kessler
My childhood home was multigenerational, bilingual, bicultural, biracial, bi-religious and bi-national. I pursued a variety of endeavors to flesh out, refine, and balance the narratives I learned in public education and in my home. Ask any mixed race individual and they will tell the story of what it is to be a pioneer. When you are unlike the people who made you, you learn to lead and you learn to negotiate. I have found inspiration in the stories of other mixed race and mixed heritage artists and, like them, I’ve been able to organize my beliefs and my endeavors to align with my passions. Several artists and writers were sources of inspiration as I learned to navigate my mixed-ness in a world ofttimes hostile to the ambiguous. They capture the essence of complicated human experiences and make them accessible through their beautiful and candid works. I hope to achieve the same in my artistic and educational expressions. I am a full time portrait and commercial photographer. I also produce interactive art exhibits, teach in higher education, and mentor other creatives.