Whose business are you in? Part 1: Your muse vs what clients want

by | Dec 13, 2010

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My first business, Mollycoddles, failed…for three reasons:

  1. I didn’t have a specific financial goal.
  2. I believed that the people who could afford my work were not my tribe.
  3. I was in business to serve my muse, not my clients.

And without those three things, I could not make a profit.

Today, I’m going to talk about the third item, being in business to serve your muse, not your clients. Working backward, I’ll write about the other two in the next two articles.
The magic formula
When you work for yourself because you love what you do, the muse–your source of inspiration–matters. It connects you with a value, principle, or ideal that is bigger than you are. That lights you up and infuses your work with meaning.
But your ability to make a living depends on delivering what clients want. The magic formula isn’t, in my experience, “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” It’s “Do what you love to serve others, and the money will follow.”
Where the muse fits
You need your muse for your work to matter. You need clients if you’re going to make a living. Fortunately, your muse is part of what makes you and your clients fit just-right.
How does it all fit together?
Here’s the short version.

  • You serve your muse by developing your talent and skills and by listening to inspiration.
  • You serve your just-right clients by listening to them and making them offers that fit what they want.
  • Your muse serves you *and* your clients by infusing your work with beauty and meaning.

You serve your muse
A muse is a source of inspiration. You serve your muse by making yourself the best possible vehicle for giving form and substance to the inspiration.
You serve your muse when you take care of yourself. You serve your muse when you study your craft. And you serve your muse when you tune into the divine spark where it all begins.
If you don’t serve your muse in these ways, inspiration dries up. You feel lost and disconnected. Disoriented. Discouraged.
When you do serve your muse, you light up. You see ideas and possibilities everywhere.
It’s clear that for your business to work, you need to serve your muse.
You serve your just-right clients
Important as your muse is, it’s not the center of the universe for your just-right clients. For your work to translate to consistent income, your work needs to match what they want. You figure out how to do that by listening.
When you don’t listen to your clients, you end up lecturing. Telling them why they need your products or services. Giving them reason after reason why they should buy.
Boring. Off-putting.
When you listen closely to your clients and design your offers to match what they want, you don’t need to lecture. You can use your just-right clients’ exact language to describe what you do so that they immediately recognize their desires in your offers. They sell themselves because the fit is so good.
If you’re going to make a living, you have to serve your just-right clients.
Your muse serves you and your clients
When you and your clients fit just-right, your muse serves you both. What inspires you inspires them. What moves you moves them. What delights you delights them.
Your job is to find the intersection where what inspires, moves, and delights you perfectly matches what your clients want. Where that correspondence is clear.
How to get the money to follow
You get the money to follow the work you love by making your work relevant to your just-right clients. That means translating your muse into the forms and substance that best match what clients want.
You translate by observing and listening to your just-right clients. By finding out where your work is relevant to them. Where it fits in their lives. And how they talk about the issues, opportunities, and concerns that your work addresses.
Notice how your just-right clients want to encounter your work. Are they looking online or off? When it comes to using your work, what is most convenient for them? Speak to them in the channels they already use.
Give your just-right clients ways to know, like, and trust you. Give away useful information. Make yourself available if they have questions. And realize that it takes time to arrive at a place where you fit just-right.
Take care of your muse and your clients
If you don’t need to make a living, what you do with your work is up to you and your muse. But when you need to make money, your just-right clients are part of the equation.
Take care of yourself. Take care of your muse. And take care of your just-right clients. That’s the way to make a living at the work you love.
Questions? Success stories? Push back? Share your comments below.
Photo by Ken Douglas via Flickr
Under a Creative Commons License