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Every year, Forbes publishes a list of the world’s most powerful celebrities. To generate the list, Forbes estimates celebrity earnings (earned solely from entertainment-related income), then factors in media metrics like Google hits, press mentions as compiled by Factiva, TV/radio mentions from Lexis/Nexis and the number of times an A-lister appears on the cover of more than 50 consumer magazines.
So, you might wondering what this has got to do with you, a creative professional who may not necessarily be in the same celebrity league as an Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt or Oprah Winfrey. Or you might feel that your creative art is not relevant to acting or singing. If you think that way, just think of well-known modern creatives who are in a similar league:
Chefs – Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal.
Fashion Designers – Marc Jacob, Vera Wang and Tom Ford.
Authors – Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Neil Gamen.
Comic Book Artists/ Writers – Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane & Alan Moore.
Photographers – Mario Testino, Steve McCurry and Timothy Hogan.
The fact is, the majority of the people are responsible for the commercial success of a creative (paying audience, clients, potential clients, agents, sponsors, media etc) will also judge you based on similar criteria, just not with the same level of expectation.
If you are perceived as successful, it is assumed that you must be doing something right in your field. This, in turns, adds to your credibility and commercial value.
The problem is, as creatives, we often live in our own imaginative ideological world of fantasy. But, as I discussed in “Who Creative Professionals have to Satisfy?”, creatives cannot survive if they are only concerned with satisfying themselves or their fans. The benchmarks of success for a creative can neither be purely idealistic or based on your personal likes. Being a creative means you are governed by the forces of the marketplace and societal standards of what is considered commercially successful and what is not.
So, bearing in mind how the value of a celebrity is measured can help you plan how you can achieve similar milestones as a creative. Now, the milestones set out by Forbes may not be practically attainable by most creatives, especially new ones in their careers. So, below are four realistic milestones, in order, that creatives can confidently work towards.
Referrals & Testimonials
Build up your collection of testimonials and showcase the best and/ or most recent testimonials. Request clients if they can be your referrals or would be willing to make referrals to you. Referrals are your cheapest, yet most effective, form of marketing. The more referrals = more bookings and opportunities to showcase your craft. The higher the quality of your referrals will also mean that the projects you get will be of higher value.
Proven Track Record
The more projects you take on, the more you can add to your portfolio. But, do not just constantly take on the same type of projects over and over again. Add diversity to your track record by taking on all types of projects where you can creatively apply your craft to. Having a diverse proven track record will showcase your value to many different markets and audiences which gives you potential to scale your business. The more markets you appeal to, the higher your commercial value will be.
This may seem easier said than done… because it is. If you do not know how to secure PR for yourself, learn or find someone who knows how to. This article is not the place to discuss PR & media publicity techniques; but, the point is, media feature gives you credibility and is an important milestone for the creative.
When you have worked on the preceding 3 milestones, you can work on the fee you command. The higher the fee you can command, the more perceived value you have. High value clients will use your fee as a benchmark of your value.
The great thing about the creative arts is that there is no such thing as a market price for your fee. Your fee is not determined by time, size, or scale of your work alone. Your fee is based on the value you bring to your clients. You can charge whatever you want as long as people are willing to pay that fee on a consistent basis. A singer in a lounge may command $100 an hour but Taylor Swift can command $1 million for the same hour. Both may do exactly the same thing and even sing the exact same songs but it is the artist who brings more value to a client that will be able to command a much higher fee.
The above are only the commercial milestones for the creative. It is a given that you should have a separate set of artistic milestones that ensue you continually push yourself to improve and reinvent your craft on an artistic level.
In addition, while achieving all four commercial milestones is not a 100% guarantee that you will be a very successful creative, all creatives who have achieved considerable success would have achieved all four milestones and would still be continually re-achieving them as their career develops. So don’t pick and choose, just do it!