Why do you do what you do?
Sometimes this is a question that gets overlooked by businessowners but I think knowing why you do your thing and what the ultimate purpose is, can be so enlightening for both you and your clients or customers.
The obvious answer is of course, ‘to make money’. I don’t think anybody sets up a business to make no money but the purpose of your work can run MUCH deeper than that.
In this blog, I’m going to share my own ‘whys’ but also address three key questions that I think every business owner needs to ask themselves. Once you have your answers, make sure you weave them into your content and any PR opportunities that you get too. They’re what makes you relatable and should be part of your messaging.
1. Why do you work with certain clients / within a particular niche?
Let’s say you choose to do graphic design for female entrepreneurs who own small businesses. What led you to that choice? Is it because you are woman and feel you can relate to them? Did you wish you had support with graphic design when you were first starting? Was it because you felt there was a need for a more affordable option for businesses in the early stages of set-up?
My own niche decision didn’t come until about a year into running my business. Having been thrown into it with little to no preparation time after being made redundant, at first, I worked with anyone. The longer it went on though, the more aware I became that something wasn’t sitting right with me.
Eventually my lightbulb moment arrived – I should be working with people running creative businesses. It seems so glaringly obvious now but hindsight is a wonderful (if annoying) thing.
As well as being a life-long music fan and theatre-goer, growing up, I went through periods of wanting to be an architect, an interior or garden designer, photographer, a graphic designer and an event planner. Those jobs still enthral me to this day but the truth is, I don’t have the artistic skill required to do any of them (and I have a D in Graphic Design GCSE to prove it!).
So instead, I live vicariously through my inspiring and talented clients, and the best bit? I get a little taste of what it’s like to do ALL of those jobs, rather than picking just one. I get to learn about everything from lighting in photographs and font choices for graphic design, to wedding styling and how to accessorise your home.
I want creative businesses to get the attention they deserve, for creativity to be valued and for arts education not to be cast aside.
2. What’s your bigger picture purpose?
Not all, but most people in business that I’ve encountered have a broader ‘why’ that fuels them too. Perhaps you believe that modern buildings are bland, so you want to start a movement to bring a more traditional architectural style back. Or you might want to set up a charity or have the freedom to travel the world helping to save pandas.
It doesn’t matter how far-reaching that purpose is, but if it’s in there, let it out!
For me, the arts and creativity are everything, especially arts education. When I left school in 2004, I’d already encountered numerous instances of teachers and parents thinking subjects like art, music, media studies and drama were a waste of time. The fact that these are now the subjects being pushed off the curriculum and denied funding, really gets to me.
My experiences as part of both a choir and orchestra whilst I was at school have shaped me tremendously, and my time studying for my Media Studies A-level ultimately got me to where I am today, running my own business. You can read more about that in the post I wrote about my vulnerability journey, here.
So, my bigger picture purpose, is that I want creative businesses to get the attention they deserve, for creativity to be valued and for arts education not to be cast aside. My goal is to be able to help children access the arts by contributing to the costs of arts programmes in schools. I want to be able to pay for things like learning to play musical instruments, seeing theatre shows, visiting galleries and having access to successful creatives to inspire them.
On a completely unrelated topic, I’d also love to give more time and bigger donations to the Cats Protection League. Why? Because I’ve had cats in my life since I was five and I’ve also seen the positive affect they can have on people in tough situations.
Fort Zachary beach in Key West
3. What’s in it for YOU?
This is where you get personal and maybe a little bit selfish. Everyone has personal dreams but they don’t always voice them because they might be seen as indulgent or even shallow.
The way I look at it, is that nobody would expect you to slave away in a corporate job for no personal payoff, so why should running your own business be any different? You work bloody hard at what you do, so don’t be afraid to spend your money and/or time on things that make you feel warm and fuzzy, or excited and adventurous.
I love to learn, so I hope to one day have lots more time-freedom for developing my knowledge of things like yoga, meditation and journaling. I’d also like to study for a Master’s degree and do the RHS Horticulture qualifications – I’m a keen gardener but my knowledge is severely lacking!
For me and my other half, I want to fulfil a dream that started when I was about 12 years old – I blame Kevin McCloud and Grand Designs. I long to self-build a house that is totally bespoke and have the interiors professionally styled too. I’m not sure where I’d build it yet but I know I want a Border Oak house, and in my mind’s eye, I can walk around every inch of it… I just need to gather the funds and find the land.
A Border Oak-designed house
The slightly more indulgent side of things would involve monthly visits to my favourite spa (Limewood), owning a box at the Royal Albert Hall (my favourite concert venue), regular meals at incredible restaurants, plenty of travel, trips to international music festivals and if I’m very lucky, a small house in Key West (my happy place).
So, what’s your ‘why’?