The Art of Emotional Pricing

Dollar bills folded into heart shapes

How much should I charge?

I hear this question a lot from coaching clients wrestling with the perennial question of how much a unique piece of art, or a stylish design, or an engrossing story, or a transformational creative service is worth in hard cash.

There are many answers to this question, and several well-known methods for working out your prices, such as benchmarking against your competitors; or deciding how much you want to earn in a year and dividing that by the number of sales you expect to make; or calculating and demonstrating the value of the work to your buyer. Sometimes I’ll use one or more of these methods to help my client work out their fees.

But with a particular type of client I give a different answer:

I think you already know.

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Is Inspiration a Thing of the Past?

Nine Muses on a classical frieze

The Nine Muses

Once upon a time it was taken for granted that the source of creativity was not the artist but the spirits, gods, or Muses, via inspiration. The word “inspiration” comes from the same Latin root as “respiration,” suggesting that the artist “breathed in” influences from outside. The opening of Homer’s Odyssey is a typical invocation to the Muse, imploring the goddess to touch the poet with divine inspiration:

Tell me, O Muse, th’ adventures of the man
That having sack’d the sacred town of Troy,
Wander’d so long at sea; what course he ran
By winds and tempests driven from his way:
That saw the cities, and the fashions knew
Of many men, but suffer’d grievous pain
To save his own life, and bring home his crew;
Though for his crew, all he could do was vain,
They lost themselves by their own insolence,
Feeding, like fools, on the Sun’s sacred kine;
Which did the splendid deity incense
To their dire fate. Begin, O Muse divine.

Homer, The Odyssey, Book I, lines 1–12, translated by Thomas Hobbes

The tradition of invoking the Muse lasted a long time. Here is Milton going through the same ritual two-and-a-half thousand years later:

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Video: Making a Living From Your Creative Work (plus events in London, New York and Chicago)

  • Why do you create? For love? For money? or both?
  • Balancing creative inspiration and professional ambition
  • The surprisingly creative potential of business models
  • Selling books – getting the basics right
  • Beyond selling books – creative ways to grow your income

These are some of the topics covered in this 45-minute video I recorded with my colleague the writer Orna Ross, in the run-up to this week’s IndieReCon conference.

The conference is for authors, so some of the conversation deals with writer-specific issues, but much of it – especially the parts about motivation and business models – is applicable to creatives working in any field. I hope you find it helpful.

If you’re a writer, I recommend you check out IndieRecon 2015, a free conference running online later this week, 15 – 17 April. I’m taking part in a panel at Foyle’s Bookshop in London on Friday, which will be streamed online (details below).

Long-time readers of Lateral Action may have noticed this blog has been a little quiet in recent months, but fear not, there’s plenty more to come. I’ve been busy behind the scenes, helping my coaching clients and writing my new book, Motivation for Creative People. Once the book is done I’ll have more time for other projects, so watch this space.

These days I’m mostly focused on writing and coaching, so I don’t make as many public appearances as I used to, but in the next few weeks I’m taking part in some great events on both sides of the Atlantic – if you can make it to any of the following, it would be great to see you there:

London, 17 April – London Book Fair Indie Author Fringe Festival

Live at Foyle’s: Top Indie Author Advice Panel: Rachel Abbot, Mark Dawson, Steena Holmes, CJ Lyons, Mark McGuinness, Nick Stephenson, chaired by Joanna Penn, 3.30pm BST

This is a live panel for IndieRecon at the iconic Foyle’s Bookshop, where we will be answering questions about self-publishing.

My fellow panellists are highly successful writers and independent publishers, mostly in the fiction sphere; I will be fielding questions about self-publishing non-fiction books and how this can complement your other products and services.

New York, 30 April & 1 May – 99U Conference

1-2-1 coaching for delegates, all day

For the third year running I will be coaching delegates at the 99U Conference for creative professionals in New York City. As a long-time writer for and a co-author of two 99U books, I’m a huge fan of the work Scott Belsky and his colleagues do to empower creatives, and coaching delegates at the conference has become a highlight of my year.

The conference has sold out, although you might be lucky and get a ticket via the waitlist. If you do get to the conference you can book a 1-2-1 coaching session with me, included in your ticket. Just make sure you turn up early on the day to request a session as the slots always book up fast.

Chicago, 5 May – How Design Live Conference

Presentation: How to Handle Rejection and Criticism as a Creative 4.15pm Central Time

HOW Design Live is one of the biggest design conferences in the US, and I’m looking forward to speaking about handling rejection and criticism – familiar occupational hazards for creatives! – based on my book Resilience.

I’ll also be doing some 1-2-1 speed coaching sessions earlier on the same day.

This is the second time I’ve spoken at HOW. Last time, in Boston a couple of years ago, I had a blast and made several people who have become good friends and collaborators, so I can vouch for the positive energy and networking potential. And the speaker lineup is always great – this year it includes Tom Peters, Michael Bierut, Simon Sinek, Maria Popova, Adrian Shaughnessy and Tina Roth Eisenberg.

There are still a few tickets left for HOW – if you can make it, it would be great to see you there.

After HOW I will be heading to a secret location in the States, to recharge and work on another behind-the-scenes project… As always, the people on my Creative Pathfinder mailing list will be the first to know about this and the other things I have in the pipeline for you. (You also get a free 26-week creative career course.)

Mark McGuinness is a poet and a coach for creative professionals. He is the author of Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success, and Motivation for Creative People (forthcoming).

Business for Authors and Creatives: a Conversation with Joanna Penn

What are the biggest challenges facing creatives who start out in business for themselves?

Should you quit your day job or start building your creative enterprise in your spare time?

How are your creative and business challenges likely to change over time?

How do the massive changes in the publishing industry in recent years affect writers’ career prospects?

With so much competition, how can a new author get people to pay attention to their book?

How can you exploit the intellectual property in your work, to create more income (without working extra hours)?

Are writers better off looking for a publishing deal or publishing their books themselves?

Joanna Penn photoThese are some of the questions I asked Joanna Penn, best-selling author, speaker and creative entrepreneur, in this interview.

No matter what your creative field, if you aspire to build a thriving business around your creative work, you’ll find plenty of useful advice from Joanna in the interview.

And if you’re a writer, the ideas in the interview – and Joanna’s new book Business for Authors – could be career-changing for you.

Joanna is one of my own inner circle of advisors – when I have a burning question about publishing or marketing my own books, she is one of the first people I turn to. So as soon as she told me Business for Authors was on the horizon, I knew it would be a must-read for many Lateral Action readers.

Business for Authors coverThe book goes much further than how to sell books (important as that is!). It covers topics such as creative business models, intellectual property, managing money, and assembling and managing a team of collaborators and assistants.

There’s nothing else quite like it for writers, in terms of creativity, strategy and cutting-edge knowledge of the current state of publishing.

Joanna was generous with her expertise in our conversation, and she has kindly provided a transcript that you can download here.

You can watch the video of the interview here on the blog (you may need to click through if you’re reading via email) or on YouTube; or listen to the audio on SoundCloud.

And you can pick up a copy of Business for Authors either direct from Joanna’s website or from online booksellers via this page.

Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling thriller author. She also writes, podcasts and speaks about entrepreneurship for authors via The Creative Penn.

How Your Creativity Can Save You in a Crisis

Torch with beam shining in darkness

Image by nikkytok via BigStock

As Gregory Sampson awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found his bed transformed into a gigantic slab of stone.

He couldn’t see the change – the room was pitch-black, so opening his eyes or closing them made no difference at all. But he could feel it. The bed was rock-hard. And cold. There were no sheets. His pillow had vanished.

Lying there on the cold stone in darkness, he could hear nothing but the sound of his own breathing and his heart thumping in his chest. Reaching out on one side and then the other, he felt nothing but stone. Rolling over, at full stretch, he felt the edge of the slab dropping away on his right. And the same on his left.

Gregory had the uncomfortable thought he was lying on a stone altar. The kind used for sacrifices.

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