Beyond Pricing: Building a Sustainable Business Model

So you’ve tweaked your pricing, done your homework on profit margins, and got your offers all figured out. 

But, there’s a nagging feeling that something’s still not quite right. 

You can’t out-hustle the math, that much is clear, but why isn’t your pricing strategy leading you to both the profitability and sustainability you’re aiming for in your creative business?

Here’s the hard truth: while pricing is a critical element, it’s just a small piece of a larger, more complex puzzle. 

It’s like believing that choosing the right paintbrush is the secret to creating a masterpiece. 

Yes, it’s important, but it’s not the whole story.

In this hustle-centric world, remember, it’s not only about working harder, it’s about working smarter. This means casting your net wider than just pricing and examining the overall well-being of your business and lifestyle.

In this blog, I’ll walk you through how to build a business that thrives in the long term. We’ll explore straightforward strategies that go beyond pricing: fine-tuning your offers, deeply understanding your audience, diversifying your revenue streams, and keeping your ideas fresh and exciting.

Plus, I’ll offer practical tips on organizing your business workflows and improving your sales and marketing, making sure they’re both authentic and effective.

Understand Your True Capacity

Understanding your ‘true capacity’ is crucial as a business owner. But so many entrepreneurs overlook this key element of running a sustainable, successful business. 

True capacity isn’t just about how much you can work before you hit burnout. It’s about knowing the optimal level at which your business operates effectively and sustainably. 

It’s the intersection of your best performance and your well-being.

Remember, building a thriving business is a marathon, not a sprint.

Of course, there will be times when you need to push harder – sprints and seasons of intense hustle are necessary parts of the entrepreneurial journey. But it’s crucial to recognize that your business model shouldn’t be built on the premise of a constant, full-throttle sprint. 

That’s a recipe for guaranteed burnout, not sustainability.

Pricing and capacity management are critical tools in achieving this balance. 

Setting your prices shouldn’t focus exclusively on covering costs, it should also reflect your capacity limits and lifestyle goals. It’s about finding the right price that compensates you fairly for the effort and value you provide, while also fitting within the broader context of your professional and personal capacity.

Here are some tips for managing this balance:

  • Regularly Assess Capacity. Review how much work you’re taking on and adjust as necessary (make it a rhythm!) Listen to your body and mind – if you’re consistently overworked, it’s time to recalibrate.

  • Explore Capacity Levers. These are adjustable elements in a business that optimize time, energy, and revenue. By adjusting these levers within their range, you can align them to meet your goals. There are lots of strategies and tools you can lean on to optimize your capacity. Use automation for repetitive tasks and outsource or delegate to focus on higher-value activities.

  • Set and Reinforce Clear Boundaries. Define what your true capacity looks like and stick to it. It’s okay to say no to opportunities that push you beyond this limit (I live by the mantra, “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no!”).

By understanding and respecting your true capacity, and using pricing and capacity management effectively, you’re building a business and cultivating a lifestyle that is both fulfilling and sustainable.

Strategically Expanding Your Revenue Streams

First, let’s talk about what ‘revenue streams’ are. Simply put, they’re the different ways your business makes money. 

This can be through: 

  • selling your products or services,
  • getting regular payments from subscriptions, 
  • earning royalties, 
  • or making money from digital products like e-books or courses

For example, a graphic designer might make money by doing custom projects, selling digital templates, or teaching design classes online.

While it’s exciting to think about all the possibilities, I recommend taking a moment to pause and plan.

Start With One ICA

As a strong believer in keeping things simple at the start, my best advice is to focus on honing your signature product or service first. 

With that offer in mind, dig into your Ideal Client Avatar or ICA. 

Get to know this ideal customer really well.

Then, as you expand, consistently keep that ICA in mind and develop additional offers that serve that same ICA. This ensures that your messaging, marketing, and sales approach remains coherent as you introduce new offers. Plus, you benefit from an already nurtured audience of past and current clients.

Jumping too quickly into diversifying with different ICAs can muddle your messaging, systems, processes, marketing, pricing… essentially all the crucial aspects of your business!

Building Out Your Offer Suite

So how can you efficiently layer in more ways to make money?

Here are 4 tried-and-true strategies to build out your offer suite with your one ICA in mind while staying within your capacity: 

  1. Build Your Value Ladder. Create a range of options for your customers – from basic to premium. This ladder should have upsells (more expensive offers), downsells (cheaper options), and related offers.

  2. Serve with Flexibility. Allow customers to choose what suits them best, whether it’s a high-touch, premium service or a more affordable, basic option. This way, you meet their needs at different times and situations throughout the customer journey.

  3. Mix Your Offers. Include different types of products and services – some that are easy and low effort for you (like digital products), some that are mid-range (like subscription services), and some that are high-value, personalized services (like commissions or custom projects). This mix helps steady your income and offers a variety of ways for your clients to work with you.

  4. Complementary Offers. Make sure all your offers work well together. For example, a web designer might sell both ready-made templates and offer custom design services. An artist might sell original artwork as well as prints and merch.

This structured approach to expanding your revenue streams keeps things simple, ensuring you aren’t overwhelming yourself or diluting your brand (AKA doing too many scattered things).

Once you’ve fully grasped your offers and value ladder, only then should you consider expanding your revenue streams beyond your main ICA. This approach maintains simplicity, benefits your target audience, and opens up opportunities to add more revenue streams to your business model.

But remember, diversification is a gradual process. It’s like building a houseyou need a solid foundation before you add more floors.

COO Tip: Many multi-talented creatives find it hard to concentrate on just one offer. If that sounds like you, try plotting out your value ladder from the start. Begin with something low or mid-range. Knowing there’s a bigger plan in place can be comforting, especially if you’re anxious about putting other ideas on hold. Remember, those ideas aren’t forgotten—they’re just simmering on the back burner, still an important part of your vision and future plans.

Nail Your Sales and Marketing

Once you’ve gotten clear on your ICA, worked on your value ladder, and started to diversify, it’s time to bring it all together so you can share your offers with the world!

Now, let’s talk about bringing those pieces together with your sales and marketing. I don’t expect you to master these skills overnight. It’s an ongoing journey that influences, leverages, and amplifies every other part of your business. 

By effectively communicating your offers (you need to actively tell people what you’re selling) and connecting with your Ideal Customer Avatar, you create a sustainable business that thrives beyond just having solid pricing.

  1. Tailor to Your ICA. Shape your sales and marketing efforts around your Ideal Customer Avatar. Use the social platforms they use. Attend events they frequent. Read the books they’re interested in! When you really tune into what your ICA needs and wants, your sales and marketing can speak directly to their heart – connecting, resonating, and making them feel like you get them and you’re in this together.

  2. Consistent Efforts. Set a regular rhythm for your blog posts, social media updates, and email newsletters. This kind of consistency in your marketing not only simplifies your workload but also builds trust and keeps your audience engaged and connected to your brand. Set up rhythms for your marketing activities to prevent the all-too-common feast and famine cycle. Planned efforts keep a steady stream of interest and leads coming in.

  3. Engage Your Sales Funnel. A sales funnel is all about guiding potential customers through the journey from first hearing about you to making a purchase. Continuously attract people to what you offer on your value ladder and nurture them at every stage of this funnel. This ongoing effort ensures there’s a steady flow of interest.

  4. Lean on Automation. Automation tools can be a big help in maintaining a regular presence, especially in tasks like email marketing and social media updates. My go-to’s include Tailwind, Plann, and Flodesk!

Sales and marketing aren’t isolated tasks. When they sync up with your big-picture business strategy, that’s when the magic happens. You’re not looking for one-off sales. You’re working to create something that endures, where every transaction starts a lasting relationship. That’s the kind of business that doesn’t just survive but thrives.

Quick Disclosure: The links I shared above are affiliate links, which means when you click a link and make a purchase, it won’t cost you more, but I may receive a commission for sharing this with you. I promise I only ever share what I use and love, so I’d be sharing these with you anyway!

Make it a System

When you hear ‘sustainable business’, what pops into your head? 

Chances are, it’s more than just keeping your finances in the green or making your clients happy. As a creative entrepreneur, you want to build a business that’s robust in every sense – one that’s here for the long run.

This kind of sustainability isn’t accidental. 

It’s built on strong, efficient systems and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that ensure your business isn’t just surviving, but thriving

Ready to get your business operations on that track? Let’s break down how to set up these game-changing systems and SOPs to support everything from your offers and customer experience to your sales and marketing:

  1. Identify Repeatable Tasks. Take a look at your daily operations including your sales and marketing tasks. What “to-do” items are constantly on your list? These repeatable tasks are prime candidates for systematization. Anything you do more than once needs a system!

  2. Develop SOPs. For each repeatable task, create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). This will save you time and effort in the future, ensuring consistency and efficiency. No more starting from scratch every time you send an invoice to a client or write a blog post for your website!

  3. Embrace Tech and Automation. Research and invest in technology that can automate your repeatable tasks. This might be scheduling tools, a CRM, email marketing software, or project management apps.

  4. Streamline Your Processes. Constantly look for ways to make your business operations more straightforward and less time-consuming. The simpler the process, the more sustainable your business becomes.

  5. Set Up Efficient Rhythms. While systems tell you what to do and how, rhythms are about when and how often. Make a routine for your business tasks. For example, pick a day for client meetings and another for checking your progress. Regular rhythms like these help keep your business running smoothly.

By following these steps, you’re making your daily work easier while building a solid foundation that allows your business to flourish sustainably. These systems, SOPs, and rhythms ensure that your energy is spent on growth and innovation, rather than getting bogged down in day-to-day tasks.

Always Keep Learning, Always Keep Playing

As a creative, you’re already familiar with the power of innovation. You understand that creating requires a constant injection of new ideas and methods. 

This is just as crucial in business – in fact, I believe running a business is itself a creative endeavor. That’s why creatives often excel as entrepreneurs, especially when they have the right support and resources. 

Your creative mindset is perfectly suited to nurture curiosity, experiment, and continuously evolve. In both art and business, the journey and the process are just as important as the final outcome.

To put your creative skills to work in your business, here are some actionable steps to keep innovating and growing:

  1. Foster Continuous Growth. Make it a practice to regularly look at your business with fresh eyes. I love the mindset shift of asking, “How can I improve my business by 1% every day?” You don’t have to do everything at once! Whether it’s updating an existing service or tweaking your offer messaging, each small improvement compounds, building a stronger, more dynamic business day by day.

  2. Schedule Creative Time. Running a business can drain your creative tank if you let it. So, here’s a non-negotiable: carve out time for just you to refuel creatively. This isn’t directly related to your business–it’s about keeping your inner artist alive. If you’re like me, maybe it’s getting your hands doughy with bread making (fills up my creativity and my belly). Whatever it is, make it a part of your routine. 

  3. Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment. While being strategic and intentional in business is key, don’t let that stifle your willingness to experiment. In fact, I believe failing is a necessary part of the creative and entrepreneurial process. You’ve got to test out your ideas to see what sticks and what doesn’t. The real trick is to ‘fail fast and forward.’ This means seeing each failure as a crucial learning step, quickly gathering insights, and using that knowledge to propel your business forward. Every experiment, successful or not, is a stepping stone towards greater understanding and innovation.

  4. Be a Lifelong Learner. The world doesn’t stand still, and neither should you. Being a lifelong learner is a business necessity. Think of it this way: every course you take, every bit of support you outsource, every new skill you learn, it’s all an investment in your most valuable asset – you. Afterall, you are the heart and soul of your business. By embracing continuous learning, you’re not just staying current— you’re ensuring your business is always a step ahead, nimble, and ready for whatever comes next.

Built To Last

You now have the tools to build a creative business that not only survives but thrives. From honoring your true capacity to mastering the art of sales and systematization, you’ve taken major strides on your creative business journey.

But remember, this is just the beginning. 

It’s time to roll up your sleeves, put those strategies into action, and create the business and life you’ve been dreaming of. Whether you’re fine-tuning your offers, building your value ladder, connecting deeply with your audience, or stepping up your marketing game, always keep your passion and purpose front and center.

So, what’s next for you? 

Take a deep breath, trust in yourself to make it happen, and take the first step towards building a sustainable business model. 

Your dreams are within reach – let’s make them a reality, one step at a time.

If you’re looking for more resources to help you build your creative business on a solid foundation, be sure to check out these resources:

  1. Business Building for Creatives- Join my comprehensive digital course designed by a creative (me) for creatives (you!!!). Get step-by-step guidance to envision, build, and sustain the business of your dreams.

  2. Pricing Mini-Course For Creative Entrepreneurs– Struggling to nail down your pricing? My mini-course for creative entrepreneurs is tailored to help you get your pricing strategy right, setting you up for success.

  3. Join My Email List! It’s like having your own personal Business Coach in your back pocket guiding you as you create an impactful, passion-led, creative business you can’t wait to dive into day after day, year after year.

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