The question is, do you approach your marketing’s creative tasks in the same way you do the rest of your creative activity, or do you cordon it off and make different systems for it?
How to get your creative brain to play nice with your marketing schedule
Many creatives say they don’t like systems and structure, even though most of the ones I know produce an awful lot for people who claim to be very disorganized.
You don’t have to call it a system, but if you produce, the structure is there
If you’ve been selling what you make for any amount of time, then clearly you have some processes in place for getting things done. You may not adhere to a strict, well-defined system or work regular day-job hours, but if you’re producing on a regular basis, then you have in place a system that works for you without smothering your creativity.
Once you’ve got the system in place to create products to sell, the next priority is marketing, so you can find buyers for those products.
Not all tasks are equal, and there’s no right and wrong way to go about them. The only thing that really matters for productivity is that you prioritize the most important things and find what works for you to get them done.
Here’s a chart that shows how history’s most famous creative minds organized their time. Their routines vary a lot from one another, which just goes to show that there’s no one pat answer to productivity.
Marketing tasks vs core creative work
The question is, do you approach your marketing’s creative tasks in the same way you do the rest of your creative activity, or do you cordon it off, make different systems for it, and create a marketing schedule?
That depends on:
- Your approach to creative work and your current routines
- How you market your products, because that affects how many layers your marketing has
- How much you like marketing tasks
Your routines depend on a bunch of different variables. Some of these variables you can change, and some you can’t.
- where you work
- other people and their schedules
- whether you rope off time when you know you’ll be working, or just grab whatever time presents itself in the midst of other responsibilities
“I have twenty minutes! What can I do in that time?” is different from knowing from 1-3 p.m. this Monday and Wednesday you have chunks of time set aside to take photos of your products for your website.
Having uninterrupted chunks of time and a separate studio where you make your products is a different scenario than if you are a parent with young children trying to fit your creative business around their sleep and play schedules.
Is it important to have a barrier between your core creative activity that’s at the heart of your business and other tasks?
If you currently set aside time that’s meant for core creativity alone, you might not want to mess with that by adding marketing tasks to the same chunk of time.
Although many marketing tasks are very creative by nature, your processes for your core creative work and the processes for the marketing of that work won’t be exactly the same. If you have little habits and cues that pull you into your core work, keep those separate.
If these ideas sound unfamiliar, check out the work of Charles Duhigg. He’s written a couple of books about habits and productivity, and has a page on his site that summarizes how habits work.
If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, at least look at the third section where he discusses cues. Here are the ones that influence us most, quoted from his article:
- Emotional State
- Other People
- Immediately preceding action
You can see how it might be a good idea to keep separate routines for different creative processes, because changing one piece of the puzzle may change the rest of your work habits.
For marketing jobs, it’s smart to choose another time of day or a different day of the week and establish different routines than those you use for your creative work.
Here are some examples of cues that might change depending on the task:
- sound – silence, music, background chatter
- scents – food, candles
- location – in the studio, at the kitchen table, or at a coffee shop
- beverages – a cup of tea, for example
- amount of time before or after sleep – right after you get up, a couple of hours before bed, or after a nap
- amount of time since exercise – after you’ve been to the gym, or right before a walk outside
How many layers does your marketing have?
Each product you make and every place you show up – your studio, live events, social media, online store, blog, newsletter – adds another layer of complexity to your business promotion.
Each element is another moving part that gets thrown into the mix. The more you have going on, the more important planning becomes to your productivity, and the more time you need to devote to content production.
Someone who uses a simple facebook page combined with event vending needs to spend less time focused on online marketing tasks than someone with a blog, online store, and several social media accounts.
The more layers you have, the more necessary it is to carve out a few hours of your week and put them on a schedule. As your business grows, you may need to consider outsourcing some of your marketing to make sure you have time to do your core work.
How much do you like doing various tasks?
It’s likely that you like some parts and dislike others.
- Do you tend to be very enthusiastic about your creative process, but think of marketing as a bore?
- Or maybe you like going to shows and events, but have trouble keeping up with ongoing weekly jobs for your online marketing.
- Perhaps you enjoy social media, but just can’t seem to find the time to put up a post or a video every week, even if you think you should.
In general, the less you like to do something, the more critical it is to schedule it so you know it will get done.
You have a couple of choices for organizing your work so you’re most productive
1. Organize work by creative energy required
Different kinds of tasks require different amounts of energy. Save drudge work for low energy times of day and do your most creative work when you have the most energy.
This is far from an exhaustive list, but here’s a rough hierarchy of tasks organized by level of creative energy required:
- Coming up with ideas for products
- Making the things you sell
- Preparing displays
- Taking photos of products
- Writing blog posts and making videos: creating content
Somewhat creative work
- Imagining all the ways you might be able to connect with your buyers
- Finding content ideas
- Planning content to use in online marketing
- Posting to social media
Not very creative everyday business tasks
- Bookkeeping and other administrative items
- Talking to (or emailing) suppliers and clients
2. Divide your tasks by the role they play in your business
- Core creative work – making what you sell
- Marketing tasks, some of which are highly creative and some of which are less so
- Administrative and repetitive tasks
Experiment with routines and schedules until you find the combination that works
Whether you divide your tasks by the creative energy required or by the role they play in your business, the goal is to make a schedule for marketing that fits around the core creative work which is your primary business.
At some point you will find you just can’t do it all yourself. When there’s a good schedule and system in place, it’s easier to pull out those parts that it makes sense for someone else to handle, so you can outsource those items and get on with the work that provides your income and makes you most happy.