Work in Progress – Ideas by @projectmaven

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Work in Progress: The Life of an Entrepreneur in Beta

This is a series dedicated to the new entrepreneur. Welcome to the life you’ve always dreamed of creating.

Ideas – What Are We Really Protecting?

As entrepreneurs in the areas of branding, design, event planning, marketing, public relations and a whole host of other creative, business related fields, we pitch our services to clients by creating proposals for their projects. But what is it that we are really selling? Is it our ideas? Realistically, can we even charge clients for ideas? Or is it something else?

Let’s take a look at the dynamics of information sharing. Many entrepreneurs with whom I work on a regular basis give their “secrets” away for little or no money via newsletters, e-books, webinars and workshops. We all share our ideas with prospective clients as part of our sales pitch. A certain number of recipients of this valuable material will feel empowered to take it and run with it. However, for many, the time it takes for implementation is more valuable than the money it costs to pay someone else to do the work for them.

The open source model of sharing information has really changed the landscape for service delivery. With the availability of DIY technology and thorough, behind-the-scenes documentation of nearly every facet of these industries, anyone who is sufficiently skilled and motivated can acquire all the tools they need to do their own work. However, if that’s the case, then why do any of us get hired?

The answer lies in our ability to deliver on the following things: expertise, labor, relationships and collaborative team building.

Expertise – Your expertise is based on the knowledge you’ve acquired either through formalized academic or technical training as well as hands-on experience in the field. You’ve got the skills, you understand the ins and outs of the materials and tools of your trade, and you can map out the steps required to go from concept to reality.

Labor – You and your crew are going to be the ones taking the time and energy to make things happen. You will be transporting and setting up the equipment, making the phone calls, drafting and sending the press releases, emails, posts and tweets, drawing up the plans, creating the checklists and following through on all the details. You understand timelines and deadlines. You do the work.

Relationships – In most of these fields, we are only as good as the people we know. It takes time to develop good relationships within our industries and outside them, as they are based on trust and confidence that can only be earned through experience. We need to have a go-to list of people who provide other resources and services needed to make our projects successful. Our network of business and professional connections becomes one of our most valuable resources when it comes to delivering to our own clients.

Collaborative Team Building – With so much innovation and information sharing, developing teams around specific projects can become a creative exercise in itself, as responsibilities are often shared in new and unique ways. Your ability to custom design a well-oiled machine, making the most of your and your client’s combined resources, makes you an invaluable player in their success.

When putting together a proposal, don’t be afraid to share your vision with a prospective client. Many people have good ideas, and yes, there are unscrupulous individuals out there who may try to steal yours, but they are worth little without the means to realize them. In the long run, reputations are built on the good experiences you’ll be able to deliver with the valuable assets you bring to the table.

How about you? Do you worry about sharing your ideas or do you just put yourself out there?

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