Gulps and Nibbles

   Business, for many people, has been a continual series of giant gulps over the past decade or so. We must re-tool quickly for doing business as a many tiny nibbles instead if we hope to survive.

   For years, there simply wasn't enough time to get all the work done. Many people hired huge staffs of people, and still, the work came flowing in the door in a giant flood. Now, many of us are sitting around, virtually unemployed, trying to figure out what to do next.

   I'm firmly of the opinion that most of us must fundamentally change the way we do business if we hope to survive. What does the future look like? What's a nibble? A nibble is a little piece of your work you can sell for a relatively small amount of money. Selling in nibbles means several things: First, you need to get slimmer, because nibbles don't allow fat, whereas gulps encourage it. Make your business smaller as quickly as you can; the bloated ones simply won't survive. Second, expand your reach, because you'll have to do a lot more nibbling than gulping in order to survive, even if you're thinner. Your local market is unlikely to be able to nibble enough to keep you alive, so you must cast a wider net.

   How to do this? Figure out what the essence of your business is... that ethos that goes beyond your products or services, and instead, represents your ideals and principles. Create a tribe around that ethos; the tribe can be worldwide thanks to the internet. Who knows... your tribe might even turn into a movement. What movement were you born to lead?  But in any case, because they believe in your ideals, they will find you when they need what you sell. But DON'T sell your products or services to them; communicate your ideals instead. The old marketing is dead.

   What does this mean in practical terms? If you're a residential architect, you need to be able to sell a lot of stock plans for $1,200 to $2,000 apiece, because the $40,000 custom commissions are going to be rare. If you're a builder, you need to think about retrofit and restoration, because the big jobs are much fewer. If you're a photographer, think about how to sell your images online rather than by commission. If you're a writer, look at all the ways you can self-publish rather than looking for that increasingly-elusive big publishing contract.

   Nibble, don't gulp... if you can adapt, you'll be much healthier for it.

© 2012 The Guild Foundation Press