The Ten Percent Solution

So many creatives and would-be entrepreneurs are on a seemingly endless quest to create something the world has never seen. And this can be a worthy pursuit. The downside, however, is this can create enormous pressure to deliver, resulting in performance anxiety and often, paradoxically, the opposite result of what we seek. Instead of innovating, we do nothing. The wall looming before us feels too high to get over. So we don’t even bother trying.

But do we really need to reinvent the wheel?

My brother-in-law is a commercial real estate developer who works with hundreds of subcontractors every year. He once remarked that, “If I had a sub where the only difference was that he showed up at the time he said he would, I would give him all my business for eternity.”

If you’ve ever sat around waiting for the cable guy to show up “sometime between 10am and 4pm,” you can relate.

This led to a discussion about the little differences that make all the difference professionally—and in life. He continued, “Ten percent better or ten percent different, that’s really all you need.”

Let’s say you are a freelance wedding photographer looking to build your business. What are one or two small differences—just ten percent—that would give you an edge and set you apart from your competition?

The most common path is to be ten percent cheaper. But that can be a slippery slope leading to a race to the bottom. After all, there will always be someone who can (and will) do the job for less.

But don’t settle there. Get creative, brainstorm. What else could you do to up-level your services?

Could you return calls quicker? Provide chilled bottled water at sittings? Could you be the photographer who meets in person while your competitors prefer to hide out in cyberspace?

I don’t know the solution that will work for you, but I do know there is a ten percent solution that will set you at the head of the pack.

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