Just creating something isn’t enough – you have to create value.
I tweeted that sentence recently and it led comedian Dave Grimes to ask me for an example of what the difference between “just creating” and “creating value” would look like for a comedian. I thought that was a great question and one which takes a lot more than 140 characters to answer, so I figured I’d write a blog post on the subject.
All business (including the comedy business) is rooted in an exchange of value between parties. This is why my belief in the importance of creating value is a major underpinning of everything I discuss in the Connected Comedy universe.
But I haven’t talked much about how comedians can best create value in what they do – until now.
The 3 Types Of Value You Can Create
The first thing you need to understand is that there are three different types of value you can create in anything you do – your creations can provide value to yourself, value to your audience, or value to another business.
Some things you create will hopefully create value in a couple of those buckets (and occasionally all three), but they don’t necessarily have to. What you want to avoid is creating things that don’t create value in any of those ways.
Be careful and deliberate to ensure that the things you spend time creating are designed to provide at least one of those three types of value because if they’re not, then you’re “just creating” for the sake of creating and that’s where many comics wind up banging their head against the wall in frustration.
Another thing it’s important to realize is that the more clearly you can understand what type of value you hope to create with the thing you’re creating, the more likely you are to succeed. When you set out to create something, think through what type of value you’re hoping to generate from it and let that guide you in how you bring it into the world – and, just as importantly, let it serve as a metric for the ultimate success of what you’ve created.
Finally, one more broad note about creating value before I get into a more specific breakdown of each type of value. In general, the more unique your creation, the more potential value it has.
That’s just something to keep in the back of your head as you set off to create things that you hope will ultimately create value.
Now I’m going to break down some specifics about the different types of value you can create -these are applicable not only to standup, but to any form your creations may take including videos, podcasts, writing, and much more.
How To Create Value For Yourself
This is probably the simplest of the types of value you can create and also the one that comics are most familiar with (I’m sure there’s a joke about comic selfishness here to make, but I’ll skip it). In the world of standup, here’s just a few of the ways to create value for yourself beyond just the stage.
• Think of the concepts, characters, and bits you create for your act as true intellectual property – things that can be expanded in infinite ways. Things that can get turned into books, movies, web series, merchandise, and a million other things down the road. That doesn’t mean you should be constantly trying to turn every joke into a million dollar property, but it means you should be conscious of the fact that sometimes a joke can be turned into something much bigger – and more valuable.
• There’s value in sharpening your skills. Not all value is monetary value and you shouldn’t always be focused on monetizing your creations. It’s just as valid to see the value in creating something as a means to improving your talent. In the case of standup, you can create value by performing more often regardless of the financial incentive to do so. But, don’t forget that if the value you’re trying to create is an improvement of skills then you’ll want to focus your actions on improving those skills ad not just going through the motions.
• Another way to create value for yourself is to learn something. Put yourself in situations where you can learn from others, where you can experiment, where you can derive value in the form of knowledge and experience. Again, as relates to standup if the value you’re trying to create is knowledge then make sure you’re putting yourself into situations that will be educational and not just repeating the same things you already know.
• Enjoy yourself. Remember – money isn’t the only thing that’s valuable. Finding something that makes you happy and you enjoy is incredibly valuable and it’s ok if you want to do something just for the fun of it. But be honest with yourself – there’s nothing wrong with just doing standup as a hobby because you enjoy it. But if that’s the value you seek from it, act accordingly and don’t bother wasting your time with the parts of the business that doesn’t bring you enjoyment.
How To Create Value For Your Audience
It’s always been interesting to me that despite the fact that the most obvious key component to a comedy career is to provide value to the audience that sees your work, lots of comics don’t really understand how to deliver that value.
• Entertain them. This is the most obvious way to provide value for your audience and pretty much the only one that most comics ever think about. Making people laugh, or giving them an escape from the stresses of their life is obviously a way to create value for them. But it’s far from the only way…
• Educate them. When you can combine entertainment value with educational value – especially about topics that are relevant to the audience you’re speaking with, that creates a lot more value. This can occur in all kinds of ways ranging from corporate speaking to how-to web series videos and podcasts.
• Provide opportunities for them to be part of a community and connect with others who share their world view. This is a HUGE opportunity that most comedians never think about. If you can create ways for your fans to connect with each other and a community of people that you have connected through your creations, that makes what you do way more valuable than if it’s just about them connecting with you.
Along those lines, I can’t recommend highly enough that you go read the book Tribes by Seth Godin.
How To Create Value For Other Businesses
Besides creating value for yourself and the audience in what you do, you’ll want to figure out how you can create value for other businesses as well. Those businesses can include things like venues, bookers, show producers, agents, sponsors, employers, and even huge companies and providers of services like YouTube.
That may seem crazy, but think about it – don’t you think YouTube will be more inclined to help you if you provide more value to them in the videos you upload?
There’s several ways to create value for other businesses including:
• Make them money. This is the obvious one – every business you deal with is going to be looking for you to help them make money. Different businesses will make money off your creations in different ways – ticket sales, advertising against your creations, taking a percentage of the gigs they book you, etc. But they will all be looking for you to provide them with value by creating opportunities for them to turn a profit.
• Be responsible and easy to work with. Even if you can provide a business with a way to make money, you won’t be the only one that can do so. There’s a lot of value to be provided to a business by being professional, dependable, trustworthy and easy to work with. Whether it’s a venue or an agent, they will value you being easy to work with – because a lot of comics are not.
• Contribute your expertise. Most businesses aren’t run by the most creative people in the world and there’s opportunities to provide value to them with your creative skills. Remember, a comedy career is about more than just telling jokes on stage and you have an opportunity to create value for all kinds of businesses with the skills you’ve developed as a comedian – if you’re willing to start thinking about other opportunities.
One Last Thing About Creating Value…
While I hope the ideas I’ve listed above will give you a starting point to consider how you can best create value for yourself and others with your comedy, it’s by no means a definitive list of ways to do so. There are infinite opportunities for comics to create value and you can certainly discover your own…if you’re willing to start thinking about what you do in terms of how it can provide value and to whom.