In today’s Creator Economy, everyone has a voice and many ways to share ideas. This can be both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, it’s easier than ever for people with an idea to get their message out there and make an impact. But on the other hand, each person’s view is only as good as their own biases and knowledge, so it can be challenging to know what works and what doesn’t.
Two main principles help us navigate this complexity.
- It would be best if you never forgot that your goal is to create something that fulfills people’s needs or expectations.
- You should never forget that every piece of content is influenced by its context.
“What I’m telling you is, productivity is meaningless unless you know what your goal is,” he says.”― Eliyahu M. Goldratt, The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
The economy is changing, and so are people’s roles. Those who want to thrive as content creators will also require a mindset change.
In 2018, I left my successful management career in Brussels to pursue my creative dreams. I made sure there were no loose ends behind. I nailed the exit and burned the bridges holding me back to the industrial age framework to embrace what many authors now refer to as the “pleasure‐centered economy” in the Era of Posthumanism.
If you would also like to follow down this road, it will be helpful for you to learn how to leverage constraints and get your content in front of the right audience at the right time with the right message.
Let’s face it, today’s digital landscape is highly fragmented, and there are many different channels for creators to choose from when looking for their audience.
The ultimate challenge is knowing where your target audience hangs out and what type of content they want to see.
That’s why the Theory of Constraints can help you make informed decisions on where, when, and how to produce content that aligns with your audience’s expectations and needs.
In this article, you will learn how the Theory of Constraints (TOC) can help you find new opportunities and remain relevant in the new creator economy, scale your freelancing business and build an ecosystem that supports your success.
A brief introduction to the Theory of Constraints
The Theory of Constraints (TOC) is a concept in business strategy that describes the limitations imposed by the resources available to a business. It refers to the extent to which an organization can manage its inputs and outputs.
- TOC focuses on identifying and eliminating the single point of failure in your production process;
- TOC is also used to describe your business’s ability to successfully manage its resources and focus on what is essential;
- TOC determines which resources will be allocated to produce a product or service. These include factors such as marketing and production capacity.
“Utilizing” a resource means making use of the resource in a way that moves the system toward the goal. “Activating” a resource is like pressing the ON switch of a machine; it runs whether or not there is any benefit to be derived from the work it’s doing.”― Eliyahu M. Goldratt, The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement
Like other concepts, it has been dramatically expanded since its introduction, with many variations, including scope constraints, buffers, slack time, and more being added to the list.
It basically boils down to how much flexibility you have in responding to your environment and the threats you need to address.
In a standard business, most of these threats are located along your supply chain at any given time. In the digital landscape, this will happen downstream and impact your sales funnel.
The Theory of Constraints in the Creator Economy
I’ve been coaching creators during the pandemic and trying to reshuffle their mindset to make them understand how they are, in fact, the new engines of growth.
In the new creator economy, anyone with a bold idea and the drive to bring it to life can thrive. But this requires new ways of ideating, iterating, and growing your creative business.
That was the point of my 2021 course: A New Pleasure Economics Framework for Creators. This piece was inspired by the guide I wrote back then for the students who enrolled in my master’s program seeking to succeed in the more volatile and ambiguous world that the epidemic had brought about.
My goal is to help you better understand how content creators have a competitive advantage in the new work reality. If you want to maximize your potential, now is the time.
But how can you use the Theory of Constraints to fine-tune your creative skills?
The management philosophy developed by Goldratt in the late 1970s can be applied to digital and physical projects. However, it’s beneficial for digital content creators who need to optimize their output for various platforms.
The TOC framework helps content creators understand and apply the principles of optimization. This theory emphasizes the trade-offs and constraints of any creative endeavor, including content creation.
By learning to recognize and deal with constraints, you can maximize your creative output while minimizing waste.
One of the most critical aspects of the Theory of Constraints is that it helps you break down a project into its parts. This allows you to assess which parts are essential and which can be sacrificed to achieve the desired outcome.
Doing so can optimize your time and resources, ensuring you have sufficient bandwidth to complete your work.
Looking at your digital business from a TOC perspective
While running a freelancing business based on digital products, multiple things almost always need to be done simultaneously.
For example, you might have a lot of potential customers that need your products, but not all of them at the same time.
In these situations, it’s essential to know how to manage your business effectively to respond to your audience’s cravings and expectations. You will notice that these fluctuate all the time and are as seasonal as the collections in the fashion industry.
That explains why travel-related articles have a high ROI during summertime and why Hygge lifestyle articles are a trend during autumn and winter.
Every system has a weakest link, which if removed or addressed, can improve performance.
This principle can be applied to any business and help you identify and focus on the bottlenecks in your process, which create inefficiencies and limit growth.
It’s an excellent tool for simplifying complex operational processes and improving the efficiency of your production line. It helps you identify what type of content or digital products are more appealing to your audience or customers.
Let’s take a deeper look at TOC principles and how they can help you grow your business.
Step 1: Identify the constraint
Constraints are limitations that prevent your business from achieving its full potential. There are several types physical, financial, etc. For instance, the latter restricts how much you can spend on the business. Imagine you want to dive into the dropshipping business. A major constraint will be the amount you are willing to invest in setting up your e-commerce store.
There are three steps to identifying a constraint:
- Identify the nature of the constraint
- Understand its impact
- Determine its cause
The constraint is the fundamental factor that limits your ability to achieve a goal. It is the obstacle that stands in your way and must be overcome to reach your goal.
In other words, the constraint is what you are trying to eliminate.
Most people define constraints as limitations imposed by external factors such as the availability of resources, money, and time.
Others may define a constraint as an emotional or mental barrier that stands in the way of achieving their goals. My definition of a constraint is anything that prevents you from achieving your goal.
The financial constraint in the digital landscape doesn’t play such a significant role. Hence, for a creator, the constraints are more subtle and can be defined more in terms of time and mindset.
From experience, I know that time and effort are the main obstacles preventing you from achieving your goal.
- Time constraints prevent you from having enough hours in the day to work towards your goal.
- Effort constraints prevent you from putting forth the necessary effort required to reach your goal.
Imagine you are into software development; constraints are any limitations that may affect the success of a project.
While many different factors can influence the success of a project, it’s crucial to identify and understand any logical or physical constraints that may be limiting your ability to deliver high-quality code.
This will allow you to account for potential delays and setbacks and work with your project stakeholders to develop creative solutions.
Step 2: Identify the opportunity
This s a critical step in creating a new business idea. Identifying a gap in the market or some new and under-served need that your business could fill is crucial.
The idea here is not to make up something that doesn’t exist yet. Instead, it is to look at what is already available and identify ways in which you could improve upon it.
This is a crucial mindset shift for content creators. Many creators are aiming to create something truly unique. That’s one of the main reasons why so many fail repeatedly.
You need to understand that there’s nothing truly original; what makes you stand out is the new perspective or insight you can bring into the system.
Your work is not unique; you are.
An example of this might be taking a product that has been proven successful but more efficiently and cost-effectively than its competitors.
Another might be taking an existing service and adding value to it to entice customers to purchase from you rather than from another source.
In either case, you are looking for some way of adding value to an existing product or service, thereby changing customer behavior that leads them to buy from you instead of someone else. This can be done in several ways (e.g., lower or more flexible prices).
You must be able to see the value you can provide to your audience or customers. Not all opportunities are created equal, and you must pick one that is both meaningful and feasible.
There are many different ways to build an audience for your business, but you must pick one that is relevant to your target market and suits your skill set.
When identifying an opportunity, try not to get hung up on the size of the client or the budget available for your project. Instead, focus on what you can bring to the table.
- What kind of value can you offer?
- What kind of expertise do you have?
- How can you help them achieve their goals?
If you feel confident in your deliverability, this is an opportunity worth pursuing.
“In order to significantly increase sales we have to increase the perception of value of the market for our products.”― Eliyahu M. Goldratt, It’s Not Luck
Step 3: Build on your strengths
One of the most noteworthy things a creator should do is to build on their strengths. If you are passionate about writing, your focus shouldn’t be on developing a writing app.
Instead, build a community and invite your friends to write on your platform. Many creators fail because they try to do too many things at once. Instead, focus on one thing and make it great. That’s what I did over a decade ago when I created my webzine Rock n’Heavy.
Another way that creators should build on their strengths is by identifying their weaknesses and then working hard to improve those drawbacks. You can be most successful by focusing on what you do well and not trying to reinvent the wheel.
- You can create something meaningful tailored to your audience by building on your strengths.
- And by focusing on weaknesses, you can learn from others and grow as a person.
There are limitations to every creator’s skill set, and it’s essential to accept them and stay true to your vision. This will allow you to create something that truly resonates with people. And when you start with a solid foundation, it is easier to build upon it later in your career.
Creators should build on their strengths and use their strengths to develop new ideas. When you find your strength, you can use it to drive future success.
For example, if you’re good at figuring out how things work, you can use that skill to create new products or services that improve existing ways of doing things.
Another thing you can do as a creator is to embrace the constraints of their situation. When creators know what they’re up against (i.e., the limitations of time, money, resources, etc.), they can create more effective solutions than possible under other circumstances.
For example, a small business may be able to produce a high-quality product because it has limited resources. A large corporation might not be able to deliver the same quality product because it has too many resources.
If a creator knows what they’re up against, they can make better decisions about how to invest their time and money to succeed.
In addition, when a creator knows what’s a good fit and what is not, they can understand where they fit into the larger system and what needs to be done to maximize their chances of success.
“Tell me how you measure me and I’ll tell you how I will behave.”― Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Critical Chain
Step 4: Commit to a rotation
There is a commonplace stating that the more content you create and the more you publish, the more constrained your time becomes.
There’s also a reason why most freelancers don’t publish too much content: it takes time to create new content, which can be as precious as gold.
If you want to maintain a steady stream of high-quality content, then you must plan ahead and commit to a frequency of publication.
Regarding frequency, there is no strict rule; you must choose the schedule that seems right for your business.
Step 5: Learn and revisit
Deciding what you want to do and how you’re going to do it are two key aspects of the theory of constraints.
If you know what you’re going to create and how to build it, then you may have a better chance at success than if you don’t envision what you’ll do next.
One of the biggest challenges freelance content creators face is the sheer number of projects they have to juggle.
Not only do they need to keep up with all the deadlines, but they also need to research and ensure that their client’s needs are being met.
By managing these tasks more efficiently, freelance content creators can free up time they can use to focus on their creative work.
- One way to do this is by learning and reviewing their workflow. That means figuring out the best way to work and making the necessary adjustments.
- It’s also essential to revisit your goals every so often to stay on track and not lose sight of why you started in the first place.
By doing so, you can ensure that you are always working on your most important projects.
Toward a more equitable and rewarding economy
In the new “pleasure economy,” there is a shift from scarcity to abundance. It’s no longer about how much you have but how you can share your resources.
The opportunity in the new creator economy lies in sharing the best you have to offer with others and reaping multiple benefits in return. You can start with sharing a skill or any digital item, but it can also be an emotional connection, a piece of advice, or simply a conversation.
- When you create something, you don’t just want to make it for yourself. You want to make it for people who will appreciate the work you’ve put in.
- When you receive a gift or a payment, it’s not just about the thing itself; it’s about the context and the feelings behind the transaction.
People are more connected than ever before, so sharing is crucial for creating a meaningful connection with others. Sharing is both an art and a science; certain ways work best and certain ways that don’t work at all.
“So this is the goal: To make money by increasing net profit, while simultaneously increasing return on investment, and simultaneously increasing cash flow.”― Eliyahu M. Goldratt, The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement