Kathleen here. I want to tell you a few secrets – Tara and I don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs. In fact, before creating Braid Creative, we had never really imagined working for ourselves. We were perfectly comfortable collecting gold stars (and a paycheck with a matching 401k) from somebody else.
But here’s another secret: even with our lack of experience, we were profitable since day one. Our goal was to simply replace our day job salaries, but I was surprised when in our first year of business together, I made more than I ever had working as an art director at an advertising agency.
What’s the secret to being profitable since day one? We positioned ourselves as creative experts, created really good content, and narrowed in on our offering to attract just the right dream customers.
I recently invited Tara to chat with us on the Being Boss podcast to chat with us about:
P.S. The Braid Method Branding ECourse is where we share everything we know, plus helpful how-tos, on how to package and position yourself to attract more dream clients. It’s now open to new students. Learn more and register for this DIY complete-at-your-own-pace branding course.
SHARE THIS +
Most of us become creative entrepreneurs, small business owners, or freelancers because we want to spend our days working with our hands, curating our shop, painting canvases, designing brands, coaching dream clients… the creative side of what we do is, well… what we actually want to be doing all day. It can be frustrating when you have to wear all the other hats to run a successful business. It’s not enough that you just do “your job” because you have to do all the other jobs too: accounting, HR, account service, customer support, and marketing.
Listen. Marketing is simply reminding people to hire you. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, but what I really want to tell you today is that good marketing begins with good branding.
So what is good branding? When you hear the word “branding,” you might think about your logo, colors, and visual identity. You’re not wrong, but branding is so much more.
Branding is how you position yourself as a reliable guide or expert in your field. It’s the words you use in your tagline, on your about me page, and in your conversations that very specifically let your dream customer know you’re for them.
Branding is clearly articulating what you want people to know, do, and feel with every blog post, Instagram photo, tweet, and webinar.
Branding is knowing and communicating who you’re for and what you’re best at.
Branding is attracting dream customers without having to sell (in an icky way).
Branding is saying what you mean without having to over-explain yourself.
Once you know your brand, it’s so much easier to market yourself with clarity and confidence. You won’t feel like you suck at marketing because you know what it is you want to say – you just have to say it.
If you're nodding along enthusiastically, but still wondering HOW to get those branding pieces in place, we held a FREE webinar on Friday, January 27th at 12pm Central Time where we sharde three simple things you can do to attract more dream clients (without feeling icky). Sign up to watch the webinar replay here.
SHARE THIS +
Sometimes the most heartbreaking thing about being a creative for a living is when a client has negative feedback.
It looks a little something like this: you go through a discovery process, you ask all the right questions, you and your client are jiving and on the same page, you pull inspiration and the client gives you a big thumbs up. You spend days sketching, refining, and finalizing a design that makes you proud. It just might be your best work yet.
Then, you present a design to your client. You can read their face – they aren’t loving it. Or maybe they take their time getting back to you – you take the silence as criticism and start beating yourself up over what they’re thinking. Maybe they come back with “I love it, but could we change …” followed by revisions that butcher your work into something that resembles nothing you would ever create. You find yourself feeling like a pixel-pushing order-taker rather than the gifted creative expert you are.
At worst, you’re left wondering if maybe you really do suck at your job, and at best you’re wondering how to get your clients to trust you. You become resentful and begin daydreaming about what it must be like to be an accountant for a living – work that isn’t quite so objective or personal.
Sound familiar? I know, me too. I spent the first eight years of my career as a graphic designer battling feedback that was anything less than glowing. But I’ve learned a few things along the way – and I’d like to share those coping skills with you today. I’m writing this post from my perspective as a graphic designer, but I think it could apply to any visual creative field.
It’s really easy to rush to judgments at first glance. You’ll only pick up the very worst parts of what’s being said and come to quick conclusions when your feelings are hurt. So when you receive feedback from a client, be sure to read it at least three times before you start freaking out. If a client is giving you feedback in person, write down, word-for-word, what they’re saying (it’s easy to forget what was said when emotions take over).
Actively listen to your client. What is it they’re actually saying? What are their biggest concerns? Which part of the work, specifically, is and is not resonating with them? Why?
Remember, you and your client are both on the same side with the same goals. Get on the phone or face-to-face – reiterate the original objectives of the project, your client’s original input, and explain your creative rationale (without getting defensive). Your client is probably as flustered as you are – they may be feeling a range of emotions as well! What you want in this situation is to remain calm, transparent, and open. Sometimes, going through rough patches with a client (and acting like a kind pro in the process) will only help them trust you even more through the next round of revisions!
Sometimes criticism can feel HUGE when in fact, you just need to make a small shift. For example, one time I presented a branding project and the client said it just didn’t feel right. At first glance, I thought my client was asking for something COMPLETELY different than what I had designed. But after a little bit of conversation, I realized my client wasn’t jiving with just a few aspects of what I had created. With a slight color-shift and a minor typography change, the brand was still on-point, not that different from my original concept, and made all the difference to my client.
You can even use this tactic to reassure your client that you guys are on the right track. You can say something like: “Okay, after chatting I think we’re still on the right track, and with just a few adjustments, we can easily have a design that both of us feel really good about.”
Pretend like you’re in couples therapy with your client – repeat the requested feedback, verbatim, to them. Then share your concerns, insights, and recommendations and plan of attack so everyone gets what they want.
An actual conversation might look like this: “I’m hearing you say that the typography isn’t ‘clean’ enough and you’re looking for something that feels ‘modern’ and ‘sleek’. My suggestion is that we update the expressive typography to something classic, and maybe tone down the accent colors you originally wanted to something a little more neutral, like a metallic, so that it still has a little edge. Is it cool if I try that approach? Keeping in mind your desire for something clean, modern, and sleek, while I make those tweaks?”
Your client doesn’t speak the same language you do. Their feedback may read a little harsh only because they don’t have the words to describe what they like and don’t like about the work (which has to be frustrating for them too!). If your work is visual, one of the best things you can do to get back on track is moodboard out an updated design (textures, typography, color palettes, photography, logos, themes, etc.) and ask them specifically which examples they like and ask what they like about it. As you begin to see what they’re gravitating toward, give them language to describe what they like and don’t like.
You might even say something like: “I’m noticing that all the examples you’re pointing out have organic textures paired with black hand-drawn lettering. And while you like hot pink, it appears that most of the brands you like use accent colors in their photography more than the actual brand identity.”
Remember, at the end of the day if you can maintain control over your own emotions, assume the best, act with intention, humanize your motives and your client’s feedback, and strive for a positive outcome everyone is enthusiastic about ... then you are truly doing the best you can.
If you found this helpful for dealing with client reject, but you're also wondering how to get more clients in the first place, you're in luck! We held a FREE webinar on Friday, January 27th where we shared three simple things you can do to attract more dream clients (without feeling icky). Sign up to watch the webinar replay here.
SHARE THIS +