How to tell people what you do as a creative

“I used to think branding was just about logos, fonts, and colors. But I realized that my trouble articulating what I do is really a branding problem.” – Kat, Illustrator and a Braid Method Branding ECourse Student

One of the hardest things to do as a creative entrepreneur is being able to tell people what you do. Kathleen here. Just yesterday morning I was in a boxing class (yup, I finally watched Mad Max: Fury Road and was inspired to be a post-apocalyptic badass – boxing class seemed like a good place to start) and the coach asked me what I do for a living. And even as someone who tells creatives how to tell other people what they do for a living, I had that moment where I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to tell this guy, who boxes for a living, what it is I do. I boiled it down to “graphic design” and that was an appropriate answer given the context of his expertise (boxing) and my experience leading up to becoming a branding guide and creative coach (who started as a graphic designer over a decade ago).

But it’s not just in out-of-context situations (like boxing class … or Thanksgiving dinner with relatives who don’t understand your creative career) that creative entrepreneurs have a hard time explaining what they do. Creatives often find themselves stammering in front of potential dream clients and while networking with their peers. And like Kat, an illustrator taking our branding ecourse, said, the inability to articulate what you do isn’t a confidence problem – it’s a branding problem.

The inability to articulate what you do isn't a confidence problem - it's a branding problem. (click to tweet)

You might be having a hard time telling people what you do for a living if:
• you are using vague words and trendy industry jargon to describe what you do
• your expertise can’t be summed up in one small title or job description
• you feel more like a Jack (or Jane) of all trades and master of none

messaging for creatives is a branding problem

In our ecourse we created a whole scripted lesson module for this very reason. It’s called “Get Blended: Shape Your Branded Messages,” and in it we share formulas for talking and writing about your business, while still sounding like you. You want to be clear enough to explain what you do to almost anyone in just a few sentences, legit enough in your next layer of content (usually on your site or in your conversations) to get hired, and you want to feel authentic and true to the dreamy-but-difficult path you’re carving out for yourself.

You want to be clear enough to explain what you do to almost anyone in just a few sentences. (click to tweet)

creative clarity when explaining what you do

One of the first scripts we share is your positioning statement.
• Your positioning statement is just a few sentences that say what you do, and for who.
• You need it to help you sound self-employed, not unemployed, when you explain what you’re about in a short amount of time.
• It can go in places like your website home page, perhaps under your photo in a sidebar, and in your social media profiles.

We share scripts for service-based creatives (like photographers, designers, and stylists), content-based creatives (like coaches, consultants, writers, and bloggers), and product-based creatives (like jewelers, makers, and artists) in our Braid Method Branding ECourse for Creative Entrepreneurs. But! I want to share just a down-and-dirty fill-in-the-blanks script that you can give you less anxiety and more confidence so you can start practicing on your own boxing instructor (or maybe just in your next coffee meeting) today!

Try filling out these blanks:

I’m ___[your name]___, and I’m a ____ [simplest form of your title]____.

I love ____ [creating, designing, guiding]____ clients who want ____ [your specialty]____.

And they love how I ____ [your approach]_____ when we work together!

But at the end of the day, what they really get is ____ [ your deeper deliverable for them]___.

Because I’m more than just __[your simple title]__, I’m a ___[your creative expertise]___.

I can’t wait to try what’s next for me, which is launching a ___[your next big endeavor]___.

It’s hard work, but totally worth it, because as I create for others, I’ll also be creating __[your dream]___ for myself along the way.

Okay, I went a little future-dreaming there, but I can’t help it! That’s what we love to do at Braid, not just blend the person with the profession, but blend the “now” with the “what could be!”

Because once you start articulating what you really do, and really want, it really does start to happen. (click to tweet)

Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.

Our branding ecourse will be $179 through the end of June 2015. In July it will go up to $229.

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If some of you remember Gaahhh Don’t Make Me Write! you know I’m a creative who has a love-hate relationship with writing. But I’m also a creative who believes that unless it’s going to flat out kill you, creative entrepreneurs have just gotta write in some form or another, whether that’s it’s a more clearly written email response to people interested in hiring you, to regularly sharing useful or inspirational tidbits in whatever social media realm doesn’t freak you out, to all-out blogging, to occasional speaking, to (gasp!) writing a book.

Kathleen and I are actually writing a book. Or let me clarify, writing a book proposal, but it’s been a bit of a backburner idea, and now we’re in “let’s just try it mode.” So we’re taking a stab and seeing how it goes. You might think that’s something you’d love to do, or have done already, congrats. Or you may already breaking out in hives thinking about it (I do have an persistent itchy spot on my back left shoulder blade by the way) just calm down a second there, itchy, we’re not saying that it’s a fit for you. 

The point is, you may not be dying to become an author, but if you’re a creative entrepreneur or aspiring-to-be, then I know you’re dying to express these ideas you’ve got pinging around in your head, and get them (if not on real pages) on metaphorical paper. So lately I’ve started asking creatives just brimming, bursting and beaming with ideas, but can’t nail down one (or even just five) to say “that’s my expertise, that’s what I’m all about,” the book question.

I simply ask “if you had to write a book, today, what would it be called and what would some of your chapters would be called?” I love asking this question so much lately, that we created a Brand Exercise Braid worksheet for you to download.

Try This Branding Worksheet

DOWNLOAD: WRITE A BOOK WORKSHEET

Think about how your book title and chapters can help you:
- write blog posts
- stick to some general blog topics
- or even just write tweets and FB posts?
- develop or describing the offerings/products that you sell?
- explain how-to-hire you on your website?
- give a talk
- structure a conversation with someone considering hiring you?
- write a real book someday, dare we say!?

Brand Exercise Collage

If you liked this worksheet, you can check out some of our previous Brand Exercises like:
- Your Ideal Day
- The Online You Sharing Spectrum
- A Resolution For Routine

Final note on “making your dream” real. Kathleen and I have actually worked with successful legit authors and also aspiring authors, and there is something really powerful about creating an image of your dream.  So, for the aspiring authors out there, the ones who didn’t get hives reading the title to this post, but said “oh man, I am soooo writing a book,” do this – design your book cover, or heck hand draw it, wrap it around a real book, and photograph it. But don’t just boring photograph it. Do it in a field of grass, or styled on a desk in a sunny window, or on your bookshelf among all your other favorite books.  You don’t have to have a fancy camera, just use your phone, filter it up all Instagram style, ha! You don’t have to post it, or share it, but just looking at it can give you goosebumps. Make it you desktop wallpaper image, or print it out and stick on your mirror – is that self-affirming, prophecy-fulfilling or what?

As for us, we’re cautiously optimistic ours will turn into a real book. Side note, our brother is a sideshow performer who travels the country and world twirling his handlebar mustache and getting paid to stick sharp objects up his nose. I mention him because every once in awhile he gets to shoot a pilot for a potential television series, but none of them have turned into actual shows in that long string of what it takes to get a show picked up by a network. But it ends up being a good story for him to tell, and a clarifying experience each time, to say the least. That’s how Kathleen and I are approaching writing this potential book of ours, like sticking something sharp in our face (in careful steps, mind you) and hoping people like it and pay us for it. 

What would the title of your book be? Oh, man, I bet there’s some good ones out there. Tell us on Facebook.

Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.

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I’ve got a worksheet for you try out today, the Online You Sharing Spectrum. We developed it while working on our Personal Branding Braid ECourse – but I’m sharing this one exercise out of all the others – well, partly as a sneak peek into the course, but also I think this exercise in particular really helps creative entrepreneurs work through two things I’ve been noticing from our clients more than ever lately:

1. They all have this deep desire to more accurately and authentically share who they really are 
2. But they’re scared

It can be confusing and overwhelming knowing what to share and how to share it when you’re at a dinner with friends – much less when you have the entire world at your fingertips. But I think nothing is more beautiful or powerful than getting to create an online space that’s so perfectly you, where you can capture, shape, and share who you are and what you’re all about. 

I do believe getting clear on your boundaries and creating within your limitations will make you more comfortable, and creative, with genuinely sharing who you are online.  Read on for the downloadable worksheet to start defining those boundaries, along with takeaway tips to begin more confidently sharing within those parameters. 

DOWNLOAD THE SHARING SPECTRUM WORKSHEET

Straight from our Braid ECourse Personal Branding: Blending Who You Are With What You Do, from anonymous, to all out there – see where you land on the sharing spectrum now, and where you’d like to be in the future. Then list out some specific boundaries – the things you absolutely will not talk about online, the things you’re perfectly comfortable posting about, and finally the things you would like to talk about but feel a little scared. 

8 Tips on Sharing (and Shining) Online
You might even consider reading through these before you fill out your worksheet if you’re feeling stuck!

1. Sharing takes practice. Start small. You’re not immediately going to feel comfortable putting much of anything out there if you’ve never done it before. So test the waters with a Tweet or Instagram pic. Touch on topics before you dive into a full-blown essay on it. Sometimes a photo and one sentence will say more about who you are than a novel. 

2. Find your tone. Lots of people tell you to find your voice but I’m betting you already have a voice. I think you should focus on finding your tone. Is it sarcastic, dry, sweet, rough around the edges, funny, serious, sincere, vulnerable, bold, sassy, quiet? 

3. Learn how to listen. The great thing about sharing online is the instant feedback you get from your community. That feedback can come in the form of enthusiastic comments, “likes”, or even chirping crickets – those responses are valuable for helping you assess and calibrate what you’d like to share more or less of accordingly. 

4. Your corner of the internet will evolve and change as you evolve and change. I think part of the fear of sharing online is how permanent it can feel when you hit that “publish” button. I find fascinating about the internet is how ephemeral and temporary, yet archival, it is. 

5. It doesn’t always have to be deep. One of my most popular posts, to date, over at my personal blog was about my armpits. But guess who else is blogging about their armpits? No one. So even the little stuff can reveal lots about you and have readers thanking you for “keeping it real” without getting too terribly deep. 

6. Your goal is to attract or repel readers. I think we get most scared of sharing when we are afraid of offending someone. But if you’re everything to everyone you’re probably watering down who you really are and what you really have to say. Jasmine Star won me over at Alt Summit when she said this about building a personal brand: “My goal is to either attract you or repel you”. When you share your authentic self (the big stuff and the little stuff), the online tribe you were meant to have will not only be attracted to you and like will feel like they belong in your space.

7. Share elsewhere. You don’t always have to share in your own space. For example, I’ve felt the urge to write about my starter marriage – but my blog, a place where I celebrate the life I have created with my husband Jeremy, is clearly not the appropriate venue to talk about a failed relationship with my ex. So I’ve considered writing about the topic elsewhere – at a place like The Equals Record – a blog full of contributors who dig deep into the more complex issues of life. A place where a conversation about getting married (and divorced) young would be appropriate. And on the flip side – if I want to indulge in my consumer side I can curate a gift guide with a blogger like Meg Biram.

8. Be consistent. At the heart of any brand is setting expectations and then delivering on that promise. What do you promise to share? How often? And where? 

Lastly, here are some rad bloggers who all share who they are and what they do in very different ways (from private to all out there): 
Danielle Krysa of The Jealous Curator – I didn’t know the author of The Jealous Curator was a woman until she emailed me on my birthday with a list of reasons why she was jealous of me. We’ve been friends ever since. But even before we got to know each other I learned a lot about Danielle just by getting to know what kind of art she liked, and why she liked it, every single day. 
Sandra Juto – Sandra shares daily details from her walks, fika (that’s what Swedes call their coffee breaks) and work. She keeps her words brief but you feel like you’re in her whole world when you go to her blog. 
Liz Fabry of EXACTLY – Liz is our Braid brand director and her blog captures the minimalist beauty (and mystery) that she exudes in real life. People live for her Weekend Breakfasts series – and on that note sharing what you’re eating is always a brilliant way to connect. 
Megan Gilger of The Fresh Exchange – If you are wanting to share more and on a variety of topics Megan is the perfect example of how to do that with style and grace. She’s really great at keeping it real and making us all feel like we’re in it together but what I really admire is how she captures her content offline and then brings it to us as a beautifully packaged gift. 



Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.

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