Wildly Productive & Living the Dream | Braid Creative | Life Coaching

wildly productive and living the dream

“Wildly productive and living the dream.” This is the kind of stuff that Kathleen says that makes people either love her or hate her. And she likes it that way. I can say that, because I’m not just her business partner, I’m her sister. I’ve seen how she can overwhelmingly inspire, or completely inflame with her point-of-view and personal brand.

Good thing for us our dream clients, working creatives, creative entrepreneurs and aspiring-to-be’s, like you out there – love what she’s putting out there.  I love how fellow dreamer (and doer!) author/illustrator Becky Murphy of Chipper Things, captured Kathleen’s words, and maybe a little bit of her soul, in this illustration above.

Why do we love dreamers who are also “doers” like Becky? Well, because they get that it takes more than just “living the dream,” as sparkly and attractive as that is, and they know they need to make some decisions so they can get down to business. A decision-making stall out can completely derail a creative from being wildly productive, or living the dream.

Creative Coaching

A lot of times when we work one-on-one with creative clients I tell them my expertise is helping them package their process and positioning, while Kathleen’s expertise is personal branding. But really, it’s deeper than that, her expertise is decision-making – swift, unapologetic, and specific.

So to continue with words from Kathleen, this one isn’t going to get illustrated or cross-stitched and hung on a wall, but it is actually going to get you on a decision-making path to DOING what you’re dreaming: 

“Dreams don’t happen. They’re made. But first you have to get specific about what that dream looks like.” 

This is pulled from Kathleen’s recent post Get Specific. It’s just one in a series of Creative Coaching posts she’s been sharing lately, as she’s been training, and coaching a LOT of creatives on, well, she might not call it this, but I will – on decision-making.

Because which comes first? The doing? To do something before you can know what you’re best at, or even like? The dreaming? To envision what you really want out of a dream job/business? The decision-making? To know what the heck to do next? I can tell you this, it’s like a three-part chicken-and-the-egg scenario – an endless wheel. And it never stops. 

I likened this decision making to choosing a path last week in What If I’m On The Wrong Path, and proposed that if we all just stayed on the bus (our own creative expertise), then the path-choosing isn’t such a huge deal. So now that I’ve really crossed metaphors here, maybe the wheel is like doing donuts in the bus for a little bit (oh man, our dad used to do donuts on Sunday mornings with all us kids packed into the old VW Rabbit 'til we were spinning and screaming!)

I’m lucky enough to work with my business partner and sister, so we can take turns on this wheel of dreaming-deciding-doing.  If you need a little help with the spinning, maybe she can help

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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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What If I'm On The Wrong Path? | Decision-Making for Entrepreneurs

Finding your path as a creative entrepreneur

We work with a lot of creative entrepreneurs – designers, writers, photographers, makers.  Usually by the time they have hired us to help them clear up their business vision, and package up their brand position and creative offering, they’ve pretty much picked a path for their business. They’ve plotted out their creative dream job working for themselves instead of a company, have been chugging down that path for months or even years, and are able to look up and see how far they’ve come. They’re feeling sustainable, so that means paying themselves properly while able to invest in business improvements – whether hiring an employee, relaunching their website, enrolling in training or attending conferences, or renting a cool office space.

All of this sounds like the picture of what working for yourself should be, right? But so often when creatives are visioning, daydreaming, planning and what-iffing their future, the same question just pesters them left and right – "what if I’m going down the wrong path?"

The Aspiring Entrepreneur

The Entrepreneur Who's Arrived

The Aspiring Creative Entrepreneur Just Starting Out.
For the aspiring entrepreneur, let’s say someone about to quit her day job and take the exhilarating leap, or someone who’s been on their own for a bit now, but is still starting-and-stalling getting her business fully realized, this question “what if I’m choosing wrong?” can feel so permanent and life altering. Some of us are able to mildly tolerate this very natural, yet nagging worry and then swat it away now and again when the buzzing gets too loud. 

But sometimes, and this can comes up especially when we’re coaching creatives, this question can completely stop the aspiring entrepreneur in her tracks – analysis paralysis, put on the flashing lights, pull over, this bus ain’t goin’ nowhere. 

The Creative Entrepreneur Who Has “Arrived.”
But the entrepreneurs “who’ve arrived,” aren’t immune to retracing their path in moments of self-doubt either. You know, those creatives I mentioned above who seem to be on a roll?  Sometimes that speed of opportunity and choice coming so fast can be as overwhelming as any of those early days, wondering when business was ever going to pick up beyond a crawl.

Because sometimes when we get where we were headed in the first place, we wonder why we chose this destination, and start wondering if we can get a “do-over.” This is the moment we ask “oops, did I go down the wrong path?” 

Don't Get Off The Bus

You Can Always Change Your Path. Just Don’t Get Off The Bus.
This path-choosing anxiety (or regret) could center around whether to focus on a particular niche, or whether to structure your business around a service, a product, or even a content-sharing model. Your fork in the road could be deciding on pairing up with a business partner or investor, or it could be whether to establish a physical “storefront” or keep your brand living purely online. And one of the most heavy-hearted questions could even be, “should I go back to the financial security (and decision-making reprieve) of working for someone else?”

Our creative entrepreneurship within Braid, our own business, is not immune to this constant decision-making – oh no, we’re always choosing paths. Sometimes we even start down one, hit reverse, and try another, but that doesn’t keep us from barreling down that alternate route instead. 

But what really keeps us moving forward when the path-choosing gets tricky – is knowing how to stay on the bus. “The bus” is our own creative expertise that will never change, and our vision for what is going to make this dream job we’ve created for ourselves (a.k.a. the journey) worth it. 

What’s Your Bus?
If you are just starting out, or have already created a business on your own terms, stop asking which path should I choose for just a moment – and ask yourself this, “what’s my bus?” How can I define what it is to be a creative expert, and what’s my core expertise that I hope will never change?  

Eventually You Can Shape Whatever Path You Choose... To Fit You.
If you’ve been down plenty of paths already, ask yourself this, “am I really embracing the expertise I’ve already hard-earned?” Maybe not. If you’re not really owning that power, yeah, you might start dreaming of “do overs,” but really, if you can get undeniably centered around this expertise, you can shape almost any path to you – instead of letting your clients, your industry, your services shape you.

In fact, that’s a whole other topic I get really fired up about, and am writing a Letter to Creatives for next week titled “How Do You Know When You’re An Expert?” You can sign up to get (often more candid) letters from myself and Kathleen straight to your inbox, with discounts to our Braid ECourses like the one below.

Decision-making can really get us all going in circles of self-doubt (that would be a cul-de-sac instead of a path) what are some ways you break the cycle and get moving down the road? Tell us about it 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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After 2 years of working with 100+ creative entrepreneurs I’ve noticed that each one of them feels some sort of need to go back to school. 

I don’t want to downplay education but the fact of the matter is you probably don’t need to go back to school. If you’re a designer but want to start your own business you don’t need to go to business school to learn about spreadsheets and management information systems. You simply need to start your business – by building it from the ground up, the way you see it, you’ll gain invaluable experience (and an income!) without going in debt for an irrelevant degree. 

Maybe it’s the nostalgia of school supplies and shifting seasons that lures creatives into the idea of going back to school, but I believe this need to go back to school stems from insecurity, uncertainty, a fear to begin, and a need for structure. I’ve been there too. More recently I was feeling overwhelmed and thought “Maybe I should move to Burlington, Vermont and get my masters in creative writing.” It’s a lovely bucolic fantasy but in reality, if I want to write, I really just need to be writing and hitting publish every single day. Now that said, getting a bachelor’s degree in visual communications with a solid foundation in typography has absolutely shaped who I am today – and sometimes the idea of a mentor and teacher telling me what to do and helping me hone my craft sounds great. But since my early 20s I’ve grown into my role as an entrepreneur. I’m no longer a student of a university but a student of life.

How To Learn More

So while more school, in a traditional sense, isn’t necessarily the answer, continuing education is essential for the creative entrepreneur. And the great thing about being a self-starter this day in age is that you can curate your education to fit your specific needs. Here are six ways you can continue to learn as you go: 

1. Read a book. When Tara and I started Braid we read ReWork by 37 Signals and The Back of The Napkin by Dan Roam. And then we stopped reading and started doing. We were able to build the foundation of our business model and philosophies on principles we learned and applied from those two books. 

2. Attend a Conference. Conferences are a great way to learn new things, surround yourself with likeminded peers, and are places where you can share your own gifts of knowledge by speaking or facilitating round table discussions. I’ve been to Alt Summit and HOW Design Conference and found both experiences instrumental for personal and professional growth. 

3. Go to a Workshop. You don’t need to get a degree in graphic design to learn photoshop. You can go to Bri Emery’s BlogShop! And there isn’t even a degree in blogging which is why a workshop like Blogcademy is so rad for creatives who want to learn how to better share themselves online. Want to learn more about lifestyle photography and food styling by superstar Canelle et Vanille – just go to her workshop! 

4. Take an ECourse. I recently wanted to learn more about calligraphy and hand-lettering so I took the I Still Love Calligraphy ECourse. SkillShare is another great resource for learning new skills – from how to make meatballs to learning web design. Lynda.com is a great place to brush up and learn technical design skills. And of course we have our own Braid ECourses for creative entrepreneurs who want to learn more about business visioning and branding. 

5. Hire a Consultant. If you need someone to tell you what to do hire a consultant. Tara and I recently invested in a business consultant to help us shore up our business model from the operations & financial side of things. We relied on her business degree and expertise to teach us specifically what we needed to do to make our business run better. Better yet, we didn’t have to endure 4 more years of homework and finals to get there. 

6. Invest in Training. I recently paid $7,000 to go through 8 months of life coach training with Martha Beck. It wasn’t cheap but it’s a fraction of what it would cost to get my master’s degree. I see this kind of training as an investment that will quickly pay for itself and then some.

Finally, acknowledge and trust the experience you’ve already got. The education you’ve received (whether formal or self-taught) and the experience you’ve picked up along the way are what make you an expert and that’s good enough for right now. There will always be more to study and master but at some point you’ll need to stop learning, collecting, and thinking, and start doing. There is an abundance of education and learning to be had in actually doing the work. (I wrote more about that in an exclusive Letters for Creatives here. If you haven’t signed up to receive these letters straight to your inbox do so here.)

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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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