Tara here. Ever since I started working for myself, I’ve gone back and forth on whether I want an office to go to everyday, or if I just need to stick with the good thing I have going on—working from home. But after five years of dreaming and talking about it, I finally found the happiest mix of both—and built my own backyard office that I call “the writing shed.”
The writing shed. “Going out to the shed,” means walking down a stone path that curves through my lawn to a ten-by-twelve foot little cottage built in the back of my garden. It has lots of windows that open to the breeze, with a desk, a small sitting area, and a sleeping loft above with a skylight that looks up into the trees.
The shed is where I write, creative direct and develop brands for entrepreneurs and businesses. It’s small, this little place I sometimes call The Shire (like my own Hobbit hole made just for me), but it feels big. It feels like a dream.
It took a little time for me to just “do it.” I had to save the money, and then make the mental commitment to start the building process with uncertainties still circling my head like: “Will I actually use my writing shed? Will it be practical or just become a novelty? Will the wifi work out here? Will I slowly start migrating back into the house to work? Will the shed turn into a neglected dusty catchall, like a long unused playhouse with spiders living in the floorboards and wasps living in the rafters?!”
But the vision outweighed the doubts and I hired a contractor/carpenter who took about two months from start to finish. I’ve been working in the shed every day since. No more nomadic room-to-room working for me. Shed working is exactly what I imagined it would be.
"No more nomadic room-to-room working for me. Shed working is exactly what I imagined it would be.”
It’s not a "she-shed," it’s my office. Just with personality and a little fantasy. I’m not out here having a tea party for one on a flowery chaise lounge. Though a lunchtime episode of Girls and a late afternoon glass of wine are a regular part of my shedworking life (so maybe the she-shed label applies part of the time!), but more than anything my office retreat is where I’ve gotten more calm, focus, and work done than I ever have before.
“My writing shed is where I’ve gotten more calm, focus & work done than I ever have before.”
When I was a teenager, my room was sacred. When I was in it, I was in my zone: reading, drawing, and creating elaborate extra credit homework projects, all while watching old reruns of my favorite eighties shows on my tiny TV, and occasionally shouting at my younger siblings in the hallway to get away from my locked door. Sometimes on rare occasions, I’d let them in.
Now that I have my own space again, it’s the same. But when I do let my two boys in the shed, they somehow seem quieter, more calm up in the loft reading, drawing, or more likely playing on the iPad, until they wander back out. They only wanted in for a little bit. Now I can let them in.---
It’s the personality plus the practicalities of the shed that have made it the center of my daily routine. Maybe you’ve been dreaming of a shed of your own, too. Here’s what has made shed working a working dream for me:
– One perfect place for my laptop to live. No more moving my stuff all the time. Sure I can hop over to a coffee shop if I want a change of pace, but I love, love, love having a designated spot for my computer, plus a second monitor so I can “spread” out my work on both screens.
– Less stuff. I just need one small shelf for mail, paperwork, and miscellaneous, I don’t need drawers and files full of paper in here. But I do love a place for hanging some of my more whimsical art and giving our "magical" client-attracting Braid chalkboard a worthy sport right by the door.
– Lots of windows. I think my carpenter thought I may be crazy putting such large windows in such a small shed. The last thing I wanted was to feel cooped up. My desk sits wrapped in windows so I feel like I’m working outside, and all the natural light is great for video meetings.
– Shade and a place for stuff to grow! Light is great, but it can get hot, so we shaded the front of the shed with a light-filtering arbor which is also great for vines, which I’m trying to coax to grow as quickly as possible, to get the whole Secret Garden vibe going on.
– Other details I’m glad I added to the shed:
- two skylights, just enough to see the trees above, my sister’s idea
- a sleeping loft, I think its white ladder may be my favorite feature
- a garden gnome to guard the door, he was a shed-warming gift for Mother’s Day
- a lucky horseshoe! also gold, above the door for good luck
- my Apple TV! I may love me a garden but I still need my shows!
- you can check out My Writing Shed board on Pinterest for your own shed inspiration
Some people ask if I’m going to writing a book back in the shed. Nope! Not yet, but never say never! What I am writing is visioning, positioning and more articulate brand messages paired with design for our Braid Creative clients. If you’re wondering about working with Braid 1:1 just contact us here and tell me your vision for where you’d like to take your brand next.
While you’re thinking about if we might be a fit for you, you can learn about our Braid ECourse, or how Being Boss in work and life is where it’s at, from my sister and Braid co-founder Kathleen across the street. Yep, she’s literally across the street, because we live on the same beautiful little block. But now I always unlock the door for her. Most of the time. – T.
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One of the cool things about being a life coach is that you do a lot of self-coaching. Even the most experienced life coaches have self-limiting beliefs and get stuck too. And coaching—on yourself and others—is all about finding a negative thought and looking at it from a new perspective. But if any of you have ever been stuck in a funk or just have a serious case of ’bout-to-start-your-period, you probably know that this can be a hard thing to do.
So how do life coaches get underneath a negative thought? By asking lots and lots of questions. This can feel intrusive at first but it’s all about curiosity and gathering information—and loosening the grip around self-limiting belief that feels oh-so very real.
My very favorite question that I’ve learned from Martha Beck herself to use in coaching sessions (and that I use all. the. time. on myself) is this:
Why is that so bad?
Asking “Why is that so bad?” accomplishes a couple things:
1. It takes you deeper into the negative thought, which often uncovers the root of the real problem… OR
2. It makes you realize that what you thought was a problem is not in fact a problem at all.
Here it is boiled down in super-simplified example (but sometimes it really is this simple):
Client: “I’m afraid I’m staying at my job because it’s comfortable.”
Me: “Why is that so bad?”
Client: “What do you mean?” This question often throws the client for a bit of a loop.
Me: “Why is it so bad to be comfortable at your job?”
Client: “Wow. Yeah… it isn’t so bad to be comfortable.” And that’s where the shift in perspective begins to happen.
But that same conversation could’ve easily gone in a different direction:
Client: “I’m afraid I’m staying at my job because it’s comfortable.”
Me: “Why is that so bad?”
Client: “I suppose it’s not bad that it’s comfortable. But it’s bad because I’m not able to grow or develop my skill sets. I don’t have any mentors in my work place. I’m not being pushed to become the kind of designer I want to be.” So here we’ve uncovered that the problem isn’t comfort—the problem is the inability to grow. Now the client has a little more clarity around the real issue.
I use “why is that so bad?” when I feel pressure to say yes but really want to say no. If you’re a people pleaser, you probably obligate yourself to too many things you don’t want to do or feel bad about saying no. For me this includes lots of things—from deciding whether or not to go out on a Friday night to being invited to speak at a conference in New York to being asked to do free work for friends or family. It might also include being lazy about doing blog posts every week or not being as involved on social media as I’d like to be. When I ask myself “why is that so bad (to decline)?” it helps me see the reality of the situation, honor my own needs, and feel a lot less apologetic and “bad” about saying no.
As you move through your day, take notice of your internal dialogue—especially when it comes to making decisions or judgments. Then ask yourself “Why is that so bad?” Create some new thoughts. Expand your mind. See what happens.
If you like this post you might like our DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions. It’s 4 emails x 4 weeks (16 emails total) for just $40. Complete with worksheets, exercises, mantras, meditations, and to-dos for time management, decision-making, and strategies for living more of what you love—in work and life. You can learn more about what you’ll get and purchase anytime here.
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Growing followers, a likeminded group of people who relate to your message, who value what you can share with them, and who want to engage in the conversation you’re putting out there – for so many of us this is how we dream of genuinely helping others, while positioning ourselves as inspiring creatives entrepreneurs that people want to subscribe to, buy from, trust and hire.
Tara here! And this sharing of ourselves and our content is what we’ve all been taught. I’m not here to disagree, it’s what I do too (literally, I’m doing it right now writing to you, “duh” as my eight year old says about every five seconds lately). But I do want to add onto the content sharing formula – what happens after you attract people to you? How does this translate into a business, an expertise, a person people trust?
What happens after you attract people to you? After you get noticed, how do you get hired?
Yeah, we want to put our personality and our point of view out there. Do it consistently and with passion, and over time the followers, subscribers, clients – will come. But part of the allure of “being the one who attracts” is more than just building a list. I think it may be socially wired into us (it probably started right around when we were eight years old, too) and has nothing to do with getting the clicks or closing the deal, but simply feeling like a big deal.
Whether through our newsletter, blog, Instagram posts, or in the face-to-face retreats or professional mixers we attend – don’t we all want to feel like the coolest most interesting gal at the party, with everyone wanting to shimmy on over and pick our brain?
This is getting noticed, and if we do it consistently, it’s becoming known for what it is we talk about, teach, or just make people feel good about. I know not all of us want to be that extroverted or sparkly when we’re doing it. That’s okay too. The nerdiest art director I ever had on my creative team—mad scientist hair, coke bottle glasses, goofy adorable grin, totally awkward in any social situation—uh, our clients freaking loved him. Get him started on a subject he loves and cares about (in the presentation to a boardroom I’m recalling, it was the idea of using interactive gameplay to engage your brand audience, whatever, I don’t even know what he said) and poof, people are entranced. He is being his most inspiring self in the moments when he’s sharing what he really knows, what he really cares about, in his own goofy style.
Okay, so inspiring people is great and all, but what about getting hired? Or getting people to click buy, sign up, and subscribe? Did those corporate suits sign off on what goofy guy was getting them all feeling good about? I don’t even remember! But that’s the point, because I do remember they asked for him to be their lead creative, and always wanted him in the meetings. Because even if his wild idea wasn’t their cup of tea, his passion was contagious, and his logical guiding approach—talking them through a subject they’d never even heard about—positioned himself ever-after in their minds as an eccentric but expert art director they wanted at their table.
The shift from inspiring to guiding happens in our content and in our conversations. When we get great at it, these two sides of our voice blend together like – well, like the personal brand we want to be known for and the expertise we want to get hired for.
I was recently hosting a round table with a group of creative entrepreneurs – a web designer, a brand consultant, a lawyer for creatives, and a leadership coach were some of the sparkly, inspiring, ladies at the table – but I knew they each had this expert “guide” within them, too.
Here’s a down and dirty exercise I shared with them to help frame up how we get noticed and how we get hired:
HOW I INSPIRE OTHERS (i.e. get noticed):
Complete these sentences. Clients (or followers, or even new acquaintances) are first attracted to, or inspired by, my personality + professional style, which is an Inspiring Mix of:
a. ________, b.________, c.________!
The personal motto that motivates and inspires me, and that I love sharing with others is:
HOW I GUIDE OTHERS (i.e. get hired):
Complete these sentences. Once my clients get to know me, or work with me, they trust my expertise which is a Guiding Mix of: a. ________, b.________, c.________.
The best piece of professional advice I practice myself and share with others is:
Now think about your Inspiring Mix showing up in places like your website headlines, brand messages, blog post introductions, and titles. Think about your Guiding Mix showing up in your sales pages, your newsletters, and your selling conversations with new clients. But really, it’s all about practicing the mix of inspiring and guiding. That’s when we get to create a business for ourselves that is a blend of who we are, and what we do.
If you want more how-to’s and insights into getting noticed and getting hired, be sure you're signed up for our weekly Letters for Creatives, and if you're ready to work with us one-on-one to develop your brand and really get you noticed, check out our work and give us a shout!
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