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I first fell in love with Amy Poehler when I fell in love with Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) on Parks & Rec. Leslie Knope is a city official for the Pawnee Parks & Rec department and she is enthusiastic, honest, optimistic, proud, and kind. A true role model. Then I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants where she dedicated an entire chapter to her best friend Amy Poehler where she described her as a hilarious and talented badass who stood up to the boys in the writing room. I went from loving Leslie Knope to admiring Amy Poehler. 

Kathleen here, and lately I’ve been into reading memoirs of funny ladies, who seem too young to be writing memoirs. I’ve read Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me, Kelly Oxford’s Everything is Perfect When You’re A Liar, as mentioned Tina Fey’s Bossypants. But Amy Poehler’s Yes Please kind of changed my life. I practically highlighted her entire intro describing the creative process of writing a book as pretty much torture. In fact, I hadn’t even finished the introduction of the book when I texted all of my girlfriends and told them they had to read Yes Please immediately. 

So today I want to share with you few big nuggets from the introduction alone of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. (The rest of the book is really great too.)

WRITING DOESN’T HAPPEN IN A LOG CABIN
So recently, and it could have something to do with all the memoirs I’ve been reading, I’ve decided I want to be a writer. A REAL writer. But with that I decided I also needed a masters degree in creative writing and a log cabin to write in – essentially, I came up with a couple of big roadblocks for myself to procrastinate becoming what I imagine a real writer looks like. 

In just the first page, Amy Poehler is in-your-face-honest about how hard writing a book is. “Everyone lies about writing. The lie about how easy it is or how hard it is. They perpetuate a romantic idea that writing is some beautiful experience that takes place in an architectural room filled with leather novels and chai tea. … The truth is writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not.” 

And Amy Poehler definitely didn’t write her book in a log cabin in Big Sur. “I wrote this book after my kids went to sleep. I wrote this book on subways and on airplanes and in between setups while I shot a television show. I wrote this book from scribbled thoughts I kept in the Notes app on my iPhone and conversations I had with myself in my own head before I went to sleep. I wrote it ugly and in pieces.” 

TAKEAWAY: Being creative is not dependent on your surrounding circumstance. It’s up to you to be creative in spite of all the other work you have to do, or the family you have to feed. Being creative doesn’t always look like a perfect vignette you can share on Instagram and that’s okay. It's easy to forget that while the outcome usually looks effortless and beautiful the journey itself is sometimes a total unphotogenic mess. 

THE DOING IS THE THING
Amy Poehler is creative because she actually likes making things and making people laugh. She didn’t start her career with the intention of becoming the next big thing or launching a six-figure business – she was just trying to get a laugh from her friends. She’s also not overly concerned with approval or perfection, and tries really hard to create without self-consciousness. But sometimes being creative is hard – anyone who makes a living doing what they allegedly love knows this. So I love when Amy Poehler says this in response to the inner-critics, the gremlins, and the creative resistance we all butt up against from time-to-all-the-time: 

“How do we move forward when we are tired and afraid? What do we do when the voice in our head is yelling that WE ARE NEVER GONNA MAKE IT? … Well, the first thing we do is take our brain out and put it in a drawer. Stick it somewhere and let it tantrum until it wears itself out. … And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know. Writing the book is about writing the book.”  

TAKEAWAY: We’ve all read enough self-improvement books to know that life is the journey and not the destination, but Amy Poehler summed it up for me in a way that shifted my entire perspective around being present and tackling perfectionism, procrastination, fear, and uncertainty in my own business. My new mantra is “The doing is the thing.” 

BE WHO YOU WANT TO ATTRACT 
When Amy Poehler goes on to describe the kind of person she wants to be – the person who wrote really honest and vulnerable piece on the life of a creative – because it’s also the kind of person she wants to hang out with. She says this: 

“I have realized that mystery is what keeps people away, and I’ve grown tired of smoke and mirrors. I yearn for the clean, well-lighted place. So let’s peek behind the curtain and hail the others like us. The open-faced sandwiches who take risks and live big and smile with all of their teeth. These are the people I want to be around.”

TAKEAWAY: I want to be friends with Amy Poehler. I want to be a big open-faced sandwich who takes risks and lives big.

Amy Poehler’s book surprised me in the best way. She shed and shared the complex layers of who she is with humor and sincerity. She made me laugh but she also made me think. She inspired me to create, and write, and be who I am (a mom, a creative, a boss) – which are many of the things she is too.

Need more guidance on being a creative expert? Check out my DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions – it’s $40 for four weeks of content that will help you dig deep so you can uncover the good stuff and make decisions about what’s next. 

Our ECourse Dream Customer Catching: Embrace Your Expertise and Attract What You Track is now open for registration. We share more secrets for attracting dream customers by getting narrow with what you offer. This ECourse will be in-session from December 12 - 21. Learn more and see if it’s a fit here. 

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Over the past three years I’ve been asked a lot of questions when it comes to personal branding and blending the personal with the professional. Today I’m going to address the one I get the most – which is: when it comes to my online presence should I keep the personal and professional together or separate? In simplest terms it comes down to the question of having two websites or one – one for the person, and one for the biz. Creatives are so confused over this issue and I think it’s because we’re taught, or conditioned, in school or at our day jobs to compartmentalize who we are and what we do. That’s the “professional” thing to do, right? Except most creatives want to live authentically and aligned – they crave creative cohesion and know in their bones that blending the personal and professional, online and off, would make them feel well… authentic and aligned. But it’s easier said than done. 

For example, here’s an email I received just this week: 

“Dear Kathleen,

I SO admire the way you are able to mesh your adventures and personal life and work all into one platform… and I’m in a place where I wonder if I should continue down that path. My site is kind of all over the place... with my photography sessions and adventures and musings in one. Does remodeling a creepy cargo van into a rambling gypsy wagon really belong next to pictures of newborn babies? Most people would say probably not, but I wonder if you have an idea for that? The reason why I choose to question what most people would say, is that I’ve had so many clients (who usually turn friends), where my adventures inspire them, and make them feel connected to me, which in turns gets them to hire me. I know I’m not the best photographer out there, but I can connect with people and make it a fun experience for them. So, perhaps what I lack in talent, I make up for in authenticity and fun. At least that’s my hope… and what my vision is. So my questions are. 1. should I keep them [the personal adventures and professional services] separate or together; and/or 2. if together, is there a way to have the two semi-connected by bridging the gap between memory-maker and adventure-seeker?

Warmly,
Katelyn


First off, it’s pretty clear that Katelyn already knows the answer to her question. She should absolutely keep her adventures and her services together – not only because it is getting her hired but because she uses photography to make connections and tell stories. Whether that’s the story of bicycling across the United States (which she just did) or the story of a baby being born into this world. If I was having a drink with Katelyn I would first tell her that she is in fact talented. Then I’d tell her that she is the common denominator between her photo sessions, adventures, and musings. Katelyn herself is the gap-bridged. 

Here are some other things I hear from creatives who are considering keeping their professional portfolio and offerings separate from their personal blog:

“I’m afraid that my clients don’t want to read about my life.” 
First, are your clients robots? If so, they probably don’t want to read about your life. Second, are your clients dreamy? If not, maybe you could attract more dream customers who like and trust you by sharing more of who you are. Third, if you’re clients don’t want to read about your life they don’t have to. They can simply go to the “how to hire me” page of your website and hire you for what you have to offer.



“I’m afraid that my blog readers will be annoyed if I talk about my work.”
If you’re a creative entrepreneur your work is a part of your life. And if your blog readers like reading about your life they’re probably curious about your work. And if your work is something they need, they are far more likely to support or hire you because they already like and trust you. There is nothing wrong with reminding your tribe that you are for hire. In fact, if you’re really good at what you do you are doing your people a disservice by NOT letting them know about your work. You know? 

“I’m afraid it doesn’t all make sense together.”
There’s this scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where Ferris and his girlfriend Sloane are making out in the museum while third wheel Cameron is having an existential crisis in front of a pointillist painting scored to an instrumental version of The Smiths “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.” The camera zooms in on the painting until you just see a bunch of tiny little dots. These little dots, one-by-one, make up the big picture but you would never know it if you were zoomed all the way in. Well, your life is made up of a bunch of dots, and if you create a separate website and platform for each dot they’ll never have a chance to come together to make a big picture.

A CASE FOR KEEPING IT SEPARATE
My friend Shauna is a great example of someone who can keep up with her personal blog, her professional agency site, and her side gig creating The Blogcademy all being in different places. It makes sense for those projects and content to have their own spaces. That said, even though she’s rocking a few separate platforms I can see HER in all those spaces. 

As much as I preach about the personal / professional blend, even I have a personal blog that allows me to experiment, explore, and find my “voice” and writing style. But just because I have a blog dedicated to my professional point-of-view doesn’t mean I have to sound like a robot when I’m writing over here. And, believe me, all my followers know about my business, how to hire me, and what’s going on in my work life, just as much as the personal – that’s because my work is a part of my life – it not only puts food on the table but it feeds my soul – so you better believe I’m telling my tribe how to hire me. That’s where some of our earliest and dreamiest clients came from in the first place!

My point is this – don’t let your fear or assumptions of what other people might think dictate how you do you. And the thing is this – there is no right answer. Instead, check in and do what you want. Do what makes most sense to you right now – whether that’s bringing it all together or keeping it separate. 


If you want to learn more when it comes to finding the magic in the overlap between the personal and the professional check out our Braid ECourse Personal Branding: Blending Who You Are With What You Do. It is in-session this Friday, Nov. 14-26 – registration closes Thursday! Learn more and see if it’s a good fit here. 
 

Need more guidance on being a creative expert? Check out my DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions – it’s $40 for four weeks of content that will help you dig deep so you can uncover the good stuff and make decisions about what’s next. 

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Every creative entrepreneur we work with wants to feel like an expert – like a wearing-the-pants and legit-know-my-stuff kind of expert. The kind of expert that doesn’t doubt their decisions and feels like an authority over their craft. These creatives want to feel like the kind of expert that has a roster full of clients who respect their guidance and are never treated like pixel-pushing order takers. Our clients want to feel like the kind of experts who get paid well… like experts. 

But what’s interesting is that a majority of our clients balk at the word “expert”. They have a lot of fears and misconceptions around taking on that kind of bold title – that if they start to think of themselves as an expert it means they’ll have to have all the answers or be smarter than everyone in the room. That they’ll be responsible for every problem thrown their way. But that is hardly the case. 



Kathleen here, and I want to share a few ways to step into your creative expertise by describing the characteristics I’ve seen in experts I admire: 

EXPERTS ARE NEUTRAL 
Experts don’t get bent out of shape, defensive, or riled up when they receive criticism – and on the flip side they don’t get too excited or inflated by positive feedback or big wins. Experts are cool, calm, and collected. Not to say they don’t get passionate, fired up, funny or even dramatic, but it’s typically around an exciting idea, method, insight, or point-of-view that they feel strongly about, not about this one piece of work that the client must love, or else pouting and/or shouting ensues.

EXPERTS TAKE A PAUSE
I studied a lot of TED talks before giving my own talk at the Circles Conference, and one thing I noticed is that really great speakers aren’t afraid to pause when they need to collect their thoughts. This is also true for responding to clients in meetings, via email, or deciding whether to commit to a new engagement or opportunity. Experts aren’t afraid to collect the information (or the thoughts) they need before responding. I’m one who likes to immediately respond to questions or fill any silence with the sound of my own voice, so I’m practicing the pause in order to feel a little more like a creative expert in my own work and life. 

EXPERTS TRUST THEMSELVES “IN THE MOMENT”
On the flip-side, Tara, my sister and Braid co-creative expert will tell you, that if you abuse the pause, it can become a crutch or replacement for being able to speak your mind and trusting yourself in-the-moment. A creative expert is comfortable in natural flow of a back-and-forth conversation... because they trust themselves (mostly), and know when to ask questions, or admit when they are speaking outside of their creative expertise.  For example, during decision-making moments like I mentioned above, the pause can serve you, but sometimes the pause can really kill a dynamic back-and-forth collaboration that’s happening in real time. And, really, shouldn’t your clients feel like collaborators in your process, just as much as you shouldn’t feel like an order taker? Yes. There was no pause before that “yes.”

EXPERTS RECOGNIZE PATTERNS 
Experts are able to see patterns and instantly recognize disconnects in their work. This is because they’ve narrowed in on their niche and know their customers so well they could practically be psychics for them. Recognizing patterns is how you are able to either speak-in-the moment or take pause and learn more, especially when something doesn’t quite fit with what your creative experiences have taught you. Recognizing patterns will allow you to create content (blog posts, newsletters, e-courses, and e-books) that will resonate with a broad audience beyond your one-on-one clients, and your readers will question how you “know them so well” or “are in their head” without ever having met them. For example, I’ve recognized that all of my clients want to meditate more – so I’ve included a little bit of meditation guidance in my DIY Coaching for Creatives email sessions and have even touched on it in my blog posts. 

EXPERTS HAVE CLEAR BOUNDARIES 
Experts know what they will and will not do. They make expectations clear and concise. Experts know how to tell you what you will get when you work with them – they demystify the process so their clients feel reassured investing in their services. Experts show up on time, meet deadlines, and do what they say they’ll do. 



EXPERTS CHARGE MORE 
Experts charge not only for their time but for their experience. The beauty of charging more upfront is that you rarely feel resentful and tend to over-deliver with pleasure rather than nickel-and-dime your clients when asked for small extras.

EXPERTS SAY NO
Experts aren’t afraid to say no to a project that isn’t the right fit. This is because they respect the prospective client enough to know that someone else could do the job better. They also know it would take up time and energy they could be using to better serve someone with their core genius.  

EXPERTS DON’T KNOW (OR DO) IT ALL 
And they aren’t afraid to say it. Admitting that you don’t have all the answers is a big display of creative confidence. And there is a lot of integrity to saying “no” to a client or project that isn’t a good fit for what your expertise. 

EXPERTS HAVE OPINIONS
If you’re feeling uncomfortable with the word “expert” think of it like this – experts have enough experience to have a point-of-view – they have meaningful opinions and aren’t afraid to speak on them. 

So you want to feel more like a creative expert? Start by asking yourself these questions: 

  • How do I typically react to criticism and feedback? How could my response reflect my expertise? 
  • Do I really listen to my clients, peers, and creative colleagues or am I just waiting to speak? 
  • What do all of my clients have in common? 
  • How could I make my offerings and services more clear? How could I help my potential dream customers feel more reassured with my process? 
  • Am I being appropriately compensated for the work I’m doing? 
  • What do I want to be known for? 
  • How can I show that “specialty” more concretely in my work, my portfolio/case studies/process? 
  • Fill in the blank: If I could stop doing ________ I would feel more like an expert.

Our most popular Braid ECourse Personal Branding: Blending Who You Are With What You Do will be in session from November 14 - 23 and is great for bloggers, creative professionals, and aspiring entrepreneurs want to feel more aligned both at work and play. See if it’s a good fit and register here.

Need more guidance on being a creative expert? Check out my DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions – it’s $40 for four weeks of content that will help you dig deep so you can uncover the good stuff and make decisions about what’s next. 

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Braid Creative & Consulting is branding and business visioning for creative entrepreneurs. The Braid Blog is where we share weekly insights and resources for creatives.

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