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Going from Creative to Creative Expert | Braid Creative & Consulting

Embracing your creative expertiseToday’s post comes from our Branding for Designers email series. Almost everyone on the Braid team started out as a graphic designer so we have a special place in our hearts for you all. We know your struggles first hand and wanted to create a series just for you. Oh, and if you’d like to get a free eBook on how to brand yourself as a creative expert sign up here. Now on to the post!

There’s a difference between deciding to work in a creative field and deciding to become a creative entrepreneur who works for yourself. There’s an even more subtle yet significant leap (in mindset + just making it happen) to go from a creative entrepreneur who works for yourself to a creative who is positioned as a creative expert.

“Expert” is a heavy word. You might not be sure how you feel about it. So let’s remember for a second why you became a “creative entrepreneur,” which is hopefully a label you happily embrace.

You became a creative entrepreneur because you love creating things that all click together in this really cool way. You can look at a problem—at something that’s missing, at something that’s just a total mess, or something that’s almost there but still not quite right—and make it into something that works, that inspires, and that gives you this feeling of “I did that.”

That feeling at the end of a successful client project—be it large or small—is so good. But sometimes it gets all muddled by other feelings along the way: “Ugh. It took so many revisions.” “I wish the client had liked it more.” “I wish I had liked it a little more.” “It could’ve been better if only...” Here’s the thing – it is so easy for creatives to blame these woulda-coulda-shoulda’s on the client. And all too often, deep down, we blame it on our own fear that we just aren’t talented enough, smart enough, creative enough, or good enough.

Difficult to embrace the title creative expert

So who can blame us for not easily embracing the word “expert” when it’s difficult enough (especially on the hard projects, the hard clients, the just plain hard days) to feel like we totally own the label of “creative entrepreneur?” (click to tweet)

Think about how you would love to be seen by your clients before you even get started. Think about the kind of work you’d like to be known for. Imagine feeling so confident not just at the end of a design project…but along the way. Yeah, there’s still always going to be muddled feelings (we’re all human after all), but when you cultivate the inner mindset and working habits of a creative expert, those moments of doubt and frustration are so minimized by the feeling of “I got this.”

become a confident creative expert

Try this: Make a list of all the things you would have to start doing before you would be comfortable thinking of yourself as a creative expert. Is it more training in your skill or education? Is it a portfolio filled with more work you love? Is it working with a certain kind of dream client? Is it feeling like you have a worthy brand? Is it feeling confident blogging, writing or just speaking?

Now look over that list again. Let’s refine those thoughts, get a little more specific, and use them to help you fill in this blank: “Actually I do feel like an expert already at _____, ____ and _____. I’d really only need a little more of _________ to feel even more confident, and that’s something I could start doing right now in the short term. So if I had to pick one big thing that would help me truly feel like a creative expert in the long term, it would be ____________. I think that’s something I could really focus on over the next six months and really see a change in my mindset, my business positioning and the kind of work I get to take on.”

Next up we’ll be talking about how to create and share your business vision because our creative expertise is all about helping other creative entrepreneurs find that voice so they can tell dream clients who they are and what they do, but also so they can get specific about their business vision so they can move forward without self-doubt and second-guessing along the way.

If you find this series of blog posts helpful, then you should definitely check out our Braid Method Branding ECourse. We’ve taken everything we’ve learned from our creative expertise and spent years curating this content and getting it just right so that you can walk away with some amazing insights into who you are and what you want from your business as well as some exercises to help you fine tune your messaging and get crystal clear on how to position yourself as a creative expert.

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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The Fear of Backsliding in Your Business for Creative Entrepreneurs

Fear of Backsliding for Creative Entrepreneurs

Tara here. I love when a creative sees a way forward that sparks their excitement as much as it makes good solid sense for their business. For example, when they tap into a more focused specialty, a more methodical way of working, or a way of packaging their services that helps them say no to the things they don’t want to do anymore, and create a more specific and meaningful brand for themselves.

Once we see that new way – usually by experiencing glimmers of it in a dream project, with a dream client, or just with clarity around what we’re really best at – it’s hard to go back. We fear going back.

Fear can be a motivator, too. The fear of backsliding – going back to our old job, going back to our old way of doing business, or going back to a way of being that we just don’t want to be anymore – can push us to keep moving forward. And that’s a good thing. A steep and rocky slide behind us can give us enough of a jolt to:
- move forward with sharing more of our personal brand
- move forward with charging just a little more for our services
- finally launching a product that will help shift our business model,
- or just finally declare: “this is new direction is my specialty, it’s what I love and what I want to do, and that’s what I’m calling myself, and branding myself as from here on out, no looking back!”

Big steps forward fuel us. They keep us going after our goals. They keep us from having a wishy-washy brand. They help us keep our eyes on our own page, and overcome our fear of backsliding into “what used to be.”

Sometimes our fear of backsliding is really a fear of backpedalling.
Backpedalling isn’t just inertia having it’s way with you, it’s a much more reactive “let’s reverse this!” reflex. So we’re not accidentally just falling into old habits, we’re actively choosing to change our mind, to go back to the perceived safety of the same old thing, and to do a “take back” on some of the decisions we made along our own personal/professional crossroads.

We’re not fans of backpedalling here at Braid. We typically like to make a decision, stick to it, tweak it, and not look back. But! Here’s the thing: beware of getting so addicted to the big steps forward, that you forget to look back at how you got here, and what you learned along the way that can still serve you!

Learning from Past Experiences for Creative Entrepreneurs

“Two steps forward. One step back...” can be a good thing.
Just as much as I love seeing creative entrepreneurs find that forward-focus, I also love when they can get far enough along in their vision, get some real work under their belt in this new way of doing things, and then stop proving it so hard.

When we are confident in our forward-vision, we can let ourselves bring some of the layers of our past work and past experiences back into our new business, our new brand, and our new adventure.

Get more specific about what you do! But consider your specialty has layers:
This is the interior designer who wants to embrace minimalism, and have that be the focus of her brand and her specialty. But she’s finding a more balanced work-style when she lets the layers of her client’s aesthetics and her more traditional design background into her approach. A kinder, gentler, less spartan approach to minimalism is becoming that truer creative expert “blend” for her.

Circle back to old ideas that didn’t work the first time if opportunity knocks:
These are the creative collaborators who tried launching a workshop for creative entrepreneurs just starting out – and no-one signed up (well, one person signed up) so they had to call it off. But circle around a few years later and they try a podcast instead. A little experiment with a new platform. It becomes so popular they invited followers to a master class in New Orleans for a creative entrepreneur get-together, and get four times the attendees they expected – in the first day of sign up.

Don’t be afraid to look how far you’ve come:

This is you. Have courage in your bold decisions! But don’t be afraid to look back now and again. You won’t turn to stone. If you can calm the fear of backsliding, but stay strong against the instinct to backpedal – you can look back. Because that journey is what got you here, and how you learned everything along the way!

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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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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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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blend who you are & what you do,

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This ecourse is for creative people like designers, photographers, stylists, lifestyle coaches, wellness professionals, yogis, foodies, writers, bloggers, and creative consultants. Whether you’re just starting out, or have lots of experience, our step-by-step guidance will help you create a brand and business vision that feels more clear, confident, and like the true you.


 


 

 


 

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