We work with a lot of creative entrepreneurs who see the value in blogging, but not every creative likes to write. These “I-hate-writing” creatives can get pretty conflicted about this truth about themselves, and it’s not unusual for us to be working with a creative client who will matter-of-factly, but clearly uninspired about it, say “well... I guess I need a blog,” because they do recognize how blog content can help shape and share their expertise, which in turn boosts their business and bottom line. In fact, that’s what our ECourse Shape Up Your Content is all about (it’s in-session right now, but will be back around in a few months if you missed it this time).
Kathleen here. I believe blogging is one of the most powerful tools for not only shaping your life but also exploring your expertise, and connecting with your tribe. I would not have been able to quit my day job (and convince Tara to quit hers) if it hadn’t been for what started as a little blog about my life. So yeah, I’m pretty passionate about blogging. However, if you don’t like to write, you’re going to muster up all sort of low vibrating emotions such as guilt and anxiety over the self-imposed feelings that you should be blogging – especially when you see all of your peers hitting publish like it’s no big deal on the daily. Nothing kills creativity like bad vibes. And bad vibes are never good for business.
DON’T BLOG IF YOU DON’T LIKE TO WRITE
There are alternatives to blogging when it comes to generating content that helps you find your focus, narrow in on your niche, and cultivate community. Look at other online platforms you can rock like Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, or LinkedIn, just to name a few. Where are you already hanging out? For example, if you already have 1,000 Facebook friends but feel like you need a formal blog to share your content you are missing out on a huge opportunity to connect where you already are.
Tara here. When I think of myself as a "creative writer" I think of the tools I use, metaphor, memorable phrases and headlines, declarations, emotion, that whole bag of tricks and truths. Some creatives say they hate to write. Some revel in sharing their thoughts and words. And really, even working creatives who say they aren't comfortable writing, can wing it.
But when I talk about content that shares what you do (not for your clients, but for yourself and your business!) - I don't mean just copywriting. I mean conversations with potential collaborators or clients, giving a talk to a group, sending out an email letter, writing your "about me" on your website, updating your social media profiles, or yes, composing a blog post.
If you are a creative who writes, but are only creating content for other people and not yourself - you're selling yourself short and setting yourself up to:
1. sell what you do "cold," and
2. sell your ideas "blind."
Meaning that every selling conversation will feel like it's starting from scratch, and every creative idea you are persuading someone else enthusiastically embrace (because that's selling too) will have no rationale or expertise backing it up.
Emotion and imagination have their place in your content, but only if you understand the difference between the content you share to inspire and attract others, and the content you create to explain and sell what you do. So here's two ways of thinking of the content you create and share, so you can get in the right frame of mind before you ever type (or speak) an inspiring, informative word about you... and what you do:...
The difference between creatives who are able to make good money and those who aren't is the ability to turn vision into action. Kathleen here, with a little tough love: having lots of good ideas is not enough to make you a successful creative. It's par for the course and it's simply what is expected of you. So today I want to talk a little bit about how to take your ideas, turn them into vision, and then step-by-step action to bring those brilliant ideas into lucrative fruition. And by lucrative fruition... I'm talking about a paycheck.
STEP 1: Talk about your ideas.
The first step to transforming a fleeting thought into a good idea is to talk about it. I suggest over dinner with your partner, spouse, or best friend. Or perhaps over coffee with a mentor. A good brainstorm can go a long way in bringing an idea into reality. When talking about your idea allow yourself to go on tangents - give yourself permission to follow your train of thought wherever it wants to go. And by talking it out, especially with someone who can offer another perspective, you will be able to connect dots that will make your concept even better than your original idea.
STEP 2: Write it down.
Talking about an idea is the equivalent to flirting with it. Writing down your ideas brings commitment to them. The act of writing down your ideas, I'm talking pen to paper, is crucial to turning ideas into vision. What's the difference between idea and vision? Vision is an idea with an action plan.
A lot of our creative entrepreneur clients struggle with how to share about themselves and their businesses. Whether online, over email, or in person: how can you capture your vibe in a way that feels polished and consistent, yet real? How do you sound legitimate enough to get hired (or, if we're being honest, impress a relative or new acquaintance), but still "you" enough to feel authentic and true to the dreamy-but-difficult path you're carving out for yourself? It's a tall order. An ongoing experiment. And talking about it can make you feel a bit like a mad scientist at times – pouring a heavy dose of over-explanation and a drop or two of self-deprecation into a vial and swirling it around, hoping it doesn't explode in your face.
We've developed a not-so-secret formula for creatives in "mad scientist" mode. It's a short-and-sweet equation of sorts for sharing content that we live by too. It's deceptively simple (all the best things are), and something that anyone can "prescribe" themselves to figure out how to blend who you are with what you do, when sharing content. Here's how it works - no safety goggles required!
Sharing Gifts of Knowledge
Your gifts of knowledge are nuggets of what you know and do best. Maybe you're a photographer who's a whiz with light. Or a graphic designer who geeks out over hand-drawn typography. Or a life coach who believes in blending a few different particular philosophies to guide clients to clarity and action. Sharing bits of that positions you as an expert, and gives your dream customers a way to find you - and a reason to want more.
It's pretty easy to assume that a creative person working for themselves has a dream job, right? I mean, you get to be your own boss, set your own hours, and make things with your hands all day in a sun-flooded studio, right? It's a nice vision but it doesn't paint an accurate picture of what the day-in-the-life of a creative entrepreneur really looks like.Kathleen here. Last week I shared my own struggles with not always loving my job in our Letters for Creatives (here's a sneak peek if you don't already receive these exclusive newsletters to your inbox). In fact, most creatives I know aren't entirely satisfied working for themselves because it turns out building the dream job can be hard work. And it's not always fun. So as promised here are a few ideas on how to love being your own boss:
1. Be Yourself
I see lots of creatives quit their day jobs only to continue to follow the day job rules. If you are concerned that what you blog about or how you wear your hair will affect your bottom line then you're probably still playing someone else's game. What are some ways you could blend the personal into the professional? For me it was overhauling my wardrobe and ditching all the "professional" attire that didn't reflect my style. (You can read more about attracting dream customers by being yourself over on my personal blog.)
2. Cultivate Your Core Genius
If you are a solopreneur it is likely that you have to wear many hats - from keeping the books to answering email inquiries to running errands. But what is your core genius? That is where your true talent and expertise lies. And it's where the majority of your attention should be. Be warned: sometimes the busy work can make you feel productive, like you're putting in a hard day's work, but what it's really doing is distracting you from your core genius.
Creatives who create, sell their ideas, and sell their own services - we gotta talk about ourselves. This can start with simply explaining what we do in casual conversations (if you're a creative entrepreneur, we call it sounding self-employed, instead of unemployed). It can mean explaining what we do online, especially on more conversational platforms like blogging, posts, tweets and pics. But there's a more specific conversation that happens when someone really gets more interested in hiring us. And this is where we can get a little anxious, uncertain, or flat out scared, about selling what we do.
Tara here today, and I want to talk about the selling conversation. This is when someone wants to sit down, face-to-face over coffee, meet over Skype, or even on the phone to talk about what they might really get from working with us. This is the conversation that gets us hired, and the conversation that gets you hired, too.
The kinds of conversations you're having as a creative entrepreneur:
The Casual Conversation
who: friends, family, old acquaintances, new strangers
where: work & social gatherings, grocery store run-ins
what: your creative biz in a nutshell, not too formal, just a one-liner
why: they just wanna know what you're up to
The Online Conversation
who: followers & peers, but also the friends, family & acquaintances crowd
where: your site, your blog, your favorite social media platforms
what: stuff you know as a creative, inspiration, and behind-the-scenes
why: a reason to "like" what you do, learn from you, and want more
Today I want to chat a little bit about the fear of commitment - especially for you aspiring creative entrepreneurs who maybe haven't quite made the leap from the day job to your dream job. That leap can feel graceful or it can be sloppy and end with a twisted ankle - I believe one's ability to commit is a contributing factor in what that leap looks like.
Have you ever seen the movie Forgetting Sarah Marshall? If not, it's great. Check it out. There is this scene where Jason Segel (one of my celebrity crushes since Freaks & Geeks days) is trying to build up his nerve to jump off this cliff into the Pacific Ocean. He finally just mans-up and makes a running jump - but mid-leap changes his mind. So in his airborne hesitation he sorta ends up clinging to the tropical cliffside vegetation, and really has no way back up, and no way back down, without some serious rock-scraping and possible skull-cracking. If he would have committed to the jump he would be in the water having the time of his life rather than clumsily clinging to the edge of a cliff.
Kathleen here. Last week I shared about the question creatives trying to do-it-all should ask before they say "yes" and that's "why am I doing this?" But once you decide why, and the leap is there in front of you - how do you stop from making a cliff-jumping blunder by second guessing yourself?
Your leap may not be so dramatic as a scene from a romantic comedy, but sometimes just taking even a few steps toward a new idea or dream can become a one-step forward, two-steps back scenario for creatives making a decision....
Hi friends. Today I want to chat about how overwhelming it can be to be a creative with a ton of ideas and not enough time or resources to execute all of them. It can be confusing to make sense of how all your creative passions fit together. And when you try to do, be, and offer All Of The Creative Things You're Good At you run the risk of confusing your customers, diffusing your expertise, and worst of all becoming burnt out, spread thin, and/or paralyzed by potential.
You all know we preach narrowing in on your niche and embracing your pointy point-of-view. But today I want to chat a little bit about how to diversify and expand your creative business without detracting from your core genius or diffusing your income-drawing focus.
Kathleen here. You see, I'm the kind of creative who is always chasing the high of trying, doing, becoming, transforming, and creating something new. It would be really easy for me to get scattered if I didn't constantly ask myself one very important question
Why am I doing this?
This question always allows me to examine my purpose. When I ask "why" I'm able to get clear about my intentions. So with that, I've found that my answer to "why?" should fit into three categories:
When I help creatives with their copy (i.e. the words they've written about themselves or what they do) I sometimes feel like an old-timey newspaper editor - okay, let me clarify, an old-timey newspaper editor in a Superman movie. "Don't hide the hook in the fourth paragraph! Why isn't this on the front page?! That's the thing. You're burying the headline!"
Think about it. If a paperboy was screaming out "extra, extra read all about it" while tossing out a stack of the early morning edition of "the-story-of-you" onto an early morning curb (okay, yes, still movieland here), when the closeup reveals the all caps bold headline, shouting out this declaration of you and what you do - what would it say?
Are you being too discreet? Too humble? Probably not, oh you crazy bold creative, you. Most likely you just have trouble seeing what the most nuanced, or interesting, or refreshing, or necessary aspect of your story really is - and you're treating it like the punchline, an aside, a backstory or a pull-quote, when really, it's the magic. Are you burying your own headline?
Tara here, and I just got back from a one day Oxygen Series workshop for women with life coach, Jay Pryor. He is my first life coach, and so in my mind, the standard for life coaches. He really tells it to you like it is and holds you accountable.
My favorite thing about Jay is he puts people (often creatives, too) "on the hook" to be accountable to their vision and actions, as in "you are on the hook for doing this one thing by the next time we meet. "Whereas I like to find someone's hook, as in, "hmmmm, what is the most interesting and condensed version of your personality or talents, but super-concentrated?"...
One of the very first "don'ts" creatives learn when it comes to presenting your ideas - is don't start off by apologizing. Whether you're sharing an inkling of a concept or the polished final product, any ding dong can tell you that if you start talking about all the ways this creation of yours has fallen short of your expectations (or, ugh, even worse, is sure to fall short of the expectations of those around you) then you're pretty much going to put a tarnish over the entire first impression.
Imagining yourself in this "sorry" situation, whether in a classroom, conference room, or coffee shop meeting, can paint a bit of a cringeworthy picture. As embarrassing as it might be for you as the presenter, it can be confusing, annoying, or just plain boring for the person you're presenting to. "Could we get some confidence with this coffee please?!"
But we're all smart people here. I think we know better by now. As a working creative you probably have oodles of confidence presenting your - well, your creative work. But where do those oodles go when you're talking about yourself, what you do, and how to hire you? Too often we don't strive for this kind of personal-meets-professional confidence, either brushing it off as something that will come over time, or a skill we don't really need.
But a lack of confidence with that coffee (and oh boy is it a layered brew of professional mixed with personal) doesn't just cost you approval of your idea, it can cost you getting a new client, and growing your business. So how can you "catch yourself" apologizing - and stop?...
As creatives who work for ourselves, out there doing it on our own, we feel like we're constantly proving ourselves to other people. For good reason, we need to be seen as creatives doing-it-on-our-own, but also doing it, well... right.
I mean, first, there's the creative part to prove: "Yes, I have ideas to offer, serious, clever, authentic ideas!" And then there's the doing-it-on-our-own part: "No, I'm not out-of-my-depth, out-of-my-mind, an order-taker-for-hire or unemployed, let me explain all the things I do and all the ways you will love them."
But are we proving it too hard sometimes? I would say, "yeah - sometimes we are." I'd even go a step further and say that very often in our conversations, our correspondence and our presentations we're just proving it to ourselves - and that can clutter up real communication between us and the people (i.e. clients, bosses, colleagues) who we feel the need to convince so darn hard.
Now on the flipside, I think creatives can also fall into the trap of being too apologetic right out of the gate. Ooh, and that's a bad habit to break. More on that next week, when I'll be posting on why you should Stop Apologizing So Much.
But I'd say there are two scenarios when over-proving it really flares up for us creatives, and can get in the way of selling ourselves and what we do. One, when we're trying to convince someone to buy (i.e. hire) us. Two, when we're trying to convince a client to buy into (i.e. approve) our work. So how do you stop proving it so hard?...
Liz here today. I've been working as a creative designer and writer from home for just over a year now. I love the flexibility it allows: I can pepper baking or yoga classes into my daily schedule if I want, the commute is great (bedroom to office in 10 seconds!), and occasionally working in pajamas from my couch still hasn't gotten old. On the other hand, there's no such thing as a "snow day" anymore, and it can be isolating to work alone sometimes. Sure, I've got my coworkers from Braid to bounce ideas off of, tackle my to-do-list with, and fan-girl obsess with whenever Kanye / Beyonce / Gaga releases a new video. But the bulk of my days are spent at the mercy of my own choices. I think creatives have so many choices when they freelance, or become entrepreneurs, or even begin to just think (and go in circles) about going out on their own. And it can be so so hard to sort through all of them alone!
That's why we've been talking more and more about coaching for creatives. Kind of like life coaching, but more of what you want that work + life to look like as a working creative. This has been a huge passion project of Kathleen's; it's like she's become this creative-coaching Yoda in the last year or so. The Force has always been strong with that one - I think that's why her personal blog, AndKathleen, attracts and repels all the right people. She can't take any one-on-one coaching clients right now (if you haven't heard, she just had a big change to her work/life scenario: a brand new baby!), but check back with us this spring if you're interested.
In the meantime, I wanted to just share some of my favorite Coaching for Creatives posts and exercises from a series that she's been sharing on her personal blog, from Get Specific to Do What You Want....
As creatives, ideas are our bread and butter. The thought of running out of them makes our blood run cold. But let’s be honest. If you're a creative entrepreneur (or aspiring to-be) then most likely you're have no lack of ideas. In fact you probably have a landslide of them. Every hobby, project, and even friendships become an opportunity for a creative money-making endeavor. You see potential in everything to be the next thing that will not only satisfy and fulfill your creative soul but also perhaps pay the bills too. All "The Ideas" are swirling in your head - from a new blog series, to that collaborative workspace, to the hand-lettering skills you'd like to develop, to all the writing you want to do. Your creativity often isn't limited to your job title and you're interested in lots of different things - from design to food, health, and travel. It's all so dreamy until you realize that it's all so much and there just simply isn't enough time in the day to tackle it all. Your creative dreams and aspirations just leave you feeling dejected, scattered, unmotivated or even paralyzed under the weight of all those "could be's."
Kathleen here. I know this creative I'm describing above so well because that's me. And I'm guessing it might be you too. You have this grand vision of how things could be but it's hard to know what to tackle first, which idea will actually pay off, and which one will actually make you happy. And then what about all the things you won't have time for when you're spending your evenings learning modern calligraphy or textile art? Then you've got the fear of missing out by picking the wrong thing.
Having lots of ideas is a double-edged sword. On one side it's what makes you the admirable creative you are. But on the other side it can leave you feeling scattered and overwhelmed. So today I want to share two exercises that will get all these ideas on paper and out of your head. These brainstorming exercises will help you find the overlaps, common threads, and new connections between all the aspects of you so you can feel a little more confident and a little less crazy....
If you're attending the Alt Summit design conference next week you might be getting hit with a little bit of anxiety right about now. Kathleen, here, and I’ve been to Alt enough times now that I know the feeling. It's like the grown-up equivalent of going to summer camp or the first day at a new school. So Alt, or otherwise, if you're lucky enough to be going to a conference, workshop or retreat over the next weeks or months, don't let the stress get in the way of this chance to refuel, learn, connect, and grow – you know, the reasons you registered and made the investment of your time and money in the first place!
But, you're not alone when it comes to getting your head and heart back into the same place it was when you excitedly clicked "register" Just earlier this week I had a blog reader email to ask for advice in dealing with pre-conference jitters. Here's what I shared with her:
First off, that "I-think-I-might-puke" feeling is TOTALLY normal. Everyone gets that. Even hot-shit rockstar bloggers get nervous before attending conferences. Here's what I'd do to feel more confident and less freaked out:
1. Take time to put together your most badass wardrobe.
Well, for me it's badass – for you it might be vintage, chic, sophisticated, preppy, etc. But spend time figuring out what you want to wear each day and what makes you feel the best and most confident. If that includes a haircut and getting your nails done... do that too.
2. Do some pre-introductions.
Find other people who are going to the conference and Tweet / Facebook / email / leave blog comments to let them know that you're excited to see them there. Prep questions to ask or brainstorm some conversation starters for once you get there and run into these now acquaintances.
Kathleen here. If you know me, you know I blog. I blog here on Braid Creative with my sister and business partner, Tara, and also over on my personal blog, &Kathleen. Some days it feels like my whole working day is filled with writing and planning posts. And I like it that way. Maybe you'd like it that way, too. Or perhaps you just want to dip your toe in the water of blogging.
Since "getting fit" is on everyone's brain this time of year, why not your blog, too? The new year is a great time to shape up your blog content. But starting from scratch or simply wanting to focus and grow the blog (and audience) you've already got, can feel intimidating and overwhelming. Yet, if you feel the urgent need to do something about it, then you kind of already know what I'm about to tell you – that blogging is a great way to attract dream clients, prove your expertise, shape and share your ideas, and cultivate creativity, both personally and professionally.
So whether you want to start a blog a-fresh, or just give the blog you've got a good shake-up and shape-up... it's never too late to begin. Here are six ideas on how to start:
1. Write about where you're at.
Lots of our clients want to blog (or refine their blog content) but don't know where to begin. It's tempting to over-explain and share your entire life story and professional experience right off the bat. But I always recommend that you start small. You'll have years of blogging ahead of you to share bits and pieces of your story as you go. So one way to start blogging is to open a blank page and at the top write down this... "What I really want to tell you is this..." and then simply start writing. Then hit publish. Rinse and repeat. P.S. I've been blogging for years and use this technique when I feel at a loss of words.
Happy new year! As creative entrepreneurs we're used to reflecting on past performance and setting quarterly goals. It's especially easy to do with measurable markers of success – from profit and loss sheets, to web analytics, to Facebook likes.
But what if we set our creative business goals to look more like our own new year's resolutions? What if instead of setting financial benchmarks to measure our success we looked at our own desires and how our businesses can help us achieve the life we'd like to design for ourselves?
Here are a few ideas on how to make some goals and resolutions for you and your creative business as you move into 2014:
1. Stop trying to be everything to everyone. In other words, how can you explicitly make your business a more authentic reflection of who you are and what you want to be doing? I recommend starting with your "about" and "how to hire me" pages of your site. Revisit and update them according to the kind of work you want to be doing in 2014.
2. Find focus. Easier said than done when you have a million brilliant ideas and interests. Try this: write down 5 of your most memorable past victories and 5 goals or ideas you’d like to one day execute on in the future. Now find the common thread or overlap between these lists and come up with just two things to take action on in the first quarter of 2014. Check out our blog post Leap Forward by Looking Back for more on how to narrow in on present-day priorities and find focus....
We soft launched our new Braid website last week. This week it's for real. It's funny when we tell clients and friends that we're in the midst of launching a new site, how they say "already?!" Yep, it was about two-and-a-half years ago that Braid went live not only as a website but as a brand new business.
Why the need for a site update? Well, first off, a website is an outward expression of your business vision. When that vision goes from liquid to solid (or semi-solid like jello, with room to wiggle!) but your site doesn't reflect that clarity of brand or position, then it's probably time for an update.
Our jello gelled about six months into our Braid endeavor, for sure. Did that mean we were ready to invest the time and resources into an overhaul right on the heels of our first big launch. Um, nope. But did we have ways around that? You bet, between blogging and ECourses we have lots of dynamic content. This space for content creation gave us a platform to share how our dream customers, our defined expertise, and our offerings had evolved to be for the creative entrepreneur. It didn’t matter that our site didn't entirely reflect our more solidified brand and business vision ... until it did.
We realized when we were ready to switch to a say-what-you mean site (and we say it all!) that we'd need to get more serious about our own personal branding with photography, a video, and more conversational copy – as well as more nuts-and-bolts by sharing our work, our process, and our pricing right there for anyone to see. Here are three ways in which we overhauled and streamlined our site – these are tips you can apply, as needed, to your refine your own corner of the internet:
Last week I talked a bit about being your own number one dream customer by investing time, money, and resources in growing your creative business. But this week I want to chat a little bit about how to turn the client projects you've been getting – into dream projects that result in getting paid and getting enthusiastic approval for your work.
1. Set Expectations.
I've recently realized that anytime I get a little uncomfortable with a client project it’s when our mutual expectations aren’t communicated or aligned. How do you resolve this? It starts by being clear about exactly what your customer should expect to receive and for how much. This can and should be communicated at least three times:
• verbally (talk to your customer like a human about what they can expect to get from you);
• in an email (bullets and lists make it easy to digest); and
• in a contract (just so everyone is covered).
2. Talk Money.
If you're a creative entrepreneur talking money might be uncomfortable you. Probably because you get caught up in your head thinking a variation of the following:
• I'm lucky to be a creative for a living. I don't deserve a lot of money. OR
• My customer thinks I'm lucky to be a creative for a living. They probably don't think I deserve a lot of money. OR
• My customer can't afford my services. OR
• If my client pays me $X for my services they won't be able to buy themselves ______.
There’s a misconception among creatives who daydream about working for themselves (and truth be told among freelancers and creative entrepreneurs who aren’t just dreaming about it anymore, but actually doing it) that when you quit your day job, it’s a given you’ll get to be your own boss. When the more common back-to-earth reality is, you simply end up trading in one boss, for lots of bosses – each and every one of your clients. Managing all those expectations, personalities, and deadlines can be a super slippery slope that sends you into a vicious cycle of reactive order-taking. And it can feel anything but dreamy.
First off, let me say, having lots of clients feels great and is not only a huge confidence boost to any solo business, but it’s how many of us define having “made it.” But it’s when you get frustrated over and over again, because the experience of working with these clients isn’t quite fitting into your vision, that you can feel out of control and give up. So we have lots of strategies and tips for attracting dream customers and keeping them from turning into clients from hell in our Braid ECourse: Dream Customer Catching.
But today what I really want to talk about is being your own number one dream customer. To really “make it” as a creative entrepreneur, it’s going to take more than sustaining yourself financially, but sustaining this vision you had for yourself – or it’s just not worth it, right? So here are some ways to produce more than just the work you do for your clients, but invest time and resources into growing your own business:
1. MAKE TIME
A lot of creatives are so busy servicing their clients that they don’t have a lot of time to work on their own projects, branding, or processes. We get it. But the secret is you never “have” time. You’ve gotta make time. Here’s how: