There is nothing more frustrating for the creative entrepreneur with big ambition than feeling like nobody is listening, reading, or buying what you have to say, write, or offer. It’s especially deflating when you feel like you’re giving it everything you’ve got only to be greeted by chirping crickets in return. You might start to play the “if only…” game. “If only Seth Godin was my dad.” or “If only I had more talent.” or “If only I were friends with Marie Forleo.” or “If only anybody knew what a difference I could make!” It’s easy to throw yourself a pity party, but that’s the last thing you want to do when you feel like nobody knows who you are.
So what should you do when you’re not getting the recognition you desire or deserve? Here are a few ideas.
WHEN NOBODY KNOWS WHO YOU ARE … GET TO KNOW YOURSELF
You can lose yourself when you spend all your time trying to impress anyone and everyone who might read your blog or buy your product. Stop thinking about what “they” might like and start thinking about what it is you really want to do and be. Start by simply asking yourself “What do I want?” and go from there. Or dig deeper with daily meditation, journaling, ECourses (we’ve got one or two you might like), or hire a coach for some outside perspective and accountability.
Related post: Grounding Exercises for Dreamy Creatives...
Our friend and internet-awesome-maker Sarah Von Bargen is re-launching her Post College Survival Kit – if you just graduated college and have spent one last summer kicking it on your mom’s couch watching Sex and The City marathons wishing you were Carrie Bradshaw (but feeling a bit more like Lena Dunham from Girls) then the Post College Survival Kit is for you. Or if you’re about to enter your senior year of college and are already freaking out about the real world that lies ahead … well, The Post College Survival Kit is for you too. Anyway, as part of Sarah’s launch she asked us to share a few bits of advice we’d like to give to our younger selves. Here’s what some of the Braid team had to say:...
I recently read an article that said something like 92%* of first graders, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, respond with “famous.” They don’t necessarily care about how they achieve that fame – whether it’s as an actor, the president, a professional athlete … they just want to be famous. (*I have no idea what the actual percentage was but it was alarming.)
So yeah, it’s pretty disturbing that we’re bringing up kids who value fame and recognition over talent, grit, skill, and smarts. But this post isn’t going to address how we solve that problem. This post is about how I’m seeing the exact same desire for recognition happen with aspiring creative entrepreneurs. Here’s how I’m seeing this show up for well-meaning creatives:
“I want to inspire others to create and live an authentic life.”
“I want to inspire people to not give up.”
“I want to inspire and empower women to be brave…”
I get it, because... “me too.” However, inspiring others shouldn’t be the goal in and of itself. Fame, recognition, money (as much as I condone getting paid), and even something as noble as inspiring others shouldn’t be the thing that drives you to do what you do. If it is, you’ll never measure up and you’ll always be chasing a moving target....
Summer barbeques, holiday dinners, and family reunions are always a little tricky for the creative entrepreneur. Why? Because you have to explain what you do in a way that makes you sound like the successfully self-employed badass you are and not an unemployed starving artist who may or may not be considering going back to grad school for a little bit of legitimacy. But sometimes what we do for a living isn’t just a mystery to our great aunt – sometimes our parents or even our partner-in-crime don’t even really know what it is we do or what our days look like. So how can we explain to distant relatives, acquaintances we network with, or even our nearest and dearest to “get” what we do as creative professionals?
Kathleen here. I’m a creative entrepreneur who runs the show with my sister Tara. Our business model isn’t super traditional and we wear a lot of hats. So even though it’s my job to help other creatives position themselves in a way that makes them super hireable it’s not always easy to offer a concise answer to “what do you do?” for myself. So today I thought I’d offer up a few scripts for how Tara and I explain what we do depending on the context of who’s asking....
Tara and I started Braid Creative right at three years ago from my 1920s tudor-style home located just a hop and a skip from downtown Oklahoma City. After a couple of years of growing our little business from my guest bedroom, I got pregnant and found myself needing some work / life separation. That’s when we decided to rent an office space to call our own. For the last year we’ve really enjoyed having a space to call our very own (plus the incentive it gave us to get dressed). And if I’m being completely honest, having rent and utilities set up in our business’ name made us feel capital “L” Legit. An office space seemed to complete the picture of success we had painted for ourselves as creative entrepreneurs.
Kathleen here. I recently decided to move out of that 1920s house and into a new home. I didn’t move far – just a hop and a skip from where I was. But my new house (a rad mid-century modern 1950s split-level ranch) just so happens to be across the street from my sister and business partner, Tara. So with that, after a year of proving to ourselves how credible and successful we were by paying overhead on an office space, we decided to bring Braid Creative back home.
When you work from home it’s easy to let work bleed into life and let boundaries slide. It’s easy to feel isolated and unprofessional when you’re working in your pajamas from your bed. So today I’m going to share a few ideas on how to keep the personal and professional blend that comes with working from home feeling ideal....
As a young creative professional my biggest fear was not having enough ideas. Now as a creative entrepreneur my biggest fear is not knowing what to do with All The Ideas. Kathleen here, and I must confess – I’ve been feeling really creative lately. From product launches to new business plans, ideas seem to strike in the middle of yoga class, while running errands, and my personal favorite, at 4am in the morning (insomnia, anyone?). While it’s a good problem to have, too many ideas can confuse you (and your clients), diffuse your energy, leave you feeling scattered, and even paralyze your ability to make decisions and take action. And I know I’m not alone – most of my clients and creative peers seem to have the same trouble with too many ideas.
So today I want to share one simple approach for dealing with an abundance of ideas:...
The one thing the designers, developers, coaches, photographers, and even yogis that hire Braid Creative have in common is they all want to write more. But they don’t know where to begin, how to carve out time for something like blogging, or are plagued with self-doubt when it comes to hitting publish.
I could talk about blogging for days – there’s a lot to cover on the topic. But today I’m going to keep it simple and share the most powerful piece of advice I’ve got for getting your blog on.
MAKE “BLOGGER” A PART OF YOUR JOB TITLE
As a creative entrepreneur I’ve worn a lot of hats. From designer, to creative director, to accountant, to janitor. But it wasn’t until I put “blogger” in my job description that I started taking it seriously and stopped feeling bad about dedicating time to writing instead of designing, accounting, and even cleaning.
Now that “blogger” is in your job title you need to make time for writing. Include writing and blogging on your daily to-do list and block off time for it in your calendar. Give yourself deadlines and rough out an editorial calendar. And don’t make it the last thing you do (unless you feel most creative at the end of your day)....
About a year ago we decided here at Braid Creative that it was time to update our website. We had been in business for two years and while our site was fine, we knew it could be better. Our business had grown, our dream customer had evolved, and our offerings had become much more clear after a couple years of putting the Braid Method and creative coaching into practice.
But updating a website is kind of like remodeling a house. Kathleen here, and I just moved into a new house this week. So I’m all too familiar with the fact that a few cosmetic updates here and there always reveal deeper issues – the kind that aren’t nearly as fun as a coat of paint or new carpet – but the kind that keep your house in working order. Things like paying thousands of dollars to update the electric service from 60 amps to 100 amps (and y’all – I don’t even know what that really means). It’s the stuff you can’t see but appreciate when you can run your dryer, fridge, and hair dryer all at the same time.
I was pretty excited about redesigning our site with new images, a dreamy “day in the life of Braid Creative” brand video, and some more streamlined content that more accurately shares the brand we’ve built. But I knew – just like updating the electric in my house – that my website had to really work for me. It had to be functional.
Here are a few things we did to make our site work for us:...
Kathleen here. Here at Braid Creative we talk a lot about creative entrepreneurs and freelancers who are paving their own path to live what they love. But get this – a majority of our creative coaching clients have day jobs. Most of them hire us for the confidence and clarity that comes from our coaching and consulting to quit. We regularly get emails from those former clients who share with us that they’ve finally decided to make the leap from day job to do their own thing (!!!!!) – those emails usually include lots of exclamation marks – and we’re always so happy (!!!!!) for them. All of that said, and as supportive as we are, we never actually tell anyone to quit their day job.
In fact, day jobs can be ideal for lots of creatives. While working nine-to-five (and then some) doesn’t give you a lot of time, it can offer the kind of security that allows you to build up a portfolio of dream projects on the side. With a day job you can afford to be picky about the extra stuff you take on. And on that note, when you work for yourself sometimes you get desperate for clients (even not-so-dreamy clients) with cash – and nothing kills creativity like desperation and clients from hell. Day jobs also give you access to teams, resources, and rad customers that you may not have when you work solo. And just because you work a day job doesn’t mean you can’t also rock the entrepreneurial spirit by embracing your own personal brand and razor sharp point-of-view within the walls of an organization that also happens to offer you a steady paycheck....
Two money posts in a row, I know. Kathleen here and I'm positive the majority of you creatives and aspiring entrepreneurs and freelancers are craving a conversation about cold hard cash. I know this because every time I get some face time with you all we end up talking about money. How to find it, make it, sustain it, and grow it. Last week I shared four bits of money advice on the blog and this week I have one more important tidbit to share with you and it is this:
Be a farmer. (Not a hunter.)
Yup, you heard me: be a farmer. This is actually a money mantra Tara and I used a lot when we first started Braid Creative together. We adopted it from Blair Enns, a new-business coach whose specialty is helping creative agencies sell themselves. Meanwhile, we were leaving the agency world and starting over on our own. We were three months in, and had been tirelessly building our business from scratch – from the branding, to the website, to the endless administrative stuff like setting up our LLC and accounting systems. Once the flurry of setting up shop settled we were discouraged to hear crickets chirping as we waited for clients. Even though the silence was discouraging, an even more demoralizing prospect was going out and selling ourselves “cold” (i.e. knocking on doors, making calls, or sending unsolicited emails). So we started farming....
One of the biggest struggles I see with creative entrepreneurs (or aspiring entrepreneurs) is they don’t know how to make money doing what they love. Or rather, the whole topic of money altogether makes them uncomfortable. I get it. When you bring in the kinds of good feelings that come with being creative, making things all day, and loving what you do – it feels as if the reward is in the work itself. You may feel like you don’t deserve to make income on top of feeling good. Or maybe you feel like your work is tainted or is less meaningful if money is involved. Or perhaps you’ve come from a mindset where money is straight up bad. Maybe money has always been a struggle or a seen as a necessary evil in your life.
Kathleen here, and I’ve found the key to making money by doing what you love isn’t that complicated. First, you must have something to sell. Whether you’re selling a product or service, it should be something you believe in with your whole, creative, weirdly-you heart. Feeling like you’re wholy-great at this somethin’ somethin,’ or like you have the natural potential to be great at it in the not-too-distant future, doesn’t hurt either. Then you need a solid brand platform and position to sell your goods with confidence (psst… we can help you with that). But it can get a little trickier when it comes to having the right attitude. Your own inner weirdness around money can make or break your bottom line.
So below I’m going to share four money-mojo tidbits that have helped me take the leap from day job, to freelancer, to successful business owner – all while feeding my family and feeding my creative soul....
Well, “nightmare” might be a bit harsh. But it played off of “dream” so nicely – and really, nightmares are kind of just waiting to happen whenever you work with non-dreamy customers. Misaligned expectations, unclear needs, differing aesthetics, unfulfilling end-product, Freddy Krueger coming towards you in his weird striped-sweater-fedora combo… (shudder). Wake me up!
Figuring out exactly who you work with best helps you in two ways. One, you can find them easier, by creating content that speaks directly to them. And two, you can work with them easier, because you’re able to be such an expert for their needs. Super dreamy-sounding, right? So – how can you tell if your idea of your dream customer is right-on or a bit off?
Liz here. Along with Tara and Kathleen, it's my job to guide all of our clients through our Braid Method. I see lots of patterns and disconnects come up when it comes to their own dream customers. Here are some not-so-dreamy assumptions we see entrepreneurs make time and time again, when figuring out who their dream customer is:...
Back in the day, the word “community” would really annoy me. Nowadays I can see this unreasonable irritation stemmed from two places within me: 1. I didn’t really have a creative community that I belonged to; and 2.) I didn’t know how to find my community or what community was even supposed to look like.
Kathleen here. I’ve been offering a free thirty-minute creative coaching session to our Braid ECourse students as they finish up our week long courses. The number one questions I’ve been asked for coaching around is “How do I create community?” This question intimidates me because up until recently I’ve always felt like such an outcast. Growing up in school I was always voted “most non-conformist.” So for me community looked like the popular kids’ table at lunch. They were nice enough, but there was never an extra seat for me. Fortunately, I’m no longer in high school and since starting my own business I have given more thought to what community looks like, and where I belong. I want to share with you what I know about community and finding your tribe.
START WITH ONE PERSON
When most people think of community they tend to imagine an extended network of like-minded people working together to collaborate and exchange ideas. Finding this group of people can feel overwhelming and near impossible. So start with just one person. Invite an acquaintance you admire to coffee or happy hour. During your meeting make it your goal to help that person – either by introducing them to someone new or pointing them towards a new blog, podcast, or expert they might like to follow. If you guys hit it off a second date is sure to follow – the next time invite a third person to join. Before you know it your tribe will expand and you’ll start a tight-knit community. And P.S. this can all happen over video chat if you’re not in the same city.
As creative entrepreneurs we’re faced with some pretty weighty decision-making to-do’s on a daily basis. In a single day at Braid Creative we’re responsible for making decisions on how we run our business, from the content we’re sharing to the processes we’re implementing. But in that same single day we’re also helping our clients make big decisions around their own brand and business vision, too. The thing is, decision-making is a resource you have to exercise to get good at – otherwise you may find yourself paralyzed and wanting to stay in bed all day.
Kathleen here. I’m really good at making decisions. I’m never paralyzed by options and I’m never afraid I might be headed down the wrong path as a result of a decision I made. It’s a skill I took for granted, or simply overlooked, until I started a business with my sister. When I found that we were having to make decisions that seemed to stress her out (she has a beautiful mind that seems to think in layers that weigh all the possible variables and outcomes at once) I was finding no problem in saying “let’s do this.” And then we’d do it, make some money, and everything was fine. Or we’d do it, it would be a total failure, and we’d move on quickly – either way, everything was still fine. Failure or success, either way, we were moving through all the planning, launching, and growing of a business with speed and grace.
So in this moment, of this single day at Braid, I want to share with you a few ways to exercise and leverage your decision-making power – from the super practical to a bit more conceptual:...
Today I want to share just a few tips on how to embrace your personal brand in business but first – our Braid ECourse Personal Branding: Blending Who You Are with What You Do is in-session starting this Friday. It's by far our most popular ECourse and has already been taken by hundreds of creatives, aspiring entrepreneurs, and bloggers. Learn more and see if it's a good time to take it here.
As the phrase "personal branding" continues to catch more mainstream buzz I'm finding creatives become even more confused and intimidated by the whole topic. "What is a personal brand? What's MY personal brand? Oh my God, WHO AM I?" It turns out stressing out about your personal brand looks a lot like having a quarter-life crisis. So today I'm going to uncomplicate it and break it down with just a few tips for you.
Personal branding is simply being yourself.
It's about being brave enough to be enthusiastic about what you like and sharing that with not only your friends but your coworkers and clients too. That may look like wearing what you want even when you're "on the clock". It might look like asking your clients to indulge in a quick 2-minute meditation with you. Or it could even look like being transparent about the things you don't know or can't do. Just be yourself 100% of the time and you'll see it pay off in both your bank account and in your soul.
Personal branding is ditching the "we" speak.
If you're a solopreneur you might be hiding behind the "we" on your blog, your website, and in your newsletters. Your intentions may be good – you say "we" because you have an amazing and supportive partner behind-the-scenes, or maybe you have big vision of expanding your team one day. Perhaps you're saying "we" because you want your client to feel confident in your services by pretending that you aren't doing it all by yourself. But here's the deal: it's cool that you are talented and confident enough to have launched your own thing. Own that.
Nothing prepares you (or forces you) to be more confident talking about what you do for living, like being interviewed about it. Isn’t it odd that just ten years ago, being interviewed would be limited to a very specific format, most likely print, or if you were super famous, then broadcast, for like, Johnny Carson? Okay maybe I’m thinking fifty years ago. I’ve been watching too much Mad Men.
Tara here, and I think it’s pretty neat that Kathleen and I get to talk about what we do, teach others what we’ve learned, and get to feel mini-famous, at least for thirty minutes when other creatives want to have a conversation with us, because they found us online, and believe in our vision, or just think it’s really cool what we get to do – even when we live right smack dab in the middle of middle-America.
We work and live in a city that’s not always on the radar, but it’s still a city where we run into other creatives every single day. Meanwhile we’ve worked with creatives who live in the middle of nowhere, who still run into other creatives (there’s more of us than you will ever know) every single day, too, and are getting more than just mini-famous on platforms of their own.
But who’s to say that anywhere is nowhere? When we’re all made of the same stardust, who’s to say we can’t all be stars? I’ve also been watching too much Cosmos....
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.