One of my favorite things about working with creative entrepreneurs and aspiring-to-be’s, is getting to brainstorm what a super dreamy life looks like.
For some creatives it’s the ideal morning that involves white sheets, french pressed coffee, fresh air, and loads of journaling. For others it’s traveling the world. For most creatives I work with though, a dream life is about a feeling of confidence, courage, and creativity. Or something along those lines. When it comes to making that feeling a reality it’s my job, as a creative coach, to ask:
What does that look like?
This question always throws my clients for a loop. “What do you mean?” is typically how they’ll respond.
What I mean is what does confidence look like? What does inspired look like? What does courage, creativity, productivity, joy, peace, happiness, excitement, and love look like? If you can build visuals, textures, and actions around the feelings you can start to bring them into your life on the daily.
Try this: Take out a blank piece of paper and write down 3-5 things you want to feel as you move through life. Or even better, write down a LOT of things you want to feel and then circle 3-5 that really stand out to you.
Then make these feelings real by trying the following exercises:...
My whole life I’ve lived by the motto “Do what you want.” And it turns out when you do what you want, you get pretty good at making decisions that get you where you want to go. My desire to quit my job led me down the path to being my own boss and starting Braid Creative with my sister. My desire to see Mt. Everest led me to the Himalayas in Nepal. My desire to share my story has led me to helping other creatives share theirs and live what they love too.
Kathleen here, and I realize that “Do What You Want” may sound like quite the selfish motto—a rallying cry of youngest siblings everywhere—but happiness is radiant. And it’s contagious. When you’re truly doing what you want, you’ll find yourself, and the people around you, much happier than if you’re living your life out of compromised obligation.
“NEED TO” & “HAVE TO” vs. “WANT TO” & “CHOOSE TO”
Now, I’m not saying that my whole life is dedicated to fulfilling every whim of want. There are some things we need to do to function as responsible adults. These responsibilities and duties can start to feel heavy and overwhelming. (Especially if you spend a lot of time on Pinterest and have convinced yourself that everyone but you lives a perfectly curated life amongst white washed homes and dinner parties in fields.) Your job can lead to burnout if you forget what you’re working for. Your relationships can lead to resentment if you refuse to receive as much as you give.
Kathleen here. Today's post is just a short and sweet reminder to myself that I wanted to share with you too.
I was in a Braid Method meeting when one of our branding clients (who happens to be a super talented executive leadership coach, author, and speaker) stopped me in my furious note-taking tracks when she said the words: How you do anything is how you do everything. I’m not sure if this sage advice is her own or if she heard it somewhere else, but it really got me thinking about how I live my day-to-day moments—and how those moments add up to become the sum of my whole life.
It’s all too easy to excuse a bad attitude on a “hard day” (and we know how relative that can be).
It’s easy to blame a lack of enthusiasm for life in general on weeks of tight deadlines and back-to-back meetings.
It’s easy to fall into a funk because the weather isn’t just right.
But how you do anything is how you do everything. Regardless of circumstance. Regardless of busy days and tight deadlines.
Tara here. Of all the creative entrepreneurs and aspiring-to-be’s my sister and business partner, Kathleen and I have worked with, at one point or another, almost all of them have expressed that they want to cultivate an attitude of confidence and fearlessness. Kathleen’s advice to them is this: Pretend as if you are a confident and fearless badass.
Of course she would just cut to the chase (and use the word “badass”) to help them keep moving toward what they really want. But our advice to help them embrace their ability to “do this thing!” is really not that different than the lens we use to help them brand themselves. We often hear a client telling us that they know the talent, the drive, the dream, the itch to do something that’s all their own, or just something a little new and scary—it’s in there, inside them somewhere, but they don’t quite 100% believe it yet, or they don’t quite think they’ve “arrived” there yet. Pretending “as if” is a great way to articulate that scary, vague, too-big-to-describe thing they want to do—and take action.
Kathleen wrote a great post on this subject not too long ago. I want to share it below. And just take a moment to acknowledge that it wasn’t too terribly long ago, we were jumping into our own vision and adventure together. We pretended “as if.” And then we just “were.” We still have to work, but we did it....
In our last blog post, we wrote about why and when you should be narrowing in and getting specific about what you want to be known for. Easier said than done, right? We've talked enough about narrowing in on your creative focus that we think you understand that it's an important thing to do in your business, but understand that something is important and actually doing it?—well that's where it gets a little tricky.
We shared a lot of WHY’s to narrow in and find what you want to be known for, let’s talk about some HOWs:
In our Braid Method Branding Ecourse, we talk about HOW to really narrow in and claim your creative expertise:
If you are good at “all the things,” and you’re having trouble deciding where to focus:
- List out all the ideas in your head that are making you feel scattered and causing diffusion of your own focus. See which ones you can put on the backburner for now.
- List out the different ways you’re describing or not clearly describing what you actually do that’s causing confusion for potential clients. See if you can get the five different bullets you’re using to describe what you do down to even two or three.
Creatives are multi-talented! Many of us have the entrepreneurial spirit! Some of us are a little more introverted, but still making it happen (Tara here, and that’s me!). But all of us who are creating fulfilling business for ourselves can feel stuck when it comes down to the “figuring out” part! Especially when we can do so many things, have so many quirks and passions, could package up many different services from what we’re able to do, and potentially work with so many different kinds of dream clients!
It can be hard narrowing in on what it is you want to be KNOWN for when you’re first starting out. (click to tweet)
But this can be an issue for so many of us even when (especially when!) we’re transitioning into the “next level” of our biz. Here’s what keeps us from owning that very specific creative expertise:
1. We’re scared of not attracting enough business by claiming one specialty.
2. We’re unsure if we have a creative expertise in the first place.
You would think “not enough business” is the main deterrent because it’s linked to money, but you’d be surprised. I think more of us have faith in the idea that “the money will come, I will survive” than we do “I know what my specialty is, and what I really can deliver in a very specific way for people.”...
I recently learned a new productivity / time management tool – I’ve adopted it as my mantra for the week and have been trying my best to put it into practice. It’s this:
Touch it just once.
That means when you take a dish to the sink, wash it.
When you take off your clothes, put them in the hamper.
When you open an email, respond right then.
I’m pretty much the worst at all these things. I feel like everything can be saved for later … but later always has it’s own needs and demands to be met too – like mouths to feed or a TV show to be watched (I’m so curious to see what happens in this last season of Mad Men.) So instead of scanning emails, I’ll dedicate a block of time to reading and responding. And I’m sure my husband will especially appreciate it if my dishes could make it into the dishwasher as I go.
As you incorporate this practice into your life, you may find yourself struggling to only touch things once....
Kathleen here. When I tell people I own a business with my sister they respond one of two ways: either they say “oooh, you’re so lucky! I wish I could work with my sister!” or “I could NEVER work with my sister.” And the truth is, most days I feel really lucky. A huge perk is that 30+ years of shorthand as sisters has allowed us to expedite our growth as a business. Plus, we always know that we’ve got each other’s back – and that kind of trust makes for powerful business.
Tara and I started working together at an advertising agency. She was literally the boss of me – and that was okay because as my older sister she has been the boss of me pretty much our entire lives. Then when we started our business together we went from being sisters to being the boss of each other – and once we hired a team we both became the bosses of our employees. We have to make a lot of decisions together and often take turns at the wheel when it comes to driving this bus. And to continue with that bus-driving metaphor sometimes our path is smooth sailing, other times the terrain is a little more rocky.
My favorite part about working with my sister (aside from the vacations we get to write off as business) is that she’s one of the smartest people I know. She thinks in layers and can see the domino effect of any scenario in an instant. And when you meet her you’ll probably want her to be your big sister and business partner too....
Raise your hand if you made a resolution to meditate more in 2016. (I’m raising my hand). Since January 1 how many times have you taken the time to get quiet with yourself? (I’m counting half the fingers on my raised hand.)
Meditation has hit the mainstream and it’s something we’ve all learned is as important to our health and well-being as exercise and eating right. If you’re like me it’s hard for you to make sitting with yourself in silence a priority. It’s just so easy to put off when you have blog posts to write, TV shows to watch, books to read, treadmills to run, Pinterest to peruse, things to design, and a world to take over. As I’m trying to develop my own meditation practice I’ve been giving lots of thought to different kinds of meditating and tools to help me stick with it. Here’s what I’ve uncovered:
THE SIT DOWN & BURN INCENSE KIND OF MEDITATION:
So this is what I think of when I picture what meditation looks like. And this is often the kind of meditation that I put off and don’t make time for. I’ve found that my challenge with sitting down and being silent with myself is that my mind starts to race. I get that meditation is the practice of stilling those said racing thoughts, but it can be such a struggle. So I’ve found that having an intention or even a guided story in my mind helps me find focus and the kind of deep peace I’m looking for with my meditation practice. I share four different meditation “stories”, weekly, in my DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions that I’ve found super helpful to developing my own sit-down-and-meditate practice. It’s not a typical guided meditation where you plug in the headphones and listen to someone talk to you. It’s more like a narrative or guide that you read and recount for yourself as you settle into silence.
New Year's is probably one of my favorite times of the year – because there is nothing I love more than new beginnings. There is so much promise and potential with each passing year. But with that comes a smidge of fear and potential for (bum-bum-bum) FAILURE. If you hate New Year’s resolutions it might be because it’s too mainstream and trite to set impossible goals on January 1. I’m with you and would agree except that I’ll take any occasion to get my dreamy goal-setting on. Or you may dread New Years because every year you make a new resolution and lose momentum after a few weeks – only to make you feel guilty and worse than if you had just kept coasting along as-is.
So today I’d like to invite you to try a new approach to setting your New Year’s resolutions. I want you to grab two sheets of paper. On one, draw a line down the middle – on the left side write down “2015 / Reflect”. On the right side write down “2016 / Dream”.
STEP 1: Reflect.
Get really honest here. Take the time to be real with yourself about regrets or where you could’ve improved. But on the flip-side this is no place to be humble. You can brag on yourself about all the things you did right and use this space to give yourself a big pat on the back.
• What went right in 2015?
• What would you do differently?
• What was the biggest lesson you learned?
• What did you create?
The number one problem I’ve found with creatives who are unsatisfied, and can’t seem to find the dream they’re supposed to be living – is that they’re not getting specific enough. Their vision of a well-designed life is made up of vague words and little to no action.
Tara here. I love when Kathleen wrote that. It’s just the kind of love-it-or-hate-it statement she would make, throwing down the gauntlet to creative entrepreneurs (or aspiring-to-be’s) who aren’t really saying what they need to be saying – especially to themselves.
I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say “yep, I tend to not get as specific about my ‘wants’ as I could,” even though I help our clients get incredibly specific and clear in their own business vision and brand messaging – it’s harder to point the wand at yourself. So I feel you, if it feels scary to get specific.
Kathleen first wrote about getting specific when she started coaching creatives about their fears, dreams and vision. She shared a lot of the tools and insights she developed on her personal blog, AndKathleen.com, which has always been her “experimental ground” for sharing what’s she’s up to in her personal and professional life....
When you work for yourself, as a creative entrepreneur, it can be tricky to explain what you do. I know many of the creatives we hear from can get tripped up explaining what they do in quick-and-short instances—like introductions with other people. On flip-side, I get tripped up if I start thinking too hard about it – all existential-like. For instance, how would I explain my job if aliens landed in my backyard this afternoon? If vikings invaded our neighborhood from a portal in time? If the eight-year-old version of myself suddenly tapped me on the shoulder while I was sitting at my laptop?
When you’re a creative entrepreneur, it can be tricky to explain what you do.
Tara here, and I’m used to talking about what I do all the time, but if I pop-quizzed-myself with these slightly far fetched scenarios, I can still have that moment of “Uh. Hold on a sec... Oh yeah. This is what I do!”
Like so many of you, there are layers to my work. So these “what the heck?” moments don’t come from a lack of doing or thinking, but more likely from an overabundance of doing and thinking.
But! If I had to break out what I actually do every day, it’s a mix of:...
“People buy from people. That’s what personal branding is all about.” (click to tweet)
Okay, the buying part isn’t what it’s all about, but it sure is a good reason to give your personal brand some thought and attention. Personal branding at it’s core is about genuine confidence. Having a good sense of your personal brand (your voice, your point of view, your style) gives you confidence to put yourself out there in conversations, in the content you write, post, send, and even the way you work with your clients—as a creative with something to say, and as a creative entrepreneur.
Tara here. What really sparked this post is a recent monthly masterclass Kathleen and I held breaking down our personal branding exercises for our Braid ECourse creatives. They had lots of great questions in the live webinar, and a lot it came down to knowing how much or how little to really put out there, and the hesitation we can all feel when it comes to really “owning” our personal brand.
So when we say your personal brand helps people buy from you – as a person – what we’re trying to help creatives understand is you don’t have to be all cold and “businessy” (hide behind stiff or overly-clever businessy language or branding) to get hired, get paid, and grow a legit business of your own. You and your business can (and in most cases, should) convey your own unique personal + professional blend because people buy from people. But finding that special blend isn’t always easy.
As creative entrepreneurs, so many of us share content to advise, inspire (or simply share what we’re going through) with people who might find it useful, thought-provoking, comfortably relatable, or freaking inspiring! So here’s a question that came up for us around sharing yourself online in our Braid ECourse masterclass webinar last week, and it may be one you’ve asked yourself as well:
“I struggle a bit between sharing struggles and sharing successes online. I feel like when I share struggles, people aren’t going to want to hire me, as if I don’t know what I’m talking about. When I share successes, I fear that I’ll sound a bit braggy. Does anyone else struggle with this?” – Julie | Braid ECourse Masterclasser
Oh man, that’s a good one! You don’t want to sabotage your own put-togetherness—the “I got this” confidence that instills trust in those who want to pay you to help them and do right by them. On the flip-side, you don’t want to be off-putting to the followers, friends, and peers in your sharing circles by getting too braggy and boastful about your successes.
We hear you! We all want to be authentic, to get real about the good stuff, and the bad, in our blog posts, newsletters, social media, and other sharing places. So what are the boundaries? What is the balance between letting people in on your “behind-the-scenes” vs. inviting them into your “dear diary land?”...
We’ve posted in the past about sharing yourself online and blending personal and professional on your online sharing space, but when we talk about our specialty: blending YOU into what you do—or creating a business around your personal brand, we often get questions about where to set your boundaries:
How do I bring more of me into my branding and work by sharing more than just the curated highlights of my life, but also have boundaries so I don’t end up Instagramming every aspect of my life? And what’s more: How will I know which details of my life are and are not interesting to my followers?
Kathleen here. I used to be an open book when it comes to sharing online – so it was easy for me to tell my clients and audience “You do you! Put it out there and don’t apologize for it!” … and then I became a mom. My boundaries shifted big time but I had no idea where the lines were drawn. Was I sharing too much? Not enough? Pre-baby I was totally cool fumbling through life in plain view of the whole world. But now? Not so much. Through this experience I developed compassion for creatives who were asking me where to draw the line when it comes to their own sharing boundaries. So this post isn’t just for you – it’s for me too. My boundaries have changed but I still very much have a story to tell. Here are five ways you can “keep it real” while also respecting your ever-evolving boundaries.
1. USE YOUR WORDS...
Kathleen here. Being Boss is my podcast that I co-host with my creative colleague and good friend Emily Thompson. One day after recording we began playing around with the idea of going on vacation together. Then we got curious – what if we invited our listeners to come with us? We imagined maybe twenty or so “bosses” would want to take a vacation with us – when the sign-ups came rolling in we decided to cap what was now turning into a full blown event at seventy-five attendees.
Fast-forward to a gorgeous week in October where we met up in New Orleans with #girlbosses from all corners of the country. We got to know each other over sugary cocktails and intimate dinners. We hosted a masterclass and recorded a podcast in front of a live audience. We went on a ghost tour in the French Quarter with a man who may or may not have been a vampire (he tried to convince us of this by not blinking THE ENTIRE TOUR). We walked around with powdered sugar on our black jeans – evidence of a beignet fully enjoyed. We had our tarot cards read and carefully picked out the perfect crystals for our collections back home. I learned a lot on this trip:
SOMETHING MAGICAL HAPPENS WHEN YOU CONNECT IN REAL LIFE
I am so grateful to live in a time where we can be location-independent creatives from anywhere. The internet, Skype, social media, and all the technology we have available to us makes it so easy to connect, build relationships, and do business from your fingertips. The opportunities and convenience we have to connect online is so easy, that it’s also easy to forget what happens when you come together in real life: magic.
Kathleen here. A lot of people ask me how Braid landed Dr. Brené Brown as a client and the answer it simple – I read her book Daring Greatly, reviewed it here on this blog, and then practiced being vulnerable and shared it with Brené herself on Twitter. From there, she started following our work and contacted us to overhaul her personal brand before her first appearance on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday.
So it feels a little full circle to be writing another review of Brené’s newest book Rising Strong. In fact, I’ve been in the trenches with Brené for a few years now that I took for granted how truly brilliant her work is – Rising Strong was a really great reminder. Here’s what I learned:
THE STORY YOU’RE TELLING YOURSELF
The overarching theme and the big takeaway I got from Rising Strong is that your life is one big story you’re telling yourself… and if you’re brave enough and strong enough you can own the struggle and you can write a new ending.
YOU CAN’T SKIP OVER THE MESSY MIDDLE
In a day of perfectly composed Instagram vignettes and impeccably curated Pinterest boards it’s easy to feel like that’s what life should look like. But the truth is, living a wholehearted life means getting a little messy. Brené was giving a talk at Pixar and afterwards had lunch with the creative team. They were talking about the creative process, the art of storytelling, and of course about fear, uncertainty, and vulnerability.
Tara and I work with lots of creatives who want to empower, inspire, champion, and charge. We love some grand vision as much as the next guy but these kinds of lofty goals always leave us asking “Okay, that’s great – but what do you actually want to be doing all day?”
If you can’t identify what your day of empowering and inspiring actually looks like, in very specific detail, than you’re setting yourself up for failure.
A couple weeks ago we touched on this very topic in our Brand Visioning Webinar.
Empowering, inspiring, and championing are really great core values – but what’s the action? And how do you actually explain how you provide that to your audience?
You have to remember that you cannot sell inspiration, you cannot sell empowerment, and you cannot sell customer service. Those are things that people experience after they’ve already hired you, so you need to get specific about what you’re offering that might create those experiences as a byproduct.
One of the reasons this gets so hard for creative entrepreneurs is because often we have so many different interests, and we don’t want to “limit” ourselves to just one thing....
If you’ve got your eyes on our blog and your ears on the Being Boss Podcast — you’ve heard us mention a time or two the power of mindset, and making mental space for a successful business.
At Braid we use a chalkboard wall and physically draw out blank spaces as our practice of manifesting dream clients each quarter. But there’s a little more to it than that.
Caitlin here. I’m Braid’s assistant. I’ve been a long time follower of their work and blog and have been working with Tara, Kathleen, and Liz behind the scenes for the last several months. And without disrupting the amazing voices of Kathleen and Tara in this space, I wanted to pop in and share something that I’ve observed in working with them that perhaps they haven’t even really seen. Yes they’ve got the woo-woo working for them, but they’ve got some practical mojo working for them too.
I love me some good power-of-the-mind practices as much as the next gal. But when it comes to starting or even up-leveling, your own business, you’ve got to pair your woo with some hustle. I call it the “hustle-woo”...It’s a working title. Let’s just run with it here.
When it comes to your business, you’ve got to pair your woo with some hustle. Let’s call it the hustle-woo. (click to tweet)...
Something magical happens when you’ve become a creative expert. It doesn’t happen overnight, and you may find that you’re the last one to adopt the “creative expert” title for yourself, but at some point you’ll take a step back—after sending that final invoice to a client, after designing your 85th logo, after showing your client a moodboard and hearing that enthusiastic “YES!”—and you’ll think, “Wow! I am really good at this!”
“But I’m so busy in the doing!” you might say. And yeah, the client managing, business managing and the creating itself for sure, is a big part. But another part is doing what creative experts do. So we want to share with you our do-like-a-creative-expert list—and if you’re kind of at that “fraudy feeling” stage where you’re not quite ready to claim your creative expertise, you might find that you’ve got some of these items covered too:
Creative experts explain, they don’t sell.
You can’t have a business without a sales funnel because no matter how fabulous your services are, the idea that anything “just sells itself” is a lie. Creative experts know this, but they also know that a stuffy sales pitch is not going to do them any favors either. So what do they do? They explain. Your clients want a behind-the-scenes peek, a glimpse into what drives you to create an amazing product, and a preview of the journey you’ll take them on in your time working together.
Creative experts know that the sales process is really just a conversation—not polished and perfected, but genuine and transparent to really get that potential client to understand the process and connect with you and what you’re offering.