Sometimes the most heartbreaking thing about being a creative for a living is when a client has negative feedback.
It looks a little something like this: you go through a discovery process, you ask all the right questions, you and your client are jiving and on the same page, you pull inspiration and the client gives you a big thumbs up. You spend days sketching, refining, and finalizing a design that makes you proud. It just might be your best work yet.
Then, you present a design to your client. You can read their face – they aren’t loving it. Or maybe they take their time getting back to you – you take the silence as criticism and start beating yourself up over what they’re thinking. Maybe they come back with “I love it, but could we change …” followed by revisions that butcher your work into something that resembles nothing you would ever create. You find yourself feeling like a pixel-pushing order-taker rather than the gifted creative expert you are.
At worst, you’re left wondering if maybe you really do suck at your job, and at best you’re wondering how to get your clients to trust you. You become resentful and begin daydreaming about what it must be like to be an accountant for a living – work that isn’t quite so objective or personal....
I have an incredibly talented friend (and former Braid client) who makes a living as a professional photographer. We were recently hanging out and she was sharing her business insights and frustrations alike with me. This friend of mine is incredibly grateful for the clients she has, the reputation she’s building, and the work she is getting, but like any creative entrepreneur, there are seasons when she’s racking her brain to come up with new tactics and ideas to book her schedule solid with dream clients. Since chatting with my friend, I’ve been racking my brain thinking of ways she can get more clients too. So this post is for her (but I have a feeling it might help you too).
It’s easy enough to say “I want more clients,” which was what my friend was originally expressing in her frustrations, but that’s not an easily measurable goal. So I asked my friend over the course of our conversation to get more specific and she said, “I want to book 20 weddings this year.” Okay! Now we have a number to work with. 20 weddings a year = 5 per quarter.
1B. MAKE SPACE FOR YOUR GOALS
My favorite tool for making my goals visual is The Chalkboard Method. So I would advise my friend to create her own chalkboard pronto. (Seriously, it works.)...
Kathleen here wishing you a Happy New Year! I for one love a fresh start, and there is no better time than the new year to harness that kind of “DO OVER!” energy to build the business and brand you want. So today, I wanted to share a few ideas that will help you take your brand and business to the next level in the new year.
If there is one thing you can control in your business, it’s how you consistently show up. Here are a few ways you can be more consistent in the new year:
It sounds counter-intuitive to make accruing rejections a goal, I know. And to be completely honest, rejection is one of my personal fears, which keeps me from putting myself out there in a bigger way....
When we first launched Braid Creative, we spent a few months developing our brand, solidifying our positioning, and designing our website. We launched with a big hurrah and a bottle of bubbly. And then… crickets.
We needed clients, stat.
At the time, we were working with our executive coach, Jay Pryor, who held us accountable for doing things to help move our baby business forward. He helped us navigate feelings of uncertainty, but he also helped us get clear and practical when it came to growing our business. When we shared with him how freaked out we were that we didn’t have any clients he said this:
In order to get clients you have to make space for them.
Our coach put us “on the hook” for developing a system to visually track our clients. Jay promised that the universe abhors a vacuum and that we simply needed to make space—literally and metaphysically—for clients.
I had an entire wall in my home office painted with chalkboard paint at the time – and as daunting as it was to “make space” for clients I didn’t have yet, I drew 12 lines that I hoped would fill sooner than later. I remember sitting back down at my computer, which faced my chalkboard wall, a little freaked out about the constant, oversized reminder that we had NO work. But through a combination of a lot of hustle while launching our business and a little bit of magic (#hustlewoo), all 12 slots were filled by the end of the week....
Creating content is one of the best ways to position yourself as an expert, attract dream customers, and really become known for what you do best. But if you’re not doing it consistently or cohesively you could confuse your reader and potential customers. And if you’re not leveraging that content to its full extent, you could be leaving a lot of money on the table.
It might surprise you to hear that if you have a content problem you have a branding problem—because your brand is the impression you leave and what makes you memorable, and your content is one of the best ways to define who you are and what you want to be known and hired for. In this article, I’m going to share a step-by-step on how to create an editorial calendar that supports your branding goals.
The most important thing you need to understand before you begin creating content is what you want to be known for. If you want to be known for your artistic hand-lettering, your content should support that expertise. If you want to be known for your methodical and strategic thinking, you should be sharing it in your content.
Try this: pretend as if you’re writing a book.
This is the exercise we use with our one-on-one clients and in our Braid Method Branding ECourse to help our students define what they really want to be known for.
The number one thing we hear over and over from our Braid Method clients, ECourse students, and newsletter subscribers is this:
I need to know how to get more clients.
We hear you. And honestly the question “how do I get more clients?” always makes us feel a little uneasy over here. Because the truth is this: there is no guaranteed formula, blueprint, or silver bullet that will get you more clients.
However… we do believe in attracting clients with confident positioning + compelling content. If you can position yourself as a trusted and relatable expert by consistently sharing your gifts of knowledge, and be able to articulate how it is you can help … well, you’ll have potential clients knocking down the door begging to work with you.
Can you imagine if your biggest problem wasn’t getting clients but having to say no and determining what to raise your prices to? That’s what we believe solid positioning and reliably good content does.
We offer exercises and a variety of scripts in our Braid Method ECourse that can help you with your positioning, but for now try this:...
Branding is not just a logo. Branding is not just consistent typography and colors. Branding is not just your brushed up mission statement. Branding is not just your website, your business card, or your email signature.
Branding can include all these things. But branding can also be so much more. That’s great news for your business, especially if you can create a brand that really captures your voice, your purpose, and what you want to be known and hired for.
The problem we face when we start to really see the whole picture our brand can paint for us is getting overwhelmed by the scope of it all.
We find ourselves asking:
“Do I already have a brand?”
“Do I need a better brand?”
“How much money, time, or energy do I really need to devote to my branding?”
“And once I do get my branding where it needs to be… how do I market myself?”
“Where does branding end and marketing to my dream clients begin?”
Branding can sometimes feel like a luxury, only reserved for the times when we have the mental energy, money, or even space on our to-do list to devote to a worthy (but not exactly a necessary?) investment for our business. Branding might not be at the top of our list when we’re trying to decide how we are going to spend our hard earned dollars. Do we invest back in our business or back in our savings account? Do we spend our time getting our brand looking beautiful and legit, or do we just put our head back down and get to work!?
Branding can sometimes feel like a big process and a lot to bite off. But positioning? Positioning is a muscle you can exercise every day. And positioning pays.
Kinda sounds like I’m making branding sound like a chore. But once you commit to updating your messages, your images, your identity – a new brand that really feels like you as a person and a professional can feel so energizing, clarifying, and confident-boosting!
And if you’re working with brand experts who really make you feel heard + guide you along the way, going through a branding process can actually be the most inspiring time you spend on your own business in a long long time! (Ahem, disclaimer that was blatant Braid self-promotion! But that doesn’t make it untrue!)...
I was recently talking shop with my friend and business mentor who is wicked smart and has her finger on the pulse when it comes to all things creative online business – and as we were chatting she confessed that she didn’t entirely understand where the branding process fit in when it comes to launching a new business. We started talking about the order of setting up shop and where branding fits in. I thought, if industry professionals like US were having this clarifying conversation, it might be helpful for those of you who don’t do this for a living to get an idea of what comes first and what you need next before moving forward in launching your creative business.
Whether you’re launching an online coaching business or opening a local bookstore, I’m going to be sharing the sequence I use when launching a creative business from the ground up and hopefully clarify a few questions you might have along the way.
If you like this post and want to hear more, I’ll include links along the way with additional articles and podcast episodes that dig a little deeper. You might start by listening to this bite-sized podcast “minisode” on Being Boss: Setting Up Shop 101.
When you’re starting a business, the first thing you want to clarify is how you make money. What service, knowledge, skill, or product will you exchange for money? In other words, you need a business plan—and it doesn’t have to be fancy! Here’s a quick fill-in-the-blank model:...
Kathleen here. I was recently checking out my Google Analytics and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to learn that aside from our home page, the most visited page on our website is our “about” page.
After all, your “about me” page is the first place people go to get a glimpse of who you are, what your expertise is, and if they’re in the right place to find what they’re looking for. Your about page sets the tone for what the reader can expect if they continue to read your blog, sign up for your newsletter, or even hire you.
Your “about me” page sets the tone for your entire brand.
With that in mind, open a new tab and go take a look at your “about me” page with fresh eyes. Are you saying what you mean? If you were to read it out loud does it sound like you? Are you leaving the first impression you want to make? Is it memorable?
If you think your “about me” page could use an update or refresh, we’ve got a few ideas for you. These are the things we keep in mind as we’re writing brand stories for our own clients or coaching them through the content they should include on their own “about me” page.
Our favorite trick for writing an “about me” page is to pretend as if you’re writing a letter from the editor....
Kathleen here thinking about how it’s so hard for creatives to describe what they do in just one or two words. I’ve been there! I wear a lot of hats: co-owner, designer, writer, brand strategist, podcaster, coach, consultant, and speaker – just to name a few. So it’s really hard to sum up what I do in just one or two words.
If you don’t know what to call yourself or how to concisely describe what you do, you have a branding problem.
Because when you don’t know how to concisely describe what you do, your potential clients will feel confused as to how they can hire or engage with you, your existing customers will have a hard time referring you to their friends, and search engines will have a hard time recommending you to people who are looking for the skills you possess.
One of the easiest ways to say what you do is to first think about someone familiar with your work. Then ask “how would they describe what I do?”
So I just literally asked my husband how he describes what I do to his co-workers, for example, to see how he simplifies what I do. He said “branding consultant and podcaster.”...
Tara here. I know many of you are just starting on this adventure of building a business and brand of your own. Welcome to the wild ride! Some of you are starting on a career path working within an organization (it may not feel as wild as going rogue, but you’re still carving out your way!) Hello to you, too.
But! I’m not talking to the “just starting outers” right this moment. Nope. I’m talking to the “been-around-the-blockers.” You are at a fork, a bend, a crossing, or you simply want to stop going around this same block and try some new territory. You aren’t just starting out on this journey – you are transitioning your business or your expertise into “what’s next” for you.
And for some reason, this transition can feel a lot less exciting than the early days of starting something completely new, and frankly, more daunting.
Why does transitioning our business, our brand, or simply our expertise feel harder than starting from scratch? It’s not. We just forget how hard it was in the beginning.
When we remember the excitement of those first days, everything—even when it was small—felt big: “The first client! The first dollar! The website finally launching! The product growing! The first hire! This is working! This is sustaining! This is exceeding what I imagined!”...
Tara here. I have to say, I have more people ask me about my writing shed lately! I told Kathleen that it seems I’ll be having conversations about it for years to come! I don’t mind. I love it. I love when you can shape your space to feel creative, safe, focused, energized – or simply like “this is what I pictured! This is the vision for what I want my working life to look like!” That not only feels fulfilling, but it feels legit!
But where we work, just like where we live, has as much to do with the physical environment as it does the people we share it with. My shed is pretty solitary in the physical sense. But I’m always Skyping with clients and coworkers every day.
Many of you working on your own find the same kind of kinship and collaborative spirit online, or you make a point to step out to the local coffee shop or co-working space at least a couple times a week.
Some of you work within an organization or larger team. I see you out there too. I was one of you and I loved it too—from water cooler chatter about your favorite show to team meetings with wild doodling and brainstorming and planning, with people who – well, I’m gonna say it, people you kinda love.
Home is where the heart is. But so is work. It’s not like we just turn off our personality, our interests, our humanity, or our natural inclination toward happiness, comfort, and kinship just because we’re at work....
Kathleen here. When I was in college I worked at a fabric store. It was my job to cut bolts of raw material for people who were sewing curtains, covering a couch, or creating their own wardrobe. It was creative, fun, and I learned a lot about construction, design, and I got really good at calculating fractions and decimals and eye-balling yardage. So one day this woman comes into the store and asks a couple of my co-workers and I if we would be interested in helping her redecorate her entire house. We were excited at the opportunity but there was no clear objective, boundaries, or transactional exchange. We wound up half-heartedly designing this woman's entire house for free. It's the first time I can really recall feeling taken advantage of in a really unfair way—lesson learned. Except not...
I've had to re-learn this lesson over and over again since working for myself. Earlier in my career, I've been hired to do things that have made me feel at best, in-over-my-head and at worst, completely resentful and stressed out. All because I was still too unclear of my own brand and business vision to say no or put solid boundaries in place.
BRAND CONFUSION CLUTTERS UP BUSINESS BOUNDARIES
Listen, a lot of us creative entrepreneurs who border on being Type A control freaks (I see you) are good at A LOT of things. In fact, we can do or figure out just about anything—it's what makes us confident enough to wear so many hats as solopreneurs. So it's hard to say no when you need cash and desperately want to make a living working for yourself – or when you simply want to please the client you've grown to really like – or when you want to close the deal on that rad project that is just barely out of your scope of expertise.
When you’re a creative entrepreneur it seems like your business is always changing, even when you’re just predictably ticking right along, project-by-project. For starters, what you do and sell just keeps getting better with practice. Naturally (or intentionally!) your following and your reputation grow. For some, the growth is slow and steady, for others, it’s a flurry, and for most of us, it’s a mix of both.
Tara here. Whether you’re a hot spark or a slow burn, a tortoise or a hare, (you guys know which one I am, slow and steady wins the race, right?) – the longer you work in the business you’ve created for yourself, the more clearly you know what you like, what you love, and what you’d rather not do any more at all.
“The longer you work in the business you’ve created for yourself, the more clearly you know what you love & what you’d rather not do any more at all.”
So I want to talk about those times when we’re not just routinely ticking along. What about those times when you are completely energized, preoccupied, even agitated, by a new idea for your business—an idea that would take your business (and your life) to a way of working that you would really love. What happens when your own inner-hare starts thump-thump-thumping and wants to take off!?
When you work for yourself, it’s not like you’re in a constant state of bliss. But it’s nice, even exhilarating, when I’m randomly struck by how much freedom, flexibility, and fulfillment I really have. I feel it when I see the client names and
Because the next newsletter that’s due to go out, or the next brand platform due to a client aren’t overwhelming to-do’s—they don’t want to make me throw my hands up or quit, they fuel the dream! I know the work will unfold and happen the way it always does, in methodical steps, not in late nights or mad dashes.
This has become my natural humdrum way of working and living. There’s no going back now. For me, it’s the day-to-day routines and ways of doing business that really make my job dreamy.
1. We share content consistently & stick to sharing what we’re known for.
Kathleen, my younger sister and the force behind how we share content at Braid, loves routines. She also loves sharing content – blogging, podcasting, videocasting, and creating products that can help lots of people.
Maybe this part isn’t as fun for you. I’m more naturally inclined to the one-on-one dialogue of working with a client. But I still see how sharing content—at our own pace, on the platforms we feel comfortable with, and in our own voice—keeps our dream going:...
Tara here. Kathleen and I were hosting a webinar last week about attracting your dream client, navigating selling conversations with more confidence, and helping them actually hire you once they are ready to find out more.
The creative entrepreneurs, makers, consultants, and coaches gathered together to hang out and learn something new from us—and also share the thoughts and concerns so many of us have pinging around in our head. They also voiced many of the same heartfelt uncertainties and declarations we hear again and again (and feel ourselves!) for their brand and business vision:
“I want to show up, to position myself as an expert in my field!”
“I feel like I’m second-guessing my value to my dream client or why they should invest in me.”
“I don’t even know who my dream client is or how to attract them.”
“I need to be more consistent about how & what I share online.”
When you share your brand in all your “brand places,” what you’re really doing is informing and inspiring the people who are attracted to your style and what you sell. A brand is a blend of your style and content—so it’s also letting the people who aren’t exactly clicking with your vibe decide for themselves, “thanks but no thanks, this isn’t really a fit for me.” Tara here, and yep, like Kathleen shared yesterday, even if you have blue hair people will still want to hire you.
That’s what a brand does, it speaks for you even when you’re not there. But how are you speaking for yourself when you are there, face-to-face with a person interested in hiring you?
How do you turn a fan who is inspired by you into a paying client who trusts you and feels really good about hiring you? The answer is you don’t “turn” them. They have to make the decision for themselves. And that’s honestly a relief for most creative entrepreneurs. Because we kinda hate feeling like we have to persuade people.
Many of us cringe at the idea of “selling” ourselves. When we feel like we have to sell ourselves we either can go really over-the-top, trying to be sparkly, or sophisticated, or seem like we have “all the answers!”...
The best part about working for yourself and creating your own brand and business vision is that you get to make the rules. You can decide where you work from, what your office hours are, and you don’t have to ask anyone for vacation time off. But there are still some restricting rules we impose on ourselves—maybe from the corporate world we’ve just recently left or perhaps societal norms of “what’s professional” is subconsciously dictating some of our decisions.
Kathleen here and this week in the Being Boss Facebook group (Being Boss is the podcast I co-host) we’re chatting about whether or not it’s professional to have funky colored hair. You see, a creative had just quit her corporate job to work for herself and wanted to try something new and out-of-the-box with her hair. When she asked whether or not it was going to repel potential clients she got a resounding “No! Do your thing!” from almost 100 other creatives who are redefining the boundaries of what’s professional.
Now, the style of your hair is a superficial example of whether or not you’re playing by someone else’s rules or trying to live by a social standard that isn’t entirely authentic to your own creative expression. But there are some deeper standards and norms that might be worth reconsidering when it comes to playing by your own rules. For example, when I first started working for myself, I felt as if I should still be tracking my time in :15 minute increments—a process that was strictly adhered to in my old advertising agency. I felt so liberated the day I decided, “Nope. Time tracking is not for me.” I not only ditched the stop watch, but I started making more money by billing by the project rather than by the hour....
Personal branding is a topic that I’ve focused my entire creative career and expertise on. This probably started as a mission to be voted “most non-conformist” every year, from middle school to graduation day. Or perhaps it comes from my need to feel as if the work I’m doing has meaning and purpose that contributes to my personal identity. Or maybe it’s simply wanting to live a wholehearted, authentic, and creatively aligned life. Either way, I’m not backing down anytime soon.
Personal branding is recognizing that business is personal. People buy from people, therefore your personality is a business asset. And this is where personal branding gets tricky: who you are as a person is layered and complex and always evolving. So how do you know which aspects of your personality should show up in your business and where do you draw appropriate boundaries?
Think of your personal brand as a dinner party.