is branding & business visioning
for creative entrepreneurs.

There has been lots of talk about money around here lately. First off, Tara and I recently worked with a business coach who forced us to take a look at our streams of revenues, our expenses, our income and basically crunch the numbers. We’ve also been talking to our own clients and mastermind groups about packaging their creative process in ways that people know how to buy, as well as pricing their products and services appropriately based on how much money they want to make against how many hours they want to be working a week. It’s all simple math, really - so why does a numbers game feel like such an emotional tug-of-war? 

Because for us creatives it’s not just about making money. It’s about living the dream, designing portfolio-worthy work, and working with dream customers who really care about what we’re doing for them. And let's face it, money is an easy and standard way to measure success. So if we’re not making very much of it we feel bad. But if we’re making lots of money but are working with mean and disrespectful clients we feel even worse (and a bit like hookers). 

So, today I want to give you more details on the single most powerful tool we use to not only track our income but also to attract our dream customer - the chalkboard wall. 


When Tara and I first started Braid Creative we worked with our life coach, Jay Pryor, to help us cope with the transition of a stable day job to the uncertainty of self-employment. After three months and zero clients we started feeling a little anxiety around this so-called dream job we had created for ourselves. Jay told us that the universe abhors a vacuum and that we simply needed to create a vacuum. "Now do what?" I asked as I started to visualize deconstructing my Roomba to somehow magically manifest a paycheck. He explained that we needed to create space for our clients - that if we build it, they will come. Jay also instructed us to create a mantra to manifest not just cash, but the kind of dreamy clients that make your job well ... a dream. 

So as instructed, I created space for these potential clients by drawing 10 big empty spaces on the chalkboard wall I had painted in my home office. It was nothing less than terrifying. Then Tara drew a magnet with a cupid’s arrow through it to represent our mantra which was: “We are attracting dream customers with cash.” Jay also instructed us to create space for “unexpected extra” - that way we weren’t constrained by our own self-limiting goals. 

A week later all 10 spots on our chalkboard were filled. A week after that the “unexpected extra” spaces were filled with fun projects too. Now, it sounds a little Law of Attraction woo-woo. And while I’d like to believe there was some universal magic at play, I think what the chalkboard system really did was guide our conscious minds into action around what was possible. Tracking our progress was also a huge confidence boost. And now, it’s become an almost superstitious act of faith. 

To this day we still use our chalkboard every fiscal quarter to not just track our 1:1 dream customer engagements but also to track and manifest personal goals, projects, social media stats, and ECourse enrollments. And every quarter it feels just as scary as the first time to create all those new blank spots - but every time we manage to fill them. Oh, and we still have our good luck magnet and we still create space for those unexpected extras. We also recommend each and every one of our clients use this method for tracking and attracting - like us they're scared and resistant at first, but without fail we always get bewildered and excited emails that it actually works. So go forth, make a chalkboard wall! 

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We get more specific about how we currently track what we attract in our Braid ECourse Dream Customer Catching - which will be in-session again in mid-September. But for now, you have through tomorrow, Thursday July 18th, to register for our popular Braid ECourse for creative entrepreneurs Shape Up Your Content: Tame Your Ideas and Tell People How to Buy You. We promise you’ll come away from it with new ideas for working with your ideal client without becoming an order-taking pixel pushing hooker. Register and learn more about that Braid ECourse here. Use the code JULY2013SHAPEUP50 to take this $75 ECourse for $50. 

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Need even more help around getting right with money? Check out the new book The Declaration of You by Jessica Swift & Michelle Ward. The Declaration of You, gives readers all the permission they've craved to step passionately into their lives, discover how they and their gifts are unique and uncover what they are meant to do! This post is part of The Declaration of You's BlogLovin' Tour, which I'm thrilled to participate in alongside over 200 other creative bloggers. Learn more -- and join us! -- by clicking here.

This book isn’t your typical dry & stuffy business book. You can tell it’s written by witty ladies who are wicked smart but with a sense of humor. The whimsy design and fun exercises will appeal to your inner 12-year-old in the best way possible. I especially loved the interviews with real creative entrepreneurs - they’ll make you feel less alone in your own struggles and insecurities around topics like money, self-care, and success.  


(If you’re reading this post through an RSS feed or email be sure to click through to watch the video.) 

You guys may already know that we’re huge fans of Instagram. But lately we’ve found ourselves recommending it more and more to our creative entrepreneur clients. Instagram is an awesome way to visually connect with your friends, network with potential dream customers or brand advocates, and “show your tell”. But it’s also a great way capture, shape, and share who you are, and what you do – in a consistent, curated, behind-the-scenes of your life and work kind of way. 

Instagram is great for creatives like life coaches and consultants who aren’t necessarily photographers or designers, but still want to show of their goods, and their personal brand in a visual way, and look good doing it.

So this is how I, myself, and Braid’s creative entrepreneur clients, are using Instagram to capture, shape and share their business and personal brand. Now “capture, shape and share” is a three step approach I talk about a lot, especially when it comes to my blogging strategy (for both my personal blog and the Braid blog.) But really, you can just as easily overlay those three principles to a platform like Instagram – like a microblog approach I mention below (but with less writer’s block). 

Capture Instagram

Capture the Details: Instagram gets me thinking about capturing the small brand experiences I encounter – from a hand stamped placemat in my favorite restaurant to the way a lemon rind and oversized ice cube sits in my whiskey. 
• Capture Inspiration: Instagram is a great tool for visual note taking on the fly. For example, I’ve used Instagram to scout locations and capture test shots for brand videos.  
• Capture the Process: Instagram is an awesome way to share the behind-the-scenes process and tools you use to create for your clients. 

Shape Instagram

• Shape the Image: One of the things I love about Instagram is the ability to actually shape the final photograph with different filters (though, I prefer “rise”) and tilt-shift blur options. I also like to go in and add typographic overlays or multiply color over my images in Photoshop when taking my Instagram photos to my blog. But even if you’re not a graphic designer, filtering your images through Instagram is a great way to create consistency with the images you’re sharing. 
• Shape your Point-of-View: Go through your entire collection of Instagram snaps and start to find patterns. What colors do you capture a lot? What subjects? Do you consistently shoot from a certain angle or point-of-view? You’ll notice that the Instagram with the most followers (like one of my favorites, A Merry Mishap) have a consistent point-of-view. 
• Shape the Story: You can include a description with your Instagram images and treat it almost like a daily microblog. I often use Instagram to capture images I will later craft an in-depth blog post around later.  

Share Instagram

• Share on Instagram: One of the things I like about Instagram (vs. other camera apps like Hipstamatic – which are awesome for photo editing, as well) is the built in community designed for sharing. Just like Twitter you can explore hashtagged topics – one of my favorites is #WHP. #WHP stands for “Weekend Hashtag Project” where Instagram challenges users to capture a topic or theme like “birds on a wire” or “from where I stand” and tag it. It’s so cool to see what everyone else comes up with. Check out Instagram’s blog or follow @Instagram for interesting users and hashtags to follow and participate in. 
•  Share Elsewhere: You can also send your Instagram photos out to Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr as you post them to your Instagram feed. This is a great way to flood all your social media platforms with beautiful, and consistent, images that share you and your brand. Different audiences may be following you in different places but you can add more information or tidbits to avoid becoming redundant if you find you have the same followers across your social media platforms. 
• Share in Real Life: One of my favorite new companies, Artifact Uprising, is designed to easily get your photos m your phone to print books and calendars. You can also use for miniprints, posters, and stickers. You can decorate your office or use these prints as self-promotional materials to send to your favorite dream customers. 

Are you using Instagram to capture, shape, and share your business and personal brand? Let us know your Instagram tips, advice, or insights on our Facebook page. P.S. You can follow my Instagram account here. 

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Our Braid ECourse Personal Branding: Blending Who You Are With What You Do is open for registration until February 14th. This $75 ECourse has 3 lessons loaded with tips, advice and our philosophy on defining your personal brand, thriving in the overlap between personal and professional, and sharing that brand online and off. All of that content, including worksheets and videos, will be available to you while the course is in-session from Feb. 15th - 24th. Register and find out more here.


Liz here. We definitely have word-weaving and message-crafting on the brain at Braid this week. A lot to do with the second offering of the Braid ECourse: "Shape Up Your Content: Tame Your Ideas and Tell People How to Buy You." So why have Tara and Kathleen asked me to share my point-of-view and perhaps a few helpful pointers for creatives on sharing content through visuals – as opposed to only the written word? Well, I can certainly appreciate (and aspire to create) simple, memorable statements in lieu of those daunting “one thousand words” when it makes sense to do so. And, this shouldn’t really come as a surprise, but some enrollees of the messaging-focused Ecourse last time around, requested a little more insight into shaping their image-based content (the ECourse itself peppered with infographics, photos, and videos).

For visual people, sometimes it just makes more sense to share images more often than words. You can usually articulate something – a feeling, a sense of place, a moment in time –  that words would only begin to describe. Plus writing is hard! Sometimes “the telling” can feel contrived coming from someone who could nail the same sentiment with a single, well-art-directed image (or a quick candid video, or a tricked-out infographic).  What are some ways to create a consistency over time with those images that clues people into the fact that this content is coming from... you?

If your strengths translate better through visual content, the goal here is to make sure that visual content is consistent. Whether you're sharing your gifts of knowledge with followers, or sharing your creative process with potential clients, consistency helps create a bridge between those beautiful images you're showing and the beautiful ideas behind them. It also builds trust – once you start to define and maintain a consistent visual sharing style, followers will start to equate your type treatment / favorite color and texture combo / Instagram filter with your brilliant brilliance (overt redundancy! – yet another trick of the visual-thinker-turned-writer). 

Chances are, you already have a defined visual style, you maybe just don't think of it that way. But you definitely have a natural tendency to look at things a certain way. Think back to some of your favorite photographs or images:
- Do you always zoom in super-close with your camera, to capture details? 
- Are your favorite photos birds-eye view? 
- Do you frame everything consciously centered and balanced, or asymmetrical?
- Does everything look better in black and white to you? 
- Are you drawn to all things vibrant and saturated?
- Is everything always perfectly in focus (or perfectly out-of-focus)?
- Do you keep returning to a particular typeface, or color, or texture?

Find a few overarching themes, and see if any of them can combine to create a style that's authentically you. Culling a style from what you’re already drawn to and capturing is also an easy way to assure that you’ll keep creating this kind of content in the future. 

Braid's visual system evolved from Kathleen's blog - most specifically, how she shared her life-changing trip to Nepal. Her “bold yellow or white type and graphics overlaid on travel photography” style morphed into Braid’s “bold yellow or white type and graphics overlaid on one well-loved chalkboard wall” style. It's simple, it's straightforward, and its become an absolutely essential piece of our content-sharing puzzle. We use it across every platform we share on - our blog posts, in our ECourses, and on our Facebook wall - so you always know Braid content the moment you see it. 





Your visual consistency should also carry over to platforms other than your blog. Instagram is a great way for visual people (especially photographers and stylists) to showcase their eye. 

Photographer Jason Hudson wrote about a great guide for creating lovely, personal-brand-solidifying consistency on Instagram here. One tip is to limit yourself to one filter (Jason prefers the moody, desaturated Brannan), so that regardless of what you're capturing, all your images will have a similar tone and palette. It's an easy way to stay consistent without having to think about it constantly. 

Did you know, for example, that Kathleen exclusively uses the Rise filter on her Instagram? I didn't, until recently. It gives everything she posts this kind of soft, early-morning zen glow, and tints everything with a little bit of the yellow that’s so prevalent on her blog. I feel like a kid in a vintage-filter candy store every time I go to post something – so I'm impressed by her ability to limit herself to just one filter. Consistent!

Okay, but if the idea of getting your words equally consistent still appeals to you, we’re gonna agree: the pairing of the visual with the verbal is really going to really give you the greatest content memorability. 

So, of course Tara and Kathleen would want me to mention our Braid ECourse “Shape Up Your Content: Tame Your Ideas and Tell People How to Buy You” is only open for registration through end of day Thursday and is in session January 11-20! It’s designed to help creative professionals, bloggers, entrepreneurs and aspiring-to-be’s wrap their head around all their ideas, focus on the ones that are content-worthy, weed out the ones that cause distraction and confusion – and make what they are writing and saying less generic, more authentic, and supportive of their actual vision for themselves and their creative business (whether they’re showing or telling). Go here to register and learn more.


Braid Creative & Consulting is branding and business visioning for creative entrepreneurs. The Braid Blog is where we share weekly insights and resources for creatives.

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