I recently invited a portion our Braid newsletter list to “ask me anything.” Over the next few weeks I’m going to share some of those questions and my answers. If you’re not subscribed to our list feel free to sign up here:
Question from Karen:
I know what my dream job is, but still feel like I have to have a salaried job before getting to the dream job; I'm the family's sole breadwinner. So how do I find momentum to promote my current work to get a salaried job when my enthusiasm is not super high?
I eventually want to market my watercolors of public paths (note cards and calendars with mini-path network hikes on the back) and eventually add to that teaching plein air painting along the paths. But right now I have to focus on gathering samples, creating a portfolio and website, and start marketing myself for the next salaried day job. How do I stay focused and keep the prize in sight to stay motivated?
Thanks for sharing all of this. In reading your email, it sounds like you know what you need to do. But I have three insights that might help you find the motivation you’re looking for.
TAKE THE SMALLEST NEXT STEP
When I’m not feeling motivated to write or design, my solution to this is always to "just open the file." Or it might be "just lace up your shoes" when I don't feel like exercising.
In other words, just do the first and smallest next step. That's all you need to do. In fact, the prize doesn’t even need to necessarily be in sight to be working for it. It might be well around the bend, but you can still take the next steps to get where you want to go. Don't worry about thinking about the big picture in your day-to-day – that's enough to paralyze anybody from doing anything at all.
The next smallest step for you, Karen, might be deciding which pieces to put in your portfolio. And for today, that’s all you need to do. Tomorrow you can apply for the jobs. The day after that you can start the framework for your website. Task it out and check off the to-do list. You don’t need inspired-action to take small steps.
CREATE THE FEELING NOW
Anytime I am feeling impatient for my next big dream, I try to create the feeling of achieving the goal now.
For example, my big, scary, and improbable goal right now is to have my own bestselling book published and on the shelves in airports. Even typing that out now gets my inner critic going off on a tangent with things so harsh I won’t even share them here. But instead of giving in before I even get started, I give myself a minute to think about what I’ll feel like when I have my bestselling book in the airport: I’ll feel confident, knowledgeable, and legit. That feeling will make my conversations more generous, my time more valuable, and my posture a little taller. So why not have generous conversations, strong boundaries, and good posture now? When I feel the feelings of success before I ever achieve it, it makes me move through the world with confidence. That confidence then cultivates the motivation and behaviors that deliver the success I’m wanting with that much more ease and speed.
So for you Karen, imagine how you will feel when you’re supporting yourself with your watercolors and workshops. How will you move through the world once you’ve achieved this goal? How could you begin behaving as if success is already yours?
The answers to these questions might circle you back to taking the next smallest step to making the dream job a reality now. Maybe you find yourself having conversations with potential collaborators who will help you host a teaching workshop on the weekend. Perhaps you carve out just 30 minutes a day to begin painting now.
KEEP THE PRIZE IN SIGHT (LITERALLY)
My final recommendation to your question of “how to keep the prize in sight” is to literally create space for the vision. Mood boarding by cutting out inspiring images from magazines and tacking them to a corkboard in your home is an old school way of doing this. Your brain will acknowledge these goals on a daily basis and work toward them for you, even when you’re not feeling motivated or inspired to do the work yourself. And if you haven’t done The Chalkboard Method yet, this might be a great way to create space for your goals as well.
Finally, I want you to trust that you’re doing everything you can, in the right time, to make your creative career a dream come true.
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Kathleen here. Last night I was browsing the Kindle bookstore looking for a fictional book I could escape into. Before I knew it, I was browsing personal development and business books. Does this ever happen to you? I’m guessing you’re a student of life and just as invested in learning All The Things as I am.
The hard part is balancing the learning with the doing. It’s easy to begin to hoard knowledge without ever implementing it. Or becoming overwhelmed with all the things you should be doing according to the last book, course, or webinar you attended.
So today, I want to share a couple ways I’ve balanced learning and doing:
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the things you don’t know, make a list of everything you’ve already learned. Think about education, courses, books, and conferences you’ve attended. Make a list and next to each one write down even just one thing you learned.
Any time I start fantasizing about getting a masters degree in creative writing, I decide to just sit down and do some creative writing instead. Sometimes the best way to learn is by actually doing the thing. (And on that note, can I get an honorary master’s in business from somebody???)
You guys, it wasn’t until early last year that I knew what a “content upgrade” was. Just recently I learned the importance of an auto-drip sequence for your email list. I was running a profitable and successful business long before I knew what a sales funnel was or even had an email list. There are a lot of people trying to scare you into buying their thing in order for you to be successful, but if you learn one thing today it is this: you don’t have to know it all to be successful.
Before you read another book or buy another course ask yourself “What is it that I want to learn?” So for example, let’s say I pick up the most recent Seth Godin book, before I crack the spine I might say something like: “I’m hoping to learn just one technique for growing my list.” or “I want to get more comfortable selling myself.” That way when I’m reading through the content, I’m focused on acquiring knowledge that will support my intention, rather than getting distracted or overwhelmed by all the content.
And how are you going to act on it? Any time I go to a conference or read a new book, I reflect on the one thing that really stood out and I act on just that one thing. For example, early last year I was at a small mastermind retreat in Mexico with a few creative entrepreneurs. I learned a lot of things, but the one thing that stood out most was that I should be adding content upgrades to my most trafficked blog posts in order to grow my list. I came home, looked at my metrics, designed some worksheets, and asked my assistant to help me with the technical side of adding opt-ins to those posts. Since then my list has grown by 2,000 people.
The final thing I want to leave you with is that you don’t have to be an expert in the idea you’re implementing before you try it out. But it’s not enough to hoard knowledge without ever acting on it. So… what’s one thing you want to learn? What’s one thing you learned recently that you can implement that you haven’t acted on yet?
P.S. Lately, we’ve been telling our ECourse students that if they just tackle ONE lesson and learn ONE thing they’re going to get the most bang for their buck in Lesson 3: Your Creative Expertise and in Lesson 5: Shaping Your Brand Messages. Okay, that’s two lessons. But truly, if you JUST did those two lessons you’re going to learn a lot you can immediately act on to attract more dream clients.
Our Braid Method Branding ECourse has 7 modules, a workbook filled with branding exercises, audio tracks (so you can learn on the go), and a live quarterly masterclass where we dig in and answer any questions you might have. This course is DIY at-your-own-pace. Learn more and see if it’s a fit here.
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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.
Sound familiar? I know, me too. I spent the first eight years of my career as a graphic designer battling feedback that was anything less than glowing. But I’ve learned a few things along the way – and I’d like to share those coping skills with you today. I’m writing this post from my perspective as a graphic designer, but I think it could apply to any visual creative field.
It’s really easy to rush to judgments at first glance. You’ll only pick up the very worst parts of what’s being said and come to quick conclusions when your feelings are hurt. So when you receive feedback from a client, be sure to read it at least three times before you start freaking out. If a client is giving you feedback in person, write down, word-for-word, what they’re saying (it’s easy to forget what was said when emotions take over).
Actively listen to your client. What is it they’re actually saying? What are their biggest concerns? Which part of the work, specifically, is and is not resonating with them? Why?
Remember, you and your client are both on the same side with the same goals. Get on the phone or face-to-face – reiterate the original objectives of the project, your client’s original input, and explain your creative rationale (without getting defensive). Your client is probably as flustered as you are – they may be feeling a range of emotions as well! What you want in this situation is to remain calm, transparent, and open. Sometimes, going through rough patches with a client (and acting like a kind pro in the process) will only help them trust you even more through the next round of revisions!
Sometimes criticism can feel HUGE when in fact, you just need to make a small shift. For example, one time I presented a branding project and the client said it just didn’t feel right. At first glance, I thought my client was asking for something COMPLETELY different than what I had designed. But after a little bit of conversation, I realized my client wasn’t jiving with just a few aspects of what I had created. With a slight color-shift and a minor typography change, the brand was still on-point, not that different from my original concept, and made all the difference to my client.
You can even use this tactic to reassure your client that you guys are on the right track. You can say something like: “Okay, after chatting I think we’re still on the right track, and with just a few adjustments, we can easily have a design that both of us feel really good about.”
Pretend like you’re in couples therapy with your client – repeat the requested feedback, verbatim, to them. Then share your concerns, insights, and recommendations and plan of attack so everyone gets what they want.
An actual conversation might look like this: “I’m hearing you say that the typography isn’t ‘clean’ enough and you’re looking for something that feels ‘modern’ and ‘sleek’. My suggestion is that we update the expressive typography to something classic, and maybe tone down the accent colors you originally wanted to something a little more neutral, like a metallic, so that it still has a little edge. Is it cool if I try that approach? Keeping in mind your desire for something clean, modern, and sleek, while I make those tweaks?”
Your client doesn’t speak the same language you do. Their feedback may read a little harsh only because they don’t have the words to describe what they like and don’t like about the work (which has to be frustrating for them too!). If your work is visual, one of the best things you can do to get back on track is moodboard out an updated design (textures, typography, color palettes, photography, logos, themes, etc.) and ask them specifically which examples they like and ask what they like about it. As you begin to see what they’re gravitating toward, give them language to describe what they like and don’t like.
You might even say something like: “I’m noticing that all the examples you’re pointing out have organic textures paired with black hand-drawn lettering. And while you like hot pink, it appears that most of the brands you like use accent colors in their photography more than the actual brand identity.”
Remember, at the end of the day if you can maintain control over your own emotions, assume the best, act with intention, humanize your motives and your client’s feedback, and strive for a positive outcome everyone is enthusiastic about ... then you are truly doing the best you can.
If you found this helpful for dealing with client reject, but you're also wondering how to get more clients in the first place, you're in luck! We held a FREE webinar on Friday, January 27th where we shared three simple things you can do to attract more dream clients (without feeling icky). Sign up to watch the webinar replay here.
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