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. In reality, I'm sure there are a lot of things you won't do for money (Indecent Proposal, anyone?), but if you're confused about your own brand and business vision, it's easy to accidentally fall into situations where you're doing work you don't really want to be known for.
“If you're confused about your own brand, it's easy to fall into doing work you don't want to be known for.” (Tweet this)
For years, Tara and I have been helping creatives get underneath what their brand is all about, and we learned early on that asking what they ARE NOT all about is a great way to get clear on who they are and what they want to be known for.
So ask yourself this: what will you NOT do for money? Look at your "about me" page or your "how to hire me" page on your website – is there anything about it that might confuse people into thinking you do something that you don't?
NEED MORE BRAND CLARITY?
We’ve created a free e-book: 7 Ways to Brand You & What You Do to help you get clear of your own brand and business vision. This workbook includes seven chapters + lots of brand exercises that will help you understand how to share your vision, create the work you actually want to be doing, narrow in on your dream client, and create a process that your clients respect.
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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.Here at Braid Creative, in our one-on-one work and in our online branding program, we have an exercise called “dinner party” where you invite a handful of guests over for dinner—they can be celebrities, historical, fictional, or even an archetype—as a way to uncover aspects of your personal brand. If you were to invite 4-6 people over for dinner, who would it be? What are the qualities, characteristics, and values of these dinner guests? List out each of your guest’s expertise and what advice they would share. You can even describe what they wear.
Now here’s the kicker! Each of these guests actually represent an aspect of your own personality, expertise, or aspiration. Look for the themes and patterns across the “dinner table.” What do your guests have in common with each other? What do they have in common with you? Which guests really inspire and attract – what makes them so magnetic? If your guest could get ahold of your brand, what would they change or do first?
Earlier this week Tara posted the two things our clients always say when they hire us: 1) “I want a brand that feels like me!” and 2) “I want a brand that is clear.”
While the dinner party exercise may feel like you’re getting clarity around someone else’s personal brand, what you’re really doing is recognizing more specific aspects of yourself that you admire in them. You are narrowing in on that special thing that makes them memorable. You can more clearly see where the overlaps and disconnects are in how you’re making an impression on your own audience.
Once you know who you are and what you want to be known for, you can make more decisive decisions around the more surface-y stuff like the colors, logo design, and images you use on your website and in your social media. When you get stumped, you can ask, “What would my dinner guests say? How can I translate this bit of advice or inspiration into my own voice? Or how can I apply just a bit of the style that admire in them, to my own know-how?”
Remember! You’re never copy-catting your dinner guests, instead you are using that distilled aspect of them you love to remind yourself of your own voice and style. Try it the next time you write a blog post, email, or social media caption. Your dinner guests may just help you get across the message and tone you’ve been struggling to deliver!
Join the Free Webinar where I explain this more
On Friday, July 15th 2016 Tara and I held a webinar to talk about how to create a brand that feels authentic and attracts raving dream clients who not only love you but pay you what you’re worth as well as how to own your creative expertise and getting clear on what you sell.
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There are two big “wants” that motivate people to get their brand shaped up the way they really want it to be. You would think a strong branding desire would be to make more money, or gain more followers, or dream clients. Sure, those wants are in the mix, but the biggest pleas for branding help we hear time and time again:
1.) “I want to my brand to feel more like me! It just doesn’t look or sound like my personality or style!” and 2.) “I want my brand to be more clear! I want people to understand how to hire me, what I’m best at, and what they get from me!”
“I want a brand that feels like me.”
Stay tuned because Kathleen is going to be sharing about how to have a brand that feels more like you in the next couple of days: How to get your voice and style into your brand places, content, and conversations. This is how you attract and inspire clients, followers, even collaborators – by being yourself!
“I want a brand that is clear.”
Tara here, and I want to share more on the getting clear part, which is really about getting clear on what you sell. Once people are attracted or inspired by you, do they understand how to hire you? Do you?
Knowing what you sell, what your clients can expect along the way, and what they get at the end takes some work to hone in on. Most of it is really just self-editing. Can you cut out the services or products that you no longer want to be doing? What if you still offered these services – but just no longer devoted the space, the bullets, and the layers of explanation they require that are cluttering up your brand?
A clearer focus on what you sell doesn’t have to mean claiming a niche. It can simply mean keeping what you’re best at and what you want to be known for front and center in your brand messages — and cutting the rest.
Let’s say I only had thirty minutes to spend with you as a branding client or I could only share one exercise with you as a Braid ECourse student. If my goal was to help you get clear on what you sell, it would be the exercise “If You Wrote A Book.” I’ve shared it before but it’s just so darn distilling on so many levels. Here’s how to get the most out of this exercise:
1. Get out a piece of paper, and ask yourself: “if I wrote a book, what would it be?” Instead of thinking of all the ways you’re selling yourself on your website or trying to explain your process in your “closing the deal” brand conversations, let’s say you had to write a “how-to” book that revealed the work you create for your clients one-on-one. What if they had to do it themselves? What steps would you tell them to take? What would they learn in each of the chapters?
2. Start with the “chapters.” Don’t try to name your “book” first. Outline eight chapters to start. Avoid overly-clever or conceptual chapter names. Name your chapters in a straightforward way that describes what people actually get or learn as they read them. Then see if you can narrow or combine (edit!) down to just four chapters.
3. Next, add bullets to fill in the “at-a-glance” details. These are the tools, skills, practices, or insights you use. Three bullets for each chapter is a good rule to stick to. So four chapters with three bullets each means you’ve got twelve talking points right there – that simply and clearly explain what your clients can expect when they hire you.
Your “chapters” are the ingredients you deliver every time. This is the brand language you should be using to get clear about what people get from you. This is how you sell what you do!
4. Last, try to naming your “book.” The title can be a little more expressive, but the subhead should do the explaining. What I mean is, the title can be more infused with your personality or deeper purpose. But the subhead underneath should be as close as possible to the “thing” the “package” that people are buying from you. Our title could be “Your Secret Brand Blend,” but the subhead would be “how to brand you + what you do.” Your title could very well be the name of your offering, your package, or your product. It could be the name of your whole dang business if you’ve been struggling with that one, too.
5. Bonus, if you still want to get more of “you” into your brand, then write your introduction. It’s not the whole book, it’s not a memoir, and it’s definitely not “dear diary.” But your introduction touches on your own story or reason for doing the work you do. Guess what, you just rewrote your about me page for your website, and got some of that “I want it to feel like me” blended it with the “I want to be clear” messaging you’ve been wanting for your brand.
Give this exercise a try! It may be like opening a can of worms (because now you’ll really want to write that book), but I think it will be like opening a can of clarity! Get clear on what you sell, make it feel like you, get it blended into your brand – and get it out there.
We created a worksheet with more details on where this “book” content actually lives and shows up in your brand – both online and off.
[FREE WEBINAR]: On Friday, July 15th 2016 Kathleen and I hosted a free branding webinar where we shared more insights and answered on-topic questions attendees asked on getting clear about what you sell and how you inspire and attract paying clients to you in the first place. You can watch the replay here.
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