Do you have a creative process you follow? Are you taking the same steps every time? Are you showing your client? Are you letting them truly be a collaborative part of the process? Are you actually sticking to your method when you’re all alone trying to figure out this design or deliverable or recommendation... “for reals?” Or are your steps just empty bullets on your website? Are these questions making you squirm just a little?
We aren’t trying to process-shame you! We just get really passionate about this.
Creating a process for ourselves—our Braid Method, in fact—is how we were able to go from designers/writers for hire, to branding experts in lightening fast speed. Our first three months of business was taking on any client who would pay the bills, for any project we could write, design or brand. By the end of our first nine months of business, we were only working with dream clients (creative entrepreneurs working for themselves) who hired us for our specific branding process, not the whole kitchen sink or other one-off projects that we don’t specialize in.
Now four years later we look back and ask: how would we ever have developed our ecourse, or shared our ebooks or email series, or continued to get hired by so many creatives from around the country and world (we’re from the midwest you guys) if we didn’t actually use the creative tools and steps we had already taken ten, then twenty, then fifty, and now hundred times and counting for our own clients?
Even if you don’t want to go quite as far as defining this all-encompassing creative process, wouldn’t it just be nice to feel more in control of your client projects? Wouldn’t it be a relief to be able to walk someone through your steps and what they get at the end with confidence, so you didn’t have to sell so hard? But most of all, wouldn’t it be so cool if instead of wondering where the next creative idea was coming from as you sit in front of that blank page on the computer or at your drafting table, you would know that your process would not fail you and the answer would emerge?
If a process feels empty or clinical to you, it may be because that’s how you’re thinking of it. It’s not an assembly line. But if you aren’t following any sort of framework at all, then we’re going to ask you “why, oh why, are you recreating the wheel every time, for every client?”
Your reasons for not following set creative steps might be:
“Every client is unique!”
“Each challenge requires a custom solution!”
“Because that’s what creatives DO, we create something new and fresh!"
All these answers are true. And no, you don’t need a clinical or assembly-line style process. But you do need an approach, and a framework you always follow:
“Yes, the client is unique, but you are that gentle but firm guide, who has been here before.”
“Every new challenge should not feel like starting over from scratch. You are a specialist.”
“New and fresh, is not created from nothing. You have a process. Even if you don’t know it.”
Being a working creative doesn’t mean that you should be winging it every time on pure creative gusto alone (because underneath that gusto is every creative’s fear the client won’t like the finished product—or worse—you won’t like it either, that you’re all out of creative juice, and you might as well just close up shop). It also doesn’t mean you should be creating at the whim of the client, which is a slippery slope to having lots of little bosses instead of feeling like an intuitive, listening, and collaborative creative guide who is leading your client down a path together (sure, with some course correction along the way) – but a path you know will create the best, most authentic, most loved outcome for you and your client.
A creative process is like a path that you created over time, starting when it wasn’t a path at all, but just the wildness of all the uncertain directions you could take, and you were sweating and scared and getting lost and looping back on yourself. You got there, it was exciting, but it was hard. Now the path is still wild and mysterious, and winding, but there it is, those worn steps that you’ve taken that you know will get you to the swimming hole, the waterfall, the mysterious cave, the good stuff at the end.
“I’m convinced! I want to shore up my process!” you say. Then try this: We got so passionate and up on our soapbox in this post, we didn’t really share any how-to’s. That’s because this would be one seriously long post if we did. But we’re created this instruction manual already — The Braid Method Branding ECourse. If you love being “asked the tough questions that you didn’t even know you needed asking” (a favorite quote a designer from Phoenix, AZ taking the course shared with us) then check it out!
The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to supporting themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.
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Today’s post comes from our Branding for Designers email series. Almost everyone on the Braid team started out as a graphic designer so we have a special place in our hearts for you all. We know your struggles first hand and wanted to create a series just for you. Oh, and if you’d like to get a free eBook on how to brand yourself as a creative expert sign up here. Now on to the post!
There is a mindset shift that happens when you go from being solely a creative-for-hire, to being a creative who guides their own process, shares their point-of-view, and is branded (and hired as) an expert – and it has to do with how you spend your work time.
This shift happens when you make it a priority to spend time shaping your brand and your business, even when it feels like you only have time to do client work.
This isn’t easy when our natural tendency is the “doing.” The doing is the rewarding part, right? The reward can simply be that feeling of being in the zone and totally losing yourself in the work – especially in those times when you’re lucky enough to be doing the work you love. But even if that’s not the case, you still just love the comfortable routine of the “doing” itself, plus paying the bills even if every project can’t feed the soul.
The “doing” is necessary because it’s how you make your product or provide your service, it’s how you make money, and it’s how you make yourself into a more skilled, layered, and confident creative expert over time.
The “shaping” is a little more challenging. At first. It takes a different kind of practice. This is devoting time to work on your positioning, your personal brand, and where you want your business to go. Usually “shaping” is working on your own stuff.
Tara here, and when I was starting to shift from designer to creative director in my own career, the “shaping” would include guiding others on my team in their design projects, writing concepts that influenced the whole feel of a client’s brand, or (my favorite) shaping the direction of the agency’s brand itself – how we positioned ourselves, branded ourselves and shared what we were all about with our dream clients.
But this really hasn’t changed for me now that I work for myself and help guide Team Braid. For me the “doing” might look like writing brand platforms or business vision guides for my clients, while the “shaping” part is usually when I spend time on Braid projects, launches or just writing a blog post.
In fact, we have a day set aside just for shaping. Every Friday is Braid Day, and that’s when we work on our site, our courses, our offerings, or just have a really great conversation about what we’d like to start doing next year (and stop doing too).
The “shaping” is what will start to really define your personal and professional brand. But shaping doesn’t always have to be all about you. The coolest overlap begins to show itself in your self-work and client-work when you cultivate a blended “doing + shaping” way of working. (click to tweet)
What I mean is, once you start thinking like a “shaper” and a “doer,” you write more, you lead the concept more, you flex with collaboration, and you just speak more clearly (or at least passionately) about your ideas and your vision. And this totally influences your creative work and your working relationships with your clients.
The last thing we want is the doing to become a chore—something you have to get through to get to work on you. The doing in itself is such a reward to a creative. The shaping is the reminder to keep your eye on the bigger picture, not just for your own business, but for your clients too. It’s what creative experts do.
As you get into your work routine, ask yourself, “Am I making room to shape my own brand, my own content, my own business?” (click to tweet) And when you do go into get-it-done mode ask, “Am I going through the motions on this creative project just to get through, or am I shaping the work ?” (click to tweet) So it’s not a versus, it’s a win-win for both. Be a doer... and a shaper.
If this post was helpful, check out our Braid Method Branding ECourse. We’ve spent many a Friday Braid Day shaping our vision for this content so that we could give other creatives the tools to dig deep and shape their business vision. In it, you’ll find exercises and insights to help you shape your brand so that you can do more of the work you love with more of the clients who will love you back.
The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.
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It didn’t take long after becoming a creative entrepreneur to learn that sometimes work is life and sometimes how you do life affects your bottom line. The work / life overlap is tricky, and magical, and it can impact your business in a major way – for better or worse. Working with hundreds of creatives from all over the world has only proven this to be true. After a year or so of doing branding and business visioning for other creative entrepreneurs I decided that I needed more tools for helping creatives not only design a dream brand but a dream life for themselves. So I went through almost a year of life coach training with Martha Beck. I learned some amazing, life-changing concepts that have not only shaped how I work and coach others but how I live and move through life.
Martha Beck taught me that you should coach yourself out of a job. You shouldn’t leave your clients dependent on you – instead you should teach them how to coach themselves. The struggles and roadblocks you hit along your creative journey will always be changing – so if you have some tools in your toolbox to help you overcome along the way you’re set for life.
Right now I take one or two coaching clients a quarter. They get six sessions with me and it costs $2,500. But I’ve put everything I’ve learned along the way – the tools I teach and that I actually use myself when I feel stuck, scattered, or spread thin – into a “do it yourself” DIY Coaching for Creatives email series. I created this four week program (you get four emails per week for four weeks) because this information is too good not to share, but not everyone can afford one-on-one time with me.
HERE’S HOW DIY COACHING FOR CREATIVES WORKS:
You’ll receive four emails per week for four weeks. Each day you’ll get one of the following:
1. A goal-setting worksheet to help you design the life you want – these range from looking at how you spend your time vs. what you actually value, to daydreaming up your ideal day, to actually getting stuff done step-by-step.
2. A new mantra for each week – A mantra is simply a phrase or word that you repeat over and over to yourself. Having a mantra, affirmation, or focus can accomplish LOTS of great things – the repetition of the words you want to manifest literally carves out new neural pathways and makes new connections in your brain. Those repetitive thoughts are able to come to life as new behaviors and actions – which then changes your world and worldview. It’s the power of positive thinking, y’all.
3. A meditation exercise – I think meditation has become mainstream enough that we all know how good it is for us. But even I’ll admit that sitting down and quieting your mind is easier said than done. So I’ve created and curated very specific guided meditations that are easy to commit to.
4. A weekly check-in to keep you on track – I will pop in with easy exercises to keep you on track – from creating a Pinterest board to bring your ideal day to life, to tracking your time so you can get honest about how you spend your days.
Each email isn’t specifically focused on work or life – because you can apply it to either or both. And the cool thing is you can sign up to receive these emails any time. Oh, and it’s only $40 – that’s just $2.50 per email.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT DIY COACHING FOR CREATIVES:
I’m not yet a creative entrepreneur. Can I still take DIY Coaching for Creatives?
YES! 100%. DIY Coaching for Creatives is for anyone who simply wants to design their life on their own terms and needs a few more tools and ideas for making it happen.
Should I start with DIY Coaching or the Braid ECourse? What’s the difference?
If you need a little more work / life guidance DIY Coaching is for you. The Braid ECourses give more specific advice and information on branding and business visioning. You can learn more about the Braid ECourses here and see if it’s a good fit. (Right now we run one ECourse per month – in June 2015 we’ll be consolidating them all into one downloadable ECourse for purchase anytime).
Can I sign up for DIY Coaching for Creatives anytime?
Yup! The DIY Coaching emails are always available for purchase. Once you click “buy” you will receive your first email within 24 hours. If you don’t, email Emily@braidcreative.com and she’ll get you straightened out.
If you think the DIY Coaching for Creatives email series is a good fit for you you can purchase it here. And as always, you can sign up for our free Letters for Creatives newsletter here for exclusive content straight delivered straight to your inbox.
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