It’s pretty easy to assume that a creative person working for themselves has a dream job, right? I mean, you get to be your own boss, set your own hours, and make things with your hands all day in a sun-flooded studio, right? It’s a nice vision but it doesn’t paint an accurate picture of what the day-in-the-life of a creative entrepreneur really looks like.
Kathleen here. Last week I shared my own struggles with not always loving my job in our Letters for Creatives (here’s a sneak peek if you don’t already receive these exclusive newsletters to your inbox). In fact, most creatives I know aren’t entirely satisfied working for themselves because it turns out building the dream job can be hard work. And it’s not always fun. So as promised here are a few ideas on how to love being your own boss:
1. Be Yourself
I see lots of creatives quit their day jobs only to continue to follow the day job rules. If you are concerned that what you blog about or how you wear your hair will affect your bottom line then you’re probably still playing someone else’s game. What are some ways you could blend the personal into the professional? For me it was overhauling my wardrobe and ditching all the “professional” attire that didn’t reflect my style. (You can read more about attracting dream customers by being yourself over on my personal blog.)
2. Cultivate Your Core Genius
If you are a solopreneur it is likely that you have to wear many hats – from keeping the books to answering email inquiries to running errands. But what is your core genius? That is where your true talent and expertise lies. And it’s where the majority of your attention should be. Be warned: sometimes the busy work can make you feel productive, like you’re putting in a hard day’s work, but what it’s really doing is distracting you from your core genius.
So to cultivate your core genius you have to find someone else to wear all the other hats necessary for running a successful business. But delegating isn’t always easy. Not only can it be expensive to hire help, it can be hard to let go of control – especially if you’re a Type A creative who likes to procrastinate and work under the gun at the last minute (sound familiar?). Delegating is a skill that takes organization and practice, so try starting small. For example, try hiring a virtual assistant or part-time intern to conquer just a couple of tasks.
4. Pay Yourself
A dream job isn’t going to feel dreamy if you don’t pay yourself. I want you to physically write yourself a check from your business account and go deposit it into your personal account. (Okay, you can probably do an electronic transfer but there is something magical, it not quaint, in writing yourself an actual check.)
5. Practice Gratitude
This is a big one. It can be easy to get in a tizzy over the stuff that can be hard about running your business and fail to recognize that you are already living the dream. In fact, just yesterday Tara and I were getting all worked up over our taxes when we paused to acknowledge that we’re paying a lot of taxes because we have a successful business with each other. It turns out our problem was something to be grateful for.
Finally, these are just starting points for designing your dream job. But reading them isn’t enough. You have to practice living the dream daily to make it so. If you need help identifying your core genius, or even finding time to be grateful you might be interested in my DIY Coaching for Creatives email series. It’s just $40 for 4 weeks of content designed to help you live the dream delivered straight to your inbox. Learn more and see if DIY Coaching is a fit for you here.
Our next ECourse is perfect for the creative looking to shape up their blog content and attract more dream customers- Shape Up Your Content: Tame Your Ideas and Tell People How to Buy You. This 4-part complete-at-your-own-pace ECourse is now open for registration and will be in session from April 18 - 27. Learn more and register here.
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Creatives who create, sell their ideas, and sell their own services – we gotta talk about ourselves. This can start with simply explaining what we do in casual conversations (if you’re a creative entrepreneur, we call it sounding self-employed, instead of unemployed). It can mean explaining what we do online, especially on more conversational platforms like blogging, posts, tweets and pics. But there’s a more specific conversation that happens when someone really gets more interested in hiring us. And this is where we can get a little anxious, uncertain, or flat out scared, about selling what we do.
Tara here today, and I want to talk about the selling conversation. This is when someone wants to sit down, face-to-face over coffee, meet over Skype, or even on the phone to talk about what they might really get from working with us. This is the conversation that gets us hired, and the conversation that gets you hired, too.
The kinds of conversations you’re having as a creative entrepreneur:
The Casual Conversation
who: friends, family, old acquaintances, new strangers
where: work & social gatherings, grocery store run-ins
what: your creative biz in a nutshell, not too formal, just a one-liner
why: they just wanna know what you’re up to
The Online Conversation
who: followers & peers, but also the friends, family & acquaintances crowd
where: your site, your blog, your favorite social media platforms
what: stuff you know as a creative, inspiration, and behind-the-scenes
why: a reason to “like” what you do, learn from you, and want more
The Selling Conversation
who: interested potential clients… who aren’t your clients yet
where: your office, favorite coffee shop, Skype, email, or phone
what: your creative expertise, who you work with, your process & what they get
why: so they know what to expect if they hire you, so they say… “yes”
What does a selling conversation sound like?
For one thing, a selling conversation is when a creative switches from their inspirational, or funny, or sparkly “like me” voice (you know the one, and it’s okay if you’re using it in those other conversations listed above) – to a more grounded “here’s what to expect” voice. This is how you’ll sell yourself without feeling salesy – without trying to prove it too hard.
At Braid, if you’re having a selling conversation with either myself or someone else on our team, we’re going to be explaining two ways that creative entrepreneurs hire us, either for a Brand & Business Vision consultation and guide, or a full Brand Platform complete with words and design. We’re going to explain that we typically work with creatives like designers, writers, makers and even other creative consultants and coaches – and helping creatives better explain and show what they do, is our specialty.
Then we’re going to show you our process. Regardless of what kind of creative you are, and what level of engagement you hire us for, that our method (our Braid Method, to be exact) is the same every time, and it’s how it’s going to feel to work with us.
Okay, that’s our super-condensed selling conversation in a nutshell. But if you were really getting the full picture, well, you’d get the full picture – with visuals, that is. We call them conversation slides. Because it’s one thing to talk about what you do, and it’s another to show it.
The Conversation Slides for selling conversations:
Say someone contacts you, who is interested in hiring or partnering with you. You can email them with details, like pricing and the nuts-and-bolts of what they get. But if you had a series of visuals that really show them what you mean – you’d attach that too, right?
So the email’s got the details, but these visuals explain what it feels like to work with you, in your own style. That could be photography, design, infographics even, and a few really well crafted copy points, and even better a few examples of real work for real clients. In a perfect world, you schedule a Skype or chat over coffee to walk this potential (and hopefully dreamy) client through the slides on a laptop or iPad.
We call these conversation slides. And they just might be the most important thing we create for our entrepreneurs.
In our Brand Platforms, we always give our creative clients a brand story and specific how-to-hire-me language, so they can feel confident in putting themselves out there. But we always turn those into conversation slides so they can show what they mean. These are usually six or seven screens, using photography or design, with maybe one or two sentences on each (soundbytes from that brand story and how-to-hire-me language), that can guide conversations with their dream customers.
An outline for your own conversation slides:
1. who you are for (your niche)
2. what you do best (your expertise)
3. what they get (your offering)
4. what to expect (your process)
With visuals, and real examples if you’ve got ‘em, and, please… in your style!
Yes, a conversation is a two-way street. No, you aren’t reading these slides like a robot. Think of them as a jumping-off point for guiding someone through your approach and process. This lets you tailor your conversation towards them, and keep the conversation as short-and-sweet (or heart-to-heart deep) as you like.
Here are some examples of slides we’ve developed for our creative entrepreneur clients lately, and how they are using them to help with all kinds of different conversations.
Crystal is just starting up her plant-based cooking company, Verdure, and she’s using her slides to help her inspire how she’s going to create her own website, how she’s going to start sharing visuals and advice through social media, and also have conversations with potential partners for events like her popular clean-eating cleanses.
Betina at This Land Yoga uses her conversation slides to not only let customers know what experiences at her studio feel like – but to get employees on board with her vision, too. So now all of her teachers know what kind of atmosphere she wants to create for students.
Dallas uses her conversation slides to connect with her allies – other coaches! – and deepen her own expertise by helping them design the work and life that will take them to the next level.
At Braid, we recently refined our own conversation slides because we’ve been so inspired by the ones we’ve created for others.
Always make it visual.
Even if you don’t have conversation slides, sometimes just pulling out a notepad and sketching what you mean and letting that person across the table see what you’re talking about – can go a long way to adding some show to your tell.
The power of “making it visual” is threefold. First, you put your style and point-of-view out there immediately, so you know you’re on the same page. Second, you feel more confident in what can sometimes feel like an intangible service, by making it concrete and visual. And last, if you can really outline your steps, you also reassure your soon-to-be customer that they’re getting something real and worthwhile, by showing that you have a process which allows you to deliver your magic every time.
So you look like an expert, you sound, ahem, “self-employed,” and you feel confident about putting yourself out there.
What would make conversations with your dream customers easier? Let us know on Facebook.
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If you’d like more ideas on how to hone in on (and speak to) your dream customers, check out our next Braid ECourse, Dream Customer Catching: Embracing Your Expertise and Attracting What You Track. This $75 ECourse will be in session from March 21st - 30th. Learn more and register here.
Or check out our DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions. You can sign up to receive work / life guidance straight to your inbox anytime!
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One of the very first “don’ts” creatives learn when it comes to presenting your ideas – is don’t start off by apologizing. Whether you’re sharing an inkling of a concept or the polished final product, any ding dong can tell you that if you start talking about all the ways this creation of yours has fallen short of your expectations (or, ugh, even worse, is sure to fall short of the expectations of those around you) then you’re pretty much going to put a tarnish over the entire first impression.
Imagining yourself in this “sorry” situation, whether in a classroom, conference room, or coffee shop meeting, can paint a bit of a cringeworthy picture. As embarrassing as it might be for you as the presenter, it can be confusing, annoying, or just plain boring for the person you’re presenting to. “Could we get some confidence with this coffee please?!”
But we’re all smart people here. I think we know better by now. As a working creative you probably have oodles of confidence presenting your – well, your creative work. But where do those oodles go when you’re talking about yourself, what you do, and how to hire you? Too often we don’t strive for this kind of personal-meets-professional confidence, either brushing it off as something that will come over time, or a skill we don’t really need.
But a lack of confidence with that coffee (and oh boy is it a layered brew of professional mixed with personal) doesn’t just cost you approval of your idea, it can cost you getting a new client, and growing your business. So how can you “catch yourself” apologizing – and stop?
When Creative Entrepreneurs Apologize The Most
How to stop diminishing what you’re all about? Well, you gotta know when you’re doing it to start. And usually, it’s when you’re asking someone to hire or buy you.
1. Explaining What We Actually Do
Creatives who work for themselves, have a head full of vision. But talking about it in a way that’s actually concrete can be a challenge. So we get uncertain, heck, even scared, when someone says “what do you do?” Here’s how we reply when we’re in flat out “sorry” mode:
“I suppose I do a little bit of everything? What do you need?”
“Um, I don’t usually do that. But I can for you.”
“I’m sort of a... simple-job-description-to-explain-goes-here.”
(When you aren’t actually that at all, but it’s too hard to explain, or downplaying it depending on the audience, which sometimes makes sense if it’s extended family, old acquaintances or your barista, but not in “how to hire me” conversations.)
The flip-side of this scenario is when we go into jargon mode, talking about all our “creative solutions” and the whole kitchen sink of our creative expertise. If this is more your default selling-style, check out last week’s post: Stop Proving It So Hard.
2. Trying to Stick To Our Process
As creative experts, we have a method to our madness (even if you think you don’t, you do) at the least, a certain set amount of time it takes, to create what you do. But what happens is you end up letting go of the reigns of control (and respect) when you apologize for your process:
“You need that in three days? I suppose I could do that.”
“It takes three weeks. Sorry!I know that seems like a really long time.”
“I know it’s a pain, but I need to ask you some questions before we get started. I know you just want d, but so sorry, we have to go through a, b and c to get there.”
3. Talking About Money
Oh man, this is a big one. This is where you need to treat presenting your prices, just like you would your creative work. Give your fee, pricing, etc. a chance to speak for itself before you jump in and start lowering impressions and expectations by hemming and hawing – or worse, not talking about money at all, or saving it for the last possible second.
Nothing says you’re ashamed of what you charge like putting off talking about what your time and services are worth. I could list a ton of example quotes about this one, but often the “sorry” comes through in your voice more than anything. An apologetic tone about money is not doing you any favors. Just be simple, straight, and believe your prices are firm and fair. Because if you don’t believe you’re worth what you charge – they won’t either.
4. Promoting Ourselves
This is a form of apologizing that can happen when you’re self-promoting on your “own turf.” As in, on your website or blog. Bloggers for instance, (like us!) give away a lot of our advice, knowledge, behind-the-scenes – and in turn our dream clients and followers, think of us like guides and experts. It’s nice to get hired by people who already think of you as a source of inspiration and sound advice, right? In fact, going into a “how-to-hire-me” conversation with that sort of understanding about who you are and what you do, can alleviate almost all of the apologizing scenarios listed above.
So why do bloggers so often say “shameless self-promotion here!” when they shift to talking about what they’re selling? I mean it’s cool to alert your reader to the shift in content (like we do below) but why do we have to be sarcastic or self-deprecating about it? It kind of defeats the point of being a source of inspiration and sound advice.
5. Acknowledging The Dream We Created
Bloggers are actually a great example of creatives who have created a job for themselves that often blends work and life. But guess what? I almost put “job” in quote marks in the sentence above – like it’s not a real “job.” How about we stop apologizing for our creative business? Let’s start by promising to never use quotation marks when we describe what we do!
Creative entrepreneurs still live in a primarily 9-to-5, pay-your-dues, company or cubicle society. So creatives can be quick in family, friend, and peer conversations to downplay the dream they’ve created for themselves. A dream job is still a job. But it’s one you’ve carved out for yourself.
Don’t be embarrassed. Don’t be embarrassed if you’re just starting out with a spark of an idea for what that dream job could be. Don’t be embarrassed if you’re mid-stream still working out the kinks. And most important, don’t be embarrassed when you succeed.
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We have a Braid ECourse coming up next week- Personal Branding: Blending Who You Are with What You Do. This $75 ECourse will be in-session from Feb. 21 - March 2. Learn more and register here.
Or check out our $40 DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions. You can sign up to receive work / life guidance straight to your inbox anytime!
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