Kathleen here. Yesterday Tara and I were in a meeting with a couple of soulful creatives who are out on a mission to change the world and create community – one person at a time. In fact, most of our dream clients and creative colleagues either want to build, facilitate, or crave a sense of belonging to their tribe. The idea of cultivating community has always been a bit overwhelming to me – until recently. It’s been hard for me to pinpoint what “community” even really means and I wasn’t sure I’d know it if I saw it – until I built a fire pit in my own backyard.
Around this time last year I was just a few months in to my new mom gig and my world had been turned upside down by a new tiny human. One Friday night after work I was hanging out with my sister in her kitchen (yup, we’re business partners and best friends) wearing my sweet happy baby in a sling. My husband texted “where you at?” and when I told him he offered to pick up some pizza and beer. We were all together and for the first time I felt comfortable in my new normal. Everything about that evening was so good, and as we were leaving to head home for a long sleepless night my sister’s neighbor came out wanting to see the baby. In the midst of some neighborly chit-chat she mentioned that the mid-century modern split-level house next to hers was about to go on the market – I said “SOLD!” and just a couple months later my little family was moving into a house practically across the street from my sister.
One of the things that appealed to me most about my new neighborhood were the neighbors. When I signed on the dotted line I also inherited an annual block party – I was happy to oblige. During Christmastime neighbors leave hand-painted ornaments, presents for your kids, and tins filled with cookies and caramel corn “from Santa” on your porch. The whole neighborhood celebrates the 4th of July with our own little parade. Even so, I craved something more… I wanted to get to know my neighbors beyond the holiday bustle. So I built a fire pit. Now almost every weekend around dusk we start a fire and my neighbors bring the beer and marshmallows. Kids run around in my yard while the grown ups exchange candid conversation and big belly laughs. Or sometimes we’ll just quietly stare into the fire together as the night sky around us grows darker.
So back to the other day in this meeting when our clients were talking about building real community … I couldn’t help but ask “What’s your fire pit?” What’s the thing that brings everyone together and invites an exchange of thoughts and ideas? Is it an actual fire pit? Maybe it’s a table at your favorite coffee shop. Maybe it’s a monthly book club or even a Facebook group. What’s your fire pit?
It can be hard to cultivate community, but building a fire pit … that’s easy.
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There’s this idea that when you work for yourself, especially as a creative entrepreneur, you are living the dream. The fantasy goes like this: you’re making things with your hands, brainstorming over coffee with creative colleagues, and doing so much yoga that you can finally get into complicated arm balances. But you know, and I know, that being your own boss isn’t so easy. Balancing work and life, paying the bills, wearing all the hats … it’s a lot of work, and it doesn’t always feel so dreamy.
Kathleen here. I write a lot about being your own boss here on the Braid blog, I give a peek behind the curtains of how we work in our exclusive Letters for Creatives, and I share snippets of my life in between it all, over on my personal blog, And Kathleen. So it’s been a long time coming, but now I’m finally launching a podcast called Being Boss. I’m teaming up with my good friend and creative confidant Emily Thompson of Indie Shopography, and every week we’ll be candidly talking to you, fellow bosses and aspiring-to-be’s, about the good and bad, the ups and downs – of being boss.
BEING THE BOSS
“Being The Boss” means being able to manage, plan, organize, invest, delegate, and make tough decisions. It’s not easy and doesn’t always come naturally to a lot of us creatives who just want to make a living doing what we love. But learning how to be the boss is how you make living the dream profitable.
“Being Boss” is an attitude. It’s confidence, being all in, stepping into uncertainty without losing your cool, and most of all being unapologetically who you are 100% of the time. “Boss” is an adjective that came on the scenes in the 1950s – it means cool or awesome. “That motorcycle jacket is boss!” But I love the Urban Dictionary definition written by Tiffany aka Ya Girl Miss Tiff: "Boss. noun - a person who is a leader, someone who runs shit in his/her hood or city. Example: If you got more than $100 G's in the bank and stackin paper every day, more than likely you are a Boss."
So yeah, we’re going to talk about stackin paper, setting goals for ourselves, and getting sh*t done – all the things that make us feel “Boss.” But there’s going to be a lot of talk about love, too, love for what we do, love for what we’ve created, and love for you guys out there trying to do the same.
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BEING BOSS PODCAST
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Every creative entrepreneur we work with wants to feel like an expert – like a wearing-the-pants and legit-know-my-stuff kind of expert. The kind of expert that doesn’t doubt their decisions and feels like an authority over their craft. These creatives want to feel like the kind of expert that has a roster full of clients who respect their guidance and are never treated like pixel-pushing order takers. Our clients want to feel like the kind of experts who get paid well… like experts.
But what’s interesting is that a majority of our clients balk at the word “expert”. They have a lot of fears and misconceptions around taking on that kind of bold title – that if they start to think of themselves as an expert it means they’ll have to have all the answers or be smarter than everyone in the room. That they’ll be responsible for every problem thrown their way. But that is hardly the case.
Kathleen here, and I want to share a few ways to step into your creative expertise by describing the characteristics I’ve seen in experts I admire:
EXPERTS ARE NEUTRAL
Experts don’t get bent out of shape, defensive, or riled up when they receive criticism – and on the flip side they don’t get too excited or inflated by positive feedback or big wins. Experts are cool, calm, and collected. Not to say they don’t get passionate, fired up, funny or even dramatic, but it’s typically around an exciting idea, method, insight, or point-of-view that they feel strongly about, not about this one piece of work that the client must love, or else pouting and/or shouting ensues.
EXPERTS TAKE A PAUSE
I studied a lot of TED talks before giving my own talk at the Circles Conference, and one thing I noticed is that really great speakers aren’t afraid to pause when they need to collect their thoughts. This is also true for responding to clients in meetings, via email, or deciding whether to commit to a new engagement or opportunity. Experts aren’t afraid to collect the information (or the thoughts) they need before responding. I’m one who likes to immediately respond to questions or fill any silence with the sound of my own voice, so I’m practicing the pause in order to feel a little more like a creative expert in my own work and life.
EXPERTS TRUST THEMSELVES “IN THE MOMENT”
On the flip-side, Tara, my sister and Braid co-creative expert will tell you, that if you abuse the pause, it can become a crutch or replacement for being able to speak your mind and trusting yourself in-the-moment. A creative expert is comfortable in natural flow of a back-and-forth conversation... because they trust themselves (mostly), and know when to ask questions, or admit when they are speaking outside of their creative expertise. For example, during decision-making moments like I mentioned above, the pause can serve you, but sometimes the pause can really kill a dynamic back-and-forth collaboration that’s happening in real time. And, really, shouldn’t your clients feel like collaborators in your process, just as much as you shouldn’t feel like an order taker? Yes. There was no pause before that “yes.”
EXPERTS RECOGNIZE PATTERNS
Experts are able to see patterns and instantly recognize disconnects in their work. This is because they’ve narrowed in on their niche and know their customers so well they could practically be psychics for them. Recognizing patterns is how you are able to either speak-in-the moment or take pause and learn more, especially when something doesn’t quite fit with what your creative experiences have taught you. Recognizing patterns will allow you to create content (blog posts, newsletters, e-courses, and e-books) that will resonate with a broad audience beyond your one-on-one clients, and your readers will question how you “know them so well” or “are in their head” without ever having met them. For example, I’ve recognized that all of my clients want to meditate more – so I’ve included a little bit of meditation guidance in my DIY Coaching for Creatives email sessions and have even touched on it in my blog posts.
EXPERTS HAVE CLEAR BOUNDARIES
Experts know what they will and will not do. They make expectations clear and concise. Experts know how to tell you what you will get when you work with them – they demystify the process so their clients feel reassured investing in their services. Experts show up on time, meet deadlines, and do what they say they’ll do.
EXPERTS CHARGE MORE
Experts charge not only for their time but for their experience. The beauty of charging more upfront is that you rarely feel resentful and tend to over-deliver with pleasure rather than nickel-and-dime your clients when asked for small extras.
EXPERTS SAY NO
Experts aren’t afraid to say no to a project that isn’t the right fit. This is because they respect the prospective client enough to know that someone else could do the job better. They also know it would take up time and energy they could be using to better serve someone with their core genius.
EXPERTS DON’T KNOW (OR DO) IT ALL
And they aren’t afraid to say it. Admitting that you don’t have all the answers is a big display of creative confidence. And there is a lot of integrity to saying “no” to a client or project that isn’t a good fit for what your expertise.
EXPERTS HAVE OPINIONS
If you’re feeling uncomfortable with the word “expert” think of it like this – experts have enough experience to have a point-of-view – they have meaningful opinions and aren’t afraid to speak on them.
So you want to feel more like a creative expert? Start by asking yourself these questions:
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