Last week I talked a bit about being your own number one dream customer by investing time, money, and resources in growing your creative business. But this week I want to chat a little bit about how to turn the client projects you’ve been getting – into dream projects that result in getting paid and getting enthusiastic approval for your work.
1. Set Expectations.
I’ve recently realized that anytime I get a little uncomfortable with a client project it’s when our mutual expectations aren’t communicated or aligned. How do you resolve this? It starts by being clear about exactly what your customer should expect to receive and for how much. This can and should be communicated at least three times:
• verbally (talk to your customer like a human about what they can expect to get from you);
• in an email (bullets and lists make it easy to digest); and
• in a contract (just so everyone is covered).
2. Talk Money.
If you’re a creative entrepreneur talking money might be uncomfortable you. Probably because you get caught up in your head thinking a variation of the following:
• I’m lucky to be a creative for a living. I don’t deserve a lot of money. OR
• My customer thinks I’m lucky to be a creative for a living. They probably don’t think I deserve a lot of money. OR
• My customer can’t afford my services. OR
• If my client pays me $X for my services they won’t be able to buy themselves ______.
I’m going to say it loud and clear here: you deserve to get paid for what you do, no matter how cool and fabulous that work is (or appears to be … because we all know how unglamorous late night designing and editing can feel). If you’ve been subscribing to our Letters for Creatives you may have read my thoughts on money as energy. If not, check that out here.
Pep talk aside, it’s important to talk about money throughout the life of a project. Don’t wait until your third conversation with a potential client to sneak in the cost like you’re apologizing for having to charge them. Tell them upfront what your fees typically look like, even if it’s a ballpark range before you’re able to nail down the scope of the project. And know that it takes practice to be confident talking money. But what it does is establish boundaries, expectations, and it’s what makes you a professional.
4. Listen to your client.
This one is pretty obvious. It’s a given that you’re going to provide good customer service by listening to your client. But what I’d like you to consider is this: how do you prove it to them that you’ve listened? We’ve found that regular check-ins, mood boarding, and sharing the work-in-progress along the way is what makes the creative process collaborative and comfortable for our clients. Because of that comfort level and confidence we’ve instilled in them along the way, we can typically pitch just one logo and get enthusiastic approval – not just because we listened but because we let the client join along for the ride.
5. Be a trusted guide.
A job gone bad can typically go one of two ways. Either you become super reactive and will do anything just to get the job done. Or your ego gets the best of you and you break ties, burn bridges, and set fire to the project and the client relationship. I’ve experienced both and neither feel so dreamy. That’s when I take off my “designer” hat and put on my “consultant / coach” hat. When the designer in me can detach from my own fear of disapproval and the consultant in me can ask questions, get curious, and share my own expertise, I am then able to guide my client (who is probably just as freaked out that things aren’t going just right) real answers and problem-solving can happen.
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If you want to learn more about positioning yourself from the get-go to land the clients you want to attract more of, check out our Braid ECourse Dream Customer Catching: Embrace Your Expertise and Attract What You Track. This ECourse is open for registration through Dec. 12, 2013 and will be in-session on Friday, Dec. 13-22. You can learn more and register here.
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Kathleen here. Tara and I are spending a good chunk of our November teaching design and branding at two separate local universities. So lately we’ve been helping college students learn how to hone their craft, talk about their work, and get to “doing” – but in our own work at Braid we’ve been teaching creative entrepreneurs who have mastered the art of “doing” to scale their business vision and establish their expertise by going from just “doing” to teaching.
They say “those who can’t do teach” but I’m finding quite the opposite to be true. With popular workshops like Blogcademy and DIY learning platforms like Skillshare making their way into the mainstream, more and more doers are finding themselves in the role of teacher. But it doesn’t always come easy. Calling yourself a teacher, guide, coach, or consultant can be as uncomfortable as calling yourself an expert. So today I’d like to share a few tips on how to go from doing to teaching without feeling like a fraud:
1. Educate Your Client on the Creative Process
One of the first ways you can become a confident guide is by educating your own clients on your creative process. Let them know what they can expect from you and the steps you take to get there before you ever begin working together. If you’ve been flying by the seat of your pants every time you start a new project it’s time to get organized. If you can’t explain your process to your client in three simple steps and make a list of clear project deliverables than both you and your client will feel confused and anything but confident.
Pro tip: Share your work-in-progress with your client along the way. This will allow for a collaborative creation that creates trust and almost always ends in enthusiastic approval. Plus! It forces you to better manage your time for creating and not finishing projects at the eleeventh hour.
2. Share Behind-the-Scenes Sneak Peeks
When I first started freelancing I would blog monthly updates to share my own personal struggles, insecurities, and small victories that come with being your own boss for the first time ever. I never imagined that sharing the behind-the-scenes of what life was like would position me as a kind of authority in freelancing but I started to attract a tribe of other bloggers and aspiring creative entrepreneurs who wanted to more details and logistics on exactly how I worked for myself and managed clients.
Pro tip: Start a blog series to share more than just the highlight reel of what it is like to be a creative. Or take it to real life and have coffee or coordinate a potluck dinner with like-minded creatives to dish on the pros and cons of living what you love. You will be surprised at the patterns, connections, and insights you’ll be able to uncover along the way.
3. Give It All Away (Advice-Dishing and How-Tos)
So once you share the more vulnerable behind-the-scenes you’ll naturally begin giving legit advice and how-to’s that relate to how you work and run your business. The fear here is that if you give away your know-how people will have no reason to actually hire you. Or worse! Your competition will steal your ideas and make them their own. This antiquated notion only serves a scarcity-minded business model that has no place in a world full of new-thinking creative entrepreneurs. Which you are. So when you openly share your gifts of knowledge you position yourself as an expert which in turn makes your dream customers want to hire you for even more access to your genius.
Pro tip: When going from doer to teacher you’ll find that your dream customer begins to look more and more like you – a fellow creative entrepreneur. Sharing common ground with your client can make you feel like less of an expert but think of it more like going to a conference – you learn most from speakers who come from a similar background and are just two steps ahead of you. There is a huge advantage to speaking the same language as your client and simply offering a new perspective in a similar industry.
4. Package it Up With a Price Tag
Once you’ve gotten good at generating and giving away all that teaching content, you’ll start to receive feedback and uncover patterns that will allow you to clearly see holes that need to be filled. That’s when you can become the guide, coach, or consultant who develops buyable offerings that fill those holes. These offerings might look like one-on-one engagements, online courses, offline workshops, or even digital products like eBooks.
Pro tip: There will be an overlap when you transition from doing to teaching – because you still gotta “do” to pay the bills. But over time you’ll find the scale, and your entire business model, shifting to make room for your expanding expertise. And that’s what being a creative entrepreneur is all about.
Are you already teaching (even if it’s in small ways you don’t realize) as part of your “doing” business? Tell us about it on Facebook.
Learn more about how you can embrace your expertise and attract dream customers in our Braid ECourse for Creative Entrepreneurs, Dream Customer Catching. This complete-at-your-own-pace ECourse will be in-session from Dec. 13-22 and is great for both established or aspiring creatives. Register and learn more here by Dec. 12, 2013.
P.S. Sign up for our Letters for Creatives for exclusive Braid ECourse discounts and content not shared anywhere else.
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We know that there are lots of exercises out there for profiling your potential customers. We’ve seen some really great ones that get seriously in depth – from what kind of car your potential customer drives, to what kind of breakfast cereal they eat, to what keeps them up at night.
So we’re not diving quite so super-deep into “profiling” who your dream customer is in a psychological, socioeconomical or any other consumer-researchy-sense – 1.) because it’s not our own specific expertise, and 2.) getting really targeted about the ins and outs of your demographic honestly starts to sound suspiciously close to target market research. We’re assuming you’re a creative entrepreneur – not a corporation. That means you’re not engaging in traditional advertising and we don’t recommend it.
When you’re a creative entrepreneur, running your own small independent business, the one big advantage you have over those businesses who do have the bucks to do all that kind of research above – is that you don’t need to. Because unlike them, you are more directly, genuinely, and authentically connected to who your customer is. You are probably conjuring them up in your mind right now. It’s not rocket science. For you, the solopreneur, it’s not that hard to identify your dream customers and “make them real” in your mind and mind’s eye.
What’s hard is actually sticking to your guns, and putting out there through your branding, messaging and conversations at large – that this specific dream customer is who you are for. Because everyone’s fear is then, “well, what about all the other people (and money!) I’m turning away?”
Kathleen here, and these few paragraphs above are actually from our Dream Customer Braid ECourse, in a section where Tara gets serious about creatives getting narrow. Our course goes on to share videos and exercises to help you get more specialized with your business model to attract those dream customers. But I wanted to share a few immediate tips right now – experiments, let’s say, with getting narrow.
Here are a few ways to get daringly narrow, without getting too uncomfortable, when it comes to getting specific about what you offer and for whom:
1. Just pretend.
That’s right. Take an hour to pretend like you’re going to get super niched. Role-play what it would be like to say no to all the pain in the ass clients you take on for too little money. And then pretend what it would be like to launch a very specific offering to a very specific audience. If you start to get scared, and you should if you’re getting super narrow, remember that it’s just pretend. Be sure you’re capturing your ideas on paper (I know you’ve got more than a few notebooks lying around that you could take notes in). Nobody has to see it and you can always burn it afterwards.
Though, if you have a trusted partner, peer, mentor, or coach that you can pretend out loud with even better. There is a manifesting kind of power in fantasizing out loud. Tara and I brainstorm out loud about narrowing in on our own dream customer (and exactly who that is) all the time – it’s our way of “leaning into it”.
After you’re done pretending to be an expert, I propose you take 10% of what you uncovered and start applying it to your business model now. You might try an experimental offering or product launch which leads us to tip #2...
2. Do an extra credit launch.
The trap most creatives fall into is they want to completely restructure their business model when they have a new idea. But that approach is exhausting, expensive, and overwhelming. So instead try designing and developing a digital product, limited-time offering, or packaged service that is exactly what you want to be doing. Set boundaries, time limits, and define specific tactics or deliverables. This product or service launch should be something you really WANT to do and at a price you feel is fair. Make it available to your dream customer by being very explicit and even exclusive as to who and who is not a good fit.
Remember! This is just extra credit – don’t spend more than a week of your time developing this product and know that it doesn’t have to be perfect for release. Your livelihood doesn’t depend on it and you are completely unattached to the success (or failure) of this offering. The idea is to create and launch an experimental extra credit concept as quickly as possible. If it’s a success – great! You’re now on your way to doing more of what you love for dream customers you have impact for. If it’s a failure then brainstorm three things you would do differently next time. Tweak and relaunch.
Some of our extra credit launches at Braid have included a workshop, a mastermind group, and a coaching for creatives offering. Some of them were more successful than others but each and every one of them has helped us really hone in on our own expertise and creative trajectory.
3. Share more of what you want.
This one is pretty obvious but it’s easy to forget to share more of what you want. Do a blog post about how your expertise really impacted and helped a dreamy customer. Edit your portfolio to only include the kind of work you want more of (regardless of how much those other jobs paid you). When you do what you love your enthusiasm will be contagious. It will draw dream customers with cash your way.
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Understanding your dream customer, and being able to speak and sell to them with authenticity and confidence – is about knowing yourself. It’s not only about being clear on your purpose but getting specific about what you deliver and who it’s actually going to help the most. This is what it means to be an expert.
If you’re interested in doing more work around identifying your dream customer and embracing your expertise check out our Braid ECourse Dream Customer Catching: Embrace Your Expertise and Attract What You Track. You only have through tomorrow, Sept. 12th, to register! Use the code SEPT2013DREAMCUSTOMER50 when you check out for a discounted rate of $50.
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