Two money posts in a row, I know. Kathleen here and I'm positive the majority of you creatives and aspiring entrepreneurs and freelancers are craving a conversation about cold hard cash. I know this because every time I get some face time with you all we end up talking about money. How to find it, make it, sustain it, and grow it. Last week I shared four bits of money advice on the blog and this week I have one more important tidbit to share with you and it is this:
Be a farmer. (Not a hunter.)
Yup, you heard me: be a farmer. This is actually a money mantra Tara and I used a lot when we first started Braid Creative together. We adopted it from Blair Enns, a new-business coach whose specialty is helping creative agencies sell themselves. Meanwhile, we were leaving the agency world and starting over on our own. We were three months in, and had been tirelessly building our business from scratch – from the branding, to the website, to the endless administrative stuff like setting up our LLC and accounting systems. Once the flurry of setting up shop settled we were discouraged to hear crickets chirping as we waited for clients. Even though the silence was discouraging, an even more demoralizing prospect was going out and selling ourselves “cold” (i.e. knocking on doors, making calls, or sending unsolicited emails). So we started farming.
BE A FARMER
Farmers wake up early and do the work. They get their hands dirty and plant seeds. They protect and nurture their land for months until they're able to harvest their crops. They look at the big picture and they cultivate patience. Obviously, I'm not telling you to literally go out and become a farmer (that's another fantasy for another day), but do start treating your business like a farm. Wake up early, do the work, build your brand, read blogs and books, write a post, hit publish, launch, build relationships, build your list, have conversations, and share your gifts of knowledge... that's farming. In other words, if you want to grow your business, your brand, and your bottom line, first you have to plant it.
DON'T BE A HUNTER
Hunting for the quick kill sounds appealing until you come home empty handed, hungry, and desperate. Hunting in business is what will make you feel like a used car salesman rather than the creative expert you are. Hunting is exhausting.
HOW THE MANTRA WORKS
The mantra “be a farmer, not a hunter” works by getting you in the headspace to plant seeds that may not produce fruit (that would be cash money) for months... years even. Our commitment to being "farmers" kept us productive even when we didn't have clients. So if you're feeling discouraged start farming.
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Our Braid ECourse Dream Customer Catching: Embracing Your Expertise and Attracting What You Track will be in-session starting this Friday, June 20. If you are a writer, designer, coach, or creative who understands the importance of narrowing in on your niche for building your business but don't quite know where to begin this ECourse is for you. Learn more and enroll here. But you have to register by Thursday!
Or check out our DIY Coaching for Creatives email series. It’s insight delivered straight to your inbox over the course of 4 weeks.
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Well, “nightmare” might be a bit harsh. But it played off of “dream” so nicely – and really, nightmares are kind of just waiting to happen whenever you work with non-dreamy customers. Misaligned expectations, unclear needs, differing aesthetics, unfulfilling end-product, Freddy Krueger coming towards you in his weird striped-sweater-fedora combo… (shudder). Wake me up!
Figuring out exactly who you work with best helps you in two ways. One, you can find them easier, by creating content that speaks directly to them. And two, you can work with them easier, because you’re able to be such an expert for their needs. Super dreamy-sounding, right? So – how can you tell if your idea of your dream customer is right-on or a bit off?
Liz here. Along with Tara and Kathleen, it's my job to guide all of our clients through our Braid Method. I see lots of patterns and disconnects come up when it comes to their own dream customers. Here are some not-so-dreamy assumptions we see entrepreneurs make time and time again, when figuring out who their dream customer is:
"I want to work with _________, but
I'm afraid they'll see me as _________."
Maybe the “nightmare” is really just letting your fear and self-doubt get the best of you. What you think of as a barrier, is actually an opportunity. What you see as a weakness, is actually a strength! We see this take so many forms. Maybe you think you're too old, or have had a lot of random past experience in totally different fields. You're actually just wise and well-rounded – a guide for younger or less-experienced clients. Shift your perspective, own it, and move on.
Or maybe you think you're too young (or don't have enough experience) to appeal to your dream customers, and that they won't take you seriously. But if you can show that you’re a creative expert (without proving it too hard), age and experience are irrelevant. Still think you need more schooling? Learn by doing.
"I think my dream customer is everyone!
(Or maybe I just have a hard time saying 'no.')"
Sometimes your dream customer isn't just who you want to attract, but who you can help the most. Look at what you offer, what your true strengths are (what you're great at vs. just what you can do) – and consider what kind of client can benefit from that the most. Someone who needs more guidance and direction, or someone who knows exactly what they want? An engagement where you just come in for one small piece of the puzzle, or where you handle everything from start to finish?
For example: About six months ago, we stopped offering web design and development. Sure, we can do it, and it’s a nice complement to what we currently offer – but we realized we’d rather take two creatives through a Brand & Business Vision Guides than one website (and they cost the same). We knew our customers were better served when we helped them with visioning and branding, and left web design and development to the real web experts. Now we happily recommend a small handful of web experts who love working with our files and clients – and everyone is better off because of it.
Bottom line? Being “an expert” means getting daringly narrow. And the narrower you can get about what you do and for whom, the better. And don’t forget - even though you’re helping them, they need to help you too! You deserve dream projects that pay.
"My dream customer is exactly like me!"
Sometimes when our clients start describing their dream customer, they’re really just describing themselves. We recently had a client who started out thinking that her dream customers were highly-creative urban-homesteading makers (like herself) - but soon realized that they probably couldn’t afford her work! After some thought, she figured out that her dream customers were actually women like herself a few years ago: living in a city, but dreaming of things like having a vegetable garden or raising chickens, wanting to be more creative and valuing handmade, but also still shopping at places like West Elm and Target.
Sometimes we confuse “dream customer” with “dream comrade.” Dream comrades follow your blog, and may overlap in several areas of interest or work – but they may never become customers. And that’s okay! Comrades are your community, your tribe, your support system. But sharing content with them (or selling to them) is like preaching to the choir. And that’s why you need dream customers, too.
Dream customers may follow your blog, but in a more aspirational way. Maybe because their lives look very different than yours, or they’re a few years younger than you and interested in the path you’ve taken. So instead of preaching to the choir, you’re a guide, always 2-3 steps ahead of them. Your content becomes the breadcrumbs that they gather as they follow you, and that establishes your expertise.
You can share content with both in mind – just make sure you’re selling specifically to your dream customer.
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Who is (or ISN’T) your dream customer? Let us know on Facebook.
Our Dream Customer Catching ECourse helps creative entrepreneurs figure out how to work with / sell to the people they like, the people that pay, and the people they can actually have the most impact for. It will be in-session from June 20 - 29th. Learn more and register here.
Or check out our DIY Coaching for Creatives email series. It’s more dreamy insight, delivered straight to your inbox over the course of 4 weeks.
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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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