Kathleen here. I want to tell you a few secrets – Tara and I don’t come from a family of entrepreneurs. In fact, before creating Braid Creative, we had never really imagined working for ourselves. We were perfectly comfortable collecting gold stars (and a paycheck with a matching 401k) from somebody else.
But here’s another secret: even with our lack of experience, we were profitable since day one. Our goal was to simply replace our day job salaries, but I was surprised when in our first year of business together, I made more than I ever had working as an art director at an advertising agency.
What’s the secret to being profitable since day one? We positioned ourselves as creative experts, created really good content, and narrowed in on our offering to attract just the right dream customers.
I recently invited Tara to chat with us on the Being Boss podcast to chat with us about:
P.S. The Braid Method Branding ECourse is where we share everything we know, plus helpful how-tos, on how to package and position yourself to attract more dream clients. It’s now open to new students. Learn more and register for this DIY complete-at-your-own-pace branding course.
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I have an incredibly talented friend (and former Braid client) who makes a living as a professional photographer. We were recently hanging out and she was sharing her business insights and frustrations alike with me. This friend of mine is incredibly grateful for the clients she has, the reputation she’s building, and the work she is getting, but like any creative entrepreneur, there are seasons when she’s racking her brain to come up with new tactics and ideas to book her schedule solid with dream clients. Since chatting with my friend, I’ve been racking my brain thinking of ways she can get more clients too. So this post is for her (but I have a feeling it might help you too).
It’s easy enough to say “I want more clients,” which was what my friend was originally expressing in her frustrations, but that’s not an easily measurable goal. So I asked my friend over the course of our conversation to get more specific and she said, “I want to book 20 weddings this year.” Okay! Now we have a number to work with. 20 weddings a year = 5 per quarter.
1B. MAKE SPACE FOR YOUR GOALS
My favorite tool for making my goals visual is The Chalkboard Method. So I would advise my friend to create her own chalkboard pronto. (Seriously, it works.)
Knowing that booking weddings are her goal, she can now put her efforts toward booking couples getting married. However, before you even begin marketing toward those brides or grooms, begin nurturing your relationships with wedding venues, event planners, florists, and caterers. These are the folks that are going to recommend you and help you create a name for yourself within the industry. Here are just a couple ideas for nurturing those valuable relationships:
Gay marriage is still newly legal (yay!) which means a lot more gay couples are getting, well, married. My friend was telling me how much she’d love to photograph more LGBTQ couples, and many LGBTQ couples shopping for vendors are cautiously looking for folks who will be enthusiastic and supportive of their union. My friend already has LGBTQ couples in her portfolio, but using gender-neutral language when talking about couples, and explicitly telling her potential clients on your website that she is LGBTQ friendly could go a long way in getting more dream clients.
My photographer friend takes really amazing boudoir-style shots of women out in nature. So, while she wants more weddings (that pay the bills!) my thought is to ask brides if they’d be game for a sexy shoot they can surprise their spouse-to-be with. Including the kind of photos you want to be known for in the packages you’re already getting hired for is a great way to boost your portfolio with the kind of work you want to be known for.
The other day I noticed that my friend has over 20k followers on Instagram, and she’s great about consistently posting, but wasn’t so great at explicitly reminding her audience to hire her. She was unsure about bombarding her followers with calls to action. but creative professionals have to make a living by consistently selling themselves. You can’t worry too much about what other people might think when your livelihood is at stake. Trust that people want to hire you, they just need to be consistently reminded that you are available.
These are little nuggets of advice that are simple enough and can make a big difference in your bottom line. I hope these not only help my photographer friend land more dream clients but that you’re able to take away a few tidbits you can apply to your own small business.
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When we first launched Braid Creative, we spent a few months developing our brand, solidifying our positioning, and designing our website. We launched with a big hurrah and a bottle of bubbly. And then… crickets.
We needed clients, stat.
At the time, we were working with our executive coach, Jay Pryor, who held us accountable for doing things to help move our baby business forward. He helped us navigate feelings of uncertainty, but he also helped us get clear and practical when it came to growing our business. When we shared with him how freaked out we were that we didn’t have any clients he said this:
In order to get clients you have to make space for them.
Our coach put us “on the hook” for developing a system to visually track our clients. Jay promised that the universe abhors a vacuum and that we simply needed to make space—literally and metaphysically—for clients.
I had an entire wall in my home office painted with chalkboard paint at the time – and as daunting as it was to “make space” for clients I didn’t have yet, I drew 12 lines that I hoped would fill sooner than later. I remember sitting back down at my computer, which faced my chalkboard wall, a little freaked out about the constant, oversized reminder that we had NO work. But through a combination of a lot of hustle while launching our business and a little bit of magic (#hustlewoo), all 12 slots were filled by the end of the week.
What started as something that felt a little silly or superstitious has become a business tool we come to rely on every single day and what we refer to as “The Chalkboard Method.” Our own Chalkboard has evolved from just 12 blank spaces for clients, to a place where we track (and attract) dream clients, digital products, new offerings we’re experimenting with, and even grow our social following.
Anytime I tell someone about The Chalkboard Method, they want to know more details! “How does it work? How can I make my own?”
I’ve got you! Here is a worksheet that will walk you through The Chalkboard Method step-by-step so you can make it your own.
And if you’re still wanting more, I did an entire podcast episode on The Chalkboard Method over at Being Boss. You can listen to that here.
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