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We were sharing our key takeaways and “ah-ha” moments during the closing session at DesignerVACA (it’s like summer camp in fabulous Palm Springs for graphic designers) when one designer said something along the lines of coming to DesignerVACA to learn freelancing tips and tricks but was surprised to come away with her tribe. She said she had underestimated how important it was to connect with comrades and would be searching for more of “her people” once she returned home. And then just this week one of my creative coaching clients asked me how she can build her following and find her tribe. So that’s what I want to talk about this week: how to find and build your tribe. 

WHO IS YOUR TRIBE?
Think of your tribe as a layered onion. The outer layer might be blog readers, Instagram followers, and friendly acquaintances at the coffee shop. The next layer in might be people you only know from the internet but refer to as friends – for example, your husband or girlfriend might know this person by name and/or Twitter handle because you refer to them often enough. The next layer in might be IRL (that stands for In Real Life) friends – the ones you’ve met at conferences, workshops, or retreats and keep in touch with via social media. After that you might find the people you’re in the trenches with – your co-workers, business partners, and creative collaborators. Then there are you close friends – the ones you text your secrets to and have 5-hour long brunches with. The closer you get to the core of the onion the closer your tribe becomes – for me these are my best friends and family – pretty much the people who have seen me ugly cry. 

So how do you build those layers of your tribe? Here’s how I’ve done it: 



1. BE GENEROUS WITH YOUR GIFTS OF KNOWLEDGE
Whether it’s giving a talk or hitting publish on a blog post – create and share meaningful content that will somehow make your audience’s life a little better – even if it’s just one person. 

2. START TALKING (AND COMMENTING) 
How often do you comment on your favorite blogs? Or how often do you create a conversation with someone you admire on Facebook or Twitter? Once a week I make it a goal of mine to comment on every blog post or hit “reply” to every newsletter I read that day.  

3. ATTEND CONFERENCES, WORKSHOPS, AND RETREATS
It can be expensive to travel but I have never once regretted the money I’ve spent to attend a creative conference, workshop, or retreat. It always connects me with the people I’m supposed to be friends with (and the bloggers I leave comments with). Plus, every time I make an investment to travel it has more than paid for itself with new business opportunities. 

4. SUPPORT YOUR TRIBE WITH YOUR DOLLARS
When your friends or clients launch new products or services that you want or need don’t hesitate to click “buy”. I believe this creates good commerce karma between creatives. 

5. HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER 
Your tribe wants to support you too! They just need to know how. Package up your offerings in a way that people know how to buy – and let them know about it! 

BUILDING YOUR TRIBE STARTS SMALL 
The most important thing to remember when it comes to finding your tribe is to start small. It starts with commenting on one blog, making one new friend at a conference or workshop, or having one really great conversation at the coffee shop with a creative friend. 

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If you’re feeling confused around your creating content that helps you attract your people check out our Braid ECourse Shape Up Your Content: Tame Your Ideas and Tell People How to Buy You. Today is your last day to register – this 10-day at-your-own-pace online course is in-session starting tomorrow. 

Don’t quite have a handle on what you want to do and be? Check out my DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions – it’s $40 for four weeks of content that will help you dig deep so you can uncover the good stuff and make decisions about what’s next.

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I recently read an article that said something like 92%* of first graders, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, respond with “famous.” They don’t necessarily care about how they achieve that fame – whether it’s as an actor, the president, a professional athlete … they just want to be famous. (*I have no idea what the actual percentage was but it was alarming.) 

So yeah, it’s pretty disturbing that we’re bringing up kids who value fame and recognition over talent, grit, skill, and smarts. But this post isn’t going to address how we solve that problem. This post is about how I’m seeing the exact same desire for recognition happen with aspiring creative entrepreneurs. Here’s how I’m seeing this show up for well-meaning creatives: 

“I want to inspire others to create and live an authentic life.” 

“I want to inspire people to not give up.” 

“I want to inspire and empower women to be brave…” 


I get it, because... “me too.” However, inspiring others shouldn’t be the goal in and of itself. Fame, recognition, money (as much as I condone getting paid), and even something as noble as inspiring others shouldn’t be the thing that drives you to do what you do. If it is, you’ll never measure up and you’ll always be chasing a moving target. 

So what I propose instead is that you capture, shape, and share whatever it is that you want to do and then be the best at it every single day. When you share who you are and go full force with the things that really light you up – that’s when you’ll inspire others. When you can package up what you do best in a way that people know how to buy – that’s when you’ll make money. And when you make waves in someone else’s life – that’s way more rewarding than whatever your perception of fame may be. 

Don’t quite have a handle on what you want to do and be? Check out my DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions – it’s $40 for four weeks of content that will help you dig deep so you can uncover the good stuff and make decisions about what’s next. 

Our Braid ECourse Personal Branding: Blending Who You Are With What You Do starts next week! It will be in session from August 22-31 and is great for bloggers, creative professionals, and aspiring entrepreneurs who want to feel more aligned both at work and play. See if it’s a good fit and register here. 

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Kathleen here. Here at Braid Creative we talk a lot about creative entrepreneurs and freelancers who are paving their own path to live what they love. But get this – a majority of our creative coaching clients have day jobs. Most of them hire us for the confidence and clarity that comes from our coaching and consulting to quit. We regularly get emails from those former clients who share with us that they’ve finally decided to make the leap from day job to do their own thing (!!!!!) – those emails usually include lots of exclamation marks – and we’re always so happy (!!!!!) for them. All of that said, and as supportive as we are, we never actually tell anyone to quit their day job.

In fact, day jobs can be ideal for lots of creatives. While working nine-to-five (and then some) doesn’t give you a lot of time, it can offer the kind of security that allows you to build up a portfolio of dream projects on the side. With a day job you can afford to be picky about the extra stuff you take on. And on that note, when you work for yourself sometimes you get desperate for clients (even not-so-dreamy clients) with cash – and nothing kills creativity like desperation and clients from hell. Day jobs also give you access to teams, resources, and rad customers that you may not have when you work solo. And just because you work a day job doesn’t mean you can’t also rock the entrepreneurial spirit by embracing your own personal brand and razor sharp point-of-view within the walls of an organization that also happens to offer you a steady paycheck.

Late last year I coached a UX (user experience) designer who had big passion for projects much larger than herself, but she was also attached to the idea of working solo (I mean, that’s The Dream, right?). I challenged her assumption that working for yourself is the only path to living what you love and asked her why she wanted to freelance rather than work on a team. After sitting on that question for a while she realized the work she was best at – designing complex user interfaces – didn’t lend itself to working alone. She finally found the confidence, through coaching and additional UX training, to submit her resume and portfolio to a digital advertising startup company. She was hired and recently followed up by sharing this with me: “They are paying me a really great salary (about $30K MORE than my last full time job), full benefits, 401K, and stock options. More than that I feel appreciated, challenged and excited about my career—all feelings that were completely absent from my freelance life.”



It turns out her day job very well may be her dream job! If I was still coaching this client today I would ask her the following questions: 
• What does your ideal day look like? How does your day job fit into the picture? Are there any disconnects you could tweak AT your day job to make it even more dreamy? 
• In what ways can you cultivate your own personal brand at your day job? In other words, how do you consistently show up for your co-workers? What can they expect from you every time?  
•  Any passion projects you want to pursue on the side? Perhaps you maintain a personal blog or are obsessed with hand-lettering. Consider how these might inform the work you do at your day job. Or maybe these are creative endeavors you keep just for you. 

Now, I realize not every nine-to-five is quite so dreamy. So this week in our Letters for Creatives (our exclusive newsletter sent straight to your inbox) I’m going to be talking about when to quit and sharing my own story about how I decided to make the leap from senior art director at a cool ad agency to being my own boss for the first time ever. If you don’t already receive these free emails then sign up here. 

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P.S. If you feel like you need a little creative coaching for loads of confidence and clarity check out our DIY Coaching for Creative email series. It’s just $40 for 4 weeks of content delivered straight to your inbox and you can sign up anytime. Or contact us for more information on how we can work together one-on-one. 


P.P.S. Our Braid ECourse Dream Customer Catching is in-session this week but our next ECourse Shape Up Your Content: Tame Your Ideas and Tell People How to Buy You is now open for registration and will be in-session July 18 - 27. Learn more and register here. 

photo via Unsplash


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