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Kathleen here. Today’s blog post is borrowed from a recent Letters for Creatives – our newsletter with exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox. I always invite the Letters recipients to respond directly to me, and after I sent out this email letter in particular, I got so many replies from creative entrepreneurs saying how it resonated big time with them – so I thought I would repost it here. If you would like to receive our newsletter sign up here. I only send out about 3 letters a month – in other words, I promise not to take advantage of being invited in your inbox. 

Earlier this week I posted on the Braid Blog about how to feel like a creative expert. At the same time I was writing that post my 9 month old baby started growing teeth (which is apparently incredibly painful – there’s a reason why you don’t remember growing teeth) and came down with a virus that left the both of us covered in snot and puke more than once. Gross, I know. So after giving my sad, sick baby a tight squeeze and a good bath I got mad. I got mad at my own mom for never telling me how hard it was going to be to be a mom. I mean, she made it look so easy. And then I realized that’s because she was (and still is) a really great mom – it was part of her job description as “best mom ever” to make it look easy. 

On the Braid blog I listed out a few different ways to feel like a creative expert: remaining neutral to criticism and praise, taking a pause to gather more information before you respond, trusting yourself in the moment, recognizing patterns, establishing clear boundaries, saying no, charging more, and having enough confidence to share your point-of-view. But after this week of tending to a sick baby, juggling work and life, and thinking about my own mom – who is obviously an expert at motherhood – I need to add this to the list: 

Experts make it look easy. 
Experts don’t have to prove their worth by telling you how hard they worked on your project or how long they’ve been in the game. Experts never displace blame or require validation. Experts just do what they do what they do best – whether that’s snapping a photo, writing a book, developing an ECourse, designing your logo, or consulting you through next steps – with grace. Experts make you feel safe and reassured through the process. And they make it look so easy that you almost consider that you could do it yourself. And that’s how they know they’ve done a good job. 

Are you still having a hard time identifying or embracing your expertise? Consider this: 
  • What comes easy to you that seems to impress the people around you? The answer to this question might be your expertise. 
  • What isn’t so easy but is something you want to be really good at? This could be your expertise if you start working on it today (and tomorrow… and the day after.)

Our Braid ECourse Dream Customer Catching: Embrace Your Expertise and Attrack What You Track is now open for registration. So if you’re a writer, designer, photographer, consultant, or creative who is wanting to bring more of your personality and passion to your profession this ECourse is for you. This ECourse will be in-session from December 12-21 – you can take it for $50 using the discount code BRAIDECOURSE50 when you check out. 

Or if you’re needing more work / life guidance check out the DIY Coaching for Creatives Email Sessions – it’s just $40 and you can sign up and get this content straight to your inbox anytime!  

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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: 

  • How do I typically react to criticism and feedback? How could my response reflect my expertise? 
  • Do I really listen to my clients, peers, and creative colleagues or am I just waiting to speak? 
  • What do all of my clients have in common? 
  • How could I make my offerings and services more clear? How could I help my potential dream customers feel more reassured with my process? 
  • Am I being appropriately compensated for the work I’m doing? 
  • What do I want to be known for? 
  • How can I show that “specialty” more concretely in my work, my portfolio/case studies/process? 
  • Fill in the blank: If I could stop doing ________ I would feel more like an expert.

Our most popular Braid ECourse Personal Branding: Blending Who You Are With What You Do will be in session from November 14 - 23 and is great for bloggers, creative professionals, and aspiring entrepreneurs want to feel more aligned both at work and play. See if it’s a good fit and register here.

Need more guidance on being a creative expert? 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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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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