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 work with a lot of creative entrepreneurs – designers, writers, photographers, makers. Usually by the time they have hired us to help them clear up their business vision, and package up their brand position and creative offering, they’ve pretty much picked a path for their business. They’ve plotted out their creative dream job working for themselves instead of a company, have been chugging down that path for months or even years, and are able to look up and see how far they’ve come. They’re feeling sustainable, so that means paying themselves properly while able to invest in business improvements – whether hiring an employee, relaunching their website, enrolling in training or attending conferences, or renting a cool office space.
All of this sounds like the picture of what working for yourself should be, right? But so often when creatives are visioning, daydreaming, planning and what-iffing their future, the same question just pesters them left and right – ”what if I’m going down the wrong path?”
The Aspiring Creative Entrepreneur Just Starting Out.
For the aspiring entrepreneur, let’s say someone about to quit her day job and take the exhilarating leap, or someone who’s been on their own for a bit now, but is still starting-and-stalling getting her business fully realized, this question “what if I’m choosing wrong?” can feel so permanent and life altering. Some of us are able to mildly tolerate this very natural, yet nagging worry and then swat it away now and again when the buzzing gets too loud.
But sometimes, and this can comes up especially when we’re coaching creatives, this question can completely stop the aspiring entrepreneur in her tracks – analysis paralysis, put on the flashing lights, pull over, this bus ain’t goin’ nowhere.
The Creative Entrepreneur Who Has “Arrived.”
But the entrepreneurs “who’ve arrived,” aren’t immune to retracing their path in moments of self-doubt either. You know, those creatives I mentioned above who seem to be on a roll? Sometimes that speed of opportunity and choice coming so fast can be as overwhelming as any of those early days, wondering when business was ever going to pick up beyond a crawl.
Because sometimes when we get where we were headed in the first place, we wonder why we chose this destination, and start wondering if we can get a “do-over.” This is the moment we ask “oops, did I go down the wrong path?”
You Can Always Change Your Path. Just Don’t Get Off The Bus.
This path-choosing anxiety (or regret) could center around whether to focus on a particular niche, or whether to structure your business around a service, a product, or even a content-sharing model. Your fork in the road could be deciding on pairing up with a business partner or investor, or it could be whether to establish a physical “storefront” or keep your brand living purely online. And one of the most heavy-hearted questions could even be, “should I go back to the financial security (and decision-making reprieve) of working for someone else?”
Our creative entrepreneurship within Braid, our own business, is not immune to this constant decision-making – oh no, we’re always choosing paths. Sometimes we even start down one, hit reverse, and try another, but that doesn’t keep us from barreling down that alternate route instead.
But what really keeps us moving forward when the path-choosing gets tricky – is knowing how to stay on the bus. “The bus” is our own creative expertise that will never change, and our vision for what is going to make this dream job we’ve created for ourselves (a.k.a. the journey) worth it.
What’s Your Bus?
If you are just starting out, or have already created a business on your own terms, stop asking which path should I choose for just a moment – and ask yourself this, “what’s my bus?” How can I define what it is to be a creative expert, and what’s my core expertise that I hope will never change?
Eventually You Can Shape Whatever Path You Choose... To Fit You.
If you’ve been down plenty of paths already, ask yourself this, “am I really embracing the expertise I’ve already hard-earned?” Maybe not. If you’re not really owning that power, yeah, you might start dreaming of “do overs,” but really, if you can get undeniably centered around this expertise, you can shape almost any path to you – instead of letting your clients, your industry, your services shape you.
In fact, that’s a whole other topic I get really fired up about, and am writing a Letter to Creatives for next week titled “How Do You Know When You’re An Expert?” You can sign up to get (often more candid) letters from myself and Kathleen straight to your inbox, with discounts to our Braid ECourses like the one below.
Decision-making can really get us all going in circles of self-doubt (that would be a cul-de-sac instead of a path) what are some ways you break the cycle and get moving down the road? Tell us about it on Facebook!
And of course I’m going to mention our Braid ECourse that’s open for registration. If you’re still suffering from scattered ideas or analysis paralysis check out our Braid ECourse Shape Up Your Content: Tame Your Ideas and Tell People How to Buy You. This ECourse will be in-session from Oct. 18-27. Learn more and sign up here!
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