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Going from Creative to Creative Expert | Braid Creative & Consulting

Embracing your creative expertiseToday’s post comes from our Branding for Designers email series. Almost everyone on the Braid team started out as a graphic designer so we have a special place in our hearts for you all. We know your struggles first hand and wanted to create a series just for you. Oh, and if you’d like to get a free eBook on how to brand yourself as a creative expert sign up here. Now on to the post!

There’s a difference between deciding to work in a creative field and deciding to become a creative entrepreneur who works for yourself. There’s an even more subtle yet significant leap (in mindset + just making it happen) to go from a creative entrepreneur who works for yourself to a creative who is positioned as a creative expert.

“Expert” is a heavy word. You might not be sure how you feel about it. So let’s remember for a second why you became a “creative entrepreneur,” which is hopefully a label you happily embrace.

You became a creative entrepreneur because you love creating things that all click together in this really cool way. You can look at a problem—at something that’s missing, at something that’s just a total mess, or something that’s almost there but still not quite right—and make it into something that works, that inspires, and that gives you this feeling of “I did that.”

That feeling at the end of a successful client project—be it large or small—is so good. But sometimes it gets all muddled by other feelings along the way: “Ugh. It took so many revisions.” “I wish the client had liked it more.” “I wish I had liked it a little more.” “It could’ve been better if only...” Here’s the thing – it is so easy for creatives to blame these woulda-coulda-shoulda’s on the client. And all too often, deep down, we blame it on our own fear that we just aren’t talented enough, smart enough, creative enough, or good enough.

Difficult to embrace the title creative expert

So who can blame us for not easily embracing the word “expert” when it’s difficult enough (especially on the hard projects, the hard clients, the just plain hard days) to feel like we totally own the label of “creative entrepreneur?” (click to tweet)

Think about how you would love to be seen by your clients before you even get started. Think about the kind of work you’d like to be known for. Imagine feeling so confident not just at the end of a design project…but along the way. Yeah, there’s still always going to be muddled feelings (we’re all human after all), but when you cultivate the inner mindset and working habits of a creative expert, those moments of doubt and frustration are so minimized by the feeling of “I got this.”

become a confident creative expert

Try this: Make a list of all the things you would have to start doing before you would be comfortable thinking of yourself as a creative expert. Is it more training in your skill or education? Is it a portfolio filled with more work you love? Is it working with a certain kind of dream client? Is it feeling like you have a worthy brand? Is it feeling confident blogging, writing or just speaking?

Now look over that list again. Let’s refine those thoughts, get a little more specific, and use them to help you fill in this blank: “Actually I do feel like an expert already at _____, ____ and _____. I’d really only need a little more of _________ to feel even more confident, and that’s something I could start doing right now in the short term. So if I had to pick one big thing that would help me truly feel like a creative expert in the long term, it would be ____________. I think that’s something I could really focus on over the next six months and really see a change in my mindset, my business positioning and the kind of work I get to take on.”

Next up we’ll be talking about how to create and share your business vision because our creative expertise is all about helping other creative entrepreneurs find that voice so they can tell dream clients who they are and what they do, but also so they can get specific about their business vision so they can move forward without self-doubt and second-guessing along the way.

If you find this series of blog posts helpful, then you should definitely check out our Braid Method Branding ECourse. We’ve taken everything we’ve learned from our creative expertise and spent years curating this content and getting it just right so that you can walk away with some amazing insights into who you are and what you want from your business as well as some exercises to help you fine tune your messaging and get crystal clear on how to position yourself as a creative expert.

Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.

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Everyone is doing the same thing

Last week a discouraged creative entrepreneur told me that she feels like everyone is doing the same thing. Why bother when there are a million talented creatives already out there?

On days when I’m feeling particularly optimistic I think we’re just lucky to be alive – that our one in a bajillion chance of even being here is our greatest accomplishment and anything else we can make or create is gravy on top. But on days when I’m feeling insecure or discouraged I know exactly how that creative I was talking to last week feels. Why bother?

For example, a couple years ago when I uncovered that I was not just passionate about branding but also coaching other creatives to live what they love, I felt like everyone and their dog was becoming a life coach. I asked myself “How many professional cheerleaders does the world need? “Who’s going to actually do the work and live the dream if everyone is just cheering from the sidelines?”

And then when I decided to launch an ECourse I felt like everyone else was already crushing it with their six-figure B-School online offering. When I fall into a comparison trap it feels like quicksand and I don’t have the energy to hustle - like Atreyu’s horse dying in the Swamp of Sadness in The Neverending Story.

YOU’RE NOT A UNIQUE SNOWFLAKE
I’m pretty sure that discouraged designer wanted me to tell her the same thing I want to hear when I’m feeling blah about what I do and begin comparing myself to everyone else. What I want to hear is that I’m a unique snowflakes and only I possess the talent to do what I do. I want to believe it, but I just can’t buy it. Because the fact is, there are lots of other people who are successful doing what I do. But what I DO know to be true is that there is enough room for everyone to be great.

enough room for all creatives

If you don’t feel like a special snowflake either, but do want to get out of your comparison trap all you have to do is change your mind. Here are some things that might help shift your perspective:

WHAT WOULD YOU RATHER BE DOING?
The creative entrepreneur I was talking to is a designer who loves design. It turns out she wouldn’t rather be doing anything else. That realization alone helped her get out of her comparison funk because there was really no alternative. But for others this question may reveal that your path needs to take a bend. When you’re doing what you really want to be doing, it doesn’t matter who else is doing it – or even doing it better.

ACKNOWLEDGE THE MARKET BUT DON’T GET SUCKED IN TO IT
It’s actually a good thing when other people are doing what you’re doing – it means there is a demand for your services. Let’s say you want to be holistic chef for a living – you get some training, you launch a website, and you start sharing your recipes. Then maybe you start following some other holistic chefs on Instagram and sign up for their newsletters. Before you know it you’re bombarded with other chefs’ work and BAM! You fall into the comparison trap. It’s easy to feel like EVERYONE is doing what you’re doing when you follow everyone else that does what you do. My advice is to be aware of the market but maybe pick just one or two of your favorites to follow.

GIVE THE PEOPLE YOU’RE JEALOUS OF A HIGH FIVE
Nothing gets me out of my comparison trap like giving the people I’m sizing myself up against kudos for doing such a damn good job. But even if the compliment isn’t reciprocated that’s okay too. It’s more about me recognizing that other people can do great work and it doesn’t detract from what I’m doing. You can give someone you’re jealous of a “high-five” by giving them a shout-out on your blog, telling them how much you like them on Instagram, or even purchasing one of their products.

TIME IS GOING TO PASS ANYWAY – YOU MIGHT AS WELL MAKE SOMETHING
I mean… let’s say you give up and decide not to be a creative entrepreneur anymore because too many other people already have it covered. Then what? Every time I think about “quitting my job” I imagine hiding under a rock for about 36 hours, brainstorming something I could make, design, create, launch, and ship while I’m under that rock, then crawling out from under my rock so I can get back to work. (This also goes back to asking yourself what you’d rather be doing – the answer to that question will always come to the surface when you’re hiding under a rock).

WHAT IF BEYONCÉ THOUGHT “WHY BOTHER?”
I mean … c’mon. What if Beyoncé was all “Well, I mean… Tina Turner, Britney, Lady Gaga, Pink, and Madonna already have it covered. Why bother?” Enough said.

GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD AND DO THE WORK
Finally, if you’re busy doing the work, honing your craft, and making something you’re proud of, you won’t have time to compare yourself to everyone else. Get back to your hands. Put pen to paper. Or mouse to screen. Get into your creative process – go, make, do!

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Okay, so while I don’t believe the work we do makes us unique snowflakes, I do think who we are is pretty damn special. And I know that when we show up as ourselves 100% of the time, we attract the dreamiest of clients – the ones who believe we’re the only ones who can really help them and “get” them. That’s what personal branding is all about – being who you are in business. Because the blend of you the person + what you do, isn’t something anyone else can do the same.

Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.

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Tara here. I know most of you did not dream of starting your own business, just to work with clients that don’t feel like a fit. But I don’t want you to take your clients for granted, either. I want you to love your clients. 

As much as I get fired up to create products for my own business – daydreaming with Kathleen about what’s next for us – I only enjoy those planning-scheming-dreaming moments when they are layered into a healthy schedule of client work. For me, that means lots of chunks of time in my day and week devoted to visioning and writing brand platforms for our clients. 

I recently wrote a post on how Winter is For Working On You. For us that mentality is part of every week – every Friday on our calendar has become a Braid day. But when Monday rolls around, or as the winter hibernation starts to wear off a little –  you stick your head up like that little groundhog that sees spring really is coming this time, and think “ok, who’s going to be my next great client and what kind of client work is going to be filling my calendar?”

What has the doing of the work for our dream clients… done for me?

1. Dream clients give me a steady income. But I’d rephrase that to say, they give me a steady confidence. I could have easily titled this post “What I Can Do For Dream Clients.”  But I wanted to talk to you instead about the confidence having three+ years of dream clients and counting, has done for me and my business.

Braid has never had a dip in our profits since we started, only a steady incline as we’ve built our business. Too much information? I don’t think so. We don’t take for granted that our ability to attract dream clients who pay us for our creative expertise, gives us confidence to always ask for what we’re worth, and only work with our dream clients. So even if we create a product (like our Braid ECourse), or venture into new territory (like our Being Boss podcast) – the confidence to do that, and a lot of the content that made us the creative experts we are – all started with our dream clients.

2.  Dream clients keep me happy-busy. In the moment it may just feel like regular-busy, you know, deadlines and all that. But I have to admit, working purely on a client’s challenge gets me out of my own head. I find when I spend too much time focused inward, I end up scheming on overdrive with all my own business and brand ideas (even we can suffer from an abundance of ideas, so our motto when that happens is “stay on the bus,” but the motto isn’t needed as much when we’re in wildly productive working-mode).

3. Dream clients let me use (and value!) my methodical mind and creative words. In other words, they see me, and trust me – as a creative expert. Ok, so yeah, of course this isn’t just all about what my dream clients can do for me, ha! It feels great to help another creative say what they really mean, sound like an expert and look like they really want to be seen. This gives me purpose, and it gives me momentum to then turn that same vision and brand guidance on ourselves again, when we have to do some self-work on our own business, too. 

It’s definitely a back and forth of building our own business, building our own confidence, and then turning around and giving others the same.

I want these three dream client statements to be true for you, too:
1. My dream clients give me a steady income!
2. My dream clients keep me happy-busy!
3. My dream clients see me as a creative expert!


Some of you may think, ugh, I just need clients, period. And yes, we get that. But then look at those statements above. If you didn’t say “dream,” in front of “client,” and worked with anyone for any project (even if they’re not a fit at all) – forget number two and number three. You could only say number one, “my clients give me a steady income!” and even then, it may not be so steady. You may find your income is based on other factors like the seasonality, word-of-mouth, or just plain luck. 

P.S. What if you really are just starting out and need any client?! What if you’re transitioning from one type of client to a new kind of dream client? You guys might already know about our chalkboard method, but if you don’t, check it out here. It really helped us in those first couple years of building our clients, and keeping a full and consistent roster of not only clients, but dream clients. 

Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.

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Braid Creative & Consulting is branding and business visioning for creative entrepreneurs. The Braid Blog is where we share weekly insights and resources for creatives.

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