There’s this idea that when you work for yourself, especially as a creative entrepreneur, you are living the dream. The fantasy goes like this: you’re making things with your hands, brainstorming over coffee with creative colleagues, and doing so much yoga that you can finally get into complicated arm balances. But you know, and I know, that being your own boss isn’t so easy. Balancing work and life, paying the bills, wearing all the hats … it’s a lot of work, and it doesn’t always feel so dreamy.
Kathleen here. I write a lot about being your own boss here on the Braid blog, I give a peek behind the curtains of how we work in our exclusive Letters for Creatives, and I share snippets of my life in between it all, over on my personal blog, And Kathleen. So it’s been a long time coming, but now I’m finally launching a podcast called Being Boss. I’m teaming up with my good friend and creative confidant Emily Thompson of Indie Shopography, and every week we’ll be candidly talking to you, fellow bosses and aspiring-to-be’s, about the good and bad, the ups and downs – of being boss.
BEING THE BOSS
“Being The Boss” means being able to manage, plan, organize, invest, delegate, and make tough decisions. It’s not easy and doesn’t always come naturally to a lot of us creatives who just want to make a living doing what we love. But learning how to be the boss is how you make living the dream profitable.
“Being Boss” is an attitude. It’s confidence, being all in, stepping into uncertainty without losing your cool, and most of all being unapologetically who you are 100% of the time. “Boss” is an adjective that came on the scenes in the 1950s – it means cool or awesome. “That motorcycle jacket is boss!” But I love the Urban Dictionary definition written by Tiffany aka Ya Girl Miss Tiff: "Boss. noun - a person who is a leader, someone who runs shit in his/her hood or city. Example: If you got more than $100 G's in the bank and stackin paper every day, more than likely you are a Boss."
So yeah, we’re going to talk about stackin paper, setting goals for ourselves, and getting sh*t done – all the things that make us feel “Boss.” But there’s going to be a lot of talk about love, too, love for what we do, love for what we’ve created, and love for you guys out there trying to do the same.
Sign up at LoveBeingBoss.com or subscribe to our Being Boss newsletter below to be the first to know when our newest episode is released in early January.
BEING BOSS PODCAST
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Okay, so you’re good at what you do. You know you’re talented and are confident in your craft. But when you rely solely on your skills it’s easy to fall into the role of the order-taker who is exchanging talent or time for money. Whereas, when you are an expert you are hired and paid for your experience, knowledge, and ideas. How do you go from selling what you do to getting hired for what you know? There isn’t a super clear path or step-by-step formula to level-up your game. But I’d like to share a few ideas to make the transition from talented doer to an expert with purpose.
GET SPECIFIC ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE GOOD AT
There is probably a broad label for what you actually do – like photography, graphic design, interior decorating, coding, writing, yoga, or cooking. But can you get really specific about what makes you a great designer, photographer, writer, developer, or cook? Maybe it’s your use of color or typography. Maybe it’s your knack at capturing light or blending really interesting flavor combinations.
What you’re good at – your craft and your style – is typically what you’re being hired for. And getting really great at what you do is a good place to start. If you’re fresh out of school or new to your creative field it’s not a bad idea to focus on getting really good at your craft.
GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR “HIGHER PURPOSE”
Your skills are really important but it still puts you in the position of being an order-taker if you’re not clear on your expertise. Plus, calling yourself an expert can feel funny if you don’t well… feel like an expert. So instead try thinking of your expertise as your higher purpose. A higher purpose doesn’t have to be super-woo-woo, or super-ambitious. It simply means why you do what you do.
When I first started down my path as a graphic designer I just wanted to be a rockstar at my craft – like Stefan Sagmeister or Jessica Hische. But when I started blogging about life as a freelance graphic designer I quickly realized my higher purpose was to be who I am 100% of the time in work and life. This purpose pours into what I consider my expertise, and that’s not design alone, but helping others blend that same 100% being who they are into their own personal brand. Design is just one tool to help me with the doing. You have similar talents or tools as a doer, too. Don’t stop using them, but try seeing the higher purpose they’re helping you reach over time.
USE YOUR SKILLS (THE STUFF YOU’RE GOOD AT) TO SHARE YOUR PURPOSE
My skills are in graphic design and as a freelance designer I was being hired to design brand identities, logos, and websites. But I also started using my skills in color, typography, and imagery to tell my own story and share my ideas on my blog. I never felt like an expert until over time, by consistently pairing design and idea-sharing on my blog, I began to attract a tribe of creative comrades and clients who felt inspired and encouraged by what I was putting out there. You don’t necessarily need a blog to share your expertise – it can happen over social media, with a podcast or youtube channel, at conferences and workshops, or in face-to-face conversations.
THEN JUST GET ON WITH IT! (HINT: IT TAKES TIME)
I wish I had a silver bullet that would instantly make every creative feel more confident and skilled at what they do. But the hard truth is that it takes time. I think it was Malcolm Gladwell who said in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at what you do. And in a less cerebral coffee table book about the rise and fame of Lady Gaga she said that she worked hard and kept her head down – then one day someone tapped her on the shoulder, she looked up, and she was number one.
In that first hour you are going to feel like anything but an expert and that’s okay – you have to begin somewhere. But it’s the one tried and true way I’ve seen hundreds of creatives who work for themselves make that real transition into not only feeling like an expert, but looking up over their shoulder, and finally realizing they are being seen as one. And heck yeah, it feels good to consider myself as one of them. It’s a humble “heck yeah” of course, with 10,000 hours behind me, and yet another 10,000+ and counting still in front. But all the work I do in those future hours won’t be as “hired talent,” but as an expert.
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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Over the past three years I’ve been asked a lot of questions when it comes to personal branding and blending the personal with the professional. Today I’m going to address the one I get the most – which is: when it comes to my online presence should I keep the personal and professional together or separate? In simplest terms it comes down to the question of having two websites or one – one for the person, and one for the biz. Creatives are so confused over this issue and I think it’s because we’re taught, or conditioned, in school or at our day jobs to compartmentalize who we are and what we do. That’s the “professional” thing to do, right? Except most creatives want to live authentically and aligned – they crave creative cohesion and know in their bones that blending the personal and professional, online and off, would make them feel well… authentic and aligned. But it’s easier said than done.
For example, here’s an email I received just this week:
I SO admire the way you are able to mesh your adventures and personal life and work all into one platform… and I’m in a place where I wonder if I should continue down that path. My site is kind of all over the place... with my photography sessions and adventures and musings in one. Does remodeling a creepy cargo van into a rambling gypsy wagon really belong next to pictures of newborn babies? Most people would say probably not, but I wonder if you have an idea for that? The reason why I choose to question what most people would say, is that I’ve had so many clients (who usually turn friends), where my adventures inspire them, and make them feel connected to me, which in turns gets them to hire me. I know I’m not the best photographer out there, but I can connect with people and make it a fun experience for them. So, perhaps what I lack in talent, I make up for in authenticity and fun. At least that’s my hope… and what my vision is. So my questions are. 1. should I keep them [the personal adventures and professional services] separate or together; and/or 2. if together, is there a way to have the two semi-connected by bridging the gap between memory-maker and adventure-seeker?
First off, it’s pretty clear that Katelyn already knows the answer to her question. She should absolutely keep her adventures and her services together – not only because it is getting her hired but because she uses photography to make connections and tell stories. Whether that’s the story of bicycling across the United States (which she just did) or the story of a baby being born into this world. If I was having a drink with Katelyn I would first tell her that she is in fact talented. Then I’d tell her that she is the common denominator between her photo sessions, adventures, and musings. Katelyn herself is the gap-bridged.
Here are some other things I hear from creatives who are considering keeping their professional portfolio and offerings separate from their personal blog:
“I’m afraid that my clients don’t want to read about my life.”
First, are your clients robots? If so, they probably don’t want to read about your life. Second, are your clients dreamy? If not, maybe you could attract more dream customers who like and trust you by sharing more of who you are. Third, if you’re clients don’t want to read about your life they don’t have to. They can simply go to the “how to hire me” page of your website and hire you for what you have to offer.
“I’m afraid that my blog readers will be annoyed if I talk about my work.”
If you’re a creative entrepreneur your work is a part of your life. And if your blog readers like reading about your life they’re probably curious about your work. And if your work is something they need, they are far more likely to support or hire you because they already like and trust you. There is nothing wrong with reminding your tribe that you are for hire. In fact, if you’re really good at what you do you are doing your people a disservice by NOT letting them know about your work. You know?
“I’m afraid it doesn’t all make sense together.”
There’s this scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where Ferris and his girlfriend Sloane are making out in the museum while third wheel Cameron is having an existential crisis in front of a pointillist painting scored to an instrumental version of The Smiths “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.” The camera zooms in on the painting until you just see a bunch of tiny little dots. These little dots, one-by-one, make up the big picture but you would never know it if you were zoomed all the way in. Well, your life is made up of a bunch of dots, and if you create a separate website and platform for each dot they’ll never have a chance to come together to make a big picture.
A CASE FOR KEEPING IT SEPARATE
My friend Shauna is a great example of someone who can keep up with her personal blog, her professional agency site, and her side gig creating The Blogcademy all being in different places. It makes sense for those projects and content to have their own spaces. That said, even though she’s rocking a few separate platforms I can see HER in all those spaces.
As much as I preach about the personal / professional blend, even I have a personal blog that allows me to experiment, explore, and find my “voice” and writing style. But just because I have a blog dedicated to my professional point-of-view doesn’t mean I have to sound like a robot when I’m writing over here. And, believe me, all my followers know about my business, how to hire me, and what’s going on in my work life, just as much as the personal – that’s because my work is a part of my life – it not only puts food on the table but it feeds my soul – so you better believe I’m telling my tribe how to hire me. That’s where some of our earliest and dreamiest clients came from in the first place!
My point is this – don’t let your fear or assumptions of what other people might think dictate how you do you. And the thing is this – there is no right answer. Instead, check in and do what you want. Do what makes most sense to you right now – whether that’s bringing it all together or keeping it separate.
If you want to learn more when it comes to finding the magic in the overlap between the personal and the professional check out our Braid ECourse Personal Branding: Blending Who You Are With What You Do. It is in-session this Friday, Nov. 14-26 – registration closes Thursday! Learn more and see if it’s a good fit 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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