When you work for yourself, as a creative entrepreneur, it can be tricky to explain what you do. I know many of the creatives we hear from can get tripped up explaining what they do in quick-and-short instances—like introductions with other people. On flip-side, I get tripped up if I start thinking too hard about it – all existential-like. For instance, how would I explain my job if aliens landed in my backyard this afternoon? If vikings invaded our neighborhood from a portal in time? If the eight-year-old version of myself suddenly tapped me on the shoulder while I was sitting at my laptop?
When you’re a creative entrepreneur, it can be tricky to explain what you do.
Tara here, and I’m used to talking about what I do all the time, but if I pop-quizzed-myself with these slightly far fetched scenarios, I can still have that moment of “Uh. Hold on a sec... Oh yeah. This is what I do!”
Like so many of you, there are layers to my work. So these “what the heck?” moments don’t come from a lack of doing or thinking, but more likely from an overabundance of doing and thinking.
But! If I had to break out what I actually do every day, it’s a mix of:
b. creative direction, and
c. consulting as a creative expert for our creative clients.
Recognizing the mix of what I do (instead of trying to force only one) helps me explain myself better to myself. But then seeing those a.,b.,c.’s as layers I can choose to reveal—depending on the person or situation—helps me explain myself better to other people. For example:
1. I’d tell the vikings & aliens that I’m a writer. Or, in the real world, this is what I might tell people I meet at a party, casual acquaintances I run into a Target and old high-school friends. This is the simplest explanation of what I do. I know it’s not the whole “onion” but just the skin, and I’m fine (in fact, proud) of “writer” being that outside layer. What’s your outer layer?
2. I’d tell my eight-year-old self that I’m a creative director. I’d have to explain that layer a little more, to my younger self I’d say that I get to be the “boss” of what the words and pictures look like – which would sound pretty dreamy to me, because I basically just liked to draw, read and boss people around. In the real world, this is also a pretty solid description of what I do, and who I am, so it’s a “go-to” explanation for almost anyone that wants to know what I really do, and wouldn’t mind hearing just a tad more about my business. What’s your “go-to” layer? The one that’s just a little juicier and takes a bit more explanation but isn’t too over-complicated? Or simply, the one that sounds the best to your eight-year-old self?
It’s worth noting, that for a short while I stopped using this really accurate title for what I do when I quit my “day job” as a creative director—when I felt like it wasn’t my career anymore—because I started to be my own boss and a creative entrepreneur.
Sometimes we shed titles or layers when we think we’re “different” now. But really, we’re just over-proving to ourselves and others the fact that we’ve made a transition. Once we’ve done it, made it, and get comfortable in our skin again, it’s easier to see “oh wait, I’m still THAT, too. In fact, that’s what I’ve always been, I’m just doing it my way, or in a new way now.” Is there a title or layer that you’re trying too hard to shed? When really, it’s still part of who you are and what you do?
3. Last, I don’t really tell anyone I’m a consultant, really. Here’s why: It’s just one of those things I don’t explain or sell. It’s ingrained in how I deliver. So the writer and creative director parts of what I do are how I inspire, attract, and share. This is why people choose to learn more about me, about Braid, about what we do. That consulting part comes when you hire me, when you buy our ECourse, or even when you get this far in our blog posts!
You’re already “in,” we’re already a fit for each other, and you already feel me giving you helpful advice, even guidance. I don’t need to say I’m a consultant at this point, because right now, in these consulting moments – it’s all about understanding you. Then I deliver my service or product to you based on that deeper understanding that I’ve been able to gain.
What’s the layer, the heart of what you do that is the deeper deliverable for your clients? To clarify: what they are looking for—what they want to pay you for—is probably in layer one or two. But what do they really experience along the way, and get at the end that changes them, makes them better, or makes them happier? How do you do more than just inspire, but act as a guide?
Some of the things you really do, you don’t have to explain or articulate at all. At least, not summed up in a single word or label, because it’s how you deliver, what people experience for themselves and discover along the way. It’s “how you do.”
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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“People buy from people. That’s what personal branding is all about.” (click to tweet)
Okay, the buying part isn’t what it’s all about, but it sure is a good reason to give your personal brand some thought and attention. Personal branding at it’s core is about genuine confidence. Having a good sense of your personal brand (your voice, your point of view, your style) gives you confidence to put yourself out there in conversations, in the content you write, post, send, and even the way you work with your clients—as a creative with something to say, and as a creative entrepreneur.
Tara here. What really sparked this post is a recent monthly masterclass Kathleen and I held breaking down our personal branding exercises for our Braid ECourse creatives. They had lots of great questions in the live webinar, and a lot it came down to knowing how much or how little to really put out there, and the hesitation we can all feel when it comes to really “owning” our personal brand.
So when we say your personal brand helps people buy from you – as a person – what we’re trying to help creatives understand is you don’t have to be all cold and “businessy” (hide behind stiff or overly-clever businessy language or branding) to get hired, get paid, and grow a legit business of your own. You and your business can (and in most cases, should) convey your own unique personal + professional blend because people buy from people. But finding that special blend isn’t always easy.
If you are creating a business for yourself, most likely you already have a personal brand, but you could be sharing it better... OR you don’t feel like you have a personal brand to share, but know you want to develop yours more intentionally and genuinely.
Most of the creatives we work with are already completely aboard the personal branding train. They are using their own name as their business name, they are trying to get their personality and style across on their website and in their social media “places.” They are ready to start tooting their personal brand horn and chugging down their business vision tracks! But something is stalling them.
If they are just starting out for the first time they may be stuck in the station, or if they’ve been doing this for a while now they may be stuck at a crossing – waiting for something or someone to give them the signal that they’ve got what it takes to make this journey on their own steam and on their own terms.
Don’t get stalled out. It’s not as overwhelming as it seems. Ultimately a personal brand is about:
If you are feeling stalled out or stuck around your personal brand, your business vision, and just putting it out there in a way that feels right to you, then go through this checklist above. See if you can pinpoint the few that are giving you pause. Can you tackle just one of them?
For example, some personal branding actions you can take now:
- get more of your style infused in your portfolio
- let go of some of the stuffy rules of professionalism that are making your emails too stiff
- weed out the language on your website that doesn’t feel genuine to your true voice (a few of the culprits we see are: too generic-robot-strategic, too over-the-top-inspiring-empowering, too lovely-amazing-cutesy-fabulous)
- start sharing more behind-the-scenes of your creative process, expertise, projects or even patterns you see in your profession
Not only will tackling one, or even all, of the above, help you better define and refine your personal brand – they will also help position you as the creative expert you are, or want to become.
Personal Branding is just one of the many lessons in our Braid Method Branding ECourse for Creative Entrepreneurs. The lessons include:
Kathleen and I will be hosting a live webinar masterclass every month to breakdown the worksheets (40 included in the course) and answer questions. Next month, December, we’ll be talking more in depth about Your Creative Expertise and narrowing in on your specialty, one of my personal favorites.
So if you’ve been thinking about doing some work around your business vision and brand, check out our super-comprehensive Braid ECourse. Or, if you want to baby-step into it a little (like what do you even want your ideal working day and life to look like in the first place?!) you might try our DIY Coaching for Creatives email series.
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As creative entrepreneurs, so many of us share content to advise, inspire (or simply share what we’re going through) with people who might find it useful, thought-provoking, comfortably relatable, or freaking inspiring! So here’s a question that came up for us around sharing yourself online in our Braid ECourse masterclass webinar last week, and it may be one you’ve asked yourself as well:
“I struggle a bit between sharing struggles and sharing successes online. I feel like when I share struggles, people aren’t going to want to hire me, as if I don’t know what I’m talking about. When I share successes, I fear that I’ll sound a bit braggy. Does anyone else struggle with this?” – Julie | Braid ECourse Masterclasser
Tara here. Oh man, that’s a good one! You don’t want to sabotage your own put-togetherness—the “I got this” confidence that instills trust in those who want to pay you to help them and do right by them. On the flip-side, you don’t want to be off-putting to the followers, friends, and peers in your sharing circles by getting too braggy and boastful about your successes.
We hear you! We all want to be authentic, to get real about the good stuff, and the bad, in our blog posts, newsletters, social media, and other sharing places. So what are the boundaries? What is the balance between letting people in on your “behind-the-scenes” vs. inviting them into your “dear diary land?”
We talked about this very kind of boundary-defining in “Sharing Your Stories and Finding Your Boundaries” in last week’s blog post. But let’s dig into this even more specific “struggles vs. successes” question here.
SHARING STRUGGLES & SUCCESSES:
Yes, you want to think about the boundaries of how much you will or won’t share online. Know your spectrum of sharing-a-little or sharing-a-ton, whether that’s in the realm of “I feel a bit like a fraud today,” or “I’m freaking awesome today!!”
But also think about the different platforms you’re sharing within, as a framework for the kind of content you’re sharing in the first place. A breakdown of your sharing places might include two, three, or even all (whoa!) of these platforms:
- your talk: if you’re a speaker
- your courses or classes: if you have a learning product
- your posts: if you blog or podcast
- your newsletter: if you have an email list
- your social media platforms: Instgram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
There’s always a mix of the kind of content you share within each platform, but ask yourself these questions thinking about what kind of content you share the MOST (or want to share the most) in these different places:
What platform are you selling from the most?
What platform are you teaching from the most?
What platform are you sharing your own behind-the-scenes from the most?
Which one gives you the most confidence? You might consider ramping up how much you share from this platform, and really “own” it.
Which one are you the most afraid of judgement within? That’s okay, too! You might consider not sharing there if you’re already spread thin.
Think about the different platforms you’re sharing in as a framework for the kind of content you’re sharing in the first place. (click to tweet)
Your Selling Platform: is where you should be sharing more of your expert positioning and general put-togetherness—and not sharing so much of your struggles. Unless! You’ve already worked through the solution. In that case it then it becomes a relatable struggle that you’ve used to create a product, offering, or service people can buy... to solve it for them, too.
What about successes? If they are successes that directly helped shape your product or service, sure. But if it’s just “look what I won,” or “look how many enrollees I got,” it may just come off as self-serving and salesy. There’s still a place for successes though! We want you to celebrate those, too. So read on...
Your Teaching Platform:
is where you should be sharing advice, how-to’s, inspiration, those same relatable struggles (you’ve already solved) and your successes if they’ve contributed to how you’ve solved this problem. Usually if you’re using a platform to teach, you are able to give more context, depth and layers to what you’re talking about from your own point of view vs. your selling platform where you want to keep it short, sweet, confident and resonating with your dream client.
Your Behind-The-Scenes Platform:
is where you can get more struggle and successes for sure. But again, less Dear Diary and more like a candid peek behind the curtain into the journey you are on. The biggest thing we can say about this platform is this: “share the success and failure stuff in a place you feel ‘your people’ who support you, believe in you, learn from you, love you – already are.
“Where do you sell? share? teach? There’s always a mix, but if you can think of your blog, for example, as one kind of sharing, and your newsletter as another – you might feel more reassured that you aren’t over-sharing or boundary-crossing with your people!”
With Braid, our breakdown looks a bit like this, for example:
Our Newsletter: is more our behind the scenes platform, what we’re experimenting with along the way, struggles and successes included (to ‘our people,’ who have already opted in – i.e. chosen to come along on this journey with us!)
Podcasting: for Kathleen is a mix of all these kinds of content, because she lives more on the “robust” end of the online sharing spectrum (ha!)
One-On-One Conversations: for me, I might only share a mix of this kind of content Kathleen is sharing in one-to-many platforms in one-on-one sharing conversations like at a retreat, conference or with our clients in more personal settings, as I land on the more “introverted” end of the online sharing spectrum (and that’s ok if you do, too!)
I hope this post can help you continue to share your struggles and successes – and still get hired for what you love and what you do best!
If you like the kind of breakdowns we share here, if “chunking it out” helps you make decisions you’ve been struggling with as a creative entrepreneur doing it on your own, you might check out our Braid Branding ECourse for Creative Entrepreneurs.
Or if you are starting to feel the inkling to invest in your brand and business vision, turn into a serious itch – contact me here, and let’s see if we’re a fit!
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