Stop Proving It So Hard

05-Feb-2014

Proving credibility as a Creative Entrepreneur

As creatives who work for ourselves, out there doing it on our own, we feel like we’re constantly proving ourselves to other people. For good reason, we need to be seen as creatives doing-it-on-our-own, but also doing it, well... right. 

I mean, first, there’s the creative part to prove: “Yes, I have ideas to offer, serious, clever, authentic ideas!”  And then there’s the doing-it-on-our-own part: “No, I’m not out-of-my-depth, out-of-my-mind, an order-taker-for-hire or unemployed, let me explain all the things I do and all the ways you will love them.”

But are we proving it too hard sometimes? I would say, “yeah – sometimes we are.” I’d even go a step further and say that very often in our conversations, our correspondence and our presentations we’re just proving it to ourselves – and that can clutter up real communication between us and the people (i.e. clients, bosses, colleagues) who we feel the need to convince so darn hard.

Now on the flipside, I think creatives can also fall into the trap of being too apologetic right out of the gate. Ooh, and that’s a bad habit to break. More on that next week, when I’ll be posting on why you should Stop Apologizing So Much.

But I’d say there are two scenarios when over-proving it really flares up for us creatives, and can get in the way of selling ourselves and what we do. One, when we’re trying to convince someone to buy (i.e. hire) us. Two, when we’re trying to convince a client to buy into (i.e. approve) our work.  So how do you stop proving it so hard?

Proving it to yourself as a creative entrepreneur

Proving it to others as a creative entrepreneur

Selling ourselves, or selling the work – jumping to conclusions and overcompensating for them at it’s best can be a whole lotta “much ado about nothing.” And at it’s worst (if we’re going to get all Shakespeare about it) can really put off some “doth protest too much” vibes, actually creating a wall of second-thoughts and uncertainty between us and the person we’re trying to sell so hard.

1. Proving yourself too hard. This is when you’re in sell-yourself mode. An interested person has found your blog or website or has been referred by a peer, and has sent you an email wanting to learn more, set up a phone conversation or a video chat, or even a face-to-face meeting. You share your portfolio, your package of services, your process, or all of the above. No problem there.  

When over-proving gets in the way:
- you start using really big words or words that don’t mean much like “strategy” and “unique” 
- you talk too long, or write too much
- you start overcompensating for your pricing by adding on services or benefits before you realize no one is questioning your pricing (if you don’t believe your services are worth what you’re asking people to pay, no amount of talking it up will cover up that insecurity)

So stop selling and simply explain:
- say-what-you-mean in plainspeak as much as you can
- use real stories and examples of what you do
- use visuals that explain your examples (if you don’t have visuals, start thinking about what those could be and how you can start integrating the visual into your selling conversations, and we don’t mean powerpoint slides… you’re creative! use it)

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2. Proving the work too hard.
This usually happens when you’re in presentation mode. You’ve already been hired, you’ve done your client discovery, found out their wants and needs, and now it’s time to put your best foot forward and show them what you got, while trying not to put that foot in your mouth.  Because, yep, even though you’re hired, you’re still “selling” a concept or idea, hoping for that approval, that green light, that (hopefully enthusiastic) thumbs up.

Now some people will tell you “get out of the way and let the creative speak for itself… tada.” This approach has a time and place at times (usually for dramatic effect and only effective if used sparingly), but for the most part, I tend to belong to the camp that says creatives need to use their words, and set up the kind of collaborative process that gets everyone heard, everyone on board, and actually saves you a lot of heartache in the long run.

When selling a concept or idea too hard, gets in the way:
- you talk-up your idea behind the concept you’re about to share for a really long time 
- you start telling them all the reasons you love the work before they can even decide if they love it or not
- you start making excuses right out of the gate for the reasons you didn’t do exactly what they asked for

Try sharing in smaller chunks of creative rationale instead:
- forget the long-winded build-up before you even show the work
- instead build-in a collaborative process that your clients go through in steps before the day-of-drama of presenting the final product
- then day-of you can simply remind them how you got there together, without the drawn out monologue
- acknowledge it takes some sinking-in time as you share more
- then share your proposed concept on more than one page, screen, etc... so you can pepper in your intentions along the way in short soundbytes
- give your client permission to voice their concerns, in fact, if you feel a weighted silence or pause around a specific detail (but they seem shy to mention it) bring it up yourself, so instead of brushing it under the rug, you get it out in the light and have a conversation about it

The only thing that makes me cringe more than seeing a creative really pushing hard to get their idea approved – is one who apologizes for it before anyone gets the chance to pipe in with apprehension or (if they’d hold on just a darn second)... actual praise. So I’m writing more about that next time.

Which do you tend to do more when selling yourself or your work: prove it too hard, or undersell too quickly? Tell us on Facebook.

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