Underselling Ourselves When We Feel Undefined

15-May-2013

Underselling yourself as a creative entrepreneur

What to say about the Braid Workshop? We brought together a fine group of creative entrepreneurs on an unusually cold spring Saturday a few weeks ago, including web developers, graphic designers, photographers, videographers, and still-trying-to-definers. 

One thread that ran through that productive day, is while everyone there was about their creative business – the day felt very personal.  Many of these creatives work solo, or with just one partner. So like most workshops and gatherings geared for a very particular “tribe” like this, it really becomes a cool way to come together and see the same stuff we’re all going through together.

And of all the “stuff” we’re dealing with, the big one that became apparent through the selling-yourself exercises and personal-branding conversations was this: all of us do way too much, with very fuzzy boundaries around what we are providing. So the not-so-stellar side effect of all this vision and not a lot of definition – is we creative, entrepreneurial, women (yes we were all gals that day) tend to overdeliver and overplease. While we undershare, undersell (and undercharge) on what we actually do.

Braid Workshop Takeaways A

What rises to the top when a group of creative entrepreneurs start talking about sharing themselves and selling what they do? Kathleen and I had some very specific sharing/selling lessons, exercises and takeaways that made up the main content and activities of our workshop. But I wanted to also share some conversational frustrations that bubbled up the day-of, that might feel familiar to you, too, with some takeaways that might help – or at least help you not feel so alone in these struggles.

“I believe in the impossible and I don’t have any boundaries. So I struggle telling people exactly what I do. I do a lot. But you don’t want to sound like a hyphen.”

Frustration: You Have An Unclear Professional Title
“You don’t want to sound like a hyphen.” What a great quote of the day from one of our group.  When you do a lot of different things, it can get hard to define what you actually do. That’s not such a big deal, unless it means you make it difficult to charge for what you do. 

Recommendation: It’s Okay if You Have a Clear Offering
Kathleen and I struggle with the title, ourselves. Our business cards have no titles, because we do wear a lot of hats. But when we’re engaging with clients, we have very clear boundaries, and structured ways to buy our products or hire us for our one-on-one services.

Braid Workshop Takeaways B

“I used to sell product. Now I see where I can really help other women creative entrepreneurs. But I don’t know how or if they can pay me.”

“I struggle with pricing, and even find myself giving away a lot of my strategy, direction and advice for free.”

Frustration: Selling Expertise When it Feels Undervalued
This is not only a selling struggle, it’s also a struggle to maintain control in your client relationships  – as a valued expert. “Why can’t they just understand how much experience and point-of-view and strategy I bring into this project and not only respect my advice  – but pay for it?” Sound like a question you’ve asked yourself?

Recommendation: So Show It... Don’t Just “Tell It” While You Sell It
Now ask yourself this. Are you actually showing clients (and those interested in becoming one) how you deliver that expertise in a visual, step-by-step, concrete way? I mean as visual as you would show a product or a portfolio? People are visual. They need more than talk, bullets and outlines. They need... well, they need pictures. It has to feel real.  

If you can create a series of pictures with minimal to no copy, and talk someone through how you work and consult like a mini-slide show (think on an iPad for instance) then you stop selling, and you start explaining in a very concrete way. This also holds you accountable to actually having a method and sticking to it. Which in turn makes you more of an expert every time you repeat these steps you’ve so vividly shared. It’s a win-win for upping the actual, as well as perceived, value of your expertise.

Braid Workshop Takeaways C

“I haven’t drummed up buzz around my business, because I think my personal peeps don’t want to hear about my business stuff or vision. Bombarding people with my products makes me feel like a used car salesman. So I undershare on the business side, and overshare on the personal side to make up for it. But I feel like I could sell better if I could share better.”

Frustration: Sharing Business Content and Why Should They Care?
When it comes to sharing content, Kathleen and I call this “sharing your gifts of knowledge” – this is the stuff you give away for free, through your blog or talks or conversations. That’s great if you are already doing it on your businesses blog, like this Braid blog here. But what about talking business in more personal platforms, like a personal blog, or in casual conversation?

Recommendation: Think More Behind-The-Scenes not Business Talk
Sharing (and showing) the stuff you know about should either be really helpful and useful, or it should feel like a peek behind-the-scenes. Showing people pictures or telling small, very specific stories about a creative project you got really excited about, or how you gather your materials and inspiration, is also a great way to inject a little more business talk into your personal world – where a lot of business ends up happening for us “out there on our own” entrepreneurs who depend on the people we know, and the relationships we make, to help our business grow, too.

Braid Workshop Takeaways D

“Other people tell me not to share myself online, like it’s bad from my business.”

“I have a personal blog, but it’s all over the place with different interests. I don’t really connect it to my business.”

“I do live a very colorful life, but for my personal brand, that’s in a very refined, measured way.”

Frustration: Sharing Personal Content and How Much is Too Much?
First, off, typically people who are telling us not to share too much online, maybe don’t understand the power of a personal brand, and how that really can flow into your business when you are a creative entrepreneur. Kathleen and I always say, you are not a robot. People want to buy from people.

Recommendation: How Much Is Truly Up To You, You’re The Boss, Right?
Owning your own business, as a creative, means that people expect you to be a creative, memorable, person. That means you can live-out-loud as much as you want – but only if that’s what you are really like in person. Because the flip-side of that, is if you are more conservative, and share less, then find a way to inject that more refined (yet still colorful) personal brand into how you talk about yourself and your business.  

It’s worth noting, just because you have a personal blog, doesn’t mean it has to overlap your business or business site, unless it’s a logical fit. If you like to blog about cooking, but you own a photography business, then keep the personal blog, personal. However, be sure the personal side of you (not the robot side) shows up to your business, too.  Bring some of that personal “spice” over into your tone of voice and style in your business site, blog, and brand.

Braid Workshop Takeaways E

“I have to just revel in who I am and what I love. And give people permission to not like me – or what I’m selling.”

Frustration: Trying to Appeal to Everyone (Overpleasing)
Being everything to everyone will wear you out with self-doubt and scattered focus. If your services seem like they are only for people who appreciate: quality, unique, creativity, authenticity – uh, that’s everyone.

Recommendation: Stop Doing That... Now
Get more specific, and get okay with letting go of the big crowd, for the smaller one who “gets it” and wants what you really do... more. This is hard in the beginning of a business, because you need the clients to gain the confidence and funds to keep going. That’s okay if you know how you want to narrow in (sooner rather than later). It’s also hard as you start to really grow. Because then your appeal starts to widen out on it’s own, and that feels great too. “I’m popular! People love this!” Kathleen and I are always trying to say, “okay, that’s awesome, but how can we get more specific, how can we stop doing x and y and only do z... even if that means not everyone will like it?”

For example, Kathleen and I are noodling what the next iteration of bringing this “sharing you while selling what you do” blended content to a group will look like. Is it a workshop again? Is it in more than one city? Or does it become an online offering any of you can access, like a future Braid ECourse or EBook?  We’re letting that percolate.  We know it’s going to be for creative entrepreneurs. But we may get more narrow, yet. Stay tuned, as we all keep figuring all this “stuff” out together.

Do you undersell your expertise? Do you overshare or undershare your personal brand? Do you overdeliver and overplease with your time and services? Let us know on Facebook.

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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