Kathleen here thinking about how it’s so hard for creatives to describe what they do in just one or two words. I’ve been there! I wear a lot of hats: co-owner, designer, writer, brand strategist, podcaster, coach, consultant, and speaker – just to name a few. So it’s really hard to sum up what I do in just one or two words.
If you don’t know what to call yourself or how to concisely describe what you do, you have a branding problem.
Because when you don’t know how to concisely describe what you do, your potential clients will feel confused as to how they can hire or engage with you, your existing customers will have a hard time referring you to their friends, and search engines will have a hard time recommending you to people who are looking for the skills you possess.
One of the easiest ways to say what you do is to first think about someone familiar with your work. Then ask “how would they describe what I do?”
So I just literally asked my husband how he describes what I do to his co-workers, for example, to see how he simplifies what I do. He said “branding consultant and podcaster.”
Do you over-explain? Ask someone who knows you to describe the work you do. Their label might just surprise you with its simplicity.
Now, once you are able to say what it is you do, you can then follow up with all the ways you are different or “more than just” whatever your title is.
But for now – if you’re a web developer, call yourself a web developer. If you’re a brand strategist, call yourself that. If you are a life coach, call yourself a life coach.
One of the Braid Method branding exercises we take our clients through asks them to pretend they’re eavesdropping on a conversation in a coffee shop—let’s say, between a client and their friend—and imagine this client talking about the experience they had working with you:
When you imagine this conversation, think about the specific words, benefits, and objections that are coming up. This will help you with your own positioning.
Here are a few fill-in-the-blanks to get you started on this exercise:
“Oh I just love _____ because of the way she _____.”
“She’s not just a _______ she’s more like a _______.”
“You might think she’s a _______ but she’s also a ______.”
“I don’t think she understands how amazing she is at _______.”
“She not only helped me _____ but also really gave me _____.”
One of our other favorite ways of getting to the heart of what you are is clarifying what you aren’t. This is especially useful in industries or titles that include a lot of different functions.
So for example, let’s say you’re a web developer. Some people might think that includes branding, writing, strategy, SEO, social media, and ongoing maintenance. Do you actually do all those things?
"It's hard describing 'all the things' you are. Start with listing what you know you're absolutely not."
Try this branding exercise: a line in the sand. Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On the left hand side write “I AM” and on the right hand side write down “I AM NOT”. Make a laundry list of all the things you do and don’t do accordingly. (Bonus! You can also include personality traits on this list.)
Now, is there anything on the “I AM NOT” side that you get asked to do all the time? Or is there anything on the “I AM” side that you feel like you aren’t getting enough attention or credit for? If so, this is a branding and positioning problem. You might need to get more clear about how you describe what you do, clarify your offering, or even make a shift in the customer you’re trying to target with your offer.
Okay! Now that you have a little more clarity around what to call yourself and what you do (and what you don’t do), you’ll want to do inventory on all the places your brand exists and make sure you are clearly saying what you mean in all those places:
If you’re having a hard time committing to the simple job title or description you’ve given yourself, I feel you. So here’s where I want to tell you that context matters. The design of your website, your own personal style, and the words you say before and after you introduce yourself online and offline will all play into how someone perceives your brand and what you do. So as you’re doing inventory on your words you might think about what the rest of your brand says about you too.
Did you find this exercise helpful? Be sure you're signed up for our Letters for Creatives for more tips and exercises in your inbox. Plus! We'll be holding monthly webinars to share more branding tips + exercises with you live. More details and sign up information will go out in our newsletter, so make sure you're on the list to stay up to date!
LETTERS for CREATIVES
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Tara here. I know many of you are just starting on this adventure of building a business and brand of your own. Welcome to the wild ride! Some of you are starting on a career path working within an organization (it may not feel as wild as going rogue, but you’re still carving out your way!) Hello to you, too.
But! I’m not talking to the “just starting outers” right this moment. Nope. I’m talking to the “been-around-the-blockers.” You are at a fork, a bend, a crossing, or you simply want to stop going around this same block and try some new territory. You aren’t just starting out on this journey – you are transitioning your business or your expertise into “what’s next” for you.
And for some reason, this transition can feel a lot less exciting than the early days of starting something completely new, and frankly, more daunting.
Why does transitioning our business, our brand, or simply our expertise feel harder than starting from scratch? It’s not. We just forget how hard it was in the beginning.
When we remember the excitement of those first days, everything—even when it was small—felt big: “The first client! The first dollar! The website finally launching! The product growing! The first hire! This is working! This is sustaining! This is exceeding what I imagined!”
In retrospect, the not-so-exciting, awkward, or stressful stuff somehow seem minimized. Those early trial and error days at worst are remembered like well-earned war stories, and at best seem almost cutely naive: “Remember when I took on that project that was completely bonkers? Remember when I hosted that workshop and only ten people came? Remember when I thought my specialty was going to be A., but it turned out to be Z? Silly me! Those were the days, ha ha ha. Sigh.”
So when we look forward to what’s next for us, why do we all of the sudden become so unforgiving of any trial and error, completely annoyed by any awkwardness at all, and somehow no longer interested in the fun parts? Why is the dreaming part replaced with grim determination? Is it because we know too much? The problem is, knowing better doesn’t necessarily feel better.
Maybe you’re different. Perhaps you love a really earth-shattering evolution. You don’t mind being out of your depth again. When I try something completely new for my career or business, I tend to feel like an anxious sixth grader starting middle school, and all my fifth grade rule-the-school swagger is totally knocked off center.
You’re smarter and more experienced than when you started out – but that doesn’t always equate to feeling more confident when you’re in transition. It’s hard going back to feeling like the new kid on the block.
Here are some of the goals we hear all the time (and have tackled ourselves) that get us into this transition in the first place – and then later get us asking “What did I do!? Why didn’t I leave well enough alone!?”
The transition to each of these milestones isn’t always fun. But, guess what, it’s worth it once you get there! So I want to give you a few reminders to help you remember to, well, at least TRY to have fun along the way, to get excited again, and to feel like this leg of your journey is just as fresh as the first time around:
We love helping creative entrepreneurs package themselves more clearly, to feel purpose-fueled and professional (yup, at the same time!) and blend who they are into what they do. If you’re a solopreneur, sign up for our Letters for Creatives in the sidebar.
We’ve also just launched a new offering for you creatives, marketing and communications specialists who are working within organizations. Check out BraidCreative.com/TeamVisioning for ideas on how you can reinspire and reframe what’s next for your team. While you’re at it you can sign up for our Branding & Marketing Letters for Businesses, where we’ll bring you fresh perspectives from out in the creative entrepreneur world as well as our own advertising agency experience (but also maybe… gasp!… some fun and personality!) into the work you do together.
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Tara here. I have to say, I have more people ask me about my writing shed lately! I told Kathleen that it seems I’ll be having conversations about it for years to come! I don’t mind. I love it. I love when you can shape your space to feel creative, safe, focused, energized – or simply like “this is what I pictured! This is the vision for what I want my working life to look like!” That not only feels fulfilling, but it feels legit!
But where we work, just like where we live, has as much to do with the physical environment as it does the people we share it with. My shed is pretty solitary in the physical sense. But I’m always Skyping with clients and coworkers every day.
Many of you working on your own find the same kind of kinship and collaborative spirit online, or you make a point to step out to the local coffee shop or co-working space at least a couple times a week.
Some of you work within an organization or larger team. I see you out there too. I was one of you and I loved it too—from water cooler chatter about your favorite show to team meetings with wild doodling and brainstorming and planning, with people who – well, I’m gonna say it,
Home is where the heart is. But so is work. It’s not like we just turn off our personality, our interests, our humanity, or our natural inclination toward happiness, comfort, and kinship just because we’re at work.
If you find yourself saying “uh, yeah, I kinda just put on my blinders and try to get through the day when I’m at work,” then you need to stop, drop, and come up with a new plan for what you want your work to actually feel and look like. You’re in the right place. If anyone is going to inspire you to vision out your working life, it’s Braid. (Hint: just start with this blog post and read backward—ha!)
But! If you start thinking about the last person you had a great conversation with online or a client who by the end of your time together felt like a magical bond had been created, or if you work within a team and a certain coworker popped up in your mind like “yeah, I could never do it without Gretchen, not only does she ‘get me’ she gets it done!” then I’d say, tell them.
I am the worst at this I have to admit – at acknowledging the people around me for how awesome they are. I’m about nose-to-the-grindstone and getting it done. (Yes in a shed that looks like a mini-cottage surrounded by a garden, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a hard working Hobbit!)
If work is where the heart is, then telling the people you work with that you love and value them shouldn’t be that big of a stretch… right?
The way I see it, I share these moments of “love” with clients when I give them above and beyond what they ever imagined. I know I’ve told their story in a way that is magical and will change how they think about themselves and their work from this moment forward. That’s the moment. And then I move on to the next task at hand. Chop chop, let’s not dilly-dally here. (Maybe I’m more Mary Poppins than a Hobbit, now that I think of it).
How I share these moments of “love” with my colleagues and peers is when I give to them as much as I expect them to give to me. For example, if I want you to design a project for me faster than usual, I’m going to give you one rock-solid outline of content and then some in return. Give, take, equal effort—for me, that’s also a form of love.
But, I should say it too. If work is where the heart is, then telling people you love and value them shouldn’t be that big of a stretch, right? I might have to check our human resource policies here at Braid. Oh, right, we don’t have any! Okay, watch out Braid, my love is about to come your way today!
I’ve been having a new visitor to my shed lately—our newest member of our team, Holly, one of my favorite brainstorm and planning partners (and TV show water cooler conversationalists) who is helping us to launch a new offering for teams. Very exciting. Check it out here! You can also sign up for our newsletters especially for those of you who might not be
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