Creative Confidence

Confidence is something that is always changing. Some things we feel confident about and others not so much. Whether you’re super confident or not so confident, everyone could use more confidence. We all start out with a clean slate and then things happen in our lives. We have teachers, mentors, coaches, parents, mostly well-meaning people that say things that can have an impact. My mother was told by a teacher that she was no good at art, she believed it her entire life and at the age of 70, she decided that she was going to start painting and of course she was fantastic at it.

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Miss Phillips, You Were Wrong

Here is a great story from Jack Canfield. A grade school class that was given the assignment of writing about their dream. There was one particular kid who had the dream of owning racehorses and farms and raising horses and breeding horses and doing all these fabulous things. He got a “D” on the assignment. The teacher said his dream was unrealistic. She told him that he would never be able to achieve that (imagine). Fortunately, this kid didn’t believe it for a second. He had such incredible belief in himself that he went ahead and did all these things he dreamed of just to prove this teacher wrong. Later in life, he wrote a book called “Miss Phillips, You Were Wrong”

I was too Slow

When You start to think about the things that may have happened early in our lives, it’s interesting to see who had an impact on us. Think about it for a minute. Early in my career as a brand strategist, I had a mentor who told me that I was too slow. He processed information really quickly and I didn’t. I like to take things in, think about it, ponder it, sleep on it, get other ideas, build on it. This person told me that I was too slow and I believed it. Now that I think about it, who made him like the king of speed? Who decides how fast things need to get done? I know I’m good at what I do and does it really matter? It was just his point of view and all these things are just somebody’s point of view. It’s not really true.

Who Stopped You?

There is no real truth only what’s true for you. Think about the people in your life that stopped you. Was is it a parent, a teacher? Was it somebody else? You can look at it now and say “that’s just an interesting point of view”. It’s not the truth. I’m not that. Even if it has been with you for 20 or 30 years, it’s not the truth and you can just choose to change it.

Creatives are bad at math

As creatives we get labeled that a lot. All creatives are bad at math (might be a bit of truth to that one). But again, who cares? There are enough people in the world who are good at math. You just need to partner with someone who’s good at it. The school system tells us as kids that we need to be good at everything. We really don’t.

Focus on the amazing

Sometimes something amazing happens and that stays with you. Those are the things that we need to focus on more. When I was in fourth grade I made a picture at school of a winter scene using oil pastels with paint sponged over top (below). My mom loved it and she framed it and hung it up in the house. And a few years later her interior designer asked where she got the picture. He loved it so much that he offered to buy it and my mom said it wasn’t for sale. Then he asked me If he could commission me to make another one that was similar. He paid me $300, which in fourth grade is like $1 million. Talk about confidence. I was over the moon. Those are the kinds of things that we have to focus on rather than the stories that we tell ourselves.

 

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Client love

Think of a time when you worked on a project that was a big success or created something that you were really proud of. One of my earliest clients doubled her business in 6 months after I renamed and rebranded her . Now put yourself back there and feel how it felt. A few years ago I was having a casual conversation with a client that took my business development course and coached with me. I asked her if by chance she had measurable results and she told me that she grew her business by 500% in one year as a result of working with me. That’s something that I want to focus on!

When you get client feedback, print it out and put it in a folder to remind yourself. One of my clients calls it her “client love folder”. She’s been doing it for 10 years and has quite a big stack of papers there now.

The biggest judges are not putting themselves out there

The judgment is part of reality. There’s a lot of it. Brene Brown has spent more than a decade studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She has thousands of followers and gets a good deal of nasty feedback but she doesn’t let it stop her from doing the good works she’s doing and the many people that she’s helping. Brene talks about how putting yourself out there in any way increases your vulnerability and that’s ok. Most of the judges are not the ones who are putting themselves out there!

When I started putting myself out there, teaching and coaching, I was pretty scared. Once in a while, someone will email me the rudest comment. I used to get really upset when I first started. I would take it personally. Now I say “interesting” and throw it in the trash. Next!

Building your creative confidence takes work and practice. It’s the same a starting a fitness routine. A little at a time. It’s not something that comes naturally to many. It’s very freeing to just let anybody judge and let it go. Get out of the stories your makeup. You know they are not true! Keep going back to focusing on what’s working and the places where you created your confidence. It’s a way more fun place to be. Oh, and when you slip back into the old patterns just be kind to yourself and refocus!

I’d love to know who stopped you and how you’re going to change that. Write to me in the comments below.

Discover where you’re leaving thousands of dollars in potential new business on the table. Grab the Missing The Boat Scorecard and stop missing the boat!

How to Get Buy-In on Creative Work

It’s one thing to be doing the creative work and it’s a whole other thing to be presenting it and getting buy-in. You put all the time into the creative and the presentation is an afterthought. How about building it into the project as a phase: the presentation and setting aside time to prep (not the day of the meeting).

Find out who will be there

The first thing is, is to find out who’s going to be at the meeting whether it’s in person on virtual. You want to know who’s going to be in the room and you want to know more than just their names. You may know them and if you don’t, look at their LinkedIn profile and just find out a little bit about them for example who they are in the company and what their role is. You can ask your client for a briefing and run through everyone that’s going to be there. Tell us what you know, what sort of attitude, what role they play. There’s often somebody in the room that’s going to be contentious and you can be prepared for it.

Start with a story

Stories work well to engage people. They help make a connection and when told well, give you immediate credibility and attention. Make sure your stories are relevant and engaging. Try them out on others before the meeting. Humor always has such a great effect as well.

Frame the presentation

You’re there to solve a problem. Begin by reiterating your understanding of the problem. We’re here because…Divide your talk into a beginning, middle, and end and tell your audience what that will be.  It’s a well known public speaking tool where you to say what you’re going to talk about, talk about it, and then you say what you talked about. Remember that people process information in different ways. Some are visual processors and some people are verbal. It’s obvious that you will have the visuals but don’t forget about the verbal. It’s just as important.

Be confident with what you’re presenting

Make sure that what that you’re confident in everything you’re presenting, not just, confident about options one and two but not so thrilled with number three. If you don’t feel good about it, don’t show it. You bring a certain energy to the table when you’re presenting and you want to be the energy of we know our stuff, we like where we’re going with this, we’re excited about it.

Talk through your ideas by focusing on what the problem is that you’re solving and how each solution solves the problem. Always going back to the business problem and how you’re going to solve it. Again, keep building in stories that can relate back to your presentation. When we used a similar approach for another client, they doubled their sales in six months.

Look at a presentation as a collaboration, rather than ta-da here it is. Here’s what we’re thinking and we’re looking forward to your input. It’s not you against them. Be a partner and not a vendor.

Tools for languaging

There are a number of tools that you can use with languaging for example the word “imagine”. Imagine what it could be like when the millennial audience grabs on to this. Get them really excited and engaged. Paint a picture. This is how it could work or What if we were to do it this way.  Have them Imagine what the results could be like. It’s often hard for clients to see where it could go.

Put on a show

I always think of the TV show Shark Tank. I know a lot of the presentations are silly, but once in a while a group does something very clever and there’s a level of showmanship to it. How memorable are those compared to the people that just go and talk? Think of something clever or unique. These are the things that stick in people’s minds.

Be different

Use these techniques and you’ll be different. Collaborative presentations will create partnerships and move you away from the client-vendor relationship. Decision making becomes about the best way to solve the business problem at hand and moves away from I’ll choose number one because my wife likes green. Let me know what Ideas you have!

Discover where you’re leaving thousands of dollars in potential new business on the table. Grab the Missing The Boat Scorecard and stop missing the boat!

 

Is your Business Development Person Wasting Your Time?

How I got from graphic designer to business development person

As a kid, I couldn’t get my hands on enough arts and crafts. This led me to study graphic design at Parsons in NY and an internship with April Greiman in LA. After working for a few years in the design business, I decided I knew enough to start my own graphic design business. I had some business connections through my father and I became the person who got new business and my partner, Anne did most of the design work. Our small design firm business lasted about 4 years until I had my first son and Anne was offered to work as part of a team on a large and very important identity project. I was kind of left holding the bag with a studio and expenses and a baby and I wasn’t a happy camper. My friend Heather suggested I contact some of the larger firms around town. She said after running my own firm, it would probably interest them to have me. I sent out 10 letters, was contacted by 8 firms and met with each one. The one that stood out was an interesting French Canadian, Michel who owned a firm called OVE design.

I had no idea what Business Development was

Michel invited me if to do creative direction and business development for him and I said sure. He offered me a $25,000 base salary and that seemed very attractive after the feast or famine cycle of my own business. I actually had no idea what he meant by business development but I thought I’d figure it out. Long story short he gave me his mailing list of 800 names and I called each one and 2 years later I brought in several hundred thousand dollars in new business to the firm. At one point he had to tell me to stop because there was too much new business!

When I started doing Business Development, I decided that the objective was to get a meeting. I was able to get a lot of meetings but many were a waste of time. There was one time that Michel still reminds me of 25 years later when I run into him. I don’t remember what the company was but their office was far away. In the suburbs in a unit at the back of a strip mall. It was an hour drive each way and a 30-minute meeting. We showed our portfolio and they asked for a quote for a logo and said their budget was $2,500. On the drive back Michel said: “Don’t ever bring me to another meeting like that again”. I don’t do units, I do downtown meetings. We still laugh about it today.

That was in the ’90s and things were a lot different. I was really just making it up as I went. It’s now many years later I’ve figured out a few things.

I get it now!

In addition to my business development work, I’ve for 15 years as a brand strategist on large global brands as well as a few stints on the client side as a marketing director and I was the person hiring the design firm and I get it now. I know when and when not to go to a meeting. I know the meetings that will be a waste of time. I know what to say to a potential client to get them interested in working with me, I know their hot buttons I know how to price a project, close the deal and get paid. I also know how to create leverage, ongoing revenue and get more work from the clients you already have.

I know what clients are looking for and it may not be aligned with the things your Business Development person is saying to them. So is your business development person wasting your time dragging you all over the place to meetings that don’t translate to clients?

If the answer is yes, here are a few rules to pass along:

Your role in Business Development is not to get meetings. More meetings will not make you successful.

Have an in-depth phone conversation and be sure to qualify every prospect before you even think about a meeting. There is no point spending 2 hours in traffic to find out the budget is $2,500 and they aren’t even sure that they will go ahead with the project.  

Only arrange to meet if there’s a project on the table. Nobody has time for the meet and greet anymore or to see your portfolio.

Clients don’t really care about your portfolio, they care about results that you got for others.

Know the results that your firm got for others (not really talked about in the design business).

In summary, times have changed a great deal since my early days in Business Development. Back then people answered the phone (ok I’m dating myself). Even cold calling worked and that no longer works. New strategies are needed to connect with prospects and stay on their radar. Consistent marketing is a necessity (and I don’t mean holiday card once a year)! The Business Development process has completely changed and if your Business Development Person is wasting your time, take a closer look at what they’re up to!

Discover where you’re leaving thousands of dollars in potential new business on the table. Grab the Missing The Boat Scorecard and stop missing the boat!

Want More Referrals? Look at your client lifecycle

The Referral Engine by John Jantsch is a book that was recommended to me by one of the members of our Business Accelerator Community. Jantsch is the bestselling author of Duct Tape Marketing.

The referral Engine outlines an approach to marketing that moves away from complicated marketing campaigns (hallelujah!) and instead focuses on personal interactions with customers through social media and friend-to-friend word of mouth.

It’s a great read but if you don’t have time, I want to share the part about the ideal customer lifecycle. I’m so on the same page with it that I want to share the main points here because he explains it so perfectly.

Janstch talks about 7 stages of referral development in the customer lifecycle: Know, Like, Trust, Try, Buy, Repeat, Refer. We all hear about know like and trust all the time but he’s added a few more stages to it.

Know
This is the initial introduction to your business. The cliché that you only get one chance to make a good first impression applies here. The best way to start a relationship is to communicate a clear brand or point of difference that is designed to attract your ideal customer or referral source. AND…it’s essential to have narrowly defined what an ideal customer looks like so you can speak directly to the customer in all your communications.

Want to know if you’re making a lasting impression on potential clients? Grab the Brand Impact Scorecard and start making a bigger impact. 

 

Like
Once a prospect is aware of your business, they can and should be led to digging deeper to learn more. This is where you start to form a  connection through your content (blog, social etc.)

Trust
After following your content for a while or attending a talk or webinar, trust begins to form and this is where they’ll want to talk to you or meet you. I find that referrals don’t always jump right in, they want to go through the know, like, process first.

Try
I love this one. Create a way for clients to sample your business. Offering a low-risk trial can do a lot for your business. Here’s an example he gave in the book: An architect created a $499 feasibility audit for builders and property owners to get a quick assessment before investing in a full-fledged set of plans. This is the beginning of a relationship and if the architect does a good job, chances are that the client will enroll for the big project. What can you offer as a taste? I recently came up with the idea of 2 coaching sessions for $500 so people could get a taste of my coaching before they make a bigger commitment.

Want to know if you’re making a lasting impression on potential clients? Grab the Brand Impact Scorecard and start making a bigger impact. 

 

Buy
This is where they buy the main product or service. Of course, you need to make sure people like it and you deliver as promised but you want it to get people talking as well. How you orient your client once they buy is super important. You need to look at each touchpoint of their experience from the time they sign the contract to the delivery of the end product and beyond. How you communicate, how you get paid etc. are all the things that make you referral-worthy.

When I sign up a new member to the Business Accelerator, I explain exactly what will happen in detail on the phone, they then receive a welcome email and get put in a group email list so they receive a reminder the day before the group calls as well as the recording the day after the calls. I’ve looked at each touchpoint carefully. I didn’t use to send the call reminder the day before and everyone would be emailing me to find out the Zoom link. Now it all goes out the day before. That’s just one small detail but it makes all the difference.

Do you have an orientation process or a kit of information that goes to all new clients? How can you make it an experience that people can’t wait to share?

Repeat
Doing a good job is only gets you halfway to the referral phase. The key factor in creating repeat sales, expanded product sales, and long-term loyalty is to make sure your clients are getting the most value possible beyond getting what they signed up for. Commit to teaching them the proper way to get the most from what they’ve purchased, share under the hood tips and best practices. Go the extra mile.

This is most important…what follow-up process do you have in place to make sure your clients are getting the value they were hoping for when they signed up for the project? Do you have a results review? I’ve been teaching a brand check-in process where you set some goals at the outset of a branding project and then check-back 6 months to a year later to see how it went. There is very little follow-up in business to actually see how the client is doing or if the work you did had a real impact.

Refer

Your client becomes such an advocate that they act as a salesperson for you. Create a system that makes it easy to refer you. Hold an event that focuses on networking and referral opportunities. Organize a lunch and learn and invite a client to bring someone that they might refer to your firm. What ideas can you think of?

Want to know if you’re making a lasting impression on potential clients? Grab the Brand Impact Scorecard and start making a bigger impact. 

I hope you’ll start looking at your client lifecycle this way. You are probably already doing much of it but there are likely a few new things to incorporate. I know that I already have a few ideas just from writing this!

How to get found using “Google My Business”

Why is this important?

By now, you should be aware of how important it is to be found on Google, and what ranking high on Google can do for your business.

However, there are a lot of new ways to get found on Google  – not just the normal search results.

And there are ways you can get your business in front of more people. Today we’re going to look at one of those ways; the “Google My Business” listing.

Your “Google My Business” listing

The “Google My Business” listing is a relatively new feature on Google. It seems to have developed from Google+ and is linked to the local business listings.

A lot of small businesses haven’t taken advantage of the “Google My Business” listing, as a way to get more business, and also to enhance their credibility to prospects.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

LMD design SERP-highlighted

 

We’re going to go through the basics of setting up your business listing and getting started with optimizing to increase your ranking.

Want to know if you’re making a lasting impression on potential clients? Grab the Brand Impact Scorecard and start making a bigger impact. 

Step 1 – Setting up, completing & confirming your listing

First things first – if you don’t have a Gmail account, go ahead and sign up for one. They’re free and Google have lots of great free tools for your business.

If you already have a personal Google account, you should set up one just for your business.

Getting your address confirmed

Once you have your google account set up, go to this link: [Google My Business – Get Your Free Business Listing Stand Out on Google](https://www.google.com/business/) and click ‘Start Now’ to set up your MyBusiness page.

Follow the instructions to enter your business name and contact details, business type (choose carefully!) website, and business phone number.

Google will send you a verification code by mail or text, so be sure to give your correct address. Google MyBusiness listings are also considered local, so give some thought as to where your target audience is.

If you work from home and you’re worried about putting your address online, there are options to hide it. You can also try getting a PO box or using a virtual office.

But you will need to have somewhere for them to post the verification to. It doesn’t usually take too long to arrive. Only then you can manage your listing fully.

Not getting the clients you want? Grab the Brand Impact Scorecard and start making a bigger impact. 

Setting up your MyBusiness Listing

During setup, make sure that your business address and contact details are /identical/ to what’s listed on your website, and other places online – this is key to helping you rank higher. This is super important.

Give as many details as possible on your listing. Google rewards your listing for supplying more information. Even if you’re not a traditional retail outlet, supply your opening hours and anything else you can.

Think carefully about the categories and attributes you select. It’s important to remember that your audience may not think as technically as you do, and probably won’t be searching that way either.

Use simple words and phrases about what people want, not just what you are. Keyword research, which we’ll get on in the next section, can be very useful for this.

Keyword research & optimizing your listing

Once you’ve set up your listing and verified it, you can go about optimizing it and helping it to rank. To do that, you’re going to first have to figure out what words and phrases you actually want to rank for. For that, you need to do some keyword research.

website designer suggestions example

Keyword research

Keyword research is not as complicated as it might sound. Basically, we just want to establish what words and phrases people are most likely to use when searching for you, or for services you provide.

If we optimize for these, then your business will appear and hopefully, people will contact you for help.

The obvious ones are anything related to your business name and brand – you’re going to want to appear high for these.

Then, we have search phrases related to your services – and I’m not talking about technical ones.

Think ‘best logo design’, or ‘best web design’ rather than ‘web design services’. There are literally billions of articles on keyword research, which I won’t go into here.

At this stage though, just try to put yourself in your client’s shoes, do some pretend searches for different services, and then see what comes up, and what Google suggests in the /’Searches related to’/ section at the bottom of the search page:

logo design search suggestions

In particular, you should make sure you add some of your keywords into the title of your listing, ‘design agency’, for example.

Adding photos & videos

Google has loved photos for years, and now, of course, it loves videos too. Whether it’s your project photos, examples from your portfolio, or just videos of you around the office, adding these to your MyBusiness listing is going to help it rank higher and more often.

One of the best ways to do this is to do a update post including photos. This is like a Facebook status update but through your Google listing. Make sure you add some photos to your profile page to start off with, but I would suggest making time to post photos and updates on your work regularly. Even if it’s just once a week, the more you post, the more it will help.

This is also a great way to get on the image search, and a great opportunity to showcase your work, which will help to generate leads etc. Whenever you finish a project – just add it in.

Want everyone talking about your business? Grab the Brand Impact Scorecard and start making a bigger impact. 

Using hashtags in your post.

Hashtags aren’t just a trendy thing to do, they help your posts and business listing get found.

Google ranks you higher if you post on Google MyBusiness, even for shares and tweets. Make sure you use hashtags that are related to your tweets.

For hashtag ideas you can try going to Twitter, typing in design, seeing which ones are suggested. You can also use a service like ritetag.com, and I’m sure there are other similar websites and services.

ritetag.com home page search xample

The key really is posting regularly, using consistent hashtags and keywords, adding media to your posts and linking a lot back to your website. Get creative with your posts too – have some fun with it and show off what you can do.

If you want engagement – don’t sell yourself, inspire people with your posts. People are so inundated with messages, you need to make yours stand out. Don’t fake it though, people are super tuned to that kind of thing now.

Improving your ranking

The first thing to say is that improving your ranking will take time. You may start to appear immediately for some keywords, but it could take years to appear for others, depending on your location and the competition in your niche.

Here are a few things you can do to help yourself rank faster:

Posting regularly

This is key. Once a week is ok. More is better. Keep it simple and don’t over promote yourself. Have some fun, get creative, and see what your audience responds to.

Not sure why branding matters? Grab the Brand Impact Scorecard and start making a bigger impact. 

Sharing your posts on other social media sites

You can just copy and paste for most other social media sites like Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter. These platforms will be a much better way of gauging what your audience thinks of your content too!

Getting reviews.

Getting reviews on your Google page is probably more important than getting testimonials for your website. I’m not saying hound your customers, but definitely, make a point of asking them to leave you reviews – the more the better.

design agency reviews highlihght

Don’t be worried about negative reviews. Just respond nicely to them all, as this will help to increase your ranking a lot.

Keep repeating because it’s going to take time

You don’t need thousands of leads – you just need to show up and show up well as a business. You want to look active and interesting.

The key to seeing results is to keep it up regularly!

 

 

 


Photo by Mathyas Kurmann on Unsplash

Changing Your Mindset About Money

Money. We all want it. Some people have it by the truckload. Most of us could do with a little more in our pockets.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re in the same boat as the rest of us. So, how do we get into that big, gold-plated boat over there instead?

A Money Mindset = More Money

Back in 2010 when I started my business, I discovered there’s actually a certain type of mindset that you need to have if you want to make more money.

Most people believe their income is determined by external things that are outside of their control. We make excuses for ourselves like, ‘I can’t find the clients’, ‘I don’t have the time’, ’The economy is weak’ or ‘99designs are killing the industry’.

time is ticking watch face close up

Every single successful entrepreneur – creative or otherwise – knows that really it’s our internal dialogue, our internal mindset, that determines what we get paid.

Want to get paid what you deserve for your creativity? Learn how to create your money mindset with my free money mindset worksheet here.

 

Of course, acquiring this mindset isn’t instantaneous. It takes time, and it takes practice to figure out. Some people can do it overnight, but for most, it’s an ongoing process.

Today we’re going to start that process for you.

Step 1: Get Clear About What You Want

One of the reasons you’re not making the money you want is that you don’t actually know how much money you want.

Do you know EXACTLY how much income you need or want?

someone counting a stack of dollars close up

The best most of us have is a general idea about our income and expenses. We aren’t clear on what we want. The first step to making more money is to get clear about how much more money you want. Here’s a little exercise you can do to help figure that out:

Figure out where you want to be

Grab a piece of paper (or you can download my Money Mindset worksheet for free here) and write down the answers to the following:

What are your monthly expenses? What are your expenses and what would you like to put into savings, set aside for taxes, investments etc. Write down everything you can think of and add them up.

Now, write down what would you like extra money for. Is it for education? Travel? To expand your business? A second home? Whatever it is, write it down how much you’re going to need every month to have those things.

Take those two numbers and add on another 10% for unforeseen and emergency expenses. Now you know exactly much money you want. Simple!

Figure out where you actually are

Now, what are you ACTUALLY BILLING in your business monthly?

If you don’t have this number to hand, you need to ask yourself why not.

If you don’t have a proper book-keeping and tracking system in place, you need to get one together, and fast. Your expenses can add up incredibly quickly, especially if you’re not keeping an eye on them. You need to know that you are making money in your business.

laptop compter with reporting data on it

Not getting paid what you deserve? Use my free money mindset worksheet to start creating the income you want.

If you don’t have that expense report in front of you on a regular basis, how are you going to know where you can improve? An expense report doesn’t need to be complex software – a spreadsheet will do.

Now you have a bit of clarity on your finances, you can take some action steps.

Step 2: Save 10% – no matter what!

Your first action step is something everyone should be doing, business-owner or not; saving 10% of your income.

Whether it’s a $2,000 invoice or a $20 invoice, once you get paid, stash away at least 10%, somewhere you can’t get your hands on too easily. In a matter of months, you’ll have a nice little financial cushion in your back pocket (not literally!).

You’ll notice that as your savings grow, your mindset around money begins to change. When you feel you have money to spare, it helps to create a mindset of abundance. It’s this feeling of abundance, instead of the stress and worry that you’re aiming for.

As you give yourself a little more space financially, you’ll start to notice that the way you’re thinking about money changes too. This is something you want to encourage.

Change the Way You Talk About Your Money

You may have heard an old saying that goes something like this: “Your thoughts become your words, which become your actions, which become you.”

This is so powerful because it’s true. The words you use to think about money are actually influencing your financial reality. And this goes beyond just finances.

Start paying attention to the way you’re talking to yourself and to those around you about your situation – financial or otherwise.

are you still begggin for money for you business? homeless signs

Start paying attention to your thoughts and you’ll be surprised how much else will change. This happens because most of the stuff in our heads is not terribly helpful; it’s where we find all our worries and fears. The first time I consciously listened to my train of thought it was a bit of a shock – there was some pretty unhelpful stuff going on there!

We walk around all day with all this chatter going on in our heads, telling ourselves what we can and can’t do…

If you’re telling yourself you’re bad with money, or that you can’t afford something, or you have too much debt, or not enough time, you’ll end up being right. Henry Ford memorably described this problem: ‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.’

So, think about the language you’re using. With every thought try to ask yourself, ‘is this helpful to me?’. You’ll find that a lot of it is not. The rest you know you can act upon.

How do you start creating a money mindset? Use my free money mindset worksheet – you can download it here.

 

When you’re constantly focusing on what you CAN do, not what you CAN’T, you’re constantly refocusing and redirecting your efforts for growth. Which brings us quite neatly to the final component, visualization.

Feel Your Success

All the top athletes know that success isn’t just a matter of training, or attitude, or luck. Continued, repeated success requires feeling into it.

athletic runners starting a race in black and white

Champions like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt know this well. Of course, they train hard and have a great biological platform. But that doesn’t account for the kind of success they have both attained.

There have been many studies around training, which have demonstrated that, not only does visualization activate the same neural pathways in the brain as performing an actual exercise, it can also activate the muscles.

In fact, that same study shown above demonstrated that visualization had an equal impact to physical training. Why? Because your brain can’t actually tell the difference is between reality and imagination. Children take advantage of this all the time without realizing – it’s part of their learning process.

Think about that figure you wrote down earlier – the amount of money you’d like to be making. What would it feel like to have that money coming in? What would you be able to do? What would your life be like?

Who do YOU need to BE to have that money coming in? How do you dress? How do you talk? How do you approach a problem?

When you concentrate on where you want to be instead of revisiting where you’ve been, you’re moving yourself into that reality.

man throwing arms in the air in victory

Want to start getting the income you deserve from your creative business? download my free money mindset here worksheet to start changing your mindset about money.

 

Here’s an exercise to help you get started:

Imagine bumping into a friend 5 years from now and telling them what your life is like, and all the things you’ve achieved. It might sound silly, but promise me you’ll try it out – you’ll be surprised at what comes out, and how it makes you feel!

This is the key: once you realize that having that peace of mind, feeling financially secure, and feeling empowered, is something that you project on the world, rather than be subject to, you’re starting to move into a money-making mindset.

This isn’t just about money either – this works for anything. Imagine you’re going on holiday. Imagine you’re buying that second home. Imagine dinner at the Ritz-Carlton.

You choose. You’re the creator of your reality – what are you going to create?

 

 


Photos thanks to Agê BarrosSharon McCutcheon , Lukas Blazek,  Matt Artz , Japheth Mast  and Braden Collum  on Unsplash.

How to Create Remarkable Client Relationships

Unremarkable Experiences Are Everywhere

When you think of the companies you deal with, are they remarkable – in a good way?

It’s probably easier for you to remember which companies are unremarkable. There are many successful businesses that have frankly awful relationships with their customers.

Cable companies are a great example of this, as I recently discovered when I stayed at my parent’s new house in Florida. I couldn’t sleep because of all the electronics in their spare room, so I unplugged it and got my solid 8 hours.

I woke the next morning to a household in absolute pandemonium. It turns out that I hadn’t just unplugged the Wi-Fi, I’d unplugged the whole house. The electronics was their SmartHome Hub. Everything was down: the air conditioner, phone, internet, TV, security alarm, washing machine – the lot.

unhappy customer -painted faceThe whole process of dealing with the cable company was painful; ridiculously long account numbers, getting passed between departments, long periods on hold. I’m sure many of you can empathize. Finally, I’m informed that they’ll send an engineer out to restart the system…in 6 days.

6 DAYS!

After a lot of back-and-forth, they finally agreed to send an engineer the next day. It was an uphill battle just to get a basic service from a company we were already paying. I was left stressed out from a simple phone call.

When it comes to business relationships, this was definitely at the low end of the scale! But really, you don’t see a lot of really remarkable relationships out there – at all.

Think about it. You’ve definitely had an experience that makes you remember it, in a positive light.

woman-remembers-great-experience-on-phone-smiling

Those are the companies that you recommend, the times you think of when someone asks you about your experience. Have you ever said to a friend, ”Oh, use these people, I had the best experience with them…?” I’m sure you have…

Use my free worksheet to start creating remarkable relationships with your clients – download it here!

What’s a Remarkable Client Relationship Anyway?

When someone goes out of their way to create an exceptional experience, you’ll remember it. Here’s a story I heard recently about exactly that:

My friend, Bob, gets in a taxi to catch his flight home from Houston airport. As soon as he gets in the cab, he notices a copy of the Wall Street Journal on the seat. The driver turns around to Bob, greets him formally, points out that the newspaper is his to take on the plane if he wishes, and invites him to help himself to a cool drink from the cooler.

new-york-taxi-cab-meter

This quickly turns into the best taxi Bob’s ever had. When they arrive at the airport, the driver helps him out, directs him to his check-in desk, and hands over his card, saying,

“I’d love to be your driver, whenever you’re in Houston. Whenever you’re here, give me a call and I’ll pick you up at the airport.”

Thinking about the experience later at home, Bob Googles the average cab driver’s salary in Houston. It’s around $20k. So, he emails the guy to thank him and commend him on his service and asks him how much he makes. It turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, that this taxi driver makes $150k a year! All of that from regular clients, who call him when they’re in town.

So, this clever taxi driver is making 7x the average salary, simply by providing a great service and building remarkable relationships with his clients.

Free Download: 10 Ways to create remarkable client relationships

Even A Little Goes a Very Long Way

Creating a remarkable client relationship doesn’t mean you have to perform some back-breaking client service. Far from it. Less can often be more

Take one of our BA members, who was dropping off his car at an airport carpark. All the stresses of finding a spot to park, along with the general travelling woes we can all get, was making the experience pretty awful.

But then, when the shuttle arrived to take them to the airport, all these were completely mitigated by the attitude of their driver. She went so far out of her way to improve the experience of her passengers that it changed their entire trip. She even hugged everyone as they got off the bus, wishing them a safe flight and a ‘see-you-soon’.

cool-sparklers-memorable-experience (1)

Now, that’s a remarkable experience. And if you think about it, it really didn’t cost very much at all, apart from a bit of energy and love. Those little extras really can go a very long way. How often do you find yourself talking about an airport car park in a positive light?

Southwest are excellent at doing this exact kind of thing. They take it as a matter of pride to hire people who are exemplar at customer service.

And when this naturally creates remarkable moments with their customers, they’re great at talking about it too. Even something as little as one of their pilots waving back at a little boy becomes a life-long memory (and a great viral marketing video!):

 

How to Create Remarkable Relationships With Your Clients

What does an exceptional/remarkable experience look like for your clients?

With my own business, I try to create systems that make it easy for my clients.  It used to be that everyone would be looking for the Zoom link before a group call. Then I started sending reminder notes with the link the day before. Problem solved. That’s just one point of contact but there are many.

Free Download: 10 Ways to create remarkable client relationships

Commit to Creating an Amazing Experience

Try to write down what kind of experience you want your clients to have with your company. Write this down and fill in the blank: ”I want my clients to have an amazing experience that…” You decide.

freelancer-business-meeting -handshake

From this vision, you can start creating a system that you and your team can follow, to help ensure your customers have the best experience.

Whether that’s a birthday card, a ‘welcome kit’, a ‘feedback survey’, or simply reminders to touch base regularly with clients, it all helps. If you’re unsure of where to start, examine each stage of your customer’s journey and ask yourself, ‘how can I make things easy and even fun for my clients here’.

Once you’ve committed to a vision of a great experience, and put systems into place behind it, you’ll be well on your way to creating remarkable client relationships.

Free Download: 10 Ways to create remarkable client relationships

Create a Memorable Client Onboarding Experience

One of the most important processes for creating great client relationships is you on-boarding; how your clients are initiated as customers.

woman-client-onboarding-creaative-agency-meeting

You want to start thinking about how you can make it easier for yourself and your team make every client interaction memorable, creating a great relationship from step 1 onwards.

Start with a ‘touchpoint’ analysis for your business. What are the touch points for your business? Can your prospects and clients find you when they want to? Can they call you? Are you creating an easy and comfortable customer journey?

Sometimes bad clients aren’t bad, they’ve just never worked with a creative before and need you to help you guide them. To remedy this, you could create a project schedule, so they understand where the project is and where it’s going at all times.

Often you may find things you think they know all about, they actually know NOTHING about. Take the time to explain the work and the process and they will really appreciate your honesty and transparency. Maybe even let them glimpse your working process, and they may appreciate the skill what you do even little more.

open scheduling planner book agenda (1)

Create Real Connections With Your Real (Human) Clients

Sometimes, just reaching out to people on a human level, genuinely being interested in their lives and listening to what they are actually saying is remarkable.

Even if you’re not going to end up taking on a project, it can’t hurt to take 5 or 10 minutes to help someone out. Giving your advice and taking the time to engage with people and figure out what they need is memorable. You’ll probably find that approaching your prospect meetings like this gets you referrals, even if it’s not from them!

man and his client having a casual conversation

The most important thing here is connecting with your clients on a human level. I always phone or Skype when interacting with my clients about anything remotely important. Not only can they reduce the confusion and time taken on a task, they also help to make the relationship real, as opposed to just a business one.

Once your clients are ‘through the door’, think of ways you can do something unexpected for your clients, things that make them enjoy working with you – things that make them say, ‘wow’.

Even something seemingly small and un-businesslike can help build these relationships. When you take the time and thought to send someone something, even a card, sharing an article, asking after their family, you’re creating that remarkable client relationship.

Get As Much Feedback As Possible

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, and implement it! Embrace all your negative feedback because it will help you to improve. Pay attention if things get a negative reaction. What can you do to make it a better experience? Often those that give negative feedback which is resolved turn into your most satisfied (and vocal) customers.

Free Download: 10 Ways to create remarkable client relationships

 


Photos by Andre Hunter, Kinga Cichewicz, John Cobb, rawpixel.com, Tim GouwCollin Armstrong, Eric Rothermel and Anna Vander Stel on Unsplash

 

 

 

 

Outsourcing for success: how to do it properly

Getting too much work…a nightmare situation?

It’s all very well growing your business and getting more work from clients, but what happens when you’ve got too much work for you to handle? You can’t do everything yourself.

frustrated freelancing man at his laptopAs your creative business expands, you’re going to need to outsource parts of it. For a lot of small business owners, hiring a freelancer or a new employee is a terrifying thought.

There are plenty of excuses not to. Nobody else knows how to do it ‘properly’ but you. Maybe you think you can’t afford to hire a freelancer or employee.

The fact is, a lot of the time we just don’t want to spend the money to hire someone. The irony is, as I’ve often found, when you do hire someone else you end up making more money!

It’s important for you to change that mindset; stop thinking you can’t do this or you can’t afford to do that. There’s always a way to do something if you think creatively. And you will be happier and more creative because of it.

Ultimately, as your business grows it will benefit from having more brains on board. You should embrace it your business growth. So, here are my tips for outsourcing for success:

You may find it useful to download my ‘Outsourcing for Success’ worksheet at this point, which you can grab here.

First, what kind of business do you want to be?

Before your business grows, you need to think about what kind of business you want it to be. What does your creative business look like in the future? Does it involve lots of small clients and outsourced workers? A couple of ongoing big clients with a big focus on them from you? A bricks-and-mortar business with full-time employees?

The answer to these questions will help you to decide who it is and what kind of employees you’ll need to hire, now and in the future. You may find you only want a scattering of freelancers to lean on occasionally when the work from big clients gets too much. It may be a virtual assistant to help schedule meetings and the admin aspects of your business. You may dream of a whole team of in-house designers in a hip office space. Whatever it is, write it down.

 

Then, what parts of your business do you love (and hate)?

The next thing to do is to think about what parts of your business it is you really love – which bits really get you going? Maybe more importantly, which bits do you hate? Take a piece of paper and draw a line to make two columns, then start filling it up.

 

This is where you’ll find my free Outsourcing for Success worksheet useful, you can download it here.

Don’t think about money or your business capabilities now, or whether you can actually do it or not. Think of it as your plan, your vision for your business in the future. So, be really honest with yourself about which parts of your business you actually enjoy doing (and do well!).

You will probably find one side of your list much longer than the other. And that’s completely normal.

Most creative business owners get bogged down in the details of running their business rather than doing the stuff that they love, the things that make their business great.

Have you heard of the 80/20 rule?

If you’re not familiar with it, the 80/20 rule, or ‘Pareto’s Principle’, is simply that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. This rule has been applied to everything from marriage to business, and now you’ll probably notice it in a lot of aspects of your life.

That list of things you enjoy is probably pretty indicative of what your 20% is. Outsourcing the rest allows you to focus on that 20%, and increase the results of that 80% – the really productive part of your business.

great creative team meeting fist bump

Outsourcing for success means finding the right people

Now you know what kind of people you need to grow your business and what you need them to do, you need to find them. So, how do you go about finding the right people?

Hiring is hard.

Whether it’s occasional freelancers or full-time employees, finding the right person for the job is never easy.

Naturally, steps 1 & 2 above are important because that’s the key to successful outsourcing: You need to be very specific about what you need and what you want this person to do for you.

A lot of the time outsourcing doesn’t work because the person doing the hiring isn’t clear about what they want.

Whether it’s through craigslist, a job site, a freelancer site, or even in person, you need to be very clear about what you’re looking for and what you want from them in your post. This will probably reduce the number of total applicants, but you’re much more likely to find who you’re looking for.

You can find some examples of the real job listings I’ve used in the past to find great freelancers in my free Outsourcing for Success worksheet here.

With people you’re going to need to rely on, there’s always references too – especially if you’re hiring them full-time. Make sure you have a proper conversation with them and their references.

Be really thorough with your interviewing and questions overall – if everything goes well you could be working with this person a while. And as projects get more and more complex, you need to make sure you’re working with people you have an understanding with.

creative business owner onboarding a freelancer over coffee

Onboarding new employees and creating a team

When working with someone new, I often try to eliminate the risk for both of us by suggesting that we try it out for 3 months and see how it goes. Then we regroup and see what’s working and what isn’t, and discuss how can we partner better.

To get going, you need to create an ‘instruction manual’ for your business, and all the systems that you need your new team member to handle. These could be super simple word documents or using a more complicated project management software.

Whatever it is, again be as specific as possible. Creating these transferable systems in your business is going to allow it to grow in the way you want.

When handing over control to someone, particularly with creative work, remember they’re not going to do it exactly the way you would do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Stay open to their ideas and learn how to give great feedback and help them understand what you’re looking for.

This is even more important as you grow, but even if it’s just you and one other person remotely, treat them as your team. Have a weekly meeting and communicate; try to build some rapport. Set some action steps, what went well, what’s didn’t. Set action steps for next week, what are we working on, what deadlines have we got.

There’s an example of my weekly meeting agenda you may find useful in my free Outsourcing for Success worksheet, which you can download here.

If you have a couple of freelancers working for your, they’ll appreciate you getting them together once a week. You’ll all start to learn from each other and your business will benefit from it.

creative accountant drafting books

How to finance your outsourcing.

Once you know what you need, financing becomes a lot easier. There are several ways to do it.

You could work it into the project budget right from the beginning, especially if you know the project is big. As you’re pitching it, build an additional freelancer’s rate into your proposal.

If it’s a different arrangement, you could work on an hourly rate or a flat fee. You could arrange a small fee + commission, depending on who it is you’re hiring and the project you’re hiring for.

Whatever it is, do it properly, define your deadlines and scope, send invoices etc. It’s important to have a written agreement or even a contract, especially as your business grows.

Sometimes outsourcing doesn’t work out quite as you’d like it to, and it definitely takes practice to get really good. But doing the above will increase the chances of finding the right people to help your creative business grow.

Remember – get creative with your pricing but be specific with your proposal, and you’ll probably be surprised at who you find. Believe me, there are people out there who are looking for an opportunity to grow their business. People who you can work with to grow so that you both grow. Post your advert on Craigslist, Facebook, etc. see what happens.

And don’t forget to pick up your free copy of my FREE ‘Outsourcing for Success’ worksheet here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Photos by Tim Gouw,  Daniel McCullough & rawpixel.com  on Unsplash 

 

Six things your creative businesses can learn from corporate branding

If you think your creative business is too small to worry about branding…

Then think again!

Although many small business owners are half-right to think this, they’re also half-wrong. Branding does matter, no matter how big or small your business.

But the term ‘branding’ is heavily overused. I tossed it around for 25 or so years, as a tool to help companies like Kraft and Coca-Cola define themselves and their product.

But today, I try to avoid even using the term ‘branding’ when speaking to small business owners.

Unfortunately, whether your revenue is 100k or 100 million, how any business defines itself AND it’s customers is critical. It’s this aspect of branding where multinational corporations exceed and so where we should be taking a cue from.

Most international corporations will spend millions on research and market-testing before they ever make a public move. But don’t worry – you don’t need to max out your marketing budget just yet. Here are six ways you can achieve the clarity of vision you need to create a meaningful and impactful for your creative business.

Struggling to get sales from your client meetings? Use my FIrst meeting success formula to close more clients at the first meeting.

1. Know why you’re in the business, and where you’re going.

Every business is in business to make money. Beyond that, why are YOU in business? What keeps you going when things get tough? Where do you want to be in 3 years? What’s the vision?

Usually, when I ask this question, I get passionate responses – people really unleash their dreams trying to tell you why. This is definitely the advantage all small businesses have; the passion behind your vision. It’s this passion and vision that you want to speak to your customers, through your branding.

Big companies lack that passion – a symptom of their size. Instead, they need data-driven models, market research, test groups and extensive analytics just to get them to take a step forward, backwards, or even sideways!

But, you have to be realistic when constructing a vision for your brand too. Ask yourself, what are the obstacles in the way of achieving that vision? Is it you? Is it your team? Are your vision and goals aligned with your current capabilities as a business?

Many small business owners think they have to do everything themselves. The truth is, you don’t need to do everything yourself and the most successful entrepreneurs don’t. Running a business can be a whirlwind of decision making, so give yourself time to sit down and work out which of your goals require delegating or outsourcing.

This seems like a mammoth task, but really it can be as simple as keeping a record (of any kind!) of your thoughts and ideas around your business. Later, when you sit down, you’ll find it much easier to condense these into a single, realistic vision for your brand.

2. Know where your money is coming from

Although it may seem like a silly question, many businesses don’t fully know where their revenue is really coming from.

Struggling to get sales from your client meetings? Use my FIrst meeting success formula to close more clients at the first meeting.

Do you know who your least profitable customers are?
What’s your financial goal in 2018? Do you know the steps you need to take to reach that goal?

These kinds of questions help you form a better idea of your brand’s pricing structure; what type of customer uses your business the most, and what type the least. Tap into what your biggest fans think about your business and use that to guide your financial structure and goals.

One of my clients once catered for 18 weddings in a single summer, without making a cent in profit. By the end of it, she was nearly broke and burnt out. Why? Because she lacked confidence in her own expertise (although her customers would sing her praises) and didn’t price accordingly.

Global corporations don’t flinch when it comes to pricing. You’re an expert, so pay attention to your customers and price yourself and your brand accordingly.

3. Are you making enough noise?

When it comes to branding, you can’t assume that your customers will just remember you of their own free will. You’re going to remind even your best customers of your value proposition – at every opportunity.

Multinationals ensure their communications to clients and customers are consistent in tone, message and appearance. Often it helps to have someone dedicated to ensuring your communications are consistent, even if it’s not a full-time role.

Struggling to get sales from your client meetings? Use my FIrst meeting success formula to close more clients at the first meeting.

4. Be consistent with your content

You’ve probably experienced this for yourself; a company’s website is so different or dated compared to their magazine ads, or offices, that you have to double check to make sure it’s the same company. This sends an inconsistent message.

Even small differences in colours, fonts and layouts can cause a potential customer to mentally ‘trip up’, causing doubt and often meaning they just leave your website without converting – not good.

Even if you’re uncomfortable creating content yourself, outsource it. This doesn’t mean you have to hire an expensive agency, there are plenty of good writers and artists out there who will be happy to help and are surprisingly affordable.

5. Design your own stuff as you would for your client

You already know that you need good design to make your message stand out. You do it for your clients everyday. The only thing is that you spend forever on your own and you can’t get it perfect enought – am I right? Time to let it go. Design your own stuff. Make sure the message stands out and just get it done.

What do you think of when I say Ikea? Blue and yellow? What about Google? Or Comcast? These companies are more than just a logo – they’ve integrated their colours, their logos, across the design of all their assets, and subsidiaries in the case of Comcast. You know this but as a quick reminder for your own business, branding that runs all the way through like this helps to make your messaging sing, and your company memorable.

6. Get clear on your messaging

This is often people’s biggest mistake when it comes to branding. They go from idea to shipping, skipping the steps in between and staking the odds against success.

Ideas are great, but until you determine what it is your company is about, where it aims to be, what your message is and how it’s delivered, what your visual identity is, and finally which channels are appropriate, you’re making it unnecessarily hard for yourself.

Think about it – how can you make sure you deliver the right value proposition to the right potential customer, at the right time, without these? That’s what good branding is ultimately about. Aligning your company to attract the kind of prospects and clients you want to work with.

Struggling to get sales from your client meetings? Use my FIrst meeting success formula to close more clients at the first meeting.

 

Larger businesses may not be as nimble as smaller enterprises, but they will perform these steps tirelessly before launching any new product or brand. The size of their markets and scope of endeavours mean that risk of failure is too great – potentially millions.

This doesn’t mean multinationals are always right (I can think of quite a few failed products from major brands – anyone got Google Glasses? New Coke?). But there is a great deal you can learn from the way they align their brands or products with their customer base.

 

 

 

Why Smart Creative Entrepreneurs Make Plans (and how to make yours for 2018)

If you’re like most creative business owners, you’ve been too busy getting the work done to be worrying about planning for next year. Creative minds thrive on improvising their way to success. If you made it through 2017 without a plan, consider one for 2018?

Most successful creatives eventually learn that it’s the structure and routine of a plan that allows you to be truly successful.

set aside some time for 2018 planning

Download the 2018 Strategic Planning Workbook here

Take the weekly groceries, for example. Whenever I drop into the store to pick up a couple of things, I end up spending $60 on things I definitely didn’t need.

 

However, when I plan the meal and make a list, I spend less money and use everything I bought.

It’s never too late to start planning. You might even enjoy coming up with new processes or strategies to try, new product ideas to test out, or new ways to  get clients.

The hardest part is getting started, right?

One of my favorite lessons from ‘The E-Myth Revisited’, by Michael Gerber, was that planning is the difference between working in your business and working ON your business.

One of them is going to lead to 70 hour weeks and a permanent migraine from the stress. The other leads to greater freedom and more money. Which would you choose?

Planning simply means looking forward a year (or two) and trying to assess where your market is headed, decide where you would like to go, and whether you have the right resources in place.

Planning is your big creative ‘what if’, that helps you figure out what you’re going to be doing the rest of the year. It’s your blueprint for creating a successful and stable business over the next year or more. When you break down your goals into daily tasks, processes or routines, your plan is your ‘how’. But a great plan is so much more than that too.

Download your 2018 Strategic Planning Workbook here

A great plan is your shining light at the end of the tunnel. It’s your reason to keep plugging at something when all seems lost. When you wake up in the morning and ask yourself what could possibly be the need to go to that meeting at 8:45…your plan will be there to remind you of the ‘why’.

‘Hows’ are very easy to come by, but ‘whys’ are much harder to find. Once you have your ‘why’ though, suddenly every decision you made has been made for you. When you have to decide whether to take on a project, or tricky client, or any decision at all, just think back to those yearly goals, your ‘why’ and ask, “Will this help me reach that goal?” You’ll soon know what to do if it doesn’t. How to say NO to a client. 

Your Why should be beyond making money. For example, my Why is to build community and inspire creative entrepreneurship.

Once you decide to start the process, it can be surprisingly fun. It’s a time to do two things you rarely do as a business owner. To really let yourself imagine or dig deeper into your vision for what you really want the business to be. The second, and this is the art and the challenge for most people is to figure out how much of that vision you can realistically expect to achieve and by when.

One of the most useful aspects of a great planning session is that it’s often the first time a creative entrepreneur sits down and actually looks at all the aspects of their business as a whole.

So, great planning starts with a good understanding of your current state of your business.

Download your 2018 Strategic Planning Workbook here

This process is mostly creative.

It can definitely be tricky to stay grounded in the day-to-day of your business and simultaneously critique and envision a better future, but a plan doesn’t have to be set in stone. The more often you come back to reassess your plan, tweak it slightly, change this aspect, reassess this area, the better you’ll become at it.

And if you’re really stuck, you can always book a call with me 🙂