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.

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!

 

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.

 

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!

 

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!

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!

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 🙂

How to find ongoing freelance clients

It’s the freelancers dream: a constantly flowing stream of long-term projects.

Let’s face it, getting started as a freelancer is fairly easy, in the grand scheme of things. Download the Target Audience Worksheet.

Almost anyone with a reasonable skill-set can find a single project to freelance on. Most can easily find two or three. But what really sets apart a successful creative freelancer from the rest is their ability to sustain a steady stream of work (and income).

The goal is reaching that critical point where you have enough ongoing work from freelance clients that you don’t need to spend as much time on proposals etc.

You have more control over your working schedule, and likely a great deal less stress about finances too.

How to get more long-term clients is one of the questions I get asked the most often, so today I’ll go through the process.

One of the most important aspects of this, however, is knowing who your ideal client is. You can figure that out using something like my target audience worksheet, which you can download for free here.

From small seeds, a mighty trunk may grow…

The first thing you have to do is change your perspective a little bit.

Although it may seem logical to look for big projects that will require a lot of work over an extended period, in reality very few clients actually say that upfront.

This is not to say that there aren’t clients out there looking for long-lasting relationships with freelancers who they trust. There are definitely many of them. They just don’t say (or maybe even know it) themselves.

Take, for example, my current web developer/techie freelancer.

When I hired him initially, it was to help fix a couple of issues with my website. I didn’t ask him to help improve and debug it for the next 5 years. I didn’t ask him if he would be available in a year to redesign it.

I was looking for someone who could help me fix a couple of things that had stopped working on the site. The developer I found did a great job, and I enjoyed working with him. So, of course, the next time I needed a change on the site, I emailed him. And the next time.

Later, when I needed a new website and some major changes, we worked together to create a plan of action on a much bigger scale. This was over a year since we had initially started working together. And I don’t foresee any reason I would need to use another developer instead of him in the future.

The mistake most freelancers make when trying to find ongoing work, is turning away the small jobs because they don’t think they’ll get repeat business.

As with anything, start small and scale. The best way to get long-term jobs is to do an amazing job on the small stuff, and nurture your relationships with your clients.

First of all, you’ll be able to easily get the small jobs. And the work you do on that small job will probably be better because you’ll be focused on one task and really solve the problem.

Once the client sees that you do great work and solve their problem, they’ll want to work with you the next time they have an issue. Of course, not all small jobs lead to long-term wins. There are of course certain types of clients that are more likely to ‘convert’ into a longer-term partnership. You wouldn’t propose on the first date right?

Having a good idea of your ideal client, using a detailed target audience or buyer persona, is key here. If you haven’t worked out your target audience yet, you download a ‘Target Audience Worksheet’ here, which should help you work it out.

Compare each client and project as it comes through against your buyer personas, and make sure that ‘having a need for ongoing work’ is one of your qualifiers.

Don’t rush your decision – you never know which small task will turn into an ongoing role and don’t make the mistake of charging too little to get the work. Once you start that way, it’s hard to change it.

The secret every successful freelancer knows is that creating a consistent income stream isn’t about more clients. It’s about building trust with the clients you already have.

Trust can be a hard thing to come by online, and you’d be surprised how many clients you come across have been ‘burnt’ in the past by unscrupulous freelancers or agencies.

Building trust with them won’t just bring you ongoing work from that client – they’ll be so happy to work with you, because they trust you, that they’ll even tell their friends about you. Make them successful and you’re golden!

If you get the chance to work with a great freelancer, you’ll notice it’s a bit like working with a friend, or a close colleague, a partner – someone who really cares about the success of the project and the success of your business.

There’s an old parable about a father who decides to hand down his business to one of his two sons.

He decides to pass it on to the younger son, at which the elder son is outraged; “Father, why would you not give me, your first child, your business?”

To demonstrate, the father sends both of his sons to buy 5 more cows from a neighbouring farmer. The elder son returns with 5 healthy, strong cows, and some small change.

The younger son returns without any cows at all. When the elder son sees this, he begins to crow delightedly, “See Father, you were wrong, he cannot even buy 5 cows!”

So the father asks his younger son why he has not returned with any cattle. The younger son replies, “Well father, there were 5 cattle available for sale, each for $2000, but if we were to buy 6, we would be able to reduce the price by $100 per cow. Also, if we are willing to wait, there will be fresh cattle available for sale, of a stronger, better breed. If we’re in a hurry, we could get them delivered for tomorrow morning.”

The father turns to his older son and says, “That’s why your younger brother is getting the farm.”

Most people only do what they’re asked to do. Those who are actively engaged in a cause will go above and beyond to make it as good as possible.

Think about it like this:

EVERY freelancer can create a decent-looking design for a fair price.

How many will take the time to find out if the design actually achieved  the desired result? Your clients don’t really want a logo, or a website, or a blog post – they want more customers.

Almost everything you do as a freelancer, whether you’re a designer or a developer or a writer, should boil down to what you can do to increase profits for your clients.

This may not always be apparent but you should keep this in the forefront of your mind.

Creating a consistent stream of work as a creative freelancer boils down to this:

1) Change your mindset and go smaller projects where you can get paid fairly. ‘From small seeds, a mighty trunk may grow.’

2) Know who you want to work with. Make sure it’s on things you care about. Don’t work with anyone else. Seriously – just don’t.

3) Commit to the client’s business as if it was your own. Understand and look for ways you can bring value to their business, whether it be in the project itself, or general advice. People will notice when this is genuine.

4) Go above and beyond wherever you can. Note: I didn’t say ‘underpromise and overdeliver’. This is the wrong way to look at it: actually go out there and above and beyond. This bit is actually not too hard if you follow the 3 rules above properly.

5) Focus on building better relationships with your clients, whether that be in-work or out. Send holiday cards, a ‘Happy Birthday’ note. Follow their business and them and check-in to congratulate them on their progress.

I realise that the above probably seems a little ‘easier said than done’. But that’s kind of the point. It’s going to be hard. You’re definitely going to make mistakes.

The most successful freelancers all struggled for the first few years because they made the same mistakes as you. And we’ve all accepted work we knew wouldn’t lead anywhere just for the money.

But as you build a better idea of who and what you want to work for, you’ll get better at finding clients that you can build a long-term relationship with.

And sweat the small stuff even if it doesn’t seem worth it – you’ll build a reputation that will bring you work better than any marketing tactic.

 

Don’t forget to pick up your FREE target audience worksheet here, to help you work out who your ideal client is.