Entries from March 2013

Weekend Reading

March 23, 2013

WeekendReading

Lately, I’ve been exchanging lots of articles, books and posts with friends. They get my gears turning and it’s the stuff I want to be having conversations about. So, while the rest of the internet is a little more quiet, I’ve decided to start a weekend series here to share some of these thought-provoking posts. Grab a pot of coffee (or tea) and sit down with some of these articles. Close your email and turn your phone off. Really read these articles and let the words sink in. Maybe even read your favorite one again. Then share it with a friend and have a conversation about it (or feel free to report back here with your thoughts on the topic).

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Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed – My friend Rory sent me this article and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time since I’ve been thinking lots about work, life, time and money.

The ultimate tool for corporations to sustain a culture of this sort is to develop the 40-hour workweek as the normal lifestyle. Under these working conditions people have to build a life in the evenings and on weekends. This arrangement makes us naturally more inclined to spend heavily on entertainment and conveniences because our free time is so scarce. I’ve only been back at work for a few days, but already I’m noticing that the more wholesome activities are quickly dropping out of my life: walking, exercising, reading, meditating, and extra writing. The one conspicuous similarity between these activities is that they cost little or no money, but they take time.

All of America’s well-publicized problems, including obesity, depression, pollution and corruption are what it costs to create and sustain a trillion-dollar economy. For the economy to be “healthy”, America has to remain unhealthy. Healthy, happy people don’t feel like they need much they don’t already have, and that means they don’t buy a lot of junk, don’t need to be entertained as much, and they don’t end up watching a lot of commercials.

I’ll be thinking about this one for a while. But I want to know – what’s more valuable to you: time or money? For me, the obvious answer is time but I maybe that’s only because I have enough money.

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This Column Will Change Your Life: Helsinki Bus Station Theory – A great read for creatives who always feel like they’re starting over – found via Sandra at Raincoast Cottage.

Sometimes it takes more guts to keep trudging down a pre-trodden path, to the originality beyond. “Stay on the fucking bus.”

Are you guilty of hopping off the bus? While you’re at it – go ahead and read Sandra’s post on putting your work out there and Never Enough Likes.

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The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – A Twitter friend sent me this one. I immediately sent it to Jeremy and Tara. Tara responded with, “Oh man, I want to read this like 20 times. I want to read it every day.” ME TOO.

Why don’t successful people and organizations automatically become very successful? One important explanation is due to what I call “the clarity paradox,” which can be summed up in four predictable phases:  

Phase 1: When we really have clarity of purpose, it leads to success.
Phase 2: When we have success, it leads to more options and opportunities.
Phase 3: When we have increased options and opportunities, it leads to diffused efforts.
Phase 4: Diffused efforts undermine the very clarity that led to our success in the first place.

Curiously, and overstating the point in order to make it, success is a catalyst for failure. 

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The Not Knowing Path of Being An Entrepreneur – Zen Habits has been a favorite read of mine for a while. I just think Leo Babatua has it down. He’s all zen and goal-free but at the same time clearly ambitious and gets stuff done. I’m feeling especially anxious about launching our first Braid Workshop so this read was a good reminder to let go of the outcome.

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What have you been reading lately? Let me know your thoughts on some of these articles – or share with me something that has you thinking. 

A Braid Workshop

March 22, 2013

Exciting news! Braid has a Workshop!

But first… I want to share more about why I think I might be done with conferences. Even Alt Summit. Yup, I said it.

This last January was my third year to attend Alt Summit. The first year it was tight-knit and inspiring. The second year I was so grateful to facilitate a round table on blogging (though, maybe out of line by telling a handful of bloggers that they don’t really need sponsors – at a conference saturated with said sponsors). And the third year – well, it felt a bit like a machine that had gained intelligence and a life of its own. Other than Stefan Sagmeister blowing my mind, my favorite part of Alt was hanging with my buddies, and I can do that elsewhere, and without being subjected to bad conference food.

So with only two types of conferences under my belt (Alt Summit and HOW Design) maybe I’m being a little brash to say I’m done. But this year I’m spending my money on travel and workshops with the specific intention to connect with my tribe (versus coldly exchanging a business card over a bad lunch with a blogger I’ll never talk to again). I’ve already got a yoga retreat lined up in Mexico and a Girl Crush Tea Party in Austin, TX to look forward to. I’ll also be connecting with Martha Beck and all the life coach trainees I’m currently in class with at Pismo Beach in October. It’s this kind of travel that I see a return on my investment – that return is often literally reflected in my bank account (this comes from new ideas and collaborations that grow my business). Other times it’s reflected in my soul.

So of course, I want to be able to offer that kind of experience for other creatives too. I keep hearing about workshops that leave its attendees feeling wildly inspired, like summer camp, but doesn’t leave them with actual tools and tactics for creating change. Tara and I have spent the last year consulting 1-on-1 with creative entrepreneurs and aspiring-to-be’s, all over the country, helping them clarify their business vision and brand story – to independently create change in the way they capture, shape, share, and sell their business.

I’m so excited to be kicking off our first workshop to help a small group of creative entrepreneurs with these same uncertainties – to get better at sharing their personal brand without feeling random, all over the place, irrelevant, or crossing their own work/life boundaries. Tara and I will help them get more straightforward with how they are selling themselves – without feeling like a fake, a sales person, a people pleaser, or an order taker.

1-Day Braid Workshop: How to Share You and Sell What You Do
a blended work/life content sharing workshop for creative entrepreneurs
Oklahoma City // LEVEL
Saturday, May 4th, 2013
Cost: $425 until April 1st // then $500

Eventbrite - Braid Workshop: Share YOU & Sell What You DO

BraidWorkshop

Creative Entrepreneurs love and hate the overlap – the blended in-between of work and life, of what’s personal and what’s business, of what’s simply talent-for-hire and what they can really be known for. This overlap can be really clarifying or incredibly confusing. Usually both.  But the overlap is never more painful or powerful than in your content.

You can think of the content you share as specifically how you blog, or post, or tweet or even structure your offerings – but on a more basic level, it’s all just a part of how you talk, write, sell and explain what you’re all about, to your followers and friends, to your peers and collaborators, to your dream customers and yourself.

Think of your content like a two-sided tag:
– One side is your gift tag: how you share yourself.
– The other side is the price tag: how you sell what you do.

BraidWorkshopSHARING

BraidWorkshopSELLING

So our Braid Workshop is about the two sides of your creative entrepreneur story. What are you giving away, what are you getting paid for, what is the blended tone for both, and what do you have to really say that is going to help you not only cultivate a more memorable personal brand but really explain your expertise?

Who The Braid Workshop Is For:
Creatives who sell their talents: designers, web developers, photographers
Creatives who sell their services: coaches, consultants, stylists

How to Attend:
Our one-day workshop is $500 and will be located at LEVEL lounge in the Deep Deuce district of Oklahoma City on Saturday, May 4th, 2013 from 9AM – 4PM. Spaces are limited to 15 creative entrepreneurs.

Earlybird special: Register by April 1, 2013 and attend for $425.

Eventbrite - Braid Workshop: Share YOU & Sell What You DO

Visit our Braid Creative page for more event details and to register. 

P.S. If you’re coming from out of town let me know and I’ll try to hook you up with another creative to room or crash with.

Sick as a Dog

March 21, 2013

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It always begins in the middle of the night, doesn’t it? It was 4:07AM when I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep. I was trying to determine if the nausea was typical or something a little more to be concerned about… I could tell by the way Jeremy was breathing that he was awake too. I whispered “are you awake?” He replied “Does your stomach feel wonky too?”

Uh oh.

That was the beginning of a very rough 24 hours. I didn’t eat all day and managed to eek my way through a couple of very important meetings, but after that I was done. Done. I came home and completely crashed. My spine felt like it was being twisted out like a dirty sponge by a giant with cactus hands while at the same time my ribs felt like they were being constricted by a medieval torture device. I developed a fever that redirected the pain from the center of my bones out to the edges of my skin – unbearable to the touch of pretty much everything. I watched Drive hoping Ryan Gosling would distract me I went to bed early and managed to break my fever over and over again in cycles of hot sweats all night long.

And Jeremy? Ditto. At one point his fever was .2 degrees lower than mine so he volunteered to go out and some generic Cinnamon Life cereal, his comfort food, and some Glutino crackers and red grapes, to freeze, for me. I’ve never even had Glutino crackers and hardly ever crave grapes but it’s the only thing my broken body could imagine tolerating.

But this post isn’t just about feeling like death. It’s about my sweet little kitty cat. Mister Scooty Boots practically watched vigil over Jeremy and me for the 24 hours that we thought we might die. He stood fast on our sweaty bodies in soaked sheets just to make sure we were still breathing. And you guys… I used to think cats were one-dimensionally aloof – that only dogs were capable of the kind of loyalty and companionship a pet can provide. But Boots … he made me feel safe – like I wasn’t going to die. I was sick as a dog and taken care of by a cat.

Or maybe he was just waiting to call dibs on my eyeballs, before his sister could get to them, should I perish in my sleep. 

Plenty

March 19, 2013

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Jeremy and I recently went to a wine, chocolate and cheese tasting at a new favorite store here in Oklahoma City called Plenty Mercantile. Plenty is full of artfully curated home goods, wares and accessories – but more importantly they carry Kinfolk. What I love about Plenty, aside from the super sweet mom & daughter team that runs the whole shebang, is that they aren’t just creating opportunities for considerate consumerism – they’re creating experiences. So when I received an email from Plenty saying they’d be having a wine, chocolate and cheese pairing workshop for just $35 I immediately RSVPd for both Jeremy and myself.

Side tangent:
Since going mostly Paleo, Jeremy and I don’t typically eat wine, chocolate and cheese (delivered on gluten-y goodness, no less), but this is what moderation looks like for us. I was talking to Melissa (author of the paleo cookbook Well Fed and her blog The Clothes Make the Girl) yesterday about the topic of moderation and she said something very smart. She said that experiences like these are almost like consuming art – they don’t quite feed our bodies but they do feed our soul.

And feed our soul, it did. Jeremy and I couldn’t pretend to be classy by just taking a nibble of the truffles – we dominated those chocolates (from Dude, Sweet Chocolate – if you’ve ever had it you’ll understand). But even more than delicious pairings and good company, I was so proud of Oklahoma City and the kind of creativity that continues to pop up here. And I’m excited to be a part of it.

Disclaimer: I was not paid in any way to write about Plenty. I believe in supporting local businesses and brands I believe in without compensation – because they feed my soul. 

Photos taken with my iPhone5 and edited using VSCO. You can follow me on Instagram here

Freelance Matters | Who Are You Working For?

March 13, 2013

WorkingForMatters

Yesterday was the first day since working for myself that I kind of didn’t want to work. Like… at all. I spent my morning doing yoga, came home inspired to write this post about my hair, and then reluctantly went over to my sister’s house to work. I was so relieved we were on the same page when she greeted me with a “let’s not work today.” So instead we hung out on her bed all day talking about our business goals and finances while I snacked on wasabi peas, pistachios and dried apples (the BEST combination of snacky food ever). After a few hours of fuzzy math and financial brainstorming we had a good, long Skype meeting with a dream client in New York. From there I got an email from a client regarding a misprinted business card and had to call Kristin on her vacation to SXSW to clarify whether or not it was our fault (it wasn’t – but still… print jobs gone wrong suck no matter who is to “blame”.)

So I guess, in actuality, we worked. The great thing about blending my work and life is that sometimes “work” means that I get to hang out with my sister all day, and even if we’re not plugged into our laptops we’re still doing business. Or that a blog post, seemingly about my hair, can inspire other creatives trying to be brave – and for me, that means a job well done for the day. But even more than the work / life overlap, the day of not wanting to work really got me thinking about the ebb & flow of client projects vs. the work we do for ourselves – like blogging or launching new products of our own. So that’s what I want to chat a little more about here today – the emotional and financial ups and downs of being your own number one dream customer vs. client work.

Let’s start with some definitions.

THE WORK YOU DO FOR CLIENTS: 
Client work includes services or goods you provide in exchange for money. Your services might include graphic design, consulting, life coaching, photography, and styling. You probably get paid hourly or with a pre-determined flat fee. If you do retail the exchange is even more tangible – goods sold for money might include prints, art, clothing, or jewelry.

THE WORK YOU DO FOR YOURSELF: 
I believe you should be your own number one client. But it’s a little tricky because while the time spent doing this can have a long term return on investment it’s hard to see how it’s going to keep the electricity on tomorrow. It can feel self-indulgent and your parents or spouse probably won’t understand the point of it all. When you’re working for yourself you’re doing stuff like:
• Working on your own brand identity and positioning
• Capturing, shaping, and sharing original content like blog and Facebook posts
• Networking with peers and potential dream clients
• Continuing your education and craft by reading new books, taking classes, workshops and ECourses, and attending conferences
• Developing systems and processes that will help you work smarter
• Creating artistic collaborations
• Designing, writing and developing your own books, ECourses and Workshops
• Speaking and teaching
• Sharing case studies and testimonials of completed work

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I’ve found after a couple of years of working for myself that this blend of work I do for myself and work I do for clients ebbs & flows in a cyclical motion based on where my attention is needed. And this cycle of work flow is almost formulaic. More recently, I’ve noticed that the work I do for dream customers only keeps me on cloud nine for so long. But the work I do for myself – it makes my soul sing. So if I’m paying attention to The Universe I think that means I should be doing more of that soul-singing kind of creative.

It takes some serious gut-checking to know if you love what you’re doing (for yourself and others). Here’s a tip for figuring out if you’re living the dream. When you wake up tomorrow morning and begin your work day by ditching the to-do list. Spend just 90 minutes doing what you want. Is it a blog post? Is it a client project? Is it even work at all? And how did that 90 minutes leave you feeling? Report back and let me know how it went.

THE CYCLE 
When you first start working for yourself or begin freelancing you may need to invest lots of time and maybe even a little money in growing and launching your business. That means you’ll be your own number one client for a while. From there you can expect to drum up some business and transition into getting hired by real clients who pay. Your parents may still not understand what you do for a living but they’ll understand that first dollar.

You may find that as client work demands your attention you have less time to work for yourself. Requests for estimates start slowing down and when you wrap up a couple of jobs you might start worrying that you’ll never get another client ever again. That’s when you pick right back up where you left off and start working for yourself. Share the work you completed, or what you learned along the way, and tell your audience how to hire you. Write some original content that will help your dream customer solve a problem. This positions you as the expert you are and requests for work will start trickling in to your inbox. Or maybe you even share a passion project you’ve been drumming up on the side that will lead to new opportunities or exposure.

Rinse and repeat.

TheCycle

Now this cycle of client work / “you” work is nice. After a while you find your rhythm and develop a sort of faith that if you build it they will come. It almost feels like a mathmatical formula that doesn’t fail if I follow the appropriate steps. This is where I’ve been for the past two years and it’s been comfortable. I recommend any new creative entrepreneur hang out here for a little bit. And if you’re at that phase you can stop reading this post here with the key takeaway being this: you have to work for yourself in order to attract the dream customers and projects that pay the bills.

But me? I’m ready to take it to the next level.

BECOMING YOUR OWN NUMBER ONE CLIENT – ALL THE TIME
First off, I believe in doing The Work. I’m 30 years old and have put in time, around 10,000 hours to be exact, developing my craft (graphic design and brand identity). I’m grateful for the decade of education and daily grind I’ve put into getting where I am now – but I’m equally grateful for the time I’ve got on my side to grow my business in a new way that lets me design the life and dream job I really want. Over the past two years I’ve learned that my core genius and true passion isn’t necessarily graphic design. It’s radical non-conformity. It’s living what you love. It’s seeing the vision come to life. Graphic design is just a great tool to help me share what it is I really want to say.

So with that, Tara (who has put in more like 17,000 hours) and I are evolving Braid in a way that we become our own number one client. We’re super grateful for the dream customers we’ve helped one-on-one. The work we’ve done for them has kept our lights on and allowed us to build our team and our expertise. But the problem with relying on one-on-one client work – especially if you’re charging hourly – is that it limits your potential for reach, impact, and earning. Plus, there are only so many hours in the day – when you spend all of them solving someone else’s problem you run the risk of forgetting to nourish yourself.

When I quit my job in advertising I remember trying to journal through my feelings (it was as dramatic as it sounds) and wrote in all caps “WHO AM I WORKING FOR?” I continue to ask myself this question every day. Yesterday, during my almost-playing-hookie-afternoon-brainstorm it was clear that our goal is to be working for ourselves but with the higher purpose of serving MORE of our dream customer – the brave creative entrepreneur who wants to build their own dream job.

Instead of just helping a few people live what they love by helping them one-on-one, we want to help LOTS of creatives vision their dream job, develop a business plan, and make it a reality. But there’s only so much of us to go around. So what does this mean, exactly? It means a bigger piece of the pie is dedicated to creating our own super rich content that will help more people find their own creative business clarity and “aha” moments without us necessarily being right there with them – but then to package it up in a way that can be purchased. We’ve already started sticking our toe in the water by offering Braid ECourses and we just launched our first 1-Day Braid Workshop. But we’re also looking at other ways we could be more intentional and efficient with our message – translating our one-on-one services into products that are easier and more accessible to click “buy”.

WHO ARE YOU WORKING FOR? 
Tara and I work and consult with lots of creatives with amazing skills. But talent these days is just what’s expected. We’re far more interested in who they’re working for (or who they want to be working for), the creative process, and how these brilliant creatives are leveraging the work they do for themselves.

When You Work For Someone Else 
Now, the cool thing about working for someone else is that you can develop and hone your aesthetic, skills and process on someone else’s dime. It’s easy to feel like we have no control when working for someone else but the truth is you do. There are little things you can do to bring more of who you are into your job. Experiment within boundaries – try something like implementing a creative process using new technologies that your old school bosses might not know about. Or play around with how you structure your to-do lists. Or maybe execute something by hand rather than on the computer. And when you leave your job you can take those experiences, skills, and expertise with you.

When You’re Already Working For Yourself 
Tara and I just did a consultation with a organic / non-toxic beauty expert. She ghost writes posts on her expertise for other people. But she’s considering writing some eBooks. We encouraged her to not only write eBooks but to stop ghost writing and bring her personal brand, and expertise, to the forefront when writing for other people. Sometimes working for yourself can be as simple as giving yourself more credit.

So who are you working for? What are some ways you can work for yourself? Any questions? Leave a comment or let’s chat about it over on the Braid Facebook page. 

P.S. If you want to learn more about this kind of stuff check out our Braid ECourse on Dream Customer Catching in session later this month. We’ve also launched a 1-Day Braid Workshop scheduled for May 4th – learn more here

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