My friend and I were eating brunch this past Sunday at a restaurant on Mass Street in Lawrence, KS. The weather was close to 70°F — a first for the year — so we sat outside. The tables were tiny and very close together. That's ok, it's part of the charm of Mass Street.
A man sits down at the table next to us and proceeds to have a very loud, detailed, lengthy phone conversation. I've seen this happen in movies, but this was an in-person first. We got to hear about someone maybe named Carol, and how she's pretty, even though she's overweight. And about how he's very excited that he gets to move back to Lawrence after 34 years, can you imagine? And about how at church, the most amazing, coincidence happened.
After about five minutes of this, we were thinking, how can this man be so oblivious to his volume, to his rudeness? By this time, I was frustrated, and about to get pissy. I could barely hear my friend's voice over this man's!
I didn't want to be super rude, but I needed him to know how inconsiderate his behavior was. So I turned in my chair to face him directly and made eye contact. He smiled and looked away, and kept talking. I maintained eye contact and smiled slightly. He smiled and looked away again. But he got the message and finished the call.
When he put the phone away, I said thank you, smiled, and turned back to face my lunch. The man apologized and tried to engage us in conversation, to which I replied the minimum number of words I could without being snotty. When we finished, I said to the man, "good luck to you, sir."
What could have been a really ugly situation was avoided, and all parties walked away unscathed.
Remember, we're not judged on what goes on in our heads (thank heavens), but by our words and our actions. Try to make yours count in the plus column.
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you!
This Friday, March 29, I'll be part of The Freelance Exchange's event, Freelance Focus. I'm super excited about it! It's basically everything my coaching clients get over 6 weeks mashed into a 3-hour workshop. So it'll be like drinking from a fire hose! It's presented by myself and a four other expert panelists, copywriter Julie Cortés, social media expert Alexis Ceule, content expert Ben James, and photographer Matt Nichols.
I'm hoping attendees will get a sense of all the moving parts they need to be aware of as a freelance business owner. Sure, big stuff like contracts, ideal clients, and pricing will be covered, but small stuff too, like loneliness, your elevator pitch, and the tone of the words on your website.
This would be beneficial for those who have never freelanced, as well as those who have been at it a while. I mean, some of the things I'll be covering I didn't learn until after I was 20 years into freelancing! It helped me so much to hire a business coach; now I'm sharing some of what I learned with her, as well as the stuff I've had to learn the hard way. Which is unfortunately the great majority of what I know. =)
When we talked about how to price a full-spectrum event like this, we could have opted to charge a bunch. But as a way to give back to our community of freelancers, we chose to price this the same as a Freelance Exchange luncheon: just $20 for members & $35 for nonmembers. We'll even provide coffee, snacks, lunch, and a slew of handouts.
Thanks for reading! I really hope to see you there. Good juju to you even if I don't.
So you know how I said my November had a super busy week? I come back from the Revolve Conference late Tuesday night. Then, first thing Wednesday morning, I'm kicking off an even busier rest-of-the week for Global Entrepreneurship Week here in KC. This is a week-long series of courses, classes, talks & workshops for entrepreneurs; there are 170 events that week! Did I mention that they're all FREE and open to the public? Yep, kinda crazy, I know!
The Freelance Exchange (FX) will be well represented that week! Here are some other FX members' talks:
I really hope you can make it to one (or all?) of the GEW events. See you there, I'll save a hug for you!
In just a few weeks, I'll have one of busiest weeks of the year. It starts November 10…
Again this year, I'm attending the Revolve Conference in Charleston, SC. Last year, I spoke about resolving conflicts. This year, I'm just attending and I cannot freaking wait! I'm headed there Saturday, November 10th, two days before the conference even starts. That's because Charleston is that awesome. The people, the food—oh lordy, the food!—the history… it's one of my all-time favorite places. (If you're headed there too, please let me know! It's so much fun to go exploring with others!)
The conference starts on Monday, the 12th and some of my absolute favorite speakers will be there, some of whom I am even privileged enough to call friends. Jim Krause (what new ways to conjure creativity will he teach?), Ilise Benun (great marketing tips incoming, my pencil is ready!), Von Glitschka (who always brings something cool & mind-blowing to share), Sabine Lenz (what wonderful new print techniques has she discovered?), Meena Kothandaraman (I can't wait to hear what this brilliant woman has to share!), and Stefan Mumaw (will his presentation make me cry again?).
There are speakers who aren't on my radar yet, but after reading what their topics are, you can bet I'll be in their session, pencil ready. Knowing how rich the content was last year, yeah, I'm excited.
If you've ever been to a HOW Design Live conference, you know kinda what to expect. And you know some conferences can be more than the sum of its parts—even magical at times. That's Revolve—real world info with a huge dose of creativity and a dash of serendipity—but smaller, more intimate, more approachable. Certainly more affordable! If Revolve isn't on your radar yet, it is now.
See you there? I'll save a hug for you!
Sometimes you teach best what you most need to learn. That's me. Right now. Guilty as charged. And I need your help. Yep, you, the one reading this right now.
My business coach, Minette Riordan, tasked me a while back with upgrading my online marketing game by writing blog posts every week. Just one a week. Seems easy enough. I said yes, but I've fallen off the proverbial wagon. It's easy to say that life got in the way. But the truth is that putting my thoughts into words and then putting those words into my blog doesn't come effortlessly to me. That, and I just fell out of the habit of writing every week.
I know that I can't be top-of-mind if I'm not at least committing myself to one teeny blog post a week. That's where you come in.
If you've read this far, I'd like you to comment below with just one word. Can be anything you want. Something that'll make me smile. Some word that I have to look up. Any word.
My theory is that I just need to know that someone is reading this and that it's worthwhile for me to keep plugging along.
I believe that whooshing sound was June rushing by. I don't recall many specifics about it, but I think that's what it was.
June included my wedding anniversary, Father's Day, one date night with Husband, taking Mom to the doctor twice, my car to the car doctor once, umpteen video conference calls and meetings, and THIRTEEN networking events.
No wonder it made a whooshing sound!
I've also read several books—some of them even non-fiction! =) The most recent one was When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink. He was a keynote at the HOW Design Conference I attended in May (sorry [not sorry] I keep mentioning it—yes, it's that good!).
The major takeaways from his talk, and from his book, include recognizing when your peak times are, and when your slump times are, and working accordingly. The timing didn't surprise me, but the severity of the slump, across all of humanity, did. (Seriously, don't have any surgeries mid-afternoon if you value your life.) Toward the end of the book, the author also mentions something that really resonated with me… and it's about beginnings. In a nutshell, "start right, start again, start together."
What Daniel Pink goes on to explain about "start right" is that when you start something affects the entire success your endeavor, from a project, to a career, to your life. For example, did you enter the job market during an economic slump? The effects of that may follow you your entire career. Most of the time, we have zero control over this. The good news is that this effect can fade over time.
He explains "start again" as the timing of starting over. From the first day of the year (new year's resolutions), to the first day of the week, choosing a day that's memorable to you and beginning again works. Totally makes sense, right?
The last one, "start together" is the one that really sunk in. Whether it's a workout routine, a business, a marriage, or a movement, you have more chance at success if you start something monumental with someone else. This effect does not fade over time. This is the one that you have the most control over, and can impact your success the longest, even decades down the road.
Start right, start again, start together.
My June this year did make a whooshing sound as it flew past, but today is July 1st, and that means that I can start again. Sure it's an arbitrary day, but it's a beginning. So I'm announcing the whooshing sound is now me beginning again!
I've spoken to several people recently who have made, or will soon make, the jump to working freelance full time. My advice to you is this… to pick a day that's memorable to you, the first of the month, the anniversary of you graduating, whatever… (start again) then assemble a group (or even just one other person), who can be your partner in this endeavor… (start together), and BEGIN.
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you! =)
p.s. If you want my help to move from working full-time for someone else, to working full-time for yourself, please let me know. I've done it successfully, twice. I can help.
Yeah, I hadn't either. I came across an article back in early 2000s explaining synaesthesia. Boy was I surprised that not everyone experienced colors and textures and whatnot when they thought of letters. "You know, M is blue and shiny, K is red and rough…?" I got some strange looks when I started talking about it. Turns out, scientists have known about it for a really long time, but it fell out of common knowledge. (If you're curious and want to learn more, I recommend a book called Wednesday is Indigo Blue as a good technical starting place.)
Turns out that for synaesthetes (people who experience synaesthesia), it's very common to have more than one kind. I have grapheme → color + texture + location (+ personality but just for numbers, go figure). It means I perceive colors and textures with each letter. As do days of the week, and months of the year. And they all have a spacial location in my mind's eye. I hadn't met anyone else with synaesthesia until the spring of 2011.
Back in 2011, as a HOW Design speaker I was also asked to review portfolios. I know I looked at several people's work, but I can't remember any. Just Rebekah Paulovich, and her work involving her own form of synaesthesia. Rebekah is also a synaesthete; she sees sound. Technically, it's sound → color + shape synaesthesia, but she has several kinds. Her work still blows my mind!
Rebekah is an amazing artist (seriously if you didn't click on that link up there, do it now, I'll wait), and since 2011 I had sent her a few messages asking how that project was coming along. She sent a message letting me know she was also in Boston for this year's HOW. We crossed paths on the same day that I pitched my coaching to 3,000 designers from HOW's main stage. She literally found me in a hallway full of people — again, how serendipitous, as with all things HOW-related — and we left to grab a coffee and catch up.
On the way to coffee, Rebekah told me an incredibly inspiring story of her life during the past 7 years since I'd seen her. (Her story is seriously amazing, and will come later, I promise.) Oh, and with true HOW serendipitous magic, the total for our coffee was $4.26 — not only her birthday, but also the birthday of the guy who rang us up!
One of the delightful outcomes of the coffee meetup…?
Rebekah and I agreed to do a book together, a book showcasing our illustrated synaesthesia alphabets! Eeeee! It's hard to convey just how excited I am!
Here's a sneak peek at the very beginnings of my piece of this super cool project. Curious? Good!
Because both our alphabets are also spacial in nature, this has the potential to be a VERY different kind of book. Rebekah's alphabet appears in her mind's eye as a stepped series moving from upper left to lower right. Mine is all around me, as if I was standing inside a typewriter ball in an old Selectric typewriter. We'll see how well each translates to a 2-dimensional plane.
There's loads more teasing to come as our book unfolds — literally! Ha!
Thanks for reading! Good juju to you! =)
In my last post I talked about my spur-of-the-moment pitch onstage at HOW. Here's what it looked like from the audience.
What do you think? After hearing this, would you "buy what I'm selling"?
Thank you Julie Goldsberry for capturing the moment!
Thanks to Ally for catching this one from the front row.
Here's a link to the spark session in its entirety. I come in at about the 15-minute mark.
I feel like I'm still catching up with myself. But big—really big, scary, fun, amazing—things are in the works. Stay tuned.
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you! =)
Back in early 1994, I was very new to the corporate environment. I worked with a woman who requested to go to a conference in her industry. I didn't even know such a thing was possible! I thought, if she can go to a conference — why can't I? I somehow found and got approval to attend the HOW Design Conference in May of 1994.
I had no idea what to expect. I was only 3 years out of school, having received my BFA in graphic design/illustration in 1991. I met David Carson, Kit Hinrichs, McRay Magleby, Charles Anderson, and the like. I had no idea who they were! My education focused on art history, not design history, so I didn't recognize their names or their faces.
Another name I had never heard of was Gordon MacKenzie, the closing keynote speaker. Back then, we sat at round tables and were actually served lunch at the closing keynote! This was before Gordon wrote Orbiting the Giant Hairball (which I strongly recommend you read, if you haven't already), and his session was called "Achieving and Maintaining Creativity Within a Bureaucracy." ("Orbiting the Giant Hairball" is a better title, don't you think?) There weren't any slides in this talk. Behind him on stage were instead sixteen numbered posters with curious little drawings on them. He told us he had tried unsuccessfully to put them into some kind of sequential order, and asked us to just call out the numbers of the drawings that interested us, so he could tell us that story. When he was finished with each story, he'd say, "Next number." These stories became part his Orbiting book as chapters.
Several stories in and I fell in love… with the format, with the stories, with the unique, vulnerable, amazing human being up on stage. I decided I'd call out a number… "Thirteen!" Card number thirteen had the word "courage" on it. (Being a Leo, that word came up often for me; I have always been drawn to the word.)
Unlike the other stories, this time he said, "Who said number thirteen?" My face reddened, and slowly, I raised my hand. He pulled an envelope off the back of card number thirteen, came down from the stage, and made his way through the hundreds (thousands?) of designers, toward me. My heart raced, my mouth dried up, all eyes were on either me or Gordon. When he finally reached me, he opened the envelope, pulled out a $50 bill and handed it to me.
"Never be afraid to single yourself out again."
My eyes bulged, my jaw dropped. I didn't know what to think, or what to say.
After the stories were finished, I stormed the podium. I can't remember what exactly Gordon and I said to each other, but we ended up crying and laughing and hugging — we bonded. This changed my life. (I'd like to tell you that it happened overnight; it didn't.) I still have that $50 bill.
Fast-forward to this year's HOW Design Live — also in Boston, also in May. Tuesday afternoon's Spark was session with Marta Stiglin was called "Shameless Self-Promotion." She had us pair up and practice our pitches with each other. When we "bought" what our partner was pitching, we were instructed to stand up. I've been working with my business coach on perfecting mine, so I felt I was pretty ready; my pitch partner stood up right away. Then Marta asked for a volunteer to pitch to the entire audience.
I think I channeled Gordon for a few seconds there, because my hand shot up and "Meee!" came out of my mouth (at least I think that's what I shouted). I think I was as stunned as the people around me. Marta chose me and I sprinted toward the stage. I'd never pitched to an audience of 3,000 people before! Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous, but I was seriously out of breath (I don't run — ever)! Marta told the audience to hold up their phone flashlights when they "bought" what I was pitching. There was a moment of slight panic after my first pitch — there were no lights! No one "bought" it. And again, as if channeling Gordon, I started over. I said the same thing, but in plainer language. From my heart instead of my head. Suddenly there were hundreds of lights shining my way. I was SO inspired!
Sure, HOW is a place for creatives to connect. It's a place where mind-boggling coincidences and beautiful serendipity happens every year. It's also a safe place, where you can find your family, where you can single yourself out and not fear ridicule. Like how we feel about family, it's a place where we feel the most belonging, that also exists in our hearts long after the conference ends.
After that first conference in 1994, I came back on fire, knowing that I was now part of a larger supportive community, ready to design the world! I feel the same way after every HOW conference, including this year. So don't be afraid to single yourself out — especially not at HOW. You never know what might happen!
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you!
Ok, not really summer camp. I'm off to the HOW Design Conference, this year in Boston. I try to go every year. Thankfully, now that I'm a HOW Ambassador, it's been every year for a while. The first one I attended (back in 1994!) changed my life, lit me on fire. I had no idea what I didn't know!
Every year I meet up with my extended family, my HOW family. We're all in design-related fields, and we all get it. We're birds of a feather! There's a lot of hugs, lots of laughter, and yes, even a few serious conversations about what we can do as designers to change the world for the better. Yeah, we're those kinds of people.
I know that the only things I'm responsible for—truly in control of—are my words and my actions. That's all I have to make waves in the world. And in my circle of influence, which is about a five-foot radius around me, I want to have as many people as I can, spreading as much good juju as I can, so that the ripples of positivity and love go farther and do more. Attending HOW makes it super easy. Being a HOW Ambassador makes it super fun.
I'll tell you all about it when I get back. I hope to see you there! =)
You've probably asked, "How do I find the right clients?" I've asked myself this same question a hundred times.
This past weekend I had an epiphany. It's so simple, but I realized that not everyone knows this.
The question, "How do I find the right clients?" is NOT the question you should be asking. Not at first, anyway. Because having success with your freelance business is rarely just about finding the right clients.
Announcing that "finding the right client" is the only thing your business needs for success is like deciding to buy a house without doing your research. Then just driving along, seeing a pretty house, and deciding that's the one without knowing the really important answers… Like the asking price… Like what shape the foundation is in… Like what the neighborhood is like, school district, average utility bills, annual taxes… You get the idea.
I'm convinced it's about everything BUT finding the right clients.
There are so many things that must be in place before you even think about getting in front of the right client. Things like figuring out who exactly that ideal client is and, more importantly, why you think they're ideal… Like what specific problems or pain points you're solving for them… Like charging what you're actually worth, and being able to educate your clients on the value you bring to the table… Like presenting yourself as the expert you are, in person and across your entire online footprint… Like having a solid brand that not only reflects you and working with you, but that speaks to and attracts more ideal clients…
Here are some examples of what I'm talking about…
Let's say you're a photographer who's willing to photograph anyone with a budget, but really loves product photography. You continually accept work that doesn't thrill you, and therefore shows in your photos… they're good, just not amazing. You finally get in front of someone who needs product photography, and instead of showing the amazing work you love to do, you spend most of your time explaining why your portfolio shows weddings, sports and senior photos. Your ideal client has dismissed the idea of working with you.
Let's say you're a writer who is an expert at disseminating complex information into marketing copy, and you even have some samples to show. You finally get in front of what you think of as your ideal client, but you struggle to explain clearly why you and this client are a perfect match. Your ideal client has dismissed the idea of working with you.
Let's say you're a web developer who can create amazing websites that get results. You meet someone at a networking event that fits your ideal client profile. You try to make them understand that they really need to hire you to refresh their outdated website, but they balk at your price, convinced they shouldn't pay that much. You feel defensive when you explain your pricing and it shows your lack of confidence in what you charge. Your ideal client has dismissed the idea of working with you.
Let's say you're a graphic designer who can design circles around the other designers you know. You get wind of a client you know needs you and can afford you. But when you meet in person, your confidence comes across as arrogance. Your ideal client has dismissed the idea of working with you.
See what I mean?
Yes, getting in front of the right people should, indeed, be your goal—but just one goal along with getting all the other things in place first.
Your success is about everything else AND THEN finding the right clients.
I know what it's like to struggle with this very issue. I've had to learn it the hard way (like all things, grrrr). That's where I come in; I help you learn the easy way, so you can grow the successful freelance business you want.
Let me know when you're ready to start--I'm here for you!
Thanks for reading! Good juju to you! =)
Well, speaking of connection, my phone crashed and died this weekend. Poor thing, three years old and worked hard from day one! It just kept restarting. Wandering forever in a startup loop. I know I've felt that way before. Have you?
The replacement phone is scheduled to arrive Tuesday (thankfully I've got full coverage on my phone), and I'm feeling a bit out of sync and unconnected. How will I ever get all my contacts re-entered if they weren't backed up? I'll find out soon.
Offline, I did organize my recipes (finally), so there's a plus side to not going through my usual morning routine of playing Boggle online while I finish my chai latte. I'm wondering what other things I could accomplish if I bust out of my usual routine.
On a client-management-related note, I think I finally got through to my client today. The changes Mary* requested were precise design changes that unfortunately didn't help the design at all (she's not a designer). At first, I was so frustrated with her changes, I started to write an email explaining each of my design decisions. Then I remembered to put myself firmly into Mary's shoes. Her objective is the same as mine—to make the project awesome. So I wrote her a note to remind her of the big picture instead…
"If you give me specific art direction changes instead of the 'why' involved with what you want changed, I’m stuck between doing exactly what you’ve asked, or doing what looks and reads best."
I asked Mary to look over my changes and let me know if she felt the changes were still necessary. If she had still requested her changes, I would have done them. But at least she knows she can trust me to do what's best for the project, and that there's not a big ego involved. I think we've connected more firmly because of my push back. I'm not just an order taker—I'm her partner in making her projects awesome!
She actually apologized (not my intention, but welcome nonetheless) and agreed to give me her reasons for her changes and let me decide how best to get the project there.
So win-win. Except for my poor old phone.
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you! =)
*Of course that's not her real name.
Last week I was asked to speak to the Kansas City chapter of the ASMP, along with Jason Dailey, The Freelance Exchange's vice president. The talk was mainly about benefits of joining, but in explaining the value of the group, the discussion went much deeper into what we, as humans need at a base level and are lacking by spending so much time glued to our electronic devices.
Networking (I originally typed newtworking… ha! That's something completely different!) doesn't have to be seen as negative. How many times have you heard that networking is crucial to your career? Of course it is! How many times have you really worked your network in the past year? I thought so. Networking is really about connection. Making real and honest connections with other fellow humans. That's it. But, if it's still kind of *bleh* in your head, let's appease the left brain by analyzing word network.
noun—an open meshed fabric used to contain
adjective—what remains after deductions
View your friends, peers, and acquaintances as your open-meshed fabric—your safety net—with each strand representing an individual. The knots are the connections you’ve cultivated with them. Your network contains your friends, peers and acquaintances. To grow your business, you can tap the connections in your net. If you lose everything, what remains is your network. If you need a resource (job-related or otherwise), you reach out to your net.
noun—exertion, effort directed to produce something
verb—to do work; to produce something
You can’t have a network without the work part of it. You just can’t need something and have it magically appear. Yes, it takes effort, but that effort can be fun when you’ve made real connections with people.
noun—an association of individuals having a common interest, formed to provide mutual assistance, helpful information, etc.
With every new person you meet in the industry, try to make a genuine connection—not just asking about occupation, and in what city they live. Ask what they really enjoy about their current role, what they like helping people with, what they're interests are outside of a "job." If you really connect, you will remember each person individually. If time doesn’t permit a lengthy connection, jot down on their business card “loves cars,” or “collects shoes,” “really into sports.” Anything—even if it’s “shared Lyft to airport”—that helps you remember the individual and the connection you've made.
After the birth of our first child, I had the luxury to quit my full-time job and only do 5-10 hours of freelance work per week. Then my husband lost his job when I was expecting our second child less than two years later, and it was necessary for me to support the family (and pay for our cobra insurance—yikes!) while he job-hunted. I sent out a call for help to my network for freelance work. Any work. Nothing was too menial.
What happened? I got work. I got a lot of work. I went from working 5-10 hours a week to 30-40 hours a week. We made it six months on just my freelance work, thanks to my network!! And my husband got a job just a few days before our second child was born. Whew!
See, it's about making connections that can benefit you down the road. So when you see the word networking, replace it with connecting and you'll feel the difference. And probably attend more networking events!
“We human beings are social beings.
We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason, it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.” --The Dalai Lama
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you! =)
p.s. Just as you can call on your network in times of need, remember to be a support to others as well. How can I help you?
It's so easy to get, be, and stay overwhelmed when you have big goals, big projects, or big ideas. Or even if you just have small goals, projects or ideas. I think I read somewhere that as humans, we can only concentrate on three things simultaneously. (I'm just mastering one… how the hell do you master three?!) Anyway, if you are overwhelmed, I can help with that!
My to-do list from last week is still pretty big, but because Minette, my business coach, is awesome, she also taught me how to deal with massive to-do lists that don't make me want to crawl under a rock and hide. (Ok, well, most of the time.) Her suggestion is to make a list of six or fewer things that you absolutely commit to doing today, then get just those things done. This is great advice, and you should take it.
But since I'm me, what works best for me is just a little different. What? Do things a little differently? (Yes, my daughter comes by her "option C" tendencies quite naturally.) At the beginning of the week, or when I'm having a mini-meltdown with too much to do and too much to keep track of, I do a complete brain-dump list of what I would like to accomplish. No time frames, no details, just every single little stinking thing. From client-based work and meetings, consulting work, to Freelance Exchange stuff, to household stuff, I dump everything onto that list. This instantly reduces stress levels and frees up my brain to actually work! Then I can categorize the list, or color-code it. (I haven't decided which I like better and from week-to-week I flip-flop.) Then from that list, I make a today-only list of what I commit to getting done today. Crossing stuff off my to-do list is sooooo satisfying!!
If there's something on the list that's been there for a while and isn't getting done, I ask myself, "Why not? What's the freaking hold up?" This is where things get interesting.
Sometimes I can just cross it off as unimportant. Sometimes I have an emotional or mental block that I wasn't even aware of. Asking-for-money-things or posting-video-things fall into this category for me. Then I have to ask if that thing on my list is really something I want to do, or just something I feel obligated to do. If there's fear involved (like posting videos, hello—not-in-my-comfort-zone—what!?), but it moves the needle even just a teeny bit toward my bigger goals, I consciously set aside the fear (remember the giraffe story?) and do it anyway.
So what can you do today that will move the needle just a teeny bit toward your bigger goals?
Do that. Then celebrate that you're that much closer to your goal, and that you didn't give in to fear, and that you accomplished your tasks for the day! Wooohoooo!!!
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you. =)
The word kintsukuroi came up again recently, thanks in part to a post by Sam Harrison (which now I can't find, sorry). Kintsukuroi (also called kintsugi) is the Japanese art of repaired pottery, but it's something more than that. An important something.
These days, would you even consider a broken ceramic bowl worth repairing, let alone consider it more beautiful for having been broken? Probably not. No, of course not.
But slow down a minute. Consider the bowl, made by hand with maleable clay and fired to a couple thousand degrees, forever altering its molecular structure. The bowl's creator strived to create perfection.
A handmade object, like a bowl or cup, is revered for the care it took to make it, its beauty, and its purpose. But broken, the object is demoted and loses its honor, so to speak. Repaired, however, can raise the object to a whole new level of appreciation. Not a common idea in western culture.
Some people, more scholarly and patient than I, attribute the origin of the repaired-ceramics artform to story from the mid-1500s. The story goes like this. A great military leader (with a supposedly hot temper) was given a beautiful bowl for an important tea ceremony. Someone dropped the bowl, which broke into five pieces (a more complete essay can be found in Flickwerk, The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics, available here). One of the guests spoke up with an improvised poem cleverly linking the name of the giver of the bowl, the style of the bowl, and the five broken pieces, making them all laugh and avoiding the wrath of the hot-headed leader. This specific bowl has since become quite famous, and is considered now an "Important Cultural Property."
This essay goes on to say that instead of the break "…diminishing [the bowl's] appeal, a new sense of its vitality and resilience raised appreciation to even greater heights." The bowl has become more beautiful for having been broken. The true life of the bowl "…began the moment it was dropped…"
"So it is not simply any mended object that increases in its appreciation but… the gap between the vanity of pristine appearance and the fractured manifestation of mortal fate which deepens its appeal."
In other words, the proof of its fragility and its resilience is what makes it beautiful. Like you.
Don't strive for perfection, just be you—cracks, lines, chips and all. You being you is what makes you beautiful.
Thanks for reading, and good juju to you! =)
p.s. I first published this post in January of 2013, but people keep finding my old blog (even though it's not linked anywhere) and leaving lovely comments, so I thought I'd let it live again here. The concept of kintsukuroi isn't as foreign now as it was five years ago. Consider Sugru's success—it wouldn't exist without people wanting to fix their stuff.
I'm so glad I'm not a giraffe (although being the tallest kid in class all throughout grade school, I was called giraffe… I digress. Back to my story about giraffes…). They have a really rough start to life. They’re born while giraffe mommies are standing up — think about that! The first experience they have in life is falling from six feet up, right onto their heads!
From this moment on, they are terrified of falling, unwilling to take any chance they might fall. They won’t walk down an incline of any kind. While giraffes are physically capable of navigating inclines, they’re emotionally crippled with the fear of falling. For this reason, zoos can enclose the giraffe area with a six-foot-deep dry moat. They’re called psychological moats.
For years I was uncomfortable doing just design work. I was more comfortable doing print production since there’s only one way to do it right: so it prints correctly. It started right after college, when I worked designing t-shirts. I would spend weeks on one design, until it was just perfect. I would show my boss who would say (with cheesy finger-guns as I remember it), “Good start — just keep working on it.”
I hated this! In my mind, the work was done, the shirt design was awesome, and I was ready to move on. So then I started designing for what I thought he’d want to see, what I thought he might finally approve of, and not what I knew to be good design. For months this went on until I realized my boss knew very little about design, and this was his standard canned answer.
For years after this, fear of not designing good enough was a psychological moat for me.
Where are your psychological moats? Where have you fallen down—failed so miserably—that you are now unwilling to go there again?
So here's my big question to you: What’s the worst thing that can happen if you try again? You can fall on your head. Well, you already know what that feels like. Not only that — you have already gotten up at least once and kept on going. You’ve already succeeded!
Now, aren't you thankful you're not a giraffe?
Thanks for reading, and good juju to you! =)
It seems the struggle that just keeps popping up for us freelancers is how to find great freelance clients. I've been in your shoes, always hunting for the next project, the next client. It's a big time suck. What if you could find great clients, with regular work, who love working with you, who stick around? Oh yeah!
Let’s figure out exactly who those people are for your business, what it is they need, and where they hang out.
Join me for a free Zoom video conversation this Thursday March 8, 2018 at 1pm CST.
You're a creative and have been asked to create a project for a new client. You pour yourself into the project, you do your research. You explore and exhaust all the possibilities you can think of, and then some. You remember that the process is what you love. You can't control the outcome; that's not your decision anyway—it's the client's.
When the time comes (and probably with equal parts butterflies and fireworks in your gut), you present your creation to your client. It's some of your best work. You're proud. It kinda feels like you’re presenting a piece of yourself. You, right there, on paper, for all to see. "Me, me, me."
But what if your client doesn't like it?! Panic creeps in, you think, "Oh jeez, they hate it. They hate me!"?
Stop right there, buddy.
Shift that mindset right now! You are NOT your designs/photos/words/whatever. That thing you just presented, that's just the physical proof that something magical happened in your head. That's the leftovers, the byproduct of your creativity. Not you.
Do NOT take it personally. (And never, NEVER lose your temper or you'll be remembered as the one who sulked!) Because you're smart, you already informed your clients early on that they can tell you straight-up if they don't like it. If so, you get to work through the process again. Hooray! Good thing you love the process and aren't married to the outcome. You’re smart and creative—figure out how you missed the mark and come up with another solution.
Likewise, if the client LOVES your designs/photos/words/whatever, they’re not saying they love you, just your solution. Remember, you are not what you produce. You are so much more than that!
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you. =)
I've been out and about quite a bit in the last few months. Networking events, hanging out, and just trying to be present. Here's how I think it helped me.
According to an article in Forbes, "loneliness might be a bigger health risk than smoking or obesity." Loneliness and social isolation has a big impact not only on your psychological self, but your physical health! Mind you, most of the research this article points to is centered around geriatrics (hell, I'm almost there myself), but the effects on us as human beings is the same, no matter your age.
"In the last decade alone, physicians and researchers have begun looking deeply into the impact of loneliness and social isolation on health, well being, and mortality, and the data on the subject is overwhelming: a lonely person is significantly more likely to suffer an early death than a non-lonely one."
"And, interestingly, this is true whether the person feels lonely or not."
If it's anything like the other two things, it means that it's a slow, creeping killer, one that you may not notice until it's too late. A meta-analysis of literature on the subject by Brigham Young University and reported on by Time, found that social isolation is pretty much a death knoll—increasing your risk of death by about 30%!
What does this mean to us specifically as freelancers? It means that too much of that part of what we love about freelancing—the doing-our-own-thing part—can be a very bad thing. Just like all wonderful things (ice cream, wine, exercise, pie, vodka… you get my drift), moderation is, of course, the key. We've known this already about food & drink; now we need to schedule in human connection time. If you're not having human contact daily, or at least weekly, something's gotta give.
According to the Time article,
"More Americans are living alone than ever before, and technology like texting and social media has made it easier to avoid forming substantive relationships in the flesh and blood. Yet research shows that relationships can improve health in a variety of ways, by helping us manage stress, improving the functioning of the immune system and giving meaning to people’s lives."
In-person good juju is the key not just to making new connections for growing your business, but to staying alive!
Thanks for reading. Now, set down your device, and go talk face-to-face with another human being. I want you to live!
You made it through school; you've been creating / designing / illustrating / whatever for awhile now; you got into a groove. Great. But now the groove has become too predictable. You find your designs start looking the same. You dread getting out of bed and getting to work. You start your ideas and projects by opening software before you even have a clue what you’re going to do. You go to an old design annual and start from someone else’s idea. You base your color choices on what your client’s favorite colors are! (*cringe*)
Your groove has become too deep—it’s not just a rut, it’s a trench that's now too high to see out of, and it feels like a stinking prison!
Stop and think… What caused you to be here, stuck in such a predicament? Are you afraid of leaving your comfort zone? Do you need a boost of integrity? How about confidence? Are you holding a grudge about something? Or are you just bored?
From here, there are only two directions to go. Either you keep trudging on in your rut, making it deeper by doing what you’ve been doing, getting more of what you have (and you already know what that’s like)—or you stop digging, put down the damned shovel, and get the hell out! It seems like a no-brainer—I mean if you're stuck in a rut, you've got to do something different than what got you there, right? But what?
Try something new, try anything new. Look elsewhere for clients. Start with pencil sketches if you're always jumping on the computer first (be honest, we all do it sometimes). Ask for the kind of work you've always wanted to try, but didn't know how to do (Adobe After Effects, anyone?)—then figure out how to do it! Go talk to the people you've only dreamed of associating with who have the work you want to do.
Look, my point is just start, just do. Don't pause to think or feel, because you can talk yourself out of almost anything that's not comfortable), just do. Once you're in motion, the sky's the limit.
Once you’re free of this rut, you start creating fresh ideas, connecting the dots no one thought of before. You operate with integrity as well as an abundance of confidence. You practically jump out of bed with ideas that you can’t wait to get to work on. You fearlessly try new things. You explore unique ideas with a pencil and paper, or even with mashed potatoes and asparagus, before you ever touch a computer. You trust your color choices and can explain it clearly to your client. Other people start coming to you to help spark their own ideas. You are the powerful, creative force you were meant to be, spreading good juju in everything you do.
What are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
Thanks for reading. Good juju to you!
According to the Freelancers Union's fourth annual Freelancing in America study, 57.3 million Americans are independent workers, and they project independent workers will be a majority of the U.S. workforce in just a decade. I googled the phrase, "finding & keeping clients" and got 124 million results. Yep, confirmation that the subject is top-of-mind for a rapidly growing number of us.
I've been freelancing off and on for more than 25 years, so I can say I've been around the block more than once. Or more than twice. I've had what seems like more than my share of crappy clients. Ones who didn't want to pay what I was worth, wanted projects done literally overnight, or insisted that the design changes they wanted would "make it pop" (insert violent cringe here). I even let one client convince me to create 82 proofs! What was I thinking?!
Since learning the hard way seems to be the only way I learn things, I figured out the hard way how to weed out those crappy clients, find the awesome clients, and how to keep them happy.
Here's my nutshell advice for finding your ideal clients…
Here's my nutshell advice for keeping your ideal clients...
Finding and keep great clients is about solidifying a relationship built on trust. There's no shortcut—it takes time.
But there's more to running a successful freelance business, isn't there? There's just as much internal work as there is getting-dressed-and-doing-stuff work. The internal work takes time, too. We need to get out of our own way, and trust the process. But as creatives, we like to do things our way, by ourselves, and against the grain. I get you—I mean, I am a creative after all. A rebellious one at that.
If you want help growing an awesome freelance business and become your own Freelance CEO, I can help. Just let me know.
That's it for today, thanks for reading. Good juju to you!