As a creative entrepreneur, you've got LOTS of ideas. How do you keep track of them all? Can they even be managed? How do you decide which ideas to pursue, and which ones to table for later (or even give away to someone else)?
You're in luck because this week I'm sharing some useful tools and resources to help you organize your ideas and get clear on what you're going to move on now, and what can wait. You'll be able to end the distractions and stay focused!
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This week I had an AMAZING photo shoot that's been several months in the making. I knew when I landed in Nashville, starting over would take up a good portion of my first year here. I also knew that I had projects that still needed to move forward: I've been sitting on Creative Freedom for a while now, and The Damn Whippersnappers have promised to visit this summer for a recording session. So with a new book and new music in the works, of COURSE I needed to get the website redone.
Only, I didn't know anyone in this town, so I had no idea how long I'd have to wait, how much it would cost, or anything. Luckily, my best friend, Google helped me out. I met Emily, a wardrobe stylist from Effortlesstyle here in Nashville. She came over, looked at my closet and said "let's just start from scratch, okay?"
While I know how to clean up, I've never been at the bleeding edge of style, and I told her that. My closet is full of black, black, and more black - with a splash of solid color here and there. So I gave her a budget and she went to work. A week or so later, we met for the fitting. There was really only one piece I couldn't bring myself to like. Everything else was wonderful - and a lot of it I wouldn't have picked for myself. Like this floral top. When I first looked at it, all the voices in my head took a swing at me:
"Oh, you're too big to wear white!"
"That floral print is just going to draw all kinds of attention that you don't want."
I swallowed hard when she showed it too me. I knew Emily could sense my reluctance. "Just try it on." she politely insisted.
I did. We found a keeper.
I had just raised my threshold of belief around what was possible for my wardrobe. Emily's a professional that's been doing this for years. Despite that, it was hard to trust her at first because I didn't know her. I didn't believe she could style a plus-sized momma like me.
Luckily, she made it easy to like her, and her ensemble choices were on point, so trust came quickly.
Which was good, because the hair and makeup artist I had originally asked to do the shoot booked herself another appointment and was unable to make our shoot date. It wasn't her fault. I was trying to coordinate all the details myself, and things didn't come together. Frantic, I asked Emily if she had any suggestions.
Panic turned to relief, but I had no idea how much I'd be paying for TWO people instead of one.
I swallowed hard again, and just trusted the process.
I arrive at Emily's house on the day of the shoot for hair and makeup. Mind you, two total strangers are about to have their way with my head. The ONLY thing keeping me from not showing up is the commitment I made to my photographer, Ashley.
That, and I trusted Emily. She hadn't steered me wrong yet, so I figured she wasn't going to start now.
I knock on the door, walk in, and I'm greeted by two of the sunniest, most enthusiastic women I've ever met. Both hard-working artists, both incredibly talented. Both eager to make magic happen.
Why did I ever doubt Emily?
Within minutes they are both working on me: Angela at the front, Genia at the back. We're chatting, really connecting, and they're making it easy for me to trust them. But...
I don't even know how much time has gone by, I can't see a mirror, and I'm still too nervous to eat any of the snacks Emily's put out for us. I did manage to down a glass of water, because I kept telling myself "it's gonna be hot outside, you don't want to die of heat stroke!"
Still, I think I managed to keep my self-doubt to myself as we talked about building a business doing what you love, something I'm pretty passionate about. My fear was, hopefully, masked by my enthusiasm for profitable creative businesses.
When they finished, I snapped a quick photo of my glam team and off we went to meet Ashley at Cumberland Park. When I got in my car, I had all I could do to keep from crying. I looked GOOD! Like, I almost didn't recognize myself. I had a vision of what I wanted for the shoot, and even hired Duane "The Hair Fairy" Edlao to cut my hair before I met these ladies to make sure that it would do what we wanted it to do. But to see it actually come to life?
We headed off toward Nissan Stadium to meet Ashley for the shoot. This is the first time we've met in person, and she looks happy, so I'm feeling more relaxed at this point. She's got some ideas about how to get in all the wardrobe changes and make the most of our time together.
The first few pictures felt awkward to me - because my inner critic was having her way.
There was a couple sitting at a picnic table across the way. They both stopped and looked up as my entourage pulled up with all our gear. I joked about being famous, but inside I was a self-conscious mess.
Despite these women all being super talented professionals, my inner critic was having her way with me. I told Ashley to "just shoot everything" because I knew that candid moments would probably end up making the most "natural" shots, plus we'd get some behind-the-scenes shots, too, which would be great for me to share with my clients in A-club. In truth, I was just hoping that, if she shot everything, there might be something that I could use.
Good thing Emily was listening, because she took some great candids, too. Like the shot of Angela, above, touching up my face, or this one, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites.
When I saw the first photo, I knew I was in good hands and I could relax. That's when we had REAL fun!
We joked, got silly, and just enjoyed being together - creatives whose only agenda was to create. Make magic happen. That was all we had to do, and when we could really let loose and trust each other, poof! The magic was there naturally.
The rest of the hour-long shoot went by fast, and it really felt like we were a team - working together to tell a compelling visual story. I look forward to seeing the proofs that Ashley took. Here's a sneak peek from the back of Ashley's camera...
This photo shoot was a massive investment in the future of my company, and it would be easy to just stop there...
...But that would be the least important part of the story.
As the pictures started appearing, people on Facebook started asking me what the shoot was for. It was easy to say "new book, new album, new website," but that wasn't entirely true. It was also a "new me" of sorts.
In the past, I would have tried to DIY as much as possible and keep everything on the cheap - not to be efficient or save money (though those are the excuses I would have used), but because of my own self-worth.
I put at least ten times the money into this shoot than any other shoot I've ever done. I'm not saying that to brag. I still feel strange about it, to be honest. I tell you this because there was a time in my life where I didn't believe I was WORTHY of investing "that kind of money" in me or my dreams.
Some days, I still struggle with my worthiness.
My early photo shoots were courtesy of my kid, or good friends who were skilled with a camera. I actually hired a photographer and hair/makeup artist for my last shoot because I wanted to get some specific shots for the album. I was leery then about spending "that kind of money" on a project that had no guarantee of completion, let alone success. But I was so happy with the results that I used those pictures all over the interwebs for a couple of years.
This time, I had a team of three incredible women who had my back the entire time (four, counting my photographer!). They probably had no idea of the "who do you think you are?" trash talk my inner critic was laying on me. At least, I hope they didn't. I am thrilled that they made it SO easy for me to just be ME in front of the camera.
The next day, I was talking with one of my coaches about my book, online course, and live event all built around the foundation of Creative Freedom. One of the last things she said to me was about the pricing for my upcoming event. I've been in a holding pattern for WEEEEEEKS because I haven't been able to decide how to price it or how and when to offer the online version. I told her I feel confident that I could easily charge twice the price because I believe it'll bring a solid 5-10x return on investment, but I was keeping the intro rate low because I wanted to fill the program (totally an ego thing, by the way).
When she looked at my pricing and asked about my motivations, she reminded me that sometimes, when we offer discounts and low-ball our pricing, it doesn't actually empower our clients, because we're modeling a behavior that comes from a place of scarcity instead of abundance. She then asked me "what if, by lowering your prices, you're denying your clients from having the same experience you just had at your photo shoot?"
If you've got a healthy relationship with money, this probably doesn't apply to you, but if you struggle with naming a price that feels right to you because your inner critic is asking "who will pay that?" - this could be helpful.
The answer to the "who will pay that?" question isn't found in the circle of people you've been begging to buy from you. The answer is found in the faces of the people who light up when you enter the room and say "where have you been all my life!?!?"
Sadly, most of us build our careers around the former and not the latter.
This is one of the reasons I encourage my clients to develop a $25,000 offer... not because anyone will ever buy it (though it does happen), but because it gets you thinking differently, so that when you offer something for $2k or $5k, you'll feel more confident around the real value you bring to your work.
What could happen (for you and your potential clients) if you just created and asked for the price you want without all the baggage attached?
Because it doesn't matter what price you pick, there will always be someone that can't or won't pay it. But there are also probably a few people who will.
Owning your dreams, without selling your soul. Finding yourself and building a life and business that works for who you really are and what really matters to you. Making good money doing what you LOVE (and all the ladies from my shoot love what they do). THAT is what Creative Freedom is about, and I can't wait to share more of this new evolution with you.
Oh, and tickets for the virtual workshop and online event will be on sale soon. If you're not already on my list, get there to be one of the first to know about it!
Sometimes it's innocent enough. Someone asks you to do something that's a real problem for them, but only takes you a quick second to handle. Once it's finished, they offer to compensate you in some way - maybe taking you to lunch, or actually offering you cash - but you decline.
I've done it more times than I care to count. Because I've got a pretty diverse background in all kinds of things, people ask me questions all the time. Sometimes it's a quick answer, other times, it requires a minute or two, but it's a whole lot easier for me than it is for them. They've just rented my brain (or my hands) for a project, and when they offered me compensation, I declined.
Whether it's your kids, your clients, your colleagues, or total strangers, you train people in every interaction you have with them. Last week, we talked about being too generous, and the other piece to that puzzle is turning away business/income/money because "it's no big deal" for you.
People come to expect you to be a certain way. My mom expected every McDonald's to have clean restrooms. Why? That's not part of their brand promise. Simply, mom had a lifetime of experience that gave her that expectation. The day she walked into a filthy McDonald's bathroom, she nearly blew her lid. Not because McDonald's ever promised her a clean restroom, but because she came to expect it because of all her past... um... interactions.
My grandfather was a carpenter and once charged a guy $50 to hang a picture frame on the wall. The guy was a bit miffed. "All you did was drive a nail!" When the guy asked him to itemize the bill, it looked like this:
Driving a nail: $5
Knowing where to drive the nail: $45
Total Due: $50
So often we discount the value of our hard-earned knowledge without even realizing it. Sure, it may only take a few minutes to handle that task for someone, but you've invested YEARS of learning how to do it in such a short time. There's value in that.
While my videos are meant to be fun, this is a serious issue for creatives - especially for women. My pal, Jason Stein, is super passionate about this topic and works with women entrepreneurs to help them deal with their money blocks. He's gifted at clearing the clutter and helping you see straight... and he's a bit of a badass, like me. And my friend and former coach, Teresa Romain, also takes a holistic approach to facing money issues. Both are incredibly gifted and compassionate folks that are good at untangling your money stories.
This week's episode of Creative Freedom talks more about this issue, as well as another way that we turn discount our value and turn away money or opportunities. Special thanks to my mastermind pals Pam and Jill for the impromptu jam session in today's episode!
You train people how to treat you based on what they expect & what you accept. (Tweet this.)
Are you expecting money to show up a certain way? Are you "not enoughing" the opportunities and money that you've already got? What other ways might you be "biting" or "hiding"?
Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments and let's be a rising tide for everyone. Remember to share this video with folks you know that could benefit. You'll have my undying gratitude for years to come!
I think it was Jesus that said a prophet has no honor in his own home town, with his own family, or even in his own house.
It's one of the big reasons I first built my business online - away from the prying eyes and judgmental insinuations of my own family and friends.
Don't get me wrong, on the whole I've managed to remove myself from the toxic relationships of my younger days, but there are still a few lingering reminders that only serve to affirm the wisdom of Jesus.
I've been a musician and performing artist for decades. I'm glad to be able to offer my services for a lot of different kinds of events. A family member once asked me to perform for a public event she was facilitating. She needed a strong singer to lead the music for the event. Naturally, I accepted. She's family, and it was for a worthy cause.
And of course, I didn't ask to be compensated, because it was a charity event, I had close ties to the organization, and I wanted the opportunity to perform, share my gifts, and serve on a larger scale.
That was all well and good until I realized I had "served" my way out of my own value.
It was then that the words of Jesus rang in my head. More and more, I'm hearing stories from clients about doing "spec" work, or free work just for the exposure, only to discover there really isn't a real exposure opportunity. Or they're taking crappy-paying work because, hey, at least it pays something.
I'm here to tell you that you're crippling your business - and possibly your health and well-being. If you're saying yes to anything that comes along, you're not giving yourself room to do the work you really enjoy. Then, when the "good stuff" comes up, you're already booked! Let my example be your shortcut to sanity and more profitability. Here are three ways you can get more of the right people to value your work.
On one level, I was livid that my family member didn't see the value of the work I contributed to the event. I had to learn dozens of songs, rehearse them, and then perform them without errors - just like the other musicians. I also emceed the event, introduced the music, and was the "personality" for the event. Those are also elements of a performance that must be practiced. For as easy as it looks, I don't just show up and "wing it" for an audience. Even my improvisational work at murder mystery dinners comes from years of practice.
She didn't see enough value in my work to even give me any token of appreciation.
That's partly her fault, and partly mine. Had I done my job in the first place, and educated her about the value of my work, chances are good she would have at least given me a thank-you card or some small sign of appreciation.
If you leave it to chance, and just trust that people will recognize the value of who you are and what you do, you'll often be disappointed. It's one reason why I've heard so many people say "the marketing is more important than the mastery." That's not true, of course, because you don't want to be marketing crap, but at the same time, if you're not marketing at all, you're leaving money on the table and missing out on opportunities that could otherwise be coming your way.
And by "marketing" I mean educating your market about the value of who you are and what you do. Until they understand why you are good at your craft, until they understand why your prices are what they are, it's easy for them to price-shop - or worse, ask you to work for free.
I talk with a lot of entrepreneurs who understand the value of their offering - the work they do, the product or service the provide - but they don't value themselves enough to be paid. Hollywood writer Harlan Ellison and creative firm owner Mike Monteiro both speak out about the importance of not taking YOURSELF for granted in the business of doing business (warning: both videos have adult language). Plumbers and doctors can assert a value in the market for their services because of the results they provide. "I'll fix your pipes, and it'll cost you X." There's a clear outcome. But when we start looking at what we think are more nebulous or intangible "results" we discount the value that we bring to the table.
In truth, YOU are the reason that the offer has value in the first place. I say it a LOT - as a personality-based business, you are the most important product that your company has to offer. When I work with direct sellers, it's important they grasp this concept. They are one in perhaps a million other people selling the exact same product for the exact same price out of the exact same catalog. What makes their business the one to choose? People choose to work with a particular direct seller because of who they are, not what they offer.
If you don't value the contribution that you make, why should anyone else?
My grandfather was a carpenter. He once charged a guy $50 to hang a picture in his office. He walked in, tapped on the wall, then drove a nail with two deft strokes. He hung the frame and handed the guy the bill. Outraged, the guy wanted to know why he charged $50 to drive a nail. My grandfather took back the invoice, scribbled something on it and returned it to him. It now read:
Driving one nail: $10
Knowing where to drive that nail: $40
Total due: $50
I make singing look easy because of the thousands of hours in my life I've already spent learning music, performing, and honing my craft. I've got hundreds of youtube videos of me speaking or performing in some way. That's all "free" work I've been doing for years. Lots of practice!
Where have you invested in your life in ways that improve your craft? Value that investment. (Tweet this)
Sometimes, you can educate people until you (and they) are blue in the face, but if you're singing show tunes in a honky tonk, you're going to get booed off the stage no matter how good you are.
When you're first starting out in business, it's a seductive trap to take whatever business comes along - anyone who can fog up a mirror or anyone who pays, regardless of whether or not they're a good fit for you. Ultimately, it means you don't have a business, but rather that you're a whore willing to dish it out to anyone willing to pay you. Sorry to be so blunt, but it's true. Although, my friend and colleague, Sydney Barrows, would probably argue with me. She's the former madam that ran Cache' - a high-end "escort service" back in the 80's. She had a very clear idea of her target audience, and didn't waver. If a client was a jerk, they were fired. Her clients were A-list-ers and her "girls" were expected to provide a quality experience - with a price tag to match.
If it works for the escort business, it most certainly can work for you.
You're wasting your time if you're trying to justify your existence to everyone - friends and family included. I had to back away from people who didn't get me, people who didn't understand what I was all about. I had to find "my people". I've been in various mastermind-type groups over the years, and a year and a half ago I came to roost with a group of local women - all authors - who are some of my strongest supporters and encouragers. They understand me. They help me get some clarity. They even hold me accountable when I ask. I've got other supporters, too. People who see the real me (and love me anyway), like my coaches and colleagues (like Sydney). You'll notice I didn't include my spouse. I love my hubby, and I learned many moons ago that he doesn't get what I do. He's starting to understand a little, but we've been married for almost 10 years now. I had to stop holding my breath, and only share with him the stuff that he understands. The rest, I save for "my peeps."
Whether you're a direct seller, a shop clerk, or a performing artist, you've got to know who you're here to serve. Again, it makes no sense to sing show tunes in a honky tonk - even if they had an opening and it's great exposure. Sometimes you get lucky and the audience knows clearly what it wants - like a local barbecue joint that only plays blues music. Blues and barbecue go together easily. But most of the time, it's up to you to hone in on who you're here to serve.
As a business coach, I focus on growing businesses - specifically those where the business owner is the face of the company. That means I work with a lot of direct sellers, solo-preneurs, authors, speakers, and performing artists. It's a wide variety of people, yet they all share the commonality of being the face of their business. Why? Because I am a personality-based business owner. I am "the singing business coach" - a musician and performing artist who helps other people like me grow a profitable, sustainable business. I understand the particular issues these folks have in balancing personal and professional commitments. We don't have traditional "work hours" because our face is always "on". There are unique concerns that these businesses face that major corporations don't. I understand that intimately because it's the life I've lived for decades now.
That is my professional audience. What's yours? Who do you most resonate with? Who are the people you get the best results with or most enjoy working with? What do they have in common? Those are the threads that help you define your professional audience. Once you've defined it, speak directly to them. Stop trying to win everyone else over. A lot of people won't get you. That's okay. Focus on serving the ones who do.
Once you value the role you play in the work you do, and can educate your right people about that value, it's easier to command the prices (and respect) that you deserve.
How have you experienced this feeling of not being valued for the work you do? How did you handle it? Please share your comments below!