At the core of each of us, we want to be understood. We all want to feel connected, appreciated & accepted for exactly who we are.
But how does that translate into starting your own business, particularly in the creative field? How do you remain authentic throughout the chaos & craziness of venturing out on your own?
I’m still figuring it out myself, but I’m confident being real is the only way through the inescapable & unpredictable challenges that starting a creative business brings: personal doubt, administrative tasks, working with the right clients for you. Being real gives you grit & the thick skin you need to keep believing in yourself. These challenges are good. They’re lessons bringing you closer to who you really are as a creative entrepreneur (even if you change often, which I hope you do). I’ve learned that being yourself is the best way to share your talents & run your business. Here’s why:
1. You’ll discover your niche.
It takes a lot of work to share with others what it is you do & how it’s beneficial to them when you first start out. You may find what you originally set out to do will evolve into a better direction for your business. Sometimes I fear when I write openly on my blog or when I tell potential clients my rate & design ethos that I’ll hurt my chances of working with them. I used to say yes to every project & tell people what I thought they’d want to hear to make up for this fear. It made me feel gross & dishonest. It wasn’t me. I got back to trusting my gut despite my fears. I realized you can try emulating other people’s advice so much that you lose yourself in the process (this advice included!). Make decisions based on what feels right for you, not on someone else’s experience. The people you’re meant to work with will show themselves to you, especially when they know the real you.
2. You’ll gain respect from your clients.
Telling a client I couldn’t get something done last minute used to spin me into a frenzy of doubt & worry. If I didn’t drop everything to tend to their request right away, would I lose their trust? Would they quit working with me? No & no. I learned the hard way (read: a trip to the ER from severe dehydration & pure exhaustion) that my clients were depending on me to be the design expert. They trusted me to set reasonable timelines & to give experienced recommendations for their brand. They weren’t looking for someone to drop everything & stay up late into the night to meet outrageous deadlines. It was a lack of understanding because I wasn’t being honest about their requests. It was my responsibility to set realistic expectations. Hold firm on what you know is best & be kind when explaining the process to your client. You may be pleasantly surprised how much they respect you & your services for it.
I’m confident being real is the only way through the inescapable & unpredictable challenges that starting a creative business brings: personal doubt, administrative tasks, working with the right clients for you. Being real gives you grit & the thick skin you need to keep believing in yourself.
3. You’ll find grace in admitting your mistakes.
You are the expert in your field but that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from making mistakes (oh how I wish I would’ve said this to myself earlier!). It’s what you do with each mistake that makes all the difference. I recently worked on a client’s website where I billed her for one part of the project that had already been finalized & approved before I was part of it. When she asked about this fee, I dug into some old emails to discover I overlooked the original files she mentioned when we began working together. Oops, my mistake! I apologized & ate some of the cost for the mishap & wrapped it up as a good learning experience; lesson learned: read client emails thoroughly. Of course, I’ll make more mistakes. People are usually understanding that these things happen from time to time.
Being real will lead you in to some murky waters. I can’t candy-coat this fact. Instead of fearing these depths, face them. They’re not trying to hurt you. They’re testing your authenticity. I’m in those waters every day trying to steer my ship and I have a feeling you are too. The beautiful thing is, we’re all in this together.
Photos by Whitney Darling Photography