Becoming a furniture designer

luno-side-board

I have had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Farmer, designer and maker of Luno furniture with her husband, Dan Knowles, in Los Angeles. I’m pretty obsessed with their work. Not only have they added beautiful speakers to the furniture, but there is room for a Whiskey bar inside as well. Ticking all of my boxes! You can see more of their amazing creations on their website: http://www.iamluno.com

Jennifer was great to interview and she spoke candidly about the struggles and the wins along the way. She began her career in the music industry in LA before discovering her love of furniture renovation, and with her husband’s sound engineering skills Luno was born.

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Sometimes we feel like we need everything in place before we start. Jennifer explains that sometimes it takes a jump into the unknown to get going and figuring it out on the way down. Her bravery is inspiring to me and I hope she encourages you to make a leap in your own creative career.

You can listen to the whole interview here:

What do you feel is holding you back in your creative career? What one thing would you do if you could take the fear away? Share your story in the comments below.

The emotion of business

If you are reading this article & enjoying the podcast, this is what I share with my mailing list every Wednesday. To join the gang you can sign up at the bottom of this page.

The degree of one's emotions varies inversely with one's knowledge of the facts.
When we talk about emotion and business they are two words that usually shouldn’t go together. If we are negotiating fees, a new contract, applying for grants or funding or going out to sell our products and services, we need to take emotion off the table.

As creatives we are usually emotional beings. We create our work from a place of passion, love, commitment or the pure desire to share our gifts with the world. These are special emotions and not something that you should switch off.

There are times however when you need the emotional part of you to turn the dial down so that you can negotiate. We have all experienced that moment when we have to sell ourselves, or our products and services and the emotion wells up inside us. Our stomach feels like it is full of butterflies and we stumble over our words.

Selling yourself or your own work is always harder than doing it for someone else. That is why most artist statements are written in the third person, it is easier to talk about ourself if we aren’t saying I all the time. This is why we need to be able to control our own emotions when we need to.

In this podcast I talk about ways you can take control of your own emotions, and when it is important to try to do that. Sometimes we need to be emotional to share our passion, and at other times we need a business head on us in order to be able to negotiate successfully.

It isn’t something that you will get right every time, and I know that over 21 years of being a freelancer even I still get emotional at the wrong times-that is part of learning and developing your career.

Continue reading “The emotion of business”

Communication is key

Communication is key

If you are reading this article & enjoying the podcast, this is what I share with my mailing list every Wednesday. To join the gang you can sign up at the bottom of this page.

There are so many ways that we communicate these days that we can forget that there is actually an art to communicating well.

As creatives it is so hard to take the emotion out of our business interactions because we feel uniquely connected to our work. This is one of our biggest challenges. Remember that there should be no emotion in business, and this applies to your career as well.

Tricky?

I can’t say that I have completely mastered it myself yet, but I have learnt that clear communication is part of the success of any career- especially a creative one.

Whether you work alone or with a team of people, at some point during the day you will have to communicate with someone. This could be through a text message, email or in the old fashioned way of using the telephone.

Telephones can actually be a short cut way to getting things done, but we seem to have forgotten how to use them! We hide behind the typed word on our phones and in emails.

Think about how many times you have misinterpreted an email or text from someone. It is hard to convey a tone of voice in a text unless you want to shout and USE ALL CAPITALS!

I’m hoping you don’t shout at people very often!

In this article and podcast I want to talk about more productive ways of communicating and what to do if communication breaks down. We are all human and sometimes things go wrong. More often or not it is because someone didn’t understand the instructions, or that there was little or no communication between both parties. You can listen to it here.

I would prefer someone to check in with me daily and iron out any problems than sit wondering how they were getting on, and whether they understood what was required of them.

One of the best ways leaders in their field use communication is by empowering the other person that they are working with to take some ownership of the task.

There are a few simple ways that you can do this.

  • The first is to be clear what you want out of of the situation.
  • Ask them first how they would approach the task.
  • Listen to what they say before you answer them, as they may have some interesting ways of completing the work that you hadn’t thought of.
  • You want the person to take responsibility for their own work so that if things go wrong, they are more likely to take ownership of the problem.
  • Telling people all of the time what to do doesn’t allow them to take responsibility-and it is also exhausting for you!

Think of all of those helicopter parents we have seen in the playground or in cafes. They constantly interrupt their children again and again. If you communicate this way with your clients or services that you use to deliver your creative work, all that happens is that the work takes twice as long, and you end up with a frustrated team that feels like you don’t trust them.

I want you to think about how you communicate with your team, service providers or clients.

Ways of communicating

  • Do you have a respectful relationship with them?
  • Do you ask for their help or ask them to make suggestions?
  • Could you think of a better way to communicate with them?
  • Are there ways you have communicated in the past that did or didn’t work for you?
  • Examine why those ways of communicating did or didn’t work for you?
  • What could you do differently next time?

How do you communicate in your day to day. 

Do you prefer text to using the telephone, ask yourself why?

Are you nervous of using the telephone?  (In the podcast I explain how you can improve this).

Examine the words that you use in emails. Do you sound confident and clear?

In emails make sure you remove words like but, just, hopefully and I’m not sure.

These words stop you from coming across as confident. It shows that you aren’t sure what you want and this can lead to poor communication.

If you aren’t sure about something say that you need some advice with a task, or offer suggestions of how you think something could be done, and that you would like their opinion about it.

Saying you’re not sure, don’t help anyone, it only shows that you are panicking. Offering solutions (even if they aren’t used in the end) opens up a dialogue with the other person so that there is two way communication.

Remember that even if you work alone there are other people that you rely on to run your creative business or career. Whether they are your telephone provider, website host, or even the postal service. If you treat them as part of your team and communicate well, then they are more likely to help you in the long run.

What is your biggest communication problem at the moment ?

Let me know in the comments below and i’ll see if I can help you work out a strategy to fix the problem.

How to get paid on time

How to get paid on time

If you are reading this article & enjoying the podcast, this is what I share with my mailing list every Wednesday. To join the gang you can sign up at the bottom of this page.

Getting paid on time when you are a freelancer or just starting out on your creative career, can be the difference between making or breaking you.

When I was starting out I had no idea that I could set the date that invoices needed to be paid by. I thought I was at the mercy of the people that I worked for as a freelancer. I now know that was wrong.

When we hustle for work and make new client and customer contacts we are building relationships. We each come with a way of working and we need to compromise to be able to work together. This I believe should also extend to payment plans as well.

When we start out or work with a new client, we are so grateful to get the work, we want to be on our best behaviour and hope that they will hire us again.
Money is one of those areas that as creatives we still struggle to have conversations about, but it is one of the most important things that we need to do.

We have all heard creatives say “Oh I’m no good with figures.” but this is really a way of saying “I don’t understand figures, or I’m scared of figures, or I don’t know how to ask for help about money”.

I don’t want to ever hear you say again that you are no good with figures! If you can use an ATM machine, then you can figure out some basic book keeping. At its most simple level all book keeping is, is money coming in and money coming out.

We all played with money boxes as kids adding up all of the coins that we had collected, and it is no different now that you are freelancing. I’m not the world’s best mathematician, but I know that I don’t have to be. I can use calculators or pay a monthly fee to use software like Kashflow.
As creatives we have so much more access to help to get our figures sorted out, than we ever did before.

Yes it can be boring, but it is the life blood of our career so we should show it some respect. Just as you wouldn’t feel good living on junk food your whole life, you need to look after your money in the same way and feed and care for it. How we get paid on time is a big part of that care package for your finances.

In the podcast I talk about ways to help you get paid on time and have designed a getting paid checklist for you to use.You can listen to it below.

To download the checklist click HERE.

When you start a new relationship with a client or customer find out who is actually going to be paying you.

  • Is it them, or someone from the finance department?
  • Get their name, email address and direct phone number before you start the work.

Having these conversations at the beginning will save lots of heart ache in the long run.

Next you want to work out what terms you want them to respect.

Does that mean that you expect payment on receipt of the invoice, or that you are paid in instalments as parts of the work is completed? By being asked to be paid in instalments it offers you some protection. If they can’t pay you for the next chunk of work, then it means you won’t start it until they have paid you for the previous work you have done. This is very useful if you are a designer, as you will be working closely with the clients and going backwards and forwards to make changes with them etc.

If you are a photographer, (like I was) it is harder to ask for payment as you go along, but there are other ways of doing it. You can supply watermarked photographs, or if you still work on film then you can supply watermarked contact sheets and hold onto the negatives until you are paid.

I have had terrible experiences in the past working for glossy magazines who said they would pay me monthly (and I didn’t know I could negotiate those terms). I waited to be paid monthly and then the magazine went bust with me losing 3 months worth of work, and having to fight with the bailiffs to get my negatives back. Don’t let this happen to you!

If they can’t afford you, then you need to ask yourself if it is worth working for them. Magazines and newspapers have a policy of only paying monthly, and sometimes longer. I still think that there are ways to work around this, as I mentioned before about holding onto the negatives or making sure you get some petty cash up front to pay for expenses.

We are often so excited to have the work our professional brain leaves the building! Believe me, I have been there. It is much harder to claw back money once the work has started than to negotiate terms for that work at the beginning.

They may say that their way is the only way, but if they really want to work with you I always think there is some compromise. After all this is all about relationships.

  • Can you get per diems (money for food, parking, hotels etc) up front?
  • Can you get them to pay in instalments if they can’t pay the whole fee on time?
  • Can they pay you some of it out of petty cash?

If you keep meeting brick walls you need to ask if you really want to work for these people. It might seem like a great place to be, but there is little point working hard for them if they are not going to pay you on time when you need the money for the work. All you get if that happens is a feeling of loss and bitterness that they took advantage of you.

As single freelancers it is always hard to negotiate the money alone, but once you have tried it once, you can do it again and again. As you build your reputation, you can set the way your payment plan works, and if they don’t like it, then you need to ask yourself if you want to work with them in the long run.

Too many young people come out of University or start their careers doing work for free. I beg them to stop.

It isn’t only that they are being taken advantage of, but it also damages the industry that they are entering. I have seen too many young photographers, designers and artists giving their work away for free again and again. It often comes down to confidence and the lack of skills to negotiate.

Continue reading “How to get paid on time”

Retreat your creativity

Retreat your creativity

You may know that I have just come back from a writing retreat. Retreats weren’t really my bag before. I thought it was rather indulgent to take time off and retreat from the world, but I have now realised that it is so important to take time where and when we can to focus on our own practice.

I wanted to share some of the things that I learnt by giving my creativity a retreat, and why I think it is something that you should build into your career plan.

What I found most useful was the fact that I was sharing the experience with others who thought or felt the same way as me. We were all going through the experience together, but at our own pace and building something ourselves. This was a powerful thing.

Most of the time as creative freelancers we spend time alone making or creating. On top of that we have to sort out our books, do a tax return and find new audiences and clients. We need to know that taking time to be creative- (totally creative), is not only a gift to ourselves but it can also help us to reflect on our own career and see what is and isn’t working.

Taking time to retreat from the electronic, rushing and commitment heavy world that we live in, is something we need to make time to do.

Now, I totally understand that not everyone can drop everything and lock themselves away for a week to focus on their creative practice. But what you might be able to do is carve out 24 or 48 hours once a year to have a retreat. You don’t even need to leave your home to do it.

Having 48 hours without the internet, telephones or other distractions gives you time to experiment, to reflect, to take a moment to see how far you have already come and to celebrate that.

When we are running around and trying to build or keep our career on track we can forget how much brain space is taken up from just being!

Ask yourself when was the last time you didn’t check your emails for 48 hours or left your mobile phone at home?

Technology has seeped into everything we do. You can see this from the craze of Pokemon Go that has exploded everywhere- People taking a walk with their phones held out in front of them trying to catch a small animated creature to earn points.

Retreats are a moment in time that is purely yours to do what ever you want with. I talk about how you can create mini retreats in your life, whether you have children or other commitments to work around.

If you fancy going off on a writing retreat, this is where I went for a tutored retreat ARVON.

When you take a retreat or a mini retreat, there are some things that you need to think about before you begin.

  1. Make sure that you let other people know that you are going to do it. Let your nearest and dearest know that you are not going to be available (do create an emergency contact that they can reach you on if they need to). Then let your email list know that you will be unavailable by setting an out of office reply on your email and mobile phone.
  2. Unplug all of the technology and put it away- all of the tablets, phones, and internet. If you don’t trust yourself give a friend the key and ask them to bring it back to you in 48 hours.
  3. Focus on one thing. Trying to cram all of your dreams, plans and ideas into one retreat isn’t only exhausting, it is unproductive as well. You end up making lots of starts, as like love, they are more fun in the beginning. But what you want to have is a bit of a break thorough or time to create one thing- or at least start it.
  4. Start early (unless you are a night owl- in which case start late and work late). You only have a retreat for a period of time, so treat it as precious. You can have lie ins other times when it is over.
  5. Make time for exercise. Taking a walk or a run round the block when you are retreating helps you to clear your head, come up with new ideas and take a breather from the intensity of creating all day.
  6. Prepare all of your food in advance so you don’t have to cook, shop or even think about those chores. (On my retreat this was the most relaxing part of it. I didn’t have to plan meals or do the shopping, it was all catered for).
  7. If you want to do the retreat with others you could all hire a place to come together or share the day time work with each other. Working alone but coming together for meals works well.

    This is the most important point:-

  8. You may not create the best work while you are on a retreat. It might be that you discover a new way of doing something or a way or writing that you hadn’t explored before. Don’t be disheartened if at the end you have a few bits of work in a folder that you may or may not use. The benefits will come later when you look back on it.

So now I have a challenge for you!

Over the next month try to block out 24-48 hours that you use to create your own retreat. Make sure that all technology is banished and locked away. If you usually work with computers as a designer etc. try to take this time to use paper and pens instead. Literally go back to the drawing board.

In the comments below let me know how you get on and what break throughs you made. 

Comparing your career will kill it.

Comparison is the theif of joy

You will have days when you are building your creative career and are struck by the Comparison Killer. The comparison killer happens when you are doing just that…comparing yourself to your competition.

Of course a bit of healthy competition helps us to keep moving forward and innovating. It only becomes a problem when it makes the green jealously monster come out of hiding.

It is useful to take the odd look at what your competitors are doing so that you can either improve on what they are offering or else check-in that you are on track, offering what your customers and audience are interested in. There is a balancing act between looking and feeling overwhelmed.

We are naturally tribal creatures. This means that we constantly check that we are doing what our social group approves of, and changing our habits and dress accordingly. We can do this completely unconsciously.

I’m sure that you have seen gangs of teenagers out on the weekends looking like carbon copies of each other, and I challenge you to look at your own social circle. I have no doubt that the majority of them hold similar ideals and taste to you.

The Comparison Killer is bad for our health. It can not only kill our confidence, but also paralysis us from moving forward, or putting our creative work out there.

We need to be brave to create. We are often pioneers trying out new ways of creating products and services. This takes guts, especially if you are doing most of it alone.

In this podcast I talk about why you need to be kind to yourself and what you can do when the comparison killer strikes. I want you to be able to carry on being creative rather than allowing it to kill your confidence.

Continue reading “Comparing your career will kill it.”

Making A Success Of Failure

I want us to start to embrace the success of failure. Now that might sound like an oxymoron, but I really do want us to celebrate our failures for a number of reasons.

We live in a culture that has forgotten how to reward failure. We are all about the new, the bigger and better. Rather than looking at what failed, and improving on it, we tend to resign it to the rubbish bin and start again.

I blame the cult of celebrity for this desire to have everything new and perfect. Every photo on social media, every piece of art or presentation has to be immaculate. They hide the failures that went before, because who ever gave failure good press?

When I work with University students I am constantly surprised how often they believe that they should be able to do something after the first try. Otherwise they label themselves no good at it. They have declared something impossible without giving it a real try.

Successful failing

As babies we didn’t come out of the womb knowing how to run across the room. We spent days and weeks, falling over, face planting or landing on our knees, then over time we grabbed onto the corner of a chair, or reached up for a parental hand or toy with wheels that helped our progress. We failed. Not once, not twice, but many times. We got up, we tried new ways and eventually we ran.

The next generation have been told that success is possible but without knowing how hard it is to achieve it, or how much mess, tears and failure has to happen first to make that possible.

In this podcast I talk about how we can make failure work for us, how we need to encourage the next generation to fail more often, and how Silicon Valley is actually celebrating failed projects.

Continue reading “Making A Success Of Failure”

How do you know if you’re ready?

How do you know if you’re ready- is something we all need to think about. It might be as simple as being ready to leave the house each day, with your keys, handbag and phone. The type of ready that I want you to think about is being ready for your career.

When we are starting out, or old pros, we will still be having new experiences and making new connections. Being as ready as we possibly can, will make the difference between a success or failure of an event, piece of work, or even your mental state.

In film (my day job is a production manager) if I haven’t prepared and got everything ready before every one descends onto the set, it affects not just me, but an entire film crew. I want you to image that your actions also have an affect on the people around you.

www.Creativewomeninternational.com

So what do we need to do? 

You may be a solo-entrepreneur, or freelancing and carrying your work around to new clients, or trying to make the first steps up the creative career ladder. You are not alone. Each interaction that you have to move your career forward has an impact on how people work with you, remember you, and whether they want to hire you again.

Now I’m not trying to get you to panic so that you over analyse each action you make! What I want you to do is to remember to also look at the small stuff. It is the small stuff like ordering business cards, getting our newsletter out, working out the best route to our interview, or whether you have left enough time to complete the work, that we tend to leave till last. These things can actually have a huge effect.

In the podcast below I explain why it is important to sort the small stuff, and why you need to be ready for your creative career, and how to do it.

If you don’t have a career plan, it makes it hard to you know where you are going. Where do you want your career to be in three years time? Tell me your vision in the comments below, and let’s see if we can help you on your journey.

If you need a bit of help to get a plan or talk through your goals, you can find out about CWI mentoring here: MENTORING 

How to tame the social media beast

Some times social media can feel like a bit of a beast. It is always nagging you in the background, or stealing all of the time you could be creative instead. We feel like we need to be on every social media platform, chatting to every person, but it doesn’t have to be this way. We can tame the social media beast!

Social media can work for you if you answer these three questions first before you go anywhere near it:

  1. Why do you want to use social media?
  2. Who are you talking too?
  3. What do you want to get out of it? -(Your goal).

That really is as simple as it needs to be. We panic and try to do too much, too often, without any direct focus. All this achieves is a stressed out you, and no clear guidelines of whether you are achieving anything by posting anything!

In this podcast I talk through ways to make it work for you, from identifying your audience, to the right type of content and the best times of day to post it.

Continue reading “How to tame the social media beast”

Live on Facebook

Live on Facebook for the first time! That was fun! I talk about how to get support for your creative career, especially when you are freelance and going it alone. I had some lovely women chatting to me and leaving comments. Can’t wait to do the next one.

Do you have something you would like me to cover in a LIVE Facebook video? Share your questions in the comments below.

Facebook live
My first time LIVE on Facebook.