Timelines can help you achieve success

When we are busy focussing on our own career we often forget to look backwards at how far we have come. Timelines can help you achieve success if you use them in the right way.

I am writing this article a couple of days after my birthday (yes that’s crazy eyed me on my first birthday!).

Birthdays are always a good point in the year to reflect on how far you have come, and what you have achieved with your life so far. It isn’t a moment to put undue pressure on yourself! It is a time to appreciate all that you have done, to get where you are right now.

We forget that when we entered this world we didn’t know anything. We had to learn how to blow out that candle on the cake until eventually we were baking our own. It is the same with your career path. We gaze lovingly at the people who are ahead of us and believe that we can never do as well as them.

Not only is this damaging to your self confidence, but you also have no idea whether they have had help to get where they are today, or have grown up with family members to help them into the industry.

It is important to focus on your own path. In this week’s podcast I talk through ways that you can do this, and how to use timelines to plot out- not only where you have been, but where you are heading as well.

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How to automate your creative career

Happy New Year! I had wanted to say that last week but found myself unexpectedly in hospital for 5 days. As with everything in life, it is full of surprises. But lying there in bed it got me thinking about automation as I knew my social media posts were still sending out to my audience without me having to lift a finger.

If the word automation sounds weird to you, let me explain why it is such a great tool for you to use, especially if you are just starting out on your creative career, and find yourself having to wear many hats.

I’m sure at some point you have used an out of office reply on your email, or set it up for when you are away on holiday. This is one of the most basic forms of automation, but so useful!

In this podcast I talk through some of the ways that you can make automation work for your career and business. Think about all of the extra time you’ll save so that you can get on with the business of creating new work instead. It’s important to make time to do what makes you happy. 

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The emotion of business

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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.

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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. 

Digital detox

I’m quitting!

For the first time since Christmas I am taking a week off. This time I have decided to go one step further and have a digital detox.

You might be like me, one of those people who checks their emails the moment they wake up, looks at Facebook and other social media platforms, then suddenly realise that you’ve been sucked into the time wasting vortex.

I do love social media, and I do schedule my day so that I am most productive, but over a weekend I find I’m checking social media more often, and actually a phone call or letter to friends means more than a 140 character post.

So with that in mind I’ve decided to quit everything for the week- no podcast, no social media posts, no emails.

I’m going to be doing more of this! I was drinking this yummy coffee on the beach in St Ives, Cornwall this morning.

Coffe

My challenge for you this week is to look at your own social media usage. Can you send a card rather than an email birthday post, can you make a phone call to your overseas friends rather than writing an email, can you go out and have coffee with friends this week rather than trying to fix a day in the future?
Let me know in the comments below what changes you have made and if they have brought a positive effect to your life. 

Digital detox is so important to try to do at least once a year. Technology is becoming part of our everyday lives and it is important to remember the everyday, rather than letting it take over our life.

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.

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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 not to feel overwhelmed

At some point in your creative career there will come a moment when you realise that you can’t do it all alone. You feel overwhelmed. You find yourself wearing the hat of book keeper, accountant, social media whizz, the photographer, accountant and office cleaner!-At some point in the mix, you are meant to be creating your work as well, but have no time left or feel exhausted.

Does this sound familiar?  When we are building our career or businesses we feel that we have to be in control of every little detail. It is our baby that we are growing and we believe that no-one understands it the way we do. This might be true but what you don’t want to happen is that you are so busy building, that you have no time for creating.

Creating is the life blood of your business. Without it there is nothing to sell, nothing to be passionate about and it generally feels like a depressing place to be.

What we need to be spending most time on, is creating. By creating new work, we can find new clients, get our income and so the circle of life continues. If we are so bogged down with all of the paper work and marketing, that life circle gets squished, and before you know it, there is no new work to sell and we have nothing in the bank.

I’m not suggesting that you have to go and hire a load of people to help you with your work load, or hire staff on a full time basis when there is nothing in the bank. What I am suggesting though, is that you start to think about, and make plans, to get some help for those areas of your business that stops you making creative work. Even working out new ways of time management can help with the small stuff.

We can’t do everything alone.

Community

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Making the best of your time.

Making the best of your time is something that we hear all of, well..the time! We are told that we need to be busy 24/7 to make use of this life. We are told that we have to be working ourselves into the ground to achieve anything. I believe that there is another way.

When we try to work ourselves to exhaustion point, not only does our work suffer but we also stop loving what we are doing, or forget the dream that we were aiming for. We begin to compare ourselves to our competitors or question if we are as busy as our colleagues. There is a real culture of ‘busy’ that is making people ineffective with their time, and taking too long to complete tasks and generally ending up making people feeling awful.

Being forced to take a break when I was ill made me think about time, and how we structure our days. I used to try to cram too much into one day. I had lists as long as my arm, and would feel defeated at the end of the day if I hadn’t ticked everything off.

One cannot manage too many affairs_ like pumpkins in the water, one pops up while you try to hold down the other.Chinese Proverb

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The good & evil sides of procrastination

I have spent this last week procrastinating about…well, nearly everything! I’ve been under the weather with a chest cold, so my energy levels are running on empty. The first thing to go when I’m ill is my will power. Piece of chocolate cake? Why thank you. Lay in bed all weekend? Don’t mind if I do.

Now I’m not saying I shouldn’t take a break when I’m ill, otherwise I’ll never get better. But it did give me time to really think about the good and evil sides of procrastination.

Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.
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