Giving back can help your career

we-make-a-living-by-what-we-get-but-we-make-a-life-by-what-we-give

When you start out on a creative career, the last thing that you are probably thinking about is giving something back. What if I was to tell you that there is a great benefit to thinking about giving something back the moment you begin your career?

You might think I’m crazy when you are worrying about the finances and how you are going to make the rent. But actively building this into your career plan can actually help you get ahead.

When we try to help others, they in turn will pass it on and help those coming up through the ranks. Obviously there are going to be a few who take things without giving back, but if we all helped each other up the career ladder, rather than trying to climb over each other we would have a stronger and more stable career.

Some people are great at giving back, but often do it at the detriment to their own success. There is no point cutting your own arm off, if that stops you being able to help more people with two! Sometimes we can’t do everything we believe in straight away, but having an idea of what we plan to do, will enable up to structure our career around it.

In this podcast I explain why it is so important to do this, and I have set you a challenge to complete this week to give something back yourself.

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Planning for success

Planning for success

We plan for a journey or what we want to do on our holidays, but we rarely plan for success.

When we see our competitors or people we admire having success we forget about all of the private sacrifices it took to get there. Or the years of slog and failure before they had a success. all too often we compare our beginning to someone’s middle. As the saying goes “It is amazing how many years it takes to have an overnight success!”

If we don’t plan for success we are going to end up unfocused and treading on the spot. If we don’t have a goal or dream to aim for, how do we know if we have made any process towards it, or had any small successes on the way?

In this podcast I talk about why it is so important to plan for success, how to do it with out feeling overwhelmed, and how to use the tools and contacts you already have, before you go hunting for for new ones.

New shiny things are tempting, but they can move you off the path to success. I talk about how you have everything you need right now and how to make the most of it.

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How to deal with negative feedback

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At some point in your creative career you will be the giver or receiver of negative feedback. Understanding the science behind how your brain deals with it, can make the difference between whether you take the feedback as a negative or positive experience.

We all need feedback. If we never receive any, we never know what we need to do to improve or move forward with our work and career.

Over the course of my career I have been on the receiving end of negative feedback, and I have had to give it to my employees as well. There is an art to receiving and giving feedback which is what I talk about in this week’s podcast.

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Leaving things behind

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Sometimes it is beneficial to leave things behind. This isn’t something that we talk about very often. We tend to be all about the looking forward, rather than behind. But I want you to change that pattern for a moment…let me explain why.

As children we are taught to eat everything on our plates, to finish the book we started, and to complete the work we began. What if as adults we stopped thinking that we always had to finish everything?

Sometimes we need to take a moment to see how far we have come and what we have achieved already. It might be that the project we are working on has already run its course, and it is time to drop it- and yes that means before it is finished! Or the book we started, but are actually hating, is ok to donate to the charity shop. It’s ok to stop if it is better for you than completing it.

In this week’s podcast I explain why it is important for our creative careers to sometimes leave things behind. I talk about the benefits of doing it, and I set you a personal challenge to look at your own career in this way.

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Becoming a furniture designer

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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.

Get a grip on copyright

 

Be original

Getting a grip on copyright can be one of the greatest tools in your creative kit. I have met so many creatives who don’t understand copyright law, and this so often puts them at a disadvantage with their clients.

I have studied copyright law, but it does change quite often, so it is important for you to check what the latest laws are in your country. Most countries follow the same copy rights laws, apart from China. In this article I am going to talk about the UK copyright laws.

Copyright law doesn’t have to be scary. I’m going to talk you through a few basics, and explain a few exceptions to the rules. This should be enough to empower you to make the right decisions when selling your work or taking on a commission or employment.

In the podcast below I talk through the basic principles of copyright law, how it can make you money and how to explain to your clients what your rights are.

Here are the basics

  1. As a creative, when you produce a piece of work, whether it is a painting, photograph or writing, you own the copyright.
  2. You don’t need to register your work, for you to own the copyright to it. In the states and the UK you can register your work to prove that you own the copyright, but this isn’t a requirement.https://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/register/
  3. You can add the copyright symbol © at the bottom of your website or work, but again it isn’t a requirement. I like to add it to remind people to respect my copyright.
  4. If you sell your work (like a painting or photograph) you retain the copyright. Even if the work is a portrait of the client, you have the rights to the copyright. They have no right to make copies of the work, whether they sell them or not.You can sell them the copyright- but I’ll cover this later on.

Exceptions to the rules

There will always be some exceptions to the rules, so it is important that you check with your own country’s law as to what the exceptions are. They also change regularly, so it is important to make sure that you are up to date with your knowledge.

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Communication is key

Communication is key

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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.

Dealing with difficult clients.

Dealing with difficult clients

It doesn’t have to be painful.

There will have been some point during your career when you have had to deal with difficult clients. You may have started off well with a good relationship, but as the work commitments piled on the relationship broke down.

Usually there is a basic cause to the problem and 9 times out of 10 it usually relates to communication.

Communication can break down due to a number of reasons. They might have given you more work than was agreed, or else they keep moving the goal posts, or they keep making changes to the work which leaves you with many more hours than you imagined you’d be working on it.

All of this can be prevented. In order for that to happen you need to start at the beginning. I explain how in the podcast below.

When we begin freelancing we often think that we have to say yes to every project. We fear that we will never work again if we say no. I spent my early creative career saying yes to things that I later resented doing- and no one likes an unhappy employee or client.

We need to learn to say no more often. Now I’m not talking about the shouty kind of no which makes the person who offered you the work feel bad. I’m talking about taking the time to say no. Rather than saying yes immediately, ask them if you can get back to them, or check you diary. Anything that buys you a bit of time so that you can weigh up whether this is the right thing for you to be doing. I always as myself these three questions:

  1. Will I enjoy working on this? (You are at work for many hours in a day, so you have to want to work on it).
  2. Will this help to further my creative career? (If we keep on working for free we are going to end up bankrupt and still on the bottom rung of the ladder).
  3. Are these people who I want to work with? (Just as you need to enjoy the work, you want to enjoy working with the people. Trying to work with someone who is difficult from the start isn’t going to end well).

I’m lucky that I have now got enough of my career behind me to be more picky these days, and I spend most of my time saying no to things. Often it is because what they are asking me is actually going to take several days rather than a “can I pick your brain”.

Saying yes to the right things, will help you progress your career, will help you to shine as you are enjoying the experience, and you are more likely to deliver your best work when you have felt valued and excited about the projects.

There will always be days when you need to pay the rent and have to say yes to something for the money, but there are ways to manage that job so that it doesn’t turn into a horrible experience with difficult clients demanding more, and you hating every moment of that. I talk more about how to deal with that in the podcast.

Communication is key. From the beginning, until the end. I would always rather someone was informing me of their progress every day than not at all.

Think about the times that you have been waiting for a bus or a plane and it is suddenly delayed. You sit and wait and no one tells you what is happening.

How do you feel?

I imagine that you begin to feel frustrated and annoyed that no one is telling you what is going on, or when the transport is actually going to arrive. This is how clients feel if you don’t tell them what is going on.

There will be days when we realise that we aren’t going to meet the deadline, or that a problem arises and we need more time. As long as you are communicating this to your clients, reasonable people will understand. Reasonable people can turn into unreasonable people if they are left hanging, with no idea of what is going on.

The second thing that can create difficult clients is money. Money makes the world go around, whether we like it or not. Creatives are particularly bad at pricing themselves correctly. (There will be a future podcast and worksheets to help you with pricing).

Sorting out the money before you even start the job is hugely beneficial. You get those uncomfortable money conversations out of the way first. Often the person who hires you isn’t the person who pays you, so before you do one single hour of work, make sure you discuss how you want to get paid and who is going to pay you.

  • Do you want to be paid before the job starts? (This is possible if you have a good relationship with them. All of my mentor sessions are paid up front).
  • Do you want to be paid in instalments as you deliver the work in chunks? (This can be a great way of working as the client gets to see the work progress and understands that they need to pay for the next piece of work etc. It also allows them to give feedback as the job develops.Plus it protects you. I have had the horrible experience of a magazine going bust on me and months worth of work went unpaid, and I had to contact the bailiffs to retrieve my photographic negatives! Not a nice experience. If I had requested payment in chunks this wouldn’t have happened).
  • Look at what terms you add to your invoices. And if you don’t put payment terms on your invoices do it now! Payment terms basically mean the number of days you are willing to wait until the invoice needs to be paid.I put 15 days for most work, and 30 days for magazines and newspapers as I know their departments take that long to process things. I’ve seen designers as to be paid on receipt of the invoice. Work out what you need in order to survive or what you are willing to wait for, or put up with, and then set your terms.
    Continue reading “Dealing with difficult clients.”

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.

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