What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

What I Wish I’d Known When I Was 18: Some Advice from a Creative Business Owner

Last week I spoke at the Glug Leeds networking event along with four other people. We each shared our thoughts on what we wish we’d known when we were 18.

After a lot of thought in preparing for the talk, I realised there were only a few really important things that I wish I’d known. Some of them I’ve only just come to in the last few years, and I think that’s an important point; it’s never too late to take on board advice, and it’s not useful to berate yourself for not knowing it earlier.

We’re all on a journey and we can’t get to where we are now without having trod our unique path.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#1

The first thing I wish I’d known when I was 18 is that relationships are everything. As an 18 year old, I believed I had to make it in the world. I was the one who was going to achieve great things, and I had to do it on my own merit. It couldn’t be part of the team; it had to be me and me alone.

What I’ve realised as I’ve got older is that success is not an individual accomplishment. There are many, many people here helping us do what we want to do with our lives. That might be as small as someone explaining how to use specific tools to run your business more effectively, or as big as a bank manager giving you a loan.

It’s easy to believe in the culture of individualism that we’re living in, but our success and failure in work and in our lives is dependent on the relationships that we have with others.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#2

The second thing I shared with the Glug audience was that boring stuff is surprisingly important. I’ve worked with lots of different businesses since I was 18 – in fact, in the last six years I’ve worked with over 40 brands – and one thing all the most successful businesses have in common is that they run their business in an effective way because they care about boring stuff.

That might mean they focus on doing well all those things which frankly sound completely dull, like HR, operations, facilities management, health and safety and progression plans. Working for myself, I’ve had to be in charge of all the boring things (as well as all the exciting thing) and I’ve gained a newfound respect for how important these elements are in running a business.

Lots of modern marketing businesses attract people with perks. These might be a ping pong table in the office, free massages, beers on a Friday afternoon, company days out or some other fun activity. These are great for team building and for lifting people’s spirits, but ultimately they’re not a replacement for running a business sensibly and effectively.

I think it’s easy when you’re 18 to be distracted by these perks and not ask important questions of the employer you’re talking to, like “How does your HR department work?”,  “What’s the progression plan you have in mind for me?” and “What’s the pension scheme like?”. Thinking about these things feels very boring, but getting it right can aid you in business success; you won’t be worrying about small things because they’ll be sorted, so you can focus on the big, fun, exciting stuff instead.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#3

The third thing I wish I’d known when I was 18 is not to ignore the causes of mental health problems. I think this was something which resonated with a lot of people in the audience, and it’s because we don’t talk about it enough.

During my second year of university, I realised I was suffering very badly from depression. Since that point I’ve undergone therapy a number of times, most recently last year when I suffered with anxiety for the first time in my life. I feel very lucky that I had access to therapeutic practices when I needed them, and was able to address the causes of my mental health problem – not just the symptoms.

When we’re busy or when we have limited funds, it’s very easy to try and find solutions for  the symptoms of mental health problems, rather than the causes. The symptoms are sometimes easier to treat, because they may have a medical solution. For example, if anxiety gives you problems with your digestive system, you can take medication to calm this down. Sometimes, it’s essential the symptoms are treated rapidly to protect your health and the health of others.

But.

I see a lot of my students who are struggling with mental health problems for, perhaps, the first time in their life being given access to symptom treatment but not cause treatment. The reasons for this are many and highly political (hey, stop cutting funding and resources!). But it’s also on us to recognise that mental health problems are often rooted deeply in our past and the lessons we’ve learnt about how to behave or how to think, even if those lessons have been unconscious.

By addressing the causes of mental health problems, not just the symptoms, we can start to work on how we feel and how we relate to each other in a much more meaningful way. I don’t think symptoms should be left untreated, but neither do I think the causes should be ignored. Having the time and space to talk about some of the causes behind my mental health problems dramatically improved my happiness, as well as my empathy for others.This in turn has increased my successes.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#4

With that in mind, the fourth thing I wish I’d known when I was 18 is to lighten up.

My mum will tell you I was always a very serious child; very thoughtful, often with my head in a book or distracted, often thinking about the problems in the world or the problems that I was involved with. As I got older, this translated into an attitude where I was unable to laugh at myself. I took myself and my work very seriously, to the point of which I became po-faced and sometimes paralysed with fear of being embarrassed or laughed at.

Over the last few years I’ve learnt that I can be silly, funny and even ridiculous – and I can still be respected and liked. For all of the problems in the world, which we should absolutely be fighting against and looking for ways to solve them, the world is an irrational, bizarre, ridiculous and joyful place. Things happen for no reason. The universe is chaotic. We have a silly streak inside of us that makes us do things we didn’t anticipate.

It’s really important we embrace this and make it part of who we are. When I did this, I realised I could let go of the way I thought someone should act if they were successful or happy or cared about their work. Instead, I could just get on with actually caring about my work, being happy and being successful.


What I Wish I'd Known When I Was 18 | Eleanor Snare

#5

The final things I shared with the Glug audience that I wish I’d known when I was 18 is a quote from Brené Brown.

Brené Brown’s TED Talk videos on shame and vulnerability came at a point in my life where I really needed to hear those messages. Since then I’ve read her work, watched her Facebook live videos and tried to integrate the messages she shares from her research into my own life.

One of these messages is this: you are worthy of love and belonging.

This is one of the most powerful statements I have ever read. When I first shared it with my partner, he immediately began to say “…if you do what?”. This is the point of the statement; knowing that we are worthy of love and belonging not because we have done something or said something or acted in a certain way, but just because we are human.

Acknowledging this statement has enabled me to feel happier with myself, care for myself more and care for others even when they are acting in a way which makes me feel frustrated or sad.

In this article about valuing your time I said this:

I want you to know your time is worth something, because it’s precious. You do not have much of it and you must value it because of that. It’s not about your skills or education or any other factor; you must value your time simply because one day it will run out.

My ideas on this are inspired by Brené Brown. Your time is precious because it is limited, not because of who you are and what you do. Because you exist, you are worthy of love and belonging.

I wish I’d known this when I was 18, because so many things in my life were done out of the belief that I was not worthy of love and belonging. I think lots of us do things because of this belief.

We’re in relationships we don’t like because we think we’re not worthy of real love. We’re in jobs we don’t like because we think we’re not worthy of being at a better company. We shy away from making new friends or trying new activities, because we think we’re not worthy of being accepted into a community or being shown affection and care. I definitely did all of these things at some point in my life out of the mistaken belief that I was not worthy.

Acknowledging that you are worthy of love and belonging is hard because we’re conditioned to believe we are only valuable if we do something ‘valuable’. What Brené Brown is asking us to do is give unconditional love to ourselves. Many of us struggle to even give unconditional love to others, let alone our harshest critics. But even beginning to think it could be possible that you are worthy of love and belonging will change the way you feel about yourself.  

It’s not easy to remember it, and it’s not always easy to practice it for yourself or others. Here it is again so it’s clear in your mind:

You are worthy of love and belonging.


What’s next?

I loved doing the Glug talk and really enjoyed watching my co-presenters share lessons from their lives.

If you can this week, spend some time thinking what you wish you would have known when you were 18.

What one lesson or piece of advice would you give that person? Even more importantly, do you think you are living and remembering that advice now, when you have the opportunity to put it into practice?

Please do share your thoughts with me on Twitter @ebsnare.

What I Wish I'd Known at 18 - Eleanor Snare

“My Time Isn’t Worth Anything.” Is Yours? Why Valuing The Time You Spend on Your Creative Business Is Essential

“My Time Isn’t Worth Anything.” Is Yours? Why Valuing The Time You Spend on Your Creative Business Is Essential

 

Today I want to talk to you about time and how we value it.

 

The other day, me and a friend of mine were discussing getting some repairs done on his car, and whether he could do it himself.

When we talked, I said “It really depends on whether you feel you have the time to do it and learn how to do it.”

He said, “Well, my time isn’t worth anything.”

The conversation continued but a part of me retreated into my mind in shock.

 

I run my whole creative business based on specific hourly and daily rates that I’ve calculated based on my experience and the market as a whole. I have to value my time as ‘worth something’ to run my business.

That translates into valuing my time as an individual in my leisure hours, and wanting to spend it in fruitful ways.

The conversation started me thinking. We know time equals money, but do we really believe it – particularly when we’re talking about our own time? And when we think about time equalling money in our business, what does that actually mean?

 


Time and money

First, I should mention that, for me, time does not equal money. Time is far more precious.

During your lifetime, you can attempt to accumulate as much wealth as you possibly can. Given the right resources and privileges, there will be no limit to the wealth you can accumulate.

But you cannot accumulate more time.

 

You can be healthier to try and live longer. You can stay awake for more hours. You can multi-task or mono-task or batch your tasks and a thousand other things to maximise your time.

But, ultimately, you have a given amount of time on the planet, and that’s all you’re going to get.

 

Many yoga practices talk about the concept of limited breath; that we only get a set number of breaths in our life, and therefore it’s important to use them wisely through deep and restorative breathing.

These ideas of a limited amount of time and breath were one of the driving forces behind starting my own creative business.

It wasn’t so I could make more money. Although I am paid more on an hourly rate than I did when I was on a salary, my annual ‘salary’ now is slightly less than it would be if I was working in a full time job at the same level.

 

For some people, that’s a bit shocking. They see running your own business as a way to make lots of money.

For me, it’s a way to try and make lots of time. Or more accurately, to consciously absorb the limited time I do have. To ‘make’ it feel more by being more conscious of it.

Getting back time for the things that were important for me was the main reason I began my creative business, and I’m in a position of privilege to be able to do that.

 


Money and things

Second, I see obtaining money as about what you can do with it, not as a symbol of success (even when it’s not being used). Money ‘works’ because it’s a universal commodity; something which can be exchanged for any other product or service we want. When it’s not being used in that way – what is it? What’s it for?

 

One of the exercises I do with my students when I talk to them about employment is to talk about two ways of approaching salary. The first is having a specific number in your head, and wanting to have that number go into your bank account each year. The second is working out how much you need to live the life you want, and aiming for that.

I tell them most people start their working life by having a specific number in their head. They haven’t thought carefully about the life they want and how much this costs. They just want that number.

 

This is what a lot of the business coaches and other ‘six figure folk’ will talk to you about. We want six figures because, culturally, six figures seems like you’ve made it. And as Layla Saad says in this brilliant article, people who push this on us as a sales tactic are failing us.

But if you only need five figures or four figures, then why are you spending all your time trying to get six figures? You are using up a limited resource (your time) trying to accumulate a potentially-infinite resource (money) because you ‘six figures’ is a symbol of something.

 

There will always be more money to be made and no limit to the wealth you could accumulate. There will not always be more time. There will always be a limit.

 


Valuing yourself and your time

With these two things in mind, I want you to know your time is worth something, because it’s precious. You do not have much of it and you must value it because of that. It’s not about your skills or education or any other factor; you must value your time simply because one day it will run out.

 

I value my time more highly than any amount of money I could earn. That doesn’t mean I have so much money I don’t need to work – it means I think carefully when I choose what projects to work on and how I wish to set my hourly and daily rate.

Not everyone has this privilege, and I’m acutely aware of my own privileges in saying I have choice in my work. I believe (and fight for) a society in which people are paid a true living wage, or receive a universal income, which I see as helping us all to move away from valuing humans only through the lens of money and productivity. We are valuable because we live, not because we live with a certain set of skills, talents or knowledge.

If you run your own creative business, however, you are also in a position to think carefully, choose your work, and set your own value.

 


Calculating value

I’ve been clear it’s essential you value your time. But how do you go about calculating that value in a way which translates into something meaningful for your creative business?

How you calculate your worth – that hourly or daily rate, or even the eventual price of your products or services – is up to you. It’s up to how you value your time and how valuable you think your work is to other people.

 

Wealth coaches and other six figure folk tell you if you don’t put a high price on your hourly or daily work, or on your products or services, you have mental blocks to accumulating wealth. That might be true for some – but we also live in cultures with other people. We live with economics.

Economic thought and structures affect us all, in negative and positive ways. Pretending you don’t have to look at competitors, customers, or your industry to put a price on your hourly or daily work, or your products or services, is complete rubbish.

 

Creative business people I’ve met often value their time and set their wage based on social norms, like the minimum wage. This makes sense in many ways; it’s a simple, easy choice, and we assume these wages are able to support someone in living a healthy and fruitful lifestyle.

But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t put a value on your time according to other factors.

A senior designer will get paid more than a junior designer because of experience and skill; are you valuing your time based on experience?

Someone who has a unique gift or a skill that’s very hard to master may get paid more because they are a rarity; are you valuing your time based on uniqueness?

People in London get paid a specific amount more than people outside the capital, because of the cost of living; are you valuing your time based on location?

 

As a personal example, I recently increased my copywriting rates. This was to reflect my experience in the industry and to better fit in with the market average shared by a trusted copywriting group.

Of course, when I did this I was nervous and immediately thought no-one would want to pay for me because I was more expensive. Of course, it didn’t change anything. People still wanted to hire me.

I had increased my costs because of legitimate and understandable reasons, and that made sense to people who wanted to hire me. What are the reasons behind how you value your time and set your rates?

 


What’s next?

Commit to valuing your time. Believe your time is of value (and not just because you might be skilled or clever or talented). Write it down, put it into your journal, make it your phone background. Start to let yourself value your time.

Then spend some time thinking of and documenting the reasons behind why you currently calculate the value of the time the way you do. Is it based on market averages, competition, the minimum wage, or something else? What else might you want to consider when calculating the value of the time you spend on your creative business?

Money is a very difficult thing to talk about and, as a creative business owner, it becomes even more complicated when the wages we’re earning are wrapped up in our own self belief and self esteem. Eli Trier’s email series and ebook called Naked Money is a great way to understand how different creative people relate to money, and their personal challenges. There’s also a Facebook group to join and learn from other creatives.

If you take just one thing away from this article, it’s that I want you to know your time is worth something. To your family and friends, your time is irreplaceable. To your creative business and your customers, your time is invaluable. There’s always more money to accumulate, but we only have so much time in the world. How you spend it, value it, and how you wish others to value it, is in your hands.

 


 

Crystal Clear Brand - A Workbook for Creative Business Owners launching September 28th

 

Your brand is invaluable

On September 28th I’m launching a do-it-yourself product to help creative business owners like make their brand crystal clear.

Your brand is one of the most valuable elements of your creative business. When done right, it’ll help you make decisions more easily and make the most of your time and energy.

The do-it-yourself product is a workbook guiding you through creating a crystal clear brand, done in an interactive, engaging and friendly way.

If you’re interested in learning more about the product and getting updates about the launch, sign up below.

To say thank you for signing up, once you’ve confirmed your email address you’ll get a free copy of my guide written specifically for creative business owners: How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird.


 

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Do you value the time you spend running your creative business? How do you value it? Do you believe your time is worth anything? Acknowledging this is essential to the health of you and your business, so why don't we do it properly?

How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird: A Guide for Creative Businesses

How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird: A Guide for Creative Businesses

Today I want to talk to you about how to sell in person without feeling weird when you’re a creative business owner.

 

Ever felt like you nearly made a sale...but missed out because you didn't know how or what to say - or you felt so weird about the whole thing you avoided it altogether? Lots of creative business owners feel the same way. Here's a post where you can download a free guide on the specific steps to take to sell in person without feeling weird.

 


selling = strange

Selling is something lots of us get nervous about. Being able to sell well and not be deterred by the fear of rejection is a real skill. I have a lot of respect for salespeople; it takes resilience, intelligence and dedication to be able to make lots of sales, even to people who genuinely want your product.

As a creative business owner, you might find selling in person (when you’re at a craft fair, exhibition or show) quite hard. Often I’ve found the main reason for this is what creative business people like most about their business is actually doing the creative part – not having to flog their wares to people.

However, you might also find selling difficult because:

  • It feels very unnatural – sales conversations don’t seem to feel like normal conversations, where there’s no specific (or at least obvious) agenda from one party
  • It feels awkward and sometimes even impolite, especially in British society where talking about money or imposing your needs upon someone else is the height of rudeness
  • We don’t always value ourselves, our products or our services accurately, and so when it comes to getting people to buy we feel doubly embarrassed
  • You may not even know what to say to get people to buy your wares
  • Or you might know what to say but you’re not sure how to say it without feeling or sounding desperate – or as if you don’t care whether they buy your product or not

So how can you manage these difficult (but completely normal) feelings, and use in-person opportunities to make the most sales for your business?

After all, people like buying from people – especially creative people – so in person selling can be one of the best ways to help your business deepen and grow.

 

The secret is to take people on a journey.

 

The most successful salespeople do this. They take people from A to B (where, at B, they buy your things).

Marketing is a really important part of this journey. It’s almost the thing that helps customers get to A in the first place, and a few steps towards B. Marketing stops sales becoming pure cold calling by ‘warming up’ the customer before you start talking to them about a sale.

So part of what you can do is make sure you’re warming people up before they come and see you in person by doing some great marketing. This makes your trickier ‘salesperson’ job a lot easier.


from awareness to action

The journey which you can take your customer on is best described by the AIDA model.

This traditional marketing concept describes the way people travel through stages of relating to your brand, with the idea being that you can help get them through to the next stage (like a journey through the levels of a computer game).


Level 1 of the game is awareness, where your potential customer knows about and is aware of your brand.

Level 2 and the next stage on the journey is interest, where your potential customer is interested in your brand, services and products.

Level 3 is desire, where your potential customer actively wants or desires your wares.

Level 4 (big boss level) is action, where your potential customer becomes an actual customer by purchasing some of your products or services.


For each stage, you can do different things to get people to continue along the journey. Just like a computer game, lots of people will start the journey, but not all of them will make it to the next level – or the big boss level. That’s completely natural.

The more you’re aware of this, the more you can make sure to get people onto level one through great marketing, and help people along the journey to end with a sale.


how to sell in person without feeling weird: the guide

As I was writing, this article become more and more in-depth and packed with information. So, instead of a lengthy blog post, I’ve turned the article into a 10 page, easy-to-understand downloadable guide so you can have it on-hand whenever you need it.

The guide includes:

  • Some of the common mistakes I’ve seen creative business people make at fairs, shows or exhibitions
  • How you can avoid making these same mistakes
  • Clear examples of activities you can do at each stage of the AIDA model to keep potential customers on the journey towards buying

Here’s a snapshot of the advice for the first stage, awareness.

Snapshot of awareness tips from How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird

For the full guide on How to Sell In Person Without Feeling Weird, pop your email address in the box below and you’ll be sent the guide via email.

 

 

P.S. You can see the other people I’ve helped with my advice and ideas on marketing creative businesses in this article: How I’ve Helped People and I’m Trying Not to Be Shy About It.

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Why It’s Important to Take a Holiday When You Run Your Own Creative Business (and How You Can Do It Without Worrying)

Why It’s Important to Take a Holiday When You Run Your Own Creative Business (and How You Can Do It Without Worrying)

Today I want to talk about the importance of taking a holiday when you run your own creative business, and how you can do that without worrying.

But first, a story.

I had lunch with my friend Nick the other day. He’s self-employed as a copywriter, excellent at marketing and happens to co-run one of the UK’s most impressive cheese clubs. Nick was giving me some very good advice for the next stage of my business.

“Of course, I never actually take this advice myself,” Nick explained, after he’d gone into great detail about business plans and cost-per-sales.

I looked at him.

“So you’ve never done the things you’re telling me to do for your own business?”

“No, don’t be silly,” he said, “who ever takes their own advice?”

And despite giving good advice to clients, helping my students, supporting my partner and even occasionally giving Nick something to think about – neither do I.

Why It’s Important to Take a Holiday When You Run Your Own Creative Business (and How You Can Do It Without Worrying) - Eleanor Snare

I am so bad at taking my own advice, especially when it comes to running my creative business.

For example, in this article I’m going to tell you how important it is to take a holiday when you run your own creative business. I’ll give you facts, and stats, and loads of stuff to convince you it’s the best thing to do. Then I’ll tell you just how you can have a holiday and actually relax when you’re there.

The last real holiday I had was in 2014. That’s two crazy years of not taking a real break.

I have two weeks booked off work at the end of August and I still haven’t sorted out a holiday. At all.

There’s too much pressure to make this holiday brilliant, to manage my business around it, to make sure I come back feeling refreshed, that I’ve become paralysed with indecision. I am not taking my own advice.

If there is one thing you do after reading this article, please make sure it’s to take my advice and get yourself on holiday.

Then email me and tell me to do the same.

 

Why holidays are essential for creative business owners.

 

I’m not sure if I even need to explain to you why holidays are so important, but just in case there’s someone out there who isn’t quite convinced, here are just a few reasons.

 

It’s unsustainable to work all the time

Human beings are living, breathing animals. We’re not designed for constant activity; we need regular breaks – hence sleeping – to help our bodies repair themselves. The same goes for our minds; constant thinking work depletes our energy, and leaves us with no space to repair or rejuvenate ourselves.

If you run a creative business, it’s likely your working hours will be longer, or at least more erratic, than other people’s. You might end up checking emails at 7am, or working on a new marketing idea until 11pm at night. You might risk falling into an ‘always on’ mentality, where you never really step away from your creative business to replenish yourself. Research and campaigning body, the Future Work Centre, has even found that ’email pressure’ – the stress felt from immediate email notifications – is an actual thing and pretty damaging.

As if you needed more to convince you about why working all the time is a bad idea:

No matter how much of a go-getter you are, it seems working constantly without a real break from your business will make you physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted.

 

A holiday will improve your business

You might think “But if I take a holiday, my business will suffer. I won’t be there, sales will drop, and we’re all buggered.” Not so. While it can be tricky to manage your business while you are on holiday, there are significant benefits to your business once you return that will ‘make up’ for anything you’ve felt you’ve lost.

When Project Time Off asked HR professionals within companies about the effectiveness of people who took their entitled holiday days, 75% of them reported that people who took the whole or majority of their allocated time off performed better overall than people who took minimum vacation time. I’d suggest that’s because Group A – the Jolly Holiday Makers – weren’t completely burnt out or overwhelmed, unlike poor old Group B.

So having time away from your business can improve how you perform – how you tackle and get on with your work – when you get back. It can also encourage better ideas. Participants in a 2012 study from the University of California were more likely to come up with a creative solution to a problem when they were allowed to let their mind wander after being given the brief – rather than push on straight away to think of an answer.

Better, more creative ideas come from a fresh brain – and a fresh brain is exactly what your holiday is meant to encourage.

 

You’ll find inspiration everywhere

Without a holiday you’ll end up being physically and mentally worn out. With a holiday, you’ll be more productive and hopefully more creative when you return. Most excitingly for creative business owners, though, is what a holiday can inspire.

Visiting a new place, experiencing a new culture, and seeing the world from a new perspective will inspire you to do new things. Maybe it’ll help you create an interesting product range, or develop a particular service for a brand-new target customer. Maybe it’ll give you beautiful photographs to use in your marketing material. Or maybe just a tacky souvenir that makes you smile every time you glance it on your desk.

There is inspiration everywhere, and a holiday away from your creative business allows you to access that inspiration. It takes you away from the monotony of receipts, invoices, scheduling and suppliers so you can revisit that passion which sparked your business in the first place.

 

You’re convinced you need a holiday. Now what?

 

The biggest myth for creative business owners when it comes to taking a holiday is that their business will collapse without them being there.

The truth is it won’t.

It might be tricky to manage. You might have to set up some things in advance. But you are not going to lose all your customers, piss off all your suppliers, and your business will not go up in flames if you are not there.

Your creative business does need you to function effectively and brilliantly, in its 10 out of 10 perfect experience. But if you go away, it might come down to a nine out of 10. Eight, at a minimum. Because you have a good business, with great customer service and good processes in place.

It doesn’t matter if your creative business is not perfect all the time.

(I really need to take this bit of advice to heart, pronto.)

You will go, you will drink sangria/long island iced tea/martinis [delete as appropriate], you will return and your business will still be brilliant. In fact, it’ll be more brilliant for the break you’ve had.

Here’s how to make that break work.

 

How to take a holiday as a creative business owner (and relax while you’re there)

 

1. Let customers know you’re going on holiday

Yes, that’s right, tell people you’re going away! Admit you need a holiday, and you’re taking one, and you’re going to bloody enjoy it. You are a human and so are your customers, and they will respect your honesty.

Be clear on how long you’ll be away for and what changes they should expect to your normal service. This information will alleviate any issues that might arise because you’re not there; people know you’re away so are likely to cut you a little bit of slack. How many times have you visited an Etsy shop to find that the owner is ‘on holiday’? No-one gets pissed off; you just favourite the shop, sign up for email notifications and forget about it.

On that point; remember the appearance of exclusivity I mentioned in my article about saying ‘no’? A holiday does the same sort of thing. You aren’t always available – customers will have to wait. And if you have the right processes set up – like an email wait list – then you can actually encourage that exclusivity and gain an eager customer base at the same time.

 

2. Schedule marketing content

You can let your existing customers know you’re going to be away while at the same time making sure you’re still drawing new customers towards you by scheduling marketing content.

I’d recommend you do this for digital marketing content only; responding to print amends are too stressful to try and do while you’re sunning yourself on a beach somewhere. You can schedule social media content using the channels’ in-built tools (for example, scheduling Facebook posts for your business page) or do it all in one place using a third-party scheduling tool like Buffer or Hootsuite.

You can also schedule blog posts for when you’re away, as well as other digital marketing like email newsletters. All of this, of course, does require extra time before you go away to set it all up. But to keep things ‘ticking over’, and especially if your holiday coincides with a useful marketing season for your creative business, scheduling marketing content is incredibly useful.

 

3. Avoid marketing clashes

This seems like an obvious one, but make sure you don’t accidentally schedule any marketing promotions – like a sale or a discount voucher – while you’re away on holiday. Ongoing content which keeps customers engaged is fine, but anything designed to draw in big crowds is difficult to manage from afar and there’s more chance of things going wrong.

Depending on the type of creative business you own, you might find your potential busiest periods are also during traditional holiday times; for example, around Christmas boutique retailers might not get much of a break as they put in the hours for gift-buying customers.

If you can take holidays at the quietest times of your business year, it can be useful for managing your business and making the most of that productivity kick when you get back and jump onto the next busy period.

 

4. Be clear about whether you’re available or not

If you’ve been used to running your creative business single-handedly, the idea of not being in regular contact with customers and potential customers probably makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s also totally natural to end up checking work-related emails or messages on holiday – especially if you love your work.

However, before you go on holiday be clear on whether or not you want to be contacted by customers, suppliers or staff. Once you’ve chosen what you want, stick to it. You might feel like the constant communication – like the ’email pressure’ I mentioned – is actually what you need to escape from. If so, let your customers and other contacts know, and do not look at work messages while you’re away.

If you do, you’ll slide back into it very quickly. If you’re worried things will slip without you to field the communications, you could hire a virtual assistant (VA) for the duration of your holiday, who’ll be able to manage any issues that come up.

Alternatively, if business communication isn’t the thing you need to escape from, then let people know you’ll be available but set yourself specific times when you’ll check and respond to work-related communication. It’s a good idea to do this all the time, but especially on holiday, so you have clear boundaries of when you can switch off from work.

 

Time to enjoy your time off.

 

Taking a holiday when you run your own creative business is essential for your health and the continuing health of your business. It’ll mean you come back refreshed and ready for the next challenge.

Managing your business while you’re away is possible: let customers know you’re going away, schedule your marketing content and avoid any big clashes, and be clear on whether you’re available for business chat – or not.

And make sure you enjoy your holiday.

P.S. Have you seen the free workshop I’m doing in September (back to school time, natch)? Take a look and sign up here.





Why Saying No Will Make Your Creative Business More Attractive - Eleanor Snare

Why Saying ‘No’ Will Make Your Creative Business More Attractive (and Exactly How You Can Say It)

‘No’ is an incredibly powerful word. When you use it in the right way, it can make your creative business more attractive through better focus, better clarity and one of the most desirable qualities ever: exclusivity.

But how do you say ‘no’ without losing money, burning bridges and going against the socially-acceptable grain?

Why Saying No is The Key to A More Attractive Creative Business - a helpful blog post from Eleanor Snare

In my first job, a not-very-pleasant team leader asked me to work late, for no extra pay. Overtime is pretty normal when you work in a marketing agency, and I had done it before.

But this time the team leader said that, in return for working late, he would buy me (and the other juniors who worked past clocking off time) a bottle of wine. You know, to make up for the hours we would spend on his project rather than on much-needed leisure time.

I said no.

I didn’t say no because I didn’t want to finish the project. I didn’t say no because I wasn’t happy to work overtime.

I said no because I didn’t want him to think that my time was worth a £4.99 bottle of plonk from Sainsbury’s.

I said no because I wanted him to realise there was a line I wasn’t prepared to cross for my work.

I could’ve said “Yes, but don’t bother about the wine”, but I was very young and I was trying to prove a point.

That point still stands, and I still think of it now running my own business: saying ‘no’ means there’s a line. And a line means that you and your business have integrity.

 

A TOTAL LACK OF ‘NO’

How often do you really say ‘no’ in a day? Unless you’re in a really bad mood, probably not very often.

And that’s it – we associate saying ‘no’ with being negative, with being a wet blanket, a killjoy and generally a pain in the arse.

“No, I won’t help with the washing up.”

“No, I’m not coming to your party.”

In a social and cultural time where we really struggle to accept and express negative emotions as useful or healthy, saying ‘no’ is shocking. It’s a radical act.

It’s radical because it appears negative. It can even seem rude or impolite – probably the worst type of behaviour in British society – as it appears as though you’re putting your needs before someone else’s. Saying ‘no’ means you might disappoint someone, or let them down.

 

‘NO’ IN BUSINESS

All these social implications of ‘no’ filter through to the business world, and they’re especially pertinent if you work independently or run a creative business. People expect creative business owners to be ‘touchy-feely’, because they’re creative. They expect them to be nice, and ‘no’ is not nice.

Small, independent or creative businesses are also normally in a precarious position when it comes to saying ‘no’. Turning down work or customers with a ‘no’ might mean burning bridges. It might mean missing out on promotion. It might mean you don’t earn any money that month.

Saying ‘no’ starts to become a question of paying the bills, rather than whether you actually want to do the thing or not.

Some of us end up not saying ‘no’ for another reason; because we don’t know what we want to say ‘yes’ to. We don’t know who our target market is, what our ambitions are, what we really enjoy, or what the future of our business is. So we keep saying ‘yes’, even if we really want to say “No, no, no! I need a bloody break!”.

 

THE POINT OF ‘NO’

Saying ‘no’ means there is a line you won’t cross. It means that you, and your business, has integrity. It means you have principles which are so important to you that you’ll stick by them, no matter what.

By saying ‘no’ to things, you give yourself some time and space to think. You can take a step back from rushing towards another ‘yes’ and really consider what you want to do with your business. Constantly accepting things (whether they’re work, commitments, hobbies or even dates) doesn’t give you any time to reflect. On anything.

The point of ‘no’ is to focus your attention on what you really want.

In your creative business, that’s the core goals you have, the core services or products, the core market you want to attract. You stop saying a scattergun ‘yes’ and find the ability to focus.

Saying ‘no’ can help make your business more attractive to clients and customers because your output is more focus, your USP is clearer, and very importantly: you are exclusive. You do not say ‘yes’ to everything. Not everyone can have a piece of you. That makes you (and your creative business) valuable.

 

HOW TO SAY ‘NO’

We all have problems saying ‘no’, whether that’s to friends, family, or a delicious packet of ready salted crisps (I know it’s the most boring flavour, don’t judge me). Cultivating the ability to say no takes time and practice. I’m no life coach so if you’re a creative business owner who really struggles to say no and you feel like you might need extra (emotional) help, have a Google.

But if you know that you can say ‘no’, you just never seem to actually say it, then here’s some advice.

 

Keep a buffer.

Money is the main reason creative businesses and independent workers don’t say ‘no’. Saying ‘no’ might be turning down your only money for that month, which is a risky, frightening thing to do.

It’s hard at first but keep a financial buffer to help you say ‘no’ when you need to. Two or three months’ expenses is a useful amount, if you can do it, but even a month’s worth can be helpful.

 

Try not to take any shit.

The other very tricky time to say ‘no’ as a creative business or independent worker is in the middle of a project. Try not to take any shit from your clients or customers. You won’t know what that shit is until they do it and your gut goes “Hey, wait a minute…”. Then say ‘no’.

Changing briefs, changing payment terms or amounts, adding or taking away work, messing around with contracts or pissing about with timescales all constitutes ‘shit’ in my book. You are allowed to say ‘no’ if someone tries to mess you around.

 

Have a ‘no’ list.

Actually, have two lists: a ‘no’ list and a ‘yes’ list. On your ‘yes’ list, write everything you really, really want and like when it comes to your business; who you like working with, what work you like doing, etc. On the ‘no’ list, write all those things which give you that ‘euurrgghh’ gut reaction. It might be a type of work, client, customer, payment terms – whatever you want.

Write that list and stick to it.

These lists will grow as your business develops and you gain more experience, but even when you’re starting out you’ll know what makes you want to hide under a duvet.

 

Remember you are a commodity.

You might not say ‘no’ running your business because you’re worried you might let a client down, or put someone in a difficult position. Remember, you are a commodity: if you don’t do the work because the terms aren’t right, your client will most certainly find someone who will without much fuss.

Yes, you might lose the work – but do you want the work if you’re going to be stressed, underpaid and exploited?

 

Be kind when you say ‘no’.

You can still be a nice person and say ‘no’ – in fact, it makes it a lot easier to turn down opportunities when you are graceful and kind. In that first example of me saying ‘no’ as a junior team member, I wasn’t graceful – I was a bit obnoxious. Learning to be kind and saying ‘no’ has helped my business a lot.

By doing it, you won’t burn any bridges with potential clients or customers, but you also won’t sour a good relationship by accepting work that you simply don’t want to do.

 

You don’t have to explain yourself.

I know, right? You can just say ‘no’ without explaining why, or saying “I can’t” or “I’m afraid that”. For British people, this might just be a revelation.

Of course, I never, ever do this because I have frightfully intense levels of politeness buried deep within my genetic code. But you might be able to. It can be useful to explain why you’re saying ‘no’ if you feel it could resolve issues for the future, but that’s your choice.

 

Remind yourself why you’re saying ‘no’.

You are not a fool. You are not an arse. You are a creative business owner who values their time. You value the type of work you do and the type of people you work with. You don’t just say ‘yes’ to any old thing.

You are focused, clear on your goals and exclusive. You have lines you won’t cross. You have integrity. Remind yourself of these things if you wobble from the path of ‘no’.

 

‘NO’ MEANS ‘NO’ MEANS ‘YES, I HAVE TIME FOR BETTER THINGS’

Saying ‘no’ is a tricky thing. It’s socially and culturally conditioned, and yet it’s essential for our creative and professional health.

Saying ‘no’ brings focus to your business, makes your goals clear, and adds desirable exclusivity to your products or services.

‘No’ makes your creative business more attractive because it shows you have integrity. And it gives you more time to say ‘yes’ to better, more exciting, more ambitious and more meaningful things.