Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Here’s My Story of Starting a Creative Business

Sharing stories about your products or services is the way to deeply connect your customer with you and your business.

In this article I explained three reasons why sharing stories was so important:

  • People love stories.
  • Stories change objects into something better.
  • Sharing your story gives your customer something to share.

And I also said:

Sharing your story is a way to connect you, your creative work, and your community in a deep, magical way.

So, let’s connect you, me and my work in a deep, magical way. Let’s share my story.

 


 

I’m not going to start at the very beginning, because no-one wants to hear about a nerdy-looking baby who didn’t have any hair until she was 18 months old.

And I’m not going to start at adolescence because no-one wants to hear about a nerdy-looking teenager who dressed in black a lot and thought it was cool to smirk and not like stuff (while secretly really liking stuff).

Let’s start at the end of 2014, when I decided to quit my job and was still pretty nerdy-looking.

 


 

Working full time in marketing for about four years had equipped me with extensive skills, in-depth knowledge and significant appreciation for the way communication between business and brands worked.

It had also given me crippling self-doubt and sadness.

Marketing is a tough business. The creative industries like to show off about their ping-pong tables in the office, beers on a Friday and free sweets/massages/insert treat here for staff, but a lot of the time that comes with unspoken agreements: work long hours. Be on call on the weekend. Don’t talk back to clients. Go with the boss’ whims. Party hard, because you’re working harder.

Some businesses get people to work extra-long and extra-hard with the carrot. Other businesses use the stick. In the name of productivity, they accidentally end up building a culture of self-doubt and negativity. People’s work is unrecognised, so they start to believe the work isn’t any good. Sticking your neck out gets dangerous, so people become timid. Workers get institutionalised in a very real way.

I’d worked hard for my colleagues and clients. I’d also been difficult to manage. I am honest, clear and direct – which means I can be brusque, rude and impatient. I’m strong and brave – which means I can be pushy and impertinent. But after several years working in these environments, I’d ended up believing that I was brusque, rude, impatient, pushy, impertinent…and nothing else.

I felt like the work I did, and the person I was, wasn’t worth anything. I had no confidence in what I was doing.

I had two options: stay secure and rot, or risk failure and flower.

 


 

I decided that I would start a creative business, my own business, where I would feel proud of the work I did. I would value my own work, and so would other people. I would leave sadness and self-doubt behind.

The most important aspect of this business would be that the work I did would show other people how valuable they are. It would give other people the confidence I had yearned for. It would be a business where people knew they were worthy of love and belonging.

I saved up my money until I had just over three months of living expenses, I started contacting people about work I could do, I bought myself a golden stapler and I quit.

 


 

Every time I write an article…
Every time I hold a one-to-one session
Every time I run a workshop…
Every time I design a marketing strategy…
Every time I do a talk on running your own business…

… I am giving people like you the confidence I never had.

I’m letting you know how valuable you are, how much you already know, how much you can achieve, how much potential you have.

I’m saying “You can do it”, because I know you can.

Your business is never ‘just’ your business. We all bring our unique stories into the work we do, the emotions and hang-ups and beliefs and behaviours long-embedded into our lives.

My story is one I want other people to have, and I decided to run my business to help make it happen: to go from self-doubt and sadness to feeling confident and valued.

 


 

My challenge to you is to share something of your story in the next seven days. Do it on your website, social media channels, email newsletter or in store. Share your story and see how it can connect you, your creative work and your community in a deep, magical way.

Elly

 

My Story of Starting a Creative Business - Pinterest

 

Photo by Kristopher Roller on Unsplash

Sharing your story 1

Sharing Your Story as a Creative Business Owner

In my recent workshop on How to Present Your Products Online, one of the factors I talk about is sharing your story.

Your story – where you come from, what inspires you, why you do what you do and a thousand other things – is a core ingredient of your marketing.

In presenting your products online, via sites like Etsy or Folksy, you can use your story to help customers form a deeper relationship with your product. Rather than ‘just’ a nice cup or pair of earrings or workbook, that product is now a part of a much bigger story.

The story of your travels and how you’re inspired by traditionally-woven fabrics to create textured coffee cups.

The story of your grandma’s jewellery box and how it helps you dream up new jewellery designs.

The story of discovering your ikigai and how it led you to try and help more creative businesses fulfil their brand’s potential.

Stories are magic, fun, exciting and integral to who we are.

But one of the themes that came out of the workshop feedback was this: how do I share my story without feeling embarrassed? Without feeling cringey? Without feeling cheesy?

There are a lot of tactics you can use to share your story in a way that makes sense for you, your business and your customer. But before you know HOW to do it, you need to know WHY you’re doing it.

Knowing WHY you’re doing it defeats the feelings of embarrassment. It helps you feel confident and organised. It stops you from feeling like what you’re doing is cringey or cheesy.

Here’s why you should share your story.

1. People love stories.

Every culture uses stories to teach people how the world works. We use stories to frighten, cajole, encourage, impress or enlighten someone. There are stories for everything around us, from how we should behave to how we make a cup of tea (never milk first you heathens).

Stories help us make sense of the world because we are pre-disposed to pattern-spotting. Pattern-spotting helped us survive by explaining the world to us in a way we could understand and maybe predict. So a story is a pattern we can understand very quickly and easily, which makes us feel comfortable and pay attention.

Sharing YOUR story with your community is a natural part of being human. You are showing them a pattern so they can say “Oh, I understand”. Your story might be different to their own, unusual or even unique, but it’s still a quick route to making them feel comfortable and pay attention.

It’s like the magic touch: a sprinkle of your story and you’ve connected with your community in a very deep way.

2. Stories change objects into something better.

Each one of us will have emotional attachments to certain objects in our lives; maybe a dress, a ring, a certain picture or an ornament. This emotional attachment doesn’t come from the object itself – the actual material or design or shape or colour. It comes from the story attached to it.

The story is that your mum handed the dress down to you, or your dad made the ring, or the picture is a scene from where you grew up, or the ornament is a memento from your travels.

When someone says “That’s a lovely picture”, you don’t say “Yes, it’s painted in oils on a piece of stretched canvas”. You say, “Yes, it’s where I grew up”.

Even things we buy because we like the look of it come with a story: “It reminded me of autumn leaves” or “My first house looked a little like that” or “It was the perfect size for my morning coffee”.

Even services we buy are made better by the attachment of a story. A florist doesn’t just create fabulous arrangements; they help create your dream wedding. An accountant doesn’t just sort out your finances; they help you save up for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday.

By attaching your story to what you do, whatever product or service you sell suddenly gets better. It gets magical, because it’s attached to a story. And people LOVE stories.

3. Sharing your story gives your customer something to share.

People love stories, but more importantly they love sharing stories. Spoken stories came long before written stories, and we tell stories to babies long before they can read – stories our parents told us.

By sharing your story with your customer, you are giving them something to share. You’re giving them something to share in a transaction that would normally be fairly solitary.

Here’s an example: You buy a beautiful scarf for yourself from a local knitter. Without a story, you have a beautiful scarf just for yourself. With a story, you have a beautiful scarf for yourself AND something to give to others.

People want to connect with each other. We want to give and share and be part of something. So buying something is nice, but it’s just for you. Sharing a story about what you bought makes that transaction into a potential opportunity for connection.

The difference between saying, about a picture, “Yes, it’s painted in oils on a piece of stretched canvas”, and “Yes, it’s where I grew up” is the second statement starts a connection. I’ll ask, “Where did you grow up? What was it like?” and suddenly we are two people in a vast cosmos sharing a magical connection.

I like to call it the ‘dinner party worthy‘ story. You’re giving your customer something to share at a dinner party when someone points out an item in their home.

By sharing YOUR story, you’re giving them the opportunity to connect with others.


 

This is WHY you should share your story.

People love stories.
Stories change objects into something better.
Sharing your story gives your customer something to share.

And, ultimately, sharing your story is a way to connect you, your creative work, and your community in a deep, magical way.

Next time you feel like sharing your story is too embarrassing, too cringey or too cheesy, remember these reasons WHY you’re doing it. We’re here to connect, and stories help us do that.

 


 

Looking for time and space to understand how to tell your story best?

I’m taking bookings for One-to-One Marketing Reviews in January 2018.

Click here to learn more.

Meaningful Marketing - New Style - Square

 


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Sharing your story as a creative business owner | Eleanor Snare

A checklist for using your values in your creative business projects featured image - via Pexels

Here’s a Checklist for Using Your Values in Your Creative Business Projects


 

Having strong personal values tends to be a common factor among creative business owners.

You can use these values in lots of different ways for deepening or growing your business.

One of the ways might be understanding which are non-negotiable and which are negotiable values, so you can choose the projects you want to work on with confidence. Read more about that here.

I have clear personal values which help ground me and my life, including the work I choose to do.

Before I take on any job, I have a checklist of questions related to my values which I run through to see where the job fits, and where it doesn’t.

I wanted to share how I made that checklist with you so you can create one for your own creative business.

Everyone’s values are different, so me sharing my exact set of questions won’t be that useful to you – but sharing the way I’ve constructed those questions will help you get organised so you can use your own values with confidence.

 


 

The first question I ask is always:

What are my first impressions and intuitions?

Sometimes, our intuition can tell us everything we need to know. We might not be able to explain, logically, what the problem is, but our intuition feels it.

The value questions are therefore a way to counter this intuition and make sure you’re not just relying on gut instinct.

How am I using [a value] in this project?

I ask myself exactly how I will be using each of my values in this project. Some of them are very clear: for example, for my personal value of ‘helping’, I can ask “How am I helping in this project?”.

Other of my values, like ‘nature’, require a bit more thought: the question might be “How am I valuing and respecting nature in this project?”

According to [a value], what specifically will I get out of this project?

I then ask myself what the benefits are to me of doing this project, in relation to my values. For example, one of my values is ‘learning’, so I ask myself, “What specifically will I learn during this project?”.

If I find it difficult to answer these questions, I can then ask myself “Why am I really taking on this project?”. The answer may be because it’s bread-and-butter work, in which case I can answer the remaining questions with this in mind.

Will what I get out of this project according to [a value] be useful to me in the future?

It’s important to think long-term with your creative business, so I consider what I might get out of a project, according to a value, which might be useful to me later down the line.

One of my personal values is ‘play’, so I might ask myself “Will the playful experimentation and new ideas I get out of this project be useful to me in the future?”.

You’ll have noticed that I don’t stick to a rigid question scheme, and instead mould it to fit what I’m talking about.

The key is to developing a themed question you can actually answer, not reproducing a specific question structure that might not make much sense to you.

How does the client/customer fulfil [a value]?

You’re going to be working quite closely with someone on a project and therefore writing down your understanding of how they fulfil (or don’t fulfil) a particular value of yours is very useful.

As an example, one of my personal values is ‘love’, so I ask myself: “Do the people who work at this company really love what they do?”, “Does the client demonstrate love and connection in their relationship with me and their customers?” and “Does the client believe love is an important part of their work?”.

Finally, I ask myself a set of questions based on the principles of sustainable marketing. These are more specific to my way of working, but I wanted to share one question with you which will add something extra to your values checklist.

How does this project acknowledge its role and responsibility in shaping the future of:
… the businesses involved in it?
… the customer receiving it?
… the community surrounding it?

As an independent creative business owner, this last question is so important. You want your business to last, and you want it to deepen or grow. You want to connect with your customer and other creative business people like you.

Understanding how this project – this one on your desk right now – will be shaping the future of the businesses that are involved with it (including your own), the customer receiving it and the community surrounding it is therefore essential.

By understanding these things, you can understand whether the project will help your creative business connect, deepen, grow and live for a long time. From that, you can make a more confident decision.

 


Here’s the full checklist of question structures so you can start creating your own:

  • What are my first impressions and intuitions?
  • How am I using [a value] in this project?
  • According to [a value], what specifically will I get out of this project?
  • Will what I get out of this project according to [a value] be useful to me in the future?
  • How does the client/customer fulfil [a value]?
  • How does this project acknowledge its role and responsibility in shaping the future of:
    … the businesses involved in it?
    … the customer receiving it?
    … the community surrounding it?

 

Having a values-led creative business means having a business that’s true to who you are and what you want to achieve in the world.

These questions are a simple way for you to organise those values so you can feel confident about selecting the right projects for you.

If you’ve found this article useful, please share it with your network.

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A checklist for using your values in your creative business projects

“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?

Four Ways a Crystal Clear Brand Can Help You Build Your Creative Business | Eleanor Snare Sustainable Marketing for Creative Businesses

Four Ways a Crystal Clear Brand Can Help You Build Your Creative Business

On 28th September 2017 I’m launching a new do-it-yourself product for creative business owners to help them create a crystal clear brand.

It’s a downloadable workbook that takes you through all the essential, heart-and-soul elements of a brand, from your purpose and vision to your personality and core messages.


A brand sounds great – but it also sounds like a lot of work.

Why is having a crystal clear brand useful for creative business owners? Here are four simple ways it’ll help you build your creative business and reduce the stress and struggle you might be experiencing.


1. More effective decision making

With the right brand, the biggest impact you’ll see on your business is your ability to make more effective decisions. A brand is like a guiding light; it helps us decide what’s worth spending our time and energy on, and which things we should let go.

This applies to operational decisions – like the sort of products you should make and how you should make them – as much as it does to marketing tactics.

2. Less stress and struggle.

With more effective decisions comes less stress and less struggle. Creative business owners already have a hundred different plates to spin, from graphic design to accounting to email marketing.

Having a crystal clear brand makes spinning those plates much easier and smoother, making the whole experience of running your business more enjoyable.

3. Easier and enjoyable marketing

A consciously-created, crystal clear brand also makes it easier and enjoyable to focus your marketing in the right direction.

Rather than thinking about all of the things you should be doing, because someone on the Internet told you it was important, you can use your brand to guide you on focusing on what’s essential and relevant to you and your customer.

4. A consistent, clear message

For me, one of the most exciting things about developing a crystal clear brand is that it means your creative business will have a consistent and clear message for your customers.

Instead of not knowing what to say to your customers online, in print or in person – or worse, not really knowing why you’re saying it – your brand will guide you. You’ll have consciously created a message that’s clear and consistent; one of the key ways in which businesses achieve success.


In this article I talked about how brand is created whether you’re doing it consciously or not. With a brand that’s crystal clear, you realise you can be in charge of that conversation.

You can give your customers the message you want them to have, not rely on the one they make up about you when you’re not in the room.


Follow me on Instagram for more updates on the Crystal Clear Brand workbook

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.