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.

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Sharing your story as a creative business owner | Eleanor Snare

How I Pick My Projects Based on Personal Values as a Creative Business Owner - Photo by Annie Spratt via Unsplash

How I Pick My Projects Based on Personal Values as a Creative Business Owner


The other week I had a fun brunch with Alix, who asked me:

“How do you do the work you do, and manage to stick to your values?”

If you run your own creative business, there will always be a time when you have to make a decision about a job which pays well, but doesn’t fit your values.

It might be that it’s the wrong sort of client, the terms of the project aren’t ideal, or it’s just not the sort of work you want to be known for.

The decision is between your personal values and the money.

Sometimes, you will choose the money, and I think that’s completely fine.

Bread-and-butter work might not be exciting but it pays the bills. It’s not called champagne-and-cupcakes work. It’s called bread-and-butter because it gets the cash in the bank and basics on the table.

I’ve taken jobs for the money, because I see what that money could do. It could pay the bills. It could be invested.

It could also buy me time elsewhere to spend developing projects and work that aren’t commercially viable yet. That money can get me organised and help me feel confident.

The key to taking on a job, even it’s mainly for the money, and still running a values-led business is knowing which of your personal values are negotiable, and which are non-negotiable.

For your creative business, a negotiable value is one you can easily find in your life without having to do it through work.

If the job doesn’t fit a negotiable value, you can choose to take the cognitive hit (and the cash).

For example, one of my values is ‘play’. It’s a negotiable value. Not all of the jobs I’m offered enable me to ‘play’ in one form or another.

But I might take those jobs because I can easily get ‘play’ elsewhere in my life at the same time as doing that job (for example, through creating my planner or what I wear that day).

One of my other values is ‘helping’. This is a non-negotiable value. I won’t take a job if I believe my work or the outcome of my work won’t help someone. Normally, this is the end user.

For example, if I got offered a copywriting job where I was ‘helping’ the client, but the article I had to write was focused purely on selling to the reader (the end user) and not giving them anything ‘helpful’, I wouldn’t accept that job.

It’s about knowing your personal values, knowing which are negotiable, and allowing yourself to take that bread-and-butter work if you can see that it will help you elsewhere.

Problems happen if you, as a creative business owner, consistently allow all your personal values to be negotiable.

You end up feeling frustrated at yourself, frustrated with the work you’re doing, and disappointed that you’re not creating a space in the world doing what you want to be known for.

I’ve worked in businesses whose values all became negotiable, and it ate away at the confidence of the people who worked there. There’s nothing to believe in when you negotiate on all your values.

Values are like roots; they steady and support you, and in times of confusion they can be relied on to ground you in what you know to be right.

Some of those personal values will be negotiable, and that’s okay. Know them and make sure to find them elsewhere if you decide to take on work which doesn’t fit with that value.

Sometimes you will take on a job for the money, and that’s okay too. Use the money wisely to help support yourself and direct the time towards what you really want to do.

I want you to think about your personal values.

  • What are they?
  • Which are non-negotiable, and why?
  • Which ones are negotiable? How could you fulfil these values if you take on work which doesn’t fulfil them?
  • What questions would you ask about a job to find out whether it fulfilled your values?
  • Do you know how much ‘bread-and-butter’ (aka cash) you need each month to keep doing projects which fulfil your values?

 


Knowing my personal values and deciding to build a creative business and brand around them changed my life. The key is knowing exactly how to use those values with confidence.

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

 

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How I pick my projects based on personal values as a creative business owner

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.