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.


 

Pin it!

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

I Discovered Ikigai and I Decided to Use It To Help My Students | Eleanor Snare - Sustainable Marketing for Creative Businesses

I Found Ikigai and I Decided to Use It To Help My Students

Back at the end of 2015 I learned about a concept called ‘ikigai’. You might’ve heard about it, because it’s going to  be the new hygge.

Once I’d found out about it, and worked on exploring and finding my own ikigai, I wanted to use it to help others.

(After all, my ikigai is to help fulfil potential).

I decided to create an employment programme for my final year students based on the idea of ikigai. It seems that lots of people come to their ikigai at an mid point in their life; how could I bring my students closer to this concept earlier on?

How could I introduce it to them so they would start to make employment decisions based on that, not on external pressures?

This is the story of how and why I came to develop that programme.


In 2015 (my first year as a lecturer) I wanted to write an employment programme for final year creative students which was based on a more holistic view of ‘work’ and ‘career’. I wanted it to anticipate the blocks they may face in pursuing a creative life while giving them specific knowledge about how to develop a career in which they are confident and satisfied.

Rather than approach this through providing an outline for the sort of person they need to be or career they need to have in the creative industries, I was interested in helping them work out what was important to them first – then designing a career around that.

I hoped this approach would help students realise they have some level of autonomy in choosing their work. I also wanted to move away from working on CVs and LinkedIn profiles, and towards exploring basic yet deeply rooted elements which are essential to happy work and life.


Ikigai and self-actualisation

My starting point was ikigai, which you’ll have heard of by now. It’s a Japanese term originating in the Okinawa area (although that has been contested).

Loosely translated it means “the reason for which you wake up in the morning”. It is not necessarily about work, but about anything in one’s life which is this “reason”.

This concept has been identified as key to the long and fruitful lives of people in the Okinawa region, including in a seven-year longitudinal study of around 50,000 Japanese people which found that those who had not discovered their ikigai had a significantly increased risk of mortality (in a 2008 study by Sone, et al.).

I saw ikigai as similar, in some ways, to the ‘final destination’ of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: self-actualisation and the transcendent needs (helping others to self-actualise).

(If you’ve not heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs before, read this).

One way they’re similar is because ikigai and self-actualisation can take any form; they don’t have to be high-brow. For example, the love of family might be your ikigai, which would be classified as a ‘lower’ need in Maslow’s hierarchy – but can also be a way of you self-actualising.

Another similarity is that ikigai and self-actualisation are dependent on the individual and their social context. I love this quote from Maslow about how the self-actualisation desire is different in different people:

“The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly from person to person…the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically…in painting pictures or in inventions”

For me, one of the most important similarities – and actually one of the most important things about ikigai as a whole – was that they are a continuous practice. It is the reason for waking up every morning, not just one single morning.

And from Maslow:

“[self-actualisation] might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming”

You don’t just ‘get’ your ikigai and stop. It is the complete opposite of our pervasive #goals culture; it’s something you find, embrace and just keep doing because every time you do it you become more you.

I believed ikigai and self-actualisation were key to talking about creative careers in a supportive and student-centric way. I saw that they placed the holistic development of the whole person at the heart of any activity.

They were the ‘colour’ of the colouring in, rather than the prescriptive outline.


 Discovering ikigai and self-actualisation

The next step I took was to understand the process by which someone could achieve ikigai and self-actualisation, the behaviours needed to do so, and then develop this into a programme.

In his work as a coach and entrepreneur, Marc Winn created a visualisation of how a person could achieve their ikigai. This diagram has been shared a lot so all credit to Marc; it’s a brilliant representation.

ikigai diagram by marc winn

This diagram has similarities to the one designed by Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, showing the key characteristics of companies which significantly improved their operations.

Collins’ diagram consists of three overlapping circles: ‘passion’, ‘best at’ and ‘driving resource’. These translate in turn as ‘what lights your fire’, ‘what could you be the best in the world at’ and ‘what makes you money’.

The corresponding values in Winn’s diagram would be ‘passion’, ‘profession’ and ‘vocation’. But by adding ‘mission’, Winn saw the link between internal fulfilment and external, social need – which can be central to ikigai and self-actualisation.

When I saw the links between Winn’s ‘path to achievement’ diagram and the characteristics Collins discovered of significantly improved businesses, it suggested the principles in Winn’s diagram could be successfully applied to individual career development.

I felt confident that an employment programme based on ikigai would work.


Mr Arden steps in

From there, I looked more closely at some of the behaviours Maslow identified of people who he believed had achieved self-actualisation, which he shared in his 1970 book Motivation and Personality. These included absorption, experimentation and honesty – and a few more too!

One of my favourite books ever is Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To BeI saw links between his chapter subjects and the behaviour he encouraged in creative business people, and the behaviours Maslow identified.

For example, Arden has a chapter called “It’s all my fault”. One of Maslow’s self-actualising behaviours is responsibility.

Arden has another called “When it can’t be done, do it. If you don’t do it, it doesn’t exist”. Maslow lists experimentation as another self-actualising behaviour.

I saw that Arden was articulating – maybe unconsciously – Maslow’s self-actualising behaviours, and matching them to success in a creative career. I realised that adding this into the ikigai mix could make for a great employment programme.


The results

With ikigai at the very heart of the programme, I added an understanding of Maslow’s self-actualising behaviours.

I was inspired by Winn, Collins and Arden that this combination of ideas could work when teaching students about getting a creative career they were fulfilled by.

So I designed and ran an 11 week programme with around 15 students.

And it wasn’t half bad.

Read more about the results of the programme right here.

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.





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The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses: Curtisward

In this blog series, I profile creative businesses who’ve impressed me with their marketing, promotion and creative presence. I showcase their best bits and talk about what they could do to improve, giving you best practice case studies to help you improve your business.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses - Curtisward - Eleanor Snare

Despite there being plenty of other shinier marketing tools available online (ooh, Instagram Stories!), a website is still a key part of any creative business’ presence. It’s your home turf, where you can describe your brand and your offer to customers in the way you want.

Curtisward, an independent art supplies retailer, impressed me recently with their website – it’s easy to use, easy to navigate and enjoyable to visit. Here’s why it wowed me so much and what you can learn.


Easy to find

It’s important to remember here that I never, ever click on Google Ads that appear in search results. Never.

Apart from this time.

Although not strictly about their website, I wanted to note how I found Curtisward as it includes some useful lessons for other creative businesses. I was searching for a specific product – Tombow brush pens – and naturally turned to Google.

You can see the results here:

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Google Results

I visited The Pen Company first, because they had three different adverts which suggested a good range of products. Their website was difficult to use and I soon gave up.

I came back and clicked on the Curtisward advert. Why them? Why not scroll? Why not the Amazon link which I know would be cheaper?

Here’s why:

  • When I visited their website, it was easy to use (so I stayed)
  • Their advert imaged showed multiple colours and plenty of pens, suggesting they had lots in stock
  • Their advert image was the only one that showed the pen up close
  • Their advert description had the most detail (I know it’s a pen – they told me it was ‘dual brush’)
  • I was specifically looking for an independent creative business to buy from

(Yes, these really are all the things customers think about in those few seconds when they click on an advert. Trust me.).

What you can learn
  • Don’t be afraid of using Google Ads: there’s a customer out there who will only turn to Amazon if they can’t find you – help them find you!
  • Use product images which show the product clearly and in the most relevant way
  • Use product images to show range if it’s possible
  • Use an advert description which gives specific product detail

Easy to navigate

This sort of thing isn’t very sexy but it’s a critical factor when a customer is deciding whether or not to buy from you. Clear, meaningful website navigation makes it easy for your customer to:

  • Find what they’re looking for
  • Encourages them to explore (and hopefully buy) more
  • Reduces time between exploration and purchase

Curtisward made navigating their website easy through a clear drop down menu – but most importantly, the way they had structured their website and the labels they gave different sections made it easy (and fun) to navigate.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Categories

As an art supplier, Curtisward probably stock thousands of individual items. I was looking for a specific sort of brush pen; if they’d simply had a huge category called ‘pens’ I would’ve been turned off from scrolling through hundreds of different products.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Categories

Instead, they labelled their sections by what the customer wanted to do. Want to clean something? Click ‘cleaning’. Want to make some marks? Click ‘mark making’. This is an impressive structure because it focuses on what the customer wants to DO, not the product Curtisward wants to SELL. That’s good marketing: “You want to do something, and we can help you do it”.

Within each section there’s clear products, then product types, then brands or ranges. This might seem very complicated  (and it might look like that on a site map) but for a customer it’s perfect because it funnels them down a path straight away.

What you can learn
  • Consider what your customer needs to know when they land on your website
  • Make sections about what they can DO, not simply what you sell
  • Lead customers down a clear purchasing path

Mobile-friendly

I searched for, clicked on and bought from Curtisward all on my mobile – and their site was really easy to use on mobile.

This shouldn’t be a thing. Huge numbers of us spend many many hours a day using the internet on a mobile device, for social networking, email, browsing and watching video.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Mobile Optimised Full Size
The full size website

Yet there are still many businesses – and unfortunately, small creative businesses tend to be in there – who don’t have a website which is mobile-friendly. This makes it harder for your customer to navigate and use your website when on their mobile, and harder for them to buy from you.

Curtisward has a responsive website, which means that whatever size screen you’re using, it adjusts to look the best for that screen size.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Mobile Optimised 1
Smaller screen, still looking good

That meant I could find what I wanted, and explore, and therefore buy more, all on my mobile device. What might have been a £1.85 sale for one product turned into a £15+ sale through ease of use.

The Secrets of Successful Creative Businesses Curtisward - Eleanor Snare - Mobile Optimised 2
Mobile phone screen size, and still easy to use
What you can learn
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and ideally mobile-optimised
  • Most modern website builders e.g. WordPress or SquareSpace will do this automatically
  • Test the friendliness of your site using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test

Engaging content

Alongside their product pages, Curtisward have a lovely blog and information page packed full of different ideas and posts. While this engaging content wasn’t a key factor in making me buy from them, it does make me think favourably of them; it shows they want to give more to their customer, and that they really do know their stuff.

They have a good range of articles, from quotations by famous painters to art ‘inspired by…’ and showcase different products, like their travel brush sets. They also occasionally profile customers’ work, which is another nice touch.

I do think they could improve some of this content by making it a bit easier to read (with a larger font size) and perhaps a more contemporary layout. Their articles are also scattered over two sections, so there’s no one, definitive knowledge base they can point customers to.

However, the quality of the ideas and the regular posting mean they’ll always have something to share in other marketing channels, demonstrating their expertise and helpfulness to customers.

What you can learn
  • Think about what expertise you can share with customers on your own website to help engage and interest them
  • Make sure it’s easy to read and pleasant to look at; customers are used to beautiful blogs
  • Re-purpose this content for other marketing channels to demonstrate your knowledge and helpfulness

 

And now for some exciting news…

 

How to Make Your Website Read Well, Look Good and Convince Customers - A Free Workshop for Creative Business Owners

If you’ve been reading this article thinking “My website doesn’t do any of these things – eep!”, then this exciting news is especially for you.

I’m running a free, face-to-face workshop for creative business owners on how to make your website read well, look good and convince customers. Because websites are one of the basics of marketing – and yet creative businesses very rarely use them to their full advantage.

There are only 10 places on this workshop to make sure everyone makes the most of the time and activities (of which there will be many, alongside refreshments and fun – of course). You’ll get advice on best practice alongside expert and peer-to-peer feedback specifically for your business; not just generic advice but ideas for you and what you need to do to make your website brilliant.


Interested? Read more and sign up here.


This workshop is in-person, so if you can’t make it (because, say, you live in Madagascar and the bus fare would be ridiculous) then that’s ok too – I’ll be turning elements of the session into an online workshop which you can do from anywhere in the world, including on the beach. Damn you. You can read more about that and sign up to hear about the launch date right here.


Learn more and sign up for the free workshop here.