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.

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A checklist for using your values in your creative business projects

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┬áto 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