|Posted on 13 June, 2019 at 5:50||comments (0)|
Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush from Pexels
There is something which I frequently come across when working with clients which always surprises me.
For example, a sculptor will be willing to hand over their precious wood, clay or metal sculpture to a specialist who will create a mold and make a bronze version.
A painter or photographer will be happy to hand their work over to a specialist framer.
A composer will hand over their music to an arranger.
They will be happy to trust their deeply personal and irreplaceable work to a professional who will use their expertise and experience to complete or enhance the work and the creative is happy to let that happen.
But often, that creative person will not have thought about getting an accountant to do all the boring but necessary paperwork which most people dislike.
Or a marketer who can run their social media campaign or research and contact potential galleries/exhibitions.
Or a fundraiser who can write funding applications on their behalf.
Or an assistant who can run their studios for them.
When setting goals, creative people will think about getting a workspace, a great commission or being in a position to hire creative specialist help. However, they don't seem to think about also aiming to get someone to do all the more mundane but essential day to day stuff which would free them up to be more creative (and potentially earning more money).
This can be for various reasons, including:
• they just hadn't thought about it
• they think it will be too expensive
• they think they have to run every aspect of their business themselves
• they think it is too indulgent to hire others "just" to help them
• they can't afford it now
• they think goal setting is just about the exciting stuff!
If you are hiring people on a project by project basis, it can work out cheaper than doing the work yourself, time when you could be earning.
When you are starting out, you probably have to do everything yourself and that is valuable as you certainly have to know your own business and be on top of it, but as time goes on, you can delegate.
Not being able to afford it now is also a perfectly valid reason - but how about having a goal such as, "in a year's time, I will be earning enough to hire a book keeper for 2 hours a month"?
For all of its' considerable benefits, working for yourself can be hard work. If you are prepared to have someone help you with the creative work, why not aim towards getting someone to help you with the other stuff as well?
|Posted on 23 May, 2019 at 0:10||comments (0)|
Last week, I got stuck in a lift.
It wasn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds: the outside wall of the lift was glass, overlooking a wide open expanse; the lift never moved so I was just stuck on the ground floor, not between floors; I was only in there for 5 minutes; and the alarm button was extremely loud in a crowded building. Also, I don’t have a phobia about lifts. (Actress Rebecca Front has written about her lift phobia in her book, 'Curious: True Stories and Loose Connections'.)
However, a few years ago, at a time when I was dealing with several stressful situations, I regularly had panic attacks. These were usually associated with being in large, crowded, formal spaces such as theatres, cinemas, concert halls, conference rooms, from which I perceived I wouldn’t be able to easily escape. Luckily for me, no-one ever knew about these attacks, because I got very good at keeping myself out of situations where they might occur. However, trying to deal with this on my own, secretly, over a period of 6 years was going to come to a head at some point and when it did, I went to the Doctor to ask for help. He gave me Betablockers (which in the end I never took, but it was nice to know they were in my bag if I needed them), and sent me off for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. (Interestingly, I also started learning tango at the same time and it was fascinating to see the connections between learning a positive mindset and learning the dance, but that is a whole other blog!)
Over the intervening years, gradually, my panic attacks have subsided. Admittedly, when I go to the theatre, my long suffering friends know I still need to be on the aisle and/or near a door. I have moments when I can feel the beginnings of a panic attack, but I now have the techniques to try to stop it. And on rare occasions, I might have what Rebecca Front calls in her book a panic about having a panic, but hey, it is just part of who I am.
So what is the point of all this soul bearing?
Panic attacks are not pleasant; however, they don’t have to stop you from doing what you want.
How do people cope who do have a phobia of lifts? They take the stairs, live on the lower floors of apartment blocks, specify they can’t be above the 3rd floor when they book into in hotels… How did I cope with my panic attacks? Okay, I gave up on the cinema and theatre for a while, but in my professional life, I had to find other ways around it. I found coping mechanisms.
For example, I had to go to a three day conference for my employer, at the end of which I had to give in a report on current trends, opinions, contacts made. I was anxious but, as I always did, told myself it would be fine. It wasn’t. I went into the first session (aisle seat, back row next to the door) and spent the whole 45 minutes gripping my seat to keep me from running. And I was looking at three further days of this. Something drastic had to be done.
I checked that the speaker notes from all the sessions would be made available by email after the conference. I picked up all the literature which was available. During the coffee breaks and lunch breaks, I worked the room like there was no tomorrow. I talked to as many people as I could, asked them about the sessions they had been in, their thoughts on trends in the sector, their sources of information, collected their business cards… After the breaks, I disappeared into the hotel coffee shop, typed up all my notes and made a list of next actions, things to follow up. For the three days, I didn’t go into another single formal session but still went back to my employer with a very comprehensive report. They got what they needed and I did it in a way that worked for me.
The point is, whether you have panic attacks, phobias or any kind of fear which holds you back, don’t let it stop you. I am not saying, “man up, just break through it” - I know from personal experience that is not how it works. However, again from my own experience, I know that it can be possible to have panic attacks and find ways to work around them.
There is a quote in an interview with Rebecca Front which I love and with which I totally identify: "I don't want to be defined by being scared of things. I want to be defined by all the things that I can do.”
So, what can you do?
|Posted on 9 May, 2019 at 5:50||comments (0)|
Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels
Did you buy food this week?
I bet you did, whether it was a big, organised weekly shop, grabbing a sandwich as you were dashing between meetings, or something inbetween. Whether you love and savour food or just see it as a necessary fuel, it is something that we all need to survive.
I mention this blindingly obvious fact because I was in Sainsbury's last week (other major food retailers are available) selecting vegetables and I heard myself thinking peevishly, "but I did this last week...".
After I had taken in the ridiculousness of the thought, I noticed that it reminded me of something which a couple of clients had mentioned. In their different situations, they had done some marketing (some online and some face to face) and then had waited for the rush of new clients. Which hadn't happened, at least not to the extent they had expected. They thought they just had to do the marketing/networking once and that would open the floodgates to everlasting business.
They hadn't realised that in the same way that we constantly need food to fuel our bodies day to day, our businesses need the daily (or at least weekly) fuel of marketing to help keep them alive. Like our food, we often need less than we think, but it needs to be consistent and good quality. Whatever your preferred marketing methods, you need to build them into your regular routines, whether it is 10 minutes a day on Twitter, a networking meeting a week, an hour a week on phone calls to contacts. Pick your tools, like your favourite meals, and use them regularly. And now and then, throw in something new to vary your diet or for a treat.
|Posted on 2 May, 2019 at 5:20||comments (0)|
There is a common thread which comes up when I talk to creatives about their businesses. They produce work for clients on time, on budget and turn up for meetings. They have a thoroughly professional attitude towards their clients. However, along the way, they often forget their most important client - their own business.
Marketing, accounts, research, etc., can get pushed down the list in favour of all the things they prefer doing instead and then they find themselves having to do all the other stuff in a mad rush, or it just not getting down at all.
I will happily admit that I used to be guilty of this myself. I would have long lists of all the things I needed to do to which just kept getting longer. Then I would feel guilty about not getting things done which would put my into a bad mood. I got to the stage where I was fed up with my own behaviour and found a neat, simple trick which has proved very successful for me and which I have passed on to clients.
I make appointments to have meetings with my own business. On the first of the month, I have a regular hour long meeting with the ‘accounts’ department where I sort out my monthly receipts, update my cashflow and budgets, etc. Once or twice a month, I meet with the ‘marketing‘ department. And every 2 months, I have a planning day. The key is that I put the meetings in the diary in advance, make sure I have prepared for them and only cancel them if I have actual paid work which can’t be done at another time.
The advantages of this are several:
• it makes sure that I am keeping track of the important aspects of keeping my business running
• it makes sure that I am taking my business seriously
• by seeing the business as a separate entity to myself, it allows me to be a little more objective about it
• when I was starting out, it sounded a lot better to say “I can’t do that day, I have a meeting with a client” rather than “I can do anytime you want”!
So, when is your next meeting with your most important client?
|Posted on 11 April, 2019 at 8:15||comments (0)|
I am often asked about why it is important to have a vision for where you want to be or go in your life and creative career.
I have talked about visioning before and I am a firm believer that if you know what you want, you will be surprised at how often seemingly inconsequential conversations can lead you to someone who can help you or point you in the right direction.
For example, a few years ago, I was in a shop buying stationery. The charming sales assistant commented on my then winter coat, a full length scarlet job with gold buttons, and wondered where I got it. I confessed that the coat had been purchased from the costume department when I was working with English National Opera. (It was worn by the divine Susan Bullock in 'The Prince of Homburg'). She asked if I was a singer. (Definitely not, as much as I would love to be!) Through talking about arts, she told me she wanted to work in films and was writing and creating short videos.
My vision was (and is) to work with creative people so they go off and fill the world with wonderful creativity; her vision was to become a filmmaker. We connected over the coat, I told her about my work and I offered to send her some links which might be useful to her. A few months later, she became a client. A few years on, she is now working as a freelance cameraperson and also making her own films.
However well you plan where to go and who to talk to, how many of us would write down, “find a coach/mentor out of the customers who come into the shop”
You never know who you are talking to, or who they know. Know what you want, get your message out there and you could be surprised at what turns up.
|Posted on 28 March, 2019 at 11:10||comments (0)|
Can you remember all the things you have done in your professional career?
I ask because in recent weeks, it is a common thread which has woven its way through client conversations. In the busyness of day to day professional life, we can forget some of the great work we have done in the past, or it has got lost as it was a small part of a bigger project. It could also be that we do not recognise the relevance of what we have done in the hurry of actually doing it.
Every so often, it is worth sitting down with your CV, a blank piece of paper and a pen (or a computer if you prefer) and write down everything you did as part of a particular job / project. (This is relevant even if you are just starting out – look at any extra curricular projects you did at school / university which gave you new skills.) For example, a long time ago I had a post as an administrator with a charity and did all the usual administratory things you would expect. But along the way, under that great job description catchall of “and any other duties...”, I curated an exhibition of Shona sculpture at the Commonwealth Institute and managed large conferences.
Once you have gone through your CV, add in anything you have done on a voluntary basis. Because we do this type of work out of a personal commitment, we often forget to acknowledge what we might have learned. (For example, in my voluntary life, I have developed very good group management skills through chairing boards.)
Okay, we’ve done professional and voluntary lives, what about your life “outside” your professional practice everyday life? Think about all the skills and experience you have there.
Yes, okay, with some of these, you might need to develop the skills further, but you already have a good introduction.
What is the point of doing all this work?
If you want to move into another area of work and need to make an application for a job or project, seeing what you have already done can give you valuable evidence which you can add to your CV / covering letter / project brief, as well as giving you confidence that you have already had relevant experience.
If you aren’t sure which direction you want to move into, it can give you a great overview of options, things you might not have immediately considered. For example, my running conferences could be a great opening for a new career in event management.
Even if you think you don’t have particular experience, you can often find that skills you have are transferrable. For example, you may see a piece of work as successfully creating a piece of sculpture to be installed at a particular gallery on a particular date. In business skills terms, straight away we are looking at time management, logistics, client liaison, resource management, budgeting...
Another important element to all this is that it gives you a chance to sit back and acknowledge exactly what you can do and have achieved to date. You would be surprised how many of us forget just how versatile and great we are on a day to day basis!
Block yourself out half an hour, get a cup of your favourite beverage and do your own skills audit. At the end, read it through then say, “Yeah, that’s me and I’m great!” Then look how you can use all these newly recognised skills to move your practice forward.
|Posted on 21 March, 2019 at 5:55||comments (0)|
With Easter a few weeks away and the sun streaming through my office window, it looks like Spring has sprung!
It's time to open the windows, get some fresh air through the place and spring clean your home. Why not harness the energy of the season and spring clean your professional life?
Here are five tips on giving your career a Spring boost.
1. Take a fresh look at your vision.
Do you know where you want to be in five years? Is your vision still pulling you forward? Remind yourself why this vision is important to you and how you will feel when you achieve it. If your vision needs tweaking, this is a great time to do it so that it is challenging and exciting. If you don't have a vision, get out into the sun and give yourself time to let your mind create your future.
2. Spring clean your space.
Set aside time to go through all your files, drawers, cupboards, etc., in your workspace. It gives you a chance to throw out anything which is cluttering your space, redesign your space and it can also throw up ideas and opportunities.
3. Take a new look at things.
We can all get into a rut, doing things the same way because it is how you have always done it. During the course of a week, check out all the things you do regularly. For each thing, ask yourself "is this the best way to do this? Would another way be more stimulating or effective? Could I even get someone else to do it?" If you are happy with the way it is going, great! If not, how could you change it?
4. Meet new people.
Find opportunities to mix with different people who can inspire and stimulate ideas. They could become clients, collaborators or friends or just spark new ways of seeing things.
5. Refresh your self belief.
Embrace your talents, your passions, your creativity, your drive and develop your positive attitude. If you believe you can do it, you will enrol others in your vision.
|Posted on 7 March, 2019 at 4:15||comments (0)|
"You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don't try to forget the mistakes, but you don't dwell on it. You don't let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space."
I hate making mistakes, of looking 'bad', or like an idiot or of letting people down. Or rather I should say, I hate me making mistakes. If other people do it, I encourage them to see mistakes as life lessons. I always say that the only person who lives a mistake free life is the person who is doing nothing (although that could be their biggest mistake of all).
But when I think back on my many mistakes, I have gained a wealth of experience and learning. For example:
My four failed driving tests (devastating to my confidence at the time) meant I had to have more lessons and driving practice and by the time I passed my fifth test, threw away my L plates and finally hit the road, I was a reasonably accomplished driver.
When training as an Image Consultant, I sailed through the first few weeks getting every client right. The only problem was I had absolutely no idea how I was doing it. This was great for the ego but I knew that I had nothing to fall back on if my instinct let me down. Then one day, in front of all my fellow trainees and all the tutors, I got a client completely wrong. But as my errors were explained, my audience could almost hear the sound of the pennies dropping as I finally grasped what the process was all about. At that moment, I became more confident as a consultant.
Not making mistakes can also create a barrier between you and others. I was once a secretary to a quite high flying board, made up of CEOs and Senior Management of big blue chip companies. I would write up minutes and then before the next meeting, I would have to phone all these powerful people, chasing them up to make sure they had done their actions. Although individually these were nice chaps, I was intimidated by their positions and found phoning them a real discomfort. Then at a meeting reviewing the last minutes, I noticed I had made a huge, glaring mistake. I prayed no one had seen it. Alas, when we got to it, one of the CEOs pointed it out with great glee. He was delighted to see that I was capable of making a complete dog's breakfast out of something. It seemed that whilst I was anxious about making the monthly calls to him, he was equally anxious about getting the calls, because he usually hadn't done what he was supposed to, and I, as far as he could see, was always perfect. I found out the rest of the board felt the same. What for me seemed a horrendous mistake which would ruin my reputation FOREVER actually created a much better relationship between me and the board. Who'd have thought it?!
We all make mistakes. That isn't a problem. The problem is if you let the mistakes define you, where you create the self image that mistakes = bad person, or hold yourself back in case it all goes horribly wrong. Embrace the mistakes, learn the lessons and move on, a more knowledgeable and experienced person.
And if all else fails, just remember what Fred Astaire said: "The higher up you go, the more mistakes you are allowed. Right at the top, if you make enough of them, it's considered to be your style."
How stylish will you be today?
|Posted on 28 February, 2019 at 4:40||comments (0)|
We do it all the time. That little voice is always chattering on in our heads: remember to buy milk; I need to phone that person back; I haven’t checked my Facebook for 20 minutes; I must get this done by the end of the day; yadda, yadda, yadda.
But how often do we give ourselves the chance to think, really think? Thinking as in giving yourself time to really develop a thought. I don’t know about you, but when I was working in a corporate environment, I felt I always had to be seen to be working, tapping away at a keyboard, reading articles, on the phone, doing, doing, doing, when what I really needed was to just stare into space and let my mind wander around a topic. Besides a feeling of needing to be seen to be busy, we have all the digital distractions which compel us to be always connected, terrified that we might be missing out on something.
It is fascinating to see how many of my Take Five contributors talk about going for a walk when they need to get through a creative block, to let their mind wander. Getting the physical and mental space to either follow a thread of thought, or to let lots of ideas come rushing in is very refreshing and stimulating. If walking doesn’t do it for you, or that seems too long a time to go without your digital fix (or you can’t get out of your office), you can use the time it takes to drink your coffee, or wash the dishes, to give yourself a little oasis of calm.
Giving yourself this time isn’t just for getting ideas, but also developing them. Sometimes, because we are busy and need a quick fix, we take the first option we think of. Most times, this is fine. But if we have the time to let the thought wander, the idea can grow or deepen as we can gain insight. This is what we do in coaching sessions, giving you the space and time to find your own answers and find out what you really think, deep down, about a situation.
What do you do to give yourself time to think?
|Posted on 2 January, 2019 at 5:55||comments (0)|
This is the time of year when people set their New Year’s Resolutions - getting fit, getting a new job, starting a new hobby, finding love…
A lot of people I have spoken with find New Year’s Resolutions a chore, things which most often fail, which we end up feeling bad about.
I was talking about this recently with a client and asking what they wanted for this next year. They were caught between two extremes. On the one hand, they had a goal which seemed to them too small - to be able to mediate for 5 minutes a day. At the other extreme, they want to write a novel, but they couldn’t see how they could do that alongside an existing and successful creative practice.
She had more or less decided to do neither meaning she would have got to the end of the year in more or less the position which she began it.
This particular client has been thinking about her book for a few years with notes written and a rough chapter outline. The only thing stopping her in this (and in her mediation practice) was her commitment, her choosing that this was something which was important to her.
With my support, she has reminded herself why these things are important to her, why she had wanted to do them in the first place, the changes they will make to her life and her well being. Out of that picture of a new future, she has begun to create a plan, a way of moving forward. She has blocked chunks of time into her diary when she can write, and put a reminder on her calendar to do one small thing a day towards her book.
She started ‘road testing’ some possible ways of working in December, to give her a head start on the year. We are only a little way in, but it is going well so far. She has changed her mindset from, “one day I will write a novel”, to “I am a novelist”. With her business as busy as it is, she possibly won’t have it finished or be ready to publish by December, but she will have it much further along the line that it is at present, a work in progress rather than, in her words, an “epic fail”. And her meditation programme will help to reinforce a mindset of calm and possibility.
How can you change your mindset to support you so that you can choose is important to you for the next 12 months, so that you can look back, on 31st December, having achieved your goals?