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Creatives: Start Giving Your Work the Value It Deserves

Creatives: Start Giving Your Work the Value It Deserves

There’s a hot button issue trending in the news right now: Five prominent players on the U.S. women’s soccer team are filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, the sport’s governing body, demanding gender equality when it comes to pay. Their argument is sound — the U.S. women’s soccer team brought in $20 million more in revenue than its male counterpart in 2015, and have been wildly successful in recent history, with three World Cups and four Olympic golds — yet the ladies make just around 25% of what the men do.

Not that they should even need those trophies, medals, and ticket sales to demand what they deserve. They kick the same ball; they play on the same regulation field; the clock keeps the same time.

This both heats me right up (as most instances of gender equality rightly do) and makes me incredibly happy. (That they’re finally demanding the pay parity they’ve deserved all along.) Yet, I’d still like to point out a lesser talked about issue that hits close to home each and every day as an artist, designer, and entrepreneur: inequities in the valuing of creatives’ work.

Stop giving your talents away

Let me back up a bit and explain why the story of the U.S. women’s soccer team made me even more compelled to write this post…

A few weeks ago, I was made aware of a competition. The organization sponsoring the competition was putting out a call for a new logo. Artists could submit designs, and the winning design would be used in the rebrand, with the artist also taking home a prize.

This struck a few major chords for me. First, the organization was advertising this competition as if it was an incredible opportunity for designers. Second, the criteria for winning? Entirely subjective. And finally, the prize for the winning design, while a fun prize, is valued incredibly low. (I’ll give you a hint: It doesn’t even hit triple digits.)

The thing is, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard about a competition like this, nor will it be the last time. Artists and designers are consistently asked to give their work away for free in contests or for auctions of all different sorts. And while I do believe there is a time and place for giving your skills and time away (I’ll cover that in a bit), there are also a few major issues with it being the “norm.”

The first: When we, creatives, consistently give our work away, we lower our perceived level of value.

Second: We give others the right to find creative businesses less professional.

Third: We lessen our chances of ever getting the level of pay or respect which we deserve.

Remember what your work is worth

Pretend with me for a moment. You walk into your doctor’s office for a consultation, where they’re detailing out what your surgery will cost. They say it’s a $4,500 procedure. You offer $1,000. They laugh.

Let’s try your accounting firm. You head in there for your year-end tax appointment, where your accountant is preparing your taxes for submission. She prints out your bill for her time. It’s $499. You offer $50. She laughs.

Would they really laugh? Maybe not. But bargaining with doctors, accountants, lawyers, and other, typically non-creative professionals simply isn’t even something we think to do. Nor do we ask them to submit their work for competitions, where others decide on their merits, or give away their work for a silent auction, where it might sell for ¼ of what it’s worth.

Yet there’s hardly a second thought when it comes to bargaining with creatives or asking them for free work.

So please, remember this: Your work is worth more. As creatives, we give our heart to our work. We give our soul to our creations. We lend each and every one of our talents to each and every client piece so that no two are the same. We don’t learn our trades in a textbook. We learn it by practicing it every day; by experimenting with different techniques; by finding our style.

And while we might not be directly saving lives or keeping businesses from being audited by the IRS, we are positively impacting brands, extending businesses’ influence, and increasing bottom lines.

When it’s okay to give your work away

There are always two sides to every argument, of course. And I do believe that there is a time and place to give your work away. College students looking to build their portfolios might give their time away in exchange for feedback. Professionals looking to develop a new skill might give their time away in return for the learning opportunity. Artists, like myself, might find that the best way to support a cause they care about is to give of their time and skill. These are all valid reasons to give your time and work away — but be mindful of the frequency and be intentional in your choices.

Let’s not be okay with the status quo

Pay parity between genders is incredibly important — and it’s finally getting the attention it rightly deserves. I give applause to the ladies willing to shun the status quo and be bold in coming forward.

Let’s do the same, creatives. Let’s not be okay with the inequity of value when it comes to our work. Let’s make it clear how important what we do is. Most of all? Let’s start walking our talk and giving our work the respect it deserves, ourselves.

If you’re on board, I’d love if you’d click the handy link below to tweet this post. Have more to add? Tell me in the comments!

Warm Letters From the Heart (and Soul) of Your Business

handwritten letters

There’s nothing quite like heading out to the mailbox and spying an envelope that clearly isn’t a #10, stock white, windowed piece of mail surely containing a bill, donation request, appointment reminder, or credit card offer. It’s that feeling of warmth that comes from seeing a friend or family member’s handwriting; the anticipation that follows as you wonder what might be inside.

But unfortunately, it’s more of an exception rather than a rule these days. Snail mail is a thing of the past…Or is it?

A Valentine’s Day reminder

Remember this time of year back in grade school, when we were tasked with bringing in enough valentines to pass around? Some were homemade with construction paper and markers; some were store bought with fun characters and designs; still others were attached to suckers or conversation hearts (yum!).

If you’re anything like me, your heart fluttered as you walked around the room passing out your creations — and it flip-flopped even more so as your desk became littered with valentines signed from other people in your class. (Especially that person…we all had that person.)

Aside from the celebration of Valentine’s Day, there was something that made the exchange of valentines particularly special — the fact that it was the one time we could count on getting handwritten notes.

Adding a personal touch

For the most part, the love of receiving handwritten notes doesn’t fade well into adulthood. While we shun junk mail and sometimes attempt to avoid the post office at all costs (particularly around the holidays), there is still something incredibly special about the oft-forgotten method of communicating that is snail mail.

Digital communications make life convenient — and I’m incredibly grateful for email, social media, and other digital forms of communication for so many reasons (my location-independent graphic design business being one of them). But with the prevalence of such channels, they’ve largely lost their personal touch: the personal touch that comes from knowing that someone picked out a card or purchased special stationery, took the time to write a message and sign their name, address and stamp it, and drop it into a mailbox.

Warm, handwritten notes are incredibly important in a world of colder communications.

Don’t wait for opportunity — create it

Connecting with others via handwritten notes can apply to so many facets of life — for me, I use them to build relationships as a business owner, a friend, and a daughter/mom/wife/sister.

While holidays provide the perfect catalyst, don’t wait for them to pop up — create your own opportunities to connect with those around you.

Here are a few ideas for how to do just that:

– Send a quick thank you to a client: for their business, for their referrals, for their appreciation of your work

– Choose a friend to surprise with a random note to say you’re thinking of them

– Grab a few cute, anytime cards and have them on hand for when you feel a family member could use a pick-me-up

A fun tip: Sites like Postable help you easily collect addresses and will remind you when birthdays are approaching. I also like to put my handwriting to the test by writing reminders in my paper planner.

Timely as it is with Valentines Day fast approaching now, what if you were to simply schedule a letter-writing session of approximately 10-20 minutes once per week? When that calendar reminder pops up, you can grab a sheet of stationery or a card, write it out, and mail it. Whoever’s on your mind is the perfect candidate.

Make someone’s day

How easy is it to make someone’s day? All it takes is $0.49 and a little focused writing time. Worth it? Absolutely. It makes you feel important. It makes others feel important.

Spoiler alert! I’m beginning work on revamping my fine art website in just a few weeks — and before we know it, it’ll be live. In the shop there, I’ll be selling notecard sets you can keep on hand for those snail mail letter writing sessions.

Make Space for What Matters: Unplug & Disconnect

unplug and disconnect

Where is your cell phone sitting right now? Is it next to you on your desk, over on the kitchen counter — or better yet, in your hand?

I can tell you that for me, that last option is where my cell phone has been far too often, for far too long.

A wake up call

I was recently at a business retreat (with a fantastic group of women), where we were asked to put our phones away while attending the morning session.

A simple request, right? Well, I have a confession to make: this was sincerely difficult. I have gotten into such a habit of looking at it: checking my email; scrolling through Facebook to see what’s going on; scanning Instagram for the latest. In just a few hours, I felt a weird sense of withdrawal that quickly opened my eyes.

The wake up call continued for the rest of the trip — from the restaurants I dined at to the airport I walked through to travel home. Everyone heads down, living life through their screens. To me, this is still a crazy phenomenon — and one that I’ve only recently realized I’ve succumbed to.

And it’s not just the airport or the restaurant. It’s in line at the grocery store. It’s in the few minutes before my yoga class begins. Sadly, sometimes it’s at the red light. We feel the need to fill each and every moment — and we’re lulled into a false sense of security and productivity when it’s filled with something on the screen.

Unplugging for a few hours at this retreat was exactly the experience I needed to issue a wake up call and inspire a realization that a detox is in order.

Unplug + disconnect

The fact that we are able to connect with people around the globe at the click of a button never ceases to amaze me. But instead of treating it as the tool it’s meant to be, we’ve exploited it to the point where it’s a burden we carry, and one that interrupts what life is all about: building relationships and experiencing moments that turn into stories.

Unplugging for me is about more than turning the cell phone off and hiding it in a drawer — unplugging and disconnecting means freeing myself from the need to be in touch. It means opening up the space to feel connected to what’s in front of me, instead of what’s on a screen.

With that space comes possibility: the possibility of new observations, of new growth, of new ideas. It’s a release from the connectedness of being plugged in; one where the connection is with ourselves and our immediate surroundings. This is the release I feel when in front of a blank canvas painting, out on a walk with Banks, or in the middle of an Adirondack lake in my guideboat. It’s a release I want to feel much more often, and it only requires one thing: the discipline to unplug and be okay with it.

Make yourself available

Anytime I’m anxious, uncomfortable, or feeling unproductive, my first instinct is to grab my phone. I’m guilty of it. I’ll venture to say you’re guilty of it. It’s time for me to start ignoring that first instinct — and I challenge you to do the same, as well.

As we approach especially busy times over the next few weeks filled with numerous gatherings of family and friends, I encourage you to unplug. Disconnect.

Disconnecting gives you space. Fill the space with observance; with gratitude; with thoughts that matter instead of aimless scrolling.

When you unplug and disconnect, you make yourself available for the people, the moments, and the experiences that are happening in the present — the ones that are easy to miss when your head is down and your mind is elsewhere. Build relationships and collect stories. Your work and your life will be better for it.

Will you join me in intentionally disconnecting?

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone in Life and Design

life is amplified at the end of your comfort zone

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch

Lately, this quote has been the theme to my life. In both personal and professional ways, stepping outside of my comfort zone has drastically changed my outlook on life as well as the impact I’m able to make with my business. And I’m confident it can for you, too. Here are my stories:

On a stage in front of more than 300 women…

Is not where I’d ever thought I’d be if you asked me even a few months ago. Let’s rewind: a few weeks ago, I was flying out on a Sunday to attend a business mastermind retreat with my mentor, Christine Kane. Just two days before I was scheduled to leave, I was contacted to see if I’d be interested in introducing Christine for the opening segment of the retreat, all about packages. The “rules”: use 5-6 minutes, speak from your heart, and introduce Christine.

I didn’t hesitate. I said yes. I was incredibly honored to be asked.

With very little time to process, I went about my day, prepared to leave, and flew out on Sunday. On Monday morning, I took the stage with a few bullet-pointed notecards. But it only took a few seconds to realize I wasn’t going to lay an eye on them. I let go. I saw the women in that audience, knew my story of overcoming obstacles and building packages for Harris Studios could help them, and I told my story.

Could I tell you what I said on that stage today? Hardly. But it resonated. Because I stepped outside of my comfort zone, embraced my originality, and owned my voice.

‘Captaining’ a guide boat in the Adirondacks

Realizing the power of breaking down that barrier lit a fire inside of me, one that extended beyond my business and into my personal life. While many step outside of their comfort zone to find excitement, there’s also sanctity in stepping outside to find solitude. For me, that happened in one of my favorite places in this world: Brantingham Lake in the Adirondacks. And it happened in the form of a vintage Adirondack guide boat.

I was browsing Facebook one day when I saw the boat for sale. I took a chance and made an offer. It was a big decision. But it was easy. Within days, I was rowing a historic guide boat — my boat. I’m rowing backwards in my wicker seat, knowing I can stop and float at anytime while I write, paint, or read. I slow down. And in that way — alone in the middle of a lake, not on stage in front of 300 people — I find and own my voice.

How your work can be inspired by stepping outside your comfort zone

The true beauty in stepping outside of your comfort zone is this: when you let go of doubts, ignore judgments, and open your mind, you become your most authentic self.

Doing this for your business means connecting on a deeper level with the audience you’re most qualified to serve: those who share your beliefs, feel resolve in your message, and can benefit from what you have to offer.

Ordinary doesn’t sell anymore. Safe isn’t compelling. It’s only by putting yourself and your business out there in a genuine way, whether it’s through speaking in front of an audience, sharing your vulnerabilities on Instagram, or trying something new with your services, that you can realize your full potential.

Your work will be better for it. You’ll connect with the audience you’re seeking in a more authentic way. And, best of all, you’ll discover opportunities you didn’t previously think were in the realm of possibility.

And when this extends into your personal life? This means deeper relationships; more self-confidence, and a happier life.

Light your own fire

Let go of pretenses. Ignore self-doubt. Step outside of what would normally be expected of you (expectations set by both others and yourself). Then, and only then, can you realize the potential of who you are and what you have to offer.

It took stepping outside my comfort zone to prove to myself that I have a voice. A powerful voice. I can heal. I can help. I can share. And through that, I can become a stronger business woman. I can become a stronger mentor. I can become a stronger friend.

Try something new. Explore uniqueness. Use your voice to express who you are and where you’re going.

I have one edit to this popular quote: Life is amplified at the end of your comfort zone. I had — and have — a wonderful life within my comfort zone. But it’s only when I step outside that I see the potential for what it can be; what I can do. It’s amplified all that I have, and all that I hope to be.

What’s one thing you can do today to step outside your comfort zone? How will that impact your brand, and your voice?

Three Branding Myths We Need to Debunk Right Now

business branding myths

There’s a lot of buzz about branding. From one-person solo businesses to large corporations, the importance of a strong brand has only gotten more prominent as time goes on and companies rely on exceptional experiences and word of mouth to boost their sales. Your brand, quite simply, has to be on point.

But with all the buzz, there’s a lot out there to read and learn — and not everything you’re hearing is true — or necessary — for your business.

Three branding myths worth debunking

1 – Your brand can be created in no time. (Actually, that your brand can be created, at all.)

If there’s one thing you need to know right now, it’s this: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your brand won’t be, either. Branding requires research, time, and strong doses of intuition. The most important aspect of branding is authenticity, and because of that, it requires the patience to figure out what your business is, what your business stands for, and who your business serves. And all of that means you need time.

What should be done in this time?

Observation. Watch your clients, documenting how they interact with your business and current brand.

Research. Survey clients to gather stories. Get the lay of the competitive landscape. Create benchmarks and identify gaps.

Mission evaluation. Decide who you most want to serve and how you can best serve them.

Branding isn’t about creation. It’s about discovering what’s already there, and knowing it will evolve. When you allow for intentional and productive time to evaluate your business and where your brand stands, you and your branding strategist will naturally uncover your brand.

2 – Your brand is all about you.

The second most important thing to know is this: while your brand is a reflection of you and your business, it is not all about you. Your brand is the key that opens the gate to connect with your ideal customers, and because of that, your brand has to speak directly to them.

While you’re in the discovery process, take the observations of how people are interacting with your business and where that intersects with your mission, and note what speaks to them most. What do they come to you for? What desire or need does your business fulfill? Your brand has to be uncovered with the customer in mind — because it’s what connects with them that will ultimately dictate what your brand is all about.

3 – Your logo = your brand

Finally, this is perhaps my favorite branding myth to debunk: there are many people out there who will equate your logo with your brand. While your logo is a crucial piece of your brand, your brand is so much more than just the logo: your brand is a portfolio of the colors, type, tone, and ethos of your business.

So where do elements like your logo come in? Your logo, website, and marketing materials are vehicles to carry your brand, as are you, your team, and your ambassadors. Powerful, intentional branding is about activating and empowering those vehicles to tell your story.

The truth about branding

With three strong myths debunked, let’s get to one truth: your business is your brand. And a powerful, relatable brand is imperative for your success as a business.

I want to help you uncover where your current brand stands. Check out my free ebook, What Does Your Brand Say? and when you’re ready to level up in your branding and feel its impact on your business, book a complimentary (yes, free!) Brand Clarity Call with me.

To debunking myths + celebrating strong brands!