Pricing, branding, finding clients, bookkeeping, marketing - there are many hurdles to starting a business. But one of the biggest hurdles can often be ourselves.
Are perfectionism, procrastination, and comparison holding you back from launching and building your creative business?
If so, I’m sharing how I’ve learned to deal with all of the above in the last 4 years since starting Elle & Company in this Ellechat.
Episode 9 Livestream Replay
Episode 9 Podcast
Ellechat is now available on iTunes! Listen to the episode by clicking the link below and be sure to subscribe to stay up to date on new episodes.
Lauren Hooker: Hello, everyone. Welcome to this week's Ellechat on how to handle the emotional ups and downs of running a creative business.
Just a couple things about today's Ellechat. Usually I do slides to go along with everything. Usually that's when I'm teaching on a topic. But today I wanted it to be more conversational. This is something that I have input on, the emotional highs and lows since I'm about to enter into my fourth year of Elle & Company, which is hard to believe, in January. But I'm not an expert. I still struggle with some of these things from time to time. So I want it to be more of a conversation. I didn't want to be glued necessarily to my notes or to slides. I wanted to be able to interact with you all.
I was really encouraged by just how interactive you were before the Ellechat even started, so I encourage you to keep that going. Missy says her biggest struggle is overwhelm and burnout. Hannah says she feels like what she's doing is not going to be good enough, so she tends to overthink and get overwhelmed, and I can relate to that as well.
I'm going to cover as many of these topics as I can. To be quite honest, I don't normally talk about the feelings and emotions of running a business. I've actually tried to steer away from that because I just don't want to feel like I'm ever complaining on social media because I feel grateful to be doing what I'm doing. I get to do what I love all day long, but there are some huge road blocks and hurdles when it comes to emotions. I do realize that sometimes the biggest hurdles of starting a business and keeping it running can often be ourselves and our own emotions keeping us back. Oftentimes, I like to focus on inspiring and encouraging action, or encouraging people, not necessarily through focusing on these topics a lot but through action. How can we act on things and move past it.
But today is different. I've had a lot of you ask me how do I deal with procrastination, how do I deal with moving past perfectionism, so I wanted to share that with you today and get your feedback on it. So earlier this week I asked the Elle & Company community in preparation for this Ellechat for feedback. If you aren't a part of the Elle & Company Facebook group, I'd encourage you to ask me to add you. I've love to add you. It's a great community there for feedback, asking questions, and earlier this week, I feel like I'm the one asking a lot of questions. I love the polls feature, and I asked what is something that you're dealing with, what are some of the biggest topics you're dealing with, and I threw a couple out there, and then I asked people to weigh in with their own feedback, too, and I got a lot of helpful insight on what you all might be struggling with and everything that was listed is something that I've dealt with and am still dealing with. Not necessarily all of them. Some have gotten better over time.
I don't want you to feel like I am teaching on this, I'm not even teaching, but rather talking about these topics because I'm not a pro at them. I'm not. But hopefully, I can spur on some conversation and maybe some tips for moving past them and I would love to get your insight along the way. So that being said, I'm going to dive in. The first big thing from the poll in the Elle & Company community was procrastination.
How do you continue to get things done on time? How do you move past procrastination?
I definitely deal with this. I love to be productive, but I'm also a perfectionist, so I feel like that keeps me back from getting stuff done because if I can't do it perfectly, I don't even want to get started on it, so I don't know if you all can relate to that, too, but it's a real problem for me.
Set goals and incentives
So, for procrastination, I find it really helpful to set goals and incentives because if I don't have a goal to work toward, I will not have any motivation to get tasks done. This is big scale and small scale goals. So this is daily goals. If I really need to get a blog post done, and I'm not feeling any motivation, then I need to set a goal. Sometimes it's even something stupid like if I get this blog post done before 3 p.m., I'm going to treat myself to Starbucks or something like that. I have to trick myself into getting tasks done, trick myself with a reward. Or maybe it's something like if I get this amount of work done by my lunch break, I can watch an episode of Project Runway, which I'm into. I'm kind of ashamed, but kind of not.
So I have to trick myself and motivate myself with those incentives. If I don't have a big goal that I'm working toward, it often falls flat. Something ... Julia, I'm not the only one. Julia loves Project Runway, too. So that's awesome. I kind of agree with you as well, Julia, about the twins.
It's funny. I haven't announced this on social media yet, but I'm 17 weeks pregnant, so we're really excited about that. I'm due in April. This is our first baby. But having that goal of trying to have ... Thank you guys. You all are awesome. Thank you. Yes, we're so excited. I haven't posted it on social media yet, so nobody else really knows, but you all are like the Elle & Company faithful here, so I felt comfortable letting you all know. I've known for a few weeks now. It was actually right after we moved to Florence. A couple days later I found out, and we were so excited. I was feeling extremely sick the last two months, so I'd try to hop on these Ellechats and pull it together for y'all. But I'm starting to feel better. Yes, thank you all. You guys are awesome.
So having that in mind, I really want to be able to take a few months off after I have this baby, so that's my big goal that I'm working toward right now. So the last two weeks, now that I'm feeling better, I felt this huge push to want to get content done ahead of time. So I feel like having these big goals gives me something to work toward. If you don't have any big goals that you're working toward, that might be why you're procrastinating on tasks or even small goals to work towards. Set some small goals throughout your work day. But I'd encourage you to do that. Thank you all for all of your kind words. You all are awesome.
Find the right work environment
Work environment. Oftentimes, I'm more productive in different environments. So if I go and work from a coffee shop, often I'm much more productive than staying home and working from the couch, although it kind of just depends on the week. But if you feel like you are more productive or it's more of a treat to get out of the house and go somewhere to get work down or maybe just bunker down in your office with a candle lit and some good music, sometimes that'll get the ball rolling. Sometimes I'll save my least favorite tasks for my most favorite places. So if I'm really struggling to get something done, I will go somewhere else to get it done and just try to remove the distractions that come along working from home or wherever it is, wherever else it is that I don't seem to work well from.
Get an accountability partner
So setting goals, incentives, work environment can help with procrastination, accountability. Something I've been doing often is using Slack, and I have an accountability partner. Her name's Chaitra. She lives out in Seattle. I'll hop on Slack in the morning, even though I'm three hours ahead of time from her because she's on the west coast, and I will tell her my top 3 tasks for the day. And then I'll check in and let her know of my progress, and she'll do the same with me, and sometimes she's like “Lauren, where are you? What are you working on today?” and it's really helpful to have her there just checking in on me. Even if someone isn't right beside you working with you, and especially if you're working from home and working by yourself, having an accountability partner can be huge. If you don't know anyone, partner up with someone who's tuning in live today. Partner up with somebody in the Elle & Company community. Get on Slack and just talk to each other.
Sometimes just having somebody there is helpful to follow through on things. Having my assistants in Asana looking over my shoulder and being able to see all the tasks that I need to be doing is also really good accountability, too. So if you have assistants or you want to add your accountability partner even to Asana or whatever project management software you use, that's helpful, too.
Set boundaries around your work day
Sometimes I'll also save my most favorite tasks until last. Usually, it's design work. If I'm really looking forward to working on an inspiration board or doing something like that, then I will save it until last because I'm looking forward to it. So it helps me move through those tasks that I don't really want to be doing and I'm procrastinating on because I really want to work on whatever task it is at the end. Also setting boundaries. For those of you who are able to work full time for your business, being able to say I'm working from 9-5 gives me some motivation to get stuff done during that time so I don't have to be working late nights or weekends. And really sticking to the 9-5 is really helpful.
If you don't work full time, I would encourage you to set some working hours outside of your regular day job and protect them and use those boundaries that you've set to spur you on to get the work done in that amount of time. Sometimes, just knowing that the worst part is getting started. For some of you who might be procrastinators like me, you don't even want to start because you feel like you can't do it perfectly. Anybody else with me on that, or am I the weird one here? But yes, Gina says yes, awesome. Glad I'm not the only one. Missy's the same way. I have to remind myself that once I just get started, I get on a roll and I want to keep going. Same thing with just marking tasks off in your planner or your project management system, the more tasks you, even if they're super small and insignificant, the more tasks you check off, the easier it is to just keep on going.
And also just setting back and trying to understand why you're procrastinating in the first place. I read a really great post a couple months ago, and I wish I could remember where I found it and who wrote it to give them credit, but it just asked a couple questions about why you're procrastinating, do you feel unprepared, do you feel like you need to do more research on it before you dive in. Are you just dreading the task outright, why are you procrastinating.
Sometimes I found that when I was writing content, I didn't feel prepared, or when I was working on a design project, I didn't feel prepared, so I needed to step back and think about how I could do more research or sketch more or do something like that so I would feel more prepared for the task instead of procrastinating on it. Another thing ... I promise I'm going to move on from procrastination, but it just kept coming to me. Another thing that I found myself doing that was helpful was breaking up the really big tasks and the smaller tasks so you get those small wins, which seems much more doable and pushes you to keep going because those big tasks can often be so overwhelming.
Find your why
Then lastly, remember the why, why are you doing this task in the first place. If you remember why you're doing it, for me, it's like if I wrote this post, I know that people can benefit from it, so just remembering that why can spur you on to take action, but a lot of procrastinating comes down to self-control, too. So you can try to work through all these things, and I hope these tips were helpful. At the end of the day, sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and push through it and know that getting it done will feel so much better. It's like my husband and I work out at 5:30 in the morning, which is so early. It would not be my choice. It's his. But every morning when I wake up, and I just want to roll over and go back to sleep, I have to remind myself that I never regret getting up and going to the gym, but I always regret sleeping in and not going to the gym.
Same thing holds true with your work. You'll always regret not just getting it done in the first place, but you'll never regret just taking action on it and getting it done in the first place, if that makes sense. Kate says yes. Awesome. If you all have any other tips for not procrastinating and moving past procrastination, I would love to hear them. So feel free if you're tuning in live to leave a comment or if you're listening to the podcast, jump into the Elle & Company community, too. I'm sure I'm not the only one who would love feedback on this.
The second thing that people weighed in on and said they struggled with the most was perfectionism. This is something that I can totally relate to, still really struggle with from time to time, and something I'm sure a lot of you can relate to, too, because I think a lot of creatives, even as creative as they are, and the stigma that comes with being creative seems to be that we're all over the place, but a lot of us are huge perfectionists. So in design school, I used to hear this saying from my professors, and I cringed. Tell me if you cringe when you hear this saying, that done is better than perfect. I would just ... Ugh, I hated that. Because I wanted every little detail of every project to be perfect. I still feel this way especially with client work.
All of you are saying yes, cringing, yes. But I feel like the longer that I'm in business and the longer that I'm working on projects, and I start to see people connect with my work, even though it's not as perfect as I ever want it to be, it gets better. Because the truth is that it's never going to be perfect, and you're always going to find things that you can pick apart and criticize. But you just have to let it go.
Focus on big picture goals
So a few things that helped me with perfectionism and moving past it are focusing on big picture goals. I think perfectionists can be all about the little details, and we can get so wrapped up in the little details that we lose sight of the big picture. So what's the big picture? And that helps you place an importance on the tasks that you have ahead of you? With blog posts, too, you could rework a blog post a million times, and you just have to let it go. I was talking to somebody about this the other day, and they said how do you move past your blog post? I write it once, I come back, I edit it once, and then I just give it to my assistant to be posted. I have to just let it go. Oftentimes I'll read back through it, and I'll be like well it wasn't so bad. It's just in the moment where I can pick it apart.
I'm trying to read your comments. Kate says, "As a creative, I always feel like I can go back to my final product a hundred times. I've been tweaking my own logo daily." Yes, I can totally relate to you on that, Kate. Susanne said, "I'm sure it's awesome by now." I agree with you, Susanne. I'm sure it's great, Kate.
View your work as an ongoing process
All right, another thing that helps with perfectionism is viewing your work and your website especially as an ongoing process because you're always going to find things that you can tweak and find ways that you can improve and even just thinking about things, especially my website for some reason, and even my brand, as like an ongoing process. Something that is a live thing that I can go back and change, not that I should be doing it all the time. But that allows me to just let it go a little more, things within my own business that is.
Also realize that you are your own worst critic. We are the hardest on ourselves. No one else will ever spend the amount of time analyzing and critiquing your work like you do, and oftentimes, once you present the final product, nobody else will see the details that you're stressing out about. You're your own worst critic. Keep that in mind. Refer back to that when you tend to overthink something. If you are a perfectionist, you're going to hate when I tell you this one, but you should set time limits. If you're in a time crunch, you can't be perfecting things. You can't obsess over the details. You just have to let it go. If you find yourself obsessing over the details, set a time limit for when you're going to stop working on it, and take a break from it and stop.
Take breaks in between work periods
Last thing about perfectionism that I'm going to say and suggest is to take breaks in between work periods. I find myself when I am trying to perfect the details, obsessing over details, that I can work myself into a tizzy and just work in circles, and I make no progress, so I have to ... That's where setting time limits can come in handy, too. I have to set parameters on my work time, and take a break and step away from it, because oftentimes, I'll come back to it with fresh eyes and think oh that's better than I thought it was when I was looking at it for the last three hours.
So take breaks in between your work periods, and get feedback from other people, too, and from people who will tell you like it is. But oftentimes, we can be our own worst critics and not see all the good things we have going for us in our projects. Any other feedback on perfectionism is welcome in the comments. Would love to hear from you all. Wendy says, "That's so true. Most people won't even notice all the little details we've poured so much of our time into." Yes. So sometimes it's a good thing to be a details person because it does take those things to the next level, but sometimes it can really hinder you from making good progress.
All right. This is a huge one. I know most of you can relate to it. But comparison is the next thing I want to talk about. Some of these other topics I don't have as many action steps on, but just want to be real with you all and talk to you about it. Comparison was especially hard for me when I first started Elle & Company. So if you're first starting your business, and you feel like you're measuring yourself up to all the other people out there who seem to have it all together, they have everything going for them, their business is doing well, everything seems so easy, you might really like their aesthetic, it can be really hard and really discouraging when you look back at your own work.
Take a break from the people you’re tempted to compare yourself to
I can totally relate to the comparison struggle. The best thing I can tell you to do is to take a break from the people that you're tempted to compare yourself to. If you're following along with people, and you feel like you are constantly looking to what they do for ideas or every time you look at their posts, you start to feel bad about yourself, don't follow along with them anymore. Stop following along with them on social media. Stop following along with their blogs, whatever it takes to step back from it because truly, the thing that helped my business most, especially when it came to blogging was to stop following along with the blogs that I found myself comparing myself to.
Really that helped me come into my own as a writer and just the type of content that I wanted to be sharing. So take a break from those people. Stop following along with them. Don't even be tempted by that. Oftentimes, too, we're so inundated with our own industry. I know a couple of you in the questions section, I think, already, at least one of you, talked about comparison and the difference between inspiration and looking to people for inspiration and copying. I'll get to that in a minute, but I think that all stems from comparison and looking to closely at other people.
Focus on what makes you unique
I'd also encourage you to focus on what makes you unique, and it can be hard to see your unique gifts and talents when you're so busy wishing you had other people's unique gifts and talents. I believe that God gave us all different gifts and that no two people are the same. When you're comparing yourself to other people out there on the internet, you're underestimating and belittling your own gifts. So look for your own gifts and highlight them and focus on the things that you receive great feedback from and go in that direction. Stop looking to other people.
Turn self-doubt into self-motivation
Also turn it into a challenge or turn it into motivation. I'm all about taking some negative things and channeling it into some good things. So turning self-doubt into self-motivation. If I feel like somebody's doing something better than me, then it's going to push me to want to do better. So look at it as a challenge to approach things differently, and just put your own creative spin on it. Highlight your strengths and put your own spin on it. And understand that the people you're comparing yourself to on the internet probably only portray the good on Instagram and other social media outlets. You don't often see the bad that can come with the good. They might be doing really awesome work, seem to have it all together, have the life that you think you want, but they're miserable or they're lonely or they're second guessing themselves or something not so great is happening in their personal lives that you don't have any clue about. So you're comparing yourself to only the good, and you're not really seeing the bad that comes with the good, but you probably definitely see the bad in your own life, so it's easy to get down on yourself.
Nobody wants to portray the bad on Instagram or anywhere else. I don't think people have bad intentions with only sharing the good, but when you're comparing yourself, you're probably only comparing yourself to their good. And I would encourage you to learn to celebrate the gifts of other people. I started learning really quickly especially in the creative industry in a design world that someone can be really good at what they do, and I can celebrate their gifts, but I don't have to copy them or mimic them or compare myself to them because they're different. This happened in college, and this happens still today. Someone might have a really cool design aesthetic that I can think, man, that's awesome. I don't know if you all follow Rifle Paper Company, but Anna Bond, who does all of the beautiful art work for Rifle Paper Company and started the company is awesome.
My aesthetic isn't like hers. I can never paint exactly like her. I can celebrate her gifts. I don't have to mimic her, and I don't have to be doing what she's doing. I can just step back and appreciate it. I love the quote that has been going around. I don't know where it first originated. Maybe you all do. The good for her, not for me mentality. I love that. You can say good for them, not for me, and just ... When it comes to comparison, learn to instead turn it around and celebrate the gifts that other people have.
Log when your perfectionism pops up throughout the day
Any other tips on comparison or how you all deal with comparison are welcome. Alyssa says, "That is an amazing quote." Yeah, I wish I knew who originally said it. Hannah, that's sweet. I'm glad it's helpful for you. Wendy shared something on perfectionism. She said her tip is to keep a journal throughout the day and log when your perfectionism pops up, is it at certain times of the day, or specific tasks, like working with clients, is it when you're dealing with something you feel insecure about. Once I'd kept a journal for about two weeks, I started to notice patterns, and it really helped me change certain habits. That's a really good idea. I love that. Logging when your perfectionism pops up so you can try to figure out a trend and notice patterns and then change certain habits. That's awesome. Thank you for sharing that, Wendy.
See this is why I want to do the Ellechat like this today. It's to read your feedback on this because y'all have a ton of wisdom on these topics, too. So I love that. Thank you, Wendy, for sharing. Another thing, and that could totally be tripping you up, and I can relate to this big time is a fear of failure, especially when things are on the line like money, and you're afraid to put money into a business venture because you're afraid you might fail or just self-esteem and being really discouraged if you fail.
The truth about failure is that it isn't an if, it's a when. So it's not if you're going to fail, it's when you're going to fail. If you read stories of the top entrepreneurs and business people out there, you are going to read stories of their failures and how they fell down a bajillion times and had to learn to get back up just one more time than all of those failures. Cat just jumped up in my lap. Sorry, guys. She always likes to make an appearance on these Ellechats.
I failed many times in my business. The story of the first 6 months of my business was a huge fail. I didn't do well. I was in the red month after month, and it pushed me to actually be strategic in my business and not just expect that because I'm launching a business, it's going to do well. I was super naïve. But I was able to learn from it, and a lot of good came out of it.
I started a collaborative blog a year or two ago, and that didn't do so well. I consider that a failure. I did a course on visual marketing almost two years ago now. That didn't do so great. So I've had my fair share of failures, too. We just don't like to publicize our failures, do we? So if you have failed, don't feel bad about it. You're probably going to fail at some point or another, but it provides the best opportunity to learn. For my visual marketing course, I learned how to market my courses and how to go through a validation process to make sure this is a topic that people really want. I knew visual marketing would be extremely helpful for people, but people didn't know their own need for it, and they weren't searching for it. So it helped me when I went to launch other courses in the future.
So I truly do think that failure provides the best opportunity to learn. Tiffany said, "Celebrate failures. That means you went after something." Exactly. I was going to say that in just a second. If you haven't failed, you're probably playing it too safe. And if you think about major things in your life, like learning to walk, and I know this analogy is used all the time about failure, but you fall down a bajillion times, and you get up every time. It's not a beautiful process. A lot of times, you fall on your face, but eventually, you learn to walk. Business is the same way, you're going to fall down a bajillion times. It's more about getting up. You have to realize, too, no one has a perfect go of it. They don't always publicize their failures on social media.
You're going to fail. It is okay. It's not the end of the world if you fail. If you do fail, don't focus on it too much, but don't focus on it too little either. Learn from where you messed up and what went wrong and do it differently the second time or the third or the fifth or the 500th time. Kelly said, "When we get back up, our muscles are stronger." Yes, exactly. If you have failed, if you're afraid to fail, don't be. We've all been there. And Wendy said, "Don't take it personally. A project failing does not mean a failure. It says nothing about your worth." That's what I was going to say too. Your worth is not in your work. Yes. Love your feedback on this, guys. Thank you for weighing in.
Another thing that I've struggled with, that you might be struggling with is imposter syndrome. I remember feeling this way when I first started Elle & Company and called myself a graphic designer. Even after college, I had a degree in it, but people would ask me what I did, and I'd say I'm a graphic designer and say it feeling like I wasn't really a graphic designer. It took a couple years of business or even just saying I'm a business owner, I'm a blogger. I just felt like I was trying to keep up with these bloggers and graphic designers that I followed along with, and I didn't feel like I was truly in that role or that I was credible in that role.
You are not alone in feeling like an “imposter”
But the truth about imposter syndrome is that we're all imposters to some extent. Even the people who are industry experts feel added pressure to be the people that other people think they are. So we all have our insecurities. We all question whether we're really legitimate. I think that that is normal and that confidence really does come with time, that it takes a while of getting some projects under your belt to be able to say I'm a graphic designer or it takes some more experience to be able to feel like you're not faking it anymore.
Missy said, "Yes, feeling like I'm a fraud or faking it because of my own insecurities about being credible." Yes, so you are not alone. Caroline and Missy, all of you who were tuning in and saying you struggle with this, too, you are definitely not alone. But until the confidence comes over time, fake it til you make it. I remember with clients, for the first client that I had that did the two week process, I was scared about the two week process not working out, but I knew that if I showed my nerves, and I showed that I was second guessing what I was doing, my client would be able to smell it on me right away. I knew that my clients would pick up on it if I showed any insecurity or hesitation.
Own your stuff
So instead, fake it until you make it. Fake that confidence. Come up with your process and your offerings and just own them. Have reasons behind what you do and why you do it, but sometimes you just have to fake it til you make it. And use those feelings of being an imposter. Like I said, channel it into something good. Use it as motivation to learn and to grow and to get better. But if you're just starting out, we have all felt that way. I felt that way at the beginning, I feel that way when I'm starting new projects or switching things up or doing things in a different way. I still feel that way. We all feel that way at one time or another.
And Kelly says, "And there's always the imposter effect where more competent people are just more self-aware and question themselves even when they have every reason to be confident." That is so true. I think at any level, we struggle with imposter syndrome. I don't know anybody who hasn't felt that way, and I see it come up time and time again.
The last thing I'm going to talk about before we dive into questions is coping with criticism. Criticism is hard. When you have people who are criticizing your work, I know I had a really hard time of that in design school, and it almost made me quit design all together was the criticism from professors and the critiques from professors and other people in my classes. Maybe it's from clients. Maybe it's even from some negative people online, which that's happened to me, too. There's negative websites out there. I want to remind you again, and I said this a couple minutes ago, that your worth does not come from your work. That is not what defines you. That does not define your value, and I would encourage you to surround yourself with people who do encourage you.
Surround yourself with people who encourage you
Heidi needs to get off. She's been sitting here for the last 10 minutes. But surround yourself with people who do encourage you and life you up. I really want the Elle & Company community to be a place where you can get good feedback from people and people can encourage you to keep pushing on, and often, realize, too, that even if somebody says something negative about your work that criticism often makes you better. It has you look at your work sometimes. The critiques are valid that you could change something, and it would be better. Sometimes people are just downright mean. Just pull a Taylor Swift, and shake it off.
I would love to hear how you all deal with criticism, too, because it can be so personal, especially in creative work. You feel like you put so much of yourself out there when you share a design or something that you've worked really hard on, and then for someone to criticize it, it feels super personal. It's hard to separate yourself from it. It often makes you better, and over time, those critiques will get better. I will say that my college critiques from professors and classmates helped prepare me for the critiques of clients. Maybe they don't love my work or I have to take another direction, it pushes me, and that experience in the past really helps me to separate myself from it a little bit more. But do surround yourself with people who encourage you.
Criticism is more about the other person than you
Kelly said, "I try to remember that criticism and judgment is more about the other person than me." Yes. If it's not constructive criticism, and it's just nasty and downright rude, then yeah. It's usually jealousy on the other person's part or something that's going on with them and not necessarily with you. Thank you for that reminder, Kelly.
But the bottom line of all of this is that I really do think that your faith can inform all of these areas. I know that for me, I'm a Christian and that affects how I view all these topics that we've talked about, but none of these things completely go away and disappear when it comes to criticism and perfectionism and comparison and all these topics, but for me, what informs a lot of this is my faith. So my ultimate hope isn't in my work, and it really isn't even in the things of this world. So when I'm struggling with anything that we've talked about today, I have to remind myself of just truth.
So I think that plays a large role in how you approach these subjects. But I would love to start answering some of your questions and keep this conversation going. So I think we have about 20 minutes. This will be good. Lauren asks,
"Lauren, how do you walk the fine line between drawing inspiration and falling prey to comparison when looking at other content creators?"
So a little trick, not necessarily trick, but something that I would suggest and something I do for myself, between inspiration and falling prey to comparison when looking at other content creators, is if I feel like I'm writing a post or I'm working on a design project, and I feel compelled to go to another website or social media account in order to work on that project or get some inspiration, then it's probably taking it too far. But if I go to Barnes & Noble, and I pick up a design magazine, and I'm scrolling through it or even when I'm walking to Anthropologie, and I feel really inspired, and I even take out my phone to take pictures of layouts or maybe some of the products they have, and I'm not directly trying to use it on a project, I think that that's more inspiration than comparison leading into copying or comparing my work to other people.
So that's how I try to have a measure for that. If I'm compelled to go and look at someone else's work when I'm trying to get work done, then I'm taking it too far with inspiration. And I really love following along with people who have a super different aesthetic than me, and seeing what they're doing and trying to get to why they're doing what they're doing, instead of following people who have a similar aesthetic and trying to be inspired by that because I'm not going other really be inspired. I'm just going to be trying to copy in some ways. I think following along with creative people who do something very different than what I do is helpful for that.
Rachel says, "I know I write well, and I know that I create some beautiful things, but I'm still afraid. I even think I'm afraid of succeeding. How dumb is that? What can I do to get past this?"
That's not dumb at all, Rachel. In fact, when I first was mentioned by someone else on Instagram and started to get the first stranger followers following along with me, people outside of my friends and family, I was super scared. I was like oh my goodness. It took it into a whole new territory. That's what I wanted. I wanted to be reaching a new audience and people who were prospective clients and customers, but it was definitely frightening. So fear of succeeding, I don't think that that is a bad thing. I think once you start to get that underneath your belt, it gets easier and easier.
And you just have to remind yourself of why you're doing what you're doing. I think when I'm focusing on what I'm creating and why, when I start to think about again the why I'm doing what I'm doing, it pushes me to move past some of those fears. When I start to think about well I want to do this because I really want to help people on the other side of the screen, I want to help them move forward in their business and be able to pursue their passion on their own terms, that pushes me past some of those fears that seem silly, but are very real in the moment. Yeah, I hope that's helpful for you, Rachel. That was a good question. You're not alone with those fears.
Alyssa says, "Hi, Lauren. I've been in business for two months now, and I'm struggling with getting sales. I try to stay positive, but I have been getting really discouraged lately. I've been trying to put new product ideas, but then this thought pops in my head saying this is not good enough, and this won't sell. What are some ways to stay positive as you are trying to grow your business?"
Sometimes surrounding myself with the right people, too. My husband is probably my most honest feedback in some ways. He tells me like it is, but he's also super encouraging as well. So surrounding yourself with some of those people are really helpful. And I think, too, for me, leaning on some strategy of it. If I know that I've approached it with the right strategy, if I've gone through a validation process for my product idea, and people like it, if I've put a lot of thought and intentionality into my marketing strategies and that sort of thing, then I just have to move past it. Sometimes just putting it out there and seeing it take can be the most motivating thing and keep you going and keep you positive.
In moments where it doesn't do well, not my freelance academy course. No, that did well. My visual marketing course did not do well a couple years ago, and it was really discouraging, and to stay positive, I try to turn it into motivation, to learn from the mistakes. I try to pick apart where did I go wrong and use it as motivation to do well with launches in the future. That was super helpful, too. So I think surrounding yourself with the right people and implementing just a good strategies and learning from mistakes. I hope that's helpful, Alyssa.
Susanne said, "I've read so many times the advice to say no to jobs and customers that don't play to my very strongest strengths. It sounds so great and tempting. However, I can't help but think easy for you to say, you're doing great. I feel like I have to be more humble and take jobs that don't play to my strengths, but I actually hate to do so. Am I making it harder for myself and for my business to grow when I take jobs that are not my best fit?"
A lot of people will say to say no to customers who don't fall in, I guess the category of your strengths is how you're saying it, Susanne. For me, I say that if you are putting your packages out there and people are willing to pay you the right amount, and you're not compromising your morals or values to take them on as a client, and they are willing to follow your process and pay for that package, that you don't need to say no to them. I think it is easy for people to say pick and choose your clients. I don't think that's ever right. I think if they're willing to pay, and they're willing to walk through your process that you should take them on. I truly believe that your strengths are actually developed when you're creatively challenged.
I tell this story over and over again, but for those of you who have not heard it, I did wedding invitations long ago before I started Elle & Company. I took on anybody who was willing to pay me the right price for wedding invitations, and I had this one girl I knew already had a personal connection already agreed to do her wedding invitations. I went to meet with her at Starbucks in person. I didn't ask any questions about what the wedding was going to be like. I got there, and she told me she wanted to do purple and teal as her wedding colors, and she wanted to have a Pokemon themed wedding.
Now if you see my design work, it's very different than anime, Pokemon kind of style. At first I was kind of shocked, and I came home to my husband, and I was like, Jake, what am I going to do, she followed along with my blog, and I was posting every single project on there, so I knew her feelings would be hurt if I didn't post it, but I can truly say that that project pushed me out of my comfort zone, and it made me ... that actually turned out to be one of my favorite projects because I had to approach it creatively. I think it's so easy to stay in your own wheelhouse and stay comfortable. See, she says they turned out beautifully. That's awesome. I'm so glad you're in here Mary Ellen. She trusted me with it. She came to me because she liked my design work. Awesome. I love that you're in here, Mary Ellen.
So it just goes to show you, honestly, truly those are some of my favorite invitations that I've ever done, and they were the most pinned invitations, and it pushed me out of my comfort zone. So ... Do I have any pics to share? I can hunt them down for you and Mary Ellen probably has pictures of them. But Susanne, what I would say is that if they're willing to pay you for it, and if it doesn't compromise your morals or values, I think taking on some projects that are out of your comfort zone will actually show your strengths. So yes, that would be my take on it. I'm writing posts on it, too. I feel really passionate about that topic. Yeah. Mary Ellen, I'm so glad you're in here. That's perfect.
Katie said, "How do you build in a buffer for yourself when you need a vacation or an emotional break or emergency? Some days are fantastic, and sometimes anxiety builds up, and you just need a breather day to rejuvenate. How do you build that into your schedule? How do you not feel guilty for giving yourself that space away from work?"
I think this is one of the benefits of being able to work from home, and sometimes a downside, too, because yeah, you can plan your own schedule, but then you also have to keep up with your work. I try to build out my vacation time in advance, but there are some days, and especially these last two months when I've just felt so sick in my first two months of pregnancy that I just had to take a break and give myself some grace and pray that other people would give me some grace, too. My email inbox is out of control right now, and it's been an embarrassingly long amount of time that I've been able to get back to people, and I just have to give myself some grace for that and reveal to people that I'm not a perfect person, and I don't do everything perfectly.
There are days when anxiety can build up, and we just need to take a break from projects. I don't think you can necessarily plan for that, but I think sometimes it is definitely necessary, and I've dealt with that, too. Sometimes I just have to prioritize. If it's client work, it has to get done. If I don't get the blog post up by the end of the week, that's okay. I can push it to next week. I think the more and more I create a routine out of it, the easier it is to let certain things slide, so I try to get back on the wagon as soon as I can, but I think that having those days off, that's normal. Try not to feel guilty about it and remind yourself that you're human, and you're not perfect, and you don't have to have it all together all the time. But that's very real, and I've dealt with that, too, Katie.
Rachel said, "How do you handle following up to potential clients without sounding and feeling desperate, and how do you manage to continue with your tasks and not focus too much on the inquiry, checking email every few minutes? Sometimes when I get an inquiry from a client and everything goes well, and suddenly a client stops responding, I get crazy impatient and want to follow up right away and can't focus on anything until I hear back from this client."
This is something I talk about in freelance academy, Rachel. It is kind of switching the roles where you're in the driver's seat, and the client isn't necessarily in the driver's seat. That's where booking out your client calendar can be really helpful so that people are waiting on you and trying to get in with you.
I would just say be patient, and just trust if that person's supposed to work with you, that they will work with you and follow through, that if you are showing that you're very desperate for the work, sometimes people can be like why are they so desperate for the work, it starts to worry your client. So just be patient. Just focus on doing the right thing in the moment. I don't know if you all have dealt with this too, and I know that getting the work and keeping work coming in is super important especially when you're trying to make money from it. But when you're talking to people in the inquiry phase, just remain calm. Trust in your process. Trust in what you're offering, trust in the time and effort that you put into that, and know if it's the right fit, it'll work out, and that you've done everything on your part that you can do.
If they suddenly stop responding, give them a little time and follow up with them. If you don't hear from them again, that's strange and that's hard, but don't freak out. Definitely don't email them every day or a couple times a day because you'll scare them off. But I'd love you all's feedback on this as well.
Kate said, "What is your advice for self-taught graphic/web designers who struggle with feeling validated and worthy of their dream clients? As I'm in the beginning stages of my business, I oftentimes feel embarrassed or less of an artist due to lack of credibility or no formal degree, as well as having only a few projects in my portfolio, most of which are based on fictional clients."
Well I think that's smart that you did the fictional client thing in your portfolio. I think that's a great way to fill it up.
I would argue that a lot of the designers that I know and love are self-taught. I don't think you have to go to design school. And honestly, design school didn't really help me all that much when it came to running a design business. Don't feel embarrassed. The more that you do get some work and work with some clients, the more this will start to go away, and you'll start to feel more credible, but I think people look more toward your process, I think is huge.
Kelly said, "I have a design degree, and to be honest, I think you can learn just as much Skillshare for less money." I feel the same way, Kelly. I learn so much more from just taking on clients. I think I would definitely agree. I think it's easy for us to hide behind our design degree, but I don't think people care about that as much anymore, especially depending on your industry.
Rita says, "Design school is really useless. It's just a fun place to go. I learned more on courses and work than from school."
Missy says, "I'm a design school dropout, so I can relate to this."
So truly, you just heard from three designers, including myself, who've been to design school, who say it really doesn't give you an upper hand. I would argue that it's helpful if you've been to design school to apply to an agency or something like that. Other businesses are looking at that on your resume, but a lot of people who we're trying to appeal to in the creative industry don't necessarily look at a design degree for credibility. They're looking at your work, and they're looking at your process and testimonials.
So, yeah. I hope that was helpful for you, Kate. These are all great questions today. If you all have any other questions, feel free to ask them now. I'll wait a minute or two. Or hop on the Elle & Company community, and you can always ask them there, too. But it's normal to have emotional ups and downs in your business. If you're struggling with comparison or criticism or imposter syndrome or anything like that, you are not alone. We have all been there. I hope that some of the insights today were helpful for you, and I'm grateful that all of you took the time to tune in. Thank you, Kate, for the kinds words.
I hope to see you in another Ellechat very soon. You're going to think I'm crazy, but next week's Ellechat is on why I deleted 7,000 subscribers from my mailing list last week. It was really scary, but I have reasons for it, and I'm going to be sharing what I'm hoping to do with my mailing list in the coming months.
This is kind of scary on my part because I'm trying something new and inviting you in on it while I'm doing it instead of after the fact. So I hope it will be really helpful for you. If you want to sign up for it, you can go to elleandcompanydesign.com/ellechat or you can go to my account here on Crowd Cast. You can click on my account. You can follow along that way, and you can go ahead and register for the upcoming Ellechat. This replay will also be on the podcast. So if you haven't subscribed to that on iTunes, go ahead and do that just in case you have to miss an Ellechat in the future live. Thank you, Susanne for the wishes. You all are awesome. I appreciate all the excitement today, too.
All right, hope to see you guys in another Ellechat very soon. Hope you have a great rest of the week, and yeah. Happy Thursday. Bye guys.