If you’re anything like me, you’re REALLY great at giving advice. Providing guidance on someone else’s dating life, or how they should just “take the plunge” with a freelance career, or get started on writing that book is so easy — everything is just so damn obvious and clear. The truth is, we’re all pretty good at seeing things clearly from the sidelines and have the best intentions for our friends, colleagues and acquaintances, and yet most of us seem to fail at taking our own advice.
What I do for a living is provide advice, guidance and strategy for other people’s businesses. I help them find their audiences, define their niche and strategize the best way to connect their company’s vision with their customers’ needs. I put my blood, sweat and tears into helping others get their shit together, and yet I’ve rarely stopped to use my methods on my OWN business… until I had a bit of an awakening a week ago.
I finally sat down and looked at my consulting business, which is really hard to do when your brand is primarily just YOU. It’s hard to be IN something and not just a consultant on the outside looking in. I do great work for others. I am incredibly thoughtful, user-centric and attention to detail… yet I struggled to define what my brand IS, what value I actually bring to the table, and align that with what it is I LOVE doing. I’ve inadvertently spent my week in my clients’ shoes, becoming incredibly empathetic to their struggles.
After fielding countless emails for new client work, I found out a lot about what I DON’T like doing — which I believe is the key to finding yourself AND your brand. I’ve found over the years that I get frustrated when people hire me for just “design work”, when I do so much more than that. “WHY would they think I’m just a designer?” I think, HOW IS IT NOT CLEAR? Then I took a step back. I’ve never defined my own damn niche. My web presence doesn’t reflect the strategy, my focus on brand personalities or ideals that I instill in the design work I showcase. I’ve never really sorted out what I DO do and what I DON’T do because, let’s face it, sometimes you do things you don’t love in order to pay the bills and keep Sallie Mae from hunting you down and cutting off a limb. Well, I’ve decided that I don’t want to do that anymore, just like I don’t want to “dress like a professional”or look forward to “casual Fridays” for any of my future jobs. As the great Matthew McConaughey said — YES, I’m referencing a quote from Matthew McConaughey, is that a problem? Haha
The first step that leads to our identity in life is usually not ‘I know who I am,’ but rather ‘I know who I am not.’ — Matthew McConaughey
Pretty damn good, right? So here’s what I’m not, I’m not a person who is: manipulative, self-helpy, egotistical, a health nut, lazy, money hungry (maybe a little, but again, Sallie Mae is a ruthless bitch), phony or insincere and I’m not one who posts countless selfies for validation (but hey, I understand if that’s YOUR JAM — you do you). On the services side of what I don’t care to do: heavy web development, tons of illustrations or icons, banner ads, heavy analytic analysis, designing incredibly complex dashboards, and I don’t just make things “look pretty” — I make them functional and for their intended audiences, and yes, in turn they come out pretty damn gorgeous (I’m not egotistical, I’m just tired of being self-deprecating about my work).
Based on that, I’ve come to realize that I am a person who is: caring, helpful, motivated, passionate, an essentialist, thoughtful, empathetic, creative, straight-forward, hands-on, hardworking and someone who really just wants to spend her days living in a cabin in the woods with her rescue dog, Margot, drinking whiskey, building furniture while listening to Die Antwoord and pretending she’s Yolandi Visser (hey, I didn’t say I wasn’t a little weird). On the services side of what I LOVE and am good at doing is helping businesses: conduct user & market research, identify and understand their audience, find their unique value adds, create engagement methods, create marketing strategies, roadmap their brand strategy, define their brand’s personality and voice, create guides & toolkits, define priorities, and then take all that information to help guide the design of products, print collateral and environmental design. In summation: I genuinely love helping businesses find their audiences, define their niche and strategize the best way to connect their company’s vision with their customers’ needs. It’s all about aligning the company’s passion with THEIR “right” people and then helping them visualize it.
So now I’m finally taking my own advice in my quest to define my personal brand and business. It has not only helped me with how I approach opportunities, but also the types of clients and projects that I want to attract. We’re naturally drawn to people who are like us, it’s just a fact that we’re all just a bunch of narcissists. But in all seriousness: clients who can identify or respect those qualities in me are going to enjoy our process together. We’ll have some common ground and, hey, that’s not a bad place to start.