Welcome to the next installment of Defining Your Brand of Professionalism! During Part 1, I focused on the benefits of expressing yourself through your brand. After all, when you're able to embrace your style and share your unique wisdom, we all benefit. When it comes to becoming the creative professional you're meant to be though, that's only the beginning.
Mind the Mindset
I believe the most important evidence of creative professionalism transcends how you dress or where you work. While those factors definitely contribute to our confidence and contentment, real professionalism comes down to your mindset, what you do, and how you treat others.
I've studied many successful creative bosses and spent a lot of time cultivating my own experience. In that time, I've discovered 6 secrets to building the mindset of a true creative professional. Spoiler alert—they're really not secrets at all.
1. Be Positive
Nowadays it's way too easy to lose your temper in an email or vent your frustrations over social media. Yet in a world that's already so inundated with negativity, it truly pays to be a positive force. I make it a point to practice positivity and try to find the silver lining in every situation. Positivity, like anything else, takes practice.
When you find yourself about to lash out in frustration or anger or whatever, just stop. Step away. Do something else and take the time and space you need to get some perspective. Train yourself to turn it around and see the light in an otherwise gloomy world. You'll draw even more positivity to you and good things will follow.
2. Be Kind
This may sound like common sense, but be kind to your clients. I remember it was a revelation the day I realized that I could still be considered professional without sounding like a stuffy robot when I contacted clients. So long, “To whom it may concern” and “Dear Ms. Whoever.”
Now I make it a point to be my pleasant, personable self throughout the process. I start my emails with “Hi there!” and I greet my clients with a “Happy Friday!” at the end of the week. That may sound silly, but it makes a huge difference. I want my clients to be excited to hear from me. I want them to smile when I pop up in their inbox. After all, if I can't make the creative process fun for them, what am I doing here?
3. Be Consistent
Consistency is extremely important, especially when it comes to communication. I make it a practiced point to write the way I speak. This creates a seamless experience for my clients, regardless of whether we're emailing or chatting on the phone.
Email can be especially tough since a lot can get lost in translation, so put extra effort into rereading your emails to make sure you don't sound like a robot—or worse yet, snide or condescending. Reading out loud can be a big help here.
4. Be Confident
You're the expert in what you do, and you should know the process that produces the quality results clients come knocking for. It's your job to insist on the circumstances that allow you to do your best work.
Yes, I've had lots of inquiries where people say, "I know what I want. Just do it this way,” or "You don't need to do any research or discovery. We've already done it for you." Thanks but no thanks.
My process is what allows me to produce my best work. These scenarios might be great opportunities to educate potential clients, but in the end, a client who can't respect your process and see the skill that goes into what you do isn't worth your time.
5. Be Responsible
I know we didn't get into this game for the sales, marketing, or accounting of being a creative boss. But your brand stretches across everything you do, so each facet should see the same level of care and attention (even if it's not your favorite).
Your client knows what they’re talking about when it comes to their business. They’ve hired you because you’re an expert in what you do. Prove them right. Guide them through the process. Calm their fears and show them they made the right choice by hiring you.
6. Be Accountable
As much as we do our best to avoid it, there will always come times when things go wrong. It's already an uphill battle to be taken seriously as a creative professional, so accountability is essential for your own business and the collective reputation of all the other creative bosses out there.
In every part of your business, know what you’re responsible for and deliver above and beyond expectations. Quality check content even if it “isn't your responsibility.” Point out if something doesn’t make sense or if you've found an error or misspelling. It may not contractually be your responsibility, but if you're dealing with the content and putting your name on this thing, take some pride in it. Everyone will be better off if you say something, including you.
As a chronic proofreader, spelling and grammar are huge for me. We're all human and mistakes happen, but it's your job to do everything you can to prevent them. If spelling and grammar aren't your strong suit, acknowledge it and ask for help. Get another set of eyes on what you're doing. How your work looks can only take you so far. If your audience finds errors in it, your credibility will take the hit.
To me, professionalism is like a relationship. It's easy to keep it together when things are going well, but a true professional really shines when something goes wrong. It's not a matter of if but when, so take a deep breath and buck up.
Any mistakes and conflicts are red flags for holes in your process. Maybe you're not setting expectations accurately. Maybe you need to allocate more time or manpower to that stage of the process. Whatever it is, take responsibility and learn from it.
It’s not just the quality of your work that marks you as a creative professional.
We're all going to fail sometimes. A true creative professional can dust off quickly and keep at it. Every failure is a lesson in disguise, so don't get discouraged.
I know how hard it can be to define your own brand of professionalism when it seems like everyone around you is questioning whether or not you can do it. Keep trying. Keep growing. Never give up. Prove them wrong and show them what you're made of.
It’s not just the quality of your work that marks you as a creative professional. It’s the experience of working with you, and every facet of that process. Do your absolute best to make this experience phenomenal. Deliver amazing results and make it seamlessly awesome for your clients.
You got into this because you love creating. Never lose that passion and enthusiasm. Bring them to every facet of your brand. And when you're ready to take your branding to the next level, drop me a line.