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The Four Letter Word Creatives Need in Their Vocabulary, HELP!

I woke this morning, desperately wanting to go back to sleep after a 12- hour product shoot the day before and knowing that I still have three shoots in my queue to edit before getting to this latest mammoth. Plus, I have a consultation looming in two hours with a potential client, post paperwork clean up for a marketing agency job I did two weeks ago and a promotion piece to pull together for a potential clothing company. Not to mention emails to write and phone calls to return.

Yes, I am the quintessential photographer, accountant, secretary, project manager, marketing maven, networker, studio manager, equipment coordinator, promotions designer, social media content developer, contract writer, researcher, producer and customer relations manager. AKA the solo entrepreneur. Does this sound familiar?

When I quit my corporate job, I was so stoked at the thought of being my own boss. I still need to get a big coffee mug with the emblem reading “You’re the best boss ever.” Being the boss means you and only you wear the pants in this business. You get to make all the decisions. No majority rules here, it’s a monarchy baby. You have the pleasure of figuring out how to spend your days. The gym at 10 AM, catch up on Facebook and Instagram at 11 am, emails between 2-3, etc. And even better than that, you can decide where and how you want to work. Heck, you want to veg out at a coffee shop? You can. You want to pack up your laptop, towel and sunscreen and head to the beach for the day? You can.

As artists, we are passionate people. We get jazzed about new projects and potential creative endeavors because it makes our hearts and minds happy. We want to share our talent with those around us and we try to do all of the art-making and business doing by ourselves. But being a business owner and your own boss is, stated simply, hard. There are so many things to think about, learn, and do. And there are only so many hours in a day to do them.

The reality is that wearing all of these hats isn’t a good idea. Over time, it wears us down, waterlogs our passions and reduces our creativity. It makes us feel drained and completely overwhelmed. Leaving us with a long list of to-dos and no motivation to complete them.

So how can we put our creativity and passion first in our businesses? It is a four-letter word and yes, it is hard for me to ask for and probably hard for you too. We need HELP!

Yes, we all need help. From an assistant to a project manager to an organizer, or even a helping hand around the house, we can all use some assistance to stop doing the things that end up feeling like a waste of our time and start doing things that allow us to bring in more projects that serve our souls.

Stop doing things that can be outsourced. Using Fivrr, Task Rabbit, Care.com, Freelancer, Thumbtack, Agency Access or any other number of websites that help match your job needs to someone who can fulfill them. These people can do the job faster and most often better than we can because this is what they love to do.

Stop recreating the wheel. If you write similar emails to clients, create templates to pull from. One resource for Gmail users is Streak. It’s a free plug-in that allows you to take snippets of email content, and recall those snippets with a keyword to reuse over and over again, without cutting and pasting from a document or wasting precious minutes trying to remember whom you wrote a similar email to and digging through your sent box to reuse the verbiage.

Start creating a list of things you’d like someone else to do. It may end up being more than one person that you’re ultimately looking for. Keep this list nearby and handy so that you can add to it on a whim. Use an app like Evernote so that you can access it from your phone, tablet or desktop whenever you need to.

Start utilizing systems. As an artist, I have a hard time keeping to a routine, keeping on task, and on schedule. But when I stick to a plan, I accomplish more. I can set exceptions with my clients, build in time for my family, check off more items on my to-do than anticipated and I can take a break and not feel guilty. Check out Digital Strategist’s article on designing your ideal week and download my free printable day planner to help you group similar tasks together.

Another favorite tool to add to your workflow is Assisant.to. It allows me to suggest times to meet based on time increments and then adds the available times into my email. The attendee clicks on a time that works for them and we both receive an email confirmation and it’s added to my calendar. It saves me time in the back and forth emailing and looking through my calendar. Plus it can send you and your attendee a reminder when the meeting gets closer, or allow for either party to reschedule. It’s available for Gmail and Outlook users.

What type of jobs in your life and business would you like to get help with? Here’s a small list to get you percolating:

  • Accounting/bookkeeping
  • Cold calling
  • Designing promos
  • Mailing promos
  • Crafting proposals
  • Writing contracts
  • Fixing technology issues
  • Filing
  • Database entry
  • Responding to emails
  • Packaging client products
  • Updating your website
  • Cleaning your home
  • Organizing your office
  • Washing your car
  • Cooking meals
  • Submitting images for copyright

Now open a new note in Evernote and start writing down all the things you love about your business. These are all the actions that you look forward to tackling, day in and day out. Each brings you joy. Now read through your love list and think about all the other aspects that go into running your business that you don’t enjoy doing: things you need to be researched, (one of mine is, which to open for my business a SEP or SIMPLE IRA?), things you like doing but sucks up time that you could be spending on the things that make you shine (items you put on the love list). If you can’t think of anything to write down remember:

  1. This list is for your eyes only
  2. Reread your love list and compare it to the bullet points above, what’s missing?
  3. Layout your ideal calendar and then figure out the tasks you’d like on your outsourcing list

Remember that taking on all the business tasks leads to spreading yourself thin, draining the creative well and making you a bitter monarch. Know your limits and know when to ask for help. It’s beneficial for others, for your creativity and your bottom line.

Shelly Waldman

Shelly Waldman is creative, analytical and determined to make business complexities simple. For Shelly, small business coaching was a passionate accident. She cared so much about her fellow creative business owners’ successes that she jumped in to help, sharing all she'd learned from her own ventures. In the process, she realized what she experienced firsthand – from launching her own photography business, analyzing budgets for one of the largest financial institutions in the country for a decade, studying economics and financial planning, and apprenticing under Tara Gentile to become a Quiet Power Strategy Coach - was infinitely valuable to making small businesses simple, streamlined and profitable. Check out her commercial photography here and Business Juice her small business coaching for creative.

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