Change is the only constant. How to embrace and leverage it to strengthen your brand.

Around here we think a lot about change. Working with clients to create new iterations of products and brands, we are up to our elbows daily in looking at the process, and whys, the challenges, ways to make it more palatable, ways to inspire embracing the difference between where a brand or a person is now and their ideal vision of themselves in the future.

Yet every day in our own lives, we find ourselves bracing against change, looking for small ways to avoid it because let’s be real, the idea of constant change is disturbing.

Small amounts of change can feel refreshing, like entering a newly painted room or taking a weekend trip to a place with a higher altitude, or more sunshine than you’re used to. So how do we balance the need for stability and the need to remain open to small shifts? Small shifts that enable us to stay plugged into the world around us, but not overwhelmed? Shifts that allow us to emerge and grow into our best selves without feeling like we’ve changed so much we’re unrecognizable?

I remember a few times in my twenties being asked to house, baby, or puppy sit. I’d say yes because the idea of stepping out of my own life for a few days or a week intrigued me. Sometimes I not only lived in someone else’s house, but I drove their cars – think baby seats and dog hair. Living in someone else’s house and driving their car was delightful. I was fully immersed, dwelling in another person’s home, reading their books, cooking with their pots, and trying their spices. One time it involved borrowing a shirt, (think babies who spit up) but mostly I stayed away from wearing their clothes. That seemed like a boundary line inappropriate to cross, unlike using their soap in the shower and their shampoo. Pretty much I was still me, but everything around me was theirs.

I loved it. Until I was ready to go home again.

Going home after one of those visits allowed me to see my world with new eyes. It helped me discern what I wanted to keep and create more of and what I was ready to part with.

So how does this apply to work? To brands? Clearly, a brand cannot try on the trappings of another brand for a weekend. Or can it?

When we work with clients on content planning, we look at the competition. We look at who the competition follows and who they are followed by. We look at their hashtags. We sift and sort and learn from what they are doing. We go back to what we are doing, shift where appropriate, test and measure results. We continue to make small changes, aligned with our brand core, and watch what transpires.

Regardless of whether we wish to evolve our brands, or ourselves, the world is evolving around both constantly. Eventually, if we want to keep playing, we must confront change and find a way to participate.

And when we do this, we first remind ourselves why we do this. We do this because it would be our avocation if it weren’t our vocation.

So before you feel overwhelmed by the idea of change, first allow yourself to feel the joy that comes from feeling plugged in, listened to, alive, and understood. Then marry this feeling of joy and connection to the process of evolving. And then take the first step to assess where you wish to go from here and what needs to happen first to get there.

And if you’d like a partner to walk through the process with you, to guide you, and encourage and inspire then we are right here.

Notes for young creatives starting out.

You like me, you really, really like me.

I don’t think there is any better feeling in the world than feeling seen. The feeling when another person compliments you on something that you love doing. A little taste and I want more and my brain, as with jelly beans, will do almost anything to get more. Including sometimes, giving work away for free.

But when we enter the state of bliss brought on by positive affirmation, we must take note and take care.

When a client compliments us on a job well done, we say thank you. Of course, we want more adulation so it is tempting to work hard and overdeliver. Sometimes, when a client compliments, he or she might add in with that compliment a request for more. This is a normal part of being a client. They see that you have skill beyond what they had seen before. We cannot assume they are trying to be exploitive, we can only assume they are seeking the best work and solutions for their business. That is their job.

But if you find yourself so high from the compliment that you agree to do additional work without acknowledging the additional time and effort this work will involve, you have just compromised your business for the sake of someone else’s.

Flattery will get you everywhere, or nowhere.

When flattery is used as a manipulative tactic, it is the flatterer who appears to win. But long term, nobody wins as the added expectations for more work without additional compensation create resentment and sours the relationship.

After school tricks that you are too smart to fall for.

When I was a child I would use a naughty trick with my sister while we watched after-school specials in the family room. “I bet you can’t get to the kitchen and bring me some ice cream in three minutes.” “Yes, I can!” She would exclaim. “Really?” I’d say. “Prove it.” Off she’d dash. A few moments later I’d be sitting in front of the tv, a giant bowl of rocky road on my lap. This scenario only repeated a few times before she got wise.

If we are to run successful and sustainable businesses we must wake up and not just know but make clear the value we represent to our clients. We must thank them for their acknowledgment of our hard-earned skills and talents, and at the same time, charge appropriately for our expertise.

Gratitude and curiosity.

As a small business owner, this can be scary. We love it when people want more of our work, and asking for more money after you’ve just received a nice compliment and a small request seems petty. So what do you do? I find the simplest approach is to go to your heart and answer from there. Say thank you to your client, for the compliment. Then let them know you would love to fulfill this new need, how they would like you to handle the time needed to address it?

You are not chicken, you are a brave and talented soul.

Let me remind you that you did not get into this business because you’re a chicken. You are doing this because you are a brave, brilliant, talented person who can think and create in ways that other people cannot.

Ok. I’m not a chicken. But I feel like one right now so what do I do?

Start by noticing if you’re feeling annoyance or anger. A psychologist would say that behind your anger is fear. Put the fear to the side for the moment. Then recognize that your client is only seeing what looks like brilliance, with no effort on your part. To them, your skill is the equivalent of magic.

Magic = billable.

What they aren’t thinking about is that this skill is not a magic trick that we can do without thinking. This is a skill developed through thousands of hours of practice. And just because the result of thousands of hours of practice is that we make something look easy, doesn’t mean that it has no value. It means the reverse. The easier something looks, the more time and effort went into learning how to do it, and thus, the more valuable it is.

Muzzles sometimes required.

The one thing I have done and wish I hadn’t at times (long, long ago of course – like last week) was to become defensive. Don’t be defensive. Don’t let these kinds of requests trigger deeply buried personal feelings of not being valuable or acceptable or worthy. You are valuable and you are capable of communicating that calmly and confidently.

You can do this.

In summary, when a client seeks the very best from you they are doing what they must do to support their business. Your business depends upon you doing everything in your power to run sustainably and that means charging the appropriate fees for the value you bring as the result of your excellence in your craft. Just because you enjoy what you do, and you make it look easy, does not mean that it is to be given away free.

Quite the opposite.

Now go. Do something brilliant and bill appropriately. I promise, it will feel just as good if not better than getting that compliment.