So many of us know the feeling, but we rarely cop to it.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever actually worked with my ideal client,” Client X told me in a marathon brand messaging session.
X’s boldness and vulnerability with that one statement opened up a line of conversation between us that forever changed her business (and ultimately restored to her the feeling that she does meaningful work).
Here’s the thing: X had a large portfolio of beautiful designs. She’d been working as a designer for years and had a more than respectable list of clients. She loved all of those clients and said so many times in our conversation.
But the way she spoke about her projects seemed to me to be detached – even a little bored.
Then I asked her if she had any projects that weren’t on her website yet. That’s when something magical happened.
X’s voice lit up over the phone, “Actually, I do!” she said. She’d been working on a space in her own home, a space just for her where she could work and create.
She emailed a few snapshots over to me as we spoke and I was stunned. While her portfolio projects were all beautiful, this one was on another level. Of course, most designers have to show a level of restraint on client projects from what they’re capable of due to client preferences, budget constraints, etc.
But the fact is that if I hadn’t known better, I would have thought X’s office / studio space was designed by someone else entirely. And that’s because it kind of was.
You see, X wasn’t working with her ideal clients because she hadn’t embraced the notion that she is her ideal client.
We discovered together that day that X needs to work with people who love color as much as she does; who want her to get creative by sourcing fun accent pieces and even rehabbing existing or vintage pieces with an amazing paint job; people who don’t much care if a piece of art costs $5 or $5,000 as long as it makes their spaces sing.
Instead, she’d fallen into the pattern most of us fall into at one time or another – taking whatever work came her way.
Furthermore, in terms of X’s marketing, representing that work on her website as the extent of what she could and would do as a designer was inviting what a good friend of mine calls ‘MOTS’ – More of the Same.
That meant making beautiful spaces for her clients, but working with a lot of neutrals and shopping what she felt were ho-hum vendors. She was serving her clients well... but her work didn’t light that fire in her belly that’s so vital an experience for anyone who does creative work.
When we forget that our businesses are ours – that it’s not so much a matter of thinking outside the box to build our businesses as it is actually building the box itself to be whatever kind of business we want it to be – we risk never really finding our purpose, our aesthetic, our brand voice, or our ideal clients.
By talking through all of this, X gained tons of clarity that day. Her vision for her business changed so materially that it was almost as if it passed from an entrepreneurial adolescence into full blown, ready to kill it adulthood. She ‘dropped into’ her brand voice that day and we nailed it even more clearly in her brand messaging report so she can take that message out into the world. Go, X!!!
Even though this is what I do every day, it never ceases to amaze me that something as seemingly clinical as defining a brand message can be a powerful catalyst for so much clarity, change, and growth in my amazing clients.
And that, folks, is what lights the fire in my creative belly.
Love you, DMW clients!
All the best,
Struggling with how to talk (and write!) about your design business? Call or email me today to schedule a time to talk about how I can help. 980.292.0808 firstname.lastname@example.org