Beginning a Creative Project

Episode Focus: Embracing the ‘Messy Middle’ of a Creative Project

Productivity: Resetting to deliver on your project – past the half-way point

Podcast chat: Business coach Averil Maher

Creativity: Starting to document your work

Things I’ve referenced in this episode:

More on why creative projects are good for us: photographer Anna Hardy’s post on the benefits of a personal project. 

Creativity coach Sheryl Garrat talking about the Messy Middle as part of the four stages of a creative project.

Creative agency Ifour on the Creative Reset. 

Podcast chat with Averil Maher

Averil is a business coach specialising in working with women and supporting them to develop a successful business. She helps clients to create a memorable brand, a clearly defined niche, and  the confidence to  be paid what they are worth.

Find out more about Averil on her website: https://www.averilmaher.com

In our chat, Averil shares tips on having clarity around your values, building rapport and connection, pricing your services, have faith in yourself motivation and action.

Can’t listen to the podcast? Here’s an abbreviated transcript of our chat.

Jordan: Averil, welcome to the podcast. How did you get to where you are today?

Averil: I’ve been working for myself most of my adult life one way or another. And all I really knew was that I wanted to help people. I went through a variety of different business ideas and trained in various different modalities. I also went through long periods of self-doubt before I actually felt that I was presenting something really useful to people so that I could really help them in the long run.

So when I look back at my career, I  started to think how different it would have been if I’d had someone to guide me and to really challenge me through all the problems that I faced when I first started. I started as a therapist, then went on to personal coaching, which I loved. And then that led me to stress management. And that in itself led to coaching business owners because let’s face it, a lot of business owners get very stressed. So that’s sort of been my evolution, I guess you’d say.

Jordan: When it comes to creative folk, what are some tips that you can give in terms of getting clarity and gaining confidence in what they’re doing?

Averil: I think the best thing really is not to second guess yourself. Once you’ve created something, by all means, go through your normal editing type of process. But when the piece is finished, have faith in yourself and your product. And get clear about what you want to create and how you want to express your creativity. That does require some decision making, so I thought I might introduce a little exercise for you around creating clarity. It’s a brainstorming type of exercise where you write down all of the things that you would like your life to be like, you can brainstorm with a list or create a mind map, whichever sort of feels natural for you. In this instance, I’m using an example of of building a business, but you can use this process to gain clarity in any other areas as well.

Averil’s exercise on Clarity

So it all starts with you finding yourself in a nice, quiet place and taking a few deep breaths and just centering yourself. And when you’re ready, I want you just to imagine and start with the big picture. I want you to think about what you’d love to be doing, where you would like to be when you’re doing it and how you’d like to be doing it with. I’d like you to consider what sort of income you’d like to be making. And what sort of response you’d like to get from your creative endeavours.

Now, even if this all seems really out of the box or even unattainable for you right now, that’s fine. It’s just a big dreaming exercise of imagining what life could be like if it was so absolutely wonderful for you.

It’s not your job right now to judge these ideas, just to let them flow and write them all down or draw them all down however you like to do it. And then once that’s completed, I want you to have a look at those ideas and choose six or eight things that really stand out to you as being the most important. The way you really want to live your life.

Now, the second step is to  – is about your overall values, and these are the things that you feel are most important in life and you know, the values they can include things like family and appreciation, beauty, truthfulness, justice, you know, those those sorts of things. I’m sure you get the idea of what values mean. And if not, I’m sure Google will come up with plenty for you.

So the importance about values is that they become the criteria from which you make decisions. So what I want you to do is write a great list of the values that you hold dear. And again, select the six or eight top values. And then refer back to your desire list that you made earlier and take the top desires and compare them to your top values. If they match, well, that’s fantastic. But if there’s a disconnect, that will tell you something. And you may realise that there’s a little bit more work that needs to be done. 

Jordan: Thank you for that, what a great exercise! Now, you also help people to create memorable brands. What do you think is the most important part of a memorable brand from your experience?

Averil: It really depends on whether you’re intending to sell a product or service. That’s when you really need something memorable. But the thing to remember really is that people buy from people. So building rapport and connection through your brand is really key. And to do this, you need your brand to be authentic and unique. It’s really a reflection of who you are and what is important to you. So those values and the little exercise we did before, that’s where it all ties in, because when you communicate who you are in your brand, then the ideal clients or customers will automatically be drawn to you.

Jordan: That’s very, smart, actually. You also help people to price their services. Do you think that we as women struggle in this space particularly?

Averil: Oh, yes, absolutely I do. I do think that women struggle with pricing more than perhaps their male counterparts do in many cases. I think it’s because women have been raised to think about the people first. They need to be modest and don’t presume that they’re better or worth more than someone else. And, you know, that sort of belief system can be really detrimental and get in the way of creating any good pricing structure. So I really believe that people, women particularly need to get over that so that they can be paid what they’re worth.

Jordan: Do you find your clients take some time to get into a different headset when it comes to pricing?

Averil:  Yes, it can be quite challenging. But I work with my clients on a ‘money personality assessment’. They start to see that certain traits lead them to certain beliefs. And once they start understanding that, and realise that those beliefs can be changed and those opinions of themselves can be changed, then then they start to shift their mindset. And they realise that they can price the things they have in a way that’s appropriate and really worth with their effort.

Jordan: Fantastic. Now, if creative people are thinking about going up and setting themselves up as a business, do you have any tips for them to go through that thinking and planning process?

Averil: Something that creative people really need to consider is the difference between what they want to create, you know, what inspires them and fills them with joy and what customers actually want to buy. And hopefully there will be no difference at all between what you want to create and what people want to buy. But sometimes there is. And that’s an aspect that you will need to take into consideration if you want to make it a viable business.

If you intend to make this business with your art, whether it’s its music or writing a book or painting a picture, you need to be clear about who you’re creating your products for. Is it for the stay at home mum who loves pretty things? Or will your products feature in a corporate boardroom?  Knowing who you’re actually going to be delivering this product to is really key to creating your business model so that it supports you both financially and with your creative ambitions as well.

Jordan: Very wise. Let’s talk about productivity. How can creative people can take into account some ideas around productivity to keep them on track with their with their projects?

Averil: Yes. What quite often happens as procrastination. Now, one thing that comes to mind, especially about procrastination, is the idea of getting everything perfect. And I’m sure that this happens with creative people a lot. And it’s really something that you need to be aware of if you go down that road. You know, you need to stop and ask yourself, am I just being a perfectionist with this? Or is what I’ve created good enough? And by good enough, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but it has to be something that you’re confident with and that you’re proud of.

In many cases, productivity is about motivation; finding the motivation to actually complete the task that you’ve set yourself. And it might be, you know, finishing your book or completing an art work. If you’re struggling  to get started or get the work finished, I would recommend that you take a step back and reconnect with your ‘Why?’ And that is why you’re doing this in the first place.

It might be that you need to sell something to pay the bills. It might be for your family or it may be a deeper reason like that you feel the need to be acknowledged or you want to prove to yourself that you’re capable of completing this or doing this activity. 

But connecting with your ‘why’ will reconnect you with your motivation. So some people also struggle with productivity, and the motivation factor doesn’t really do it for them. They need something else a little bit like a kick in the pants  –  a little kick in the pants exercise. One option is to write a list of the consequences of not doing this. What will happen if you don’t finish this book? What will happen if you don’t complete your art work? And it’s not just about you either. It’s how other people in your life are going to be affected or impacted by this.

Sometimes we really just need to step back and have a look at the bigger picture so that we can really show the world what we can do. But one little tip about this is that on a practical level, I have found that motivation often comes after action. Sounds like it’ s around the wrong way, but, yeah, I would say motivation comes after action.

Say you have decided that you want to run a marathon or a half marathon and you know that you want to get fitter and you have to go for a run before work every day. The temptation to lie in bed is really, really inviting. So one small action step that you could do as to have all your running gear at the end of your bed, including your running shoes, and all you have to do is put them on. That’s your small action and that’s done. And that makes it easier to walk out the door and start running. So that’s what I’d recommend, a small action to start that motivation cycle going. And it would get you completing your project in no time, I’m sure.

Jordan: I think that’s a great tip. Thank you so much Averil. There is so much wisdom in your words. Great counsel for creative work. Thank you very much.

Averil: You’re welcome. Thank you.

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