On celebrating your unique creative style
If you’re a garden designer, a photographer, a jewellery designer, an interior designer, event planner, a florist…. If there’s anything remotely visual about what you do, this post is for you.
It’s a tale of transformation, rooted in my experience of developing our own creative style and freeing us up to do our very best work for people who adore what we do. So if you’re in the position of evolving your business or trying to break out of the rut of turning your hand to anything in order to pay the bills, read on.
If there’s one thing that’s made winning business immeasurably easier for our branding agency, it’s been developing a portfolio that plays to our strengths and showcases our signature style. People come to us at Ditto knowing exactly what to expect, and are much, much easier to convert into paying clients since they’ve seen a portfolio full of work that they already love.
It wasn’t always this way.
Wind back five years, and we were a fairly generic design agency that undertook pretty much any work from anybody. We made money, but business was frustrating and getting clients on board felt like wading through treacle. People came to us either by recommendation or because our location made us convenient to reach, but never for our creative style – because, frankly, we didn’t have one.
And then things changed.
We’d had enough of competing on price. We knew we were capable of so, so much more. And for the future of the business, we badly needed to kick things up a gear. We hired a specialist business consultant, took a deep breath and silently prayed that it’d all pay off.
Today, we win clients from all over the world based on the strength of our creative style. Clients come to us specifically for the way that we do things and trust us entirely. All of this comes from having a strong and distinctive sense of style, and that’s what I want for you too.
1/ First things first
A distinctive style does not mean that all of your work looks exactly the same. However, there may be characteristics of your work which shine through in your portfolio, and these should be things that you are truly amazing at.
To build a distinctive portfolio, you need to identify your strengths and your aspirations for the sort of work you want to win more of. This is an absolute must, and for us, defining our style completely revolutionized everything.
More than this, you need to think about your commercial goals. What sort of projects do you want to be doing, and for what price point? This will immediately shifted your focus on to the sorts of people who’d be willing (and able) to invest in working with you, making your marketing efforts much more directed.
2/ Analyze your current portfolio
Time to get honest. How’s your current portfolio looking? What’s stopping it from looking as beautiful as you want it to – has it not been updated for a while, or have you simply not got the right sorts of projects under your belt just yet? Is the work cohesive – is there a clear style or approach being shown? Is it truly your best work?
Once you’ve identified your style, you’ll instinctively know which projects have earned their spot in your portfolio and which do not. Cull everything that doesn’t fit. I used to think that showing a breadth of style proved that you were capable of doing lots of different things, but in fact it just confuses people.
3/ Show off only the work that represents your style
This is mega. You should only talk about, only show off, and only promote, the work that really represents your creative style and plays to your strengths.
In reality, you may well be plugging the quiet spots in your diary with work that doesn’t make your heart sing – but the wider world doesn’t need to know that and you shouldn’t be showing it off.
4/ Promote the heck out of it
No use hiding your light under a bushel, my friend. Be strategic in where you post – creative businesses gain the most traction on Instagram and Pinterest, but do less well on facebook and twitter. Time spent updating your portfolio, blogging or creating Instagram posts will never be wasted!
5/ Keep things current
You need to stay up to date and not be seen to be going stale. You’d be surprised how many prospective clients may be dipping in and out of your website; tempt those lovely people towards becoming paid-up clients by showing them plenty of fresh new work to keep them excited.
Over to you!
Your homework is to go and get cosy with your portfolio and show it some love! And let me know how you get on; I’d love to hear.