It took me a while to appreciate the power and necessity of finding my voice.
You know what it’s like to be excited but frustrated at the same time? When you’re full of ideas for your brand and business but, you hit a roadblock because you’re unable to properly express them and live them?
I experienced this frustration for years. I felt that there was a certain way I should be doing business and therefore a certain way I needed to present myself. To be palatable – welcoming to anybody who might need services in my skillset.
As a result, I attracted clients I didn’t really want to work with and so, I didn’t feel like I was creating my best work and I held back on the kind of work I really wanted to do.
When people found me, I often said yes. I didn’t ask why they wanted to work with me. I found out the hard way that, it wasn’t necessarily because they liked me and my style. Just that I had the technical skills. This is not a recipe for a happy relationship!
In the end, I lost the joy for what I do.
(Many times I fantasised about leaving the profession altogether!)
Then things began to change
I finally realised that how I presented myself to the word needed to reflect me. In order to identify and connect with the right clients; to do more of the work I wanted to do; to create more of the value I wanted to bring to others; and for my wellbeing.
And it worked!
Slowly, I became more and more confident being associated with a particular niche. At first, in times of subject matter (Africa and additionally, in more recent years – women’s rights), and then in terms of style (hand-drawn). The more of this work I did, the more that came my way.
When I finally decided to give making my own products a go, things really shifted. Here was an opportunity for me to be completely myself, without anybody’s brief to follow.
Planting something daily
A few months after my first market, I started the Plant Something Daily challenge. With January optimism, and all the personal development books I was reading, I decided I wanted to explore the discipline of doing something consistently, every single day. Since I was on a roll, in terms of lifting myself out of the misery of not being true to myself, I chose plants and art as a focus – 2 loves of mine.
The idea was to create a piece of plant-inspired art, every day, and post it on Instagram.
So much goodness came from this challenge. On a personal level, I came to grips with some of my issues around control and perfectionism. In terms of business: my following grew significantly, with people interested in my work and my perspective; and many of the pieces of art inspired designs for products I’m selling to this day (4 years later!).
And the gift of being true just keeps on giving
I can honestly attribute what followed to Plant Something Daily. Creating the Afri-love Women community, the first #justformechallenge and then last year, starting the Afri-love Connection Club, appearing on Lion’s Den and holding my first Afri-love Fest. Most of these things were so outside of my comfort zone but at the same time, very much in my heart. It’s tuning into what I desire, learning to let the heart come out, and being very real about everything, that made these things happen.
Along the way, I created the Soulful Branding online course to help people find this same kind of liberating clarity that I experienced (and continue to experience because, our brands and businesses are evolving things). And because I believe that working on our businesses should be fun, and that creativity has so much power, I designed enjoyable ways for people to work on these strategic tasks.
When I sat down to plan out the course, the ideas just poured out. Turns out that, in over ten years of working on over 100 branding projects, I had developed some strong theories about how to create memorable branding that feels natural and resonates with your tribe.
The Soulful Branding course journeys through 5 areas that I observed as being necessary for meaningful connections with your business audience:
- Appreciating the power of tapping into emotion in business. Many of us grew up believing there is no place for feelings when it comes to work!
- Finding your unique voice – being confident and owning your uniqueness.
- Getting clear on who your ideal audience is, so you know where to reach them and how to truly connect with them.
- Understanding your market landscape – who your peers are (and why they’re not actually competition) and how to enjoy mutually beneficial, collaborative opportunities with them.
- Turning all of this strategy into action!
Each time I run the course, I get emotional. I get to exchange with such passionate people and, hearing how transformative the exercises are for them, makes my heart sing!
I’m looking forward to witnessing some more Soulful Branding journeys this year.
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As I finished writing this, I randomly remembered the motto of my alma matter, Pratt Institute. Call it serendipity or part of the master plan, here it is:
“Be true to your work, and your work will be true to you.”
The illustration above is part of a series commissioned by FEMNET for the African Feminist Macroeconomic Academy (AFMA).