In the grand scheme of things, actually starting your business is easy. Fill out some paperwork, pay the fees and you’re a legal business. Sometimes, the hardest part of your craft is defining what it is you actually do. As you may have guessed, it’s not always obvious. It depends on who is asking and why they’re asking you.
In this episode, Jenn and Doug each tell their own stories of discovering who they were as artists and what they offered the world. What does that process look like? How does your craft evolve over time? How do you position yourself and your craft to your audience? Find out the answers to these questions and others in this episode of ThrivTALK.
Don’t forget to subscribe to ThrivTALK. And here is a link to the FREE download Jenn mentioned in the episode!
Doug Gay: Are you a creative that struggles with how to articulate what you do? Or maybe you think you’re good at communicating and explaining your craft and its process, but you feel like no one is hearing you. Maybe you feel people just don’t get you, nor will they ever understand what you do. And you feel defeated, or at the very least deflated, questioning will I ever make it in a creative career?
Jenn Ocken: This episode, we are going to touch on the importance of defining your craft and what that really means. We’re going to share Doug and I’s separate journeys as we filter through, and we have fumbled over our words to really be able to get down and articulate what our craft is so we can ask for compensation and pique the interest of networking circles and create lasting relationships. You know? Get those people to jump onboard with our creativity. So let’s get started. Doug, what does defining your craft mean to you?
Doug Gay: Well, Jenn, I find it hard to achieve balance when defining my craft. It’s gotta be somewhere between an elevator pitch and a filibuster. You know what a filibuster is, right? Closer to an elevator pitch, of course. Right?
Jenn Ocken: I hope.
Doug Gay: So if I were to give you the elevator pitch, here it is. Baton Rouge Music Studio’s is an academy for people of all ages to learn how to play instruments or sing, perform, use entertainment industry technology while creating a meaningful community throughout the process. I’m reading this, as you all may hear. That’s pretty much my one-liner though, in so many words, but I could go on and on forever if you would let me. As audience members or viewers, our craft is often defined through the product itself. You know what I mean? Like, he’s a painter and I know this because I’m looking at the painting he just painted. Right? She’s a musician and I know this because I’m listening and watching her play.
Jenn Ocken: Right.
Doug Gay: When those people become our customers though, our craft may need some additional explanation so we don’t end up in a situation where the viewer now turned customer can create expectations based on your process. So you can buy a painting off a wall in a few minutes, but what happens when you commission that painting from the same artist and it takes two months for you to receive it, right, and you didn’t have that expectation? That’s where defining your craft, for me, takes on a whole new meaning.
Jenn Ocken: That’s great. That’s a great point. I didn’t even think about that when we were leading into this conversation. Keep going, keep going.
Doug Gay: Right. So to me, there’s depth to defining your craft. There’s the person that you’re having a casual conversation with, who has no interest in what you’re doing or becoming a customer, but is interested in what you do. But then there is the defining your craft to the potential customer. So to me, by defining your own process and systems to yourself, as well as maintaining a controlled and relatively predictable workflow, you can then confidently define your craft in full to potential customers at any level required. You know what I mean?
Jenn Ocken: Yeah, yeah. No, it makes sense. God, I wasn’t even thinking about that, but I guess-
Doug Gay: I’m getting deep on you.
Jenn Ocken: I know. Well that, and I was like, “Oh. Well, I guess I just instinctively do that,” and you forget to tell people. That’s really good, valuable information for us to know as creatives.
Doug Gay: Absolutely, yeah. It’s not about what you do, but how you do it. That’s what you’re defining to people. So it’s not only what you deliver, but when can you deliver it? So it’s important for me to have a layered approach to defining my craft to who is asking and why they’re asking. I’ve had a number of clients who have seen my students perform. Anyone who is just tuning in, I own a School of Music, contemporary music, and we teach young people how to play instruments, and we put them into bands and things.
Jenn Ocken: A superhero of sorts.
Doug Gay: Yeah. So we have clients who see them perform. And in the early days, a potential client would come up to me and say, “I want my kid to do that. I know he’s dying to do that.” And I’d say, “Great, come on over. Let’s get him plugged in.” And then a few months in, the parent calls and says, or comes to the office and says, “Hey, why does my kid only have two songs? What’s the deal with all these other kids having all these other songs, and we only have two?” Well, then I realized that the definition of my craft required further explanation up front. Right?
Jenn Ocken: It’s almost like you have to start validating what you’re doing.
Doug Gay: That’s right. And so, before in the early days, I would define my craft to the client as a reaction to a concern. And I learned that the product the public often sees on a Saturday at a music festival, and the product I’m actually selling, are two completely different things. Right?
Jenn Ocken: But your target audience, which are the parents, they don’t really know the difference.
Doug Gay: That’s right, that’s right.
Jenn Ocken: So defining your craft is essential, essential.
Doug Gay: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, that means, basically, just giving them all the ins and outs of the process. So that’s what it is for me, anyway. I have a different business than many others.
Jenn Ocken: Yeah. But I mean, definitely could layer that. I mean, I have to do that as a photographer, and I can see where that would flow over into designers. I mean, everything. People are like, “Well, I want this.” And you’re like, “I can’t give you that immediately because there is a process in order to get to that sort of thing.”
Doug Gay: Absolutely, absolutely.
Jenn Ocken: One thing I have seen over and over, especially in mentoring creatives, is that they focus too much on the craft itself. And I did that myself too, and I would get so caught up on how I created the photo, or all the fluff that I was gonna give, and even worse maybe the discount that I was going to do just to try to trick them into hiring me. And so, I learned really quickly how important it was for me, as a creative, to just talk to others about what I do and what my craft is and how I go about it and my process. Because before I realized this switch, all I was doing was just selling, selling, selling, and I got kind of caught up into that used car salesperson kind of thing.
Doug Gay: Right, right. Or the person at the mall, who-
Jenn Ocken: Right, the kiosk.
Doug Gay: … you’re trying to walk by very quickly.
Jenn Ocken: With horse blinders on.
Doug Gay: Excuse me, sir. Can I ask you a question?
Jenn Ocken: No, no, no.
Doug Gay: Right. Yeah.
Jenn Ocken: And I learned really quickly how important it was for me to just be honest and think to myself, “I have to be different. What can I do differently?” And it really was a space where I had to pique the buyer’s interest, but not … I mean, they were already showing up for me because they liked my work. They saw all my portfolios, on my websites. They got referred to me by somebody. But now, they needed to know more about me. They needed to know what my experiences were. They wanted to be intrigued by my creative process. And the only way that I could do that … I can’t do that by just showing them a photo. I can wow them, and show them that I can tell a story with my photo. Somebody that really appreciates art can see the layers of the piece, whatever that entails, or however that craft is, and so they know that coming to you. And especially if they’re commissioning you to do something, they want to be more intrigued by your process, by your creative services, or your creative process, and your experiences.
Doug Gay: Absolutely.
Jenn Ocken: So can you tell me some awesome experiences that maybe you have to get yourself to relate to your consumer, to your client?
Doug Gay: Oh, yes, definitely. Sorry guys, I hit the mic.
Jenn Ocken: That’s how excited he is about this.
Doug Gay: Absolutely. This is a really tight space. Look at you. We’re boxing over here.
Jenn Ocken: Bump, bump.
Doug Gay: I think one of the things I naturally fall into when selling, which defining your craft to a potential client is selling, is information gathering. And I think you are with me on that.
Jenn Ocken: Definitely.
Doug Gay: And we’re talking about, as I’m speaking to the client, I like to listen and learn before focusing on the selling aspect. So I’m a unique situation here, at the studio where we’re recording now, because I’m usually talking to a child and a parent at the same time. So I’ve gotta volley back and forth a bit between the two, and try to figure out the child’s interest and expectations because it might be drastically different from the parent’s expectations.
Jenn Ocken: I bet it kind of mostly is
Doug Gay: It can. It’s not always.
Jenn Ocken: Interesting.
Doug Gay: It’s actually, surprisingly more so then not, the two are in alignment, but it does happen. So I’ve created a kind of system, as well as I’m not the only one who interviews our potential clients. I say I’m interviewing them, I guess I am in a way. Right?
Jenn Ocken: You totally are, and I teach that a lot.
Doug Gay: Yeah. But I get the student’s expectation and the parent’s expectation, and when I can do that, that gives me the tools to define my craft in a way that is tailored to their expectations as possible, without going out of the lines of what we do. And again, at this beautiful, luxurious facility we have here, I have the luxury of giving tours. So I can information gather in a very nonchalant process, while we’re walking around and looking at the venue and looking at the lesson rooms and popping into little Susie’s lesson and, “Oh hey, we’re just looking around.” And I’m asking these questions, I’m information gathering while I’m wowing them at the same time.
Jenn Ocken: And I wanna challenge the people listening right now. How, in your craft, can you information gather in a nonchalant way like Doug Gay has been doing? Really dig deep on that. That’s great information.
Doug Gay: That’s right. Like you just said, you can’t just show your portfolio, but perhaps you can show your original picture and your final product. I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s something that you have to think about.
Jenn Ocken: Yeah, no. But as a creative, you can figure that out because you’re creative.
Doug Gay: That’s right. It’s up to you to figure out what’s best for you and your client.
Jenn Ocken: It really is.
Doug Gay: But basically, I’m passionate about what I do, and I’m confident about what I do, so I don’t really feel like I’m selling. When I’m on my game, I’m in a good mood, it’s just rocking and rolling. My challenge is to channel that same passion when I’m not on my game, when I’m feeling a little under the weather, or I’m just trying to not bring a bad mood into the office with me.
Jenn Ocken: Doug, that could be a whole other podcast. That might just have to be.
Doug Gay: I know. But defining your craft in that mental space is really a chore, and sometimes I can’t even find the words.
Jenn Ocken: But if you take the time to define your craft, and to know it so well and your experiences so well, when you are in that mental kind of low-
Doug Gay: Funk, yeah.
Jenn Ocken: … funk, it will still come across. It’s easy because you know it so well, it’ll still come across.
Doug Gay: Yeah, definitely. One of the things I do … You know what? It’s funny. Sometimes I’ll take a sidestep and get back to information gathering, “So what about you?” Because I’m, like I’m doing now, stuttering over my words, really trying to grab what I’m so used to saying. And then it’s compounding on the fact that I’m frustrated because I know this spiel. Why can’t I say this? So I’ll kind of reset, go back to information gathering. But also, even when I think I’ve crashed and burned, the customer usually is not thinking that at all. Sometimes we creatives can be really hard on ourselves, and our customer isn’t even picking up on what we think is our own failure to communicate. So I don’t know. That’s it for me. What about you, Jenn Ocken?
Jenn Ocken: Well, I mean, I want to kind of take that a little bit further, the whole listening and engaging. As creatives, we need to make sure that we talk more about us as creatives as much as we can, even probably more than the craft itself. And if they’ve inquired about your services, the best thing you can probably even … You already know that they are interested. Right? So what I’ve realized over the years is that there three things that you can really do. You can listen to what they have to say, like you were talking about, information gathering. And then start engaging them, and get them talking about the journey that brought them to you. How did they get to you? Because then, you can understand better, which is my third thing, their needs, their details, any problems that they’re having, and that’s why they’re showing up for you. What problems can you solve? And when I found that I did this, and this is what happened, I could really confirm that, whether or not we’re a great fit, like you said earlier, interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you so you’re not wasting each other’s time. If it’s a bad fit, you can graciously step out of it. Or if it’s a perfect fit, you can enthusiastically go after and be like, “Man, this is exciting.”
Doug Gay: And upsell.
Jenn Ocken: And upsell. That is a great time to upsell. I mean, and then you can customize an experience that you have. If you’ve defined your craft and you know it so well, and all your experiences that led you to where you’re at right now, you can customize those experiences. And those experiences can help you sell your craft and services on a more empathetic level towards them. And as a result of all of this, it’s so cool to see this all come full circle, is you immediately have created a trusting, valuable relationship that begins right there at the sale.
Doug Gay: That’s right.
Jenn Ocken: And even if they didn’t book me, the cool thing is we have this relationship. And nine times out of 10, if they can’t book me for whatever reason, they’ll start referring me. They’ll still want to refer me.
Doug Gay: Or in three years, they pop up out of nowhere.
Jenn Ocken: Oh, yeah. Right.
Doug Gay: And they say, “I couldn’t do it at that time, but-”
Jenn Ocken: Here I am. Here I am.
Doug Gay: Yeah, right, because they like you. Because whether they, I would imagine, in our industry at least, not many people come to us cold. They’ve heard about us. They’ve seen something. So at the first point, maybe your product is your photo. And then when they get to you, your product is you.
Jenn Ocken: Right. It absolutely is me. My photo is a billboard for me.
Doug Gay: That’s right.
Jenn Ocken: My style, my photography.
Doug Gay: Especially when you’re first starting out, you’re own your own, maybe you got an assistant or something, pretty much on your own-
Jenn Ocken: I’m gonna say that happens 15 years later.
Doug Gay: Well, you know, it’s interesting you say that. I have people who can sell for me now, so I don’t have to do it. Right? In the beginning, it was all me. But when those people are selling me, they’re still selling ME. Right?
Jenn Ocken: Right, because you have defined your craft so well that other people can articulate it.
Doug Gay: I mean, we’ve developed a certain level of employee-centric culture here, where they represent me in pretty much its truest form of me.
Jenn Ocken: Right. It is pretty cool. And I feel like we’re getting way ahead of ourselves here on that, but it’s exciting.
Doug Gay: Maybe so.
Jenn Ocken: It’s exciting to come into that for sure.
Doug Gay: Yeah.
Jenn Ocken: So my advice here is to really get in touch with all the experiences that have shaped you into being the creative that you are right now. And as new experiences happen, make sure you’re able to utilize and use those when you’re going forward in, I mean, I want to say sell because that’s what you’re doing, but you’re really having a conversation with your target audience, with your buyers, your consumer, your networking circles. And I challenge you guys, as creatives, to be really vulnerable in this respect because just everything you’ve learned up until this point, whether it’s positive or negative, has prepared you, has influenced you, and is what is defining of you and your craft.
Doug Gay: That’s right. I want to say too, be inquisitive. Be aware of the sale, but don’t focus on the sale, focus on the person.
Jenn Ocken: Absolutely. Oh, my gosh. Focus on the person.
Doug Gay: People realize that. People feel that, when you’re legitimately having a good time with this person, learning about something new, someone new.
Jenn Ocken: And they know when you’re selling. And I can tell you honestly, when I am in a personal sell, that’s what I call it in the Thriv series, the lesson that you go through for all the members out there that have already been in it, or are already going through it, look up the personal sell. We talk about that. We talk about ways to step out of that realm of feeling like a salesperson, and just interacting with the person because they are. They’re a person that has a need and a problem to solve, and they’ve come to you because they think you are the solution.
Doug Gay: Absolutely.
Jenn Ocken: And if you can hear them, and you can understand what their problem is … I don’t want you to reconfigure what it is that you do so that you can adhere to their needs. You need to fit what you do with what they need, and it come together. And pretty much any one of us, as creatives, can figure that out. Here’s the thing, my problem that I was solving when I stepped into the photography realm. I love portraits, and I love children, and I have this finite style of documenting them in the moment and not doing the kind of cookie cutter portrait work, but just capturing the moment. My tag line. My quickie elevator speech, capturing the fine art of life. Right? So I realized that I had to drop those inhibitions for those kids, even the parents and the adults really fast, in order to get it done and efficiently. Because if you spend too much time with them, it’s gonna be tasking to them, and then they get tired and worn out. Right? So I took these experiences as teaching children swimming, getting them comfortable with the water almost immediately. I took experiences of coaching gymnasts on doing really big tricks, and knowing and trusting me. I took those experiences and how I felt and what I needed to do to create a relationship with them, and I brought that to my photography career. I mean, my families, my parents are saying, “You’re so good with kids. You’re the kid whisperer.” And I’m like, really I just get on their level. I understand that they have this inhibition, and I know psychologically how I can relate to them because of my past experiences.
Doug Gay: That’s awesome. I love just listening to you.
Jenn Ocken: Thanks, Doug.
Doug Gay: For me, I think a turning point for me was when I was explaining my business to a friend. And I’m sitting here listening to myself, saying, “Why can’t I do this to a stranger?”
Jenn Ocken: Where’s that passion? Where’s that desire?
Doug Gay: And I had to embrace it. I had to embrace my honest feeling, and not say, “Hello, sir. How are you today?” It’s not about that. It’s about your honest passion and your uniqueness, which I know you focus on in a lot of your materials that you’re providing.
Jenn Ocken: Yeah.
Doug Gay: And genuinely convey that someone else. For me, we started with private lessons. And for me, that wasn’t enough. We had to do something else. So we put kids into bands, and then that wasn’t enough. And so then we started a preschool program, and that wasn’t enough. Then we adopted a special needs program, and who knows where we’re gonna be next? But by constantly adding these things, I’m adding to the definition of what I do. Right?
Jenn Ocken: And the depth of what you do, and the sincerity.
Doug Gay: And the depth of what I do. So my challenge, for something like that, that has a buffet of products, is how do you define your craft when you have so many options. And so you just have to learn how to sum it all up.
Jenn Ocken: Well, do you feel like all of those layers always reflect your mission statement, or that vision statement?
Doug Gay: Everything I do reflects my mission statement. I don’t anything that does not reflect my mission statement, absolutely.
Jenn Ocken: Amen.
Doug Gay: But another thing is, these products, some of them are so different that you’re communicating with people who only need that one product. So you really only have to define your craft in that realm.
Jenn Ocken: And that’s where you are listening, understanding, and engaging?
Doug Gay: Listening and understanding.
Jenn Ocken: So you know what to give them.
Doug Gay: Absolutely. Well, Jenn, it is time for our call to action.
Jenn Ocken: Awe, I just had this great conversation. I don’t want it to end.
Doug Gay: I hear there is a free download or something. Tell me about this rumor going around.
Jenn Ocken: Yeah. So okay, I’m really excited because since you guys showed up for us and are listening to our podcasts and our ramblings and our conversation … Which I think we had an amazing conversation today, Doug. High five on that. But to kind of go along with what we were talking about, I have created a free downloadable PDF that will give you a series of questions that will not only help you define your craft, but will get you to dig deeper into detailing out those experiences and defining your creative processes so that you can show up and meet with the buyer that you are going to, and you’re gonna be able to articulate and flow through the conversation so you don’t sound like that salesperson that we all wanna try to avoid. But you actually are creating a relationship, establishing this beautiful trust between humans, like you said, great analogy. And as a bonus, I’m going to include into this free download some great tips on how to get the most out of the content that is so beautiful and unique to you, and drawing in more people to your portfolios, more people into contacting you, resulting into more engagement with you and your craft.
Doug Gay: Awesome.
Jenn Ocken: So the link will be in show notes. And if you are ready to start pursuing a creative career path, or thinking about opening an actual business that’s in conjunction with your creative career or your craft, there is also another thing on the thrivcommunity.com that, it’ll help you get your business legit. Even if you’re not really ready to open your doors too, it’s another free download that you can go in and just go through these quick three-step process that’s gonna solidify a legit business immediately, even though you’re not ready to maybe open the door.
Doug Gay: Measure twice, cut once.
Jenn Ocken: Measure twice, cut once.
Doug Gay: And on that note, I love you Miss Jenn.
Jenn Ocken: Oh, I love you Doug.
Doug Gay: We’ll see you guys next time.
Jenn Ocken: Peace.