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    My Advice: Conquering creative doubt

    By Andrea McArthur

    CWC My Advice Creative Doubt
    Have you experienced the voice that creeps in – asking you: What if? What if it doesn’t work out, what if people don’t like what I’ve done, what if this is less than perfect? But what if you could be more courageous and positive, then you could accomplish your goals, be happier and even more creative. Today, we ask three CWC Members for their advice when it comes to conquering doubt in your creative work, projects and life.

    Kate James, Career and Life Coach, Total Balance

    Kate James

    Every creative person I’ve ever worked with has told me they experience days filled with self-doubt. Ironically, it’s often the people with exceptional talent who are afflicted most.

    When you’re going through a patch of creative doubt, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone, it’s completely normal and it does pass. You just need to make sure it doesn’t become an excuse to sabotage your practice or give up on your dreams. Try these tips to help you over a creative hump.

    Make space in your life
    Sometimes this is easier said than done, particularly if you’re balancing parenting with work. If possible, clear your diary for a day and give yourself time to rest and to breathe. Revisit your ‘to do’ list to work out your real priorities and give yourself time to recharge. A little bit of rest will do wonders for your creativity.

    Move your body, get into nature
    Get away from your desk, your computer or your studio and out into nature. Take a walk, go for a swim or just lie on the grass and look up at the trees. Let your mind move away from your creative challenges and as best you can, be completely in the moment.

    Stop comparing yourself
    It’s not helpful to look through Instagram and compare your life with the lives of others. It may look like people are doing way more interesting things than you but remember, even those who look enormously happy and successful from the outside have days of self-doubt too.

    Keep at it
    Once you’ve given yourself some breathing space, get back to your craft as quickly as you can. Break your bigger goals into manageable little chunks so you can tick one thing off your list today. This will feel like an achievement in itself.

    Don’t let self-belief come second
    Self-belief is a by-product of behaviour, which means you don’t need to wait until you’re confident to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone – just keep doing and the confidence will eventually come.

    Elizabeth Geddes, Creative Director and Copywriter, Chops for Tea

    Liz Geddes

    There’s always an answer, and often it’s right there in the [project] brief.

    Perhaps your doubt comes from the feeling of wandering aimlessly with no direction because the brief is non-existent, woolly or too generic. A good brief gives you boundaries, a measuring stick and finish line all in one. When starting a project, at the very minimum get your brief in writing in an email from your client. Or, after a conversation, write the brief yourself, email it to the client and get them to acknowledge it. With a brief you can prove you have answered what the client has asked for. Plus, if you have no written contract with your client then the brief is justification for getting paid.

    As for how creative the solution is depends on the creativity, aesthetics and bravery of you, the client, and people higher up the client’s chain of command. Always make sure that the person giving the final approval has signed off on the brief (and the costs!) before you even start.

    I’m about the idea first, execution second. You can put lipstick on a pig but that’s not fooling anyone. So here’s the crux: and it’s something I heard Siimon Reynolds say on one of those Andrew Denton TV shows in the 80s. Siimon was a creative director (famously of Grey at only 21) and so dealt in advertising concepts. For a brief he would exhaust his well of ideas — say 100+ concepts. Then he’d dig some more. It’s about getting all the expected stuff out of your head first so it doesn’t rattle around, and allows the more obscure stuff to be mined.

    Another thing Siimon said was use a dictionary (or any book really). Open a page, randomly take a word and build an appropriate concept around it. I still do this to this day. My favourite projects are naming jobs. A combination of the Macquarie dictionary, Roget’s thesaurus, serendipity and diving head first down rabbit holes from the Google search results page always gets me the right answer, and the confidence I need to quash any doubts that I’m not on the right track.

    Kate Taylor, Business Owner and Creator, Taylor and Cloth

    Kate Taylor

    Just create!

    I find the best way to conquer creative doubt is to just create! I know that not everything I make will be good enough to blog about or sell, but that’s not what it’s about for me anyway. I love making things and using my creative brain. I enjoy actively trying to come up with ideas and then taking the time to nut them out. If the ideas work and I’m happy with the outcome, then great! If not, but I really want the idea to work, I’ll talk to my Mum. She’s an old school maker! She crochets like a demon and we both get seriously excited about craft. So if the idea is good but it’s not working out like I hoped, talking about it with her will always lead to an outcome, either we find a solution, create a better idea or we leave it! In which case I just put it away and try not to stress about it.

    All creative ideas are relevant and more often than not they lead to others. For me its about the ideas that come while you are busy working on something. It can start off as one thing and then you have an idea that takes you in completely different direction and you love that idea so much more than the first.

    To break it down my advice for conquering creative doubt is as follows:

    1. The best way to conquer creative doubt is to just create!
    2. Don’t worry about the outcome, focus on the creative journey and watch one idea turn into more.
    3. Surround yourself with creative people or find a creative person you can bounce ideas off.
    4. Its ok to get feedback (read: personal cheer squad) as long as deep down you are happy with what you have created.
    5. Make creating the goal rather than focusing on the outcome.
    6. Above all, don’t forget to have fun.

    - – -

    Thank you ladies for sharing your own experiences and tips for conquering creative self-doubt.

    Andrea McArthur (www.andyjane.com) has a passion for all things visual and works as an Art Director and Designer for the Brisbane Festival. Design is her true love and she goes weak at the knees over strategic branding. You’ll find her sharing on Instagram @andyjanemc.

    Tags: business, Creative, doubt, my advice, positive, regular
    Posted by: Andrea McArthur
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    Interview: Roslyn Campbell of Tsuno


    By Keely Malady

    Sometimes a good road trip is all you need – this was certainly the case for TSUNO founder Roslyn Campbell. After studying industrial design, this self-described fiercely entrepreneurial lady had a great idea driving down the Hume highway one Christmas. But great ideas don’t just jump out from behind a road sign, and Tsuno was no exception; the synthesis of years of experience working odd jobs, discovering social enterprise and crowdfunding, and extensive travel in the third world, in particular becoming aware of barriers faced by women to attending school and work during their period.

    Ros recalls arriving at her parent’s place on Christmas Day brimming with enthusiasm for sanitary products, much to the bewilderment of her family. In the year that followed that trip, Ros completed a small business course, designed and sourced a container load of sanitary pads and successfully launched Tsuno using Australian crowd funding platform Pozible.

    Tsuno’s biodegradable sanitary pads are a functional, affordable, socially conscious, environmentally sustainable and beautifully designed solution to two problems – monthly sanitary protection and charitable giving. 50% of Tsuno’s profits are donated directly to programs that focus on empowering women, ranging from health initiatives, to education and small business. The first of these organisations to receive donations is the International Women’s Development Agency. To top it off, when placing you Tsuno order you also have the option of purchasing a box of pads for women supported by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre here in Melbourne (surely one of the most worthy uses of a last minute ‘add to cart’ impulse!).

    Getting to know Ros a little better over the last six months, it’s become evident that this self-made social entrepreneur is no accidental vocation, but the result of years of hard work and self-discovery. I asked her a little more about her business journey from the early beginnings to her current day-to-day…

    Tell us more about why you chose to launch Tsuno via Pozible?
    Even before I had the idea for Tsuno, I was a big fan of crowd funding. It’s such a valuable tool for creative people to test an idea, kind of like market research, but in real time. Literally, asking the question ‘would you buy this’ ad then, ‘if you would, please put your money where your mouth is’, and if enough people do, then we’re rolling!

    Preparing for and running the campaign was a lot of work, but it was really the perfect fit for my goal to engage with my directly with my market. My target was definitely ambitious. Some of my friends tried to help by breaking it down to how much the campaign needed to make each day to reach goal. That freaked me out, because prior to that I was thinking a lot more abstractly, thinking that I only needed 2000 women to pledge $20 each, and how many menstruating women are there in Australia?! A lot! Having said that, I went through a time of extreme doubt, and found my best way to work through it was to ignore it. In the end the only reason TSUNO was possible is because of my friends. They started spreading the message.

    The double edged sword of doing research [into launching a new product into the marketplace] is that you know you’re prepared, but you also know how advanced your competitors are. Luckily I eventually learnt to switch off to the ‘comparison trap’, recognising that it wasn’t helpful to the project or to my own self esteem. I learnt not to doubt myself, sometimes just through naivety. I think one of the strengths of not being an expert is that sense of flexibility in your approach, that you’re more willing to just try things out, take risks.

    Towards the end of the campaign I had a great idea on how to engage my audience and pulled it together in a day. I like to think that that last push was the reason [the Pozible campaign was successful]. All the sudden pledges went from ten per day to one hundred. And it happened very quickly. It was awesome, but stressful at the same time. Possible sends you an email every time someone pledges, so my phone was vibrating like crazy for a couple of weeks!


    What is the greatest thing you have learned in starting you own business?
    Learning how to ask for help. It’s something that’s definitely needs regular practice. The greatest challenge was getting to the point of asking; thankfully the Pozible model makes it really quite easy for people to get involved once you’re there. The ability to ask for help is something I’m motivated to improve on, and I’m definitely getting some positive reinforcement at the moment with the Sanitary Tax Petition campaign. This was only made possible because I asked for help and found someone keen to take responsibility for the project under my guidance, meaning they are enabled to spread the word without me micromanaging or spending hours creating content. She is so enthusiastic and excited and brings a great new energy to TSUNO, I think it has been rewarding for all.

    What are you most looking forward to?
    Getting back into is product development. The first six months of TSUNO have been full pace: building the network, filling the Pozible pledges, getting the website up and running, moving warehouses too many times… meaning product development has really been on the backburner since launch. With an industrial design background, my mind is always thinking ahead in this area. Ultimately I want to build TSUNO into a brand that has every type of product that you might need during your period. I understand that some women don’t like certain products and others do, so I want to create a brand that caters for every woman’s needs. My foremost interest is adding tampons to the product range, which is in the plan for the next year.

    What is a typical day for TSUNO?
    (Laughs) I don’t have a typical day! A lot of it is battling with being self-employed, and trying to stay focused when my office is in my bedroom. I’m getting my head around it a bit more now, figuring out when I work well and when I don’t. One thing I’ve learnt is I have got to allow the morning to be slow, because I’m just not productive in the a.m. I get the same amount of work done in the afternoon as I would have in a whole day if I allow myself that time for slowness and gentle exercise in the morning.
    At the beginning I was just getting the basics done to make TSUNO possible, keeping everything very minimal. At the moment [I'm] putting processes in place to make things sustainable in the long run. The other thing that takes up a lot of my day is packing orders, which I would like to figure out how to be more efficient at. I spend a lot of time at the post office. I’m at the point now where I’m working out the best ways to do things, and generally trying to avoid moving warehouses every three months! 

    You can purchase TSUNO products from their website, and hey, consider adding one box to cart to be donated to a fellow lady in need! :)

    {Images by Hania Glapa

    Keely Malady is a twenty-something year old graduate architect living in Melbourne. Keely’s blog, Small Talk & Co. Aims to hold a space open for a new conversation on the wonders of the small things that make up a life well lived. Find Keely on Twitter and Instagram @keelymalady or on Facebook /smalltalkco.

    Posted by: Tess McCabe
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    My Advice: The biggest lesson from 2014…


    By Andrea McArthur

    Now that we are well into 2015, I thought I’d ask three creatives – Heleena Arabatzis, Textile Print Artist of Ulterior Motif; Bec Mutch, Coworking space founder of The Cowork Collective; and Ilona Topolcsanyi, Ceramic Artist of Cone 11 - for their ultiamte piece of  business advice based on what they experienced and learned in 2014.

    Heleena Arabatzis, textile print artist, Ulterior Motif

    Heleena Arabatzis
    Upon reflection, 2014 was certainly a lesson-filled year. My top lesson learned was one surrounding ‘working life’. Like most creative’s starting out, the path is pebbled usually in the same pattern: graduate, intern, full time gig, do what you really love on the side, juggle both roles, hope that your talents are taken seriously enough you can ditch the ‘PAYG job’ and focus on the ‘love job’ for the rest of your days.

    Finding the core thing that I actually wanted to do for the rest of my life, and realising that I wasn’t fit for the ‘common’ path was simultaneously liberating & daunting… as was revealing this to my family, partner & boss.

    [I surmised] my career intents are not based on world domination, the masses, the high-rise climb, the trends etc, [and this] manifested an honest search for answers to restore feeling where numbness unwilling resided. After several quiet moments, I effortlessly refined it to three elements: Motherhood, Travel and Creation. The first two are still works in progress but getting back to practising the act & art of creating happened to be a swifter one. I left my textile art-room assistant PAYG job to jet off. As a way of procuring extra savings, I went to market with my Ulterior Motif designs, all made as part my graduation showcase. To my complete amazement, Ulterior Motif products were ver well received by local audiences! It truly is the height of satisfaction interacting with others and just exploring an artistic spin on the world (even if it is just displayed on a cushion). [This experience] has ultimately grounded my feet… for now…

    Finally, with a new found view on (working) life, I plan on having the most fruitful creative year in 2015!

    Bec Mutch, founder of The Cowork Collective

    Bec Mutch

    It’s funny, when you start something new, naivety can be your greatest friend. That boundless positivity it delivers, helping you block out all the naysayers, gloss over the doubts and the voices in your head that whisper of disaster. Without it I’m not sure many of us would launch new projects at all. And so we start, we plan and take steps and commit, and our positivity and naivety feeding us along the way.

    At some point though our vision generally gets a battering, and we are faced with a reality that we may not like and a choice to give up or keep going. I distinctly remember sitting alone at 421 Lygon St on a day when I thought we might need to give up the lease and walk away. I was filled with anger and frustration that my grand vision [of a unique coworking space] was imploding. I wondered what I’d do next if it did all fall apart, and knew that nothing had changed. I still wanted to create a space that felt positive, inspiring and supportive that blended together the best elements of working from home, a corporate office and a creative studio.

    So I kept going, and my family and friends kept offering their support, and I began meeting amazing people whose ideas and encouragement gave me reasons to believe it might all be worth it. The doors opened on December 1st 2014, six months after the lease was signed and the renovation budget had tripled. Although there were times when the adventure felt like a relentless chore, I still knew I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Giving myself permission to do something I really wanted to do was one thing. Sticking with it when things got ugly was a revelation. Now I want to shout from the rooftops that it’s so worth it. That even though the roadblocks and challenges along the way may leave you drowning in waves of doubt, if you keep going you’ll end up in a place far better than the one you first imagined.

    If you’ve got the dream, you’ve got what it takes to bring it to life. Just keep going…

    Ilona Topolcsanyi, Ceramic Artist of Cone 11

    Ilona Topolcsanyi

    For Cone 11 ceramics, 2014 was a year of great beginnings as we developed relationships with some of Australia’s most passionate and renowned chefs. Early in the year we were asked to make an exclusive collection of one-off plates for the Harvest Festival curated by The Gallery of Modern Art, where top chefs including Peter Gilmore, Josh Lopez, James Viles, Dan Hunter and Ryan Squires used our tableware to plate up their amazing creations. From this arose a series of major collaborations that would see us developing tableware for restaurants across Australia. The most significant of these (I’m chuffed to say…) was the making of 250 pieces for the G20 working party dinner at the Gallery Of Modern Art in QLD. Yes – Barack Obama himself has eaten dinner off my plate!

    It was an exciting and prosperous year for us and many of these projects are gently flowing on into 2015. With the excitement of these commissions comes a little stress, a lot of hard work, many failures but an even greater number of successes with many valuable lessons learnt along the way. The most important for me were learning about setting some limits, knowing when to say ‘no’, understanding my boundaries and estimating how much work can realistically be taken on without burning out. Above all I developed a new appreciation for leaving time for a little personal creative play – keeping myself in touch with the love of what I do and the passion that drove me into this creative practice in the first place.

    - – -

    Andrea McArthur (www.andyjane.com) has a passion for all things visual and works as an Art Director and Designer in Brisbane. Type is her true love and goes weak at the knees over strategic design. You’ll find her sharing on Instagram @andyjanemc.

    Tags: Creative, Interview, my advice, regular
    Posted by: Andrea McArthur
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    A guide to quoting and invoicing


    By Jes Egan

    Having worked in the management side of the creative industry for almost all of my working career, I’ve never really thought about quoting for work or invoicing once it’s done. It has always just been taken care of for me! However, in my current job I lecture ‘business by design’ at Billy Blue College of Design, and earlier this trimester I asked my usual question in the first class: ‘What do you want to learn about business?’. Overwhelmingly the responses were ‘How do I charge for my time?’ and ‘How do I put a quote together?’.

    It struck me that knowing what to charge, and how to charge, is something that creative and small business owners often struggle with. So here is my guide for quoting and invoice for your creative work.

    Determining your rate

    Putting a value on your work or your skills can be a very hard thing to do. My advice? Value yourself and what you do. People pay for you for something they don’t have the skill set to do, so try to give a value to your time. There a couple of ways to do this:

    1. Think about how long that job is going to take you to complete, considering every step and every action. For example, if it’s going to take you 10 hours and you’re charging the client $100, you’re making only $10 an hour. That’s not event minimum wage! Decide what your hourly rate should be and start from there.

    2. Review what other ‘similar’ individuals or businesses charge for their time. Don’t necessarily copy this rate, but use it as a guide. If others are charging between $40-$80 per hour then think about where you sit within the spectrum of skills compared to those people. Are you just starting out and maybe not as experienced as some of those charging the higher end of that range? Then charge a lower rate than those until you become more experienced, or vice versa.

    3. Sometimes (and it should  be only sometimes) you might decide quote ‘low’ just win a job, because it’s for a client that you really want to work with, or you’re trying to crack into a new industry or gain experience or skills you don’t already have. I say that this is okay, as long as it doesn’t become the norm. Remember value yourself and your time.

    Preparing your quote in writing

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a client request something extra during the course of a job (adding to your time or the skills and experience you bring to the work), and then refused to pay for it because the details of the initial quote were ambiguous. When it comes to project quotes, the devil is in the detail. Unless your quote clearly outlines what is and isn’t included for the total price you’re quoting (before any actual work begins), if the final fee is above what the client expects, it can be a difficult conversation to have.

    The key is to be very, very detailed in your quote and if a request for additional tasks or the scope of the job changes after the original quote is approved, then it’s good practise to provide them with an additional quote or ‘change request’ and have this approved also.

    With any quote, ensure you get the client to sign it off and/or supply you with a purchase order before you start the work. I know that sometimes this admin side of business can get in the way of doing the real creative work, but it is important – a few minutes to do this correctly can save you so much time and hassle in the long run.

    Here’s an example of what kind of information I might include in a quote.


    Preparing an invoice

    An invoice is what you send to the client in anticipation of a payment milestone or completion of a job. It details the work that has been completed (or details of a deposit before starting a job) and includes your business details, bank account details, payment terms and other essential tax information.

    Here’s an example of what an invoice could look like:


    While it might be tempting to simplify your invoice down to a single final ‘amount due’ total, I personally find that an invoice which contains almost as much detail as the original quote can alleviate many client queries and objections (and possibly the delay of payment). You don’t have to list a blow-by-blow account of the work completed, but a client will generally appreciate some detail of what is being invoiced for.

    The tax stuff

    An ABN (Australian Business Number) is important to have, although it isn’t mandatory if you’re a sole trader. However, other businesses may be legally bound to withhold almost half of any payment to you for tax if you don’t quote an ABN on your invoice. Half! You maybe able to claim this back at tax time, but in my opinion it is better to apply for an ABN at the Australian Business Register and have this ready to supply to any potential client.

    Registering for GST is another thing to think about if you run a creative business in Australia. If you are expecting to earn less than $75,000 per financial year, then technically you don’t have to register, but if you think you could be nearing that amount then you may need to. Have a look at more info on registering for GST here, and be sure to contact a professional in the area of tax and accounting before you send off your first invoice.

    I know numbers aren’t always the ‘fun’ bit of running a creative business, but they are necessary and it is important to set up good systems from the outset. Of course, professional advice from an accountant, a lawyer, bookkeeper, the ATO or other professional body is always recommended before you jump in head first into quoting or invoicing for your creative work or starting a business – it may save you a whole lot of hassle and pain in the long run. Then you can have some fun with the money that comes in at the end for all of your hard earned work!

    Jes is a ‘practical creative’ and a very busy lady, doing the business in a digital agency, being an artist, a university lecturer, and small business owner who can creatively be found cutting up a storm at paperchap.com. Follow Jes on Instagram and Facebook.

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    Posted by: Tess McCabe
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