sell more of your work Archives - Page 5 of 11 - ⚡️Kristen Kalp

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AWKWARD! Handy-dandy steps for handling any awkwardness life throws at you

As you navigate your time in business — and on this planet — you’re naturally going to come up against some awkward-as-shit situations.  People won’t pay on time, or they’ll have complaints you can’t possibly have seen coming, or they’ll demand a full refund for a product they’ve just happily consumed.

Oh, you didn’t like the donuts!?


It’s not easy to handle these things, but here’s a stab at tackling most any awk-a-awk-a-awkwardness you’re currently facing.

Give yourself a minute. As in, say “I’ll get back to you” or “Let me check” or “I’m not sure.” There’s no need to have an answer the minute someone asks a question. If I ask you what the answer to the equation 372 x 485 is, you don’t have an immediate answer. You would need to consult your calculator.  The same goes for, “Can you just rearrange your pricing, add a discount, take away that service, merge it with this one, apply my coupon, and then add a 10% rush fee?” You need a minute.

Talk it out. Trust at least 2 people in the world enough to run scenarios of all kinds past them with complete honesty.  Oh hey, this feels terrible. This is really awkward. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to say “no.”

Acknowledge your true feelings and your instincts — yes, sometimes you want to throatpunch people — and then come up with a reasonable solution.

Make a script. Yes, a script.  An exact script of what you’re going to say, not one of those “Oh, I thought about it in my head” scenarios. Write down every word, and rely on e-mail where you might lose your cool or forget to mention an important detail. The more likely you are to freak out while thinking on your feet, the more you want to have a precise, kind script you can tweak for 24 hours or so before sending.

Embrace the awkward. Some parts of business are just plain messy. Saying “This is going to be awkward” at the start of a conversation actually helps.  NO REALLY.  It does.

You’re going to talk about odd situations or field uncomfortable questions or say “yes” when you want to say “fuck no” — or “no” when you really, really want to say “yes” but circumstances don’t allow for it. It will always be awkward to say “no” to people asking for a donation of some kind. It will always be weird to answer the door and then shut it in a salesman’s face. (Kindly, of course.) Embracing the awkward means you set a time limit for handling the situation and you handle it instead of hoping it will go away.

Your honesty does both people in the conversation an immense service.

Now, let’s talk money awkward.  These are often the hardest and most insulting questions to field on the fly without losing your cool.

“What are your deals?”

First, resist the temptation to throatpunch this person.  Have a standing promotion or offer of some kind.  Perhaps it’s your featured package that’s always represents savings, but is in no way time-sensitive.  Maybe it’s a throwaway 10% discount that you give when asked.  If you’re a masseuse, the buy-3-get-1-free package is what you mention at this point.  A photographer?  Mention that your most popular portrait package saves your peeps over $400.

“How much DO you charge?”

When people want a custom service and they’re fixated on price, it’s time to have a conversation. Provide a range of prices and then ask question after question. Tell me more about what you’re looking for. Help me understand what you’d like to walk away owning or having.

Call them out when necessary: you say you want the files, but you REALLY want a bunch of canvases on the wall that you’re “going to print yourself later.” Share your experience of what people say they want and what they actually want, as well as how often they fall down on the followthrough front.  Offer to do the heavy lifting for them.  Then make a suggestion.

“Based on what you’re telling me, I’d recommend picking up _________, which costs ______.”

“That’s too expensive.”

There is no price point below which people won’t balk.  Including free.

Articulate the value of what you do in a clear, non-defensive way.

For example: you don’t have to invest in business knowledge or development, but that will severely limit both your personal and professional growth over the coming years, which could mean you end up with fewer clients, less confidence, and a diminishing sense of direction in your business.  (It could easily cost you thousands of dollars in the next six months.)

If hiring me for $649 an hour helps you map out a 6-month plan, prioritize your to-do list, and move confidently in the direction of your dreams, is it worth it?

“For ___________, you’ll receive ________, ___________, and __________. When you think about how it affects your _____________ for the long term, you’re actually __________.”

“But we’re friends!  Any chance of a discount?”

In your mind, think of your top 3 to 5 friends. Would you be alright working for these people once a year for free? If not, cut the list until you’re like, “Yup, free is okay for you.” Now, charge everyone else full price. That clear line is super helpful. Not clear enough? Consider Brene Brown’s “hide the bodies” friends. If you killed someone, which friends would you call to help you hide the body? THOSE are the people you should work for, for free.

“Because I’m committed to maintaining a sustainable business and not a hobby, I simply can’t work for free. I can offer you a ________________, though!”

“Will you work this event/donate your time for free?”

“Exposure” and “free press” are all well and good, but it’s perfectly okay to turn down offers involving those rewards in the name of keeping both your sanity and your schedule in check. How do you do that? You let people know your calendar is quite full, and your regular rates for doing X service are Y. Simple and straightforward. Not because you’re being a dick, but because you truly are too busy or full or otherwise engaged to take on a freebie at this time, even if it’s the world’s most appealing freebie.

“My free ___________ creation time is all blocked out, but I’m happy to take on this job for _______, a _____% savings from my usual rates.”

“What about this? Do you do trade? Can I pay you in zucchini?  How ’bout Beanie Babies?”

Instead of getting all flustered and giving an answer you know you’ll regret, say the magic words with me: “I’ll get back to you.” Then decide whether you really are okay with being paid in zucchini, or magic markers, or massage sessions, or trips to the spa for free facials. There’s no right or wrong way to barter, but you want to make absolutely certain you truly want what’s being offered and aren’t just accepting the offer out of guilt or obligation.

“Hey I had a great idea!  [insert project you’re in no way interested in] You in!?”

Just like in the land of dating, you can’t send mixed signals. So if you like that guy, you’ve got to consistently like him, right up until the point when you do him. But if you act like you’re interested and then you let him get to third base and THEN you tell him you’re not interested….you’ve only made the situation much more awkward than it had to be.

Tell people upfront, in no uncertain terms, whether a project excites or delights you. Refer other people you trust out liberally and often.

It is much, much, MUCH worse to act as if you care, or feign enthusiasm, than it is to say “No” at the outset.

Think about it: would you rather be friends with someone who sort of likes you, or someone who genuinely looks forward to your company? Would you rather take on a project with someone who’s sort of excited about it, or someone who busts out of bed thinking about new ideas for it at 3:00 in the morning? We both know you’d choose the enthusiasm, so be honest when you’re excited — and honest when you’re not.

“This project isn’t my cup of tea, but I’ll bet ______________ would love to take it on!”

“I work for [insert charity name here] and we’d love to include your donation at our next event!”

Do you already know of — and love — this charity?  Does it inspire respect in your soul?  If  no, be truthful: “I donate X per year, and that’s already been allotted. I would ask __________, though as he/she loves _________!”  If yes, go for it.

Now, get out there and kick the shit out of awkward, warrior business owner peep!

P.S. The sales tool you’ve already got — but probably aren’t using.

Bear pants and the inbox: a tale of communication gone wrong

Most peeps in small business — ESPECIALLY creatives, the bulk of the peeps I work with — think they’re annoying the ever-loving snot out of their customers by contacting them.

They send e-mails out to their peeps MAYBE twice a month, more like once a month, or maybe…okay, let’s be honest.  Twice a year.  

They freak about what to say (my ultimate newsletter template can help), how to say it, and how much they’re “bothering” their peeps.

🚨ALERT ALERT If this 👆🏻sounds like you, pick up How To F*#*ing Communicate!  This class will help you talk to your peeps with a regular newsletter while a.) making dollars and b.) not freaking the fuck out.

Let me tell you a story about bear pants.

See, I bought these pants for a friend’s birthday.

I don’t normally shop in Eddie Bauer, but I unwittingly unleashed the hounds with this purchase.  Turns out, I bought a flannel-printed marketing deluge.

I’ve gotten multiple e-mails every week detailing the sales, promotions, specials, and just-for-me offers Eddie has waiting.

15 e-mails in 3 weeks.

15.  E-mails.  In 3 weeks.

You think YOU’RE being pushy or annoying when you softly raise your hand to say, “Hey, I’m alive, you might want to buy my stuff” — you’re not.

You’re hardly making a noise, digitally speaking.  We’re all drowning in message after message after message.  You can choose to withdraw from the game entirely, which will likely result in your business imploding, or you can increase both the quality and frequency of your communication.

Share your secrets.  Tease your peeps with new offerings.  Make offers they can’t refuse.  Find the best articles or games or graphics humanly possible.  Make ’em laugh.  Make ’em cry.  Encourage them to come see you or meet with you or play with you.

Most importantly, make your marketing calendar and then stick to it.

Clearly, Eddie Bauer is a corporate entity with a pretty killer marketing plan that involves sending one bajillion e-mails per season.  They’re all basically the same: SAVE, SAVE, SAAAAVE

You’re a smaller, faster-moving ship, so you can be more creative than that.

Start a hashtag.  Hold a flash sale.  Meet your customers in person.  Attend an event or two.  Host an event.  Accept a speaking gig and give everyone in the audience a free prize for coming — in exchange for their e-mail addresses.   Double your newsletter open rate with one tweak.  There are countless ways to be more insightful, more fun, and more effective than by sending out a deluge of e-mails.

Just don’t think you can get away with sending a single communication missive. 

You can’t expect your promotion to work on the first try.

One e-mail, one Instagram image, one Facebook post and you’re SOLD OUT is what everyone hopes for, but it’s a little like wishing one green smoothie would make you lose twelve pounds.  Unless you’re consuming that green smoothie with a side of E. Coli, it’s not going to happen.  Push yourself to communicate more often than you find comfortable and your peeps juuuuuust might start to be able to maybe hear you if they put their ears to the ground and listen closely.

Your peeps probably can’t hear you.

If Eddie Bauer is burying me in e-mails, think of what happens to peeps who actually LIKE that store.  They probably have Patagonia and The North Face and Buff People Who Enjoy Hiking Weekly crowding up their inboxes, too!  It’s harder to get your message heard than ever before.

So go ahead and say something interesting.  Talk about it more frequently than your brain tells you is acceptable.

And please, don’t go buying any bear pants. 😉

P.S. You’re right.  Marketing sucks.

Come out of hiding, please.

I work with insanely talented, passionate entrepreneurs who are making and doing incredible things, only they’re facing down a common enemy: hiding.  Not wandering off into the woods and going off the grid.  Not playing hide and seek.  Hiding, like self sabotaging to make sure no one takes notice of their work.  

Sound familiar?

You keep doing the work and making insanely awesome stuff happen in your business, and then…

making absolutely sure no one sees it in wildly creative ways.

Failing to mention your work anywhere — on the internet or off.
Not mentioning it when clients ask.
Offering to do it for free instead of getting paid.
Staying so afraid someone will “copy” it that you never show it to anyone.
Refusing to get on stage even though that’s where you’re happiest.
Not telling anyone about that new thing you made up.

It’s common to hide when we’re talking about your life’s work.

This isn’t some whim or flight of fancy; this matters. Deeply.

Worse, you’re facing down a directly proportional amount of fear based on HOW MUCH this matters.

If you’ve got three novels in you, you get three novels’ worth of fear and resistance to battle.

If you’re deeply and inherently talented, you’ll have to fight the fear that says you are deeply and inherently flawed. (The more talent, the bigger the insecurities.)

Today, I invite you to come out of hiding.

Tell the world about what you’re doing.

Show us what you’re working on.
Ask one person to buy what you’re selling.
Let one person love your work instead of pulling it aside to judge it as useless, worthless, or incomplete.


Maybe that means getting serious about taking the next steps in your business, like actually getting paid for the work you do.

Maybe that means telling everyone you know about Product X or Service Z or that you have a business in the first place.

Maybe that means you learn from my encyclopedia of 29 ways I’ve hidden and pick one way to step out of your comfortable routine.

Whatever it means for you, I can assure you that on the other side of hiding, you’ll be met with more understanding and joy than you thought possible.

P.S. It’s difficult because it matters.

Everything I know about time management.

Ever started a new routine to handle your time during the day?

It goes like this…

I’m gonna do all the things!

Look at me, weeeeeeeeeeeee, I’M DOING ALL THE THINGS! I am a golden goddess! I am perfect!

Then, a week goes by.

You sleep in, or you miss an appointment, or you decide to get rid of that time you allotted for marketing in order to catch up on some e-mail.

And then it happens. Screw you, stupid schedule!

You go all freeform on your time. You don’t try salvaging what’s working, you just dump the whole schedule out of your life and go back to freestyle getting things done.

So. Nothing gets done.

A few weeks later…

I’m gonna do all the things! ::and round and round it goes::

As a business owner, there are questions that can frame your day without rigid scheduling.

How will I make money today?

It’s rarely the first question you answer, but it is important. If you’re not making money, you don’t have a business, and you can’t pay the bills, and so your nightmares about losing everything rear their ugly heads when you aren’t earning.

Will marketing make you money? Will it be answer inquiry e-mails or phone calls? Packing orders, taking care of customer service, following up with peeps, or planning to attend a networking event?

If it makes you money, make it your top priority.

How will I connect with my fellow humans today?

Once the money is taken care of, it’s time to connect. This can be as simple as checking e-mails and returning phone calls, or as complex as sending snail mail, grabbing coffee with a colleague, updating Instagram, and responding to your peeps on Facebook. HOW you connect isn’t the issue — only that you’re connecting. Otherwise, you end up sad and lonely and unshowered in your house for the eighteenth day in a row, and last time that happened it didn’t turn out so well.

What must get done, no matter what?

Every business has these crazy things that have to happen. Production, shipping, bill-paying, book-keeping, planning, marketing, sales, and creation. Making stuff, paying for stuff, selling stuff, shipping stuff…there are necessities that can’t be worked around. I know you don’t want to make sure your books are all perfectly balanced and your accountant is happy, but you simply must.

Can you make a recurring appointment to handle the no-matter-what tasks? (And can you keep that appointment just as you would a client meeting, so you don’t have to worry about it the rest of the time?)

How long will I give to e-mail (or other time-sucking activity) today?

20 minutes? 30? 60? 90 minutes?

Hold yourself to a standard or the time suck will start…sucking. Set a timer, keep moving, and don’t let yourself click random links.

In no special order, here are ALL the other things I know about time management.

Actively make space for yourself to do your work. Not just your tasks. // There’s work — like making art or books or jewelry or programs or classes or strategies — and there are tasks. Like checking your bank balance and updating your apps and changing your passwords like a responsible citizen. Don’t forget your real work.

Make space for yourself to make money. //There’s no shame in it. As a business owner, you’ve got to make money. So leave room in your calendar for doing just that.

Find a way to hold yourself accountable. // Tell a buddy what you’re doing. Bribe yourself with new clothes or shoes or gear. Don’t let yourself shower until you’ve finished the project.  Hire a business coach. Whatever it takes. Find a way.

Articulate your goals without making them absolutely unreasonable. // You can cut back on processed foods without becoming a raw vegan overnight, and you can grow your business without trying to go from 0 to 100,000 followers in six weeks. Slow and steady, friend.

Keep a calendar instead of a to-do list. // A to-do list means you’ll knock off the easy stuff and move the gross stuff to tomorrow. A calendar means you’ve got it on lockdown and it will get done, no matter how much you don’t want to do it. Calendar for the win.

P.S. Want to go deeper?  Let’s talk Structure That Doesn’t Suck.

How to stand out, even if you do the same thing as everyone else.

In my bikram yoga classes (clearly this was written in The Before, forgive me pandemic reader!), teachers are required to follow a script. For ninety minutes, they’re told what to say, when to say it, and how long each pose should last. Everything is timed to the second, and everything is strictly regimented. The room must be 105 degrees. The humidity must be set to forty percent. The lighting must be overhead and unflattering. The mirrors must be placed at the front and sides of the room. (You get the idea.)

You’d think there’d be no major differences between teachers, right?


To protect the innocent, we’ll change names and run through the teachers I’ve worked with recently.

Let’s-call-him-Brandon is a new teacher. He barrels through class without any variation or ad-libbing because he’s so clearly afraid of forgetting his lines entirely. He hardly pauses between poses, anxious to get on with the next one.

Tiffany is ALL. RULES. She keeps the room at precisely 105 degrees with precisely 40 percent humidity and makes sure class lasts for precisely 90 minutes. She does not tell stories, she does not deviate from the script, she hardly cracks a smile. She often demonstrates poses from the front of the room, but provides no personal interaction. She’s a stickler for the rules.

Leon is from South Philly, and he struts around the floor displaying his many tattoos like a peacock during class. He’s all brawn, but he talks about yoga as if he’s made of fairydust and stars, pondering the nature of yoga between poses. The juxtaposition is striking, and it works. He also stays in the room during the final savasana so nobody sneaks out early, which students are prone to do.

Tim walks around and carefully corrects students one-by-one using gentle touch. He’s sure to ask if he can adjust you first, then puts approximately one ounce worth of pressure exactly where you’ve been getting the pose wrong. Your hip magically aligns, your knee screams with thanks. When he’s not on the floor, he teaches from the back of the room, high up on the steps, where it’s easier to see every student, and has complimented my toenails on numerous occasions. He tells incredibly brief and specific stories about his own experiences to help us through particularly awkward poses.

Kirsty, however. Kirsty throws snowballs into the 105 degree room when it snows outside. She calls people out by their last names like a gym teacher if they’re slacking, and gently supports those who are new to the practice with reminders that staying in the room is succeeding. She makes jokes between poses and tells stories that are meant to let everyone in the room catch their breath. She gives out foot massages by standing on people’s feet and kneading her toes when they’ve done an exceptionally good job at a pose, and she invariably refers to everyone as “friend.”

Even though she’s sticking to the script.
Even though she’s following the rules.

I would pay twice as much to attend Kirsty’s class as any of the other teachers, because she’s the most distinctive flavor.

As much as you can say, there are three thousand photographers or painters or dancers or lawyers in your town…there is infinite room for variation.

For making the practice of being in business your own.

You don’t have to follow tightly wound rules and you don’t have to follow a script, so you have unlimited ways to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Subtle ways, like telling people exactly what to expect instead of assuming they’ll know what you’re talking about — do you know how excited I would be if my divorce lawyer had said, “Hey, I’ll bet you’ve never done this before, so let me help walk you through this process?” instead of acting like every interaction is an unwelcome pause in the work day?

Clear ways, like claiming a title like Best Hair Stylist of Short Hair and then daring other people to dispute it.

Cheeky ways, by telling jokes that people may find off-putting or that could cause them to unsubscribe. (For every one person who sends me one of those “um, you say fuck too much” e-mails, I get three “I FUCKING LOVE YOU” all caps e-mails to let me know I’m doing this Fuck Yah Club thing my way, and it’s working.)

Allow for variation, and make it as subtle or distinctive as you’d like. No one is asking you to dye your hair pink and start a punk band in order to set yourself apart.

You are being asked to mine your experiences for distinctive qualities, then show them off for potential clients.

Ask yourself what clients would like to see, or what annoys the crap out of the people who buy from you, or where you’re tamping down your personality instead of letting it shine.

Then, express yourself. There’s nothing better.

P.S.  How to be weird in a way that draws your peeps to you.