Friday Thoughts: Creative Confidence

If there’s one thing that can be said about me it’s that I’m a creator. I make stuff. I write stuff. And most of that stuff gets put out into the wild, ready to be viewed with a critical eye.

Occasionally, when I’m creating, I’ll have a momentary pause. The butterflies will start to flutter, and I’ll sit there thinking “What the fuck am I doing? No one’s going to get anything out of this!”. Sometimes I’ll feel like a conceited douchebag (seriously, I’m 28 and telling people how to run a business? What’s best for their websites? I’m wet behind the ears compared to some!), other times I’ll feel like I’m drawing with crayons. Those, my dear friends, are my confidence crashes.

Nothing makes you feel more vulnerable than watching people react to your creation.

So, what am I going to do? Stop in my tracks? Never make anything again? Just because someone might not like it? Psh! No! Where’s the fun in that?

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced”
– Vincent Van Gogh

Watching someones reaction to something I’ve created has become one of the highlights of the whole damn thing. For every person that doesn’t like what I’ve made, there’ll be another that adores it! they think it’s the best thing ever!

“Creativity takes courage”
– Henri Matisse

Everyone’s allowed an opinion, the world would be a sorry state if everyone liked the same stuff, right? It’d also be super sad if you didn’t make something because a couple of people might not dig it.

You need to have confidence in everything you create. You must speak with authority. You must create for your lovers and ignore your haters. You must enjoy what you do, and remember why you do it. You must create with energy, purpose and unrelenting passion. Go forth, create, set it free and don’t give a fuck.

Now… should I post this?

K.

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Cats and Dogs

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I’m not one of those people that can be lumped into a category of dog-person or cat-person, I’ve always loved both. When Adam and I bought our house (and I’m not saying that we bought a house because we wanted cats, but…) one of the first things I did was start looking for cats. Bramble & Pumpkin are 4 years old now, and they’re indoor cats (paranoid cat-mama).

We’ve always known that at some point we’d introduce a dog into the mix, and have been planning for the day for – literally – years. The amount of research we did into adding a dog to a cat household could fill a book, but there are a few things we’ve learnt along the way that I think are super important.

  • We thought long and hard about the breed of dog we were going to get. Originally, Adam and I had our hearts set on a beagle. We soon realised that such a lively breed wouldn’t fit with our family, or cats, very well. At least not right now. Maybe when we have a larger house, eh? We vetoed any dogs with a high prey drive (terriers, hounds etc.), and any dogs that are prone to giving chase. We started looking at notoriously gentle, trainable breeds. Adam had a golden retriever growing up, and she’d successfully lived with a cat, too. Our mind was set! Golden retriever! NB. I realise that with training, many dogs (including the breeds we vetoed) can get on great with cats, and conversely our ‘safe breeds’ might not get along so happily. It’s a gamble, but I believe that breed traits are a good place to look when finding a dog that will work for your family/other pets.
  • We wanted a puppy that we could bring up alongside our cats, a blank slate with no past cat experience (good or bad). This was a tough decision as I massively advocate adopting sheltered animals, but I believe that this was the best choice for our situation.
  • I spent about 3-4 months looking for a litter being brought up with cats, where the mother was proven to get along with them. We found one just a couple of miles from our house!
  • We started prepping the cats for the arrival of Scout. When we got new dog things we’d leave them around the house instead of putting them away until her arrival. We added a baby gate over the cupboard under the stairs (home to the cat’s litter tray), and made sure they were okay with jumping over it. Every time we visited Scout we’d make sure the cats had a good sniff of us after we got home so they could get used to her scent. As they’re indoor cats, they’ve got loads of favourite places in the house. We made double sure that they had access to high-up areas so they could observe without feeling threatened. We moved their food on to the kitchen table, too.
  • We decided that Scout would definitely not be allowed in our bedroom, at least until the cats were comfortable with her & she was older. We’re crate training her so she’s mainly downstairs anyway, this leaves the entire upstairs for the cat’s.
  • The cats have never, ever been pressured to interact with Scout. This is a huge no-no! They need to take things at their own pace!
  • When Scout’s having a crazy time we make sure the cats aren’t in the firing line. Scout tears through the downstairs like a bat out of hell!
  • Any time Scout approaches a cat we ask her to sit or ‘Go steady’. We basically just try to keep the situation calm and not encourage any chasing or play. We never leave her unsupervised with a cat. Any time that she barks at a cat (which is usually just wanting them to play), she’s told off and taken away from them.

So, all that being said, how’s it actually going? It’s going really, really well! Okay – so they’re not super awesome buddies or anything yet, there’s no playing or dog/cat snuggles… but! They can all be in the same room at the same time. They can walk by each other without freaking out, & there hasn’t been a hiss in over a week.

Bramble’s adjusted much better than Pumpkin, who spent quite a lot of the first few weeks on the wardrobe in our bedroom (not that unusual, it’s one of her favourite spots). As we’re crate training Scout it means they get some respite and don’t have to be totally on edge at all times.

So far, so good :)

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Walking

Yesterday was Scout’s first walk, so the weather decided to throw a thunderstorm. We waited until it eased off a little before heading out, but she didn’t seem bothered by the rain or thunder anyway.

Today’s much nicer weather for it so I took my camera along, she’s loving being out of the garden & investigating all the different smells. As she’s only small, we can only take her on very short walks (maximum of 15 minutes per day at the moment). We can increase that by 5 minutes each month. It’s less stressful on their growing joints and bones that way.

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Looking like a proper miniature Golden Retriever!

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Walking = one sleepy pup!

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Campylobacter and other fun puppy tales

Thank you so much for your comments on my last post about Scout, our golden retriever puppy. I thought I’d update you on our/her progress since she turned 3 months old yesterday!

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Last time I mentioned that she’d not been so well, with a bit of a poorly tummy resulting in sleepless nights and 4am puppy baths. Well, we finally got some test results back (after a few more disturbed nights of sleep, and one night that will go down in history as “the time Adam had to wear a pillowcase as a gas mask + we used 5 rolls of kitchen tissue”). It turns out our little pup has contracted campylobacter, a bacterial issue in the intestines.

It’s pretty common in puppies, and they get it from eating infected faeces. Some neighbourhood cats seemed to be using our garden as a toilet, and cat poop had become a delicacy of Scout’s, we’re guessing she picked it up there. So, £150+ plus later, Scout’s now on some banana flavoured antibiotics (meant for humans) and her poops are back on schedule! I’ve never been so happy to see a solid stool :D

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Now that we’ve got that under control, our nights are working out MUCH better. She wakes up for a pee at around 2.30am and settles down soon after before waking again at 4.30am. This morning was the first time that she went straight back to sleep at that time, before wanting to be up and playing at 5.50am. Tomorrow we’re taking her out for her first ever walk! We’re secretly hoping that this’ll really help her sleep longer.

Her training is coming along brilliantly! We’ve been training with treats and a clicker, and she gets so excited when she hears the clicker rattle. She’s mastered ‘Sit’, ‘Down’, ‘Crawl’, ‘Back it up’ and ‘Roll over’ (although struggles a little with that when treats aren’t involved). We’ve just started work on ‘Paw’ and ‘Spin’, and I’m trying to figure out what to move on to next!

Some other quick fire facts:

  • She LOVES the car, we’ve made sure to take her out in it loads while she’s still young. We’re getting her a harness for the back seat soon, she’s outgrown her car-box.
  • Crate training has helped us out so much. It makes leaving her on her own much less stressful. 
  • She prefers cream cheese over peanut butter as a kong filling!
  • She has a bunch of  teeth coming through, turning her into a chew monster.
  • Whistling the muppets theme sends her crazy.
  • Her favourite toy is a stuffed rat from ikea.

The cats are progressing, too. They try and avoid her when she’s having a crazy time, but otherwise they’ll hang out in the same room without any problems. Scout keeps trying to make friends with them, but it freaks them out a little and they quickly scarper.

I’ll take some photos on our first walk tomorrow :)

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How to raise your rates without feeling like a greedy b$%*h

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Thinking that you need to raise your rates? Over my past few years of freelancing, I’ve steadily risen my rates inline with demand & worth, and haven’t seen a drop in my client roster – quite the opposite. When I first started out I tended to keep my rates pretty low. I was new to the freelance world, hadn’t developed any sort of renown, and hell… I needed the cash.

When I did decide to start raising my rates, part of me felt a little uncomfortable. Would I still get work now that I was charging more? Was I legitimate in charging more for what I did? What would I tell my current clients?!

Here are the statements I work through when I get the “Er, should I be charging this much?” feelings.

  • You’re the only person that can do what you do, how you do it. I work mainly with lady creatives & entrepreneurs. I have quite a niche in the web design/development market in that I am my client. I give my clients help with their website marketing, tips for how to engage with their clients through their online brand, and advice/contacts for other aspects of their business. 
  • If you had a 9-5 job, you’d have had a pay rise by now. Most 9-5s offer yearly pay rises inline with the cost of living increases, promotions and your relative worth to the company.
  • Realise you’re in demand. It’s not boastful to say you’re in demand, it means you’re doing something really right! Look, the harsh truth is, if you took on every project that came to your door then you’d quickly burn out. I decided that I needed to increase my rates in order to cherry pick projects that would help my business grow + keep me engaged with my work.
  • Working my ass off wasn’t what I started freelancing for! Charging more means I can have more time to produce quality work without burning the midnight oil. It means that both my client and I benefit from an unstressed relationship, comfortable deadlines, and room for ‘nice extras’.
  • My experience has increased since I last set my prices. Experience is worth its weight in gold, literally! You’ve picked up a lot of knowledge since you last increased your price, and that needs to show in your rates. Think of the pricing tiers in hair salons, you pay more for the experienced stylists!
  • If you charge it, they will come. Does that make sense? Basically, your perfect clients usually expect to pay a certain amount. It’s a perception of worth, and by charging too little you could actually be putting them off – they’ll wonder what the deal is!

Letting current clients know about my rate increases isn’t too difficult. Sure, I’ve lost a few along the way (which is understandable), but in all honesty our work had grown apart anyway. Here’s how I go about communicating rate changes with my current clients:

  • I let them know well in advance if we have current or on-going work. 
  • I usually offer them a discount on my new rates for the first couple of months, something like 5%. Rewarding their loyalty is the least I can do!
  • I lay out why I’m increasing my rates: my skill set has grown (I explain what my new skills can bring to our projects), general inflation, an increase in demand.
  • I explain my worth, letting them know that even though my prices are increasing, it’s still a great deal for their business. Sometimes, I’ll offer examples of projects that we could take on, including a quote and expected gains (be they monetary, conversions, or sign-ups).

Don’t be afraid of charging what you’re worth, raise your rates!!

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