Doing the Work vs. Shaping Your Brand

Today’s post comes from our Branding for Designers email series. Almost everyone on the Braid team started out as a graphic designer so we have a special place in our hearts for you all. We know your struggles first hand and wanted to create a series just for you. Oh, and if you’d like to get a free eBook on how to brand yourself as a creative expert sign up here. Now on to the post!

There is a mindset shift that happens when you go from being solely a creative-for-hire, to being a creative who guides their own process, shares their point-of-view, and is branded (and hired as) an expert – and it has to do with how you spend your work time.

from freelance to creative expert

This shift happens when you make it a priority to spend time shaping your brand and your business, even when it feels like you only have time to do client work.

This isn’t easy when our natural tendency is the “doing.” The doing is the rewarding part, right? The reward can simply be that feeling of being in the zone and totally losing yourself in the work – especially in those times when you’re lucky enough to be doing the work you love. But even if that’s not the case, you still just love the comfortable routine of the “doing” itself, plus paying the bills even if every project can’t feed the soul.

The “doing” is necessary because it’s how you make your product or provide your service, it’s how you make money, and it’s how you make yourself into a more skilled, layered, and confident creative expert over time.

The “shaping” is a little more challenging. At first. It takes a different kind of practice. This is devoting time to work on your positioning, your personal brand, and where you want your business to go. Usually “shaping” is working on your own stuff.

Tara here, and when I was starting to shift from designer to creative director in my own career, the “shaping” would include guiding others on my team in their design projects, writing concepts that influenced the whole feel of a client’s brand, or (my favorite) shaping the direction of the agency’s brand itself – how we positioned ourselves, branded ourselves and shared what we were all about with our dream clients.

But this really hasn’t changed for me now that I work for myself and help guide Team Braid. For me the “doing” might look like writing brand platforms or business vision guides for my clients, while the “shaping” part is usually when I spend time on Braid projects, launches or just writing a blog post.

In fact, we have a day set aside just for shaping. Every Friday is Braid Day, and that’s when we work on our site, our courses, our offerings, or just have a really great conversation about what we’d like to start doing next year (and stop doing too).

The “shaping” is what will start to really define your personal and professional brand. But shaping doesn’t always have to be all about you. The coolest overlap begins to show itself in your self-work and client-work when you cultivate a blended “doing + shaping” way of working. (click to tweet)

What I mean is, once you start thinking like a “shaper” and a “doer,” you write more, you lead the concept more, you flex with collaboration, and you just speak more clearly (or at least passionately) about your ideas and your vision. And this totally influences your creative work and your working relationships with your clients.

The last thing we want is the doing to become a chore—something you have to get through to get to work on you. The doing in itself is such a reward to a creative. The shaping is the reminder to keep your eye on the bigger picture, not just for your own business, but for your clients too. It’s what creative experts do.

shape your brand and business

As you get into your work routine, ask yourself, “Am I making room to shape my own brand, my own content, my own business?” (click to tweet) And when you do go into get-it-done mode ask, “Am I going through the motions on this creative project just to get through, or am I shaping the work ?” (click to tweet) So it’s not a versus, it’s a win-win for both. Be a doer… and a shaper.


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