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Creativity

Working Creatively Doesn't Have to Look Like Entrepreneurship

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Working Creatively Doesn't Have to Look Like Entrepreneurship

Working Creatively Doesn't Have to Look Like Entrepreneurship // jenniferesnyder.com

I've been giving this idea a lot of thought lately. When I first launched Creating Your Own Path as an interview series, I recalled being given a very narrow set of career options in my high school counselor's office. I was a junior at the time and that was when you were supposed to start picking out the path you might want to take in life.

So many of the jobs and career options that exist today simply didn't back then — and it hasn't been that long since high school. Even in college, I felt as though my options were limited, but times are changing and that's a good thing. 

However, I have been stumbling along my path of entrepreneurship for seven years now and, over the last year or so, I've begun realize why certain discussions in this space haven't completely resonated with me.

You see, there's this idea that working creatively means you have to run your own company. Going into business for yourself has become synonymous with success and freedom and all of those values we love to love.

But guess what? You can still work creatively for any number of super rad companies and still be successful and — wait for it — free. Want to know something else? Some of those creative jobs with organizations and companies around the world pay really well and they come with benefits and other perks like never having to use QuickBooks again, allowing the word "hustle" to fall away from your vocabulary, and going to the dentist with some regularity.

What I'm getting at, here, is that I want to urge all of us (myself included) to stop glamorizing the path of the entrepreneur. It's not glamorous. It's really hard work. Being your own boss can be awesome — that's true — but it's not the only way to create your own path.

In fact, I've met dozens and dozens of people over the years whose jobs I didn't even know existed — and the jobs they hold within their companies are SO COOL. I'm betting current high school juniors and college freshmen don't know those jobs exist either. I propose we change that. 

Who's with me?



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Why I Still Freelance

Why I Still Freelance // creatingyourownpath.com

When I announced that I'd be taking on a part time, remote position with Winning Edits a two weeks ago, I was bracing myself for the feelings of anxiety and dread that I've often associated with being an employee. I'm not sure why, but for the longest time I've thought that going back to a job would mean that I was no longer an independent creative. I was afraid that it would feel like a step back to a time when I was creatively unfulfilled and had reached my limit of office politics.

Yet, here we are a week into this new way of working and I haven't felt any of those things — not even once. Sure, there will be a learning curve and I'm easing my way back into a team dynamic, but that's a good thing. Additionally, I think the supportive comments, emails and conversations that followed my announcement affirmed what my logical side had been telling me all along: it's not the having of the job that's an issue, it's the type of job and all that comes with it that hadn't felt right until now.

You see, the conditions of my new job are fairly ideal. I get to work from wherever I am in the world, I get to collaborate using technology that didn't even exist the last time I had an employer, the job is part time and I still get to pursue other work. In fact, pursuing other work is seen as a positive thing as long as there's no conflict of interest. I think that's a big part of why I'm feeling so good about the decision to sign on with an employer again. 

I'm a curious person, by nature. I love to ask people questions. I may be an introvert who shies away from asking a question in the heat of a discussion, but rest assured, I'm likely ruminating on something you said. I'm the girl who emails you follow up questions because I just can't help myself.

When I told people outside of my podcast/web/blog/entrepreneurship world about the job, many wondered why on Earth I wouldn't simply sign on full time and scrap my freelance work and passion projects altogether. After being slightly horrified at the thought of giving up the things I've grown to love, I'd respond with something like, "but then I'd only get to ask a specific type of person a specific set of questions." 

That just wouldn't do.

I can't imagine giving up (or cutting back on) my podcast. There are far too many amazing creatives out there who haven't told me (or you) their stories yet. I can't fathom passing up the opportunity to dive in to interesting regional business stories (like the Comstock's magazine article pictured above—go snag the July issue if you're in the Sacramento area!). I would also never want to give up on pitching stories to the publications of my dreams.

Thinking through all of this, of course, makes me curious about you. Is there something that you simply can't imagine giving up—even if it makes you zero dollars? Heck, especially if it makes you zero dollars?

Let's talk about it in the comment section below, but first I want to offer my two cents: 

If you're curious, keep at it. If you want to try something new just to see if it works, try it. If you want to say yes to something that sounds crazy, but just might be awesome — I say go for it. 

We're all coming at this whole career thing with varied perspectives and backgrounds, but there's no harm in trying. How else are we supposed to find what lights us up?

So, tell me: what lights you up, my friends?


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The Kindness of Others + the Power of Story

The Kindness of Others + the Power of Story // jenniferesnyder.com

There once was a woman named Susan. She discovered a podcast called Creating Your Own Path at a time when she was feeling "creatively dead" and listening to the episodes helped bring a little more inspiration to her life. Then suddenly, the show host decided to take an extended hiatus to figure out the logistics of traveling for the show and producing quality work. 

In he weeks following the announced break, the host posted on Instagram about a really great contest to win Lucille the travel trailer—a prize that would enable her to continue traveling to interview guests—and Susan got a wild idea:

She'd enter the contest on the show host's behalf!

Unbeknownst to the show host, Susan wrote a short essay about why the host deserved to win, paid the $30 contest entry fee and waited to hear who would ultimately take home Lucille the travel trailer.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be! The trailer went to a very sweet couple who will likely do amazing things and see incredible places.

Susan, saddened by the news, reached out to the show host to let her know she was thinking good thoughts about the continuation of Creating Your Own Path and that she'd even entered the contest with the show host in mind.

The show host—whose name is Jennifer, by the way—was shocked. Sitting at at her dining room table staring at the message on her tiny mobile screen, she began to sob. It wasn't a good look for Jennifer (she's a bit of an ugly crier), but she couldn't stop. Susan's kind gesture not only showed Jennifer what it meant to do something so selfless and kind, but it also made clear the fact that her work on the show had meaning. Creating Your Own Path, a tiny podcast that was created to help bring people together through story, was reaching the people who needed to hear it.

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Susan is a real person, you guys. That story up there actually transpired a few weeks ago.

Her actions brought forth so many feelings and I had to share with you all the impact it's had on me. Kind gestures—big or small—are incredibly powerful and I must say: I want to be more like Susan when I grow up.

As you may already know, the show will continue. Susan's incredibly kind act, along with all of the encouraging words from her fellow Creating Your Own Path listeners, made me realize that I couldn't throw in the towel simply because this year's logistics (less travel, more remote interviews) would look different from last year's logistics (lots of solo travel that allowed me to meet people face-to-face). I simply had to figure out a way to continue the show in a more sustainable way.

See? Powerful stuff, right? 

My hope, in my quest to be more like Susan, is to continue supporting those whose work makes me feel things, makes me think, makes me wonder. I wish I could have everyone who is creating amazing work on my show RIGHT NOW. There are so many great stories out there waiting to be shared. However, if I can't have those good folks on the show, I'm going to share their work with my people, buy or invest in their work as soon as I'm able, leave encouraging words on their Instagram feed, leave a review of their projects or businesses and see if I can connect them with others who are doing great work. 

Kind gestures don't have to be grand to make an impact, but they do—by definition—require action. And those stories? Well, stories don't have to be extraordinary to hold power, but they do—by definition—need to be shared. That's what Susan has taught me.

Let's all try to be more like Susan, my friends. 


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On Feeling Uninspired

On Feeling Uninspired

Here's the thing about doing what you love, following your passion or chasing your dreams: sometimes it stinks.

There. I said it. 

Sometimes in an uninspired moment, you end up on a job search site where you find a stellar job listing—one that includes a 50-hour work week, stability, a regular paycheck, a team of people and a pension (yes, a pension) and you think, "Hmmmm... that sounds pretty damn appealing." 

I tend to hit that particular wall every time I'm faced with something that seems like a huge hurdle. Perhaps it's something I've never done before or a step that could lead to either great success or spectacular failure.

Over the last week or so, I've found myself in a tiny funk—one that I'm sure has something to do with all of the big things I've got planned in the next few months. It's terrifying to take strides or pick a path I've never walked before and that funk has me feeling a little less inspired by what I'm trying to accomplish.

That's not to say I won't feel inspired again tomorrow. It's just that I'm trying to be okay with feeling less than inspired at all times. These days, life can appear to be one big bucket of rainbows with a few unicorns thrown in for good measure, but I'm here to tell you that it's okay to take a step back, read a book, watch a movie or stare off into space when you're just not feeling it. It's okay to sit with your funk and then move through it when you're ready.

So, if you're feeling uninspired at the moment, not to worry. I think we've all probably been there a time or two (or ten). Here's to keeping our collective chins up, friends!


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Q: Can I pick your brain? A: Well, maybe.

Q: Can I pick your brain? A: Well, maybe. // jenniferesnyder.com

Let me explain.

I love (L-O-V-E) to share my process, things I've learned, trends I'm seeing and news I'm reading. However, I've recently come to realize that I can help people—actually help people—by sharing what I know in an intentional, thoughtful, structured way. But like most business owners (and this is a big one), I need to be compensated for the hours of research, preparation and practice that have gotten me to this point. 

I know, I know. Talking about money is tough. Asking for money can be even more difficult. Here's the thing: as creatives who make a living doing what we love/like/are passionate about, we have to remember that we're running a business. What we offer has value attached to it and while not everyone in the world will want what we've got to give, there are people who are willing to support us in exchange for our information/products/expertise/etc. 

This is not a new issue in the world of creative business owners. We often have people making requests for our time or expertise, but it's up to us to create the structures that will allow us to earn a proper living. Recently, I've noticed an uptick in the number of emails, tweets and calls from internet friends, real life friends and colleagues who want to know what I know. I'm no self-proclaimed expert, but they want me to help them do something—understand how to craft better content, shoot the breeze about blogging for business, edit pages of their book or go through the step-by-step process of starting a podcast.

Let's be very clear: I truly believe that these requests are in no way meant to discount the hard work and effort I put into my business. I believe that folks genuinely just want to learn and grow, which is pretty damn awesome if you stop and think about it.

Here's how I'm handling the shift (and what you can do if you're facing a similar challenge):

Providing Helpful Free Content
What?! I thought the goal was to get paid for your time! I know it might seem counterintuitive, but creating useful and inspiring content free of charge is super important. As I mentioned above, I love sharing what I know and there are folks out there who would much rather scour the internet for small bits of information at a time than sign up for a comprehensive course. I still want to serve and help those people if I can! So, I've created a free newsletter that I use as a digest full of useful tips, inspiring interviews and fun finds. I also produce my weekly podcast, which will always be free to listeners, and provide helpful content on my blog, FAQ page and elsewhere on the internet.

Creating Courses
Just like there are people who prefer to piece together insights and learn on their own, there are others who want a more structured learning environment. For those folks, I've started developing online courses around the questions I get most often. I get a lot of questions about my writing process and since journaling is the basic foundation, I knew I wanted to launch Prompt Club this year. On the business side of things, there seems to be a lot of mystery behind public relations and outreach to both traditional and new media outlets. Since I have a background in marketing and PR and have recently created a few new media outlets, developing Perfecting Your Pitch (registration opening soon!) was a must.

Settinging Up Office Hours
Sometimes people really just need someone to bounce ideas off of on a regular basis. I know I do! When I started getting repeat requests for coffee meetings and "pick your brain" emails, I knew I needed to offer some sort of service to help people in a more focused way. I don't know about you, but my conversations over coffee tend to meander. One minute we'll be chatting about the weather and the next we'll be elbow deep in business strategy. Setting up structured office hours offers people a way to get your full attention on a specific topic (or set of topics).

Offering Consulting Services
Consulting can sometimes carry a negative connotation, however, I realized that if I'm willing to hire out my weaknesses, others probably are as well. We can't all be experts at everything. Yet when you own a small business, it can feel as though you have to go it alone. We don't need to be our own accountants, HR departments, marketing teams, etc. Sometimes it's simply better and more effective to hire experts!


So tell me, friends: how do you handle requests for your time/skills/expertise? Do you have systems in place? Let's talk about it.


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