I LOVE meeting new creative professionals and business owners; it’s one of the main reasons I do live presentations and workshops. Each and every person I speak with is passionate, unique and motivated to use their skills to create a positive impact.

So why do so many freelancers and creative business owners struggle?

Because the world doesn’t know what you do, why you do it, how it benefits them, and what they need to do to work with you. It’s not about talent or passion (you have that in spades!), it’s how you convey your message to people who genuinely want and need your services or product.

Crafting and sharing your compelling story

Even if you know this already, you might not be sure exactly how to build that connection. Today I’m going to share my #1 tool for building the “know, like, and trust factor" with your ideal clients.

Crafting your compelling story is part art form, part science, so I’m going to show you how to create your story and share some tips to really make it shine. (And don’t worry, they work–even if you don’t consider yourself a good writer!)

First, let’s start with the three basic components of every story:

  1. You meet a likeable hero
  2. Your likeable hero encounters a roadblock
  3. The hero emerges transformed

Ready? Grab a pen and paper and jot down ideas as you go.

Establish yourself as a likable hero

You do this by sharing a significant and real moment in your life. It could be a positive transformation or a particularly tough time for you. Either way, it should be real and relatable. If you take a look at my story, you’ll see I set the scene by saying, “I moved to New York almost 20 years ago from London, armed with little more than a psychology degree and an English accent." It establishes me as a bit of an underdog, and just a little bit scrappy–traits my clients, small business owners, can definitely relate to!

Take a moment to jot down something that you could share about yourself that would engage your listener and have them rooting for you.

Share the roadblock

For me it was the recession of 2008. For at least two of my clients, a jewelry designer and the founder of an artisanal home brand, it was 9/11. A good place to start is to cast your mind back to why you started your business in the first place.

Change is hard, and we usually only make big changes or take big risks if we are (a) so motivated and excited by an idea that we can’t NOT pursue it or, more often (b) we have no other choice.

What was a defining moment for you? It could be good or bad, but you want your audience to be asking, "What happened next?" A little drama never hurt a story!

Describe your transformation

The transformation in my story: I saw a need in the creative community for what I had to offer. I share the ways in which I followed through (I enrolled in a coaching program, researched my new industry, locked myself in a room and created a program and started a new business).

The jewelry designer I mentioned who started her business after she got laid off post-9/11 started by creating very simple necklaces made out of Afghan buttons, which she sold to friends and family. She enrolled in fine jewelry making classes and now creates predominantly gold jewelry accented with precious stones that is sold in Saks, among other places.

Now it’s your turn. What did your transformation look like? What steps did you take to make it happen?

Tips for crafting your story

• Work at it: Even for those who enjoy writing, crafting a story isn’t easy. Know that you’re going to have to work at it, try it out, and then work on it some more. Sometimes just knowing that going in helps you stick with it.
• Keep it short: Your story should share the highlights, not communicate a blow-by-blow description of your life. Keep it to a page or page and half at most.
• Use language to create tension and drama: Instead of saying “I decided to take the ceramics class I’d always wanted to take,” try “I overcame my fear that I wouldn’t be any good and enrolled in a ceramics class. I produced a small collection which was immediately picked up by my favorite store. I was off to the races!”
• Write, write, write–then edit, edit, edit: Try to resist the urge to edit yourself as you go. Judging what’s good and bad too soon just stops you in your tracks.
• Get it all out: Try different angles. Then go back move things around, take out what doesn’t work and re-write.
• Share it with someone else: Your story is intended to have an impact on the reader, not be about what you want to share. Outside input is invaluable, so ask someone you trust for constructive feedback.

Where to use your compelling story

EVERYWHERE! Think of it as the basis of your marketing message. That means sharing it:

• On your website, in place of a generic bio or resume
• At networking events: Pick and choose elements of it to share in conversation
• In your marketing materials, such as tradeshow materials, brochures, and promotions
• At speaking engagements or workshops: I start every in-person event with my story. It helps build connection with my audience and lets them know why I’m standing up there and what they can expect from me.

Having a compelling story is the equivalent of the perfect bag or blazer that works for every occasion and goes with everything else… you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it!

Happy writing!

Justine Clay is a speaker and business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Through a series of clear, actionable steps, Justine will teach you how to you identify what makes you stand out from the crowd, create a marketing message that resonates with your ideal clients, and build a successful and fulfilling creative business or career. Sign up for Justine’s free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth and start making monumental changes in your creative business or career today. If you’re up for the challenge, but would like some help, let’s chat! Simply click here to book your free call with me.