The confluence of circumstances behind Eric Dale Creative
When I first started freelancing, I was working professionally as a graphic designer. But I was also doing the occasional professional photography job, and I didn’t know which one I felt more strongly about pursuing on the side. So I created two online portfolios, two business cards, two Instagram accounts, and two logos, presenting myself alternately as “Eric Dale Design” and “Eric Dale Photography.” The idea was to see which one stuck. Which type of work would be more enjoyable? Which would have a higher demand? Which would generate more income?
The only problem with this plan was that no clear winner emerged! I was regularly doing design, and I was regularly doing photography. And in my ongoing partnership as a Streets Dept Contributor, I was writing blog content, and conducting interviews, and doing a little bit of business strategy. I just kept adding—and wanting to add—more skills.
…answering the question “what do you do?” was getting harder and harder. How do you explain your work when your weekly schedule might look like this:
Monday: interview and photograph a street artist at a bar
Tuesday: transcribe the interview and edit the photos at a coffeeshop
Wednesday: work from home designing a logo for a local business
Thursday: go to a client’s office to assist him in archiving digital files
Friday: meet a fellow freelancer at another coffeeshop to talk business strategy
Saturday: co-lead and photograph a street art walking tour
Sunday: relax? No, probably work on pitches to potential clients…
Explaining that I work with design clients, but also photography clients, but also as a contributor to a blog, but also as a digital archivist, etc. was getting exhausting. It felt like there was a better way to explain what I do.
…I started to notice a pattern. Throughout my life, the professional roles that I’ve enjoyed the most have invariably been the ones with lots of different creative responsibilities—work environments with various deliverables and, ideally, close collaboration. Siloing my skills under different names and social media accounts was doing me no favors in seeking out opportunities like those.
…I was reading a ton (and writing a little) about freelancing as a business and lifestyle choice, slowly coming to understand, among other things, the importance of a clear value proposition. Which, surprise surprise, I did not have. My websites did not really tell viewers why they should hire me; they were mainly portfolios—but it was actually the fact that I had MULTIPLE professional websites that prevented me from crafting a clear value proposition.
To build the career I wanted, something had to give. It was looking more and more like I needed to create a new, unified brand. But I didn’t know what it should look like, what to call it, or when I would have time to develop it.
So I came up with an idea that I’ve been calling the “self retreat.”
I’ll eventually write a full post about this, because it was super valuable to me, but the basic idea was to camp out at my girlfriend’s parents’ house for a long weekend and dive into my business strategy. My focus was on asking some questions that were long overdue for answers. Who exactly is my audience? What unique skills do I bring to my business? What’s my value proposition? What are my long-term goals? I kind of couldn’t believe I had gone for so long without thinking about these things.
Throughout the weekend, I wrote a lot, and I read a lot, and I thought A LOT. But one of the most important things I did was stumble upon Emilie Wapnick’s TEDx talk, “Why some of us don’t have one true calling.” On the first day of my self retreat, as I watched Emilie speak about “multipotentialites,” people with a range of interests and jobs, I felt like she was handing me the identity I’ve always had but never knew existed.
I felt legitimized! Why can’t I be a designer, and a photographer, and a writer, and whatever else I want to do? In fact, why couldn’t I put those skills together and end up with a whole more valuable than the sum of its parts? Discovering multipotentialism was the capstone of everything happening meanwhile. It allowed me to convert but also into and… and feel good about it.
I came out of my retreat with a much better understanding of myself, my career goals, and what my impending rebrand needed to accomplish. So that's how this very website came to be! This right here is Eric Dale Creative.
Have you thought about your value proposition? How you present yourself? Is there anything you’re thinking about changing in your business? Send me an email and let me know how I can help you.