One of the scariest and most fantastic things about running your own business is that there’s no ‘right’ way to do things. You are in charge. There are no professors or bosses to give you assignments or benchmarks. There is no-one built in to guide you in the ‘right’ direction.
Perhaps you’ve been there: you work really hard on something – a blog post, an eCourse, a piece of jewelry – and you’re proud of it, excited about what you’ve created. But at the same time, you’re also in a bubble. No one else has seen it yet. No one else has agreed that it’s good. And, now you’re supposed to just put it out there for the whole Internet to see? We all have blind-spots, and what if you forgot something fundamental? The best way out of the small-business isolation bubble is to get honest feedback.
Asking for and receiving helpful creative feedback is really important as a small business owner. Doing it well frankly requires both courage and skill. Especially when you’re developing your brand or putting out something new – you need to know how people will react to it. Requesting this kind of information is intimate and scary. And how can you be sure you’re getting feedback that is actually honest, useful, and actionable? You simply must ask questions of the right people in the right way to get the info you need most. To bridge this gap, we recommend going through these 7 steps.
- Try to Get Perspective.
Take the new thing you just finished (or are in the process of finishing) and separate yourself from it. It’s much easier to critique and compliment someone else, so go through it at least once and try to look at it through your customer’s/client’s lens. Try to look at your own work as though someone else made it. Take some notes and jot down as many ‘gut based’ off-hand comments as you can, then set them aside to see if these are echoed when you run it past others.
- Get Clear on the Kind of Creative Feedback You Want.
Every project, product, service, item, workshop etc. needs a different kind of feedback. Make a list of what you would like checked. Is it grammar, spelling, overall content? Do you want to know if the theme, flow, title, visuals are impacting? Are you wondering more about the style, appeal, scent or texture of the product? Do you need to know how the service or class makes your clients feel? The more specific you are in what you need help with, the easier it will be to find out what you need to know. If you just want to make sure there are no typos in it, and someone comes back to you having picked the whole thing apart, it can be very defeating and a waste of time. Also make sure not to ask general questions like, “How did you like it?” Be more specific by asking things like “What was your favorite/least favorite part about this aspect?” Take the time to sit down and make a list of what you’d like to know and create specific questions that lead to the feedback you need to receive most.
- Ask For Specific Feedback From People You Trust and Respect.
Now that you have your list of things you want to know, make a list of people who might be able to help. Before you ask people to be on your feedback list ask yourself some key questions. Do you like their work? What is their professional background? Do you feel they understand your message and brand? Are they sensitive to your feelings? Are they too sensitive and perhaps afraid to hurt your feelings by giving honest feedback? Are these people part of your target market or do they come from some other area of expertise? Keep these things in mind when going through their feedback.
- Create Different Levels of Feedback
Once you have a master list of contacts you can request feedback from, it’s time to really drill down on the feedback you want. With our first mini-course How to Find Your Business Sweet Spot, we had 3 rounds of feedback. The first round was from friends we trusted. This group was a combo of people that were kind and constructive but also who fell into our target market. We sent them a survey we created with general questions about how they felt about the content, whether they found it useful or not, and if there was anything they didn’t understand. We made changes. The second round was more technical and was for our designer and content editor and their feedback was visually and grammatically based. We made changes again. The third round was fully comprised of people we consider to be industry leaders and happened quite close to our launch date. We created individual surveys based on their specialties: one was asked about design; one marketing efficacy; one about the soul of the message; another about the practicality of the material, etc.
- Don’t be Afraid to Throw Out Some of Your Work.
Making changes is a vital part of any creative process. We all want the best final product and most of the time that requires getting really honest with ones own work. Just because you put a bunch of time into something doesn’t mean it has to go out into the world. It may have just been a stepping-stone to something better – a lesson or group of lessons learned. We believe that ‘done is better than perfect’, but we would rather think of it as ‘well done’. Putting out work you aren’t proud of is never a good idea, which might mean shifting directions once a project is well underway.
- Remember That You Asked For It.
Seemingly negative feedback can be taken as criticism, but if you’re able to let it in then it’s a great way to improve your work. Feedback isn’t meant to be hurtful, just helpful (especially if you follow tip #1). If you feel defensive, step back, wait to cool off then read it again. Does it have merit? Yes? Then keep it. No? Then toss it. Simple. Try to take the personal aspect out of the equation. It’s hard, but you can do it and remember – you carefully selected people for exactly this reason – to see it through the eyes of others. It might help to adopt the mantra of “I’m still just as good as I was before this feedback”. Also keep in mind that the feedback itself can end up being what will make you better.
- Stay True to Your Authentic Self.
Maintaining creative integrity while reviewing and incorporating feedback ensures you won’t sacrifice your own voice in the process. You’ve created something unique and just because you’re opening yourself up to feedback, doesn’t mean you’re obligated to take it as fact. You’re under no obligation to use all the feedback you receive – remember, you are ultimately still in charge. Don’t forget that your voice is the most important voice. So before making any changes to your work, check in with yourself first and make sure the feedback has merit and feels like YOU. When putting something out into the world, the strongest impact is always made when we are being our authentic selves.
Being afraid to ask for help just keeps us isolated and alone. Part of building a small business is building a community around you that will support you along the way. You might be a one-woman business, but you don’t have to feel alone. Building your business tribe is a crucial part of the process and mandatory for ensuring strong creative growth and sustainability throughout the journey.