Interview with Shenee Howard

I recently interviewed Shenee Howard from HeyShenee.com.  We spoke about having the confidence to start, how to tell our story and

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Shenee Howard – Hey Shenee Interview

 Hi.  My name Coral Lee from CreativeWomensBusiness.com and today I am talking with Shenee Howard from HeyShenee.com 

 Shenee describes herself as a creative co-director.  She helps passionate & driven entrepreneurs build businesses on their own terms.  She brings her magic from the areas of design, copywriting, advertising, PR, strategy, storytelling (my favourite) and digital publishing to help you create a business that you love.  One that has meaning and soul for you and for your ‘right people’. 

 I am so excited to talk with her today and see what she is sharing with us.

Oh my god that was so cool.  What a great intro, that was awesome.  Well hello. Thanks for having me.

Now for people who aren’t familiar with you and what you do can you give us a bit of an introduction.

I’m Shenee from HeyShenee.com.  I’m basically a brand strategist and I do product development.  I also write on my blog about brand bad assery and empowerment and making it through the entrepreneurial stuff cause it’s hard sometimes.  So that’s what I do.

There are two things in particular I wanted to talk to you about today.  The first one is confidence.  I know for me and probably for a lot of creative people you deal with, who are just starting in to at turning their “creative thing” into a business – the biggest thing is having the courage and confidence to start.  Can you share some thoughts on why we struggle with that so much and your thoughts on how we can build up that confidence a little bit. 

I think, you know I talk about this a lot on my blog, because it is something I always really, really struggled with – I think the biggest reason we struggle with it is because of the brands that…  You know, we see so many brands that are so polished and they look so ready and they just look so with it and we’re like “I’m starting my little thing and it’s not even anything.  How could I ever get to that level?”  I think that happens a lot, even if it’s subconsciously, even if we think we not doing it, I think we do it just because of the nature of the business.  And that’s kind of the nature of the way it runs, is off the fact of them making sure that you know that they’ve got it together.  Which is good but when it fails it’s bad for our confidence, when it’s time for us to do something cause we’re like “shoot , well I can’t do it”.  But I think that is a big part of it.  I think it also is just the idea of owning your own business is something really hard to wrap your head around.  And it can be like “Where do I even start” so that idea of or that feeling of “I just really don’t know where to start” can also make us not feel confident that we can do it.  And I think that my biggest advice –and I don’t know if this is… well I don’t know, I’ll just say it anyway, it’s one of those things where I felt I still don’t feel confident sometimes and I just have to keep going.  Like if you really, really want it.  Like REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want it, we just have to, even if we don’t feel insecure is to go, cause I know it’s easy to be like “It’s okay.  I’m so confident right now” but it doesn’t work that way all the time.  A lot of the time it’s hard for us to automatically start having confidence.  I think that’s my first advice – is to kind of push through and know if you really want this, is that it is worth trying to push past those feelings.  I think that’s my biggest advice.  And I think also, this is the biggest thing, is not to pretend that you’re not having those feelings.  That’s what I did.  I was like “pssh, I don’t care, no big deal, that’s not bothering me” and that just makes it worse because then you start spinning around in circles.  You’re not taking thoughtful action.  You’re just kind of existing.  You stall.  Sometimes you get like, super snarky about stuff.  So it just isn’t a good place to be if you pretend to have confidence when you don’t.  It’s like – just take a moment and stop.  Say “I don’t feel great about this but I’m gonna do it anyway”. So that would be my advice.

I like that – “do it anyway”. 

The other thing you talk about is the quintessential “being ready”.  Thinking we aren’t ready yet or that we don’t know enough yet.  Oh, well I’ll start after…. I read the next book or do the next online class.  But starting to take action is actually here the magic happens, isn’t it? 

Yeah, it is, and this is a big deal for a lot of entrepreneurs I work with is that they’re like “If I fix this copy or if I, you know, brush my hair” or whatever they think is their excuse from not doing, that it will all turn out right.  And I think that goes back to your first question, which is the confidence thing, is that we just feel like if it’s not like, gold when it comes out then why do it?  And that’s not… oh god, that’s the worst way to think.  I think that you have to start.  You have to start somewhere.  And know that it’s you starting somewhere and that it’s not going to be perfect, like polished brand.  It’s just you starting and setting your intention of like “Hey, I’m gonna do this even if it’s not perfect right now.  I’m gonna at least start” and having the mind set of “It’s not gonna be perfect.  I’m gonna make mistakes and it’s gonna suck”.  And I know that sounds super pessimistic, but you know, it’s kinda those things where it’s like – if you know you’re going into it in a mind of like “I’m just a student at this, I’m just trying this out, I’m really exploring right now” as opposed to “I am about to rock the pants…: “everybody is going to know me” and everything like that, I think that’s not the right approach to have because that’s setting yourself up for little disappointment but if you kind of have a thing of “I believe in myself, I believe in what I’m doing and I’m going to try this.  I’m going to do my best and go that way, I think it’s a better way to deal with the “I can’t start yet”.

We just put a lot of pressure on ourselves, don’t we? 

Yeah, we put so much pressure on ourselves, where it’s like “My God, if I don’t, you know, set this deadline or\have this many followers”.  You know, “do this or important people don’t know about me then I’m not making progress or if it’s not worth it”.  And, you know, people don’t just arrive, which I think is something that we all think, is like you know, so and so just kind of happened and that’s now how it happens at all.  People try things and it fails or it’s a success and they keep going.  I just wrote a post about – I don’t know if I can curse…

I know the post you are talking about, I read it this morning

Um “blank” first drafts and first businesses [see the post HERE] is the idea of there are so many versions of your business that you’re going to have to go through to get to the one that’s really going to be the right one and even then it’s not the right one.  Like, even now, I feel like I’m in a really good spot in my business but I still revise.  I’m still going through “Shazam” and I’m making changes – which is my program by the way, I don’t think I mentioned it which is bad on me.  “Shazam” is a program I do with entrepreneurs which is one week to a new product and it’s a product that’s really clean and it feels like “oh, this is done”.  Nope.  It’s not done.  I still have things to do.  I’m still revising so, I think that if we are in the mind of everybody is still a work in progress and we’re still working, but I really believe in what I’m doing, I really believe this is right and you keep going, I think that is the best way to think about it.  And also, if you don’t feel the desire to keep going, if you feel a real strong “I really don’t want to do this”, “this is not the right thing for me” then stop.  You should only push for things you feel really passionate about.  If you know in your heart it’s the right thing but you might not be doing the right thing for it yet, that’s fine.  But if you really feel like this isn’t the right thing for you, that’s not the resistance thing everybody keeps talking about.  That’s just something that you don’t want to do.

It’s just bad…

Yeah, it’s just bad.  And it makes some people kind of get caught up in “I’ll just keep pushing” but if it’s something you really dislike, don’t do it and recalibrate.  But if it’s something you know you’re going to love, you just have to find the right car for it to drive off into the sunset, that’s a draft situation.  I just want to make the distinction.

I know sometimes once we do start, things don’t always go to plan, it can feel like “oh, well I tried and it didn’t work”, so you stop and you give up.  But what I’m hearing a lot of people say is that the biggest mistake people are making is that they give up too early.  You are a big advocate of “ok, that didn’t work, try something else”.  And I love there’s a phrase in one of your posts where it says – “I am still putting on my helmet and going full force into the wall with every idea I come up with”.  I think that’s great.    You just seem so determined.  I’m just wondering if you have any secrets for persevering when things aren’t going quite to plan?  How do you re-set and keep going?

First I would like to say that I have failed a lot.  I have not been in business very long but I have made a lot of mistakes.  And I fail all the time but it’s gotten to the point where I make so many mistakes it’s not even a big deal to me.  I know that sounds awful, but I feel like it’s really true.  I treat myself like a crash dummy.  Like something that you just keep super sturdy, you just keep going.  The mindset that I always have is it’s not going to kill you.  What is the worst that could happen?  Sometimes we see people use this language like “it could be the death of your business” Okay, so I take my website down.  You know what I mean?  The stakes are not that high.  And I think that we need to make sure that we are thinking about that.  I’m writing a post and it’s like “It’s JUST business… for the love of God”.   We’re not saving starving Africans or you know…. We’re just in business most of us and we do the other stuff later.  So you can’t be in this… you have to have a tough skin about it.  And it’s not even about having a tough skin, it’s not even your body on the computer.  It’s just your web presence one the computer.  So for me the secret is just to realize that it’s JUST business and if something goes wrong, really talk about, what is the worst thing that could happen.  I have to take down my website, I might have to change my name, I might to take the post off, I might have to send an apology.  You know, they are not things that are going to kill you.  I think that’s the way I view it is and that’s where my determination comes from is that the worst that could happen is I embarrass myself.  And on the internet, people don’t care about it nearly as much as we think they do anyway.  You can be like “oh god, everybody probably thought that was so embarrassing, that thing I said in Coral’s interview, oh, that was so embarrassing”.  And then people are like “what are you talking about”.  I didn’t even notice…  Yeah, we put things up in our mind way more.  Another example of this is my posts have been going out as drafts for 8 or 9 posts and I didn’t even realize.  It was a WordPress messed up thing and I was mortified.  I was like “Oh my God.  These people have been reading the wrong version of the post.”  And I was saying that to my friend and she was like “What? What are you talking about?  The post was fine” And I was like “Oh gosh, did you see that mistake?  That sentence, oh my gosh it was horrible”  And it wasn’t even that big of a deal, so even now, even though I have my perseverance, I still have those moments of where I’m just like “Argh” but then you just put it into perspective that people are really more forgiving than we think.

We are just so scared of making a mistake and like you say, it might be a little mistake but we just blow it out of all proportion and make it such a big deal.

Yeah, something like typos in a post bothers me, but failing a launch doesn’t bother me, you know what I mean?  We all have our things that we really focus on and amplify.  I think another good tip is just to talk to somebody about it so they can be “you were really over reacting”.  And the good thing about the digital world is that if something happens you can just delete it or you can apologize for it.  It’s not as intense as it used to be when you’re in business.

The other thing I wanted to talk to you today is the importance of having a story.  One of the words you use to describe yourself is “Story Teller”.  Can you clarify what you mean by ‘story’- in relation to you as a person, in relation to your business and your brand and why that part of business is so important?

I think my personal connection with story is a little different probably because that’s the world I come from, I was a fiction writer or I AM a fiction writer.  You know… I haven’t let it go… want that move made….  So, I’m a fiction writer and so story for me story telling has been a big point of… It’s like the way I see the world.  It’s like the way I interact with things so, when I connect with people, it’s through stories.  And the reason that works so well in business, because that’s what we do in business, if we want people to buy from us we have to relate to them in certain ways and stories are kind of the best way to do them because that’s the way we relate to each other.  How we know that we are similar is through the stories we have.  You could be “Oh, I went to the store” and I would be “Oh, I went to the store too, tell me about what you bought”  Even though it sounds silly but automatically we are connecting on something which is the grocery store and what we bought while we were there.  That’s how it works in business and that’s how it works in a brand.  It’s me telling you.  Or you may be identifying what you are struggling with, like confidence.  Or me telling you my stories about how I’ve messed so many things up and I keep going and you being “Ok, it she’s going through something that I’m going through and she’s kind of okay, then I can do it too”.  That’s the whole – that’s what we have to do with our brand.  And you can do this with your brand you are kind of in the money… If you can take the story of who you are and what you do and relate it to the people who you want to buy from you, their stories and what they believe and what they know to be true then that’s how and when the magic happens.  That’s when you are kind of in your sweet spot is when you are doing that.  So for me, I write a lot on my blog because that’s how I feel I’m talking to my people is when I’m speaking my truth and telling my story and talking about my embarrassments and mistakes.  But you know, you don’t have to do it that way.  You can do it through your copywriting.  You can do it through a podcast.  What you’re saying, what you’re doing right now is saying something about who you are and what you believe by who you want to use for your podcast.  If you had the founder… like Ronald McDonald or something on here, that would say something different about your brand.  It’s all about… those are all the makings of your story.  So that’s kind of how to interact in a good way for people to do that, to start doing that.  Because I know some people are “You say storytelling, but what does that mean?  How do I start?”  They don’t really sound like that…  I think the best way to do it is to literally sit down and ask yourself “Why have you chosen this?  Why aren’t you at a business?  Why aren’t you doing something else like working for somebody else?  Why?  Ask yourself that and then just start writing about it.  Write about what’s happened in your life.  I know a lot of people have stories where they had an interaction with their boss and it was like “This was the last straw.  I can’t do this anymore.”  And that’s a part of your story.  Or, for me, it was a huge part of my story was I was in the job search and it weakened me.  I couldn’t look for another job and for me it’s always been about feeling empowered because I felt so unempowered when that was happening.  I felt so weak even though I knew I had the skills.  I knew I could be a good employee.  I was like “Shoot, I’m not going to work for anybody if this is what I have to go through to do it”.  So that’s huge part of my story.  It really dictates how I talk to you or how I talk to anybody else.  Is that clear?  I feel like I want off the rails.

No, no.  Perfect, perfect.  Now I know a lot of people are a bit wary about how much of themselves they should be sharing online.  But to build a business, like you say, to share part of your story, you to have to at least share a bit of yourself online.  What are some of the things you think are the most important to share about your story but also your personality?  And how do you find the balance between what you need to share and what you are comfortable sharing versus what you are keeping private and offline?

Yeah, this is a good question.  I struggle with this myself.  Sometimes I’m “Oh, was that too much?  Did I just step over the line?” You know, but I think that the most important things to share are the things that are the most unique to you.  So for me, one of the things most people probably know from my site is I’m a huge Backstreet Boys fan.  Yay.  It’s something really little and really doesn’t make any sense but what the Backstreet Boys says about me is that obviously I don’t take myself too seriously because I’m willing to admit I’m still a Backstreet Boys fan and it’s 2011.  So that’s one.  And also lends itself to the more poppy, more colourful.  It connects to my brand in a subconscious way that doesn’t seem that way to begin with but me liking the Backstreet Boys and telling you about it, says something profound about me.  This is a place where you’re going to have fun, don’t take yourself seriously and kind of leave your ego at the door type of situation.  But say if on my site I had all these quotes about the Dalai Lama, or if I had all these quotes about other people that are noble and not in my frame of mind, my reference mind.  That would say something else about me.  That would be like okay, you have found a place for Zen meditation and looking at the world.  And thinking about it in a different way.  There’s nothing bad about that, but that’s not who I am.  A lot of times we are like “That stuff doesn’t matter”, but it really does matter.  So if you are just sharing what bands you like or what you are really interested in, start there.  Because I know a lot of times it can be kind of overwhelming to share too much to get into the deep stories.  Even the “why you quit your job story”, some of that is every private and personal for some people, but if you start with what bands you like, what blogs you like, who you really admire and share that and relate to people – that says something about your brand, that they wouldn’t get just from your website.  So I think people really take that part for granted because they think their bio has to be super polished and needs to be super clean but if you tell me that you really love Keanu Reeves, or that you really, really love “Thor” on mute, which is what I did earlier, because you think the guy is really attractive, that says something really profound about the way we are going to interact with each other.  So that is where I think I would tell people to start with.  It’s something I think is important.  And just start sharing that stuff on Twitter.   I love to see that stuff.   When it’s too evergreen, it gets boring and then you start to blend in with everybody else, but if you share a link to something that is something that you are interested in outside of your business, it really helps people understand who you are.

Do you think that helps people connect with you a little more versus someone who isn’t sharing that type of information?

Yeah, definitely.  There is a brand out there that is…. He or she, not mentioning any names, they share all this amazing content and they have a really good point of view with their writing but I can’t get into it because I don’t have a good sense of who the person is.  I feel like it’s a wall instead of a window which I always say.  If you feel like you are coming to a site and you are coming up against a wall which is kind of like “This is what I offer. Take it or leave it and then bounce” verses “This is my business and this is also a window to who I am.  This is why I’m doing it.  Then it turns me off.  It turns me off when it’s the wall thing because, especially for me and I think a lot of entrepreneurs in this day and age we have so much access to these people, it’s really important that we at least… they don’t have to tell us everything, but at least have a sense of what they believe and what they stand for even in the simplest forms.  I remember I was going to that person’s Twitter stream and I was looking for something.  Give me something, like what kind of cell phone do you use, you know, something that will help me get a sense of how/what your relationship is to your work.  So I think that is very, very important.  And do you think also, it not only helps people in general connect with you, but your right people? It brings the right people to you?  Yeah, I think so too.  It’s a filtering thing because if you don’t like for me to talk about certain stuff or if you think that stuff is stupid then you’re not going to like working with me.  It’s very important when people come to my site or come to my Twitter or talk to me on email they get a sense of who I am.  Because if I don’t give you a good enough sense of who I am before we start working together and you work with me and you don’t like it, I’m going to have to give you your money back.  I don’t want to do that.  So I think the more you can be honest about who you are as a person and what it’s like to work with you, these little things titbits of information so people get a sense of your personality.  I always use myself – just trying to think who I could compare myself to… I don’t know… Somebody who does yoga and they have a yoga centred site which is awesome and I wish I could do it, but I can’t.  Not bendable.  But yoga is a whole different… even if there is a yoga doing brand strategist out there, we both might be doing the same things, but working with her and working with me are going to be two very different experiences because of who we are as people and what we like to do and how we approach communications because hers…. I’m just making assumptions… so I’m guessing that hers would be a more Zen, more quiet like experience but for me it’s not going to be that way.  It’s going to be kind of loud, we’re going to talk, really get into stuff and we’re going to be friends.  That’s just the way that my brand is designed.  I think that’s important.  I know a lot of people talk about finding your right voice when you first start out.  When you are first starting a blog or first sharing online and it can be hard, but I like how you say “just be yourself.  Don’t try to be what you think you are meant to be portraying, just let it flow naturally how you are and then it all sort of clicks together.  Yeah, that’s another thing, you know, when we brand certain conversations, it makes them bigger than they are supposed to.  I love voice, you know, Abby Kerr, she talks a lot about voice and stuff and it’s really awesome but a lot of times people just get caught up in it, thinking about it, when really it’s as simple as sitting down, turning everything off, not thinking about “so and so” blogger, or “so and so’s” thing and just writing.  Everybody experiences it when you are trying to write and you have a bunch of windows up that you’ve just looked at, some site that you hope to be like or you just read some other thing that was really awesome, your writing suffers and your products end up suffering because it’s not truly you.  So I think just by driving all that stuff out, I know for me, when it’s time for me to write my blog post, I blast my music, I put up Omni writer and I just go.  I let myself be with myself for as long as I can because the more you do it, the more your stuff will start to sound like you as opposed to searching for it, if that makes sense?

Now, just to wrap up today, – What would you give as your Top 3 Tips for anyone wanting to start a creative business?  For those of us just starting out? 

Tip One is don’t just arrive.  Don’t spend all this time behind the scenes getting a site perfectly coded and then just arrive and put up your Twitter and go.  That’s not going to work.  So the best way to do it is to start a Twitter or a “pre-blog” as I like to call them.  A Tumblr, or something where you can be talking to people and starting a community based off of what you do.  Interact with people, just have some sort of digital home before you launch so when you do launch, people know you are coming.  There is nothing worse than arriving and feeling like nobody hears you because you haven’t at least made one or two connections.  And it doesn’t take a lot, just make like 10 new friends.  Even if you have those 10 friends and those 10 friends tell people know that you are launching and those 10 people tweet about you, that’s a big deal.  That’s a launch!  That’s my first, that’s my big step, is don’t just arrive.  Try to start a community beforehand with Twitter and maybe your pre-blog.,

My Second Tip would be to also be writing a lot, even if it’s in private. Be writing blog posts.  Write about how you feel about things, start collecting posts and stuff that really resonates with you and just start collecting , a collection of your brain, all that stuff so you have something to source from.  Because a lot of times we start a blog and we put the site up and do everything and then we are like “okay, now what”.  But if you have a collection of writing and you have something that you can share and you have some opinions about things, then you will be more set to get going.

And my Third Thing – when you get started or after a little while and you decide to do a “Freebie” because sometimes a freebie is the thing to do, make sure it’s not an unrelated freebie.  A lot of times, people want to have freebies and it’ll be something that’s just free and it doesn’t funnel into what they want to do or who they want to help, it’s just kind of like something for free.  That’s a waste of time and when people sign up for it and you’re not writing about that stuff or offering information about things like that, they are going to unsubscribe because you are not being truthful about what you want to do.  I think those are my 3 tips.

And also, I have a Forth Tip.  Can I do that?  My forth tip is just a re-iteration of the other stuff we said… Is just really, just start.  I wanna see what you are going to do.  I’m really excited for you to build your business.  And nobody’s going to laugh at you, nobody’s going to point and be like “Oh my gosh, she sucks”.  We forget there is a whole community of entrepreneurs who want us to do well and who want us to thrive as well.  That I think would be my last tip.

Just before we wrap up is there any other advice you would like to share before we finish?

Hmmm, any other advice?  I don’t think so…. I feel like I should have some more.  I write a lot so I should have something.  Oh, I do, I do, I do have some advice.  Try to make as many – I said this a little before, but I am just going to reiterate – try to meet as many other entrepreneurs who are like you as possible and build a community, a support group.  Because it gets super lonely being an entrepreneur, especially a web based entrepreneur, and for me it was really helpful to make connections.  Do Skype calls, email people and connect with people that you see in comment sections on other blogs you like because if they like the same blogs you do, they probably are somebody that you would want to talk to and stuff like that.  Or even if they share the same stuff you do.  I really encourage people to create a little mastermind community or just know people in the entrepreneurship world so that you can source some support when you need it as opposed to going at it alone.

Now if people want to know more about you or work with you – where can they find you?

Yes, so I am at Heyshenee.com and I am also at @heyshenee on Twitter and I’m also at Hey Shenee on www.Facebook.com/heyshenee on Facebook.  It’s all easy, it’s all one tag.  You just type in Hey Shenee, you’ll find me, somewhere.  I do the Shazam service which is a product in one week, it’s really, really fun.  It’s like my favourite thing to do, I really have a good time doing it.  And I also have the Lightning Bolt Sessions and that’s about if you want some focus, creative co-direction on your site, like you’re not sure about if you’re site is doing the work for you, if you need help with your copy, it’s just some almost like brand coaching for you but we get a lot of stuff done during that hour.  Those are the ways you can work with me.

Thank you so much for talking with me today, I got so much out of that.  Oh good!

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    2 Responses to Interview with Shenee Howard

    1. Anna Watkins says:

      Hi there. I found this really useful. I have been blogging for a short while but I love it and am hungry for advice from experienced bloggers! So thanks. It’s a whole new world out there. My husband thinks I love my IPad more than him. I don’t of course but it is up there.
      Anna

      • Coral says:

        I love my ipad too! Much quicker and easier than the laptop (still love and need my laptop though).
        I just had a peak at your website – your art is gorgeous. So excited for you starting your blog. You get so much out of blogging – I am sure you are going to love it!

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