Welcome to DELVE Interviews, a look into the unique paths of artistic and creative individuals. These conversations are a branch of our DELVE Workshops and Events, where we celebrate and discover everyone's unique paths as artistic and creative forces.
Today we're excited to be speaking with Justine Clay, who has been helping freelance creative talent build thriving careers for more than 15 years. She began her career in creative representation and, as the principal of Plum Creative, built a track record of making the perfect match between independent creative professionals and clients in the fashion and lifestyle industries.
In 2010 Justine launched her coaching business, Pitch Perfect. Working with creative professionals and entrepreneurs of all stripes, Justine helps her clients build a thriving and fulfilling business through one-on-one coaching, workshops and talks. Follow Justine on Facebook and Twitter.
Thanks for sharing your path with us, Justine!
Can you describe your path in the creative industry—from where and when you began, until now?
I’ve always been creatively inclined, including ballet from the age of 3 and playing the flute, but I never planned on pursuing a creative career. My path into the creative industry happened by chance when I moved from London to New York almost 20 years ago. I landed my first job answering the phone in a design agency. I’m not kidding when I say the only thing that qualified me for the position was my English accent! I grabbed the opportunity and worked my way up to studio manager. From there, I was hired by an up and coming creative representation agency, where I learned every aspect of managing creative projects, from spotting great creative talent, to developing new business opportunities and managing projects.
In 2005, I branched out and opened my own creative services agency, Plum Creative, where I built a reputation within the advertising and design industries for working with the best creative talent, helping clients find the perfect person for their project’s needs, and managing the process from beginning to end. Business was good.
And then the recession struck.
All of a sudden advertising budgets were slashed and, almost overnight, our work all but dried up. I was always a big believer in being proactive—pitching an idea to a client for a campaign or picking up the phone and doing the cold call—but there just wasn’t the work.
At the same time, freelancers who had been laid off were beating a path to my door in droves looking for representation. While I didn’t have work for them, I realized that I had a wealth of knowledge and practical experience that I could share about how to position themselves more effectively to their ideal clients and that there was a definite need for it.
And so I went on a mission to learn how to build and market and entirely new business. I took courses, read books, joined networking groups and joined a coaching program. Then I locked myself in a room and put everything I learned, along with everything I knew from 15+ years working in small businesses in the creative industry and I created a step-by-step program that I could teach to anyone.
Today I work with a range of creative entrepreneurs—from photographers and graphic designers to artisanal brands. Through our work together, my clients learn how to define and own what makes them unique and create a marketing message and strategy that draws their ideal clients to them. As a result, they gain the clarity and confidence they need to take decisive action and implement the steps that will help them achieve their goals.
Can you describe a day, or week, in your professional life?
I start my week with a one-hour Skype call with my accountability group, which consists of me and three other entrepreneurs. We use this time to review what goals we achieved in the past week, how we are doing with our 90-day goal, offer support and resources to one another and declare our intentions for the following week. I (half-jokingly) say that the only reason I get anything done at all is because I told my accountability group I would! My weeks are pretty structured. I have a 3 ½ year old and baby on the way, so I’ve learned to really maximize the hours of 9.30 a.m.—4.30 p.m. Funnily enough, I get at least the same amount, if not more, done than I did with all the time in the world to spend at work. I bundle my one-on-one coaching sessions to take place on 3 days of the week. On those days, I’m all about my clients and being there for them. On the other 2 days I primarily take care of my marketing and content development. Right now that includes a newsletter I send out every 2 weeks, social media and developing an on-line course I’m planning on launching this fall, tentatively titled Market and Grow Your Creative Business. I’m really excited about being able to help people beyond my current one-on-one set up and give more creatives the tools they need to thrive.
What is your favorite project that you've worked on?
I always tell my clients that part of being an entrepreneur is being uncomfortable 95% of the time, so I love any project that scares me. Whether it’s creating the on-line course I mentioned, or my video series on how to get more clients (which is free when people sign up for my newsletter here), I enjoy the challenge of figuring out what I need to do, who I need to help me make it happen, and getting it done, step by small step. There’s such a sense of achievement when you get it done. It’s kind of a high!
What's the most valuable lesson you've learned from working with all the clients you’ve worked with?
That we all have a unique gift to bring to the world, and that talent has the power to transform the lives of others. I’m absolutely convinced that when we define what that gift is, identify who has a genuine need for that gift and dedicate our business to serving those people, the sky is the limit.
What advice do you often find yourself giving to the clients that you work with?
· Don’t compare your progress by others’ around you. You have no idea what it took or cost them to get to where they are.
· Get support and form an accountability group.
· Align with your unique gift and everything else will follow.
· Define your goals and ask yourself often “is what I’m doing moving me measurably closer to my goal?” If the answer is “No” stop what you’re doing and get back on track.
· Take consistent action every single day and you WILL achieve what you set out to do.
And finally, where is one of your favorite places to go to be inspired?
We recently moved to South Orange, New Jersey and we have the most beautiful outdoor town pool. Swimming is great for clearing my head and letting ideas flow. The beach and nature do the trick beautifully too!
Read more DELVE Interviews here that highlight the paths of amazing artists and creative professionals.