How to use gratitude as a business strategy
Do you want to stand out from all the other creative businesses out there? Do you want to wow your clients and customers + actually build a close relationship with them? Do you want to do things a little differently + run your creative business in your own way?
Then stick around, my friend, because in this in-depth blog post I’m giving you everything you need to know on:
How to use gratitude as a way of dealing with perfectionism (+ other mindset blocks) as an online creative;
How to use gratitude as a business strategy to delight your clients, collaborators + community;
And… how to start a successful gratitude practice, with 4 practical tips for both work + life.
Now, gratitude as a business strategy… Are you raising your eyebrows in confusion?
Let’s find out more about it, because I’m here to tell you that gratitude isn’t just the awkward thing you do once a year during the holiday season.
How gratitude helps you let go of perfectionism + other mindset blocks
You might wonder how these two topics - perfectionism and gratitude - are related. How do perfectionism and gratitude interact with each other?
I’ve said it before (in this in-depth guide on how to overcome perfectionism + ditch perfect in your creative business), but it bears repeating: perfectionism is not about striving for excellence. Perfectionism is not about being uptight, detail-oriented, type A.
Perfectionism is a fear-based response to insecurity and uncertainty. It’s fear-based behavior.
It’s a thought pattern that goes like this:
At the root of this thought pattern lies an assumption: that who you really are isn’t enough, no matter what you do and no matter how hard you try.
When you’re in perfectionist mode, you operate from a place of lack. Your perspective is that you’re lacking, your life is lacking, the people around you are lacking, the work that you do is lacking.
You believe that you’re not enough, both in business and in life. You focus on all the things you don’t have, aren’t good at, have failed at.
So, another way to define perfectionism is that perfectionism means having a tunnel vision focus on not enough.
The fastest way to let go of perfectionism and snap out of that place of not enough is to focus on *enough*, to focus on the things you do have going for you.
Let’s dissect what this means:
Focusing on enough… that’s the definition of gratitude. Gratitude lets you focus on what’s there. Not what isn’t there or what you wish was there, but what is actually there.
The other thing to pay attention to, is that focusing is a verb. It requires action. It means you have to do something. Gratitude isn’t just a theoretical concept or a feeling that will magically appear one day. It won’t. You need to put gratitude in action. We’ll talk about how to do that later in this blog post.
Are you tired of struggling with your need for constant perfection? Need a little help with overcoming your perfectionism, so that you can start making those big ideas you have for your creative business a reality? Then make sure to download my popular (not to mention FREE!) ‘4 steps to ditch perfect’ workbook.
The 3 levels of gratitude
Okay, so how to go from the perfectionist perspective of lack and not enough to going through life with your gratitude goggles on?
/ 1 / Having
‘Be grateful for what you have’, that’s the thing you hear most about gratitude, isn’t it? ‘Just focus on what you have!’
But to me, that’s a very shallow way to practice gratitude. You can go so much deeper than that.
Now, the first level is to focus on having. The obvious thing to do in being grateful for what you have is to focus on material possessions, but you can also be grateful for immaterial things, like friendships, a song you love on the radio, or the beauty of a colorful sunset.
/ 2 / Doing
However, perfectionism isn’t so much about what you have and don’t have, it’s very much about what you’re doing and not doing.
When you’re stuck in perfectionism, you’re fixated on the things you’re not doing enough of and, if only you did things better or more perfectly, you’d feel better and win the approval of others.
‘Am I doing enough?’ is the question that’s constantly on your mind. And the answer is always no.
But what if you approach the question of ‘Am I doing enough?’ not from a place of perfectionism but from a place of gratitude?
In that case, you’d answer the question with a resounding YES. You’d focus on all the things you are doing, creating + working on. You’d be grateful because of all the things you’re doing right. You’d be grateful for doing the right things.
Not only will this decrease your anxiety, it will also boost your confidence and self-esteem + give you so much clarity.
/ 3 / Being
This last level, where you’re using your gratitude practice to go deep into your way of thinking and your beliefs, is where the magic happens.
Perfectionism focuses a lot on the belief that you’re not doing enough, but underneath that lies another belief. The belief that *you* are not enough. That you’re lacking, flawed, broken, imperfect, unworthy.
The gratitude strategy with the most impact is to focus on being grateful for who you are. I admit, this is difficult. For most of us, including myself, this doesn’t come easy or naturally.
So, why don’t you make it part of your gratitude practice? From now on, make one of the items on your gratitude list about you. Be grateful for who *you* are, for your character, personality, qualities, talents, mind, body, spirit, soul.
Finish this sentence: ‘I am grateful because I am …’
Kind? Compassionate? A good listener? Strong? Imperfect? All of the above?
Write your answers down in your journal or in a notebook. Repeat the answers to yourself every time you find yourself stuck in perfectionism. Slowly but surely, you’ll find yourself feeling better. Practicing gratitude will come more naturally and it will be easier to snap out of perfectionism.
What if I feel resistance about practicing gratitude?
Before we move on and get to the using gratitude as a business strategy part of this blog post, let’s clear up a few common myths and misunderstandings about gratitude.
If you’re resisting against the idea of gratitude, I’d say that’s completely normal. For most of us, there’s a disconnect when it comes to gratitude.
/ 1 / Internalized should’s
First of all, gratitude is sometimes used as a parenting technique to shut us down or keep us in line: ‘Well, you should be grateful you have a roof over your head at all!’
If this has happened in your life, you’ve probably internalized the message of ‘I *should* be grateful, even if I really am not’. As much as you want to embrace practicing gratitude, it feels like a burden or a chore.
But here’s the thing - and this is a major mindset shift: it’s impossible to impose gratitude onto others.
Gratitude is an intensely personal state of being. It can’t be imposed on you or expected from you by someone else. That’s why the tactic used by frustrated parents who tell their sulky teenagers that they should be grateful for having a roof over their heads, usually isn’t successful.
You shouldn’t ever try to feel grateful if you’re not. Remove that burden from yourself.
/ 2 / Hypocrisy
Another reason we feel a disconnect when it comes to gratitude is, dare I say it, the hypocrisy we’ve experienced around it.
This disconnect is also something we’ve picked up growing up, where the value and importance of gratitude is emphasized during the holiday season but then, for some reason, it isn’t so important the other 11 months of the year.
For most of us, practicing gratitude is something that was told but never shown to us. So that’s exactly *why* you need to start a gratitude practice, both in your creative business and in your personal life.
If gratitude was told to you but never shown, you need to show yourself.
/ 3 / What about ambition?
The third misunderstanding about gratitude is that most of us think it limits our ambitions:
‘If I’m always content with what I have, how will I ever achieve anything new in my life?’
Now, to be fair, there is some tension between the concepts of gratitude and ambition.
You can be grateful for the things that you have, but your day-to-day life is dominated by other people’s and organization’s expectations, goals, wishes + needs.
But here’s the thing: gratitude is recognizing that, right here and right now, there are good reasons to be a little more satisfied with who you are and what you have.
When you can’t feel joy from your current circumstances, then that’s evidence of a problem that will probably haunt you even when you achieve all of your ambitions.
Your problem isn’t that you don’t have enough, it’s that you don’t have the courage to stop and enjoy enough.
Let this truth sink into your bones:
‘Enjoying enough doesn’t mean that you can’t strive for more.’
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Tips for incorporating gratitude as a strategy + practice in your creative business
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I drop the word ‘gratitude’? Maybe you think that gratitude is something you do after business hours, like writing in your gratitude journal before bed.
If that’s the case then you’re missing out, my friend.
Gratitude *does* have a place in business. In fact, it’s the one crucial business strategy you’re missing out on.
Why gratitude should be your #1 business strategy
Now, if you’re the kind of business owner that sees their clients + customers simply as walking wallets, this blog post is not for you. It’s best if we break up. Hint: it’s not me, it’s you.
Having gratitude as a business strategy means putting people before money. It means consistently thanking and celebrating your clients, customers + community.
Gratitude should be the cornerstone of your business. Make gratitude part of your mission and brand values, let it be the heart of your company culture + incorporate it into your communication style.
I realize that online creatives need to make money to stay in business, but celebration and gratitude will come right back at you when you consistently celebrate your clients, customers + community. Gratitude breeds gratitude.
There are a number of reasons why the ‘people first, money follows’ formula works.
/ 1 / GRATITUDE DRAWS PEOPLE IN
Gratitude is something that’s nearly impossible to fake. If you express gratitude, then you’re authentic by default. This authenticity draws people in. Nobody likes a Debby Downer, so seeing a positive outlook sparks an interest. People will want to see more and figure out what it is that you can help them with.
/ 2 / GRATITUDE FOSTERS CONNECTION
People want to be noticed and appreciated as much as you want your business to be. It makes your community feel good when a business they support supports them back. When they feel that emotional connection to your business, it encourages loyalty, which usually results in future sales.
/ 3 / GRATITUDE HUMANIZES YOUR BUSINESS
When you show your gratitude, it lets your community see that there’s a person behind the business plan. It shows that you have a heart (+ know how to use it!). When people feel seen and valued by a real person, not just used for profit by a faceless corporation, they are more likely to work with you again or purchase more products.
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How to implement gratitude as a business strategy
Physical shop owners can meet their customers face-to-face, shake their hands + personally thank them for their purchases.
Online creatives need to find more creative ways to show gratitude and celebrate all the amazing people who contribute to their business.
Here are a few ideas to help you on your way.
/ 1 / EMPLOYEES + CONTRACTORS
Just as gratitude fosters a connection with your community, it creates a connection with your employees and contractors as well.
Throw a (virtual) Christmas party. Praise those team members who go the extra mile for your business. Send them Valentine’s Day presents. Make sure that showing gratitude and celebrating achievements is part of your team meetings + your annual performance review.
Celebrate the wahoo out of your employees and they’ll never want to work for anyone else.
/ 2 / COLLABORATORS
Did you love working on a certain project with a fellow business owner? Were you featured on a podcast? Did you host a joint venture webinar with your dream collaborator?
Send those people a thank you note or a small gift to let them know how much you loved working together. Buy them a cup of their favorite coffee when you happen to meet up at a conference. And why not leave a stellar review on iTunes for that podcast?
/ 3 / CLIENTS + CUSTOMERS
If a customer needs to wait a few weeks until the start of your project or until a new product is released, send them a Starbucks gift card to help bridge the gap + to let them know you’re excited about working together.
Wrapping up client projects is the moment to show clients your appreciation. Add a personalized message to your ‘goodbye packet’. If you sell physical products, include a heartfelt thank you card before shipping out the product.
A great way to show clients and customers that you care about them is to follow up with them and check in on how they’re doing. It can be something as simple as a short, nice email letting them know you’re thinking about them and encouraging them to reach out if they have any questions.
Thank your clients or customers publicly - on social media or in your newsletter - for saying nice things about you + your services or products. This is the moment to really celebrate that person and put him or her in the spotlight.
Once a year, send a handwritten card to the clients you worked with that year telling them how much you’ve appreciated working with them. As much as we all say we love digital, everyone enjoys getting snail mail (that isn’t a bill!). If you sell products, take a picture of your handwritten thank you note and email that picture to all of the lovely people who purchased from you that year.
Gratitude can even help you deal with nightmare clients. The thing about gratitude is that it softens just about any message you give. For example, “Thank you so much for wanting to work with me, but I’m not sure we’re a good fit” or, “I’m very grateful that you’ve thought of me to help you with XYZ, but the timeline isn’t convenient for me right now.” Gratitude helps you say no in a kinder and more gentle way.
/ 4 / COMMUNITY
Get as excited about the successes of your community — visitors, readers, followers, subscribers, members of your Facebook group — as you are about your own. Do a gratitude challenge with your community on Instagram or in your Facebook group. Host a giveaway as a means to express gratitude to your loyal followers. Let your community in on special opportunities, like a meet and greet or an exclusive discount.
Small gestures go a long way, so always take the time to respond to blog comments and mentions on social media. Hop on Skype calls with people in your community. Do #followfriday shoutouts. Engage in conversation with someone who always leaves thoughtful responses on your Instagram feed and retweets your messages.
The key here is to share your gratitude with your community + tell them what they mean to you.
/ 5 / YOUR PERSONAL GROWTH AS A BUSINESS OWNER
Don’t forget to show gratitude to yourself for killing it as a creative business owner too. Gratitude will help you grow, both as a person and as an online creative
It’s important to practice gratitude to stay grounded through the ups and downs of business. It helps to keep things in perspective when you’re stressing out about your neverending to-do list.
Need help focusing on what’s important and not obsessing over what isn’t? Practicing gratitude helps you hone in on what’s important to you. It's so easy to follow outside voices, get sucked into perfectionism + get swept away in society's view of success, but gratitude will help you figure out what your version of success looks like. It lets you channel your ambition to where it matters the most to you. It helps you find purpose and slay the goals you've set for yourself.
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4 practical ways to start a successful gratitude practice
A final step in this epic, in-depth blog post is to dig into a few practical ways to practice gratitude on a day-to-day basis.
Some of these practices are simple + accessible, while others are more challenging and maybe even a little awkward. Personally, I like some ways of practicing gratitude more so than others.
Out of these 4 gratitude practices, I’m sure there’s one that speaks to you the most. Go with your gut on this.
/ 1 / Gratitude list
The first one is writing a gratitude list or gratitude journal. This is my personal practice of choice. Each day I jot down three things I felt grateful for that day.
You can vary with both the frequency of writing the list and the number of items on your list. Writing a daily, short gratitude list works best for me. But jotting down 10 things you’re grateful for each week works as well.
Use a gratitude journal, a five-minute journal, or simply a pretty notebook. Make it part of your daily planning ritual for your business or share your gratitude with your team or biz bestie in Slack. Whatever works best for you.
/ 2 / App
Another approach to practicing gratitude is through using an app on your phone, tablet, or computer.
Search for ‘gratitude journal’ in the App Store or Google Play + you’ll find at least five different free or paid apps, like Gratitude Journal App, Happy Tapper, or Gratitude Diary.
If your phone is a semi-permanent fixture in your hand, this might be the right gratitude practice for you.
/ 3 / At the dinner table
Practicing gratitude at the dinner table is an excellent way to practice gratitude with your family, roommates, or friends. You go around the table and each person mentions three things they are grateful for.
This makes telling someone about your day a lot more meaningful. Plus, you get to know each other better too. Classic win/win.
/ 4 / Gratitude beads
Lastly, gratitude beads. For centuries, prayer necklaces have shown up in different cultures around the world. The rosary is a well-known example.
For the practice of gratitude you can use a strand of beads or simply a beaded bracelet. Count your blessings bead by bead on a specific time each day or randomly every time you touch the bracelet.
Alright friend, that’s it. Let’s do a quick recap of what we discussed in this blog post.
We talked about why gratitude is a great strategy for overcoming perfectionism as it snaps you right out of that tunnel vision focus on not enough.
We talked about the fact that if you really want to make the most of your gratitude practice, you not only need to focus on what you have and what you do but also on who you are.
We talked about why gratitude should be your #1 business strategy, with a lot of ideas and suggestions on how to go about showing your appreciation for your collaboration partners, clients, customers + community (and wowing them in the process!).
Plus, we talked about 4 practical ways to start a successful gratitude practice: a gratitude list, an app, at the dinner table + gratitude beads.
Over to you, my friend. Let’s start doing the work to make your creative business stand out from the crowd.
If you haven’t yet, make sure to grab my “4 steps to ditch perfect” workbook, a step-by-step guide to tackling perfectionism and other perfectionism-related mindset issues + start making big things happen in your creative business.
I WANT TO KNOW: WHICH GRATITUDE PRACTICE ARE YOU EXCITED TO IMPLEMENT IN YOUR CREATIVE BUSINESS AND IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE?
Hey, Wendy here!
As a perfectionism coach, I help online creatives #ditchperfect, overcome their perfectionism + take action on the big ideas they have for their business. Let’s work together and make those ideas happen.