Jessica Comingore is the Founder and Creative Director of Jessica Comingore Studio. We asked her for a little Expert Advice:
What advice would you give to someone who feels overwhelmed by the competition? I always tell friends (and myself) not to pay attention to what anyone else is doing. Taking the occasional peek is one thing, and it’s almost impossible not to these days, but at the end of the day good work will only come from looking inward and being genuine and true to yourself. There are no two people who will do the same thing the same way, so crush any feelings of “it’s already been done.”
What top three tips would you like to pass along for those who have just started to use social media? On the topic of being genuine, I can’t stress it enough when it comes to social media. Your online presence should be an extension of your personality in real life. The same courtesies should exist, and though we often portray only the positive sides of life on the internet, I think it’s good to be honest as well.
“The best connections come from stripping away any façades and showing people who you really are.”
When you think of the best people to work with, what traits do they share? First and foremost, I love working with people who are kind. I also enjoy those who are open to an honest dialogue, put their trust in your expertise, and are open to experimentation.
Give a budding entrepreneur your best hiring and firing business practices: Find someone you jive with on a personal level. Working together can be a very intimate thing and it’s important to hire someone you can put your trust in. I think it’s helpful to seek out someone who has strengths in areas you lack. Be honest about where you’re falling short and find someone who helps you rise to where you want to be. Similarly, if it’s not a good match, honesty is always the best policy. Have a discussion and explain why their skills may be better suited in a different environment, or how things aren’t working out quite how you’ve envisioned them to. Everyone deserves to work in a place where they’re getting out as much as they’re putting in.
Entrepreneurs often say that “you can’t do it all.” What three things do you always outsource? It’s very true! I would say administrative tasks, financial management (when applicable), and production work that can be delegated to someone with a quicker skill set.
What business book would you recommend to someone who is either about to launch or in the early growth stage? I read quite a few when I was first considering jumping into freelance work, but particularly enjoyed The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
What piece of invaluable advice did you receive that you would like to pass on to women pursuing their dream? “All anyone can ever say is no.” I was pretty fearless in college when it came to going after what I wanted. I would find someone I admired and reach out to them to see if they needed any help or if I could volunteer at an event, just to be among people in the industry and get my feet wet. The same held true when it came to applying for jobs. Instead of digging through listings, I would seek out companies whose work I admired and see if they were hiring. I think that proactivity opened a lot of doors for me and to this day I always like to look at situations as if there is nothing to lose. Chances are slim that your dream will fall on your lap — you have to go chase it.
My best advice to a woman launching a venture is… Always trust your gut. If you listen closely, your intuition will always steer you in the direction that is right for you. You may fight it and take some wrong turns along the way, but be sure to check in with yourself and take note of what you’re feeling deep down before making a big decision.
What would your advice to your younger self be? Don’t be in such a hurry. I was always anxious to become an “adult” even before I was one, and at each point in your life there’s something special to be experienced and learned. It’s hard to enjoy the present if you’re always thinking about what’s next.
Finally, please share your top five tips that would benefit an entrepreneurial woman launching or growing her business:
- Stay curious. So much of the work we do as creatives is inspired or informed by our personal experiences. Keeping your eyes and ears open to the world around you will give you more to draw from, whether it be a class on something unrelated to your field, a trip to somewhere off the grid, or a book passed on by a friend. Ask questions, explore, read, travel – all of it will help you come back to your desk with a fresh perspective.
- You can never be too organized. As early on as possible, put in the work needed to establish systems – for everything. I’ve found this to be most important when it comes to project schedules. The success of your business relies on the ability to deliver within a timeframe that allows a project to be lucrative. Hold yourself (and your client) accountable to a timeline for meetings, deliverables, feedback, etc. Without it, projects can take much longer than they need to, and no business can sustain itself without a clear start and end date to the service they are offering.
- Find your tribe. Having a group of friends or family who love and support you is a real blessing when you’re navigating the ins and outs of running a business. It’s important to find people (even if it’s just one or two) that you can trust to share your challenges with, who will give honest feedback to your questions, and who lift you up and inspire you to push through the rockier times. Similarly, return the favor and be a sounding board for them too!
- Face-to-face is always better than email. When given the opportunity, meet your clients face-to-face before starting a project. Some working relationships can last years and it’s important to make sure you’re a good match from the start, not once you’re knee-deep in a project. While email and texting is the norm these days, they will never replace the power of sitting across the table from someone and being able to understand their needs and get their genuine feedback.
- Learn to say no. As much as we’d like to, we’ll never be able to please everyone, and not everyone is going to gravitate towards the work we’re offering. It’s important to find the audience who does and nurture those relationships. There are opportunities that will land on your desk that may not be the right fit for what you have to offer, and it’s 100% OK to communicate that. At the end of the day, you’re not doing anyone any favors by agreeing to something that you’re not excited about. Identify what it is that speaks to you and own it.