Season 3 Episode 10 "Beyond the Bootcamp" is now available. Listen now.
May 12, 2022

Using marketing as a self-growth tool with Frances Khalastchi

Frances Khalastchi, co-founder of Better Bolder Braver, a marketing community for coaches, talks about using marketing as a tool for self-growth and addressing perfectionism by working out loud and being part of communities as safe spaces to try, fail and learn.

Apple Podcasts podcast player badge
Spotify podcast player badge
Google Podcasts podcast player badge
Stitcher podcast player badge
Deezer podcast player badge

#012 - Throughout my design and technology career, I believed that marketing was just fluff. Hence, I never invested much time and energy into it, even to market myself. In this episode, Frances Khalastchi reframes that common notion of marketing into a tool for self-growth. With a background in graphic design, cultural theory, sociology and art history and 20 years in corporate, third sector startup and government communications, Frances co-founded Better Bolder Braver, a marketing community for coaches.

In this episode, Frances talks about using marketing to increase one’s self-awareness, empathise with customers and prevent burnout. She also mentions how working out loud can help us get over our need for perfection and why it’s ok to chase perfection in your work your work without having to be a perfect human being. We also discuss the role of communities in helping us find safe spaces where we can try new things, get feedback and iterate.

In this episode:

- Starting with your mindset - your values and practical and emotional limits
- Niching to prevent burnout
- Marketing yourself as an employee
- Meet your customer where they’re at in their journey of consciousness
- Working out loud
- Product perfectionism vs people perfectionism (one of them is bad for you!)
- The role of community in our lives
- And much more


Better Bolder Braver Community

Happy Startup School

Leapers: A collective of freelancers

Frances Khalastchi on LinkedIn

Many Meanings and Uses of Art: Frances’ interview on the Stepping Off Now Podcast with Kendra Patterson

Show credits

Illustrations by Isa Vicente

Music by Brad Porter

Episode edited by Niall Mackay


[00:00:00] Frances Khalastchi: Marketing is another self-growth tool. It's another opportunity to hold a mirror up to yourself and to ask yourself questions about what your values, limits and joys are, and then how to develop the strengths to be able to stand up and talk about it in a way that helps people understand that you are best placed to help them.

[00:00:21] Nirish Shakya: That's Frances Khalastchi. Frances is a co-founder of Bigger Better Bolder, a marketing community for coaches. Frances and I met at a business program. We did together with the Happy Startup School where she mentored and supported me through some crucial stages of the program when I was experiencing, you know, things like imposter syndrome and perfectionism, and these things made me feel really anxious about getting my work out there in public. And that's when she introduced me to this concept of working out loud, which really helped me get some valuable feedback from my community to iterate my ideas. I realized that so much of what it takes to market yourself. It's not just skills or techniques, but more importantly, the right mindset. So I wanted to have a deeper dive with Frances to learn more about this mindset that she teaches her community members to be more confident at branding and marketing themselves. You see, I used to think marketing was just fluff, but in this episode, Frances shows us how it can be a powerful tool that can help you know yourself better and serve the right people with empathy.

[00:01:28] Shivaun: This is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya. 

[00:01:42] Nirish Shakya: Hi, my name is Nirish Shakya and I'm a designer educator, and the host of the Design Feeling podcast, a show about the human behind the human centred designer. On this podcast, my expert guests, and I go deeper than the craft of design and into things that make us better designers and problem solvers, things such as self-awareness creative confidence and meaning. Are you ready? Let's jump in. 

Francis Khalas... Wait, Francis Khalast Khalastchi 

[00:02:16] Frances Khalastchi: It's really good. Well done Nirish.

[00:02:19] Nirish Shakya: Francis Khalastchi, welcome to Design Feeling.

[00:02:23] Frances Khalastchi: Thank you so much.

[00:02:24] Nirish Shakya: Did I say her last name?

[00:02:26] Frances Khalastchi: Yes, pretty much.

[00:02:29] Nirish Shakya: Lots cheap.

[00:02:30] Frances Khalastchi: Yeah, there you go. There you go.

[00:02:32] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. Welcome to design feeling great to have you

[00:02:34] Frances Khalastchi: Thank you. It's really nice to be here and have the opportunity to dive deep on some of the things that you and I enjoy talking about. Thank you. 

[00:02:42] Nirish Shakya: Great. So Francis you are a co-founder of Better Bolder Braver along with Simon Bachelor. Tell us about a bit about what you do and how did you get to this point?

[00:02:53] Frances Khalastchi: Firstly, I'm delighted to say that you're part of the better bolder braver community it's growing rapidly and is filled with quite fantastic people. It is a community for coaches. It is designed to support coaches, people who see themselves as coaching others, the people helpers, if you like to do marketing.

And by that, we mean to be able to put yourselves out there with clarity bravery and confidence. We have 40 years of marketing, and communications experience between us behind us. And there's a lot of kind of technical sort of geeking out already going on in terms of what we serve community members.

So if you aren't sure how to produce content, how to record a podcast, how to use LinkedIn, how to do an elevator pitch, how to, whatever, we can answer all of those questions, but we also very much see the community as standing out over and above other offerings for coaches in that we provide space for.

Them to really reflect on how the whole marketing and putting yourself out there thing is making them feel. So we hold space to reflect on feelings around imposter syndrome, confidence anger, fear, all the things that come up when you're trying to produce a thing, price it, put it out there, share it, invite others to be involved in it.

So I can say loads about what we understand to be good to marketing, good for getting clients, but also very much good for you in terms of your mental health and the sustainability of your business. And I come to that, as I say, having done 20 years in marketing and communications across quite a wide variety of industries and in quite a sort of broad spectrum of roles which I bring technical know-how from, and also emotional having navigated quite a few emotional, interesting situations. Yeah.

[00:04:57] Nirish Shakya: You started in graphic design and, arts and sociology tell us a bit about how that journey has unfolded.

[00:05:04] Frances Khalastchi: With great pleasure. I did art and design English literature and theater studies for A-level. And I then went on to do a foundation course at Middlesex university. And as many of your listeners will know when you do an art foundation course, you spend the first 10 weeks doing all of the things. So fine art fashion and fabrics and textiles, graphic design.

3d design. And then after 10 weeks, your tutors help you to illustration print. It's just the most incredible experience actually. It's an absolutely mind blowing journey through all of the ways in which you can be physically creative if you like. And then at the end of it, your tutors help you to decide which of those practices is your zone of genius as you and I might call it.

And it was quite clear to me quite early on that the thing that really turned me on was word image, juxtaposition. So how words and images work together. And I was very interested in advertising in the psychology of it. And also very interested in illustration alongside the written word. And so that naturally meant that I fell into the kind of graphic design camp.

And I have very fond memories of that year working in a studio, having my own space spaces, a big theme for me at the moment, actually. And having quite significant amount of space in which to work and producing some strange things that kind of roughly sat under a kind of graphic design umbrella.

And we then had to apply to art college to do a degree undergraduate degree. And I did do that and I got into to top graphic design degrees and there was something else that was bugging me. And that was that I was 18 years old and I felt like we were all in these white studios playing around. But I, for one certainly could say, that I didn't really think I had very much to say about the world and I felt like I needed to go and learn about the world in order that I could then come back and have something of value to say to others about it, through my art.

So I, similarly geniusly applied to Birmingham to do cultural theory and sociology, which felt like a good degree to do, to learn about the world. And I got into Birmingham as well as the two graphic design degrees that I had applied for. And when it came to the crunch moment of decision, I decided to go to Birmingham thinking I'll come back to practicing art.

At some point when I have something to say, and Birmingham was a very left leaning university department, like cultural studies department. And it was perfect for me because it made, it helped me realize that for me, art design. Visual communication. We're very much kind of agents of change in terms of helping people to make decisions and do stuff about something in the world and you and I share this sense of responsibility and interest in doing something in the world of value.

And I loved the degree and then I went on to do an ma in art history because the thing that I found myself most interested in was the relationship between public and private funding within the world of art and why more widely. So I went on to do an ma in art history and I studied corporate sponsorship of art for my undergrad.

And post-grad dissertations interviewed a load of banks, law firms, insurance companies, and art galleries in the process. Around the subject of public and private funding of the arts. And then I was offered a job before I'd even left university as the marketing and communications assistant the world's only art led insurance company.

And so from the age of about 24, I was running quite significant budgets in an art insurance company, deciding how to promote it to other businesses through whom it would get customers into customers directly. And so I learned on the job, I never studied marketing as it were, but I was I had to land with two feet on the ground and be responsible to market this corporate business quite quickly. And I loved it. I, yeah, it was awesome.

[00:09:34] Nirish Shakya: What was the mindset shift that you saw happening within you when you went from more of an arts kind of world into the more marketing?

[00:09:43] Frances Khalastchi: I was in the art world for seven years when I worked at AXA art, because it was, as I said, the world's only art led insurance company. So I spent most of my time knocking about art fairs, art galleries, going to art dealers, private collectors of art, restorers artists, studios corporate collections of art.

We, we insured private collectors dealers, art galleries, museums. It was the most incredible experience. And my job was to help people to understand that they needed all insurance and to highlight how when something is burnt, lost, damaged by water, can't be replaced like for like it might be able to be restored.

So a lot of my time is spent with restorers understanding how they restored paintings and furniture. And it was really amazing. I was very lucky to get the. Off straight out of uni. So I've never been in a marketing world really. Although having said that I did work experience in a ad agency when I was thinking about, I went traveling for a year on my own after finishing my undergrad degree before doing an MNA.

And I did a few months work, paid work in an ad agency, which was really interesting. It was brand partnerships with the likes of Disney. Yeah, so that was actually quite cool. I didn't really talk about that one so much. But apart from that, I've never seen myself as being in the marketing world.

[00:11:07] Nirish Shakya: I think that was a common notion in the design industry. And this is exactly what I used to think is that marketing is just fluff. What would you say to that?

[00:11:16] Frances Khalastchi: I would say, I love how you always know how to call the shit out. yeah, this is partly what Simon and I have to spend quite a lot of time helping people understand for me, marketing is another self-growth tool. It's another opportunity to hold a mirror up to yourself and to ask yourself questions about what your values limits and joys are, and then how to develop the strengths to be able to stand up and talk about it in a way that helps people understand that you are best placed to help them.

And you need to develop a real sense of yourself in order to be able to articulate clearly why you, and whether that's because you're selling a product or a service, or because you're trying to get a job somewhere, or you're trying to pitch for work somewhere. It's the ability to say. Y it should be.

[00:12:07] Nirish Shakya: That's it's a really interesting perspective that I had never heard of in terms of, in a marketing as a self growth tool. How does that work in practice?

[00:12:18] Frances Khalastchi: We take our community on a journey, which we call the coach's marketing journey. And we work with them first deeply on understanding some of the things that they may never have thought about as being relevant to marketing. And that is around your mindset. And as I say, things like what limits you have, what values you have and, that's practical limits, emotional limits in order to build a business, one needs to have a sense of value and also have a sense of limit, have a sense of what.

Sustainable for you. And that might be to do with practicalities financial constraints, or, financial things that might dictate where you need to be right now. And that's not to say you can't be creative. It's just having compassion for where you are and starting from now, albeit with a vision of where you might like to be.

So we work hard with our coaches to help them ground themselves in that space. And then the next chapter is around your ideal client and coaches talk about having to niche all the time. They're told they have to niche. They're told they have to work out who their ideal client is. And then how, they're encouraged to go after them with urgency and clarity.

And we just also like to remind our clients that the reason why niching is a good idea If you can't be focused on an audience, you run the risk of burning out because you're trying to talk to everyone and we can't be for everyone. And that's okay. As Seth Godin says it's to do with self-preservation that we like to remind people that a hundred tree fans, for example, assignment talks about is possibly quite enough, at least to be beginning with and to be able to identify what kind of people you like to surround yourself with the energize, you and can make you feel good about the work you're doing is really important.

So yeah, niching is important so that you can focus and design your product and your marketing, but it's also so that you can make sure that you're surrounding yourself with the energy that, that serves you.

[00:14:23] Nirish Shakya: I think that something I'm only recently realizing in terms of, the value of self-awareness in marketing and knowing who you want to serve. And and I think that, again comes down to what, what gives you energy back in terms of, what kind of work that you want to do?

massive part of our, listeners on this podcast are people who will currently work in organizations as employees. And I've been an employee pretty much most of my career. And, as an employee I never actually thought about the importance of marketing myself because I thought, I'm just going into work and doing what I'm told to do and coming back home I didn't really have to think about, who should I target and wish I could work from.

Do you think something like this would be useful for people who are currently employed not having to guess when work.

[00:15:17] Frances Khalastchi: Yeah, no, it's really interesting. You ask about this. Cause I was talking about it with Simon yesterday. I certainly feel as a woman that I have had to promote myself in the workplace I've had to really be seen and I've had to work hard to be seen as a little marketing girl, it's often not taken seriously as you yourself said earlier.

And so there were deep moments of frustration where I was taking my company's mission and vision very much to heart and designing. Content and programs and events and interactions very carefully. And with someone with three university qualifications behind me, I would find it quite frustrating sometimes that I was seen as the sort of fluff on the side, that kind of it was incidental to the key running of the organization.

And I have to say that if I was seen that way, it was mostly by men. I had a very inspirational female chief executive five or six years who as a woman was inspiring. It was incidental, frankly, that she was a woman. She was an inspiring human being. And the thing I loved about her also was that she left me to do. My thing and trusted me, which is really important to me. I've come to understand there's nothing worse for me than working for megalomaniacs, who I feel squashed by. I would never have thought I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I was extremely safe. I felt in the corporate space with my regular salary and my pension scheme and nine to five job, it felt right for me.

And it was anyone. I was you asked me earlier and I didn't ask the question, how I ended up running a community and doing what I'm doing. But I had all sorts of experiences in the last 20 years. And there were a couple towards the end of my kind of employment career that helped me to realize that in fact, that environment wasn't necessarily the most Safe and nurturing for me.

And COVID, and all sorts of other situations meant that I am doing what I'm doing now. I liked to talk about the squiggly career because I now can look back and see how all of those experiences were absolutely essential for me in my understanding and self-awareness but at the time as an employee, I thought that was safety.

But like I say, I did have to show up quite a lot as somebody that I wanted to be seen as so the marketing thing for employees is a way of remembering that you can be the brand that you want to be. And you can design your interactions, which is in mind of your boundaries and limits and values and joy in a way that means you're not compromising yourself. And you're really good at, in a Clare respectable way, communicating to people what your needs are, what your wants are and what you can do for them. So I think there's a lot to be said for as an employee, understanding how to promote yourself, how to put yourself out there.

[00:18:22] Nirish Shakya: And how do you balance that with not coming across as arrogant or trying to be too pushy with an organization, especially in a, some organizations that have been bought off, they move at a very glacial pace and they don't like change and you're coming in and saying, Hey, look at me. I need to be, I want to help you do this and do that. And sometimes that can make people feel more resistant as well. What's been your experience around these things.

[00:18:51] Frances Khalastchi: Sure. It's very easy to talk about putting yourself out there for anyone that hasn't experienced the corporate world. And of course I can very much relate to the kind of trials and tribulations and challenges of navigating a world that feels like it's not got humans in it, but actually it does. And the beast that is a big corporate feels like it's robotic, but the people who are working there are human beings as well. And I

[00:19:20] Nirish Shakya: that's something that I've forgotten so many times working with is that they're humans.

[00:19:25] Frances Khalastchi: It's funny because I think that the most amazing thing about comedy is when someone walks onto a stage, a comedian walks into stage and they say something and it hits you such a kind of obvious thing. And everyone finds it funny because it's just it's it's so immediately moving and yet it's something that nobody ever talks about. And that's why it's so brilliant. 

And in the corporate world, building close connections and showing that you empathize, we talk about empathy, led marketing and human centered marketing in our community.

[00:19:59] Nirish Shakya: How's that different to normal

[00:20:01] Frances Khalastchi: So normal. Ooh,

[00:20:03] Nirish Shakya: Traditional, what are we call

[00:20:05] Frances Khalastchi: we call it, we call what you're talking about, toxic bullshit marketing. And what we mean by that is when people tell other people how they need to do marketing, and it often involves buying Facebook ads and how I, 10 X my income in five minutes and Simon talks about magic beans.

Magic beans is the concept that we refer to in terms of people selling courses. About how they're so brilliant at selling courses and you never really actually learn anything. It's just, you're buying into this, how I made six figures in two weeks, and it's more of a, we talk about the hero, the hero and the guide.

And what we like people to think about in their marketing is that they're not the hero. They're the guide. The hero is the person that they're talking to. And it's some of the toxic bullshit marketing. We see the hero is the person talking about how to do marketing. There are very useful things that you can do in marketing, but you can't be told how to, you know, sometimes people just want you to write a plan for them.

It doesn't necessarily work. And quite often doesn't work because. It's taken you out of the situation. It hasn't been designed around you. So people burn out and get very stressed. When they're being told, they have to generate three pieces of content every week and they have to do everything at this time of day and they have to invest this muscle in ads.

And nowadays it's all quite scary and intimidating. And working with coaches, what we're quite lucky with is that coaches are brilliant at asking questions, and that is often the key to really give marketing. So when we talk about human centered empathy, led marketing, we're talking about really feeling into your ideal client, just from the UX world, really being able to think and feel into what it is that you. Customer might be going through and then asking penetrating empathetic kind, compassionate questions that make them feel seen, heard, and understood. And that the kind of way in which you can show up as a coach in asking those questions is largely what marketing is all about. As opposed to standing on a soap box. As I say, vomiting your shit all over the place and hoping some of it sticks somewhere. Nobody likes that.

[00:22:21] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. I mean, You've reminded me of some of the work that we do as designers in terms of asking lots of questions, trying to find out what their needs and pain points are. So in essence, we are doing marketing

[00:22:38] Frances Khalastchi: Yeah. And you're not just putting stuff out there. You're designing a solution that really speaks to what somebody needs. We talk about giving people what they want, but serving them what they need sometimes. 

And we, because you're a part of our community that one of our other big things that we talk about is something called the journey of consciousness.

And by that, I the levels of awareness that your customer will go through in going from completely unaware that they might have something that they could work with to what we call problem aware, problem being a slightly problematic word. But yes, unaware to problem aware and then, sorry, problem aware and solution unaware to solution aware.

And then most aware is where working with you as a no brainer, but they might be staff. At a place where if you talk to them about the thing that you're building for them, they may have absolutely no idea that it's of relevance to them whatsoever. And clever marketing is about how can you speak to that person where they are?

How can you meet them, where they are and take them gently on a journey that helps them to see that they may very well benefit from working from you and people will often buy you when they think they want something and that you might be able to give it to them. And you may know, because you work with lots of people like them.

That there's a thing that they need. Maybe that's just being heard. Maybe that's feeding, like they're in good company. When they have existential mortality moments, they won't have come to you because of what they needed was to be held in a space of safety. That they'll think there's something that they want

[00:24:23] Nirish Shakya: Yeah.

[00:24:23] Frances Khalastchi: plan.

W let's say.

[00:24:25] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And then trying to understand people's needs and trying to meet them those needs can be scary because, and that's when we start to suffer with self doubt, like imposter syndrome, like you said, am I the right person for this? Am I even qualified to help this person? How do you deal with.

[00:24:41] Frances Khalastchi: that's an excellent question nourish. And it came up yesterday in a masterclass that we held. I think it's one thing to be mindful of your client's journey of consciousness. And it's quite another thing to appreciate your own, as you say relationship with addressing the different transitions from one level of awareness to another, and my comfort zone in terms of those transitions is from unaware to aware.

So I love helping people. To have enlightenment moments where they become clear on what it is within themselves, that they may like to work on. Simon likes to work with people who are clear that there's an issue and they're looking for the solution. The more confident you are in yourself, more able you are to work up the levels of awareness.

So that you're sort of real comfort zone is getting people from solution aware to most aware, working with you, not just working with any coach, but working with you and imposter syndrome happens lower down when you're not sure in yourself, if you're the right fit. If what you have in life is a value.

So the work you have to do, the mirror that you're holding up to herself is around your own. And getting more confident about that. And we talk about story. So story is so important as in terms of being able to embrace the child within all of us in a way that they can understand and gently take them on this journey.

But your story is also about the way in which you can understand your own life and work out the safe ways in which he wants to tell people about who you are and why you're qualified. And sometimes that can bring up some really difficult truths or, it will mean that you have to think about if you want to work with these kinds of people, because there may be only a step or two behind you on the way, and it feels quite close to the bone and these are all decisions and people assume that they should work with people like them because they think if I can tell you my story and.

You can resonate with it because you have a similar one, then I'm going to be the best fit for you. But that might be quite painful for you. It depends what your relationship is with your own work. It might be that actually all much better place to work with someone who looks quite different to you, that who you can articulate common ground with who isn't going to trigger you because they, you think they basically are you so going up, going down a bit of a rabbit hole hairs, because I think your question is so good.

[00:27:20] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And just for the context of the listener Frances and I, we recently did a a business program with the Happy Startup School for the last five or six months and throughout the program. As I was, working on this podcast hours personally, going through massive imposter syndrome and self doubt where I was even feeling scared to. Post on LinkedIn to make a public announcement that I'm working on a podcast. And I remember we had a session where you actually encouraged me to what you said was work out loud and you've written a lot about this topic and it's something that you knew you've been encouraging a lot of your community members to do. What does that mean to you? What is working out loud?

[00:28:05] Frances Khalastchi: Working out loud is giving yourself permission to be human being. And to know that other people will appreciate your transparency. And it's a way of stopping yourself from feeling stuck and feeling like you can't go anywhere from here. Because every time you have experienced that you feel is another self growth moment, someone else it will resonate for someone else would appreciate your honesty. Someone else will be going through a similar journey to you. So being able to show that you are going through a journey will help your listeners in this instance, to know that what they're going through is very much okay. And we've talked about this before. You're building this podcast and putting it out there and being open to where it might go, as opposed to having this very clear picture of where it might go. It's exactly within the spirit of what the Better Bolder Braver community is all about, as opposed to you showing up as all shiny and having your listeners think that, you know it all and that you know exactly what this is supposed to look like and how it's going to be shaped. How many listeners you're going to have in three weeks time, what you're going to use this for in terms of business development, it could go in all sorts of really exciting creative directions and having trust that it would evolve in a way that will be useful to you is a huge leap of faith.

But you showing that and having you on us in this, see that happening in out loud is the biggest value. Perhaps you could say of the podcast.

[00:29:45] Nirish Shakya: so it is working out loud, similar to co-creating with your audience.

[00:29:51] Frances Khalastchi: I think if you're receptive to. What comes back at you, which we would always say you should be, and that you can process that in a mindful way and take from it. What will help you grow then? I think, yes, because it's being able to work out loud is an invitation for feedback and feedback can be fantastic because of course you can iterate and design accordingly pivoting in a way that's actually going to serve your audience more and more.

And also you actually get from that quite a lot of testimonial and opportunity to share what people are getting out of this. So we encourage that a lot in the community as well. And if you weren't putting out that, I'm big on cheerleading, as if you don't put something out there and invite people's feedback and ask them to co-create with you.

People won't understand the value that they served here as a listener, being able to say to someone I'm producing this for you. And I hear you, and I'm keen to know what you get out of this as a great gift, because you want people to know that you see them and care about them, which is essentially why you've put this podcast together at all.

And you're being very clever as I've told you, because you are looking you, you consider work from organizations for whom design thinking and design feeling will really resonate. And the more you can show up as being someone who cares about, should we say, instead of an expert, this these themes, the more likely you are to build really beautiful conversations with people, for whom you want to work.

And. Along with you, a kind of growing community of people who share your thinking and can be inspired by it and then confined work themselves, or feel more empowered in their own jobs. Thanks to you, which I know makes you feel good.

[00:31:54] Nirish Shakya: Thanks for the kind words Francis. 

Yeah, I was one of the things that I've found scary by working out loud was to put at work there that I didn't think it was perfect that I didn't think it was good enough. And I know a lot of my designer, friends who also feel the same way they go through there in a perfectionism of not being ready for the world.

How do you manage those emotions and barriers, I guess?

[00:32:19] Frances Khalastchi: I think this is really interesting. I'm a bit of a copyright geek, so I really can't stand. Grammatical errors. And I see it as quite lazy and I'm going to be really honest. I get quite turned off the minute I'm reading something and I see something that shouldn't be there or an emission, which is for me, glaringly obvious.

I've come to understand that, I have a particular ability to read copy and, it's something that yeah, a copy editing is something I quite enjoy and it's

[00:32:47] Nirish Shakya: So you wanted it to be perfect.

[00:32:49] Frances Khalastchi: I don't want it to be perfect. I'm definitely not a perfectionist, but I can help people by reading copy and quickly seeing where things need to be changed.

 I find it interesting when people publish stuff with. Errors in the copy, because I can't quite understand how that's happened when you read a book and there's a copier as a how has that happen? There's a publishing house behind this or an editor that should have seen that. And I start to question their intelligence, the author, which is not necessarily right at all.

And I'm saying this not tongue in cheek, but with great respect for anyone writing anything and an awareness that it's completely ridiculous to think that there's a connection between copy, perfection and intelligence, but I'm mentioning it because I don't want people, I don't want listeners to think that what I'm saying is, yeah, just fuck it.

Put stuff out there before you're ready. Definitely doesn't need to be perfect because there's a. Somebody in marketing and previously in graphic design and advertising, I'm perfectly aware of the need for things to be fantastic, very slick and audience ready when they are given to a client or go to print and as have great and real anxiety around that.

And so product wise, I think you can make things very slick so that I think I want to just differentiate between feeling like you as a human being need to be perfect and being committed to something that you might create how smooth that can be an ID pottery. I did do pottery for awhile and by no means was any of my poetry perfect. The care and attention that we take as craftsman is very important and everyone loves a piece of furniture that is beautifully crafted. So I'm not saying that we should be chucking stuff out there that is, is not in any way. Manufactured and crafted, but as human beings, we do not need to be perfect. The more imperfect we are, the more other human beings are going to connect with us.

So there Is some forgiveness to

[00:34:53] Nirish Shakya: so is it because we tend to associate ourself and our self worth with our products, we're creating

[00:34:59] Frances Khalastchi: Well, I think there is that for sure. And that's really interesting because you present something, whether it's a bowl or an advert or a.

[00:35:09] Nirish Shakya: the

[00:35:09] Frances Khalastchi: Piece of copy or any design. And I think the unconscious interpretation is that your it's you embodied in this thing, but of course it isn't,

[00:35:20] Nirish Shakya: Wow. That's a a very powerful mindset to adopt when it comes to product design or the creation of pretty much anything using a craft so that you don't feel a pressure to be perfect as a human. That, that seems to be separate thing to the perfection that you bring into your craft, which is external.

[00:35:41] Frances Khalastchi: a hundred percent. And in fact, if you can speak to the inspiration for actually doing that thing, people will understand why your best place to make it thinking about some kind of. Saud blacksmith or something hundreds of years ago, like why, w what would have been the motivation for, to have become an expert in sword? I don't even know what the technical terminology around sword making is, but presumably there's a drive that has been motivated by a belief in some sort of conflict resolution that might come from swordsmanship. And, you could argue that conflict, violence and conflict is not at all a good way of resolving conflict and or that person has been born into a family that has had to produce swords for decades where it for generations.

And that's why they're doing what they're doing, but they may produce a perfect sword but they're not going to be a perfect person. They come with intergenerational floors and beliefs in particular modes of being that have propelled them to produce that thing, or be it in this beautiful way. And if you look at every single movement, art movement, beautiful things have been produced, but very much from a place of anguish, torment suffering. So often it has ended in sad stories of suicide and just torture on the part of artists. So of course they're not perfect. You can't be perfect and produce perfect.

[00:37:20] Nirish Shakya: Um, And when you're working on realization you might be, a superstar designer or an employee with almost perfect craft and skills, but you're still a deeply imperfect humans with flaws and feelings. And you're working with other imperfect human beings with flaws and feelings.

[00:37:40] Frances Khalastchi: That's right. And to be able to walk confidently into a meeting with your fabulous design and say, the reason this design is fabulous is because I'm tormented just like you, the reason why this the reason why this word image juxtaposition work so perfectly is because I can appreciate the kind of unconscious sensitivities around this image with that word and what it evokes.

And that's because I've been there. And I can see. What you're trying to communicate, and I can see the gift that you're trying to give your clients in trying to communicate this thing. Three, my design and I'm pretty sure that this is an accurate reflection of that unconscious stuff going on.

And if you don't admit that, then you won't, people won't know why you're, you've done such an amazing job of it.

[00:38:24] Nirish Shakya: That's a good, great segue to the next thing I wanted to talk to you about, which was being able to see outside of yourself. And you are, a great believer in the power of community and, and the role that community plays in our lives. Tell us a bit about, what is that role that community plays in that.

[00:38:42] Frances Khalastchi: I mean, I'm, I'm increasingly understanding you and I are in the happy startup school, which is very much a safe space for us to. And to co-exist and to co-create. And when we created better, bolder braver, we wanted to teach people in enough. We wanted to design the space that meant we could teach a lot of people all together because that made sense from a cost-effective point of view.

And also we appreciated why it was nice to be surrounded by people on a similar journey, but more and more the value of what being in the community is around that permission to be human and to see that others are going through a similar thing. And to buddy up with people and say, I'm, at this point in the coach's marketing journey, I've just done the limits compass exercise.

I've just written my letter to my idea. Clients or that's what we do in the happy startup school. But our alternative to that is, is our ideal clients. Love letter to us. Would you like to read mine? Can I read yours and more and more we're designing workshops and events in the community that allow you to practice standing on the stage as it were, but in a very safe environment where you're going to get feedback, that's filled with compassion as well as honesty, and everyone has your back. So that's what being in a community is. And your community that you're building is a safe space for designers to be able to feel the feels with others, which means that they will be continually reminded that it's okay to be human. It's not just learning one lesson or seeing a poster that says your. And a designer. It can't just be a once, one off transaction. It's an ongoing meditative practice.

[00:40:39] Nirish Shakya: And how can one look for a community to be part of, let's say you've never been part of a community, or you've always worked solo. And you've been too busy to even be part of anything besides your work.

[00:40:54] Frances Khalastchi: Yeah. It's a growing thing community. There's all sorts of communities popping up to embrace different sorts of people in different walks of life. And of course you can Google communities for designers, apps, and that might help you with regards to things like meta content thinking about who, how you're going to be found, but I think.

I think there's an educator. I think what you're talking to is, wider education as to the value of community and the more people that know why a community is a great way to, to keep going, why being in a community is a great way to be able to keep going as a freelancer and as an employee it's so important.

There's lots of interesting group analysis work that goes on from one within organizations, you have HR practices that mean. People can all come together and talk about how it's going. But I think also what's quite interesting is having a space to reflect on how it's going, not with the people that you work with.

And there are, the there's a world of group coaching and group therapy that speaks to this as well, which is getting people together and experiencing in a group what it is to be an individual. So I think a lot of this work is evolving in parallel at this time in this generation. And we're getting clearer on what it is to be part of a village, which is so ironic because of course that's where we started.

Isn't it. And we've had this post-industrial era kind of evolution as individuals that mean that were now monkeys in a machine. But back in the day, we all started as being part of a a group that was there to Workers individuals together and embrace each other's skills and respect each other's abilities.

And I think that's what we're talking about now in relation to community

[00:42:44] Nirish Shakya: And I think, yeah, being part of the community meets our deep survival needs of belonging to a tribe where we do feel safe, safer than when you were. Out and about in the forest or in the jungle. 

How do you think the pandemic and COVID has impacted communities in terms of people being able to gather more easily or more.

[00:43:08] Frances Khalastchi: I'm the eternal optimist anyway. And I, my personal experience as a mother of two children under five, is that in fact it was incredibly useful that so much is now online. There's no way if I had. Travel for an hour once having dropped the kids off. And then coming back for an hour to pick them up, but I would have enough hours in the day to do any work.

So the fact that I can quickly my husband or I can quickly drop them at nursery and then come back and start working is an absolute godsend. I'm also hot on inclusivity and diversity. And the fact that, if I were still working in the city of London, I would be surrounded predominantly by yeah.

White middle-class people that could get the tube into the center of London quite easily every morning. you know, We experienced in our community and both of the communities that you and I are in such diverse reasonable diversity geographic and gender. And, also we have joined a community that's very much championing openness, diversity, and. Being able to be who you are so that it has, that means that we're in a space that's more diverse than others again. And I love all of that. So I've got no problem. For someone who's an extrovert, funnily enough, I don't have a problem being at home online, speaking to people. I think it's really important for people who are freelancers.

There's a great community called Leaper's which is a collective of freelancers. And it's designed around the kind of awareness of mental health amongst freelancers and the content that leap has is all around is being aware of your mental health needs, which is so important.

It's just, yeah, obviously, but you know, not obviously until leap has came about. So there's a place for everyone and there's no reason why anyone should feel. We feel that coaches at any point in their journey are welcome in our community. It might be that they can't afford from a financial or mental health point of view to just do coaching and that they do need to work alongside that in another role.

And we want to not only say that's okay, but also celebrate how that makes you unique because of the job you're doing somewhere else and being a coach. So dunno how you might relate that to designers. But I, the other reality is we're not just designers. We're not just mothers, we're not just coaches. We're not just marketing people. We're human beings that bring a whole range of talents and truths and limits that we need to work with and mold around.

[00:45:45] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And I think throughout the pandemic whilst I've loved the freedom of being able to work from anywhere I think it also has come with a sense of loneliness. I love being with people and I feel like on a typical Workday let's say, once you finished a meeting or a workshop, you're back to just being yourself just with no one around you and it can be very lonely to not have, people around you. And and like you said being part of these communities could potentially reduce some of that lonely.

[00:46:18] Frances Khalastchi: For sure. You're making me think to mention that I started a karaoke night for the happy startup school, which you've attended a new, and I also have, we are go regularly to the community soul cafe, which is every two weeks. And these are events that are in the evening and aren't in any way on the surface related to business whatsoever.

And yet they are because it's about being someone who is a serious takes their business seriously, and really enjoys doing karaoke. And that's okay. So the communities allow for us to explore and play in many ways. And it's lovely when also it's possible to meet up in real life, which we've started doing as well.

But if that's not possible for people from a from an accessibility point of view, they don't necessarily feel left out. So there's something for everyone, I think, which is so lovely.

[00:47:15] Nirish Shakya: And like you said, you're putting yourself out there as a human, not just a designer or a marketeer or a sales person or whoever and saying that, I have other needs beyond just the need to build and build products.

[00:47:30] Frances Khalastchi: That's right. I want to come back though, to something you asked earlier quickly, which is just to say, I have worked in roles where it has not been welcomed to, show emotions and yeah. Be too emotional at work. And I think, I'd like to think those times are really changing, but there's certainly quite a lot of there's a backlog, particularly in the corporate sector of the way in which one is supposed to show up.

And there's a number of people. And I I think men unfortunately fall into this category more than women who are not allowed to shave legs. But I do think that's changing. I do. And I think, I've never had a problem telling people how I feel in a very professional articulate, framed way that speaks to the needs of the situation.

That's not to say that I have, you know, I throw my hand toys out the pram and start crying and screaming all over the place. But, I've been I'm very much, I think I've been described as a whistleblower. So when, when something's not right I cannot stand up and say something about it.

And, there were moments where as this sort of 20 something year old female marketing person that didn't seem to be, I think that was quite shocking in a board meeting. I've always been okay with being that person. And I know that for some people that's incredibly hard. I just think we'll let ourselves down in the long run if we don't stay true to what we believe.

So we might as well just do it.

[00:48:55] Nirish Shakya: What is the one resource that has helped you in your career or your life? That you can recommend?

[00:49:02] Frances Khalastchi: Cause I'm never been asked this before and it's such an amazing question. It's going to be something like the concept of self-love

[00:49:11] Nirish Shakya: The concept of self-love.

[00:49:13] Frances Khalastchi: Something that we all battle with the reminder that we can love ourselves. Some something about remembering that you're a child inside, and being compassionate towards that child, appreciating that you've evolved organically, no one designed your life. we give ourselves such a hard. And when we have moments that we remember when I have a moment in which I remember I can actually give myself a break and be kind to myself and use, I use levity quite a lot sense of humor. I try and employ in moments where I just don't understand, but if I can see the funny side of anything, not say I make try in light of the things for the sake of moving on quickly.

Cause I'm very happy to indulge in the pain as well. But I sudden sometimes just catch myself and think, oh, give yourself a break or yeah, it doesn't have to be perfect. So great. You're on the right track. And I, so maybe I am a perfectionist. 

[00:50:14] Nirish Shakya: What's the one common myths that you'd like to debunk in your world of mine.

[00:50:19] Frances Khalastchi: There was no right way, which is in connection to giving yourself a break the same as, there's no science to it and there's no right way the less stress. Do you feel about getting it right?

[00:50:31] Nirish Shakya: What would Frances ask herself? If you could ask yourself anything?

[00:50:37] Frances Khalastchi: Nourish. Well, I do. I find it so hard to ask myself the kind of questions that I ask everyone else all day long.

[00:50:49] Nirish Shakya: Um, That's a great question. I have the same trouble myself every time. Um, For example, coaching up the designers. I asked them questions that I wish I asked myself.

[00:51:00] Frances Khalastchi: I asked coaches, what's the number one coaching question that you'd like to ask of yourself in relation to your marketing. So you and I are great at designing the questions.

[00:51:13] Nirish Shakya: So Frances, imagine it's your last day on earth. And someone comes up to you with a very tiny piece of paper and a pen and says to you Frances, write down something on this piece of paper, and we'll put this up on the big billboard for the whole world to see. What would you write down in the tiny piece of paper on your last day?

[00:51:35] Frances Khalastchi: So the first thing that Springs to mind is I would write, it was always supposed to go this way.

[00:51:42] Nirish Shakya: you mean by that?

[00:51:44] Frances Khalastchi: I'm not into the idea of, I'm not religious. I don't believe in destiny. I want to put something on a piece of paper that speaks to how it was just going to end up being whatever it was. It's like, just not remove the responsibility that you feel, but know that how it ends up is going to be okay.

And I don't want to weave into that some sort of religiously orientated faith based obscuring of responsibility, because I'm definitely not about that, but I'm also very much about being able to enjoy what unfolds and yeah, as you've already said, try to live each month. It's a lot of pressure to live each moment as if it's your last cause.

Sometimes you need to just know that you are just going to not be able to engage in the moment. So there's something for me, which is a bit of a backtracking from the perfection of what you're wanting to do, which is to live each moment as it is, if it's your last. And instead, don't worry too much about living each moment as if it's your last

[00:52:57] Nirish Shakya: don't be stressed about being mindful.

[00:53:00] Frances Khalastchi: don't put too much pressure on yourself. Cause otherwise you'll freak out that it might be your last moment and you haven't like fully engaged in it and that's a massive waste. 

[00:53:09] Nirish Shakya: That's 

[00:53:10] Frances Khalastchi: yeah. 

[00:53:10] Nirish Shakya: There's so much we've talked about today. I think one, one perspective that you've definitely helped me reframe. It was around seeing marketing as a self-growth tool and not just a sales tool and that's something I hadn't actually considered. Also, how you talked about empathy, empathy led marketing in terms of asking the right questions, finding out needs. And that's pretty much what we do as designers on a daily basis. And that's probably not something that I had considered marketing, but I'm actually marketing it. So we are all marketers, not just designers. Also I think one thing that I found really insightful was around separating yourself from the product you're creating from your craft. Yeah, focus on making your craft and your product perfect, but don't expect that same perfection in yourself as a human being, because we are not perfect as human beings and we're not, and we're working with other imperfect human beings with flaws and just accepting that and acknowledge, acknowledging. That seems to be the way to, bring more peace into the way we work. And also the value of community. And I think you put it really beautiful day in terms of it gives you the permission and a safe space to be human. And I think we all crave those spaces because we all have to, put up a face, put on a mask especially in our kind of professional environments where we always have to be appear to be strong and always to know the answer and that can put a lot of pre. And give us a lot of anxiety on a daily and a moment-to-moment basis. So just having that safe space to just be yourself and be more human seems to be therapeutic for a lot of us as well. And yeah, there's a lot of other, deep conversations we had just around just whatever is happening is the way it should have happened. And I think, again, there's a deep sense of peace in that statement that you mentioned as well. So Frances, thank you so much for sharing all your insights and wisdoms. It's been a beautiful journey through your story and through all the stuff that you're currently working on around bringing together this community of coaches, helping them within the, in their marketing journey.

And there's definitely lots of things that I've picked up myself as a designer that I can apply in my journey as well. Because yes, we're all designers. We're all marketing. Yeah. We're all humans, imperfect humans.

[00:55:30] Frances Khalastchi: Thanks, Nirish. I'd love your summaries. A perfect design in itself.

[00:55:36] Nirish Shakya: Um, So where can people find you online Francis?

[00:55:40] Frances Khalastchi: LinkedIn and I'm hanging out and LinkedIn Francis show that has a possibility of a link somewhere that you'll

come up with, 

[00:55:47] Nirish Shakya: put them in the show notes.

[00:55:48] Frances Khalastchi: And a better bolder is where Simon and I live to. I might also add to your show notes in other podcasts that I was on with one of our friends, Kendra Patterson, which I hope I think your listeners might enjoy as well, which is all about as designers, as creatives, who are we responsible for creating for?

Is it ourselves, or is it for others in the world? And we had a really interesting discussion that you remind me of in your summary. And I want to thank you if I may, because I think I've done so much intellectualizing. The art world uh, or other, producing art, producing design, creating, and thanks to you and Kendra it's helped me ground some of what I studied 20 years ago in what I'm doing now and these conversations and being in a buddy group with you guys and being in a community has really helped me process a lot of my previous lives in conversation with you.

And that's just one more thing I would add into the mix of the value of community. It's not just working with each other and working out loud and coworking, and co-creating now is having people to process your previous lives with in a way that's very informative in terms of your designs for today.

[00:57:06] Nirish Shakya: Great. That's a very beautiful and a deep way to end this conversation. So thank you so much adding that Francis and we will see you next time soon.

[00:57:14] Frances Khalastchi: See you soon Nirish thank you. Lots of love. 

[00:57:17] Nirish Shakya: Thank you so much for joining us in this chat. If you're enjoying listening to the Design Feeling Podcast, please do consider leaving an honest review on Apple Podcasts. It'll help people decide whether they'd want to press the play button or not. And if you have any suggestions, ideas, or guests that you'd like to have on the show, please email me at and like always please share the podcast with a Design Thinking friend who needs a bit of Design Feeling in their lives. See you next time.