Putting yourself out there is a scary thing. And for good reason.
I know this first hand when a project of mine was featured on a national design magazines’ website for all to see. I was excited and grateful to have been featured in a magazine that I had subscribed to and followed so closely.
The initial feedback and comments I received were relatively supportive. However, shortly after, they turned snarky and just plain mean. I didn’t understand. People were not only stomping on my work but they were getting personal about my character – and they didn’t even know me. I was crushed, broken hearted, and angry.
My initial reaction was to lash back and defend myself but a colleague told me to ignore it and not feed the beast but I couldn’t just leave it alone. So after a few days, I decided to thank everyone for their feedback and asked them to provide some links to their work or others which would serve as better examples of great design and put the comments into context. This would turn something seemingly awful into a learning opportunity for everyone. Sadly, no one responded to my request so at that point, I had no choice but to move on. I realized that if they weren’t willing to step up, then I was no longer willing to put any weight into what they had to say.
Putting yourself out there is not easy… but it can be life-changing.
So now that I’ve scared you into ever sharing anything again, let me remind you that this isn’t necessarily everyone’s truth. This is simply mine. And one that I managed to push passed so if I can do it, you can too.
The topic of putting yourself out there, has been the forefront lately as many people I know – even myself – are diving into unknown waters and are as equally excited as they are nervous. And they have every right to be. When someone says to perfect strangers, “Look at my idea” or “This is what resides in my imagination”, they’re putting a little bit of themselves on the line which makes them vulnerable so when someone cuts it down, the results can be paralyzing. This is why many of us are nervous to take those risks – as small as they may be.
So how do you share your ideas with the world?
Well, I didn’t just jump in without building up a bit of skin – and some confidence – and I did have a few setbacks.
But over time (and some wallowing when things got bad) I came to some realizations about the art of putting myself out there.
Not everyone will like you or your stuff, and that’s ok.
If you prepare yourself for this, you won’t be so shocked when someone doesn’t like your stuff. But just because they don’t, doesn’t mean everyone will feel the same. I know a lot of talented and sweet individuals who get flack. It doesn’t mean they’re not talented or they’re bad people, it just simply comes with the territory.
Start with friends, family, & colleagues.
They are the people you trust. The people that know you and understand you the best. They, hopefully, can give you some honest feedback. If that’s not working or you are looking for a more professional, objective critique, a mentor or work colleague might be able to provide some honest insight that doesn’t cut you off at the knees.
Iron out the wrinkles and then share with a new audience.
Maybe it’s a Facebook group you’re a part of, Instagram, or Twitter. See how people respond to what you’re sharing and then continue to make adjustments – if you feel it’s needed – and continue to share. Like I mentioned in my last article, even if people may not jump at the chance to get involved or buy anything, it’s ok. You’re out there, building relationships, interest, and momentum and that’s something.
Having your work online will allow people to come to you as well, just as much as you are going to them. You can share your process or works in progress. Making that connection helps your audience become emotionally invested in you and your work, which will hopefully turn into new opportunities or more interest.
Attending events or conferences are also a good way to get personal with people too and make more of a one-on-one connection with people. I have dipped my toes into many events from graphic design & interior design conferences to small art shows. Through those avenues I have made some important business connections, made some new friends, and have been inspired to try something new.
Let go of the idea of “perfect”.
This has been a big one for me. I always want my work to be without flaws before I put it out there but it’s just not realistic. I’d never move on to something new & I’d never learn from the mistakes I make. How I decide something is complete enough to share is if I’m proud of the results. If the answer is yes, and I’ve done what I can to make sure it meets my expectations, I let it go.
Try a cold call or cold email.
Depending on your goals, you may find that staying within your small circle or social media account may not be enough to gain the traction you’re looking for. That’s when you really have to stretch yourself and start cold calling or cold emailing people & companies, etc.
I’ve always disliked this part of business because I don’t feel that I’m a great salesperson – and I’m an introvert so the idea of flashing my ideas to people who may not care, is terrifying. Even still, flip that fear on its head and get curious instead.
In my case, I recently reached out to a studio in the UK (I’m in Canada) to share my work in the hopes of getting some odd jobs. I found out about them through an illustrator I follow and they happen to be his creative agent. Their portfolio is playful and unique, which is similar to my own work so I felt they would be a good group to contact if I wanted more of that type of work. I had no idea what their response would be, if they’d give one at all, and to be honest, I was apprehensive about telling them I would be a good candidate to hire.
Why? Well, first off, they were in a completely different part of the world. Major hurdle. Secondly, they were a studio with award-winning designers on their team. How could I compete or even match that? And thirdly, studios on this “level”, hardly ever respond to emails or give you a cookie-cutter response since they get a ton of them and don’t have a lot of time to put in to respond to everyone. On top of all of that, I had to wrestle with insecurities about my work and the idea of managing the potential extra work on top of my full time job. I was overwhelmed.
It took me about 3 days (and a lot of procrastination) before I actually hit the send button – but I did eventually send it. Less than 8 hours later, the executive producer wrote me back to say that he really enjoyed my work and would be in touch when the right creative brief came along.
Ok, so maybe that’s just a nice way of saying no but even still, I was grateful to have received such a genuinely positive response. Those are the people I want to be connected with. The ones that encourage you to keep going, even if you happen to hear a ‘no’ – for now.
And keep going you must!
If you’re a go-getter like I know a lot of you are, you have to find opportunity where you can, push through all of the apprehensions, doubts, and fears you wrestle with, and if you have a setback, don’t forget to keep going. As scary and counterintuitive as it may be to do so, persistence is really the key to seeing the progress and the success you’re hungry for.