Top Tips for Posting
What is your posting strategy?
Are you the type of person who likes to be super organised and plan out everything in advance that you are thinking or doing? Or, are you more of an organic, make it up as you go along person?
There is merit in saying that as long as you have a strategy and you are following it then you are on the right track. However, anyone who successfully promotes their own business will tell you that you want to organise and automate as many things as you can.
Regardless of your strategy it is important that you are aware of what your habits and goals are. You want to be able to notice when you are doing things that work so that you can recreate them.
How much time do you spend posting?
Do you have a specific part of the day or week that you put aside for posting? Or do you prefer to just wing it and post whenever inspiration hits?
HonestlyI’m a bit of an impromptu addict. Doing a little something and watching the numbers go up gives such a release of instant gratification that it can become almost like a hobby that you struggle to step away from. This is clearly not the best business strategy, and if you are anything like me, you may need to force some structure into your routine.
We all know that consistency is key, and we need to be constantly showing up to stay favourable with the dreaded algorithms, but that doesn’t mean we need to stay glued to our screens or be hit with guilt if we have fallen short of our own posting targets. Use a scheduling tool like Tailwind to take control of your posting habits and get some freedom to do other things.
How do you know your target audience?
Do you have a specific audience or are you just posting generic content and hoping some people in your niche see it?
This is a shot statement…do not post generic content! Generic appeals to nobody and you will not fit in to what anyone is looking for. It is important to be specific with your content and have a very specific niche that you want to be your audience.
Whatever your business category is will likely have a few sub-categories. If you are a food blogger you may have specific niche for different meals, or styles of food, or restaurants. These are all very different things so just having food as a niche is obviously too wide. Imagine if you are looking for something specific what you would type down. How would you search for information? What type of content would catch your eye? Once you know your content themes you can start to think of who your audience is, and from there begin to think of a strategy to post appropriate content in the right places at the right times of day.
Do you know your communities of peers?
What do I mean by community of peers? I mean the other people in your niche who are doing similar things to what you are. You might be thinking of them as competitors, but really they are people who you can learn from, cross pollinate your audience with and support each other to succeed.
If you are going to be scheduling posts are you aware of what is the best time of day to do it, or are you fitting things into your work schedule. Time zones are important here. Remember the digital world is a small place and you may not necessarily have a local audience. If your biggest audience is on the other side of the world then you may want to post to their optimum viewing times rather than the one you live in.
Make connections with your communities and work with them rather than against them to build your audience. Capitalism would have you believe that you need one person to succeed and others to facilitate it, but that doesn’t need to be the case. We can all support and promote each other so everyone can have a cut of the cake. In fact, by interacting with our own niche communities we are all becoming more visible to our audience and ultimately we can all support each other to grow.
So where can you find there elusive communities? Tailwind has a brilliant feature that lets you join and create communities with others who are in your niche. This is a great way of finding high quality and directly relevant pins to repin to your own boards. As you submit pins to the communities others may repin your items and thus make them available to a wider part of your niche audience.
How much is your time worth?
Think of how much your ideal hourly rate of pay is. This might be different for different aspects of your business but just get a rough number in your head. Now think about the earlier questions in this article about how much time you spend on posting. Include the time it takes you to come up with ideas, design and build the posts, and come up with your written content and hashtag list. If you do this every day then work out how much it is costing you in your time every week. This is time that you could be dedicating to the actual product or services that you want to be doing.
So do you think it would be a better use of your time to use a software that drastically reduces the amount of time you spend making posts for social media? Chances are that you are starting a business to do something that you enjoy doing to have a better work/home lifestyle. The constant distraction os promoting your business may be eating in to your idealistic work pattern, but it doesn’t need to be that way. Start using a scheduling tool like Tailwind and see how it helps your balance.
Are you making the most out of your productivity?
If you are posting manually then the answer to this is almost certainly NO. So here are some of my Top Tips to improve your productivity.
1, When using CANVA to design your posts take advantage of their templates. Find a selection that you like and stick with them for a series of posts. Alter the images and text to match your offer and make them your own. This will help you to produce high quality posts that your audience will engage with.
2, Design everything with the aim of it being multipurpose but be specific. Here is an example. The content of this article is about the benefits of using a post scheduling software to increase your productivity. As with all of my articles I will post about them on Pinterest around 14 times. I do 14 because Pinterest lets you schedule 14 days in advance, so as I launch a new article I will schedule a post about it every day for the following two weeks. I use a Canva template and alter it with slightly different information on each pin to appeal to slightly different audiences or catch people’s attention with different images. As I create these pins I also have in my mind that I will use them as images in the content of the article. In 2021 the average article is around 2000 words with at least 10 images. This can seem like a stress to put together, but by re-using the promotional pins I easily create that image content without even thinking about it. For every promotional pin I make I design one or two accompanying pins, usually just an image or a question, that can be used in the article to make it seem more visual and help the viewer to engage with the content. This is exactly what I have done in this article. These images would also be useful if I decide to create an ebook out of the article. I already have a body of text and images that would be suitable to integrate. As you can see, it can be very easy to design things for a multi-purpose, you just need to be organised and have a system.
3, Now we are at the main point of this article, scheduling your posts. I have tried several scheduling softwares, but my favourite by far is Tailwind. Tailwind allows you to sync into your accounts and post directly. I has some great features like automatically choosing the best times to post for you based on your current audience engagement. I lets you automatically include a first comment in your Instagram posts, which is great for getting the best use of your hashtags, and it even saves your hashtag groups to make it easier to prepare and schedule a post in only a few seconds. As well as scheduling your original content it can schedule repins on Pinterest. Tailwind is very user friendly and by far the best scheduling tool I have come across. You are able to use a free version which is great for just getting started and working out what your needs are with your current campaigns. As you decide to grow your audience you may want to invest in the pro version to get many more allocated schedules and really make the most out of your time. Use this link https://www.tailwindapp.com/i/mumpreneurjules to get $15 credit if you sign up to pro.
The question to ask yourself is how much of your valuable time are you committing to posting just now and would this be an investment for you at the stage in your business you are at just now.
How to create your User Journey
1, What is a User Journey?
A user journey is a way of knowing at which points your audience interacts with you. This can be where they see you advertised, how they search for you, how they make a decision about your product, how they buy your product, even how they leave a review. If you were writing a story about a day in the life of your character then you would want to understand their motivation for the decisions that they make to progress on their travels. A user journey is like understanding the story of your character and helping them to interact with your plot. You help to guide your user through the steps that makes them want to become your customer.
2, How to understand your User Journey
The key to understanding your user journey is being aware of all of the potential points that they come into contact with you.
Socials: Consider what platforms you are using and the type of content your are producing. On average a viewer will see your posts up to 8 times before they may be ready to move to the next stage and consider being your customer. This means that you need to be consistent in your posting schedule. You want to be recognisable, and be showing up in the same place at the same time every day to have your best chance at fitting in to your audiences routine and make an impression on them. Your content does not need to be full on sales for every post, in fact that may annoy your viewers, so develop a strategy that includes themes such as top tips, glimpses into behind the scenes of your business, or interesting facts or quotes that fit into your line of business. Be interesting to your audience and make them happy to engage with you.
If you want the viewers to do something like respond to a post or to follow a link to somewhere else like your website or a landing page then you need to clearly tell them what to do. This is called a CTA, Call to Action. Provide clear information that makes it easy for your viewer to do exactly what you want them to do. Remember, people are always watching you and building trust in you and your business so every post is important, make sure it is authentic and effective.
Your Website: Once your viewers make the decision to click on your website they are a captive audience for a short amount of time. At this point they have clicked because they have some sort of specific interest in what you do, you need to make it worth their while. You need to hold their attention and make sure you are giving them the right information in a visual and interesting way that builds more trust in your business and converts interest into custom. If you want them to sign up to an email list make it very easy for them to do so. If you want them to buy from you make the process as simple as possible and use credible and trustworthy systems that are easy to recognise like PayPal. The system should be user friendly and take as few steps as possible so that the customer doesn’t get distracted or lose interest in buying.
This world is very digital and most people have a high level of digital literacy and expect sites to be fast, easy to navigate and secure when purchasing. Make sure your site is all of these things as each click represents a stage of your user journey.
Aftercare: A very important part of a user journey is aftercare, but this is often neglected when running a business, especially if you are busy producing your product. A good trick for this is to use automation. If you collect a customer email address during a sale it is very easy to generate an automated thank you email that would send at a pre-determined time. This could be right after the sale or a few days after. You may wish to offer the customer a chance to review the product or write a testimonial. This would in turn create more credible material you could use in your website to build trust in future customers. You may want to offer discounts on future offers or a refer a friend deal to grow your business and gain more customers.
Aftercare is one of the most important stages in your user journey as you don’t want to lose a customer because they have bought your product, you want to utilise that positive outcome in the best way you can.
What’s missing: Something is always missing! If you want to do well in your business then you should always be striving to do better and assuming that something is missing. By understanding every point in your user journey, every time they see a post, every time they click to a next page you should consider what works and what could be better. Sometimes the think that is missing may even be simplicity, nobody likes doing 5 steps when it could be one step. Marketing changes often, especially in social media. Buying trends change often, especially in the digital world. Check your user journey often and make sure that you are always providing the best experience possible.
3, How to find your users
Where you find your users will vary greatly depending on the business that you have. If you are an artist making art or furniture your target audience may be middle class professional women who have a good amount of disposable income to buy luxury items. In this case you may want to create a large campaign on Pinterest because it is mainly used by that exact demographic. You may want to join Facebook communities and groups that focus on art appreciation or furniture restoration to network with others that have an appreciation of the type of work that you do. Doing your research and knowing who your most likely customer is helps to build up a picture of who they are and the habits they have. If you understand the types of places they enjoy spending their time then it gives you a chance to show up in the same places.
Be careful to know the difference between your assumptions and facts. It is important to research and validate the decisions you are making rather than posting in an area because someone you know said it would be good and you trust them because you think they have the right experience. Always do your research and know your audience.
4, How to make a Call to Action post
Your post should be recognisable, high quality, clear, informative, and provide a CTA (Call to Action) of what you want the viewer to do next. If it is a sales post you might suggest the viewer clicks to your website to see an offer. If its a top tip post you might suggest that the viewer follow you. If you are looking for interaction on the post you might ask people to comment on which choice they prefer from options listed.
Look through your feed on one of your platforms and see the types of things other people are doing with their businesses, Chances are you have never really noticed them before, but once you start looking you will see them everywhere.
5, What should be in a landing page?
Bellow is an example of the typical layout of a landing page and what should be included in it. Many landing pages put their Call to Action throughout the page in multiple locations to increase the change of the customer deciding to buy.
-Strong heading image
-Colours that match your product branding and promotional materials
-Title of what the offer is
-Images of the product eg examples of pages in an ebook, behind the scenes of making the product etc
-Questions and answers about the product/service
-Detailed description about the prod offer
-Gallery of examples
-Call to Action
-Socials to follow
6, Understanding what a landing page should do
You should be very clear on what the aim of your landing page is before you start to make it. Common landing pages are to promote a specific offer, usually time limited, like a product, course, book launch, limited edition art piece.
The function of the landing page is a place to funnel people to that are likely to buy your offer. You will promote the offer on social media etc, but as that has limited opportunity to provide any substantial details the landing page is the place to bring the potential customers to learn more and gain their trust. Hopefully you can convert their interest into custom by providing them with all the information they need to know about the offer and make a sale.
7, Where should a landing page lead?
This all depends on what the aim of th landing page is. If you are wanting to make a specific sale of a single product on the landing page and have a cart built in to it them perhaps that is where your user will end. If you have multiple products you want to offer then you may be inviting people to visit you website where they can see a larger range and buy. You may be about to run a training session and are wanting to intice people to sign up for it so you
will be looking to collect email details so you can add them to an automated email system you have set up for your event to get maximum participation.
8, How to help your users find the next step
We live in a digital world where UX (user experience) is built into ever digital interaction we have. People are used to being led through a website or platform in an intuitive and structured way that lets them absorb the information without really thinking about it. You need to pre-empt the next thing that your user would want to do and present them with an option to do it at the right time. For example, if you have a section that talks about the limited edition prints you are selling and that if you buy today you will get a 20% discount then you want to add a CTA button there that gives them the option to buy at that moment.
It is sometimes hard for people to talk about money and sales, for a whole load of reasons, but the thing for you to remember is that there is a time and a place to discuss sales and on a landing page is definitely the place. If people have come this far then they are considering buying and the last thing they want is for you to beat about the bush by not wanting to appear pushy. They want to know what you have to offer and how much it is going to cost them. Don’t be shy!
9, Why is a mailing list important?
Mailing lists are the best way to engage with people who have already expressed an interesting what you do. The have given you their email address voluntarily and are genuinely interested in your products and potentially would like to buy it. You mailing list is where you filter out all the generic viewers you get on social media and find the people specifically interested in what you do. It is a little pot of people who want to hear about special offers you have, read about what you are doing next and want to spend money on what you have to offer.
Ultimately you have no control over your social media following because you are always at the mercy of the platform provider. Your whole business could be wiped out in an instant if the platform changes its algorithms or shuts down. With an email list it is yours to do whatever you want with.
10, Why is Facebook important?
Facebook is a way to tap into your current networks as well as reaching out to new ones. With facebook you can now create pages, which is a way of having a business avatar within your own account, and a new feature is that you can join communities as your page. This can be a great way to get to know your potential customers and to promote yourself as you go. By joining a group as your page you can interact in a authentic way without promoting yourself through conversation, but others can see who you are and may be tempted to follow you, which in turn makes them your viewers and potential customers.
11, How to join up your user journey
Think about what you want to achieve and then think of all the steps you might need to achieve this. What would you social media posts look like to best gain people’s interest? What type of offer will your landing page be promoting? What do you hope to achieve by doing all of this?
Start out by mapping out all these things in the forms of ideas and questions. You need to really understand all the things you are wanting to achieve before you work on connecting them up in the best way.
12, Building your user journey
There is no trick to this and it doesn’t need to be complicated. It is simply marking down the order of what you want the user to do and making sure you have created the right options at each stage to lead them to take the next step. Don’t create things that lead to dead ends as you may lose the customer, always make sure there is an option to follow a step that takes them closer to where you want them to go. If you bring them from a social media post to your landing page make sure the landing page has the right content to interest that person and option to take them further on their journey, such as subscribe options or buying options.
Have a go at sketching out what the user journey for your business might look like. Then be critical and consider if it is doing exactly what you want or if you could make it better, either by adding steps to give more information and build trust, or by taking steps away to make it more streamlined.
13, Consistently showing up
Building up trust with your users is very important and you want to make sure that at every point in their journey you are showing up and installing trust. The term showing up often brings up ideas of influencers on social media promoting themselves and every part of their life. This can seem like overwhelming to the more introverted person and fill them with dread, but it doesn’t need to be this way. Showing up can be having branding and making sure it is visible in some way every day. It can be giving a reassuring statement at each point of your user journey that you are available for any questions they may have. It can be replying to all messages and emails quickly and effectively and making the user build trust in you. It is all about being professional and authentic in a style that suits you while providing the best possible service for your users.
14, Why use a checklist
Checklists are a great way to keep yourself organised and make sure you aren’t missing any important steps in your process. Mark out all of the steps you want a user to take on their journey and then check to see that it is happening like that. Perhaps they are missing out a step, or maybe they are getting stuck on a particular one. You want to really understand your user journey and how your viewers are interacting with it so that you can create the best service possible.
They are also a great way for your users to understand their own journey. By including a checklist in the early stages of their journey, perhaps in your landing page, you are letting them know exactly what to expect. You can then then produce this checklist again at the end of the journey or in a follow up aftercare email as proof of how good your service was. This will build trust and make them want to stay your customer and refer to others. As you use research to validate your ideas a checklist can validate the quality of your service.
Beginners guide to grow your Pinterest
Set up an account
Have you thought about your business name yet? Its best to set up a Pinterest account once you know your business name as the internet likes when the same name shows up in different places. Ideally you should know your business name or a personal avatar that you are assuming, like my ‘mumpreneurjules’, and make this consistent across different platforms.
Another useful thing to do is to set up an email account to manage all the accounts across platforms associated with this business. I set up email@example.com to manage the details off all of my social media, website and Etsy for my mumpreneurjules persona. This just makes things easy to keep track of if you have different business’ at the same time or don’t want to fill up your personal email with things like this.
It is very easy to set up a Pinterest account. Just choose a name, and email address and a password. You will then be given the option to choose some themes that you are interested in. It is important to remember here that you are your business persona and not to add in things you like that are nothing to do with the business. Recipes might be great for your personal life but will only confuse the Pinterest analytics that are trying to create your niche to engage with.
Choose your boards
Leading on from the ideas of choosing themes your business is interested in comes the choice of what boards you are going to create. Ideally you should have between 2-5 boards, all with different strands of your business. Ideally each of these strands should correspond to pages of your website so that you can easily and directly promote the work that you are doing. An important thing about choosing boards is to know the themes of your business, really know your business. Know what you want to say, but more importantly know what your customers want to know. How can you provide high quality and useful information that can improve your audiences lives and solve their problems. People don’t buy things, they buy solutions to problems they have in their lives. In your Pinterest boards you have an opportunity to build your audiences trust by providing high quality pins, either your own or re-pins from other people that your audience would like.
Make your first pin
Pins follow a particular format and its important that you know how to put them together to get the best results from them. They are a vertical rectangular shape that is very different from other sites you may be used to posting on. Facebook and Instagram both have square areas, although slightly different proportions, are similar when designing a post. Pinterest pins are closer to an A4 piece of paper that you would use for your printer.
The images in this article are pins. A good technique to make the most out of your time is to make sure that nothing you do only has one purpose. When I write an article for my blog I also create 14 pins at the same time. I play with the title of the article and repurpose it in seven different ways to appeal to different people. These will be the pins I post in Pinterest to promote the article that I will schedule for seven days in a row. The other seven pins are to accompany the advertising pins in the blog article. This is because my current blog format looks better with two Pinterest images side by side. These images could also be used in future to create an e-book from the article that could be sold on a platform such as Etsy. Do you see how everything can come together and be used in different places?
But for now you are just interested in creating your first pin. So, design a pin in Canva. Canva is a brilliant, easy and free piece of software you can use to make images. It is a drag and drop system with endless options of shapes, photos and fonts. It also has countless templates so you can simply customise an existing template with your words and colours if you aren’t ready to start designing your own yet. There really is no reason for you to get started now. Canva does have a pay for option that you can upgrade to once you get more ambitious but you can last quite happily with the free version and still produce amazing images. Look through the Pinterest boards and get a feel for what you like and what you don’t. Almost everyone is marketing using Canva and you will quickly see patterns and start to know what your preferences are. Pins should be clear and visual. They should instantly let the viewer know what you are promoting and make them want to know more. The next section is about giving them the information in words.
Choose which board you want to put your pin on. Its important to make sure that your content fits well with your overall topic so that your audience builds trust in what you post and can view you as a n authority.
Title. This is where you SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) becomes important. You should have key words or phrases that you use across all of your platforms that really present the essence of what you do so that the anilytics can recognise you and rank you higher. I often use Creative Entrepreneur as this is the most core thing of what I do.
Your main body of text is an opportunity for you to describe your pin and what it is offering. You can also include a CTA (Call To Action), which is basically asking the viewer to do something like visit your website or follow you on another platform. You may be offering a competition, an discount, or simply asking people to view articles you have written in a blog. The point is to consider what you pin is doing and make sure that your text is backing that up and making it clear to your audience what you are wanting them to do. Ill considered or dead end pins will not add to your business.
Finally, there is space to put a link to your website. If you don’t have a website yet then I strongly recommend that you get one, even if its a one page landing page to advertise a specific offer or if its a simple blog. You want your audience to have somewhere to go to get to know more about your and what you are promoting.
Once you have filled out all of these sections and are ready to post you can see two options at the bottom which are to publish now or schedule. It is tempting to make pins one at a time and post immediately, especially as you are finding your feet with Pinterest, but the algorithms love consistency and if you schedule your post it will really help with your overall reach. All you need to do is choose a date and a time and press publish, Pinterest will do the rest for you.
Re-pin from others
At first you may be thinking that you want to make your board unique to you to help with your brand identity. You want your audience to see you and not be distracted by other people’s pins on your boards. This is not the best way to use Pinterest. The system works on building reach based on what other pins you interact with therefor if you don’t share anybody else’s pins then you can’t get exposure to their audience. If you consistently re-pin other people’s content then Pinterest will start to make your pins appear on their audiences feeds. If you only ever post your own pins then your audience will never find you.
You need to look for other people who post in your niche and fill your boards with their pins by re-pinning. Obviously you may not want to re-pin posts from a direct competitor of yours who your audience may buy from instead of your, but find pins that compliment what you do and who your audience would also be interested in.
Ideally you want to re-pin about 30 pins per day. This will greatly increase your audience reach and help you to become known in your niche.
Pinterest and your website
If you have a website is is important to attach it to your Pinterest account. This is a fairly easy thing to do but may require you to have a paid for standard of website rather than the free versions. Free website are great for getting you started but when you want to increase your reach you will probably want to add plugins to improve the quality of your site. Plugins are like apps that make you phone do other things. Imagine you want to use a fitness tracker and need to connect it to your phone so you simply download the app and connect it. Website plugins are basically the same. The website is like the basic phone, but if you want it to perform other functions like sync with Pinterest to increase your visibility then you need to get a plugin to make it happen.
This is the most important thing of all. You can make amazing new individual pins every day and be posting consistently, but if you are doing it manually then the algorithms won’t be impressed. Like all search engines, the algorithms favour consistency and if they see that you have used scheduling tools then they are more convinced that you deserve a higher place in the ranking because you will be consistent in your posting. Pinterest allows you to post two weeks in advance so I suggest your first task is to sit and make 14 posts on Canva and schedule them to post for the next 14 days. You will instantly see a difference in your reach.
This however will only get you so far. Ideally you want an external scheduling software such as Tailwind. Tailwind makes is very easy to pin and re-pin for schedule many items in just a few minutes. Its very easy to use and has a free version that can get you started. Perhaps you will want to upgrade in time but initially you can get good results with the free version.
Join a tribe
A tribe is the name for a community on Tailwind. This is a brilliant way to find a group of people who have similar content to yours that is high quality and worth you re-pinning to your boards. It is also a great way for you to share your content to a group of people who have a similar niche audience to you. If you join a tribe and others re-pin your content then it will show on the feeds of their audience and they may be interested in what you do. You can see how this is a much more targeted way of reaching your specific niche audience rather than aimlessly wondering through the whole of Pinterest. The important thing to do here is to share high quality content that has a purposeful call to action, like visit your website, to grow your own audience and generate interest in what you do.
Repeat, repeat, repeat!
The key to this system is repetition. You may see an initial rise in your reach and then it slows down, but don’t be discouraged by this. Consistency is key. Repeat this approach for at least 90 days and watch your results. 90 days is a great number for trialing and growing anything as it gives you a decent amount of data to analyse but also it takes time to build habits in life. Your Impressions will grow, which is the overall times your pins show up in other people’s feeds. This is important because it means you pins are getting out there and finding their potential audiences. But that is not enough. You need to track your actual engaged audience to know how many people are drawn to your content. If 150,000 people can see your content but you only have a few hundred people engaged and far less than that actively pinning your content or clicking links to your website then that is not working. Although you are being consistent with your schedule over 90 days you need to be responsive with the type of content you post. If one week you post a campaign about a new article you wrote and it gets no interest then look at both your article content and the style of pins you are putting out there. Check to see what other people who have content like yours and are doing well do. You may be able to easily identify where you went wrong or it might take some trial and error. Perhaps you could re-design your pins and run the campaign again with a different look to see if that makes a difference. Every time you do something like this be considered on what you want to achieve and analyse how successful it has been. Don’t stick with something just because you made a decision to try to, also, don’t simply move away from a failure without taking note of why it might have been a failure so you don’t keep making the same mistakes.
Top Ten Tips for an Entrepreneur
1, Do something you care about
When you begin your entrepreneur journey there is a danger that you will be intrigued by the next big thing or a new trend you have seen others do. The first thing to know is that don’t follow the new shiny thing just for the sake of it. Being an entrepreneur can be draining and comes with rollercoasters of motivation and procrastination. If you business isn’t something that you truly care about then you will easily fall into procrastination. The most important thing you can do in your early stages is to really explore yourself and think about the things that are important to you. Yes, it is important to know the market and be ready to explore new innovations and trends, but tread carefully and do this in line with things that really resonate with you.
2, Believe in yourself
This might seem like a trick question, but do you really believe in yourself? You need to get into the mindset that you are capable of achieving all of the things you admire in others. Do you believe you can succeed? Do you believe you can make money with your business? Do you believe you are enough to accomplish your goals? The answer to all of these things is YES, but are you really there yet? Being an entrepreneur is massively about you. You will poor all of your energy and inspiration into your business, so it’s important that you have the confidence deep down to drive yourself forward. Confidence and self belief can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks people encounter in business. There will be days where you are full of ideas and ready to take on the world, and then other days where you are doubting your abilities because something didn’t sell or a campaign you worked hard on wasn’t successful. Failures are perfectly normal in business, and are in fact productive activities if you learn from them. So don’t let yourself down by giving in to self doubt. View small failures as being part of the process, learn from them and do better next time, and always believe in yourself.
3, Choose the right niche
Choosing the right niche is very important for your success. You want to choose and area where there is a market. There is no point in having an amazing ideas but in actual fact there is no active market for that thing. Research, research, research. Know your market, know your own experience, know your interests and passion, and find that small space where all of these things cross over. It is important for the long term of your business that you are invested in your niche. Much about your product or service and even marketing is about how you buy into your own business. Your audience will be able to see if you have no interest in your area and therefor won’t buy into it. If you are passionate and enthusiastic about your business then your audience will feel this and be keen to buy into it. Chances are that your niche audience are very much like you are. They want to identify with you and trust your opinion. Imagine trying to give a talk on something you know nothing about and reading off of a script versus talking about your favourite thing in the world. You need to exude that energy and get other people to love your business as much as you do.
4, Solve a burning problem
People don’t buy things, they buy solutions to their problems. A mother needs to feed her baby while she is away at work so she shops for baby bottles. She wouldn’t buy bottle just for fun, she needs to buy them to solve how to feed the baby when she isn’t there. The bottles are the solution to her problem. Perhaps some students need laptops. The student who is studying graphic design needs a powerful laptop that can support the software which are much more expensive than the other laptops. These students all need a similar product, but one student has a specific problem with the affordable options and needs another option. The student doesn’t spend the extra money just for the fun of it, they are solving their problem. The point is to understand what people’s problems are. Don’t make assumptions about what people need, really understand not just the things they buy, but why they buy these things. It doesn’t matter if its a product, service, printable ebook, anything, people buy to achieve a solution and improve their lives.
5, Start with a narrow focus
It can be very tempting in the beginning to throw all of your ideas at something and build an amazing big business that is all singing all dancing. This is a mistake. However much time you think it is going to take to build your business I guarantee that it will take far longer. You will spend a lot of time on the behind the scenes side of your business like marketing, administration, updating websites, bookkeeping etc. To do all of these things well you will need to invest in yourself in the beginning and learn new skills and best practice. You will also want to spend time testing your market and finding the best way forward and adjusting your techniques as you go. This can become very overwhelming and can cause many business to give up before they even get started. Keep things small and manageable so that you can get very good at your system first. Once you find a system that works you can automate and scale that, then expand into once of your other ideas. It’s great to have lots of ideas, but keep them to one side and launch them at appropriate times when they won’t become overwhelming for you.
6, Always be aware of competitors
This is probably one of the things that is easiest to slip. Everyone runs out and does lots of research at the start of their business, but how many continue to do this on a regular basis? New ideas happen, new trends appear, new businesses now into a market, perhaps your market. In this fast moving digital world new business pop up regularly and within a few months your whole audience could be swept out from underneath you if you become complacent and comfortable. You don’t want to be at the back of the business train by being the last one to notice a new trend and always be fighting for a place in the market. Be a leader. Be in the first wave of the market shifts and be part of the leaders who are creating new audience niches. Samsung watch what Apple are developing to make sure they are not left behind. Apple Watch Samsung for the same reasons. Nobody has room to be comfortable and complacent, nobody can assume that their audience base will be exactly the same in a year from now and that the world will remain the same.
7, Know your goals
Entrepreneurs are generally full of ideas and energy, perhaps striving forward based on motivation and inspiration. This is only half of the battle though. There is no point in storming forward with enthusiasm if you don’t know where you are going. To connect with your niche you need strategy. To create a strategy you need to know your goals. Its also very important to have different stages of goals all lined up… short term, medium term, long term. You don’t want to get caught in a hamster wheel where you just keep spinning but never get any further. Perhaps that will give you a business that provides enough income to pay your bills, but if you don’t have bigger goals then you will never move any further than this. Your short term goals will be very different than your long term goals. To move from one stage to the next you will need to create strategies. Once you have created these you need to actually follow what you have decided to grow and succeed. This isn’t to say that goals are set in stone. Obviously, if you are doing your ongoing research and know you market trends and competitors you will be adjusting your goals as you go. Goals are not there to make you be restrictive but to keep you on track and make you accountable for your decisions.
8, Take action and show up
Now, this is the part where I feel like I am a stuck record and say you need to consistently show up. Ideas are great, but if you don’t take action on them then they are basically useless. You knowing you have a great business is great, but if you aren’t letting others know the details about it then you are getting in your own way of your success. There is no point in putting in lots of effort to make an amazing business if it then just sits there unused. Most of us are shy and introverts filled with horror at self promotion online. Some people are happy to be the face of their business and be on Insta every day talking about how great they are, some people are filled with horror at that approach. Lets get this straight now, you can show up without it feeling ostentatious or salesy. Choose a platform like Pinterest, use Canva to make a serious of pins about your business and schedule them to post every day at the same time. This is showing up. This is being consistent. This is being visible to your audience and getting yourself out there in a way that lets your audience build trust in you and your business. The internet search engines don’t like inconsistency and will push you down for this so the best thing you can do for yourself is take action to make your content and schedule it to show up.
9, Just do it, even without perfection
Procrastination is one of the biggest problems we face. It is hard to take that leap and put something out into the world to be criticised. We all feel vulnerable when showing our work and all feel like its not finished and could be better. Well here is a revelation, even the highest quality academic books tend to have multiple editions as new things are learned and revisions need to be made. Nothing will ever be finished because technology moves on, interests change, markets are constantly shifting. The best way to succeed is to make prototypes and get them out into the world. You will learn far more from testing something and learning from you mistakes than by keeping it on the drawing board and hoping some new revelation will strike you to make it better. Every day you procrastinate over something because it isn’t perfect is another day that you have got in your own way and not shown up.
10, Learn from your mistakes
Mistakes are important. Failures are the best way to learn. Try, reflect, alter. Try, reflect, alter. Try, reflect, alter. This is what all of the big companies do to make advancement in their products and services. Society seems to install in us that its a bad thing to fail and that it somehow makes us less valid. It is such a shame that we are made to feel like this. Science is founded on mistakes where you create a hypothesis, conduct an experiment, note your results, and repeat. This is done until you have eliminated all of the process that are unsuccessful and identify one that works. This is exactly the type of system we all need to embrace, and be brave enough to shout about it because every failure we make is a step forward in achieving success.
Interview with Online Personal Stylist Magazine
This month I was lucky enough to have been asked to do an interview for an online style magazine that was interested in hearing about my career working back stage in theatre. This was such an exciting thing to do and I really loved to have this opportunity. Luisa at onlinepersonalstylist was just wonderful and instantly vanished any nerves I may have had before doing it. Despite always seeming quite confident I do get nervous in new situations and doing an online interview was most definitely one of those situations. I always seem to be fine speaking in front of lots of people in the flesh, but as soon as a camera is pointed at me I do my ‘Chandler smile’ and clam up. There is something intimidating about doing something that will be immortalised in film for years to come and that what you say will become your legacy. So yes, I was a little nervous before doing it.
The content of the interview was mainly about my career in theatre and the types of work that I did before moving over to teaching, which is what I do now. It was lovely to reminisce some of the memorable moments in my career from the thrill of being backstage of the big touring musicals to the guilty pleasure of when technology goes wrong and you need to do a show stop to fix it. I got to feel nostalgic as I spoke about how when you work in theatre you colleagues become your family, and to reflect on the people who helped me start my career and the student who tell me I helped to inspire them to begin theirs. It really was lovely to vocalise these things in a way that I had never said them out loud before. It is interesting to think how we don’t always connect the dots in our own lives unless someone else asks us to.
Reflecting on my experience in working back stage in theatre fills me with the same wonder and excitement as when I first did it. There is a huge amount of work goes into getting a production ready for the stage including set, costume, props, lighting, sound, av, and the core of it all, stage management. All of these roles require departments to meet, collaborate and produce individual elements that must connect together flawlessly to create the suspension of disbelief in the audience that every director is hoping for. In order for the audience to completely buy into the performance the actor must hold their attention, but all of the backstage departments must be flawless in their delivery otherwise they will take attention from the actor and break the suspension on disbelief. If everything technical is in the right place then the audience tend to not even notice it exists, but if the lights are at the wrong cue, or a sound effect is wrong, or a piece of set is left on stage that shouldn’t be there then they audience are down to the mistake and stop watching the actor. Basically, working back stage is a career where the only way to do it well is for nobody to know you exist. Due to this it sometimes makes it difficult to explain to people exactly what you do or what transferable skills you have.
Working backstage can be the longest and most tiring week of your existence in pre-production week. Endless days of technical rehearsals to make sure everything flows perfectly, or repeatedly doing a scene scene change until your hand bleed to iron out all the difficulties and create the perfect illusion for the audience are a normal occurrence. By the time opening night comes the technical staff are exhausted and ready to collapse, but then something magical happens. The adrenaline of opening night is like nothing you will ever experience in your life. The love audience on the other side of the curtain eager to be entertained fill the auditorium with an electric energy that transfers back stage. Each round of applause is like a personal affirmation of every single crew member that has worked until they dropped to make this production. Every cue still seems so new and everyone has their faithful cue list to keep them perfectly on track. The DSM religiously calls every cue and there is silence on the comms system as everyone listens intently for their own instructions. And at the end of the show as the audience leave the auditorium there is the biggest sense of accomplishment you will ever feel in your life as you change your close to something more formal that ‘blacks’ and head out to the opening night party where you get to meet audience and patrons alike who all want to congratulate you on your hard work on making something so wonderful. This moment of knowing that you got there is certainly one of the biggest senses of achievement I have ever felt and is the addiction that makes it hard for people to leave theatre. It always calls you back to the next production and the next chance to produce something truly worth while.
And then there is the side of theatre that I do now, teaching it. At first moving from professional theatre to teaching can be frustrating. The resources are much less, the productions are much smaller, and everything goes at a snails pace. There is always a mix of students who are there because it is their calling and they want to put every but of energy they have into it, and those that come to college as a bit of a gap while they want to work out what they really want to do with their lives and prefer to do bare minimum to pass. At first this can all seem a little frustrating for someone that has come from working in professional theatre, but that doesn’t last long. There is just a different sort of mind shift required in this environment. It’s not all about production value, but rather the learning experience of the student. It doesn’t matter if something doesn’t go right as long as the student can reflect on how to do it different next time and understand why. It doesn’t matter if something starts of looking terrible, because after three years of practice that student will be producing much higher quality work. Everything you see must not be considered at face value but as part of a longer journey. For the perfectionist theatre makers this can be a challenge, but as you start to see the development of students and recognise the stage of their journey suddenly the actual production doesn’t seem to be as important. Then you reach a point where student that came to you straight from school have been through the whole curriculum and left to go to industry. I love watching the careers of my old students and seeing where they go and what they achieve. Its always great to see what other professional are doing and cheer them on, but when you get to do it for people who you met before they even knew the basic theatre terminology it really is something special.
During the interview I also went a little bit off track to talk about some of the other projects I am doing just now. Due to the massive effect that Covid-19 has had in the creative industries as a whole sector I have felt it very heavy on my heart to see the many amazing professionals I know left destitute and without an industry. Since I started teaching on the Creative Enterprise programme this year I have been filled with new enthusiasm about how creatives can became sustainable businesses, even in a world of social restrictions and social distancing. I took it upon myself to launch a facebook group ‘Creative Economy Entrepreneurs: Supporting each other to grow’ where I help to teach creatives how to be entrepreneurs. So far this has mostly been through free workbooks and videos of me talking through things and mostly revolves around how to make best use of the digital world in creative business as I feel that is the area most creatives lack but is now a firm requirement of society since lockdown 2020/21. I have loved using this platform to bring together creatives from all aspects of life and stages of their career and provide a space for networking and sharing ideas. I am just at the beginning of that journey but see it as an exciting new project and I am going to enjoy seeing how it develops.
Even after the interview ended and Luisa stopped recording we ended up still chatting for another half our around the politics and social justice aspects of the creative industries. It could have been another podcast in itself if we had kept recording. For me it was a great experience and definitely something I would do again in the future if an opportunity was to come up. I tend to be a little shy with these sorts of things and offer up other people that I think would do better but perhaps I am past that fear now and a little more ready to do things in front of the camera rather than always being back stage making things appear to happen by magic.
Watch the full interview here https://youtu.be/-xX4ArYrYeU
How to build a blog in the creative economy
As I began on the journey of setting up a blog I had no idea where to begin. I think like everyone else I feel like I have a lot to say and there are so many different parts of myself that I really didn’t know where to begin or what my voice was going to be like. After spending the last two years working constantly on my PhD where everything was set in an academic tone of writing I was feeling desperate to write in a more journalistic and authentic tone. Taking a break from my PhD felt like my opportunity to really find my own voice rather than constantly quoting other people to validate a point I was trying to make.
My research started on Facebook where I started to watch dozens of webinars or attend free training sessions to get myself up to speed on how to write a blog. This was like going down a rabbit hole where everything I learned seemed to bring up another three things that I needed to know. I was starting to see a whole economy of its own that thrived on selling education to people who felt like they were not good enough to succeed yet. Every free training event would lead to trying to convince you to join that course or membership so that you could be part of a community that will nurture you and bring you all the success you want in your life. I quickly learned to be strong willed and learn what I can from the free sessions and then politely decline the offer of the course. I was actually a little shocked that most of these courses seem to cost between £1000-£3000. I can’t comment of the end value of any of them as I haven’t joined up to any, but as a lecturer in the Scottish education system where education is free the neoliberal rhetoric around these paid for courses does not sit well with my values of equity and social justice.
My ‘ah ha’ moment was that while I am learning all that I can from these sites that I should document it and write a guide so that other people don’t have to go on this long, and potentially expensive, journey. I decided to pull together all of the notes I had taken from dozens of ‘influencers’ selling education and condense it to a palatable little workbook to help the ordinary take their urge to create something and help them find their vision. My finished workbook is a combination of what I have learned in the past two months online and aspects of design thinking from my master degree.
The first stage is about going through a process to find out who you are? You can’t find a voice to project on to others if you are still unsure of what it is you want to say, and you can’t begin that until you know exactly who you are and what it is you want from life. Not just what you want, but what you don’t want. Having a clear vision of these things can really help clarify things in your own mind. I love using GoogleDrive Jamboard for this. You will always here me talk about how much I love Jamboard and its not even something I can make money off promoting. I just genuinely find it is such a great little tool for people like me that like to visualise things with images and post it notes. Sometimes you don’t make connections with things until you see it in front of you and start to move things around. Things that you think need to be in your life perhaps don’t. Things that you desperately want may be far more attainable than you think. And its always important to have a big dream to work towards. My guide gives little prompts and templates to fill out to get your brain thinking about these things.
The next stage is the one that I found most groundbreaking for my own development. It was on a weekly group of workshops I did that were based on neuroscience and brain priming. If you have ever watched Derren Brown, or listen to his Audible Original series, you may have heard hime talk about brain priming. The brain can be a very suggestible thing and professionals understand how to manipulate that to get a desired response from you. Like Derren Brown getting you to puck the exact card that he wants you to, or advertisers getting you to buy their product. It is possible to lead the brain to believe something through priming.
This was my notes from a training workshop I was doing that talked about brain priming on one of the days. I do love using Jamboard to take my notes when listening to webinars or doing online training. I love how I can colour code and move things about to fit how I am making the connections in what someone is explaining.
The workshops I went through focused on using this idea of brain priming to get you to believe in yourself more. Not just by implanting positive affirmations in your hear and hoping they will stick but by first going deep and exploring what blocks you have that are stopping you from moving forward. I diligently took notes and worked through all of the exercises with an air of arrogance thinking that I obviously don’t have any blocks because I’m doing pretty well in life and have achieved a lot. I have never been proved so wrong or been so humbled by an outcome. I followed the process and uncovered a whole page of blocks that I have. Little things that I do around procrastination or perfectionism that are causing me to be in my own way of achieving what I want. For each of my blocks I went deeper and explored why I do that, and then tried to put in an intervention for myself to solve the issues. As part of the process I chose one main one that seemed the most relevant and really began to work on recognising it and actively challenging my previous behaviour around it. This is where the priming comes in. Identify the block, understand why it is there and then do a Derren Brown and convince your brain that it isn’t true by replacing your old perceptions with a new one. I have felt such a shift already and that is with only one block I am working on…I know I have a whole page to work through.
The next stage I created in my workbook is around design thinking. Now that the reader has a clear idea of who they are and what they want to achieve they are ready to start thinking about what their idea could be. Here I used methods of ideation, concept generation and analysis to take the reader through a design thinking process. This may sound very complicated but again it is really just filling in templates that I have put in the workbook. I use this method with my Creative Enterprise degree students and I’m always blown away by the amazing ideas they come up with. This is the part where the individualism of each person really start to shine through. Everyone has a unique life experience and any parts of this can become part pf the ideas. The can be big ideas and small ideas. Groups of ideas may come together to form a larger concept, or one idea may be stripped back to be eloped for a small niche. There are endless opportunities here and many of the concepts that are generated may not be used at this time but re-emerge in the future. The key point in this stage is just to get ideas down on paper. If you sit staring at a blank page waiting for that one perfect idea to present itself you will probably be waiting for a lifetime. By working through this process and getting every idea or notion down on paper you are much more likely to start making connections and come up with a concept that will be unique to you. Remember, you will need to absolutely be in love with your idea and be passionate and enthusiastic about showing it to the world. If you don’t feel this way about it then you will just encounter more of these blocks like I talked about earlier that cause you to procrastinate .
The final stage is all about the process. This is the part that seems to be completely overwhelming for most people who are thinking of starting a blog or indeed any sort of online business. Setting up all of the different social media accounts and managing them. Knowing about branding and content. Knowing how to structure your website in a way that works with you painters set up. Understand SEO (search engine optimisation). The list is long and overwhelming. In my workbook I set out an order that things should be done and give a brief example of what its purpose is and why it is important that you consider doing it. All of these things are only a brief guide and warrant further research by the reader to explore the elements that will work for their concept, but the process gives a fairly comprehensive guide to the novice who want to learn what they should be doing.
There is a thing called the Johari Window model. This looks at fours areas of knowing: what you know, what you don’t know, what you know you don’t know, and what you don’t know you don’t know. The challenge for most people is to tackle is ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’, which is what leads to hours and days on end watching webinars and online workshops to try to work out what you should be doing. My workbook aims to reduce the amount of things that you don’t know that you don’t know and give you the starting point to get started and launch your idea is the most officiant and comprehensive way possible.
Although I understand the importance of a free market and particularly one where small business and independent entrepreneurs are experiencing great success and not just the large corporations I am true to my belief in equitable education. I you can afford a personal coach or want to be part of a membership group and you can afford to pay a monthly subscription fee then great, there are a lot of options and you may find one that really helps you grow. If you are not in that price bracket and just looking for an affordable book to get you started with all the information you need to get yourself up and running then my workbook is probably a good place for you to start. But wether it is one of my low cost digital products or a high cost online course or membership please only buy what you can afford and what you genuinely feel will be useful for you. Try all the free samples, buy into things that truly resonate with you and build up your own authentic voice as you go.
Nurture your creativity
I’m curious how many people see being creative as something to do in their spare time, and since we live in a hamster wheel of busy routine very rarely get time for it. I think particularly for a busy working mum it is very hard to allow yourself time for creativity. Work needs to be done, the house needs to be cleaned, the kids need looked after….and their creative time needs to be monitored and cleaned up. By the end of the day the only thing that Mummy wants is a cup of tea and to switch off the brain and chill. The following day follows the same pattern.
For us that work in the creative industries there are generally two paths to follow. Either creativity fills the working day and then is left as the door, meaning that your own creative needs are never filled, or, creativity consumes all parts of your life. I like to think that I fall into the second category. I teach creative skills during the day and very rarely would bring that aspect into my home life, although I have been known to build and paint a set in my garage and get my kids involved painting flats. In my daily routine I try to bring creativity into as many parts of my day as possible. I do messy play or lego with the kids. Sometimes the kids get fed up with the lego and I’m left just sitting by myself building something. I feel there is a certain amount of permission giving a mother has to do to let that sort of thing happen. To keep play just because you want to instead of going to put on another load of washing is a hard thing to do, but a very important one.
I love the moments where I am doing something random and creative and the kids just come to join in. Their curiosity is sparked and they can’t resist. If I announce the activity before I start they will complain that they want to do their own thing, but if I start to do a project alone then it suddenly becomes irresistible to them. I love this fluid way of sparking interest. I feel it is such a healthy way to bring creativity into the daily home routine. I give myself permission to do my own creative activity and so feel fulfilled, and the kids experience choosing to be creative rather than having it scheduled for them.
An example for an activity could be painting some rocks from the garden. Set up a little painting area with all the materials and begin to paint. If the kids join in then that will be a lovely family moment. If they don’t then you get to enjoy a little creative activity just for fun. The clean up time remains the same either way. This system allows for a fluid and tranquil experience rather than setting up the activity to make the kids do and you only be the gatekeeper to it where you stress of interactions and mess. Same activity, two totally different outcomes. If you nurture your creativity in this way you will find that it grows, in both you and in those in your family who join in.
Think of all the fun creative activities that you can do.
The more creativity you use, the more you will have
Do you ever feel that sometimes you go through spurts of creativity where everything seems inspirational and fills you with ideas? Do you ever experience mental blocks where all ideas seem to have disappeared, you feel like you are lost without any creative inspiration? I think we all experience both of these sometimes. I know that when I am in a creative zone the ideas just keep coming to me, sometimes I am even overwhelmed at the idea of needing to choose between which to explore and which to leave behind. I fully believe that when you are in one of these zones there is something within you that is open to everything creative and ideas seem to actively seek you out, hoping to come into existence.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of best selling book Eat Pray Love, made a wonderful little TedX Talk about creativity and how ideas come to you but if you don’t grab on to them they will fly away and find another vessel to bring them to life. I love this idea because it is exactly how I feel. Sometimes an idea comes to me that seems so tempting and passionate that I just want to drop everything I am doing and make it come to life, but if I am committed to another project and can’t start right away it seems to drift off and move on before I have time to get to it.
I feel that for myself there is a fine line here between creative authenticity and procrastination. It is often hard to see if a new idea is genuinely the creative inspiration seeking you out to bring life to an amazing idea, or a representation of a block you are having on your current project and your subconscious is just looking for a distraction. I think that this is perhaps the biggest hurdle that a creative person will face with their work. Unfortunately there is no quick fix or magic solution, other than to take time to become very aware of your subconscious habits. We all have little blocks, no matter how focused or committed we think we are, and it is taking the time to acknowledge these for what they are to be able to soundly trust our intuition when it comes to creativity.
I do believe tho, that the more creativity you use the more you will have. When I am in a place where I have no burning ideas about my next project, or no direction and just feel stuck in life I try to step away from my own anxiety about it and just play. I do colouring in books and gratitude journals, I play huge amounts of lego with the kids, I read random books that catch my eye, and my newest favourite pass time…Audible. I think sometimes you need some time to reset. When you are in a creative flurry then more ideas come to you. When you are stuck then no ideas come to you. Don’t let yourself stay stuck and instead explore something new, no matter how random it seems. Ideas come from the strangest of places, but in general creativity brings creativity. So don’t sulk when your inspiration has left you, take that time to try something new rather than staring at a blank page.
Give yourself permission.
I think its really interesting how we present ourselves to others. The world of social media creates a time stamp of our lives that is preserved for all to see forever more. Some people bow to the influencer trend of filtered pictures to create a flawless look while others prefer the unedited and simple version. The underlying expectation of judgement can drive these decisions, but at the core it is really about how a person feels about themselves.
I have found myself interested in the opinion that people have on this. I know many people that are very judgemental over the use of filters, yet some of them happily use make-up, I’m not sure I can see the difference. Being a bit of a tom boy and not being particularly good at girly make up things has always made it harder for me to choose the perfect model looks, simply because I lack the skills to achieve this. For me, I quite like being able to take one quick picture that makes for a professional and presentable image without the need for endless hour and expense on make-up. Additionally, using a filter to create a flawless image for profile pics seems a natural choice as someone who works in an industry where getting professional headshots done is common practice.
So what do you think is the best way to present your image when it comes to promoting your business? People buy into people, so it is important that you place yourself at front and centre of your business if it has any place in the social media landscape. We know from just about every advert we have ever seen that beauty is favoured when convincing people to buy a product or service, because really it is the lifestyle that they are buying. Yet, in this new digital revolution brought on by Covid we find that the more natural look of wfh zoom calls has become more relatable. People are actively changing their profile pics and CV images from the perfectly polished professional look to a more natural and easy going look.
I like a combination of both. I think we all have different sides of ourselves and I like to embrace them all. I feel like coming from the creative industries as a career the importance of things being aesthetically pleasing is important, and I like to include myself in that. I will have images of myself where I have make up on or use a filter that I like for their artistic merit and I put them out into the virtual world. But, I am Mummy to two little boys and most of my home life is building dens or playing tickle monster, and I happily take pictures that show that messy and haphazard version of myself too. If anything I think having this range makes me more relatable as it shows that you don’t need to put yourself in a box and are authentically true to yourself.
The most important thing is for you to present yourself in a way that you are comfortable, not in a way that is dictated by others. We all have pictures of ourselves that make us cringe and you don’t want to be feeling that emotion with anything you use to present yourself in your business. Choose pictures of yourself that give you that feeling of liking what you see or feeling like you can achieve anything.
Confidence is the key, and whatever that means for you will be the right choice.
As a child I was not the smartest in the class. Through some self development I have become aware that this vision of myself has become harmful in fulfilling my goals in adult life. I always consider myself to be the stupid child who stutters when reading out loud and is too scared to ask for help when I don’t understand something. In the cruel system of educational performance and attainment classifications I was the underperforming child who didn’t focus, didn’t apply themselves and spent too much time daydreaming. The school system engrained in me the idea that I was not enough and that my lack of concentration and daydreaming would get me nowhere.
I can objectively look at this now through the lens of a FE and HE lecturer, yes, the stupid child is now a lecturer. I left school with very little qualifications and instead pursued an interest in theatre and the creative industries, far more befitting to my daydreaming attitude. I enjoyed a good career in professional theatre and returned to education after having my children and got my masters. This led on to my current career where I lecture in Technical Theatre and Productions Arts, and Creative Enterprise. I think I can say with a certain amount of certainty that I am not stupid, as my schooldays had led me to believe, yet I still feel this often as the impressions left on a child become deeply ingrained in the adult they are to become.
A pivoting point in my recognition of my own abilities was around the word ‘daydreaming’. In almost every report card I was accused of daydreaming, which embodied lack of focus, lack of attention and not applying myself to my work. I was led to believe that daydreaming was a bad thing, whilst at the same time being told I was not good enough. This is the system that needs to be shattered. If you have ever had an interest in self development you will likely have come across gratitude journaling, vision boards, manifestations. Focusing on what you want and believing you can achieve it is the grounding for most adult achievement. I think this is the first block that most people have. It is hard to allow yourself to imagine a better future when you have been told as a child to stay in your little box and just learn what you are told. The dilemma of how you focus on what you want and not let yourself get dragged down by past events that are holding you back is definitely a difficult one.
In my current world I am a confident, perhaps slightly overachieving, adult and generally I would say that I don’t have much holding me back. Yet, when I sat down to do a little exercise about having blocks based on past events I filled a whole page. None of these things are something that I consciously focus on or feel that they hold me back, but seeing them in front of me was certainly a surprise. When I considered each one and applied it to how I go about my day and my work I could see how I’m perhaps travelling up a steep hill when maybe there is an easier route. Noticing when I do a little habit that I know will cause procrastination and altering it before I reach there has been very helpful for me. Seeing my self sabotage reactions to criticism and talking myself out of taking it personally before I let it brood inside me has been particularly affective. My point is, that I find if you explore your own habits through a critical lens it can help you outperform yourself and this may need just a little work on your part to identify what is true for you, and then you can be free to visualise your future. Daydream.
Acknowledging your past and seeing it for what it is clears up your path for imagining your future. Daydreaming is inspiration and brings with it creativity. Perhaps mix the two and let yourself dabble in colouring in, or gardening, or cooking, or anything else while you daydream. Let your mind wander and go to your happy place. Truly explore where that happy place is, feel it, smell it, taste it, touch it. When you can experience it as if it is already a real thing you are tricking your mind into thinking it is normal, obtainable, easy to reach for. If your mind already believes in you then there is nothing to stop you achieving your dreams. Creating this open and happy place in your head where everything can flow easily is a step for making space for you creativity. Give yourself the creative space and it will naturally fill up with things that are authentically you.
Daydreaming, in my opinion, is the best tool for finding creativity within.