So my wonderful little baby of a business turned 4 last month! It still surprises me that, while I may not be making millions the little Etsy shop I began 3 days after handing in my final assignment at university is actually still going; people are actually still interested in buying my things!
Other things that have happened recently is that I finally decided (after getting spurred back into action by my wonderful friend Fiona) to self-publish a short story I had written. Now anyone who knows me knows I like to write, that sewing and writing have been two passions in my live that seem to constantly battle for dominance. (Do you have any idea how hard it was to pick a degree for university? Do I spend my days in a little ivory tower surrounded by musty but amazing books or do I plunge further into the entertainment industry and get lost in a giant room of fabric and costumes? – although in the end I kind of did both and neither)
Also, given my rather short attention span for projects (this blog serves as a perfect example of this) it shouldn’t really be surprising that it’s taken me this long to actually finish a story, let alone be happy enough with it to put it out there for all the world to read.
But I did it, and like that little Etsy shop full of harry potter ties it’s now open and out there for anyone who wants it.
One of the biggest things to happen to me recently was the decision to try life without the aid of my anti-depressants (well anti-anxiety tablets) for the first time in 6 years. And I did it; the middle of last month marked the end of my life on mood stabilisers; which really, despite the occasional bumps (hello first major panic attack in 5 years) is a very, very good thing.
But despite all of these positive steps, and milestones I have realised something. I am not very good at self-promotion. Which, you may have noticed is somewhat of an essential skill for the self-employed.
It’s not that I can’t talk to people. I can. Ask any one of my family members and they will tell you that the real struggle when it comes to talking to me is actually getting me to shut the hell up.
So it’s not that I can’t talk, it’s not that I really struggle to think of things to say – when I’m in my element anyway. Get me talking about sewing, or films or why Victorian history is so bloody fascinating and I’m good to go. It’s that somehow I struggle with the HOW to talk.
The idea of going into a room full of strangers with the aim of “networking” is a fairly terrifying concept for me. Trying to introduce myself; to explain what I actually do without coming off sounding like a moron is one of the most difficult tasks of my life.
The overriding thoughts during these first exchanges are usually something along the lines of:
“What the hell are you even doing? No one wants you here”
“Jesus, don’t say that! Do you want to look like a complete idiot?”
And my favourite: “They’re all judging you and really probably hate what they see”
So, I ask you dear reader, how does one successfully market themselves and push their product/brand/non-crazy side when they can barely hear their own thoughts over the voices tearing them down?
The internet, you may say. Don’t attempt face to face encounters, just stay hidden behind your keyboard and let the work speak for itself.
Except, and yes I’m aware this sounds like I’m making excuses – welcome to the mind-numbing confusion and contradiction that is social anxiety – that the voices are still there.
Posted something on Tumblr an hour ago and still no notes? It’s not because your followers have lives or haven’t seen it anything of course it’s because they secretly hate you and find everything you write to be completely horrific and/or boring.
Spent 6 weeks making and photographing a new costume, listed it a month ago but still no takers? Clearly it’s because all your work is terrible and no one even likes you.
(That song “Nobody loves me; everybody hates me; I think I’ll go eat worms” springs to mind a lot for me)
As you can probably tell by this, I have a few issues. But I am working on them! I mean I published a book and everything! I started my own business! And more recently I even contacted a historical re-enactment and educational group who was looking for a costume designer to join their ranks!
The last few months, in between orders, writing occasionally and reading, reading and then reading a bit more(I went through a bit of a kindle kick and read about 15 books in the space of 2 months) I’ve been working on costumes for the wonderful people at Edinburgh Living History.
This has been good on quite a few levels. I got to try making some designs that I’ve never tried before, I’ve gotten the chance to wander freely round Lauriston Castle (Why wouldn’t you wander round a castle if you had the chance?) but most importantly I stepped out of my comfort zone and actually attempted to make contact with new people, actually attempted to promote myself!
And while this gig is essentially voluntary it’s put me in touch with re-enactors and peformers who can refer me to other people who may be in a position to pay me for things. I may be in fact, networking!
So now the next step is to really keep pushing, to keep forcing myself out of my comfort zone and to really actively ignore the voices in my head.
And if you really thought this blog post had a point, then like me you’ll be surprised to find it doesn’t. I was so sure that this time I wouldn’t just ramble off at the end but oh well!
Oh and speaking of which my brand spanking new short story can be found here on Amazon She and Him: Valedictory
And I said I was bad at self-promotion.