For the Reluctant Entrepreneurs
Two years ago (ish) I was writing my book, working on building community here on social media, trying to figure out who my target audience was and how to make an authentic connection with them in the approximately half second they may put eyes on one of my posts. I was starting at ground zero in every way.
I had questions like:
How do I accomplish my creative goals while working full time, and still occasionally seeing my husband and friends?
How do I stop feeling guilty for not always doing more?
How do I build community on social media without getting sucked into the void and spit back out disoriented and muttering hashtags to myself?
I've found these questions and more point to the hard parts of building a platform for creative work, and so much of it is based in developing business and marketing ethos with personal integrity. Many of us who have important things to say feel defeated by the conversations surrounding entrepreneurship and marketing. We dip our toes into the world of sharing our work and feel like we have to sell our souls. While I'm still very much a baby author, I want to share that my experience this far has not included selling my soul to marketing gurus, and has only included minimal hashtag muttering. For those of you that haven't been with me long, I also funded the self publishing costs for my book, "Dear Sister" from pre-orders through a Kickstarter campaign.
The point of all this is just to say that you fellow reluctant entrepreneurs can do it too, sans soul and life selling. Here are a few things that have been helpful for me, and I hope help you too:
You can always tap out.
Sure, if you're launching something it might not be great to disappear, but when things get overwhelming cutting back or taking a sabbatical is always an option. Social media will suck up as much time and attention as you let it, so create some strong boundaries. Never feel like you HAVE to show up on socials.
Build your brand around YOU.
I don't buy this "you are your brand" business because it feels like a capitalist Cinderella story - the Fairy Godmother gave her an influencer niche and she lived happily ever after! *eyeroll* This said, the more your repeating themes echo your real life the easier it is to keep up with. Ya'll know my bathrobe because I ACTUALLY LIVE IN IT. My color themes are based off my actual photos and art. Show up as you are and you'll be both relatable and it will be more manageable for you.
I had someone ask me recently how I found my target audience, and if anything I feel like ya'll found me. The best thing I did for our connection though was to start asking a LOT of questions. Questions in my posts, questions and polls in my stories, questions in my emails. Questions about what you love, what's hard right now, your self care rituals and your friendships. When I then create posts, blogs, and videos based on how you answer my questions, that shows I'm listening and creates rapport. When everyone sees each others answers to the questions, it expands our community in really vital ways.
Try new things.
Don't be afraid to mix things up, and try something new in a branding or theme. Trying new ideas out keeps your content fresh and gives you a chance to see what people connect with. The themes I keep coming back to are ongoing conversations in my work (and themes in my book, too.)
Get really good at saying a few things ten different ways. This solidifies your "brand" (I can't use that word and mean it.) Most people need repetition for a concept to sink in. Remember this when you're selling something too, people are more likely to jump on an opportunity when they are educated about it and feel a personal connection with you and your community. Your job isn't just to come up with a solution to improve their lives or ease their problem, your job is to teach them why your solution is a fit for them, specifically. A lot of us have a complex around selling (myself included!) but this is a block we have to sort out, because it gets in the way of making important connections.
There's a whole world out there.
Social media isn't the only way to promote your work(!!) Research local businesses and make those connections. Go to networking events and meet new people. Talk about your work in person, host, and collaborate on events. This helps because real people you make in person connections with are far more likely to support you, and it helps you sidestep the social media negative feedback loop that says everyone else is more successful and better at whatever you're doing than you are. In person relationships ground us in important ways. Plus, sometimes those people show up for you on socials too.
None of this defines you.
Exactly zero percent of this defines who you are or how worthy of a human being you are. You are just as worthy if you never decide to promote your creative work. You don't have to have any specific number of followers or people subscribed to your email list to be valid as a person or an artist. Your worth doesn't depend on sales or likes or comments or engagement. Keep your perspective, you don't have to sell your soul.
I have a lot more to say about ethical marketing and how things like patriarchy and scarcity have infiltrated mainstream advice, but that's a blog for another day. If this post was encouraging to you, I'd love to know. Drop me a comment!