Friday, 19 October 2018

How I stepped out of my comfort zone

Have you ever put off doing something because you feel afraid of it?  Or it might feel overwhelming or uncomfortable?

Stepping out of our comfort zone to do something new can be all of those things, and just recently I made the leap and tackled something I've been putting off for ages.


Today it seems everywhere you scroll there are videos and livestreams, I'm reading blog posts about how it's the best way to communicate with your customer, and how it's the best way to move your business forward.

And yet, it scared the hell out of me.  So many things to contemplate...first of all, where would I start?  There was so much I didn't know, and so much to learn.  I felt out of my depth watching tutorials on You Tube, and the tech side of it, uploading and editing...well, the sheer volume of knowledge required actually made me shut off my laptop!

So, what did I do?  For a long, long time I shelved it.  I joined Skillshare and watched a couple of good classes and felt the stirrings of excitement and possibility, but when it came to physically getting started, I just couldn't do it!   I wrote notes and ideas down in my biz journal - and they sat there unused for weeks.  That is, until I had a coaching session with Claire Sheehan.

Claire is an artist and coach, and we had a session a couple of weeks ago where she helped me take down some of the blocks I'd created for myself.  She was very helpful in getting me to see the bigger picture.  Instead of launching into an overwhelming, full on video series, Claire encouraged me to make something short and easy, for fun.  Right away the pressure to create something polished and professional disappeared.  And also, I could also see how I'd set this unachievable standard, of making my very first video and it looking like something produced by Universal Studios.  

It's fascinating how we build walls around ourselves to protect us from the unknown.  It feels so comfortable and cosy plodding along in our own predictable way, doing what we know we're good at, yet it doesn't take us any further than our own self made boundaries.

The thing is, we have to learn as we go - it's part of being a human!  We were not put on earth to stagnate and live a dull life.  We have to be able to say to ourselves, you know what?  This is my first attempt and I'm going to give it a go.  I will most certainly make mistakes, but I will learn as I go on, and if I keep on practising I'll get better at it, I'll gain more confidence, develop new skills and my 'thing' will be amazing.  I think back to how I first started with my art work, and it was nothing like what it is now!  I sometimes find old pieces of work that make me cringe, but I also feel proud of myself for deciding to have a go because if I hadn't, I wouldn't be where I am now.

The main stumbling block for me, and I think this applies to all of us when we feel stuck around creating something new, is the fear of looking like an amateur, of people laughing at us or criticising us for our efforts.  Am I right?  Looking like we don't know 'all the stuff', feeling like the new kid on the creates barriers of fear and self doubt and this can be paralysing.  I can see now that I was never going to start making videos with so much emotional baggage!  Claire showed me that choosing to create something small, and for fun, removed the need for it to be perfect.

So, you might be wondering how things are going?  I chose to make a short film about myself and what I do to put on my website.  You are welcome to watch it on my You Tube channel here:
I am planning on doing more videos so you're welcome to subscribe to my channel if you wish to.

The experience of filming out and about, as well as in my studio was a really good experience.  I found out that I thoroughly enjoyed doing it, working out scenes in my mind and scripting it all.  I played around with editing the video in Photoshop, but sadly with the age of my laptop (it is sloooowwww) and so much to figure out, I chose to edit it on my Ipad using IMovie which was so much fun, and so easy.

I am actually now contemplating doing a bit of Vlogging - yes, that's right!  I am so excited by this whole new world that has opened up for me and cannot wait to do more!  This has also made me realise what I might have missed out on by not trying.

Good advice if you're feeling stuck right now:

Make it fun.
If your project or idea feels massive, break it down into small, achievable goals.
Do not worry about looking like a novice, all the best people started somewhere.  Start with what you've got and give it your best shot.
Remember, there's no written rule anywhere that says it has to be perfect.  
Think back to something you have achieved in life, think about something that makes you feel proud.  
Enjoy yourself.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

A guide to Instagram for artists

I thought I'd share a few handy tips for using Instagram if you're an artist, and how to get the best from it for you and your business.

The main reason I use Instagram is to share my work and life as an artist, it keeps me connected to people who follow me and keeps people up to date with what I'm doing.  For artists it's a brilliant social media app as it's so visual!  However, there's more to it than just posting a few random pictures (which is literally what I used to do).   Let me explain.

My first bit of advice, and one that seems to have made the most noticeable difference to my feed is to use a real camera to take your pictures.  I know that most phones have pretty decent cameras these days but I can honestly say that since switching to my Canon G7X the quality of the pictures is 100% better.  Although this isn't a cheap camera (I saved up and upgraded from a pocket Canon last year) it has wifi which means I can upload images right to my phone or Ipad for easy editing in the Lightroom App.  This is by far one of my favourite editing apps, and you can easily find a free version to pop on your device.  I really enjoy the editing process, and Lightroom is easy to use if you're a beginner but at the same time, gives your images a real professional finish.

The second piece of advice is to make sure that you keep your pictures relevant to your business and what you do.  Most of my feed is pictures of my work, either works in progress or finished shots.  I also take pictures in the studio or of myself working.  To help give people a bit of an insight into my life I will occasionally add in scenes from places I've been, or found inspiring, but not too many.  I suppose what I'm saying is that, if you're a painter for example, you don't want to cause too much confusion and have people wondering what your brand represents if your feed is peppered with lots of family shots and pictures of your dog.  Unless that's relevant to your brand, and you paint dogs. Then that's OK.

Instagram Stories is actually a good place to post things that you don't want littering up your feed, for example, you might want to share that you're at a great exhibition, or of you out and about having coffee etc.  For this I tend to use mostly pictures I've captured on my phone.  I like to edit them in the Canva app as it has some really nice fonts - just choose the blank background and upload your own photograph, add text and graphics and away you go.  I also like to use Stories to chat about promotions or things to do with my biz now and then.  It can feel a bit daunting at first but look right at the camera lens (not the screen) and imagine you're having a chat with your best mate and you'll be fine.  Stories is a great facility to help people to get to know you more, and to see other 'behind the scenes' elements of your life as an artist.

When it comes to posting, I try and mix things up a bit, so rather than it become a steady stream of close up shots of my work, I'll maybe include an overhead shot of my desk space, or of something on my easel.  I also pop in pictures of myself at work because people seem to like this, and it does help to create a connection between you and your customers as they can put a face to the brand.  If you're a bit camera shy, consider getting a side shot of yourself at work, this is a fairly good compromise as you're not having to look right to camera which I know can feel a bit disconcerting at first! 

When writing text under your pictures, try and keep things interesting and engaging.  Maybe you could explain a bit about your process, or share which materials you used.  Don't be afraid to be chatty either and ask questions which gets people interacting with you.

It's also important to create a short Bio so that when people visit your feed, they can find out a bit more about you.  Use this space to tell people what you do, tell them where you are and provide a link to your website.  You can also install a tool called Linktree to send people to specific locations, such as your Blog or Etsy shop.

Another important tip I'm going to share is about the emotional side of using Instagram.  It is SO EASY to hop onto Instagram and within minutes you've got a serious dose of comparisonitis and all kinds of feelings can get churned up.  It's certainly happened to me before, but now I can detach emotionally, aware that the pictures I see are snapshots of a single moment of someone's life, as behind the scenes things can be very different and we never truly know what that individual is going through.  Similarly, with a business profile on Instagram you need to remember that when you are sharing, you are sharing as your brand - not you.  So if someone unfollows you, or reacts negatively to something you shared it's a reaction to your business and not you personally.

Whenever you post, think about curating your feed to best represent your brand, keep it interesting and mix it up.  Last of all, my advice is to be authentic and always be you.  Don't try and be someone else, but rather let your personality come through in your words and pictures, that way you will be sure to attract the right sort of people (potential customers who love what you do) to your Instagram account!

I hope you've enjoyed this post, I'm going to share more about using social media for your business soon.