Recently I’ve moved the Instagram app to a folder on the second screen of my iPhone. Just like many of you, I feel growing social media fatigue. Then again, I’ve never felt envious, sad or any of the other emotions so many news sites report to be the everyday reality for many. Personally, I do believe social media has been a great enabler for all of us creatives. My TEDx talk on how to use social media in a non-toxic way is finally live. If you have 15 minutes to spare, I’d love to invite you to listen to my thoughts.
You know how there are those dreams that feel too scary for us to dare going after? It’s a conversation I’ve been having repeatedly over the past couple of weeks and each time I talked about it with someone, I knew I had to write down my thoughts. Then I forgot I had that urge before the universe confronted me with that topic all over again. And so, here you go:
How many times have you heard someone say they wanted to become a writer? But then when you talked to them a little more, they were too afraid to sit down to write and do so every day. How many times have you heard someone say they wanted to become an illustrator, only to realize they’d never show their drawings to others?
When you have a dream of who you want to become and you say to people that’s what you aspire to be, it feels like you tell them who you are. To you, it sounds like you know who you are and now people know too. Having a dream, an aspiration, helps communicate your identity and shout into the world what you as a person stand for. Additionally, without doing whatever activity needs to be done in order to become INSERT YOUR DREAM OCCUPATION HERE, you remain in the safe space of no possible failure. When you don’t do the work to become the person you want to be, you might never find out your dream isn’t as glamorous as you thought, but also you won’t have to look into the mirror and recognize you’re not as good as you’ve imagined you’d be. When you do nothing, you can’t be bad at it. It’s as simple as that.
Becoming something, becoming someone, takes a lot of practice. It takes getting up every day and trying again. One must keep practicing and not mind failing and failing over and over again. Some dreams, however, are so big they paralyze us, regardless of how brave we seem to be to the outside world. It’s often much easier to pursue things that allow excuses for failing. It’s easy for me to publish books in English because if someone pointed out they weren’t that good, I could always say I’m not a native speaker. Nevertheless, and just because I do something others might admire, it doesn’t mean I’m living to my fullest potential. It doesn’t mean I pursue the things that scare and paralyze me the most. It just means I get something done that seems to paralyze many others. Especially those who aspire to be writers.
I always felt one lives to their fullest potential if one ruthlessly pursues what’s way out of their comfort zone and is THEIR OWN big dream, not a fun project to do in their spare time.
I’ve realized it’s much harder to pursue things where failing feels scary. It’s scary to pursue an idea when you don’t have the self-confidence to say you can easily pull it off or find an easy excuse why it’s not as good as you’d imagine “your ideal you” could do if they tried. You might simply fear to be rejected on what you would articulate as your biggest dream if someone asked you.
When people ask a published writer how to become one, many respond: “Write!” I used to laugh at this, but lately, I’ve realized it’s actually all that is needed.
Practice makes perfect, and only those who go through the pains of self-realization and acceptance of their own shortcomings, yet have the determination and willingness to break through, will eventually be able to say they’re who they want to be. Or maybe they might realize they don’t actually want to be that person after all. And then, the next scary chapter in their life will start; having to find out who they want to be, which means having to push through the fear of not being worthy, not being good enough all over again. A vicious circle.
Here are parts of my weekly newsletter: you can subscribe to my newsletter to get the full articles to your mailbox.
Do you sometimes ask yourself whether something groundbreaking and important slipped your attention? Working in the digital industries, a lot is going on every single day and it’s hard to stay on top of everything. At least, that’s how I feel.
Educating myself has become one of my top priorities, but because it’s impossible to attend conferences every single day, it’s important to make education part of the day to day.
On Skillshare, every class comes with an exercise and the possibility to get feedback on the projects you upload. It’s no longer just listening. Skillshare forces you to think and share your work progress with others, a practice that might help you grow your business.
So, if you’d like to push yourself a bit further, I would love to recommend some of the classes I’ve found that could be valuable to you:
- The Modern Marketing Workshop by Seth Godin will teach you how to communicate to advertise your products and services.
- Context is Key by Gary Vaynerchuk will teach you how to use social media to make people aware of your business.
- The New Business Toolbox by Seth Godin will guide you through the strategy of business communication to get it right from the beginning.
- Learn SEO to Grow Your Website by Josh Cavin is an incredibly insightful guide to teach you everything you need to know about SEO.
- Make the Most of Instagram by Gareth Pon explains how to use Instagram to build a memorable brand.
…and if you’re interested in what I have to say about freelancing, An Insightful Guide to Becoming a Freelancer might be the right class for you.
I hope these classes will help you grow your business. Let me know what classes you’ve enrolled in.
Enjoyed the read? It's an adapted version of my latest newsletter. Get the full versions into your mailbox.
A case study
How does one use social media to brand oneself professionally? This doesn’t seem to be a question only companies ask to become more attractive to Millennials. Also, Millennials and generation Z wonder how to best utilise LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stand out and become more attractive as potential employees.
After I published This Year Will Be Different to shed some light on the challenges of freelancing, I got an email from Anika Mester, a representative of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. It was a request to give a lecture on the professional use of social media to their student fellows. Given social media has always been a way for me to attract people’s attention and also demonstrate my references, I figured I had a lot to share, so I took the chance. Frankly, I was curious to know how it feels to stand on the other side of the classroom, and I wanted to know what someone who just turned twenty thinks about the online bubble I’ve been living in for so long.
Before the workshop, I sent a questionnaire to the attendees to make sure I met the expectations and would deliver a lecture they’ll remember. I wanted to give some food for thought, so I asked what career or industry they were aiming at joining after their studies, what social platforms they used, how they felt about sharing content and what sort of content they shared. It was of little surprise that the attendees were mostly aiming at a career in the traditional industries such as business consulting, medicine or journalism. Having talked many times about my personal belief that we choose our careers based on what we know from our surroundings, what we feel familiar with and what we think we are able to access, the workshop suddenly became much more than just a superficial analysis of the diverse social media platforms and their advantages. Instead, it became a workshop that taught how to broaden professional horizons and access the people, industries and jobs the fellows wished for.
In the last eight years, I’ve come to understand the social web as a place where hierarchies have become outdated and where everyone can talk to whomever they want as long as they have something interesting to say. To me, the internet is not elitist and it’s the medium that has enabled social mobility like no other because everyone can reach what they want as long as they have the information they need. While the information is there of course, we need to teach our youth how to find it.
I, as a person, embrace the internet because it has enabled me to get to where I am now in life. Nevertheless, there are many people who fear the rapid change the internet has caused because of information exchange and the willingness to share insights with others. What I didn’t realise is that people that are younger than I am could potentially be afraid of the social web, but standing in a classroom for a day showed me that there are many insecurities in need of discussion. One of the students even said: “I am glad you came today because you’re the first person I’ve met who embraces the flexible job market and the insecure future.”
Now, it’s very unlikely the world will spin slower. It’s also very unlikely that work in ten years will be what it was 10 years ago or even what it is today. To me, it sounds like great news when I think of the number of people who hate their jobs. In my opinion, the social web as a tool for shared learning finally gives us the access to opportunities to evolve as people.
So, how do you use the internet to brand yourself professionally? In a nutshell, I’d say, “do stuff, tell people.” Document whatever you’re excited about and don’t hide it in the attic, but rather on an online blog or on Tumblr. The mediums will change and so will your interests, but when looking for work, all that matters is the now anyway. One can only go step by step, so documenting how you evolve in whatever interests you will benefit you in the long run. If I was hiring an online editor to fill the lifestyle pages of a magazine and one applicant has an amazing Instagram stream of places they could feature in the said magazine and a second candidate doesn’t have such proven track work, guess who I would invite to join my team? As Dan Harmon said, “Find your voice, shout it from the rooftops and keep doing it until the people that are looking for you find you.” You might think that your career choice is not suitable to be displayed online, but in the majority of cases, I would disagree. Instead, it’s not a question if you should be sharing your interests, but in what way because even a Twitter stream with tweets about a certain topic is a great way to make others know what you’re interested in. The internet is big enough for everyone to find their spot and to find the people who are willing to listen to them. The internet is also big enough so people who are not interested in your work have the choice to ignore you. The internet, let me tell you, is filled with your people and you can only catch their attention with the content they find appealing. If you’re worried that someone might not hire you because of your interests, then it might not be the right person for you to work with anyway.
So, what are some of the more practical things I’ve said during the lecture?
- Don’t say things you don’t want your mother to hear you say; don’t be rude, offensive or mean.
- If you think something’s great, tell the person. Tweet at them, send them an email.
- Whenever you meet someone and like them, ask them for their contact details and follow up.
- If you’re insecure about something, ask your friends for feedback. You’ll open the door for them to do so too and ask you for your opinion about their work.
I’m not saying social media branding will bring you the perfect job tomorrow. All I’m saying is that when you do things you want to get paid for eventually and you do so publicly, it will be easier for you to get there one day. Because it’s the people who open their mouths that get the jobs you dream of. Once you start applying for jobs, you can point to your blog, Twitter or Instagram stream and prove your excitement. If you now think you’re too busy to invest your time in the future you want, then think of all the other people who will invest the time and once you point at the ones who are doing the jobs you wanted to have yourself, remember that they’ve worked for it for free before someone offered to pay them to do so.
The day I spent in the classroom at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung went, of course, much deeper and was also much more practical. All I wanted to capture here was the initial thought behind professional branding. If you’d like to book a workshop or a lecture, please don’t hesitate and get in touch.
Every time we’re busy with our every day life, there is the danger of losing the sight of what we’re really aiming for. Even when there are little plans and projects that keep one busy, the question might remain, what the bigger thing is one would like to do, achieve and realise?
Our vision is one of the things that define who we are; it also defines the type of people we then surround ourselves with. It’s a vicious circle that either makes us reach for more or lose the self-confidence and the ability to see what we’re capable of.
In the last two months, I’ve spent all of my time and energy helping amazing people do great Kickstarter campaigns. Now that there is one more month left that I'll work on this great project (Kickstarter Outreach) I ponder about what it is I will do next; "How will I spend July, August, or even September?” is one of the questions occupying my mind. The much bigger question I keep asking myself is, “How do I want to spend July, August and September?"
All these thoughts made me realise, that when we work full-time, we don’t have much time to question what it is we’re really working towards. Being part of a team decreases the need of having to define who we are as individuals. In the last seven months since I went freelance, I’ve worked on a lot of incredible projects: every single one exciting and every single one utterly different. The variety of the projects I’ve accomplished in such short time makes it hard for me to decide on what should come next.
I strongly believe that we can only achieve something when we know what it is we want to achieve. I know that I would like to create something and also run another Kickstarter campaign (and be a bit more organised than with the last one.) I know that I want to make something great but I am not so sure what it should be just yet; what would you like to achieve, work on and realise? Maybe we can join forces!
Please share your vision. I can’t wait to get inspired.
A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend who was rejected after a job interview. I listened to her and the way she talked about the position and suddenly I realised why they didn’t consider her: she wasn't excited about the role. When looking for work, or even freelance jobs, there are three things that truly matter: skills, vision, and excitement. In addition, you need proof of all three.
It might take a lot of self-reflection to figure out what you're really excited about; to figure out what makes your heart sing and your eyes sparkle. But how do you expect to convince anyone that you’re the right person for a job if they don’t see that you’re head over heels? It's not enough to be excited; you have to be able to show that you are.
The best way to convince someone you're a good fit for a job is to have proof of your excitement. Have you seen the movie The Rebound? (Probably not.) When the main actress wants to get a job in sports journalism, she shows the interviewer a (physical) map with sports result she's been tracking for years - results and statistics she's been writing down without anyone asking her to, let alone paying her to. She didn’t need formal education. She could prove she was the right candidate.
This is why, in the age of the social web, it makes sense to share your excitement publicly. Once you do and keep doing it, people (and it’s very likely it’s going to be the right people) will notice and approach you. I got my first real job offer because I had a blog where I wrote about the things I found interesting. No one cared that I only had experience as a waitress. I was excited and I made people aware of that.
I don’t know what you’re excited about in particular, but whatever it is, start showing and sharing your excitement today. On Instagram, on Tumblr or on your personal blog. It’s about time!
When was the last time you really enjoyed working with someone? Did you tell them? Or better, have you written them a recommendation for other to see?
No? You should.
For the past couple of months I’ve tried to make the effort to write recommendations for everyone I’ve enjoyed working with. All I want is for others to succeed in their field and the only way I can help them out is by recommending them to potential clients, collaborators or anyone else who’s interested in working with them.
It takes about five minutes to write a short note about someone; a note that will make them remember you and your collaboration in a positive light. It’s also a hint for them to write a recommendation about your work in return.
Last but not least, if you’ve finalised a project and feel good about the results, don’t hesitate and ask people to recommend you. If they really liked your work, they won’t mind saying a couple of nice things about your contribution.
.. and because it’s only Tuesday, try to make sure to recommend at least one person on LinkedIn before the end of the week. It’s good for your karma.
Do you sometimes feel envious of how others live their lives when you scroll through your Instagram or Facebook stream?
Fresh flowers, perfectly looking food, amazing careers and travelling to exciting cities fortnightly if not more often – does that remind you of the people you follow on social media?
In the last couple of years my friends have often confronted me with the one question we all probably ask ourselves more often than we’d like to admit: “How do these people do it?”
I don’t know, but I do believe that whatever finds its way to Instagram or Facebook never tells the entire story. Simply, it's not a good role model to have and to want to live up to.
One of the Creative Mornings speakers, Rob Symington, said something very touching:
In other words, if you keep improving who you are and keep creating the person you want to be, you are on the right track.
If the person you want to be is someone who has flowers on their desk, then be that person. It costs you about five euros. If you want to be that person who travels a lot then look for a smaller room than the one you’re living in right now. And if you want to have an amazing career, then it’s in your hands to start creating one today. On the side. Next to your day job.
After having interviewed 22 women for my upcoming book This Year Will Be Different in the last two weeks, to ask these women about their freelance careers, I figured out one thing: what they’ve accomplished they've done because of their extreme dedication and determination to become their better selves.
I honestly cannot wait to present you with all the stories. It’s probably been the most inspiring two weeks of the year.
What has inspired you lately you can share with me?
Enjoyed the read? It's one of my newsletters. Get these posts into your mailbox.