Self-promo tips for shy and introverted creatives — Creative Bloq Interview
Before I go answering any of these questions, I want to state that this is my journey. I’m not saying that my answers are a definitive guide about how to go freelance whilst dealing with anxiety; these are the things that worked/didn’t work for me. There are no rights or wrongs, but maybe some of the bits can give you insight in to what helped me OR what can help you
1. When you originally decided to go freelance — as opposed to a full-time job — was that *despite* your issues with anxiety, or partly *because* of them?
I had always planned to go freelance eventually but I sort of got in to it out of complete necessity really. I wont go in to too much detail on circumstances but I was living in London, going through a pretty horrendous break up and I realised I had to leave. In one fell swoop I’d lost my partner at the time, my home, my cat, most of my possessions, I quit my job, and my mental health was at an all time low to boot.
I had left all that and was now living in my Mum’s spare room in a small town in Wales, quite the opposite of high flying London. If I’m honest, I was egg shell fragile, I was fully rock bottom and I needed a FOCUS badly. Seeing as I also needed money, I threw myself in to my work and going freelance.
A lot of reasons things broke down in London and that relationship were due to anxiety, with me not identifying the problem and then not taking proper measures when dealing with it. I became reliant on many dangerous crutches and let guilt, shame, and anxiety itself, rule my life.
As this was all pretty unplanned I had no clients. I knew I needed to make myself a presence, get my work in front of people and start creating. Not the easiest thing for someone to do when suffering with the mental health.
I knew things had to change.
2. In what ways did your anxiety make it difficult to self-promote yourself?
Anxiety can make EVERYTHING difficult. Now, I don’t want this to become a woe is me story, but it can be crippling at times. In some ways being an introverted or anxious person can help with freelance. However, it often makes it difficult to deal with a lot of situations freelancers find themselves in, self promotion being one.
Initial thoughts on self promotion immediately spring forward ideas of networking events, meet and greets, visiting studios, making yourself known face to face, or even cold-calling studios.
This can be gut wrenching and exhausting for people with social anxiety. I certainly wasn’t up to facing that at first. So I looked in to alternative ways to promote myself.
3. What strategies did you find for successfully promoting yourself despite your anxiety?
My single most productive way of promoting myself to date is producing personal projects or collaborations.
Think about it — you have new work to show off, it’s often your best stuff because it’s what you want to be creating and you’re excited to show it to the world. You can produce and promote it all from a comfortable place, at home, via social media channels, or if you collaborated on the work then your partner in crime can help promote it too.
The online creative community is brilliant and so much work gets shared and loved by other people simply through you putting it out there. Not a single wanky business card in sight!
Other ways I often promote myself is to make tailored portfolios and send out to contacts. These can be people you know, peers you have met over the internet, or people you have searched out online. Do you want to have your work seen by the CD from X-Box? Then jump on LinkedIn and take the time to find the right people to send work to. Also, if there is a studio you love, then sending a portfolio through to their generic ‘Hello@example.com’ email address is likely to get you nowhere. Try giving the studio a call, explain your situation and then ask for the best person to send an email through to.
People are generally nice and will often look to help you out.
4. If you went back in time to the start of your freelance career, would you do anything differently?
A whole bunch of stuff to be honest. I didn’t start in the most healthy of places, both mentally and creatively.
Firstly, KNOW YOUR WORTH. Ideally, I would have liked to have a little money saved because I ended up taking some shitty low paid jobs and being taken advantage of because I needed money. It’s tough to say no but if people take advantage once then they will be looking for the same thing next time. It sets a bad precedent and usually sub standard work is produced because you feel undervalued.
Due to this I often worked 12+ hour days. Work was my new crutch and came before EVERYTHING. However, at the time it sort of helped my anxiety. If I was working I was being productive > Productivity meant less shame > less shame meant less guilt. Where as to be honest this was very unhealthy.
I came to realise that a work/life balance is vitality important. What use are you if you are burnt out? What use is creating all the work if you are too busy to share or sit back and admire the fruits of your labour? Take pride in the things you do. Even if you feel like anxiety can hold you back at times, always remember to be proud of yourself. Allow yourself to take joy in the things that you do, when you can.
Inspiration comes from being outside, from friends, movies, books, love. If you’re locked away from the moment you wake until you sleep then your work will become boring, stagnated and dull. WORK WILL BECOME WORK!!
5. What are your main tips for other creatives who want to go freelance but are being held back by their anxiety and introversion? (Please share as many ideas as you can here!)
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Remember you’re not the first person to do this. Ask for help and advice. As I mentioned earlier, the creative community is brilliant. People are always willing to give advice on all sorts of problems a freelancer may face — whether it comes to pricing, legal stuff, dealing with clients or deadlines. In general people are kind and want to help out.
HAVE A PLAN
It is unlikely that you will officially stick your ‘freelance’ flag pole in to the ground and that second work will start flying in. Have a plan of what you would like to achieve, how to go about getting work, what to do if you don’t get anything for a little while. Have a passion project in mind to fill those quiet days.
Having daily, short term and long term to do lists and goals help keep you on track.
Do you have a website and social media? Are they up to date? Do you know how to invoice or have a filing system? Organisation is key for me keeping my head out of the weeds and getting overwhelmed. Learn about some of the business side of things as well as the creative side.
You go freelance because you feel that your work offers something to the world. If not why are you doing it? You are confident you can get clients and make good work.
I used to start all my emails with an apology, like I was taking up their time — “Sorry for bothering but was hoping that if you had a second you may take the time to look at my portfolio”….what the hell is that?!
Wear that confidence. But don’t be arrogant.
COMPARTMENTALIZE YOUR LIFE
Look at separating — work, home and social time. Otherwise they will blend in to one confusing mess. Think about a studio space or a space at home that can be set up to get your head down and work, away from distractions. Then, when work is over, step away from that space, leave it there for the evening.
BE MINDFUL OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH
Remember that working for yourself is arguably more stressful at times than working for a studio. I have a series of things I do to keep my mental health in check, I talk about them in some of my previous blog posts if you would like to read them.
Just make sure to check in with yourself, be mindful of your feelings, try not to get flustered or catastrophise scenarios. Things go wrong from time to time but don’t let any mishaps or set backs put you off becoming a freelancer.
Best of luck with it all.