Whenever I write about what it’s like to run a small, creative business on your tod, I tend to bang on about how everyone assumes you’ve made one almighty brave decision to leave the grey and bleary commute and go it alone, like some creative superhero, held together with glue, hippy tea, Instagram and artistically ruffled twine. In actual fact, it’s actually a continuous stream of smaller decisions, which makes the whole process much easier and much more difficult. Logical, huh?
Whilst you don’t get to make one glorious life decision, and sit back and admire the pure beautiful wisdom of it, you also get to change, adapt, and, sometimes realise that those things you thought you wanted to fill your day with, well, not so much. You get surprises, good and bad, and lots of learning and journeys and all that shebang.
So far, so good. I have gone from selling at empty craft markets, spending more on cake than I take, and losing money on laboriously hand-crafted greetings cards, to actually spending my days drawing bespoke illustrations for clients’ happy days (weddings, birthdays, Christenings, Bar Mitzvahs? I’m ready and willing) and getting excited and touching feedback from those clients. I feel like my series of small decisions are getting me somewhere I definitely want to be. I’ve progressed. I complete tax returns and spreadsheets and when people ask ‘So what do you do?’, I no longer begin with ‘Errrrmmmm…’
Hurrah! I’ve made it. I’m proper.
Except, apparently not.
I am still incapable of one of the most important things I should be doing – Networking. In all my ‘aren’t-I-proper-now’ business learning experience I have failed to develop this skill. I am bloody rubbish. And for no good reason! I have never had a bad experience in the industry: there are lots of possible chats and meet-ups and friendly people knocking about. I can speak to people in normal life situations. But I am confident in what I’m doing, and would actually like to talk to people about it. In fact I’d also like to talk about other things – working from home alone makes any conversation an exciting event. Which makes the whole thing a bit well…pathetic.
Case in point. Last week I went to the Cosmo Super Bloggers Masterclass, featuring the lovely Kat of RocknRoll Bride. I love her blog. I’ve been on her blog. I’ve designed her own personal illustration. I know how her and Gareth met. I’ve emailed her back and forth. And could I get up the cojones to go and speak to her afterwards? Well, obviously not. And, even now, I have NO IDEA why.
I mean, I had been a bit distracted, spending the last 10 minutes thinking about pimping a pizza with broccoli and onion (no offence speakers, I was hungry. And if you’re sceptical about broccoli pizza you should try it), but that’s no excuse. I have no idea why I find it so difficult. Anyone else find themselves feeling like this?
Looking around at the drinks before the blogger talk, I did begin to wonder if it something to do with Social Media. While it’s really good at connecting us from home to home or workplace to workplace, I did notice, in a room FULL of bloggers, a huge number of people pored over their phones, emailing, tweeting, texting and facebooking. Without the precious smart phones, all these individuals would have been forced to start conversations with the other people in the room. There were plenty of people chatting, but those who weren’t were on their phone, giving off ‘don’t interrupt me’, signals. I was one of those – needlessly catching up with emails when I could’ve should’ve would’ve been talking to new people.
I hide behind emails and Twitter, and, although, running an internet based business it doesn’t make any sense to imagine things without Social Media, I do think I would be better at networking if it was necessary to chat on the phone to every bride I produce illustrations for, to each event planner when I book my Wedding Fair stand, and to every other supplier I have Social Media ‘conversations’ with.
Apologies if you’re expecting a ‘and this is how I learnt how to network’ ending, it isn’t coming. This is mostly a call into the ether to find a kindred networking- adverse spirit. And also to explain, if I’ve ever seemed less than forthcoming at a wedding fair or elsewhere, it’s definitely not you. It’s definitely me. But I will overcome it. I will become irritatingly gregarious at events, promise, through confidence or gin. Mmm…gin…