I was recently asked the question: what would I do differently in my business if I could go back in time five years?
The answer is... I regret nothing!
Er... but another, more useful answer, is... I would know more. I would know certain things like what to invest my time, money and patience in. I would know what to say yes to, what to say no to...
I thought it might be helpful to share the seven things I came up with - the seven things that I would tell Cat of 2013-4 about how, as a creative introvert, to build a business solo.
I like to start with Self-Knowledge, because without it… we’re awash at sea. With it - even with a smidge of it - we can start to orient ourselves, and maybe make our way to less stormy seas.
There are many paths to finding yourself, who you are, what you need, what you want - and you could spend a lifetime on those paths alone.
But for me, there is one pretty direct path - and that is the path of… personality type tests! OK, not the most scientific technique, but let’s face it: you, your ’self’ is entirely subjective, just like these quizzes. You get to decide who you are, what you’re about, and how you see yourself.
With tests like the Myers Briggs Type Inventory or the Big Five or OCEAN model, you have the chance to really reflect on what these tests kick up for you. You might learn something about yourself from the questions you answer alone - like ‘Do you try to respond to your e-mails as soon as possible and cannot stand a messy inbox?’ - that might bring up its own series of insights that you hadn’t even noticed about yourself and your behaviours until you were asked.
Take note of what you agree with, what you adamantly disagree with, and let it speak to you. Ask yourself: what does this tell me about me? What can I do with this knowledge?
Once we have some knowledge about what we personally need, what we value and what our strengths are, we can apply this to a single point of focus.
Gulp. Focus - meaning to focus your attention on ONE thing or one outcome… isn’t exactly a skill that comes naturally to most creatives. We tend to act more like magpies: jumping from one shiny object to another.
Whilst I encourage the ‘Renaissance Person’ style of dabbling in multiple creative pursuits, I also know very well the limits of this kind of behaviour, long term. When our attention is split, and remains split, it becomes nearly impossible to get anything done. Or anything we do get done isn’t of the standard that it could be, had we just focussed on that one thing at a time.
The point of focus isn’t to limit yourself to only one thing… forever and ever… but to focus on one thing at a time, allowing you to dedicate yourself to the task at hand, free from distraction, and then move your focus to your next one thing.
I admit that different creatives need different amounts of routine, or at least different types. Personally, I feel my best and do my best work when I have a solid morning routine - so my first 2-3 hours are set in stone. After that, I’m happy to let more of a spontaneous flow shape my day.
So how much routine do you need? What kind of routine? I’d definitely treat this like a personal experiment. Try out a morning routine. Try out an evening routine.
If you work in an office, see what tasks you can do at certain times of the day. If you work at home, you likely have even more flexibility, but of course parents know that your routine has a lot to do with your kids and what they need.
One thing I’ll say is that you likely have more control over your routine than you think. And if you are a stickler for routine, maybe you need to shake things up a bit. If you’re allergic to routine, maybe it’s worth seeing what happens when you add one routine into your day, like drawing a doodle at lunch time.
Oh courage. I still think of the cowardly lion from the Wizard of Oz when I think of courage, because he’s great proof - even if he is a talking lion - that you can DO courageous things ad still be scared.
Courage doesn’t mean sacrificing your fear - because fear means something. It means you care enough about something to fear losing it.
The real secret to doing something courageous isn’t having some certificate that the Wizard gives you to prove your bravery: it’s actually much easier to get. All you need is to care enough about the outcome that you can do something in spite of your fear. No flying monkeys required.
I’ll admit, you will sometimes encounter things that you simply can’t bring yourself to do. But it isn’t because you lack courage, it’s because you don’t want it enough. You don’t want the reward more than you fear the possible loss.
And that’s OK! Just be honest with yourself, and decide what you want courage for. If you want it enough, the courage will show up.
If you haven’t heard me talk about a Superfan before, I’ll summarise:
Once you know precisely who this Superfan is, and you are aligning your offering with them and their needs… then you won’t have a problem marketing or selling your creative work.
Simple… but not easy. It can take years for someone to truly know their Superfan; some never find them. But I’m a strong believer in taking this slow. Trying to figure this out overnight (been there) isn’t fun and usually just doesn’t get you anywhere.
Next month I’m going to be sharing my process for finding your Superfan in the League of Creative Introverts - we’ll do a livestream with an opportunity to ask questions and all that jazz. If. you’re a member or want to join the League, of course you can sign up over the next week. Just go to thecreativeintrovert.com/lci and you’ll see all the info there.
What I mean by platform is a place for you to consistently share your work.
Argh. Do I have to? I hear you cry. Yes you bloody well do!
Let me just say that there are almost infinite ways to share your work online - a recent Leaguer (that’s what I affectionately call folks in the LCI) has shared an amazing blog post sharing snaps of her studio, the view from her window, some of her work and my god it’s fascinating. And makes me really warm to her, as a virtual stranger, and makes me a helluva lot more likely to think of her when I’m in the market for handmade jewellery.
OK so what is the platform for you?
Whatever you pick, I have faith that you can find something that feels like a creative extension of your existing work. I feel this way about the podcast for sure. I love writing and thinking about these topics, and I just happen to be flowing that through the podcast right now.
I don’t think of it as my number one marketing tool, even though it is, I think of it as a way of getting my art out; communicating with my Superfans and challenging myself creatively.
Hmmm… you probably weren't expecting this hardcore introvert to be spouting off about community as one of the vital tings a creative introvert needs to build a business solo. I mean, isn’t that an oxymoron? Am I being an oxymoron?
Before you unsubscribe from this podcast, let me tell you what I mean by community. Because up until 3 years ago, I had no clue myself. I certainly didn’t think I needed one.
So what in the heck IS community?
People I can go to for help.
People who I can share jokes with.
People who I can learn from.
People I can help.
People who get me.
People who I get.
That’s just my definition. You may have your own - you might add to my list, subtract from it, whatever.
The point is what community feels like. It feels like support. It feels like comfort, but not without interesting challenge. It feels like someone has your back. It feels like purpose, meaning and trust.
Oh boy is community important if you’re playing this creative career game.
I can still remember clearly those long nights I would stay up thinking of what exactly I was doing wrong in my illustration business. What was I missing that they had? Was it my talent? Was it my Instagram strategy? Did I need to read more books about marketing?
Fast forward a few years, and I’m in Brighton, at my own Meetup - Creative Cafe - and basking in the presence of just a small group of like-minds. I might not be best friends with these people, but they were my creative community.
I also found this same feeling of support and mutual encouragement in my online community, the League of Creative Introverts. There, I have the advantage of connecting with folk all over the world, helping each other out, sharing tips and skills, egging each other on - in a gentle way, because we all get it. We know the introvert struggle is real. And we know the joy of being in our own company, and still being able to dip in to our community - because we know the value of it.
This podcast is made possible only by means of my generous supporters on Patreon. Thank you! Supporting the Creative Introvert podcast also gets you lots of goodies, from a Monthly Ask Me Anything to a copy of my new BOOK, The Creative Introvert: How to Build a Business You Love on Your Terms. Hitting milestones also funds future projects, and ideas guided by you, my supporters.