Let’s get this out of the way right now: You don’t have to be “the best” (however you define that) at what you do to make big strides. Playing the comparison game isn’t doing you any favors. You have to be willing to put yourself and your work out there if you want to grow your business.
I learned this all the way back in 2006 and it’s something I still reflect on today when insecurity creeps in about sharing my design projects.
In the Fall of 2006, I was in my first semester of design courses at a community college and I’d just sat down at my computer after lunch. As the instructor covered our next lesson, I quietly checked my email. I was seated in the front of the room so I definitely wouldn’t recommend this!
It became immediately obvious that I was distracted and the instructor called me out on it. What she didn’t know is that I’d just received a message from a band member who was part of a popular act signed to Virgin Records. His email was short and sweet — he was unhappy with their current album artwork…and the release date was fast approaching.
I read on. He’d found my fine art on Flickr (what a blast from the past — anyone remember that?!) and wanted to talk. Could I turn around something for the band in a similar style?
As soon as I got home from class, I responded. Timing was tight so we quickly worked through what was needed. 12 pages of liner notes designed and delivered within 2 weeks? Really?! I was new to design and barely knew how to work Photoshop (or any of the other programs for that matter!) but I dove in and hoped for the best.
I don’t recommend taking on that level of stress, EVER. I missed days of work, I was a walking zombie in classes and I finally confessed to my instructor what was going on when I needed her help with choosing Pantone swatches.
The whole project was beyond crazy, completely overtook my existence and I nearly gave up…but in the end, I pulled through, delivering the artwork on time.
That first freelance project resulted in a $5,000.00 paycheck. For someone with zero experience in the industry and no design portfolio to show for, it was an amazing (and completely unexpected) turn of events. It covered the cost of many college classes and made it possible for me to buy my first iMac. It changed everything.
This comes back to that first sentence: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE THE BEST AT WHAT YOU DO TO MAKE BIG STRIDES. Stop beating yourself up. You are great just as you are. Run your own race.
The reason I got the job is because I showed up as I was with my imperfect work. I consistently shared, even when I felt nervous and unsure of it. By overcoming the fear and putting it out there anyway, it was able to get discovered by someone I’d never met.
Did I think I was the most skilled or that my work was perfect? Far from it. But the client saw something in it and connected with it.
I hope my story encourages you to show up and share more often.
You really never know who will come across it. It could change everything.