"I have a friend whose website looks AMAZING, but she can't seem to find any work"
"People say they love my work, but I feel like no one is hiring me"
You'd be surprised how often I hear this.
That pretty shell, that fabulously curated website, that swoon-worthy instagram account, all of those styled shoots- they all create a grand illusion of a brand having its shit together, but it doesn't mean the person behind it is making a living from their art.
I'm not saying having a lovely brand means people don't have their shit together.
I'm saying don't assume a lovely brand means a lovely business bank account.
How many of those gorgeous images were done for free? How many were styled shoots with friends who are stylists or make-up artists? How many were personal projects? There are a lot of great artists in the world. There are many fewer great artists who are also great business owners.
Don't assume someone's stage act resembles their behind-the-scenes life. You'd think in a world full of social media we'd be beyond the assumptions of the illusion by now.
"My website and portfolio are such a mess, I never get around to updating because I'm working all the time"
You only hear this when you meet working creatives in person. You probably never even heard of them. You probably never visited their website. Yet, if you see a brand online and their work looks old or their website outdated, as a fellow creative you might assume something about their business.
The point is, don't compare yourself to an illusion in either direction.
Don't assume an old or outdated website means no business.
Don't assume a pretty website means great business.
An online brand is just an illusion, a stage act.
You don't have to have a well-put together brand to have a thriving business. I'm not saying you shouldn't strive to keep your website updated, or you shouldn't do personal work when you don't have any clients, or that you shouldn't strive for a lovely brand. I'm saying you don't NEED any of that to be successful as an artist and a small business owner. It's just wrapping paper. The real gift is underneath all of that.
All those things you think will make you "look" better are great for the ego, they are great for making you feel confident about putting your work out into the world, however they don't guarantee that clients will hire you.
The brand is the impression we want people to have of our business, but the actual business and financial exchange comes from our SERVICE and our desire to serve others with our talents. The real brand experience comes from how we SERVE. When people meet you in person, are they excited to work with you? Was it your website that gave that brand impression, or was it your energy and passion?
You don't even need a website to be in business and to make a living as a creative. Yep. That's right. You still exist, and you still have the ability to serve as a professional creative, even if you don't even have a website, even if you don't have a pretty brand.
Stop comparing. Stop holding yourself back. Stop thinking you're not good enough to serve with your talents if you don't look like you have it all together. Stop underselling your gifts. Stop thinking you need to look a certain way in order to serve others.
Get out and serve. Find your clients offline. Set up meetings with people. Listen to what people need. Offer to work together. Spend more time focusing on your service to others than you spend on your brand. Your bank account will thank you.
Anne Ruthmann is a professional photographer in New York City. With over 10 years of success as a full-time photographer in weddings, portraits, editorial, and now architecture and interiors, she spends any extra time she has helping others find smart solutions to business problems. Stay in touch on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.