Often times new designers and those in a creative rut claim to be playing the waiting game and attempt to justify it with terms like strategizing, but they’re honestly just holding back because they haven’t built their ideal audience. Immediately having thousands of people viewing your work certainly looks ideal, but it’s far from reality. The only way to grow your audience is by producing and sharing your work.
There are many fears attached to having little to no audience, but there are ways to overcome these fears as well as ways to positively utilize having a small audience.
These are three fears I’ve dealt with:
- My ideas and what I have to say are really good, but my following isn’t large enough for them to receive the recognition they deserve.
- My audience will never grow because I haven’t already developed my own unique style.
- My work isn’t good enough to grow a following.
My ideas and what I have to say are really good, but my following isn’t large enough for them to receive the recognition they deserve.
There’s no sense in holding back now in fear that what you have to say or publish won’t receive the amount of exposure you’re wishing for. To withhold your words or your work because you feel as though it won’t receive the attention it deserves is to deprive you of ever receiving any attention at all. To think that what you’re creating now needs to be seen by a larger audience than you have and therefore never showing it, is to create the notion that your work is never going to supersede what you just created. Do you intend to stop or working or stunt your progress? Likely not, so publish your work now, begin building your audience, and continue growing. Anything you produce or say now can be revisited later because your audience will have grown and your publication will be better than before. You’re going to get better — no one thing you create should be the pinnacle of your career.
I found myself truly struggling with this fear and was at a point to which I wasn’t posting anything that I was creating. I thought I was preserving my good ideas so I could share them with the world at a later date as though my audience would magically build itself. Even if my audience were to steadily grow for 6 months to a number I thought were ideal and then published my work it would be sub-par relative to my current ability. I realized that waiting to share my work at a later date meant I’d always be behind myself, and my personal growth would be insignificant. Simply recognizing this helped me overcome my fear. When I began posting my work and sharing my thoughts as I had them I immediately noticed my audience growing, and I was receiving a lot more beneficial feedback and engagement.
My audience will never grow because I haven’t already developed my own unique style.
Looking at other artists and designers with a large following can be very toxic because immediately you make the assumption that their audience is the result of their distinct style. No one began creating work and instantly became known for their style because style is a result of repetitive process. We first learn how to write before obsessing over our handwriting. With writing you learn not only the construction of letters, but also the grammatical rules surrounding them. Developing your own style works in the same way. We first learn how to draw letter forms using guides so that we can understand how the letter is drawn. Later we copy lines of text without the use of guides to practice the natural motions. Whilst learning to write we are also gaining a better understanding of grammar. As we begin to write more and more we develop our own handwriting, one that is comfortable, efficient, and unique to us. Again, the process of writing didn’t begin with the obsession of having a handwriting to call our own, but rather it focused on the understanding of writing—the foundation of skill. When you’re willing to go back to the basics and focus on just creating you will enable yourself to develop your own methods and styles.
Self discovery cannot occur when you’re frantically seeking yourself out.
— Matthew Smith (@mattymattcreate) January 24, 2014
Quite honestly, this fear still resonates with me. I still struggle with the idea of having my own voice and being know for a particular style, but the size of my following at the moment allows me to experiment with my work publicly. Utilize having a small audience to help you discover what you enjoy making. There’s no pressure to satisfy an expected image others have for you because you haven’t created that expectation yet. When your following is still small it’s likely that those people are along for the ride and are going to help you grow. You owe it to yourself to explore your interests. Remember, until you start writing you won’t develop your own handwriting.
My work isn’t good enough to grow a following.
Ask yourself, “Is creating important to me?” Whether it’s art, design, or anything else, you should ask if it’s important to you. If you’re reading this then the answer is most likely yes. However, it has become increasingly easier to get swept up in the need for social media acceptance which leads to the insecurities surrounding creating and sharing our work. Before you can worry about growing a following you must first recognize that your craft is important to you because until you make the commitment to get better at what you’re doing you cannot expect to build an audience. The fear of not being good enough should not stop you from ever producing work. Your interests are worthy of your attention, and you will get better. For a while I battled with comparing myself to others and feeling as though my work wasn’t where I wanted it to be so I wasn’t sharing anything. I bought into the idea that if I wait until I’m better to share my work then I’d receive more attention, but if I’m going to get better then why not share my work now and build an audience even quicker.
Although having a following is encouraging it’s important to recognize that a follower count isn’t a direct measurement of your skills nor your knowledge. You are not defined by your number of followers or a particular style. Strive to better yourself and expand your mind. Your ideas will grow and develop over time. Your style is the result of process. You are going to get better. There’s no reason to wait, begin producing work and share it.