I have a friend who has a similar loathing of self promotion as I do and we talk about it often: how we feel like assholes if we tweet about a new product or project more than once, how we cringe at the idea of selfies and building our “personal brands”. Maybe it’s hard for us to wrap our brains around that last one because we have worked on legit branding projects at ad agencies at our freelance “day jobs”. The Gap is a brand. Starbucks is a brand. But I have a hard time thinking of people as brands unless they’re Oprah or Martha. Are you a brand? Am I a brand? No. Most people are just people.
Now, I understand why the idea of building a personal brand is considered important. You want to build a platform to promote or sell something, I get that, but maybe we should be focusing on selling our expertise, our experience, our talents or our products rather than selling our online personas. I think only a small percentage of people can sell themselves solely on their personalities.
So, we do have a business and you could even call our business a brand, and I realize that this is where things get a bit complicated because a brand isn’t just about the products anymore–it’s about an image and a lifestyle. Small biz owners are often tied to their brand image (have I given you a headache yet?) because we’re often the voices of our businesses on social media. So are we–by extension–promoting ourselves? (oh god, this is getting confusing). I’ll fully admit, I have admiration for people who are good self promoters who can do it all day, every day, on the hour. They have balls. Do they not care about overexposure? (That is a thing!) Do they not care about annoying people with a constant barrage of “me me me” or risking being labeled a narcissist? I don’t want to be that person on Facebook or Twitter who posts about every single thing that’s happening to them. Or worse, what about those vague teaser posts? (“OMG this is the best day ever! I have news! BIG news! But I can’t tell you for another year!”) I have to wonder if at some point it crosses a line between self promotion and seeking validation. Self promotion is hard, but not because I don’t believe in our product. I think our cookies are awesome, but I don’t want to be tweeting or blogging about it every day (edited to include a link to the shop. See what I did there?) But you know what? Good self promoters do promote their stuff everyday. They understand that it’s easy to generate excitement around a new product launch, but that there’s a cliff and quick drop off. The real challenge is sustaining the buzz, and how do you stay visible and relevant? By promoting your stuff.
We rely on social media for the majority of our marketing. We don’t take out ads on blogs or publications (I think we’ve taken out ads twice in the 6 years we’ve been in business), we’ve never hired a PR firm, and we don’t have a marketing team. This is it and this has pretty much been it since we started. Maybe if we invested in marketing, our reach and audience might grow larger and quicker, but we’ve been fine with the pace of our growth and letting it happen organically. That said, I know I need get over myself and promote the hell out of our business because if we don’t do it, no one else will. Having a great product is nothing if no one can find it. So I’ll see you guys on all our social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Will I be promoting this blog post? Yeah, probably not.
P.S., this succulent doesn’t need any self promoting; it’s getting by on its looks alone. I saw it at home goods store in Rockport, Massachusetts and had to take it home. I’ve never seen flowers on a succulent quite like this before!
Posted by Jenna | 22 Comments
Just as pretty on the ground as they are on branches. We walked around to each of our favorite cherry blossom trees in our neighborhood over the weekend to take in the last of the flowers. The kids love when they fall on the ground because it’s like a treasure hunt to find blossoms that are still intact.
We met one man on his stoop watching people walk by, stopping and taking photos next to a pair of cherry trees in front of his brownstone. The photo snapping is hard to resist.
“Do they not seem more beautiful this year? Or do we just forget how spectacular they are every Spring?” I asked. He told me that he’s been sitting on his stoop and looking at these trees for 20 years and thinks they are especially beautiful this year too. Something about the prolonged snow cover and the amount of water that the roots absorbed during the winter. Who knows if that’s true or what, but I’ll take it.
Then he shook the branches of one of the trees to create a snow shower of petals, which he likes to do when kids walk by. The girls, of course, loved it. It’s like pure magic watching them swirl around you and scatter with the wind.
The next day we walked by the same trees again and saw that all the petals on the sidewalks were gone. The trees are fuller now, the leaves a darker green, and they’re starting to provide shade from the sun again. It was like summer this weekend, with a flash thunderstorm and everything. The humidity in the air on Saturday reminded us of how that felt again.
Hope you had a great Mother’s Day.
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Our fascination with the Gold Coast Mansions of Long Island continues and we found a new one to visit last weekend at Sands Point, which is the home to the Guggenheim Estate. There are walking trails and acres of grass to set up a picnic, and access to a quiet beach which hands down sealed the deal when we were thinking of places to go on that sunny Saturday. We had space to run, think and enjoy the view; pretty much the perfect place to spend a day.
And you know what I did? Read. Not on my phone, not on the computer, but an actual book. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time I read a book uninterrupted in one sitting like that. I’ll admit that when I attempt to read at home, the temptation to answer emails that come in is too damn hard. I can’t even watch TV or a movie without multitasking on my computer. Sad, isn’t it? Or is this a new normal?
Now that I am making the moves to declutter my life on various fronts, I’m hoping I can change some habits and focus on things one at a time, just as we used to do without so many distractions.
More Gold Coast Mansions
Planting Fields at Coe Hall | Vanderbilt Mansion | Nassau County Museum of Art/Frick Estate | Old Westbury Gardens
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It’s true that New York feels like a happier place these days. The color everywhere has a way of changing the collective mood of the city to such an extent that we wonder how we got through the monotony of winter all those months. But I no longer remember the cold; it’s funny how quickly you can forget.
We have a favorite cherry tree in our neighborhood that we love to stand under. With it’s canopy of blooms, it’s like being enveloped in cotton candy. Those luscious pink clusters don’t even seem real, and the cherry blossoms this year are just beyond. The city looks like a movie set, resembling all those scenes from movies set in NY that you would otherwise question because NY never looks that good in real life. But right now, yes. Yes, it does.
The magnolias, always the first flowering trees to usher in Spring, are already past its prime, shedding petals on the sidewalks that get slick and slippery when it rains and leaving young leaves in its place. The cherry blossoms, which are at its peak right now, will follow suit in about a week, maybe 2. It never lasts long, does it?
Summer is coming.
There’s an end-of-the-year feeling to school now that we’re firmly entrenched in May. Final performances are being scheduled and rehearsed, state testing is wrapping up.
And soon our days will have a completely different rhythm.
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I’ll admit I’ve been distracted lately. Although I have always been a fierce multi-tasker, I have a strong desire to consolidate and simplify things in my work life. Dividing my time between the business and my freelance design work has always been a juggle, but one that I haven’t minded. In fact, I relish having multiple things on my plate and having my hands in a couple of different projects. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something and exercising my brain, but I know that this thinking can be flawed. The truth is, lately I’m feeling like all I’m doing is juggling. I’ve been consistently working with 6-7 clients for the past year, all at the same time and often on the same days. The work has been all over the place too – print pieces, websites, logos, and touch screen devices; all day I switch gears from one client to the next. Needless to say, my work life has been crazy.
So I’ve been walking. Sometimes it’s at the expense of time spent working towards deadlines, which I’ll just make up later in the evening after the kids have gone to bed. I’ll walk around the city for miles, sometimes with friends, but often alone. Walking through neighborhoods that were once so familiar to me, but have changed so much that they are only ghosts of my past; seeking out quiet spots where I can see the horizon, but also seeking out loud and textured sidewalks as well. It’s oddly thrilling to discover a street that I’ve never walked before, not in all my years here. The city sometimes still holds surprises and I suppose that’s what keeps things fresh when it’s easy to just get jaded.
I was thinking about a project that never manifested earlier this year, one that just went away. There are always a few of those that seem to disappear without any warning or reason. While I should have been disappointed (and I was, for a bit), I’ve come to be thankful that it never came to be because it was like a little gift of time. We could always use more work and more money, could we not? But sometimes it takes things beyond our control to force us see that maybe we should have said no in the first place anyway.
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I was presented with an interesting question on two separate occasions recently which really made me stop and think about my perception of myself. “What do you want?” In the context of jobs, deals or my career, it’s not exactly a question that I get asked since it’s usually about the needs of the client or the project. Usually it’s something along the lines of “what can you bring to the table? What can you do for this project?” But what do I want? It’s such a simple question, but a deceptively hard one to answer.
My particular issue has always been that I don’t really know what I want (well I kind of do in a big dream sort of way, but that involves some serious random luck with a lottery ticket. Yeah I know, happiness isn’t about money, but I wouldn’t object if it started there). While it’s been a painfully slow process, I’m finally getting closer to focusing in on what I want by identifying what I don’t want to do. More importantly, however, I’ve come to realize that I’m not allowing myself to acknowledge the things that I want because I don’t believe in myself enough.
Yeah. That’s a big one. It’s really easy to brush things off by saying, “oh, I’m not an artist, I’m not a writer, I don’t feel like an entrepreneur.” I do it all the time. I did it just an hour ago on a phone conversation I was having with a friend. I have no idea why it’s easier to discredit myself than it is to own up to my skills and accomplishments, but it is. It’s been pointed out enough times in articles that this can be a gender thing, that women aren’t confident enough, but I also keep having conversations with people about the difference between my generation (I guess that would be X) and the generations younger than us. I believe we might be the last generation to have this mentality that accomplishments and accolades are earned and the only way to get there is to work your way up and “pay your dues”. I’m certainly old enough to have earned confidence in my field, but it’s been hard for some reason to shake off the grips of perpetual self doubt. It gets even further complicated when you’re raising girls and trying to nurture their own self confidence. The irony at play here isn’t lost on me.
As you know, a career change has been on my mind for a long time (are you tired of hearing about it? Because sometimes I am). My own mom did it around this age, partially to leave a demanding physical job and partially because she didn’t know how she was going to send 2 kids to college on a nurse’s salary. It worked out really well for her and she tapped into a business side of herself that she never even knew existed. Even though I have a great role model in her, a career change is daunting for a lot of reasons. Logistically, the process of getting there can be challenging and time consuming and this is *after* you figure out what you want to do. But it’s also daunting because our identity is so tied to our jobs and careers (at least here in the US) and for me, personally, my sense of self worth is often tied to my ability to bring in a paycheck. We always get asked the question, “what do you do?”, so if we strip ourselves from our jobs, what’s left? A lot, obviously; we aren’t one dimensional, but sometimes it’s hard to see who we are without the filter of our careers.
This year feels different though. Entertaining a few recent opportunities has made me take a look at what I’ve done and what I can do. Not surprisingly, it’s more than I give myself credit for. It’s long overdue, but it’s time take ownership of what I’ve done with my career in the past so that I can define what I want in the future. It’s not validation from others that I need, it’s validation from myself. And if you’ve gone through a career change and reinvented yourself, I would love to hear your experiences too.
Posted by Jenna | 31 Comments