Someone once told me that if I work hard and keep my head down, that I will succeed at whatever I do. That’s true, to a degree.
You definitely have to work hard, of that I have no doubt but I think these days, especially as a freelancer/creative you almost have to keep your head up. You have to keep it up so high and be so left of field to even be considered for a role. Take me for example. I have always been humble about what I do, possibly even a little less than humble but never do I show confidence overtly. I prefer to show people what I can do and have them be impressed, rather than tell them I can do something and risk failure. Which I’m starting to realize is a big, big problem.
I’ve done a lot of interviews in my short working career, all of which have gone either well enough or just ok. I would sit in the same room as some douche who would talk about himself like he was top dog and even I could see through the act. I would always be honest and say that while I’m not the best, I’m more eager to learn and will try harder than anyone else. Guaranteed. And that is something I would always be able to deliver and walk away knowing I kept my end of the bargain, so to speak.
Now, I’m starting to see a pattern. When you portray yourself as humble, that deters a lot of people. I’m not exactly sure why, but it just seems that way.
Take this as an example:
As some of you may know I have a podcast, it’s nowhere near as successful as I would like it to be and I know I have so much more effort to put into it to be able to develop it. My problem (I say my problem because it may not make sense to someone else) is that I don’t think I’m interesting enough to create content on my own, so I rely on other people. For a while I would ask people politely to guest star on the podcast, because that’s how I thought the world worked. Some would say yes, some would say no (even friends and family) and ultimately it’s never really taken off. As of last week I’m trying to create more audio/video content for the site and instead of asking people politely if they want to be a guest, I’m telling them politely that they are a guest. And guess what? So many people are on board now! It’s ridiculous and I don’t really like it if I’m honest but I can’t help but notice the pattern.
It used to be “hey, would you be interested in talking about this on my podcast?” which usually got “oh uh, yeah, maybe, I’m pretty busy…” but now I say “hey, you’re coming on my podcast and talking about this” to which they all have replied with “oh, uh, yeah sure! When do you want me?” which is super weird because I don’t like being the ‘leader’ so to speak.
I’ve started testing this in other aspects of my life too. I used to send emails to businesses and publications saying something along the lines of “hi I’m Lewis, I’ve been following your work for ages yada yada any chance of an internship or something like that? Regards, Lewis” to which would get a reply along the lines of “hey thanks for getting in touch, unfortunately nothing like that but we’ll keep you in mind” which is basically the equivalent of the old ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ breakup cliche of freelancing.
Just last week I’ve started sending emails that going along the lines of “hey, I wrote this for your website, feel free to run it! Regards, Lewis” and you know what? EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. has gotten back to me, complimented my work and even started following me on Twitter. It’s bullshit if I’m honest. I really don’t like that I have to fundamentally change my personality from introverted, humble but also really eager and dedicated to extroverted and a little bit forceful. But that’s the way the world is now I guess.
You have to stand out, you have to be different but there is definitely a tipping point and one that hopefully I don’t find any time soon.
Does any of this make sense to you or do you think I’m bonkers? Have you ever had to change for a job? Let me know in the comments below or do the twitter thing @pikalew