Your First Hurdle Is You

Building a professional image doesn't have to feel cheesy. (Excerpt from Have Fun, Get Paid: How to Make a Living With Your Creativity)

There are a number of reasons why we don’t put as much effort into managing our image as we should. Some of us get caught up in the illusion that the quality of our work is all that should matter. From this lofty perch, high atop the ivory tower of unrealism, we convince ourselves that an emphasis on image indicates a meaningless and shallow creator.

It’s not hard to look at the world of commercial products and see marketing that’s run amuck, producing products of terrible quality and selling them hand over fist through the use of hype and sensationalism. I can use a screwdriver to pound in a nail, but that doesn’t make it a hammer. Misuse of a tool doesn’t invalidate its purpose in life.

If cheesy self-promotion is the only way you can peddle your wares because they’re simply not very good, there’s a case to be made that you should consider a different line of work. On the other hand, an excellent painting looks even nicer in an elegant frame. Don’t disregard a useful tool just because some don’t know how to wield it properly.

An even-greater challenge for many is the demons and dragons that lurk just beneath the surface of the average creative person. There are artists in the world who are supremely confident and believe that their efforts are the greatest thing since sliced bread. Some are modest. Some are not. For many of us, however, self-doubt and insecurity are not strangers.

The first step in building a positive and professional self-image that will get your work taken more seriously and make it easier to get a gig is believing in yourself. This isn’t exactly a novel suggestion, but sometimes it’s worth trotting out life’s little truisms for no other reason than the fact that they’re true.

It’s very likely that the single-greatest obstacle between you and the image you deserve is currently deep down inside of you, doubtless making another martini. There are plenty of great resources out there to help you work through these feelings, and it’s important that you do. You can’t consider the second obstacle in the race until you’ve cleared the first hurdle.

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