Listen up: Women now make up 40% of new entrepreneurs in the United States (source). Isn’t that incredible? Most of the women I know are hustling away, building businesses and frankly kicking ass. In fact, women are found to be more ambitious and more successful than men.
But as women, we're oftentimes led to believe that being emotional or vulnerable is weak and doesn’t help us succeed. We worry that “being soft” won’t convince people to take us seriously. We've had to overcome significant gender stereotypes and still, we make less money than our male counterparts. This has led to a hardening of our personalities.
All of this makes sense, but I've also found the contrary to be true. Being vulnerable and honest in sharing my story with my customers has been THE key factor in growing my business.
I’m an artist, and one of my most important marketing tools is social media. I began building my Instagram following about a year ago, determined to use the app for both free marketing and indispensable direct connection to my customers. I quickly fell into the habit of “faking it” in order to make my life look more glamorous than it really was. Despite the fact that I continued to work a day job for another six months, on my feed I pretended to be a full-time artist who had sold oodles of original pieces (I had not).
Fast forward to this summer: I spent two months in Mexico for an artist residency. During that residency I was faced with questions that forced me to dig deeper into why I create art. Instead of looking at everything I made as an inevitable Instagram post, I finally reconnected with the creative process. After some real talk with myself, I knew that I needed to use my paintings to share my experiences struggling with anorexia.
Since I became well-known to my customers and following for my bright and happy abstracts, I was nervous that they weren’t going to understand or even appreciate the change in my artwork.
What were they going to think? I have never been so vulnerable with them. My world was supposed to look glamorous. I was not supposed to show the real me.
But I decided to be honest with my customers and I wrote a series of blog posts explaining my transformation, along with my background with an eating disorder. And guess what? The support was unbelievable. I received not only emotional but also financial support for my vision.
I even sold a self-portrait for $700 (my largest single sale to date), obtained a solo exhibition in Mexico for March of 2018, and donated a piece to silent auction for Nasty Women Chicago - where I’m writing this piece now.
The lesson here is this: Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Tell your story and how it connects to your business and your people will support you.
They want to know that you are human, and by sharing what is close to your heart, your clients will feel even more connected to you. Being vulnerable does not make you weak.
Being vulnerable and honest in sharing my story has been the key factor in growing my business.
It’s ok to not have it 100% together 100% of the time. In fact, I don’t think that anyone actually does. So let’s be honest about that. Seeing the rise in the total number of women entrepreneurs inspires hope in me - hope that we will change the standard by choosing to act like our true selves.
Here’s your homework: Take a moment in your next social media post, blog, or newsletter to be vulnerable with your clients. Explain why your business is important from the point of view of a personal experience, or admit to being tired (I know you are). At the very least, add a bio to your website and include something personal that connects to the why of your business. When your customers see the human side of you, they are going to be more connected and engaged with your business than ever before.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’m a self-taught artist who developed my love for painting through my grandmother. I remember learning to paint by watching my grandmother paint tiny flowers on a birdhouse that she made from scratch. North Carolina summers are hot and humid, but Grandma Katie always wanted to spend the long afternoons on the front porch, sweat beading at her hairline as she delicately applied pink and purple paint to her latest project while her scraggly cat weaved between her ankles. Intuitive painting became a source of therapy during this time, but lately I've become more intentional with my work. Ultimately, I’ve always been a small town girl with big dreams of the beautiful, mysterious places beyond my North Carolina yard. Your environment influences how you feel, and my art is bold, inspiring, and full of that same strength that filled my Grandma Katie when she faced bears in the backyard.
Learn more about Taylor Lee here.