How I Helped My Daughter Build Her Creative Career
Building Your Creative Career While You Are Still at University
It’s very odd as a parent when you take a step back from your own business and your own world to help your daughter build her own. Now I know I am very fortunate in that I am able to do this; I don’t have a proper job and therefore I am able to put all the time and effort needed into supporting someone’s else’s journey, but let me tell you this has not been an easy one at all.
Where did it start?
I guess it all started when she self-published her first novel and while we were pleased with the results, she wrote it when she was 16 as soon as we published it we realised that we had done everything wrong and we really needed to think about the strategy. Like many would-be authors, we had thought more about the book and less about the marketing. Bronte was always clear that she wanted to be an author; she wanted to have an agent and be published, that was her aim in life. So while she was at university I took it upon myself to figure out how we could make this happen, how she could become a published author pretty much after leaving university. I knew this was a near-impossible task but I was determined to see how I could help her realise this goal.
I am someone who often goes with their intuition rather than looking at tried-and-tested methods of how things have always been done. I’ve always been a bit of a rule-breaker and on more than one occasions this has helped me, like getting a TV show within 18 months without ever having worked in TV.
So I looked at the landscape, what was happening outside of traditional media and where I thought the future was going. I guess understanding Generational Theory and the wants and needs of the next generation really helped me with this. This all led me to the wonderful world of Bookstagram, a book community on Instagram which for me seemed innovative, different and the way forward. I mean, what if someone could gain influence in the book world, surely that was a great way to get them up for a future publishing deal?
I watched and then we jumped
I watched and watched this community for months, how they behaved, what the norms were, what they shared, what they liked and how they genuinely operated as a community. When I felt I had somewhat of a handle on it, I shared it all with Bronte and tentatively we jumped in. We were a little clueless to be honest; we had never taken photos before, had no idea how to style anything and didn’t have a huge amount of books at the time. I took an Instagram course with Sara Tasker, which taught me the basics and we just decided to stop doubting ourselves and dive in. The pictures we took at the beginning were not great, but they weren’t appalling and we soon figured out we could at least style a pretty good photo. We got better and better. We engaged with the community, took part in hashtag projects and started to grow steadily. This was all around Christmas 2016. We started doing things slightly different in the community in order to stand out, like giving themes to our months around colours or types of books. This got attention and we began to grow more. The more pictures we took, the better we got, growing to 3000 and getting our first paid post. We watched the successful Bookstagrammers and learned from them. We created better and better shots, making sure we had a good mix on our feed, had lots of white space, didn’t crop so close and we generally had fun. We grew to about 7000 followers, all was fine and dandy and then Instagram featured Bronte – this was Christmas 2017 and suddenly Bronte’s account blew up, reaching 25,000 quickly and continuing to grow to the account you see today.
It was 18 months of hard work
With each spurt of growth we upped out game, questioned what we were doing and tried to be better than we were before. Bronte is now lucky enough to not have to get a job as she makes a living from the work she does on Instagram and I know how blessed she is, as does she, to be in this position.
But we didn’t get here by wishing and dreaming; this was 18 months of hard work. She was at university, handing in assignments, working to get money and building her Instagram. This was sheer guts and determination. While others may have given up she kept her eye on the prize and kept going. While others went out partying she was on Instagram and while others laid in on Saturday morning she was up taking pictures.
And while I know in part she was lucky and the feature on Instagram was the start of a snowball for her, there is no reason while other creatives at university could not be using their spare time to start building their careers before they leave but alas, university doesn’t seem to teach that.
Do it yourself
All students could have built up their social media following in the same way as Bronte because really, it isn’t that difficult. All you have to do is...
1. Find the community you want to be part of.
2. Watch that community for a while, see how they operate and ask yourself what might be missing.
3. Make friends in that community and produce content that is eye-catching, different and will gain notice.
4. Continue to engage with the community and produce content, even when it seems too difficult, as if it isn’t going anywhere and that no one cares.
5. Keep learning, keep shifting things up and keep going.
6. Always have your end goal in mind, never lose sight of the reason that you are doing this work and if I haven’t said it enough, keep going.
People in creative careers will have a different career projection than people who get full time jobs and it seems that universities haven’t quite worked out how to teach their creative students how to start making careers for themselves while they are still at university.
Oh, and as for the reason why Bronte started her Instagram and the end goal she wanted to achieve, watch this space, we may have exciting news for you soon.