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No matter if you’re a small business owner, an aspiring artist, or the CEO of a massive company, our advice to you today is simple: show your work.

It’s what we’d say to anyone who wants to start or grow a business, develop a brand or scale an idea. It sounds simple enough, but we’re the first to admit that showing your work is not always easy to put into practice.

In this post, we’re going to describe why, how, and when to show your work and share with you the benefits of doing so. But first, here is some food for thought if you’re the type who is already counter-rationalizing why not to show your work.

Why You Might Be Against Showing Your Work

Well, if you’re not showing your work, you’re probably thinking something like:

“But I have no idea who to share it with? Who would care?”

If this is the case, send it to us! We’d love to take a look at what you’re working on and (if you’d like) help you find the right audience.

“What if someone steals my idea?”

First —and please let us be crystal clear —no one will steal your idea. People are entirely too much in their own heads and “busy” to steal your idea. You could hand your idea to your number one “competitor” or the biggest player in the market and they’ll all but certainly say, “Dang that’s cool but we just don’t have the bandwidth to act on that right now.”

Now, let’s just say someone comes out with the same thing you were thinking of doing. This happens all the time! There are two things to remember:

1) Someone else in the market is a good thing. It validates that there are customers and that people are interested in your idea. It also allows you to specialize and differentiate yourself from the guys who are already doing it.

2) There’s something that could never be stolen from you and that is, well, YOU. Your fingerprint will be on your work and that will give it its own unique flavor and appeal.

There dozens of breweries in Asheville and likely hundreds of brewers. How many of those brewers do you think have “stolen” each other’s Pilsner recipes? And yet, every brewery is different and has its own unique spin.

“I wouldn’t even know how to share my work.”

This reminds us of a powerful amorphism: When the why is strong enough the how is irrelevant. If you want to share your work but don’t know how, keep reading.

“I’m a perfectionist. I can’t share it until it’s ready.”

Pablo Picasso created 50,000 paintings, but only about a hundred of them were considered true masterpieces.

Perfectionism is not cute, it’s a form of resistance (you’ll read more about that below). If you can’t share until it’s perfect, you’re missing the point. It’s about connection building. Read on to see what we mean.

Why Show Your Work

So why should you show your work? What’s the point?

1. You can build a real relationship with your audience.

Think about it: if you keep your projects all hidden away until it’s time to sell, who do you expect to show up buy it? Sharing what you’re working on creates an open dialog and gives color to the kind of person that you are, the effort that goes into your work, and helps customers and future customers understand why they should buy from you. When you share the process, you start building a relationship with a growing audience so that when you are ready to sell, you have people to sell to.

2. You can assess product-market fit before it’s too late.

If you’re looking to sell the thing that you create, showing your work is a great way to test your product or service while the risk is low. Tony likes to say, “If you build your creation in the dark, you’ll always be surprised in the light of day.” You could invest hours upon hours working on a product before sharing it, only to realize that nobody wants it. By sharing it early on, even when it’s not “perfect” you’ll get helpful feedback that can help shape your creation into something that people actually want.

3. You can make the right connections before you need them.

You know what they say: it’s not about what you know, but who you know. You never know who you’ll meet and how they might be able to help you. By sharing early and building an audience, you might just get in front of someone that can change the trajectory of your business.

You see this all the time with musicians who serendipitously get discovered. Ed Sheeran started out playing in small venues throughout London and putting out his own EPs. One night, he attended a poetry night in Los Angeles. Jamie Foxx saw his performance and was so impressed that he invited him back to his home and let him crash on his couch for six weeks. Foxx brought Sheeran to his recording studio and an open mic night. While there are many factors that have contributed to Sheeran’s rise to fame, there’s no doubt that meeting Jamie Foxx helped him grow his fan base greatly.

“Put yourself, and your work, out there every day, and you’ll start meeting some amazing people.” —Bobby Solomon

4. You’ll get over your fear of sharing.

So many people are afraid of sharing their work because they fear criticism. It’s only natural to worry about what other people think. You have to train yourself to be ready to “take a punch” as Austin Kleon says. We’ll bet that you’re going to get people that love what you’re doing. You’re also going to get people who criticize it, who say mean things. Fact. There will be less of the latter kind of people, we promise. What you’ll encounter the most is people who simply don’t care. But learning about these types of people is all part of the process. The more you share, the more you’ll realize that those criticisms can’t hurt you. And the more you share the more those people who were indifferent might become fans.

The more you share, the more you’ll realize that those criticisms can’t hurt you. And the more you share the more those people who were indifferent might become fans.

Think about all those artists working in open studios in the River Arts District. Do you think they care what other people think when they see their half-finished paintings? No. They’re there to share their process, to show off how it’s done! Which makes for a rather interesting story, and a fine supporting argument for their premium prices, don’t you think?

How to Show Your Work

So how should you go about it? There are many ways to share your work and it will be different for everyone. Here are a few ideas:

1. Start small.

If you’re writing, publish one chapter at a time. And if that seems too much, publish one blog post at a time. If you’re a photographer, share one photo at a time. If you’re a painter, share one day’s work at a time. It doesn’t have to be finished. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just share it and see what comes back. You’d be surprised at what type of feedback you can get early on this way!

2. Use social media.

Social media is one of the greatest sharing tools that we have! The important thing here is to know which social media platform to use. Instagram is fantastic for visuals as is Pinterest. Twitter is great for short inspirational words. Facebook lends itself well to written works and articles. YouTube is the place to be for musicians. Use the ones that fit best for the type of work you’re creating.

3. Turn it into a class.

Chances are there are other people out there that want to learn about what you know. Turning your art or skill set into a small class is a great way to connect with likeminded people and hone your own skills.

4. Give it away for free.

Let someone try it out for free. If you’re working on a book, have someone read it. If you’re a candlemaker, give away a few of your candles. Your lucky recipients will be so happy to have gotten something for free and you’ll get to test your product without spending much.

When to Show Your Work

Now. Today. Don’t hesitate, just do it.

If you’re having trouble with this, we encourage you to take a moment to think about The 5-Second Rule by Mel Robbins. Mel Robbins is a popular author and motivational speaker. Her 5-Second Rule says to countdown “5…4…3…2…1” and then do the action.

It sounds silly, we know, but when you do this, a couple of things happen. For one, your brain stops worrying and instead focuses on counting down. You stop thinking about all the “what ifs” and instead concentrate on the numbers. Secondly, there’s actually a physiological reaction happening in your brain. The countdown signals your brain to get ready for action. When you get to “1,” the only thing that’s left is to take action.
So, just 5..4…3..2…1. SHARE!

Still not convinced?

Get inspired by these reads:

“The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield
If you feel the resistance of creating something, of sharing, of putting the first word on the damn page, then this book is for you. Pressfield inspires us to break through our creative barriers and reminds us that most of us just have to suck it up and put in the work every day.

“Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon
Kleon’s books are more like collages of inspirational quotes and images. What he says is simple and yet, so hard to do. Still, this book is definitely one to keep on the shelf when you need a nice reminder to start sharing.

“The 5 Second Rule” by Mel Robbins
An easy, fast read that will convince to start taking action on the things you’ve been putting off or just don’t feel like doing.

“Poke the Box” by Seth Godin
A motivational read that will challenge you to try new things, or “poke the box,” and see what happens.

show your work quote

So, how will you show your work today?

We challenge you to share something today. Send us a message to let us know what you’re working on!

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