“You aren’t that talented.”
“You don’t belong here.”
“Everyone here is better than you.”
“Her booth looks way better than yours.”
“Your jewelry isn’t unique.”
“Who do you think you are charging that much for your work?”
No, these weren’t the sharp words of a particularly cruel customer. These harsh thoughts rolled through my own head as I strolled down the aisles checking out the other vendors at my first trade show.
Over the years I sold my jewelry at numerous craft shows, and at this point, I do them without much thought.
However, participating in a trade show and selling directly to stores was a whole new ball game for me. It meant a new booth display; creating my first catalog; taking orders to be fulfilled later at home rather than selling ready-made pieces right there; and three days of smiling, standing, and constantly being on.
For weeks preparing for the trade show was all I thought about.
From January until the night before I left for Portland on a brisk St. Patrick’s Day morning, I had at least one stress dream a week where I usually forgot something important. (Thankfully, in reality, the only thing I left at home was a shirt I planned to wear on day two of the event. Way better than leaving my jewelry at home!)
Even though it was a juried show, meaning that I had to apply and be selected by a panel of judges, on throughout the weekend and leading up to the event I doubted my abilities.
It’s never easy to put yourself out there, and selling something you make is basically thrusting yourself out at the world and asking everyone to judge you and your talents.
I worried about everything.
I worried that my jewelry wasn’t good enough, that my booth display was lacking, that I had priced my jewelry too high, that I priced my jewelry too low, that I was a hack, that I wasn’t a real jewelry designer, that my line was smaller than everyone else’s, that my look wasn’t as polished, that I wasn’t that talented.
Those feelings were amplified by the fact that I was a new person on the trade show scene. Though I wasn’t the only first-time vendor there, I was surrounded by seasoned veterans. People who have been doing this show and others for years.
People who obviously knew what they were doing.
Me? I felt like I was making it up as I went along.
In truth, no matter where you are in your business, it’s easy for anyone to have those moments of doubt creep in.
To think you aren’t that talented, you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t belong.
On the last day of the show I talked to one vendor who has done this show for years, and she mentioned that she still worries that she isn’t good enough.
And that’s when it hit me.
I was selected to be there. I wasn’t a hack or lacking talent. Other people’s work wasn’t better (or worse) than mine, just different. I may not have reached my sales goal, but stores had chosen my work from a selection of 300 vendors to sell at their stores.
The morning of the first day of the show, as my husband drove us the 15 minutes from our friends’ house to the venue, he held my hand and reminded me to breathe. No matter what happened, I knew I had put my best foot forward. And most importantly, I was doing something that I love.
While it is not easy to make a living running a handmade business — and believe me, I am nowhere there — sometimes I pinch myself that this is what I get to do. On the days I spend hours making jewelry, working on orders or new designs, I feel like I’m somehow cheating. Work isn’t supposed to be playful or fun, right?
But the truth is those are my favorite days, and I can’t believe I get paid to do it.
So when you feel those moments of doubt creeping in, and you start to worry that you aren’t qualified or you’re faking it, remember this:
Almost everyone has those moments of doubt.
Regardless of how absolutely fantastic your work is or how polished your skills are, someone isn’t going to like it.
Your work will speak to someone, you just have to find the right someones.
Most importantly, you are doing something that you love.
What do you do when you feel the self-doubt coming in?