Life as a Visual Storyteller—Episode 37—15th August, 2015: Confidence Tricks

Aug 15, 2015, 09:00 PM

David Bailey is somebody you should know. Tamara too, his partner.

They do a regular vlog from Bosnia that you can watch on YouTube. I love it. It teaches me about life in a place I sadly only know from TV reports of the horrid war in the early 1990s. Twenty years on, it's a beautiful, warm, appealing place—with some quirks that would stress me out of my intolerant skull.

In a recent episode of the vlog, David seemed very down. He asked a how small YouTube vloggers can measure up to the giants of the platform. He wondered about confidence. He wondered about audience figures and how to increase them. He started a useful discussion. Surely, these are things we've all thought about?

That's what I'd like to discuss today. Confidence as a creative.

A wonderous writer

There's a writer who is very dear to me. Her writing is excellent. Yet anything I say about it is dismissed. She has a gabillion reasons why her work doesn't measure up. They are all in her head and they are all nonsense. Yet, she gives these imaginary voices more credence than my assurances. That's fine and, let's be honest, only human.

I'm a close friend. So, she thinks, of course, I say her work is good. That's what close friends do. You don't go about the place saying to your best friends, "Yeah, actually, that's a pile of steaming, pulsating cow pat", to their faces—even if their writing is exactly that. So anything I, or other friends, say goes unheeded. The voices in her head win.

Until recently.

Recently, she won a place on a prestigious writing seminar organised by the national broadcaster in her country. It's a big deal. And she deserves it. I've read the story that got her the invitation. It is insightful and tender and funny and... many other good things. It's superbly written.

She is transformed. She is buzzing. Her confidence is high. Because someone who doesn't know her said her writing is good.

That is one side of a creative's confidence. External validation. The more external it is, the better.

Confidence from outside is good

That is part of what David alludes to in his vlog post. The confidence to keep going that comes from likes, follows, subscribes and such.

But what if you don't have much of that sort of validation? That can make it tough. As a creative, you can quickly end up doubting what you are doing if nobody tells you it is good.

The online currency is followers. The more you have, the better. We can quarrell about the validity of that, but let's not. Not now, anyway.

So how do you get more followers?


One at a time. (Not my idea, rather Chris Brogan's).

Sounds dumb, I know. But it's true. You need to win over each individual subscriber one by one.

As far as I can tell, there is only one way to do that. Post content regularly. Give people something to follow. Then, if it resonates with them, they will come back for more. Then you have a follower.

They will also tell other people about you, who in turn might follow—and so on and so forth. More followers.

For most of us, this is going to take a lot of time. Building an online audience is, as far as I can tell, a long game for most people. And there are no guarantees we'll attract a significant number regardless of how long we stay at it.

I do think it helps someone like David to be vlogging about a topic few others are. I mean, Google "Bosnian vlog" and see what comes up.

Confidence from the inside is better

Which brings us to the other aspect of confidence. Internal confidence.

If, as a creative, you have confidence in yourself, that's like having a superpower. That belief that what you are doing is worthwhile, regardless of what anybody else says, is a strong force.

You could argue that it can make you delusional. Maybe you really are bad at what you do. But compared to the huge swathes of the human race who don't create anything, you're streets ahead already.

Besides, are you creating content to win va...