Posted 29 March 2018

Coralie Bickford-Smith on putting yourself out there as an introverted creative

Promoting yourself and finding a public-facing voice can be a tricky pursuit as an emerging creative, and even more so if you’re of a shy disposition. As a self-confessed introvert, this is something Penguin Random House book-cover designer Coralie Bickford-Smith knows better than most. Following our recent podcast with her, she gives her thoughts on building confidence in putting yourself out there, and maintaining a balanced and authentic social media presence – even when you don’t feel like it.

I think the biggest challenge in my career so far has been confidence. It’s hard to put yourself out there. I’m really introverted; I love just being in the studio, working in my own bubble. Having to present your work and talk to people is not my natural environment, so it’s something I’ve struggled with a lot.

Learn from others
I’ve watched other designers, and over time I’ve learnt to be more personable and how to put myself out there in a more gentle way. I think this can also be a big question for people just starting out and new graduates: How do you promote yourself without being bolshy and over-confident? I think there is a really nice balance that can be found, but it took me quite a long time to find that balance.

Shut out negative voices!
I find social media really difficult. I have to force myself to have a presence there; it’s like you take on a different personality – a more positive one – because I do wrestle with my work and I sometimes have that voice in my head telling me I’m not good enough. There is part of me that has to be really disciplined and switch off from that.

“I do wrestle with my work and I sometimes have that voice in my head telling me I’m not good enough.”

Be strict with your time
I’m now strict about how long I spend on self-promotion and social media, because I need to devote the majority of my working day to creating. You have to be careful about balancing your time, and creating is what makes me happy.

Stay true to your values
The advice I would offer is we should listen to what makes us happy personally and respond appropriately. Everyone has different experiences of social media, I feel one rule does not fit all. It’s good to stay aware of how things make you feel and tailor your interactions so it becomes a positive experience.

We all change as our careers develop, and so should our rules of engagement. Be true to who you are at any moment in time – become aware of your core values and keep them in mind each step of the way. And never be nervous to take some time out to reconnect to the reason you love what you do.

Coralie Bickford-Smith is a book designer working at Penguin Random House, responsible for some of the publisher’s best-loved designs to emerge in recent years. Alongside freelance work for The New York Times, Diageo and Fortnum and Mason, she also writes and illustrates her own books.

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