I want to let you guys in on a little secret. I'm a nervous creative. I totally panic before I send a digital proof to a client, or roll up some calligraphed vows to be shipped. Actual sweaty palms. When I first opened my Etsy shop, many of my sales were to family and friends at discounted rates. At the time, I felt that my work was appropriately priced to my skill level as a new calligrapher. I penned gift bags, custom quotes, a bar sign that someone accidentally used as a cutting board (but that's another story) and shipped them off to my loved ones. Everyone was so supportive and impressed with my lettering skills that I began to feel confident in my work.
I recently visited a friend that has one of my original pieces displayed in her home and I straight up cringed! I made the sign for her bridal shower and she also displayed it at her wedding. I begged her to let me re-do the artwork and mail her a new one. She politely declined and said she loved it just how it was. This friend had seen my work from the very beginning.
I was surprised but learned something valuable that day and I pass this along to my customers when they send me questions or inspiration photos to guide a new design. I invite any customer to review my portfolio to get an idea of what my calligraphy style looks like. I don't use a font, I may drill and drill and drill, but some days I feel like my lettering is just "meh" and some days it's "on one" (shoutout to Drake).
How do I combat my anxiety? It's important to update website photos and Etsy photos so that potential clients have a clear idea of what a final piece may look like once it arrives on their doorsteps. Get close up product photos, be specific in your description, and most importantly, be honest. "Will this table number blow over at my beach wedding?" "Absolutely, yes it will!" I don't own magic paper. Honesty, transparency, and sometimes a little education go a long way. I'm not suggesting you should turn down any work, but you are the expert! If a client has an idea you know may not turn out the way they're imagining, suggest an alternative if you have one.
As creatives, we grow, and learn and personally, my style as a calligrapher has evolved so much in just one year. I've been able to try new printing methods, work with dream clients and meet incredible friendors (vendors that are now my friends, kind of like Taylor Swift's girl squad). I'm really proud of my work right now, but will I cringe again in another year? Possibly. I hope not. We're our own worst critics.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." -Theodore Roosevelt
As I hit 500 Etsy sales this year, I popped myself a mini bottle of champagne to celebrate. The next morning as I polished off a proof for a wedding invitation, doubt and anxiety crept in. What if they don't like it? What if it's not good enough? Why does this letter look wonky? Will they think I'm a total fraud? I paused and remembered that I was proud of the design and it was the best proof I was capable of producing in that moment, and I hit send.