Bonus One: Instagram styling & sharing your story


Learning to share your story & your work through Instagram

I'm going to begin where we ended on module two...

Learning to share your work, and your story, as an artist (or insert whatever word you call yourself) helps to clarify what your story is, and who you might be. The more comfortable I become with talking about my work, the more I respect myself as an artist. It's that thought that you can't expect others to love you, if you don't love yourself. So - if you want to be an artist, start calling yourself an artist (even if only on your Instagram bio). Small steps like that actually have powerful outcomes. 

Putting yourself "out there" in an artistic creative sense can be super scary, I get that. So, how do you work through this? I think mostly by knowing that you'll never overcome it, but you will get better at ignoring it or continuing on despite it. We're going to go into depth on this next week, but for now... let's have a play with Instagram and the story we're sharing there.

Ellie Beck Creative Year Basket Weaving online workshop.jpeg


I want you to look at your Insta grid (your own pictures) and write down what it makes you feel, what themes or visuals stand out the most. You can check your colours, as in Module Two, to see if you're sharing colours that tie in with your work. 

Ask yourself, and please write this down:

  • Am I sharing my creative work at all?
  • If not, why? What's holding me back?
  • How does my work look photographed side by side?
  • What are my themes - both in my work and in my life. Instagram has a wonderful way of telling you what you're focussing on, or what you're ignoring.
  • Are you showing your work in it's best light or just snapping a quick shot?
  • What emotions do you feel when you look at your grid? 

Feel free to share on our Facebook Group Page as well.

What to share on Instagram and how to share your creative world:

This course is about over-coming fear, and over the next few weeks we're going to be doing that. So hopefully at the end you'll feel confident to share your work online, to not worry about what people think, not get anxious about how the algorithm is treating your likes, follows, etc. 

I want you to learn to share on Instagram, but I don't want you to become overwhelmed by it, or overtaken by it either. It's a balance of sharing openly honestly rawly, but also leaving space for yourself. A creative person needs insular time, as well as realising you need to talk to your audience. 

Petalplum is my online persona, and helped me to share things that I don't usually talk about in person with a crowd. Things that I openly put up and talk about on Instagram, I wouldn't sit down with a group of near-strangers or even close acquaintances and talk about. Sounds strange, hey! That's me. I'm happy to share my life and thoughts and views with people I'm very close to, when I feel nurtured and protected and held, but in a situation bigger than that I just quietly watch and listen.

Of course I talk up, and participate in the world, but my quiet internal life is just for me (unless you're one of the 44K who happen to follow me on IG, then you can hear my deepest internal thoughts). Oh yes, I'm a strange one. 

So... why do I share so much of what I share online? How? 

Firstly, I do feel like I'm talking a friend, a close and real friend who I know won't judge me or think worse of me because of what I say or who I am. Of course this isn't always the case, but what I've learnt over time to understand is that the people who matter the most are the ones who I need to listen to. "Those who mind, don't matter, those who matter, don't mind" ~ wise Dr Seuss.

What's your biggest fear with sharing your story? Please tell me - I want to know. 

What would be the worst that could happen by sharing just a small part of yourself. Of declaring yourself an artist to the world. Think about this. Write down the worst things that could happen? 

If you're stuck on what to share on Insta, here's a few ideas:

  • behind the scenes in your studio or creative making space
  • inspiration - nature, beach, landscape, urban.... texture, detail, colour
  • finished work : think about the styling, not just the work on it's own. 
  • works in progress... always looks good with a cup of tea!
  • videos of you making your work - a quick time lapse is good, especially if you don't want to give away your secrets. (You'll need to film for a good few minutes to get 30 seconds of sped-up video)
  • your work in it's new home - super handy if your customers are good at styling / photography
  • your inspiration leafy mandala play
  • your materials and tools - paint & paintbrushes, yarn & knitting / crochet hooks, piles of paper or fabric. 

Sharing on Instagram is a combination of inspiring people and showcasing your work, but it's not simply a portfolio of "here's a finished thing I made". The aim is to inspire people to connect with you, to want to be part of your story, to know you. By sharing all these things they'll get to know you better. And people buy from people they know... this is becoming more and more true, with big brands becoming more personal through story sharing. So be real, honest, vulnerable, open... someone people can connect with and have a conversation with.

I grew my Instagram following on Petalplum simply by communicating and sharing my story. I didn't and don't share everything, I share a curated version of life. I always say be the best version of yourself online. Don't put anything out there that you don't want to come back to you in ten years time, but don't hold back as well. 

As well as your visuals, use your words. Invite people to connect through conversation. Instead of "here's a thing I made", how about try "I made this and it made it feel.... how does it make you feel?". "Or parenting is hard, but making art is harder.. or is it the other way around" {Oh, don't use that.. I'm going to use that- haha!!}. Be open to the connections you might make - if you invite someone in they're likely to bring cake and tea, and stay for a chat. Talk about the things that were hard today, or the good things that happened.

I write my Instagram posts before I'm ready to post them, and have them ready and waiting. So that I can do it while I have no children hovering over me, or the stress of missing 'ideal posting time', or when the word muse is happy then I have the right words to share. She doesn't come all the time, so I'm ready to take notes when she's here. If you use an app like Plann (it truly is my favourite, and I'm not being paid to say this. But I do also love the story behind it, and how Christy made it herself), but it does cost a monthly fee. Instead you could try Mosaico, which is a one-off fee and fairly easy to use for scheduling your posts, or UnUm which is free. (It doesn't have the analytics or anything I was talking about in Module Two). There are others, but I haven't used them so can't suggest. 

I filmed some styling videos for you, to show you how I approach my pictures of my creative work, and what sort of things I share on Instagram. Of course, you'll notice by looking at my account that I don't stick to just one style, so this is just one way to show you the possibilities. 

Let's talk about the anxiety that can be associated with sharing your work online, and it not being received as broadly as you'd hoped. 

Social media can be a strange place, and is not at all a true representation of what people think of your creative work. Please always remember this. Just because you didn't receive 100 or 200 or 1000 likes or don't have as many followers as someone else, it does not make them better than you! Followers does not equal quality of art or creative work, all it simply means is a few things:

(especially more so with the Instagram algorithm playing favourites to some and not to others).... they post the type of content that is called 'click bait', they play the game, their style matches with the current popularity style. The way the algorithm works is that the more views/ likes a picture gets the more views / likes it continues to get, and then their next post receives the same attention. So one picture can keep being shown again and again, simply because it got lots of likes. But it only got lots of likes because lots of people were shown it in their feed. 

Another picture, which possibly is a million times more beautiful, but perhaps more subtle (or posted at the "wrong time" or anything else) doesn't get the likes because for some reason Instagram robots (algorithm) decides people don't like. And the less times it gets viewed the less likes / engagement is receives... So the robots assume nobody actually cares for that picture or that account, and they stop showing the photo to anyone else. It's like the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. 

It's completely a popularity contest.. And to be honest, I'm not sure I want to play that game. Because I tried it, and can I tell you - I started to make things, photograph things, and share things because I thought the algorithm would like them. And it did, to a degree (well, sort of... until the algorithm changed again). BUT what happened to me and my voice and my story. 

Oh it was still there, but being pushed aside to make images to get likes. Oh my.... there I just said it. That's something I haven't shared on Instagram very openly. Because I was never in the popular groups at high school, and nor did I ever want to be. I wasn't swayed by peer pressure as a teen or when in my early 20s, so how can in my late 30s I suddenly care what complete strangers think about me. Especially complete strangers who will never buy my art work, never enrol in a course or attend a workshop, don't read my blog or subscribe to my newsletter. Just people who are double-tapping that "like" button. What do I want that for!!

So what I'm telling you is :: tell your voice and your story, don't think about what the audience will think about it. Because the more you become you, the more beautifully connected your audience will be. The people who are connected to me on Instagram in a real manner are my true people, they love me for all the things, not just the pretty things or the Instagram-perfect things. They want to know my story, the hard times, see the new work, and support me in an emotional and financial manner. 

When I'm myself on Instagram I find my true audience. And the wrong people fall away.. I don't want the wrong people along on my journey with me. I want the right people, my people, walking beside me, sharing with me, rejoicing in my successes and offering virtual cake and tea for my sadnesses. (Also, my people know that I'd much prefer cake and tea, or an occasional g&T than a glass of wine). If you're looking to increase or start selling your work online, or out there in the world, you'll find that being yourself in a bigger way will guide your right people to you, naturally.

2017, woven wall hanging, wool & silk, naturally dyed, with flower stems.jpg

Overcoming Anxiety on Instagram 

+ Share photos that you love - if you love them and feel truely they're your best offering then it doesn't matter what others think.

+ Ignore the 'likes' and take notice of the comments and the love (likes aren't a true representation of love).

+ If it gets really bad every time you post, then step away for a week or so. Immerse yourself in real life.

+ Remember that you can't control the algorithm - so getting less likes than you wanted doesn't mean your work is not good

+ Instagram likes aren't a direct relation to sales or loving connected customers - ever. Even if you think someone else is getting all the likes, it doesn't mean they're getting all the connection, sales, community.

+ Stay true to yourself and your community will grow

+ Remember that it's not about getting lots of likes, it's about inspiring people and inspiring yourself. If you feel uplifted by looking at your photos then others will. Aim for that, rather than aiming for likes. 

+ Stick at it, be positive, don't moan about the algorithm, share beautiful messages. 

+ Connect with your community. Comment of other people's photos, join in, ask questions and leave interesting comments, observations.