(This post will take approx. 5 minutes to read)
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak.
A Business Journey
I have a childhood memory of our mum paying for a stall at a craft fair one weekend so that my brother, sister and I could sell some of our homemade crafts. In effect, mum was our angel investor; she got peace and quiet on a Saturday, and we got to keep any money we made. I must have been about 8 years old.
A Teenager’s Side Hustle
Later, I had a lucrative little business babysitting for the teacher’s kids, I was 14 or 15 (I was clearly quite a responsible youngster, being the oldest of 3).
When I finished school in the early 90’s, I did the safe and expected thing and got a proper job.
A Proper Job
Enterprise was never presented to me as an option. In fact, as a girl growing up in small town Somerset, the expectation was that I would get a job for a bit then get married and have babies and this was my place in life. The only expectation of me was that I raised good kids and was an obedient wife.
Well… that’s really not my style, and it took me many years to admit that to anyone.
That option left my life go a long time ago…
I first dabbled in the mysterious realms of self-employment back in the early noughties.
I had a comfortable job supporting long term unemployed people into work, 9 to 5, Monday to Friday – but something was missing.
I started to paint again.
I’d turned my back on art after having a fundamental difference of opinion with an art lecturer at college; I wanted to learn about art, he wanted me to paint what the examiners liked so I could pass the course.
Needless to say, I skived his lessons, failed, and for years believed I couldn’t paint for toffee.
Letting Go Of Doubt
I let those doubts go and I hung my big, bold, canvases of flowers (very Georgia O’Keefe) all over the house. Visitors made positive comments and a friend said, “You should have an exhibition!”
So I did.
And people bought my artwork.
Sometimes for hundreds of pounds.
I thought, “I should probably tell the taxman about this” – I registered as self-employed and so ‘Tom Cat Designs’ was born.
A First Official Business
Tom Cat Designs was my first business. The trouble is, I never thought of it as a business. To me, it was only ever a hobby that made some welcome extra cash. As a consequence, I never did any of the things I talk to my clients about to make it sustainable and then grow it as a business. I wasn’t taking it seriously and I wasn’t investing, time, energy and money into it. It fizzled out; it failed.
At the time, the only real marketing I did was to set up a Twitter account and a website for Tom Cat Designs.
As I had the domain name ‘tomcatdesigns.co.uk’ it became my email address and it stuck.
At the time, having @TomCatDesigns as a Twitter handle made sense, and for me it was a reminder of where my adventure into entrepreneurship began.
It was getting tedious telling the story of why my email and Twitter handle were Tom Cat Designs, and now I’m telling it for the last time.
Let It Go
I’m letting it go.
Since I changed my Twitter handle last week, something surprising happened.
I saw a surge in new followers!
For a long time I’ve had a consistent follower rate of maybe 20 – 30 new followers each week and 10 unfollwers (mostly people farming my address and unfollowing me when I didn’t follow back!), but in the first day of my new Twitter handle I had 35 new followers.
For the next few days I saw an increase of similar levels, and although the rate of new followers has levelled out this week, it’s still going up.
I asked myself why and dug deeper.
Here are the 3 reasons letting go of my old identity and embracing a more personal brand is getting me noticed on Twitter:
1) My @ handle is my name and not a faceless business, existing contacts can find me easily now
2) My @ handle says something about what I do, naturally attracting people who are interested in writers
3) Fresh and new; people are curious when they see something shiny and new
If you’re still clinging on to a sentimental old Twitter name change it up, let go of dusty old labels and embrace what makes you YOU.
Trust me, far from mourning the passing of Tom Cat Designs, I feel much more grounded in what I really do – writing and mentoring!