AIDA AUSTIN: "Creative people have a tendency to think that being creative is the only thing they’re good at"

IT’S 11.30am. My mother is on the phone. “Can’t talk long,” I say, “I’ve got a free business-advice meeting at 12pm.”

“How ghastly,” she says. “Well at least it’s free. In my experience, these marketing types just talk and talk without saying anything at all.”

“I’m going with an open mind,” I say.

“Very important to go with an open mind,” she says, “but mark my words.”

“If I mark your words, I won’t go with an open mind.”

“What are you hoping to get out of it?”

“An introduction to the world of marketing,” I say. “I have to work out the target market, apparently, for my chandeliers. That’s what everyone keeps saying.”

“Pearl Lowe,” she says.

“Who’s Pearl Lowe?”

“Your target market. She’s a pop star or something. I only know because I saw a picture of her house in an interiors magazine yesterday, in the doctor’s surgery. I thought it was your house at first. Folderols and gewgaws everywhere. More money than sense, I’d say – I bet she’d buy one of your chandeliers. E-mail her.”

“I’ve been advised to bring along samples of my product and a draft business plan,” I say.

“In the e-mail they sent me, it said their aim is to help me ‘overcome barriers which are impeding the development of my business’.”

“Such as?”

“Not knowing anything about marketing.”

“Mark my words,” she says, “you’ll come out none the wiser. I mean how did you sell your paintings for all those years?”

“Through galleries.”

“How did you find the galleries?”

“I looked them up and phoned them.”


“It’s all different now,” I say, “apparently it’s all about digital marketing, business-networking, using social media sites to promote...”

“The world is as complicated as you make it,” she says, “e-mail Pearl Lowe.”

12pm. I am standing outside the business mentor’s office, determined not to mark my mother’s words.

12.10pm. The business mentor thinks my idea is fully viable.

“So, now, let’s begin right at the beginning,” she says.

“Great,” I say, “let’s do that.”

“But before we begin at the beginning,” she says, holding her hand up, as if to stop traffic, “I’d like to talk to you about what is holding you back.”

“Holding me back? Holding me back from what?”

“From growing your business.” She would like me to think for a minute about what is holding me back.

What with my mind being so open, I think very hard.

“I can’t think of anything that’s holding me back,” I say, “unless not knowing anything about marketing counts.”

It is her belief, she says, that a lack of confidence is holding me back.

“Creative people have a tendency to think that being creative is the only thing they’re good at,” she says. She feels, she says, that I may have a preconceived idea about marketing as a world I know little about and as a consequence, I am doubtful of my ability to “perform in this area”.

I have been advised in the e-mail that I must ready myself to ‘evaluate new ideas’ so I set about the business of evaluating, fairly and squarely, this new idea of myself as lacking in confidence.

“Is this ringing any bells with you?” she asks.

“No,” I say, for open minds or no open minds, the e-mail also encouraged me to be ‘open and honest about my strengths and weaknesses’. “I don’t have a preconceived idea about marketing, I have no idea about it. Having no idea about it is what’s holding me back.”

She looks very disappointed in me. “I don’t seem to be making much headway here,” she says.

“Perhaps I could ask you a few specific questions about digital marketing?” I suggest.

She puts up her traffic-stopping hand again. “Let’s go right, right back to the beginning,” she says. She feels it would be helpful to discuss the issue of confidence a little more.

“You know all there is to know about marketing,” she says, “you just don’t think you do.”

Silence falls. I look out of the window.

“What,” she says, “are your thoughts on this?”

“That I don’t know all there is to know about marketing,” I say, looking out of the window so as to avoid having to look at her disappointment.

“Very interesting,” she says, “any other thoughts?”

“Yes,” I say, “e-mailing Pearl Lowe.” 


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