Frozen out: making the most (or not) of the start of the year

New year quiet time affords an opportunity for a little self-promotion, provided Daniel Benneworth-Gray can tear himself away from a certain animated film, of course

There is only Frozen and LinkedIn. I haven’t left the house for a week now. The outside is an unnecessary distraction, full of fun and frolics and suchlike. Plus, it’s bloody cold and I’m a delicate little flower. I’m staying in and I’m simplifying. Like a good little designer, I have rationalised my life down to the most essential elements.

I have company in this simplified state of seclusion, so technically I’m not a hermit yet (that life-ambition will have to wait). There are good reasons for our hibernation: wife is writing somethingorother; firstborn is coughing and spluttering with the latest bug (more details can be found in this month’s Toddler Review column, “Oh Jesus Oh Jesus He Sneezed Into My Mouth”); and I’m fishing for new clients. So we decided it’d be best for us/society if we all just stayed indoors and shunned the winter for as long as possible, get stuff done. And watch Frozen. A lot.

It’s all rather cosy. The nice man from the internet brings food and treats to our door when we ask nicely, and we’re still stocked up on smashing Christmas jumpers. Plus my desk is only a flight of stairs away.

Every day, I trundle to the top of the house (after belting out a verse or two of Let It Go, obviously) and I get to work. Or rather I get to work on getting work. Word of mouth is a great way to get new clients, but sometimes you have to find new mouths. I haven’t made a concerted effort to push myself out there for a while, and a handy time slot has presented itself, so push I shall. I’ve rejigged the old portfolio, polished the blog, written a newsletter of sorts, tweeted my work and … to be honest, I really have no idea what I’m doing.

Some people are incredible at this, but not I. The art of self-promotion has always eluded me – no matter what approach I take, sooner or later I decide that it’s the wrong one. I find myself swerving between instinctive British bushel-concealment and crass rooftop-hollering, like some kind of incredibly modest maniac.

So now I’m toying with a more structured approach, focussing my time on LinkedIn. And by focussing, I mean I’ve been desperately trying to get my head around how it works. Technically, I’ve been on there for years, but since that initial flurry of username-claiming, box-ticking and form-filling, my account has been rather neglected. And in that time, the network has mutated into a beast of a thing. What was once simply Facebook-in-a-suit is now this daunting rabbit-hole of CVs and frustrating potential usefulness. It takes a while to figure out what links link to what, and why. It can get a bit confusing, even overwhelming.

But it is strangely compelling. All the disorientation is worth it when you find that one perfect art director or small-but-cool publisher. And after making a couple of decent contacts, it becomes addictive – mustn’t give up now, no prospective client must be left undiscovered, gotta catch ‘em all. You soon get used to the patterns of how people are connected out there in the professional world.

It’s a game. You bounce from one person to another until you find that next useful one. Working from home can be chaotic, and it’s not always easy to get a solid chunk of time to focus on one thing – but there’s always a spare minute or two for a round of Linked-ing-In-ing.

What do I do with these contacts? An email. A simple email. I send a nice message. Nothing too pushy, just a friendly first contact. And then, almost immediately, I fret. Why haven’t they replied? Did it reach them? Was it too simple? Was it rude? Did I spell their name correctly? Did I spell my name correctly? Did I accidentally slip some Frozen lyrics in there? What if they actually do want to build a snowman? What then?

Perhaps I’m enjoying being shut away a bit too much. There is only Frozen and LinkedIn. I need to work on other things, think about other things. I need to do more contact-contacting stuff in person, speak to some humans, go outside. I think some company is overdue. I’ve started talking to the pictures on the walls.

Daniel Benneworth-Gray is a designer based in York. See and @gray

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