Showing Your Work


I read Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon a few years ago, and it resonated with me.

At the time, I was just starting to create content online and was struggling to find my voice. I was worried about what people would think of me and afraid of putting myself out there. But, after reading the book, I realized that sharing my work was essential if I wanted to grow as a creator, professional, and person.

What Does It Mean to Show Your Work?

When I say "show your work," I'm referring to sharing your process, progress, and results with others, and can take many forms, such as:

  • Writing blog posts, articles, or insightful tweets
    • "As a developer, ....?" posts are not insightful and make you look like a bot
  • Creating video content
  • Giving talks or presentations
  • Sharing code on GitHub
  • and many more

The medium matters less than the message, but I will challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and try different forms of sharing. You may find that you enjoy writing and have stuck to it for years, but what if you took those words and turned them into a video, a talk, or a podcast?

I am challenging myself to write more. My medium of choice has been video content for the past few years. I hope this will help me grow as a creator and person.

Personal Branding

When you think of personal branding, you may think of cringe-worthy influencers on social media or celebrities uploading every bite of their breakfast to Instagram or every workout to TikTok. While that's certainly one aspect of personal branding, it's different from what I'm referring to here.

I'm talking about establishing yourself as competent, knowledgeable, and trustworthy in your field. I often hear of people having issues getting an interview or a job, and I always ask them the same question: "What have you done to show that you're worth it?" Simply having a portfolio that you copied line by line from a tutorial isn't enough. You must show that you can think critically, solve problems, and work well with others.

When you consistently put yourself out there, share your work, and engage with others, companies will start coming to you. You won't even have to apply for jobs. The interviews will be more about getting to know you as a person and determining culture fit rather than your technical skills, which they already know you have.

Perfection is the Enemy of Progress

Even after creating videos for years, I still struggle with perfectionism. I often spend hours editing a video, only to scrap it because it's not "good enough." But I've learned that perfection is the enemy of progress.

Looking back at my first videos, I see they are mostly terrible, even though I thought they were close to perfect then. I tried to prevent any possible criticism by avoiding confident statements and was afraid to show my face on camera. However, as I continued to create content, I became more comfortable with myself and my work and started to see growth.

Don't get me wrong, I still struggle with perfectionism. You may have noticed that at the time of publishing this article, it has been a few months since I posted a video. I have many ideas, but the thoughts of "What if this is a flop?" or "What if my audience doesn't like it?" keep me from hitting the publish button.

Accept that perfection is unattainable and unrealistic. Instead, focus on progress. Every piece of content you create is a stepping stone to the next one. You will get better with each one, and you will learn from your mistakes.

Handling Criticism

When you put yourself out there, you open yourself up to criticism. It's inevitable. Not everyone will like what you create, and that's okay. You can't please everyone, and you shouldn't try to.

I used to take criticism personally, and when eggbot600 on YouTube left a comment saying my video was trash and I should stick to my day job, my entire day would be ruined. But I've learned that criticism is not a reflection of me as a person but rather a reflection of the person giving it.

When you receive criticism, take a step back and evaluate it. Is it constructive? Is there something you can learn from it? If so, take it to heart and use it to improve. If not, ignore it and move on, or even better, feel pity for the person who felt the need to leave a negative comment for the sake of leaving a negative comment.

Knowing When to Back Down

I'm passionate about the things I create. They are often the result of hours of (mostly unpaid) work, and I put my heart and soul into them. So when someone criticizes my work on a public forum, my first instinct is to defend it.

However, regardless of how many facts or arguments you present, you might never change someone's mind. It's better to back down and move on. You don't have to respond to every comment, and you don't have to engage with every person who disagrees with you.

Getting into heated discussions on Reddit or Twitter wastes your time and energy and hurts your personal brand. You scare away the people who may have been interested in leaving some constructive feedback, and you give the trolls exactly what they want: attention.

Wrapping It Up

Ask yourself these two questions:

  • What's the worst thing that could happen if you put yourself out there?
  • What's the best thing that could happen if you put yourself out there?

The worst thing is that someone leaves a negative comment, or you get fewer views than you hoped. The best thing is that you grow as a creator, get a job offer from a company you admire, or inspire someone to start creating themselves.

I don't know about you, but the best thing is worth the risk of the worst thing. So get out there and show your work. You never know what fruits it may bear.