F*ck Being a Starving Artist: How Creatives Can Help Themselves

Recently, I was invited to speak on a panel about ways patrons of the arts could better support creatives (artists, musicians, writers etc.) in their communities. It was my first time public speaking and I was the youngest person on the panel, so I was understandably a bit nervous.

The questions from the moderator focused on what creatives would find helpful in terms of support as well as how their fans could best promote them and distribute their work.

Many wonderful ideas and suggestions were shared by my fellow panelists as well as by the very vocal crowd that evening. But, my answer was ridiculously simple, and — luckily — well-received by everyone present.

My message was this:

“Creatives need to learn how to help themselves.”

May not sound like such a novel idea, but unfortunately, many are not doing much to put themselves get out there. I think there are a couple reasons why this is the case.

 

Not sure how

For one thing, a super talented creative is not always entrepreneurial or business-minded just as an entrepreneur is not always so gifted in the arts. A person may have a great deal of skills and creative talent, but not may not be so educated or interested in the business side of things.

However, if a creative wants to have any hope of monetizing their art, they need to approach it like a business. No doubt, a great creative spends a lot of time making great art and honing their craft. But, a financially successful creative who makes a good living from their work also has to learn how to be their own best advocate.

 

Not comfortable with promoting themselves

The problem is many artists don’t feel comfortable selling themselves. They prefer to be “discovered.” They hope their work will speak for itself. I totally understand this, because I once thought the same way. Promoting myself seemed fake and kind of sleazy to me.

If you’re a creative struggling to get noticed, please listen to me. Advocating for yourself will not cheapen your art. It will not compromise your creativity. The patrons, talent scouts, and recording labels are not going to come knocking on your door. They aren’t coming to you. They don’t even know who you are and they don’t care. You need to give them reason to care or, better yet, just bypass them!

The traditional gatekeepers — radio stations, art galleries, television stations, magazines, book publishers etc. — no longer have a monopoly over deciding what creative gets out to the masses. Today, digital platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Medium, and Instagram allow you to easily connect to those who would appreciate your art and build a following.

The best part is you don’t even have to do much “self-promoting.” In fact, that’s not always a good idea, especially on social media where content that doesn’t provide value gets lost in the feed. Instead, share your genuine passion for what you do and authentically engage with your audience, no matter how big or small. And share regularly!

 

Fear of rejection

Perhaps, you create art for its own sake and you don’t care what other people think so long as you’re proud of it. If so, mazel tov! Good for you. You don’t have to show your art to the world or try to get it out there.

However, if you do want to earn some recognition and/or profit from your art, then you will have to just get over this one. There’s not much I can say other than don’t be afraid to face the market. If you’re paralyzed by fear, there’s no hope of getting off the ground.

 

Save your creativity for your art

First of all, you need to be on social media and you need to post content regularly. If you have any hang-ups or bugaboos about it, please try your best to get over them. Because, if you don’t have a presence on the major online platforms and channels where most consumer attention is directed (YouTube, Facebook, SnapChat, Instagram etc.) and you don’t put out content that is mobile friendly, you essentially don’t exist. Time consuming? Yes. Worth it? Hell yes. So, make the time.

But, here’s the good news. You don’t have to be super creative in your branding and marketing. Save that for your art. And you don’t have to spend so much time trying to figure out what to create, share, or talk about. Simply document your creative process or your journey of trying to get your art out there and make your dreams come true. Don’t overthink it. Share your story. Share your work, show people how you do it, and engage, engage, engage!

Talk to your fans and interact with them even if you only have a handful. Directly message or tweet at those who might be interested in your stuff or who might be able to help you and offer them something of value in exchange. Don’t wait for people to come to you. Be proactive, go on the offense, and boldly seek others out. I’ve been doing this for about a year now and I promise you that it really works! In fact, I know that I’d be further along if I only did it more often.

 

F*ck being a starving artist

The stereotype of the “starving artist” is a harmful one and it needs to be done away with for good. Be your own best advocate. Go get what you want, actively pursue meaningful relationships, don’t be afraid to talk to people who can help you, engage with your followers, and share your stuff with the world! Enough sitting around waiting for the phone to ring or waiting to hear back from the publisher. Take matters into your own hands. This is the only way you’re going to get your stuff out there and find a market for your art, which will support you and enable you to spend more of your time creating and less time waiting.

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What if My Content Helps My Competitors?

When creating content, some think you should be careful not to reveal too much.

Perhaps, you should hide your “secret sauce” behind a paywall. Isn’t it all about giving just enough to make them want more?

Wrong.

Your content should provide value to your audience in and of itself. In other words, your free content — whether it be a blog post, a YouTube video, or a Facebook post — should be able to stand on its own as something valuable to the user.

A common fear about sharing content for free is that the competition might use it to compete more effectively. Another concern is that prospects may benefit from it to the extent that they will not need to do business with you.

Both concerns are understandable, but invalid.

Here’s why:

 

People want to do business with those who help them.

Prospects in your target market may consume your content and utilize the information, advice, and tips you provide without buying from you. But, ironically, it’s the ones who consume you most religiously that will be more likely to do business with you in the future. As soon as they encounter a situation they cannot handle themselves, you are most likely going to be the solution they turn to.

By helping others, you earn their admiration and trust, which makes them more receptive to your sales messages. The helpfulness of your content is known as its “Youtility,” a term coined by Convince&Convert CEO, Jay Baer. Youtility is a specific type of content marketing with a tangible, specific usefulness. Your brand’s short-term youtility can go a long way toward driving more conversions in the long run.

 

Competition – So what?

When it comes to business, it’s well known that execution is more important than ideas. Everyone has great ideas, but few implement them successfully. So, when you share ideas, tips, solutions, or ‘how-to’s,’ you can rest assured that most people who consume your content will never execute or follow through on your advice anyway. Most people are too lazy to do the work, don’t make the time, or are simply not as talented as you are in your area of expertise.

And, most of the people who attempt to copy your tactics without the substance will look hollow and cheap by comparison, even if they do see some gains from it. Those who actually do use the advice you provide in your content to their advantage and go on to be successful will be few and far between.

 

Collaborate.

Let’s not pretend everything is always “rainbows and gum drops.” This is business. Inevitably, there will always be competition. But, one can measure one’s success by looking to improve rather than by trying to tear others down.

Yes, you’ll always have competition, but your content can also gain you allies. While your content may help competitors or even generate new ones, it will also earn you more attention, respect, and admiration from others. Those who benefited from your content will feel more positively disposed toward your brand and, in some cases, may even feel a debt of gratitude. By getting more people to “like” you, your brand wins more supporters, or “cheerleaders,” who will want to partner or work with you. Pooling your resources, you can come up with ways to help one another grow and succeed.

 

Benefits outweigh the potential costs.

When it’s all said and done, sharing quality content will win you valuable relationships –clients, advocates, collaborators, partners, and investors — that will outweigh the annoyance of copycat competitors. As much as it might inspire competition, your content will also win over more prospects, put you on the map, and essentially drive more business than it will cost you.

When creating informative or useful content that attracts your target audience, you assume the risk of inadvertently helping your competition in the process. It’s just part of the price you pay for getting noticed, earning trust, and establishing credibility. Without putting out valuable content, you will not even be able to get your foot in the door of today’s competitive market, so you have no choice, but to do it. Dealing with the competition is simply a reality of doing business. Suck it up.

Think of benefiting the competition with your content as the cost of getting business. It’s worth it.

People Don’t Buy What You Sell. They Buy What You Believe.

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Whether you are selling a message of peace, justice, and equality for all or you’re selling a product, remember that people don’t buy what it is you “sell.” They buy, because they share your belief.

If you want to make a positive change in the world, your message needs to reach those who believe what you believe. But that can only happen if you first have the courage of conviction to believe in yourself.

And even if you believe in yourself and you believe wholeheartedly in your message, you still have to effectively communicate your belief to others. If you cannot communicate it in a way that touches and inspires others, your message, no matter how noble, will fail reach the hearts and minds you wish to reach.

On #MLKDay we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., a man with a dream and a vision that forever changed the world for the better. Let us have the same courage of conviction to continue the progress he helped start.

I credit the ideas in this post to a book I recently finished called Start with Why by Simon Sinek. This book is an absolute must-read for anyone who aspires to be a leader in any capacity. 

The Best Way a Freelancer Can Attract New Clients

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“How do you get clients?”

This is probably the question I’m most frequently asked.

Many new freelancers get stuck when it comes to finding new clients. Acquiring clients can certainly be challenging, especially when you’re starting out. If no one knows who you are, how are you supposed to get new business?

Since I started in May 2016, I’ve experimented with several methods of getting clients. A new freelancer should certainly try every possible tactic at his or her disposal. However, I have found that the best way to get new business is to create and share content online.

Create content to get noticed.

Rather than trying to find the clients, let them find you!

Create content that attracts and pulls them in rather than spend so much time and money on pushing your wares on people who may not be interested.

In an age where people often tune out ads and ignore interruptive, outbound forms of marketing, creating content that informs or inspires is a great way to catch the attention of prospects in the marketplace. Not to mention, creating great organic content online is often much cheaper than spending money on advertising.

This is great news for those of us who are a bit more introverted and have a harder time being outgoing. Creating content such as blog posts, whitepapers, videos, podcasts, photos, or infographics that educate, inspire, or in some way provides value can set you apart from the crowd and go toward growing your brand equity. Building a personal brand will keep you from becoming a commodity and allow you to get paid what you’re worth.

Be on social.

Social media is the primary medium of sharing content and communicating with others. Essentially, social media is the Internet. Learn how to navigate popular platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, SnapChat, and Twitter as well as emerging ones such as music.ly and Houseparty. Get good at creating content related to your work that is native to each platform and earns shares, retweets, repins, or likes.

Be consistent in order to build an audience.

When you frequently and consistently churn out content that provides value, your efforts will not go unnoticed or unappreciated. People like doing business with people they know (or feel like they know). By giving people things that add value to their lives on a daily basis (a laugh, a dose of motivation, knowledge about an industry or niche market), you will slowly build a relationship with your audience.

Investing the time and effort necessary to create a relationship with the prospect before going in for the ask is well worth it. If people feel like you produce content for their benefit and in their best interests and not only for your benefit and in your best interest, they will be much more open to accepting your offer when you go in for the sale.

Besides helping to establish yourself as a “thought leader” (a cliche term that makes me nauseous just thinking about it), great content can truly help your audience filter the vast amount of information out there into something useful to them.

Find Make the time. 

The challenge for some freelancers is making the time to create content on top of the work they must do for current clients. It’s sometimes too easy for freelancers to be satisfied with their current workload, but a viable business requires a steady flow of leads and sales. You cannot rest on your laurels! That’s why it’s important to create a content schedule and set aside time each day or week to come up with content that will attract qualified leads.

Not necessary to reinvent the wheel.

Creating content doesn’t have to be extremely challenging or difficult. Not all content has to be original. About fifty percent of it can be curated i.e. content you share from elsewhere, but always make sure to provide your own two cents or thoughts on what you share.

Most of your content can consist of simply documenting your journey. Take people through your work process, show them how things are made, and share things you are learning along the way that can be of help to others. And if you can do all of this creatively or with a sense of humor, the results will be fantastic. Imagine you have your own reality show “day in the life of a freelancer,” and make it interesting to watch or read about.

If you become prolific at sharing helpful and interesting things online, you will build a brand and stand out in a sea of competition. While it takes a ton of patience and hard work, the results of content marketing is cumulative and, if you are good, it will eventually pay  off.

Now, it’s true that I am a content marketer and may be slightly betterat creating content and building a brand than your average freelancer. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it too. If you’re passionate about whatever it is you do (e.g. sewing handbags, fixing appliances, graphic design etc.), it will shine through and resonate with your audience in a powerful way.

And if you need any help with figuring out your content strategy, you know that you can always send me a message.😉

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Have any questions or suggestions regarding building a personal brand, creating content, or closing new clients?? Feel free to comment below!

You Do Social Media, but You Don’t Think Social

socialmedia

Every day I come across marketing agencies, PR firms, and freelancers who offer social media marketing as a service.

Many of them didn’t start out doing anything with social media. Most of the time they began with print or other forms of digital marketing (SEO, web content, blogging etc.)

But recognizing its importance and value to customers, they have now added social media marketing to their arsenal. In some cases (and this is actually more surprising to me), it’s a new agency which claims to be focused almost solely on social media.

But too often, I’m seeing that while these companies may talk a big game, they don’t seem to really understand what social media is all about. Judging based on their social posts, most of them have not done their homework and have not given the medium sufficient preparation or the respect it deserves.

I can tell that a marketing company doesn’t really ‘get it’ when almost every post is either self-promotional or a promotion for a client. What this tells me is the agency is still thinking in terms of traditional media marketing (e.g. TV, print, and radio). They may have made the shift to social, but they have not yet shifted their mindset to one that understands social media.

Social media marketing – and really all of digital marketing – is about providing value. You don’t have a captive audience the way you do in traditional media. There’s a lot of noise you have to compete with for attention. Therefore, you have to earn that attention.

How do you earn it? You earn it by acting like a human being and more like a media company and less like a marketer. You hit your target audience with content that entertains, inspires, or helps. This keeps people coming back for more and primes them to eventually buy what it is you’re selling when you do eventually go in for the ask.

What really makes me laugh (and cringe) is when a company will post a meme or a video explaining how social media is about providing value rather than talking about oneself, and then almost all of the other posts are self-promotional! And people pay them thousands of dollars in monthly retainers?

It annoys me, because I know if I had the resources, I could show ’em how it’s done, but on the other hand I’m happy, because it will make it easier for me to win once I have my own team. 🙂 working-in-starbucks-east-hampton

Here’s what you have to remember. Nobody goes online to see ads. Nobody wants to be sold to.

If they know you, like you, and feel like they’ve received a lot of value from you, they will not necessarily buy from you, but they will be much more likely to want to give you something in return, which could mean a transaction.

However, if you just go in for the ask without first providing value, you’re like the obnoxious guy at the party who does nothing but talk about himself. It’s like asking to marry someone on the first date. You’re like the dude who tries to go all the way before even saying hello.

Now, I get it. Some people genuinely want to try new economy strategies, but their bosses force them into utilizing dinosaur tactics. You feel pressure to show a tangible ROI to your boss or to your clients.

But if you want to win on social, you need to start acting socially. It’s not social to be talking about yourself all day. That’s lame. No one wants to hang out with people like that. You need to behave like an individual and actually contribute to the conversation. In that respect, social media marketing is very counter-intuitive for marketers and brands, but it’s very natural (and fun) when you allow yourself to respect the medium on its own terms.

Social media marketing does not provide as much instant gratification as do other forms of marketing. It takes much longer to start getting results, but if you’re patient and you spend time listening to your audience, take the time to learn about and respect the individual social platforms, and you create good content consistently, you will win in the long-run.

Your hard work and patience will pay off and leave your competition in the dust. But if you try using short-cuts and don’t invest the time and energy that is needed to build and strengthen consumer relationships, you will never get off the ground.

So, don’t just say you do social media. Start thinking and acting like it.

 

 

How to Hack the Instagram Hashtag

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There are many ways to hack Instagram. But if you’re trying to boost engagement and get likes and comments on your posts, learning how to properly use hashtags is essential.

Ironically, while Twitter was the first to popularize the almighty hashtag and is the network we most often associate with hashtags in popular culture, Instagram’s algorithm encourages more hashtag usage than does the algorithm of any other platform, so why not use Instagram hashtags to your advantage?

Mastering the art and science of Instagram hashtags can be tricky. But the key to getting your posts in front of more people, as well as the right people, is making sure your posts show up as Top Posts for your targeted hashtags.

How Top Posts Work

Instagram Top Posts appear as the first 9 images that pop up when you click on a hashtag or enter a tag into Instagram’s search bar. These top posts are what Instagram has decided are the best posts using that hashtag and they are the first ones users see when they look for anything associated with that hashtag. By getting your content to appear in Top Posts, your images will gain more impressions and exposure.

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Images that make it into Top Posts stay at the top longer, and unlike the Most Recent section below it, Top Posts aren’t in chronological order. Rather, they are based on the amount of user engagement or interaction with the post within a finite amount of time.

How to Consistently Make it into Top Posts

I doubt anyone outside of Instagram’s staff actually knows the platform’s algorithm, but I discovered a nice little trick to get more likes on posts through my own experiences of trial and error using Instagram. I did not have a large following (and I still don’t have a super huge following), but I wanted my posts to receive more meaningful engagement and my profile to accrue more targeted followers who would be truly interested in my content. To do that, my posts would have to show up for the right people – the sort of people whom I want to attract.

brilliant

Most people think of Instagram as a social media network and that is true, but I realized Instagram (like Twitter) is actually a search engine as well, and a powerful one at that.

Applying what I knew about search engines, I decided it would be better to rank higher i.e. get into Top Posts for narrow, niche hashtags that specifically target the audience with whom I wished to interact. I also wanted to get more exposure on hashtags with a wide enough following to be relevant, but a small enough following so as to minimize competition for the coveted Top Posts section.

I began to research ‘long-tail,’ niche or targeted hashtags that relate to my audience and my business to see how many previous posts each hashtag had. Those with a low enough number of posts to make competition for the top spot low, but a high enough number of posts to get a significant number of eyeballs on my posts were deemed worthy of use.

I now consistently (or at least most of the time) make it into the Top Posts section for hashtags like #businessstrategy, #contentwriter, and #internetbusiness, which is useful to me as a freelance copywriter and marketer. Occasionally, I get into Top Posts for even more popular hashtags such as #copywriting and #contentwriting. I also use more popular hashtags like #marketing, #contentmarketing, and #freelance.

Note: No, I’m not scared that some of you are going to ‘steal’ those hashtags, because I welcome the competition and you will not defeat me. Bring it, #&%$*!  🙂

While these narrow hashtags are the most helpful, I still use broad hashtags when appropriate that are based on specific themes related to the image or general trends. Examples include #summer, #grind, #hustle, #MotivationMonday, and #creative.

I do this because the post will briefly appear at the top of the Most Recent section of some very popular hashtags, which increases the likelihood that the post will be seen and and pick up a few likes quickly after it is posted before it disappears down into the Most Recent section of those popular hashtags. In the short-run, this may attract likes from people outside my target audience, bots, and fake or fickle followers, but I’m cool with that. It’s OK, because these first few likes will tell Instagram that the post is valuable, which will get the post bumped up higher into Top Posts for the narrow hashtags.

Once I’m in the Top Posts section for the targeted hashtags that I was aiming for, I’ll be up there for a while achieving more visibility, more likes for a longer period of time, and new followers who are actually interested in topics related to my brand.

Don’t Underestimate Most Recent: 

While landing in the Top Posts section is far more valuable than being at the top of the Most Recent section, over-indexing for Most Recent on narrow, long-tail, targeted hashtags that relate to your brand is also a smart strategy.

Remaining at the top of the Most Recent section for a long period of time ensures that even when your post has faded away from the Top Post limelight, you can continue to mine that post’s equity. For narrow hashtags, you may stay at the top of the Most Recent section for a especially long time, because the hashtag receives new posts so infrequently. When your content dominates the Most Recent feed for a niche hashtag, this can keep you at the top of mind for the people you wish to target. You may also gain more likes and find yourself back in the Top Posts section now and then.

Furthermore, if you begin to dominate the Most Recent section of a given hashtag, you’ll become the account most associated with that hashtag on Instagram, which can be a tremendous asset to your branding efforts.

Branded Hashtags

Another important strategy, which could very well be the subject of its own blog post, is leveraging branded hashtags.

Branded hashtags are hashtags that relate specifically to your business. Creating a hashtag that is specific to your business, such as one that features the name of your business or one of your campaigns e.g. #madewithchobani (Chobani) or #OfficeHack (Staples), can go a long way toward crafting a brand on Instagram.

Experiment with several branded hashtags and reuse the ones that receive the best results. If one of your branded hashtags starts trending, more attention will be shifted directly to your brand.

Good luck and if you found this post helpful, please follow me on Instagram @zevg1 for more inspiring, useful content related to digital marketing! #followmenow #thanksforreading #GoGetEm

 

Research, Research, Research!

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I’m often asked questions such as these:

“What should I be doing to improve on Facebook or Instagram?

“Is this piece of ad copy good?”

“How do I get more followers?”

“What should the offer be in my search engine advertisements?”

It is often the case that behind these questions is the all-too common blunder of putting tactics before strategy. There is a world of difference between strategy and tactics.

A strategy is an overall plan of action designed to achieve a certain aim. A tactic is a method one implements as part of achieving that aim. In other words, your strategy may be comprised of a variety of tactics that help you reach your goals.

According to diffen.com,

“A strategy is a larger, overall plan that can comprise several tactics, which are smaller, focused, less impactful plans that are part of the overall plan.”

A frequent problem in the world of marketing is a rush headlong into tactics without first fomenting a proper and guided strategy. The problems that can arise when implementing tactics without a strategy already in place could be the subject of a much larger post.

However, here we will focus on the one thing that must be done even before creating a strategy:

Research

Yes, research. I know time is money. There is an insatiable urge to just get it all out there. We want results NOW. But without doing research all your marketing efforts will have been in vain.

According to Hubspot, a good marketing strategy must be built upon specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals (SMART). But how do you know your goals meet such criteria? How can one determine one’s goals in the first place?

The answer is research.

Although it doesn’t sound sexy, you must first spend some time doing research before you get started.  You must research such data as, demographics, market trends, and your current clients and customers. This will enable you to set SMART goals, develop accurate buyer personas to target, and figure out how to optimize in order to reach your objectives.

And research is not only something to be done at the beginning. You must research throughout the entirety of every single campaign and optimize accordingly.

The data revolution has brought with it the ability and the need to constantly research our marketing campaigns. Research is required at all stages of a campaign from awareness to consideration to decision.

So, before you worry about what to post on Facebook, first determine if Facebook is even the channel where you should be devoting most of your time and resources. Identify your ideal customers and find out where they hang out online before choosing which social networks on which to focus your efforts.

Before writing a piece of copy or trying to determine its effectiveness, do some research to find out who is your target audience and what are their pain-points, problems, and concerns. Don’t just try to get followers. Get engaged followers who want to interact with your brand. Your research should guide every piece of content you create and where you distribute it. Use research to guide all of your business decisions.

The only way to be successful in the long run is to take the time to do your due diligence and research, research, research. There’s no getting around it. There are no shortcuts.

Once you have done a sufficient amount of research, don’t be afraid to implement with confidence and then research some more.