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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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!

Nobody Reads Ads

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The famous advertising master of the “Mad Men’ era, Howard Gossage, also known as the “Socrates of San Francisco,” once said: “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.”

When I got my first agency job as a junior copywriter, one of the senior writers had this quote hanging on the wall in front of his desk. This insight is very crucial to keep in mind whenever you are writing copy either for traditional media advertising or for the web.

It’s surprising how many companies fail to remember this sound advice. Instead, brands often end up making the foolish mistake of talking “at” their target audience rather than “to” them. Nowhere is this error made more often than on social media where the conversation is supposed to be just that – a conversation. Not a one-way communication, but a real connection between brands and consumers.

This golden Gossage-ism is even more relevant now than it was then. And I think in the digital age it has taken on a slightly new meaning that is perhaps more poignant now than it was originally intended.

In today’s fast-past world of media bombardment we are totally saturated with content vying for our attention both on traditional mediums (e.g. billboards, print, television, and radio) and on the internet which has predictably come to dominate how we access information.

How many promotional emails did you delete just this morning?! Are you even still reading this?!?!

If so, congrats.

Today, we mostly tune out advertisements with rare exceptions. When you are writing copy, it is not about how funny or cute or creative you can be nearly as much as it is how well you respond to the needs and wants of your audience. Just as in offline interpersonal relationships, one of the most important things you can do is listen, the same goes for any kind of marketing copy. And digital analytics programs as well as social media networks have opened up new avenues that make listening much easier for marketers to do. It is the smart brand who will put in the time to figure out where her audience is hanging out and what are its fears, concerns, questions, and needs.

Nobody will read your ad.

Get over it.

But if you talk about what interests your audience and you speak to its needs, then sometimes your copy will be read. And way more importantly, it will inspire your reader to take the desired call to action.