Ahhh marketing… one of the nastiest words in the artist’s vocabulary. We fear it, we don’t understand it or we plainly hate it. Marketing sometimes feels… icky. It can make you feel like a conman trying to scam people. It can wake up imposter syndrome feelings and make you wonder if it’s really worth it.
Now, I have good news and bad news for you. The bad news is: if you want to earn money, sell your art or yourself, you will have to do more marketing activities than you are probably comfortable with. The good news is: it doesn’t have to be this difficult, or feel insincere!
Today, I’m going to talk to you about the steps that I take, as an artist, to market myself in the most honest and ethical way I know. And hopefully, it will inspire you too!
Know What Makes You Different
This is something that I hadn’t thought about at first when I created The Part-Time Artist. But it is the most important part of any marketing work that you will ever do for yourself. Some people call it your “Unique Selling Point” (USP): what is it that makes you special, different from other artists in the same field? What do you do well? Who are you that makes the work you do a little more special, a little more extra?
It can be that your art is bubbly and optimistic. Or it can be that you always go the extra mile to perform a service. It can be that you are an excellent communicator. Or simply that you give a lot of love to every project.
This is not an easy question to answer. And it will be even more difficult if you have self-esteem issues or imposter syndrome.
If you really struggle with this, ask your friends and/or people who like your art already. Question them about what exactly attracts them to you or your art. If possible, ask them to give you examples, so instead of “I like your characters in your books”, get something more like “I like that I could relate to that specific character in your last story”. Instead of “you are a good actor”, think “I enjoyed when you were in that specific play because you were very funny”.
Try to summarise your findings, so it’s easier for you to remember. For example, I did this work for The Part-Time Artist recently, because I felt I needed to update my marketing practices, and I came up with three words that define what makes me different:
No-nonsense – Experienced – Approachable
It’s helpful because now that I know my USP, I can communicate these three words in every marketing activity I start. Whether I create flyers, I use social media or I meet people in person, I will always try to include stuff that imply these three qualities.
Know Your Audience
Another thing that is essential to know is: who are you selling to? And this is going to be different depending on what type of field you are in and which goals you find essential.
It goes like this: you need to adapt all your communications to your ideal audience, and make sure that they get the most adapted message for them. What does that mean exactly? Well, for me, it means that if I want to target artistic people, I should not write unnecessary corporate nonsense that would immediately put them off.
If you are a writer, you need to define which type of readers will be interested in your books. If you are a musician, who will listen to your music? And if you are a designer, who will be interested in hiring you?
But the work doesn’t end here. You don’t just need to know who your audience is, you need to know a lot more about them! What are their habits, especially spending habits? Where do they hang? How do they make decisions about purchasing art or hiring artists? Some audiences, for example, only buy stuff that are recommended by influencers they admire. This is the type of crucial information you need to have, so that you don’t exhaust yourself marketing in the wrong direction.
Don’t make the mistake of being too general. Remember, I spoke about your “ideal” audience, in other words your ideal customer, the person you can imagine the best buying what you have to offer. You will very likely get interested people outside of this audience, but that’s absolutely fine.
Perhaps you don’t have an audience yet, or you don’t know who would be interested in buying your art? No problem! Check out other artists who do things similar to you: what type of audience to they get? Who interacts with them on social media? Who buys their art?
What if you are not selling a product but you are selling yourself, i.e. you are an actor who wants to be cast in films or TV. The process is exactly the same. You need to communicate to potential filmmakers and casting directors who would come across your profile, online or in real life. What are they interested in? How do they make casting decisions? Do they only hire people they know?
You should have a pretty good idea of who your audience is and their habits. Take some time to think about it and make sure you write down your findings.
Hone Your Online Marketing Game
Nowadays, a huge portion of marketing for companies is made online. And it is exactly the same for artists. If you are really serious about marketing your art, you need to have an online presence
Website, social media, industry profiles, blog posts, there are a lot of ways to leave a mark of yourself online. I have written a full article about it a few months ago. If you are interested, check it out!
Social media especially is becoming a conduit through which artists can sell more art and make themselves known outside of their local area. I have talked about how you can increase your following on Twitter and Instagram, but a big following doesn’t always guarantee sales. You have to find creative ways to push your products, make them attractive to the audience, and that will strongly depend on your personal ideal audience.
A blog is an excellent way to bring your audience to your website, where they can browse and see what you sell. Youtube is a fantastic way to demonstrate your skills and later send people to things you have created. Creating online galleries can allow you to show your paintings or drawings, and get some commissions.
There are a lot of ways to be online, and I’m pretty sure that if you are reading this, you have probably tested some of them. What do you think you are missing? What needs to be a priority right now? And what can wait?
Don’t Forget IRL Marketing
A lot of people like me do most of their marketing online. I have recently found out, though, that in person marketing can be extremely efficient. Mostly, it is because people who meet you, who have the opportunity to speak with you and see who you are, will be much more inclined to give you money than if you are a faceless online entity. I sell more books during my free workshops than I do online, because the people who attend the workshops have the time to know me, to know what I’m about and I can talk about the book without having to condense it in a tweet or a video.
Where can you meet your audience in real life and talk about art? Are there events, conventions, gatherings, meet ups or networking events where you could meet some of them? I know that networking events have a bad reputation, and I get why. I don’t necessarily like them either, but if you have identified that it is where your audience will be, try to attend one and see how it goes.
If you can’t meet your audience in person, are there places where you can leave a flyer that would attract their attention? Libraries, cafes, schools, any place that they would go to on a regular basis.
Talking about flyers, do you have one? Or a business card? Anything physical that you could give to potential customers if you meet them. It’s important for them, because otherwise they might not know how to find you or your art. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. I use Vistaprint for my business cards and Digital Printing for brochures and flyers.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone…
The hardest part of marketing is that we have to learn new skills or do new stuff, and often it means that we have to do things that we are not comfortable with.
I’m an extrovert, but I get shy when I talk about my books. I tend to feel very uncomfortable when I go to a networking meeting and I don’t know anyone there. I also have a hard time filming myself because I get overly critical about how I look, about how I speak and about every tiny detail in a video.
But the thing is, to market myself, I need to do these things from time to time. I need to get out of the “creating” zone, to get in the “marketing” zone. If not, I would never sell my books!
A good way of seeing these activities is: “I’m going to experiment”. Try to adopt a curious mind when you try new things, and see how they go. Not every marketing idea you have will work, but try not to reject anything until you have tested it. You never know!
… But Don’t Exhaust Yourself!
You might have got a lot of ideas of things to do to market yourself and your art, but I wanted to finish this article with a word of caution.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with marketing, because there is always more to do, more tweets to post, more blogs to write, more videos to make. So when I say “market yourself”, I don’t mean “do everything”. I’m realistic: most of you are already limited in time, and marketing is a very time-consuming activity.
I feel it too! I often feel guilty if I don’t have time to tweet, I haven’t kept up the rhythm of updates for this website, and I feel like I should just do more.
My way of getting around this? I plan my marketing activities the same way I plan everything else. In my weekly planner, I not only have “writing” chunks of time, I also have “marketing” chunks of time. If I’m working from home, my day usually starts with a couple of hours of writing. I could be writing a book, a training or some coaching notes. I call this time my “product development” time. Then, it is followed by “marketing time”. I do it for a couple of hours, then I do something else. I limit the time I think about marketing to these chunks of time, so that I feel less overwhelmed.
Another thing I do to avoid feeling like I have too many different things to do is making a list of all the marketing activities I want to do, and order them by how urgent they are. I absolutely need to send a newsletter before the end of the week? Top of the list. I should tweet about an event, but it’s a few weeks away, bottom of the list. So I go down the list as I work, and if nothing is urgent I just pick the first item I see in the list and do it.
I also try to automatise as much as I can and I use tools that make my life easier. For example, I currently use TweetDeck to automatise tweets about my website, my book, my podcast… I use MailChimp for my newsletter, so that everything is taken care of in terms of privacy and subscribing. I use Mailbutler to get statistics and information about emails that I sent and see if they were open or not. There are LOTS of tools that you can use that will simplify marketing, make it smoother and less time consuming.
Finally, I also pay for services such as design or animation if I need it. I could do it myself but it would probably be much less good than when a professional does it, and it would take me much more time. Sometimes, investing in key people can help you make marketing easier and less stressful. I know we don’t all have lots of money for marketing, but even something as simple as hiring someone on Fiverr to draw a logo for you could make you life easier so don’t automatically discard it.
There’s No Way Around Marketing
You can’t avoid marketing if you want to make money from your art. Of course, you could leave it to chance, but I know out of experience how frustrating it is to spend a lot of time on a product (a book, a painting, a song) and then see that nobody buys it.
You can market yourself in an ethical and honest way, and you are not a scammer if you want people to give you money for what you do. Whether you do it online or in real life, marketing yourself can be a great way to meet future fans and even sometimes lifelong friends!
Any Idea, Objection or Tips?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
Céline is an author and podcaster passionate about helping fellow artists reach their potential and live a happy, balanced life.