.....Are the others gone?
Okay, so you're here because you want to know a thing or two about building an audience/selling your creative work. We've already discussed the fact that this is a perfectly acceptable metric of success to have, so if you're feeling at all weird about your desire to profit from your creativity, well, don't. People do it all the time.
But perhaps it's not the idea of making money or growing an audience that skeeves you out, but instead, it's the idea of self-promotion.
I hear you there, man. Self-promotion is one of those truly icky words right up there with "branding" and "moist." No one wants to hear it and no one wants to even think about it.
However, unfortunately, self-promotion is kind of essential. Unless you have the funds to hire a marketing team or an agent to hock your creative product to the masses, it's likely going to be your responsibility to make sure that the word gets out about it. I know, huge bummer.
So in order to start growing a following that will eventually buy what you are selling, you're going to have to get comfortable with the idea of being someone who sells. Since that's the case, let's first examine why you might presently be not-so-comfortable:
Reasons why self-promotion grosses you out
You're a good person.
This is probably the chief reason why self-promotion gives you the sweats. You are a good person. And good people don't want to bother other good people with things like sales pitches or email reminders. These are the kind of people who knock before entering a room, say thank you to their waiter, and buy their loved ones gifts "just because." Good people avoid being pushy at all costs, and therefore, sales just doesn't seem to be in the cards.
You've been on the receiving end of a slimy sales pitch in the past.
You know what it's like to have someone try to sell something to you that you absolutely don't want. Lord knows I've bought my fair share of beauty products, tech gadgets, and Chia Pets simply because a sales person wouldn't stop hovering over my shoulder while I was shopping. It's a feeling not unlike being robbed, and you, as a good person, don't want to make anyone else feel that way.
You don't want to "sell out."
Somewhere along the way, you heard that the process of creating art should be a significant enough reward and that the moment you try to sell, you become a sell-out. Forget the fact that selling your art might afford you the possibility to leave a time-consuming day job and pursue your creative endeavor full-time, thus allowing you to create more art, thus making you better at your craft, thus making your art more interesting, dynamic, and original. Instead, you're afraid that if you sell what you create, you'll inevitably end up in the pocket of some cheesy company like Oscar Meyer Weiner or something.
But here's the thing: you CAN still be a good person, you WON'T be giving a slimy sales pitch, and you AREN'T going to sell out.
Do you know why?
Because, unlike the individuals and companies who have pestered you about buying products and services that may or may not even work, you have one key difference: you believe in what you create. You are not some traveling salesman with a briefcase full of tonics that you are hoping to deceive people into buying. You are a thoughtful, creative person with good intentions. You've made something you are proud of and you want to share it with the world.
And on that note, consider how joyful you feel when you spend money on something that truly has value -- the perfect dress, an unforgettable vacation, a book that changes your life. You don't condemn whoever sold you these things. You thank them for bringing them into your life.
So instead of thinking of selling as selling out, is it possible to instead think of it as a gift? A gift for your audience. A gift for yourself. A total 100% win-win situation.
The Non Icky Way To Sell
So now that we've established that you aren't some creep trying to peddle snake oils, the next question is obvious: how do you do this effectively? How do you develop a passionate audience that cares about you and your work? How do you sell well?
Show Your Work
In the true spirit of his writing, I'm going to go ahead and rip this one straight from creativity expert, Austin Kleon. He has a book called Steal Like An Artist all about learning how to copy your creative heroes in order to create something new and inventive. His second book, however, is called Show Your Work, the whole principle of which is that in order to be found as an artist, you must first make yourself "findable." One of the best ways he suggests doing this is by making your creative process a public experience.
For centuries, the common idea was that the creative process was individual and quite secretive. According to Kleon, "This all made sense in a pre-digital age, when the only way an artist could connect with an audience was through a gallery show or write-up in some fancy art magazine. But today, by taking advantage of the Internet and social media, an artist can share whatever she wants, whenever she wants, at almost no cost."
That's right. Instead of coming out of nowhere with a full-fledged artistic product, you now have the ability to build a relationship with your audience by pulling back the curtain on your creative process in the digital space. You can blog about your experience writing a book while you are writing it. You can share sketches of your fashion line on Instagram while you are designing it. You can tweet your revelations about building a business while you are building it.
This is huge! No longer do you have to create in isolation. Instead, you can start building hype and trust with your audience before you are even done creating the thing that you want to deliver. I mean, think how badly you would want to buy something after walking for months alongside the person who made it. You'd be like, "Hooray! You did it! Take my money please!"
Kleon suggests that the best way to show your work is by "sharing something small every day." Whether it's a sketch, a photo, a pin, a plan, a short video -- whatever it is that will connect your work with others, do it.
Again, you're a good person, but even really good people forget this important rule of business: you have to share. And I'm not just talking about sharing what you've created. Instead, I'm talking about sharing the work of your fellow creatives. It's one of the best ways to be seen as an artist. In fact, many marketing experts subscribe to an "80/20" theory when it comes to promoting your work, meaning that 80% of the things you should share with your audience (your Twitter followers, your Facebook friends, the people following your Instagram feed, your blog readers, etc.), should be the work of others. Only 20% of what you share should be devoted to your own work.
And this might seem counterintuitive in a lot of ways. How on earth are you going to get the word out about your products and services if you're always yammering on about everybody else's?
But here's why this works: generosity begets generosity. When you share someone's blog post on Twitter, they are far more likely to do the same in the future. And not only that, but they are also more likely to investigate who you are and what you are all about, potentially becoming a future part of your audience.
From personal experience, this has been one of the best ways I've grown my influence as a creative online. What I've especially found helpful is sharing the work of creatives with a similar-to-lower following than mine. The reasons: 1) It means they definitely see it (some of the massive blogs or influencers likely miss when their content is shared). 2) They're psyched to be introduced to a new audience. 3) They know what it's like to make something, hoping someone will notice, so they are a lot more likely to return the favor.
But beyond any self-seeking reasons, the most obvious reason to be generous as an artist is because, well, it's the right thing to do. If you love something, share it with the world. Why not?
And by the way, you may be thinking right now, "Holy crap...where in the world am I going to find all of the time to share all of this stuff?" That's where social media scheduling apps come in. Just plug in your tweets, pins, posts, and forget it. My favorite scheduling apps are Buffer and Tailwind.
Give your work away
Here's another one of those outrageous pieces of business advice that seems to make no sense at all: to sell successfully, you have to give your best stuff away for free. No joke, I rebelled against this one for a long time. Give my best stuff away for free? But...but...it's my best stuff.
Even though this sounds like a largely terrible plan, there is a lot of logic to it. When you share a quality blog post, host a free webinar, share a free workbook, create a free downloadable print, you are continuing an ongoing conversation with your audience. You are giving them reasons to trust you, reasons to follow what you are doing.
Giving quality things away for free inspires a really important question in your audience: If this is the kind of stuff she's giving away for free, then how bananas-amazing must her paid stuff be?
Of course, this doesn't mean that you skimp at all on your paid stuff. For example, I can say with full certainty that I've never worked harder on a project than I have on this here course you are in right now. Instead, giving away your best stuff for free means giving an accurate representation of what you have to offer. It means getting people so excited about what it is that you are doing that at some point they decide to pay to join you.
Practical Advice: Start an email list
If you happen to be of the blogging or online business persuasion, you may be familiar with the term "content upgrades." Content upgrades are those free resources that are given away in exchange for an email address (workbooks, digital prints, resource libraries, recordings, etc). This gives people incentive to join your mailing list, i.e. your squad.
But why do you even need an email list?
I asked myself this question for years. I kept seeing other bloggers and writers creating email lists, and I couldn't for the life of me see the value in it. After all, I had a blog. What did I need a newsletter for? And also, what the hell would I say to my email list?
However, as you may have already guessed, I'm kicking myself for not starting my email list sooner. It's easily the best thing I've ever done for my creative business, and I think any type of artist -- writers, designers, photographers, dancers, you name it -- would benefit from creating a significant email presence.
When people sign up to be on your email list OR when they take advantage of a content upgrade, they are essentially signing up for you. They are signing up for what you are going to bring to the table. They are showing themselves to be far more committed than a simple blog reader or Twitter follower. People hate spam, so we tend to be pretty protective of our email. That said, when someone asks you to show up in their inbox, you know they mean business. You know that they might potentially even be a future customer of yours.
And not only that, but your email list is the one and only area of the Internet over which you have full control. You never know if your posts will show up on someone's Facebook feed. Same for Twitter or Pinterest. It's just not a guarantee. But if you can count on one thing in this day and age, it's that people are not going to neglect their email. They check it every day. Likely every hour actually.
That said, you can virtually guarantee that your message will get across to the people who matter. So no matter what you are trying to do -- sell your products or services, expand your blog audience, notify individuals of a creative gathering -- you can rest assured, your people will get the message.
Make it shareable
Remember how Austin Kleon told us to be findable? Well, I'm telling you to be shareable. What I mean by this is that there should be an obvious way to share whatever it is that you create. You may think it's enough to simply have a link. I mean, people know how to share links, right? Yes, of course, but the truth is, as audience members, we are so overwhelmed with information that by the time we even think to share something, we're already on to the next thing.
That's why it's essential to provide a direction for how you would like something to be shared. You'd be amazed at the difference saying, "Pin this!" or "Tweet that!" makes in getting your work shared. Oooor why not add a super direct, clear-as-day button? Like this one:
Oh and blogging/website folks, here's a bit of practical advice that perhaps you already know, but it bears repeating: in an age where Pinterest reigns supremes, don't skimp on creating pinnable images. For many (myself included), Pinterest is the #1 platform to attract potential customers. So when possible, make a title image (the recommended size for Pinterest is 735 pixels wide, 1102 pixels high) that your audience can easily share. It's a small thing that could provide a huge payoff.
Always provide value
Whenever I'm looking to promote something, I never want to simply say, "Hey, I've got this for sale!" or "Look at me, I've got this going on!" Instead, I always package my promotions inside of super valuable content. My reason: I personally hate being on the receiving end of straight up advertisements, even from people I really really like. Something about it just makes me feel like I need to take a shower.
So here's a rule of thumb I've adopted: Everything I send out should be valuable, even for the people who don't end up buying what I'm selling. That means that when I want to promote a webinar, I create a thoughtful, intentionally-crafted email or blog post, usually featuring some kind of major life lesson, and I allow the reader to opt-in for whatever I've got going on. Or not.
This achieves three things: 1) It makes me feel less gross about it. 2) It makes my readers feel way less exhausted by the process, possibly even energized. 3) The energy I provide to my audience often translates to conversions (sales or sign-ups).
Again, it's a win-win-WIN situation. And that's the best kind of sales pitch possible. Again, as an artist, you are putting something out there that you personally believe in. You want it to be seen because you feel that it is worth seeing. And to show that what you create is worth seeing, it's important to package it in something valuable. You wouldn't wrap a diamond in a burrito, amiright? So don't wrap your brilliant works of art in sales-y, impersonal language. Be your damn self, and I'm telling you the right people will show up and appreciate it.
Alright, now that you've taken this little money-making detour, it's time to get back to our final module. You're a peach for being here. Click below to get back.