5 Ways to Promote Your Work

This post was originally written for artists, but its contents will apply to many freelancers as well. Whether you’re a writer, an actor, a designer or a band, all those seeking to make a living off their creative work must also take on the daunting task of self promotion. If you don’t, you will more than likely perish in the sea of other creatives working harder at getting seen than you.

Creating great work is essential, but in today’s market it is not enough. You need to be seen.

In the time I ran Another Passion, I interviewed many different artists and creative professionals, and I started to see patterns. Many don’t do a good job of marketing themselves because they either don’t know what they are doing, or have no interest in it (and thus either avoid it or do a half assed job). I’ve written about this topic before, but this time I will offer 5 specific suggestions.

The thing is, promotion should be part of your process no matter what artform you practice. It is not a bad thing, and you don’t have to “sell out” (which I define as pretending to be something you are not, in order to make a buck). But you do have to put in some time, effort and a little structure.

Here are 5 things you should be doing at the very least. Even if you only do three of them, but do them well, you will start building a stronger following of fans, clients and patrons.

1. Email, email, email!

Few things compare to the power of the email list. There are many good sources on how best to use them, and how not to. There are great services like MailChimp who make it easy and let you get started for free.

Email lists are important, because subscribers on your list are typically more than casually interested in what you’re doing. They want to be kept in the loop, and your job is to do just that. Let them know about upcoming events, progress on current projects or those sweet T-shirts you had made. It doesn’t take that much time to put together a decent email once a month to share the latest news – just keep it relevant and short.

2. Get on Twitter

If you’re not on Twitter, you should be. Once you figure out how to use the service, it becomes an amazing tool for both collaboration, networking and marketing. For free. The key is how you approach it, and again the answer is to keep your fans and followers up to speed with what’s going on, share relevant links and stories that relate to the values you stand for. And most importantly, engage with your followers and follow those you admire as well as those who support you. Twitter is all about sharing, so retweet others when they share something relevant or interesting. Have fun with it!

Twitter might not suit your personality, but give it an honest try. You can find me there – I’m @theprint. And if you end up hating Twitter, try taking your efforts to other social media platforms, such as Facebook, LinkedIn or Etsy (find one or two that fits what you do and the people you want to connect with).

3. Attend Events

As awesome as the web is, nothing beats meeting people face to face. The hardest part is finding the right events to attend, meaning that not everything labeled “networking event” will be for your network.

If you’re in the performing arts, think of every performance as potential networking. You never know who’s watching and might be able to help you later, so try to stay open minded, honest and forthcoming.

Seek out conferences that center around what you do, go to launch parties, performances and premieres when others in your network invite you, or just invite someone you admire out for coffee. Get out there!

4. Share!

You may have already noticed that sharing is a recurring theme here. Sharing is key.

What are the thoughts behind your process? What would you like to achieve through your work? Sharing process, progress and pieces of material is a great way to keep your name fresh in people’s mind, and to assert yourself as an authority within your field.

If you’re a writer, share insights into your work, give away a short story for people to sample. If you’re a painter, show us your sketches as well as your final work. If you’re a game designer, give us a demo! You get the idea.

Being personable and engaging will get you attention, but in the end it’s your work that will make you money. Make sure your work is never far away, so those interested can check it out and get in touch. Which leads me to the final point…

5. Stop Reading and Start Producing

Maybe you’re reading this hoping for inspiration, or maybe you’re procrastinating. Almost all of us do this on a regular basis, instead of spending the time and energy on actually producing work. However, at the end of the day it’s the work that counts.

No amount of self-help books and how-to articles is going to make you successful. Only you and the effort you put in can do that, with help from your network – but you have to take the first step and lead the way. Don’t wait for inspiration to strike or some angel patron to pave the way, start producing and shipping right now.

Pre-Launch Thoughts on Nebula Rescue

Nebula Rescue is not the first video game I have designed, but it is the first game I’ve decided to release to the public. Now I am trying to get the word out and ultimately justify the work I put into it, and the investment in software — hopefully allowing me to make more (and more complex) games.

OctoBoss ship from Nebula Rescue
OctoBoss ship from Nebula Rescue
Releasing one little indie arcade game is not likely to make me the next Notch. If I can cover my fairly low expenses within six months, I’ll consider it worthwhile from a financial standpoint (anything beyond that is pure awesome). For me, the real success lies in making a game people enjoy playing. All I want, is for someone else to beat my high score and have fun doing it.

Games are a fantastic way to tell stories, and I have many more to share. For this game, I kept things simple to learn as much as possible, which of course led to more ideas and things I’d like to try. Collaboration for one, instead of doing everything from composing the music and drawing “graphics” to most of the testing and balancing the game logic, myself.

Later, I’d like to make a game that ties into Norkol – the fantasy world I have been building for my fiction (and pen and paper gaming campaign). There are also ideas floating around for follow ups (and expansions) to Nebula Rescue. But for now, I am starting to promote while still adding the final details to the game. Fully aware that I can never compete with design studios that have actual budgets and teams of professionals, but still excited as hell to release this little game I made…

Show your support: Like Nebula Rescue on Facebook and stay updated!

Too Many Artists are (Still) Not Promoting Themselves

This post was inspired by a post about a video series I worked on. For that project, I promoted six local poets and was shocked to see how few of them had any kind of online presence to go with the videos.

Unfortunately, artists of all types have a real problem promoting their own work. I talk to a lot of different artist as part of my work with Another Passion, but even as a kid, I saw the same pattern with my dad and some of his artist pals. There seems to be a mental block, preventing many creatives from promoting their work, or thinking of it as a product to sell.

With all the tools available online, there really is no excuse for not using at least one of them to get more eyeballs on your work.

Some turn up their noses at self promotion, claiming that a real artist won’t need to sell themselves because quality work will attract attention automagically. Nothing could be more wrong. No one is going to “discover” you, unless you put yourself out there to be discovered.

Then there are those who are simply overwhelmed, not knowing where to begin. That I can at least understand. The options are many and you can spend all your time fiddling here and there, not really accomplishing anything. Or you can lose yourself reading books, posts and articles, trying to figure out whether it’s better to take up tweeting or blogging, videos or podcasting, Google+ or Facebook — if you even get that far.

The answer is simple: pick something that suits your personality, stop procrastinating and use it! The thing is, they are all good tools if you use them consistently and well.

Choosing the right tools is a personal matter more than anything else. If you hate being in front of a camera, YouTube is not for you. If you are dyslexic, perhaps talking is better than writing. The point is, there are options for everyone.

Being overwhelmed by the choices is a matter of eliminating the ones you don’t like and making an executive decision. With a day of research, anyone can learn the differences between the available tools and decide on one or two to go with. Learn the ins and out of your chosen tools, the basics first, the details can come as you go. With someone guiding you, you can get started within a day.

You have to see self-promotion as part of the creation process, just like putting the milk back in the fridge is part of eating a bowl of corn flakes. It’s not the most fun part, but it’s necessary. It should never be an afterthought, or something you’ll do when you get around to it, maybe next weekend or when the kids are asleep. If you leave the milk out all day, chances are you’ll be eating dry cereal tomorrow morning.

It pains me to see so much wasted talent, so I have started taking on artists who need a helping hand. Right now, I’m helping my neighbor who’s a working musician with a degree, massive skills and a great personality. He is not computer illiterate either, just overwhelmed and somewhat easily distracted. I’m giving him weekly assignments along with encouragement to explore further. You can follow his efforts here.

I very much enjoy coaching artists, helping them build confidence, aim higher and get a wider reach. If you’re an artist struggling with self promotion, you are welcome to contact me.