A few weeks ago I met a talented hobby photographer who got the digital marketing geek in me revved up with ideas on how she could earn a living with her talent.
She showed me an amazing array of beautiful images.
She had technical skill, creative skill, and she had a unique, niche idea. People were already willing to pay her.
She wished she could start earning a living off her photography instead of working in a pizzeria.
But I knew right away she wouldn’t be leaving the pizzeria for a long time when she said this thing I hear a lot from creative people and which makes my geek gears grind to an abrupt halt–
“My website’s not ready so I’m not doing anything yet.”
Her website and branding were not yet perfect, so she wasn’t marketing anything, even on social media.
No, it wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t all that bad, either.
It didn’t look like an 80’s arcade or Yellow Book Page like some websites do!
Thing is, marketing is about building relationships–you can only get better at it by being present in it, almost everyday.
It’s better to just start putting what ever you’ve got out into the world as often as you can so that you can start building an audience you can sell to later–when you’re truly “ready”.
Everyday you waste trying to get your widgets just right, you’re wasting time you could be spending connecting your creative thing to people who might buy it.
Why Creative People Waste Their Creativity
The problem with us creative types is we often try to do many things instead of just getting down to work on the one or two things that really count.
We shoot ourselves in the foot trying out too many mediums, too many ideas, and too many so-called opportunities, because creative people are often curious and spontaneous, and it can be hard to reign in all those bubbling ideas and get organized.
Top all that with our fussiness for things to be visually pleasing and perfect, and you’ve got a creative wasteland.
It’s no wonder so many of us end up poor or working in a job we hate!
Too many creative people are what author Greg McKeown would call ‘Non-Essentialists.’ In his book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, he illustrates how people who cut out everything that isn’t absolutely vital often find success in what they do, while those who try to do too much end up failing.
This book was a big revelation to me, an as to that moment yet undiagnosed non-essentialist.
I remembered back on what a burlesque performer had told me about the start of award-winning New Zealand costume designer Flo Foxworthy’s career–that she had focused on ONE type of product (burlesque feather fans). She got really good at making ONE thing better than anyone else, made a name for herself, then slowly began to expand from there.
Now she is one of the most in-demand costume designers in the southern hemisphere, even recognized by burlesque queen Dita von Teese.
I wish someone had told me this when I started my handmade jewelry business eons ago, but no one did and that biz never made it, so now I’m telling you so you don’t make the same mistake when you start your creative thing.
So, the first step to stop wasting your creativity is to cut out the crap. The second step is to learn digital marketing. Now.
We art students graduate extremely knowledgeable about the art form we studied, and with no fucking clue about how to make a living in anything to do with it unless we choose to stay in academia or become a teacher.
Too often, we art students end up continuing our studies in something unrelated and less fulfilling, or we go on to languish in jobs that slowly suck out our creative souls.
The thing that use to keep us up all night, that we lived and breathed for years, now gets relegated to a couple of hours on the weekend.
Or, as I’ve seen with my creative friends who’ve had kids, our creative thing gets completely shelved and cob-web ridden, and we daydream about when we can get back to it.
Now, when I meet arts students or people doing some creative thing, I get a wild look in my eyes, my hair starts to stand on ends, and I want to shake them by the shoulders and scream, “learn to market yourself or don’t even do it!”
We’re Living in a Golden Age for Artists
Love to write? You can now self-publish your books or earn a living as a blogger.
Do you handcraft or sew things? You can now set-up your own shop and sell stuff to people across the world.
Are you a musician, dancer, or comedian? You can video yourself and create your own t.v channel!
The internet has gifted us creative types with some truly amazing opportunities to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of publishing houses and galleries and directly reach an audience.
We are absolutely living in a golden age for artists–an era where it is now easier to make a living as a creative person than ever before.
Students can bypass employment and go straight into self-employment.
Parents can mind children at home while busy building a business on their laptop.
You’re insane to not take advantage of the opportunities in digital marketing!
But maybe you know all this, and you’re still not doing it.
Creative types often have a stick up their bums when it comes to tooting their own horn about what they love doing.
No one will talk about your creative thing unless you do, so get over your fear of tooting your own horn as soon as you can. Trust me, as soon as you start getting compliments and fans of your work, it gets easier and easier.
Another bum-stick is being able to let go of the thing you poured your heart into. We can become very attached to our creative work. But the first time you take yourself out to a nice champagne dinner on the money you made selling your precious thing, you will get over that, too.
I will never forget the first hundred dollar note I made from my jewelry.
Or the first time I was able to buy my boyfriend a meal at a pub.
It felt like ‘free’ money somehow, because I’d made it doing what I LOVE doing!
There is a lot to learn in digital marketing, but remember the Chinese proverb that it takes one step at a time to climb a mountain.
Digital marketing needs to be the backbone of your creative business, but is also a creative pursuit in itself.
It can be incredibly enjoyable, especially when you start pre-planning your Instagram photos or arranging Pinterest boards to compliment each other, for example.
Get Your Creative Thing Online or It Might Die
I’m not being dramatic here, I already told you how it goes with us.
You either use your creativity to make money out of your creative thing, or you run the risk of your passion getting permanently run off the road later in your life.
Create or waste away.
If you’re creating art, photography, anything, start posting it on your favorite social media platforms and start building an audience. Now.
Build up a LinkedIn profile and start collecting references and make professional connections. Start a blog, a vlog, or open an Etsy shop with just a couple of things.
Find the space most comfortable to you and that is right for what you do.
Learn how to read Google Analytics, and how to build a sales funnel.
You can earn a living from your art, but you need to build an audience first, and learn the ART of marketing.
I’m going to tell you all the things I wished I’d known when I started my creative business. So if this sparks your interest, subscribe to my email list to be notified of my next post for more on how to get started.