Marketing Your Art: Responding to What Moves You
Early on in my self-employed career, I was going through that phase where you seek out a million articles on how to market your work. Fear drives that process more than true learning and pretty soon you’re overwhelmed. Everyone has an opinion about how you should market your work, what you should and shouldn’t do, and the deadly sins to avoid. At that time there was a huge push toward internet information marketing, and at that time, everything in me said: no.
I didn’t want to run an internet information business. I didn’t want to grow a list. I didn’t want to do A, B, & C and get E, F & G. It felt pushy, it felt inauthentic. I still cringe at those long-form web pages that try to convince you of how much you’re getting while you scroll for miles to find the “discounted” price is $299.
Oh, I understood the sales logic behind it all. But it wasn’t me.
And when you’re just starting out, you aren’t sure if it’s okay to be you. What if you do it wrong? What if everyone else is right? I was in that confused state when I ran across the following short blog post by artist Keri Smith, whose message gave me permission to be me and whose words of advice I have kept as my guiding light when seeking clients and promoting my work. I’ll let her speak to you here, because her message is what being an artist is about. Authenticity. Trust. Knowing that you are led. Responding to what moves you.
Without knowing it, I have been giving lectures based on a “do-nothing” approach to illustration and design, employing terms like “don’t promote”, “ignore your audience”, “fuck the money.” A recent interview I did goes into this a little more. This is not to say I “do nothing” to promote my work, you do have to put things out in the world so that others can see and respond to them. But I do feel strongly that all of the techniques, calculating, obsessing, entering contests, trying to get awards (annuals), wanting to be a rock star in your field, trying to land “the” great job, trying to be like someone else who is successful, trying to target your portfolio, trying to be cool, and schmoozing, don’t actually help to move your career forward.
If i look back over the course of my career so far, it is only when I stopped trying to do all of those things and focused on the work that the good stuff started to happen. Only when I relinquished control to some extent and focused on the things that moved me did I start to attract some kind of success. And this method of “doing the opposite” of what I was taught required much less effort in the long run. (Instead of sending out hundreds of mailers, as they tell you to do in art school, I sent out a few here and there to places I really responded to.)
So I guess the questions that I learned to ask myself where, “what the hell makes me want to stay up all night so I can work on it, forgetting entirely about the fact that sleep exists as a possibility?” “what makes you get up in the middle of the night to scribble something down?” “what is in my nature?” (NOT “what should go in my portfolio?”, “how do I target an audience?”, “how do I get more work?”) none of the artist’s whose work I respond to try to ‘target an audience’.” – Keri Smith
When we respond to what moves us, we follow our hearts and the Universe’s guidance for what aligns with us.
It’s okay to be yourself. It’s more than okay, it’s necessary.