So you've made the leap into a creative career, have your website set up, and are ready to sell your art or services online. But how do you get a following that can take your career to the next level? Marketing is one of the most important aspects to any profession, but particularly if you are working freelance as a creative. It's essential to get your marketing right in order to reach your potential.
For some, selling yourself can be the most difficult part of working on your own. But if you don't know how to market the work you are doing, how can you expect others to invest in your creativity? While marketing can seem overwhelming, there are five basic factors that you'll want to keep in mind in order to successfully reach your core audience and turn their love of your work into a strong, healthy career in the arts.
Here are 5 factors to remember when thinking about how to market your art:
1. Know Your Audience
One of the most basic principles can often be the hardest to articulate. Much in the same way that artists need to articulate why their work is important and who it's for when writing an artist statement, having a firm grasp on who is your audience is a key to starting your marketing. Think about it, if you aren't clear about who you need to be aiming your efforts at, you may find yourself wasting time and not reaching the people who could be your next collectors or clients.
If you aren't completely sure of where to begin, try doing some market research. Look at social networks and see who makes up the audience of the creative that most resembles your genre of work. Organize your findings and before you know it, you'll start to see patterns emerge. This will allow you to know core information about the gender, age, and location of who might be interested in your work.
2. Find Your Audience
Once you have an idea of who your audience is, now you need to understand where to find them and create content to meet their needs. This is where research can again come in handy. Discover the websites and print publications that cater to your audience—these might be future venues to help expose your work to the right people. Our list of the best art blogs and photography websites are a good place to start. Match similar content to your work and find out how to submit your projects for future consideration.
Are there any social networks that cater specifically to your niche? Whether it's Behance for designers and illustrators or Vimeo for filmmakers, you'll want to stay on top of where the top creatives in your field are showing off their work. And once you know where they are, create content consistently. This doesn't always mean simple shots of your work. Think outside the box. For instance, Brazilian wedding photographer Gilmar Silva has created huge buzz for his photography business by posting clever images that show what his workday is like behind the scenes. It's not only garnered him a huge Instagram following, but also put his name—and website—on publications around the world.
3. Engage with Your Audience
Engaging with your audience isn't only about responding to online comments. Accepting speaking engagements, joining community groups, and pushing in-person contact is still a huge part of building a following. Mingling at a gallery opening or giving a free talk at a conference can be wonderful ways to build your name and practice your ability to clearly articulate your creative vision.
Putting yourself out there both in person and via social media creates a stronger connection with the person behind the art. This will help build trust and a long-term relationship that lasts beyond a simple like. Letting people into your creative process and becoming a storyteller when it comes to your work can pay dividends, especially when we look at the next factor. And, though it may seem silly, being kind and polite goes a long way. Not only is it professional, it's simply something that people remember and makes them want to stick with you.
4. Convert Your Fans Into Customers
So you've worked hard to build your following and earn their trust. How do you turn those fans into clients or collectors? Some of this depends on what path your career takes. If you are selling on Etsy or teaching an online class, getting past clients to consistently write reviews can help build up the trust of your brand and lead to more customers. As you build up brand recognition in general, people will naturally become more inclined to invest in your creations. This makes the building blocks of your marketing, and the first clients they bring, so important. If you are working with the right audience and they are invested in you, they are more likely to be your best advocates.
5. Keep in Contact and Build Relationships
As you build up your following and continue to advance in your career, it's vital to maintain the relationships you've formed along the way. This can mean everything from sending a monthly newsletter to keep everyone updated on your new projects to running free giveaways to reward your loyal fans. You may also want to keep a list of key contacts who are especially important and select one or two people a month to reach out to. Keeping these lines of communication alive, especially just to say hello without asking anything in return, may benefit you in the future. You never know when the next big opportunity might arise, and if you are at the forefront of your audience's mind, they'll think of you first.