Whatever your brand of creativity – visual artist, photographer, writer, performer, drag star – there comes a time when you want to stop doing it for your own enjoyment and start doing it for clients with real money. So how do you promote yourself in a way that’s both creative and profitable?
Clearly, a smart and sophisticated digital presence is important. You are a creative, so your website and digital assets should reflect your work and brand values. This will often be the first time someone sees your work, so you want to make a good first impression.
It’s important that your online portfolio is up-to-date, relevant and beautiful. And while smart is good, too smart can be off-putting. It is important to strike a balance between sophistication and accessibility. You need to make it easy for your subscribers and customers to find what they want and contact you, make a purchase or make a reservation.
It’s also important that it tells your story – you’re more than just a resume. Create a narrative that mixes fact with emotion to really resonate with your audience. In branding terms, it’s called narrative storytelling, and it’s extremely impactful.
But your digital presence is just one part of a comprehensive promotion and engagement campaign. And even creative people sometimes lack inspiration for their own marketing. If you can release some of your creative energy in a purposeful and strategic way, you will soon start seeing results.
Cross your barriers
But first let’s take a small leap to the left and then a step to the right, because even before the marketing comes your confidence in what you do. As Steven Pressfield says in his bestseller The War of Art: Break the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battlesit is very often fear, self-doubt, procrastination and/or perfectionism that are the real obstacles to a successful creative career.
Artist and theorist Stephen Richardson has been creating and exhibiting works of art for decades, here and abroad. he also taught art and design at university. He agrees that self-confidence is key.
“It has to start with self-confidence,” says Richardson. “You need confidence and self-belief to show off yourself and your work. I’ve seen a lot of artists who do great work but don’t have the confidence to knock on gallery doors, portfolio in hand, and say “take a look at this” and sometimes that’s what We have to do.
Self-publish your book
Richardson is currently doing a doctorate in art theory at La Trobe University, 20 years after completing his MVA. He recently published an artist monograph to accompany his exhibition The empty object.
“Self-publishing is so sophisticated now that you can produce an extremely professional book for very little cost. I had them for sale at the exhibition; I also gave away a copy to anyone who purchased a work from It’s another way to get my name and work out there, and tick another professional box. There are plenty of self-publishing platforms available online, but Richardson recommends Lulu Press.
Don’t work for free
Author Jeff Goins challenged the myth of the starving artist with True Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies to Thrive in the New Creative Era, his book for creatives published in 2017. Divided into three sections – Mindset, Market and Money – this bestselling book is part self-help guru and part practical. With chapters like Cultivate Patrons, Diversify Your Portfolio, and Earn Money to Make Art, it’s both helpful and inspiring. One of the key messages is found in Chapter 9 – Don’t work for free.
This is a very important element for any emerging or budding creation. We’ve all had those clients who said to us “listen, there’s no budget, but we’ll give you great visibility” asking you to work for free. These approaches should be treated with extreme caution. Try asking your local tradesman the same thing: “Look, I can’t pay you to fix my plumbing, but I’ll say some really nice things about you on social media.”
Scroll through any of the social media groups for creatives and you’ll see people from all walks of life who are frustrated with this kind of approach. And while there may be times when you want to give something away, there has to be a good reason and the value of that work has to be part of your marketing budget.
But you can give it!
Visual and conceptual artist Geoffrey Gifford donates work as part of his planned engagement and promotion strategy. Each month, one of its subscribers wins a signed and numbered draw worth $495.
“I know giving away your artwork sounds shocking and paradoxical, but it does attract attention in a positive way,” says Gifford, who also does large-scale 3D artwork. “Obviously, the choice of work is important. I choose the prints because they are multiple and can be shipped anywhere.
“The short-term plan is to get more subscribers; the long-term plan is to migrate those subscribers to buyers. I’ve grown my mailing list by 50% and can now send more emails personalized to these new members.”
Gifford says giving a gift allows you to introduce yourself and your art to people who might otherwise never see your work in person.
The multiplier effect
“When a winner receives an artwork and displays it in their home, they have a relationship with you that grows over time. And it multiplies too. Their friends see it, they mention their win on social media and thus it introduces your work to another new audience.
There is also the positive endorsement value of recipient comments and reviews. One winner recently commented “Hey, I’m loving my print more and more.” Seeing new things, a new shape and a new color. So pretty. Thanks!’
Always be sure to capture any positive testimonials to promote your work and use them as a great sales tool as well. And, as Gifford observes, true works of art cannot be flipped in a second and forgotten like all those images in the digital world.
Donate to a good cause
Another interesting avenue to donate your work can be a donation to a fundraising auction. This works well if the organization or cause aligns with your personal values and if there are synergies between their audience and yours. People will see your work, at the event and online, and a well-heeled audience can drive up the price as well, which is great for you and the organization.
As your creative career progresses, there will come a time when you want (and can afford!) to hire a professional to handle your publicity and help promote your work. But in the meantime, it’s a great idea to learn the basics of marketing and public relations to help you connect with the media and your audience.
Learn how to DIY your RP
Libby Trainor Parker is a writer, performer, and arts entrepreneur who knows how hard it is to get by and get your point across. She created a DIY PR workshop specifically for the creative industries.
“I’ve worked as an artist and publicist and arts journalist, so I designed a workshop from all of those angles to help artists put together a press kit, write a press release, and pitch to the press. , so they can promote their work,” says Trainor Parker. And although she knows it’s not easy, she’s happy to share all of her hard-learned secrets.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to get a story out there, but with a great lede (journalistic hook) and a great photo, it’s easier to shout your story out to those who need to hear it,” she says.
Read: Tips for maximizing your open studio event
Workshops cover everything from writing stunning press releases to presentation etiquette and creative ways to market your artistic endeavors via social media, newsletters, websites and other creative means.
“Finding the time to craft a marketing calendar can be daunting, but with a basic strategy, it gets ahead and becomes manageable. It can even be a lot of fun,” she says. hire a publicist and sometimes it’s easier and more cost-effective to do it yourself and pair it with a solid marketing strategy.”
Use local resources
Although these DIY PR workshops take place at Prompt Creative in Adelaide, where Trainor Parker is based, you can find similar ones across the country. Many professional associations, such as those for writers, filmmakers or artists, run courses on how to promote your work, marketing and public relations. You can also check out small business groups, adult education centers and local libraries. It can be time and money well spent.
Get your job in nature!
And the final word on distribution of your work goes to artist Geoffrey Gifford. “As an artist, your role is to affect people on some level. A true work of art in nature is the best way to reach people and have a lasting impact. So get your work in nature and see what happens!