Recently I sat in a room full of brilliant women talking
about careers and dreams and goals. One after another I heard hopes of changing
the world through activism, spreading joy, and setting a strong example to
others like themselves. When our formal presentations were finished, talk
turned to social media. Gone was the language of dreams and hopes, of confident
goals and paths forward. Instead, an air of questioning and pleasing replaced
that confident conversation. The language changed to self-doubt and subservience.
In our goals for our careers, it is simple to say I will do X to achieve my dream, because
we recognize the power that we ourselves possess to make those dreams a
reality. But in the realm of social media and marketing, we believe we are subservient
to the greater population.
Much of this ingrained belief comes from entitlement issues
online. Not long ago I fell sick and was unable to keep up with social media
for one full week. I ceased all communication and didn’t touch my phone. When I
finally picked it back up, read my emails, saw my DMs, and took a breath, I was
shocked. I received emails and messages from all types of people with a similar
message: we expect an explanation.
Certainly, there were well-wishes and genuinely concerned
people, but even so, the underlying message (and sometimes overlying), was the
same: a demand for information. This happens in big and small ways, and
sometimes it is the small ways that are the most destructive.
We post an image on Instagram. We hear instant feedback, sometimes in the form of silence. We share an opinion, and we instantly know how people feel about that. This alone is not the problem. The problem is that we, as the sharers, begin to feel that that however someone reacts to our provocation (even if it is silence), is the right way to react. We feel that their reaction validates our contribution.
WE FEEL THAT THEIR REACTION VALIDATES OUR CONTRIBUTION.
This is how we learn about entitlement through social media.
Because our careers, our income streams, or (and this is the heart of the
issue) our self-worth are tied up in how people react to our social offerings,
we become beholden to how people interact with us online.
And it is the acknowledgment of that relationship that
pushes us to explore how to tide the ebb and flow of social media in our favor.
We study charts and graphs, take classes, hire mentors, obsess over SEO, and
for what? To find the best time to
post online, in the most engaging
But really, all we’re doing is finding the most effective
way of being beholden to someone else’s desires.
When I sat in that room of women all sharing “tips and
tricks” for social media, myself included, I recognized the deep emptiness that
had entered the conversation. Why, when we talk about our dreams, do we speak
so confidently about what we will do to make them a reality, but when we talk
about marketing those dreams, we demurely ask how we can serve others?
My social media strategy, if you can call it that, is an intuitive one. I do not study numbers or charts. I don’t care when the best time to share on Instagram is, or what type of post does best, or how to create cohesion in your gallery. Once, I cared. But a lesson, deep and nourishing, crept in at some point:
You can get people to follow your work. You can get people
to take notice, you can post at all the right times, you can build a successful
business by doing “all the right things”. People do it all the time.
But you can build something real and lasting if you let all of that go.
There is a way forward through authentic and intuitive
social media marketing.
It’s called trailblazing. This is my social plan:
Care about what you put out so deeply that others care too, no matter what time you share your post.
Speak about what you care about so deeply that others are compelled to speak back.
Stop worrying about if you will offend or put off or alienate with your work. You will. GOOD.
Let your passion be the light that brings people to you. Not gimmicks. Please not gimmicks.
Let people go. If you lose followers, they were never meant for you.
Stop using the word follower, it’s yucky.
Start conversations that you want to have. Don’t start a conversation if you don’t want to have it.
Find your purpose in everything that you do and share.
Never let the reason for sharing be to satisfy a statistic (ie: when you should post, what you should post, how you should post).
Animals. Ah. Let’s involve our pets, find fake bugs, or photograph animals in the wild. Please, no using animals against their will. Otherwise, enjoy! This challenge should be just that – a challenge. I have two cats. I know how hard it is to get them to obey!
For this week’s challenge, push yourself to see how you can incorporate an animal – living or fake – into your work!
I’ll pull some of the art that I see this week to feature! Use the hashtag #PromotingPassionChallenge so I can find you!
Here is some food for thought. Enjoy the challenge, and remember to push yourself creatively!
In many ways, the dream of being an artist is the dream of being self-employed. Often when we think of working artists, we imagine a jet-setting life of all-the-time creativity. Sometimes that’s true, but statistically, that life isn’t the norm – not by a long shot. Being a full-time creative is about being a businessperson and entrepreneur. It’s about knowing how to manage yourself, how to diversify, and how to live within the confines you set for yourself.
Let’s break that down:
How to manage yourself
How to diversify
How to set boundaries
These are the pillars upon which successful artists build their businesses.
My career, which has spanned nearly 10 years of successful “artisting”, has consisted of adapting as I go. Realizing what works and what doesn’t, fast and with smooth transitions, is the life of an artist.
Here are mytop 10 tips for becoming a successful working artist. Or, for working for yourself in general.
Set boundaries. The self-employment life is alluring, largely for the freedom it will grant you. Especially if you come from a more structured job, it can feel all at once incredible and overwhelming to suddenly have no boundaries. The people I know who are self-employed have an insane work ethic. They know how to prioritize, how to set goals, and how to create structure.
Find your most productive 4 hours of the day. What time do you work best? Figure that out first. If your most productive hours are from 6am-10am (like me), prioritize those hours. Set your most difficult and, if we’re honest, least attractive goals for that time. You will feel naturally more energetic to get them finished.
Don’t let “norms” get in the way of you doing you. A lot of people I’ve mentored feel bad if they hate getting up early. My advice? OWN IT. If you’re a night person, utilize that time to get your work done. You don’t have to fit into a stereotype, and you’ll find yourself much more productive if you simply choose the times that are right for you.
2. Set goals. In this case, I don’t care if you’re not a goal-oriented person. If you’re not, it’s very likely that you will fail at being self-employed. You need to develop an amazing sense of forward momentum to be self-employed, and particularly as an artist. Your mind needs to be able to think in three ways:
The past – note what tactics work and don’t work, but be willing to move on fast. Analyze every decision you’ve made and don’t make the same mistakes twice. Even when you find yourself making great choices, try not to rely on repeating them. Always move a step forward.
The present – know what you want to accomplish day to day.
The future – this is where you can let your big dreams shine. Think about the dreams that you wish your business would embody. After you’ve thought them through, start to set long-term goals to achieve until you fulfill the largeness of the dream down the line.
3. Manage yourself well. Managing yourself has a lot to do with goal setting and organization, but it has equally to do with mindset. It is your job to figure out how you work best (alone or in a group) and where you work best (from home, in public on a laptop, or in an office).
Set up the workspace you will thrive in. Don’t skimp. Many people, especially visual artists, are deeply influenced by their surroundings.
Set up a ritual. Light a candle, put on background music, have tea or coffee, etc. Find a routine that brings you peace. For example, every time I light the candle in my office, my brain knows to settle into work mode. Every time I play a certain playlist of songs, my brain knows to settle into editing mode. It’s great to have comforting sensory cues to dive into work.
4. Diversify, diversify, diversify! I don’t know a single artist – literally, not one single artist – who makes their living through one revenue stream. This is how I’ve made my money: print sales, licensing images for book covers/album art/website design/movie posters, commissioned images for individuals/bands/authors, writing books and articles, teaching workshops, motivational speaking, sponsorship and partnerships, and hosting retreats….That’s 8 categories, and a total of 14 different ways that money might come into my life.
How can you diversify? Think of the ways in which your passions can be profitable. I’ll share a more in-depth version of this topic in the future.
5. Plan, list, calendar, go. “But Brooke, I’m not a list person.” I. Don’t. Care. One thing all self-employed people have in common is they run a tight ship. Either they hire someone to take care of these things for them because they know they don’t excel at it, or they get better at it. I was not an organized person. Some would argue I’m still not. But I have learned how to be a list/calendar/planner person.
Get a physical daily planner. You might balk at this, but my experience is that if I write it down physically, it feels more pertinent and important. It sticks in my head better. I am absolutely addicted to crossing items off a page.
Sync an online calendar. I use Google Calendar for my appointments. I have reminders set to email me 20 minutes before my meetings. I write copious notes about said meetings in the calendar event. I sync my calendar with my husband and a friend who helps me out when I need it.
Make a long-form to do list. I also use the Google suite to do this (tasks in the email client). I keep my everyday items that I want to accomplish in my daily physical planner, but I keep my long-running to do items in my more permanent list in Gmail. These items include things like: Emails to follow up on, people to pay or request payment from in the future, prints to ship, etc. Things that can’t be done today, but need to be done soon.
6. Get your email under control. Seriously. Are you listening? I used to be the worst at email – it would sometimes take me months to write back to people. I lost jobs, contacts, and respect by operating this way. Then I hired an assistant, and things got better, but still weren’t perfect. Then I lost my assistant, and I took over again 100% alone. Guys, I work entirely alone. I have no help. IT CAN BE DONE!
I have a 48-hour email policy. To be honest, it’s more of a 24 hour policy as I almost always respond on a daily basis, but I do take weekends off, so times can vary slightly. Choose a time frame that works for you and stick to it like your career depends on it. Spoiler: it does.
Choose a time to write your emails. I write my emails first thing in the morning. I feel most refreshed then, most eager, and it is the beginning of my peak productivity. I thrive off of getting emails done first thing. It makes me feel mega-accomplished and I love that I can essentially ignore my inbox for the rest of the day.
Write email templates. I get a lot of emails that are essentially the same requests. For example, every single day I get an email from a school student who wants an interview for an assignment. There is no way I could answer all of those emails in the way they want, so I made a template. I send a generic, although very helpful, response to everyone. It essentially says thank you, that I’m busy, and it lists a bunch of links to interviews I’ve done so that they can find what they need there.
Think about what emails you get that you could streamline. Is there a generic response you could copy/paste to them? I save my templates in my email drafts folder and use them as needed. Another template I use frequently is for print requests.
7. Artists, keep charts. I don’t know how you feel, but I feel a deep, intrinsic repulsion to excel spreadsheets. 😀 In all honesty, I really don’t love keeping them, but I so appreciate that I do. Before you even get your business up and running, or if it already is and you need to check yourself, implement the following:
Print Sales Spreadsheet. I keep a detailed list of all the images I’ve printed, where they are (with me or a gallery), if they have sold, when they sold if so, what edition the print is, what size the print is, what paper it is printed on, and the title of each image. Set up this spreadsheet asap and you’ll never lose track of your print info. I use Google Drive for all of this so I can access it anywhere, anytime, from any device (pending internet).
Licensed Image Spreadsheet. Similar to above, I have a sheet that tracks what images are licensed (the terms, the date, the image, etc.).
Income tracker! I’m the worst at this one. Anyone else feel a little yick when it comes to money tracking? My aversion is terrible. It’s not attractive. You know what is attractive? Getting paid what you’re due. Track the money you are owed, and ask for it, too.
8. Create pricing handouts. When I say handout, I mean digital. For example, I have a pricing sheet for my prints that I can pass on to buyers, galleries, and design agencies. It’s a simple JPG that I email to anyone asking that states my print information, sizing/editioning stats, and prices. If you want to make money, chances are you’ll have to state a price. Making a price sheet is a great way of showing someone that you already have prices established and they will be less likely to haggle with you.
9. Find a healthy reward that motivates you. It’s easy to get your emails finished with the promise of cookies afterward, but we can’t very well eat a bunch of cookies on a daily basis. Find a way to motivate yourself that is healthy for you. I have three main ways of motivating myself. One is to go to the grocery store. It sounds weird, but I LOVE grocery shopping. It’s one of my favorite things to do out of the house. If I have a task I’m particularly dreading, I take myself out after to do some meal planning. Either that, or I go for a hike. The second thing I do to motivate myself is a little thing I call “nice cream”. I am sweet obsessed, but too much sugar makes me feel sick. So, I make nice cream (spoiler: it’s just frozen banana, cocoa powder, and oat milk). The third way I motivate myself is to watch TV. I’m a total sci fi lass and I love getting to vegetate for a little while after doing something I don’t like. Find your own motivators!
10. Do you know what every successful entrepreneur that I know has in common? They know their value and how they provide value to others. If ever you lack motivation to create or run your business (and yes, it will happen), make sure you know the answers to those questions. Write down what value you bring to the world. Refer back to that answer often. Make your answer a natural part of you. You’ll have to take breaks – that’s normal – but it’s good to go back to your why.
Your Immediate To Do List:
Choose the time of day you work best.
Write down your biggest goals of the future and save them in a place you can access regularly.
Write out all of the ways – no matter how far fetched – you could make money from your craft.
Get yourself a physical daily planner.
Set an email response goal for yourself.
Type out any email templates that would be helpful.
Establish your firm pricing and create a handout for it.
Would you like me to host an online seminar about this? Comment and let me know if it would be helpful!