Create your brand. Find your audience. Develop your voice. Start a movement.
Find Your “Thing”
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw
As an artist you’ve probably heard it before, “What makes your style different?” Yeah, yeah blah blah BLAH. We all have our own style, and it grows and changes. First thing is to get comfortable with your style and learn to love it. After all, it’s what YOU like to create. YOU like to draw predominantly Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fan Art. YOU like to take only photographs of hipster girls bashfully looking at their feet. Why should you care what other people think?? The point is, there will be plenty of Buffy-lovers and sad hipsters out there who DO care, so stop changing your style and instead find people who love what you do and who you are.
“To thine own self be true” – William Shakespeare
Your thing is your product. Don’t market to the wrong people. For example, if you love landscape & wildlife photography but find that everyone else is obsessing over fashion photography you might be hanging out in the wrong tribe!
Disclaimer: Your “thing” can involve a variety of styles or mediums (if that’s you).
Make friends with your tribe.
“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher” – Oprah Winfrey
Try every social network you can and find what feels good. Here is a giant list of websites you should experiment with. You’ll find communities on all of them. Perhaps you can get involved? I’ll star (*) my favorites.
- Forums – Topical conversations online.
- Twitter – Worldwide interactive news feed.*
- Facebook – You know what Facebook is…
- Google+ – Brand new social network, super cool.
- LinkedIn – “Professional” network. Basically an online resume + social media?
- Tumblr – Blogging platform, but awesome for community building.*
- BlogLovin – Share your favorite blogs!
- FormSpring – Ask each other questions!
- Flickr – Image community. Awesome.*
- DeviantArt – Art community + more teenage angst than you can handle!
- Behance – Amazing portfolios posted by artists.*
- Myspace – Bands use it. Others… don’t?
- Last.fm – Music lovers community
- YouTube – YouTube. Get involved, but in a good way.*
- Vimeo – Like YouTube, but more hip & professional.*
You will go insane trying to use all of these, so make sure you find the ones that work best for you.
Quick Tip: Use tags! On many of these sites you are prompted to add tags to your post. Do it! People will be searching tags. For example, if you take a picture of a cat you should definitely tag it “cat” and “kitty.” The market potential for the crazy cat lady demographic is unbelievable. They are looking for you.
Develop Your Voice
“As for myself, I’m not really sure who I am. It seems that I change every day.” – Leonardo DiCaprio
The key word here is “your” voice. I have spent years of my life admiring how other people do things and trying to emulate that. It’s important to be yourself when marketing/selling your work. People can see right through your act otherwise. Once you realize that you are best at doing YOUR own thing life becomes easier (and better).
“He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened.” – Lao Tzu
Still, there is a lot of value in researching how other people do things. You can still be yourself and maintain your voice while researching and growing. Look around you and take account of what is annoying online and what works. You’ll find that certain posts compel you to look further. Take what you learn and apply it to your voice.
“To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.” – Charles de Montesquieu
Never “spam” your tribe with too much self-promotion. Maybe I am using the word “spam” a little loosely. Regardless, here’s the golden rule.
Talk about others at least as much as you talk about yourself – For example, if you post to Twitter three times per day make sure only ONE of those posts is promoting your stuff. Be a real person. Too many people talk about themselves all day and wonder why people don’t care. Your ego is gross.
When using these sites, remember not to spam. Don’t ONLY submit your work to these sites. Make sure you submit other people’s work as well. You could get banned, or simply be labeled a big jerk-face. However, if you participate in these sites fully and sprinkle in some of your work, you might be in for some nice traffic! I’ll star (*) my favorites.
- Flickr Groups – Took a picture of a fluffy dog named Sam? There’s a group for that.*
- Blog Features – Go find blogs that will like what you do and email them!*
- Podcast Features – Do the same for podcasts.
- StumbleUpon – You can surf the Internet like TV. Participate and occasionally submit something of your own. I’ve gotten hundreds of thousands of hits this way!*
- Digg – Share awesome articles & blog posts.
- Delicious – Similar to Digg.
- Reddit – Similar again…
- WeHeartIt – Awesome photo-sharing site. I’ve gotten lots fo traffic from here too. It links back to the original source.*
- ffffound – Like weheartit, but you unfortunately can’t submit unless you are an editor.
- vi.sualize.us – Similar to weheartit
- imgfave – same
- pichaus – same
- enjoythin.gs – same
- picocool – same
- photoree – same
- vidque – similar but for videos
- Abduzeedo User News – Awesome design site that allows you to post stuff in a user section.
- Nonsense Society Flickr Pool – This site has a community flickr pool that puts your work on the front page sidebar of the site.
- Nonsense Society Tumblr – Our tumblr gallery. Anyone can submit and join the Nonsense Society.*
Have An Effective Portfolio/Blog
Create your own brand and be consistent. Have it make sense and be easy to browse. Here are some methods to make portfolios (some repeats from above). I suggest having a professional portfolio website and also a blog. How you do this is up to you.
Tip: Vertically-scrolling portfolios are more pleasing to the average brain.
- CarbonMade – Pretty portfolios, easy to make.
- 4ormat – Very popular portfolio builder, especially in Europe. I love the look of these.*
- WordPress – A blogging engine, but can be used to easily make websites and portfolios. Also has a lot of SEO benefits.*
- Tumblr – Another blogging platform, but great for sharing individual images, videos, songs, and text. It’s also built to share virally. Awesome!
- Squarespace – Another blogging platform that costs a bit of money. It’s professional and some people love it. shrug…
- Shown’d – This is new to me, but apparently pretty good for building portfolios.
- Google Sites – So easy to build a free website with a free Google account. Not the prettiest thing in the world, but with a little creativity you can make a killer site for the cost of a domain name.
- MobileMe using iWeb [soon to be iCloud?] – I’ve used iWeb a lot. It’s an excellent (and simple) website builder for Mac computer users. You can also make a blog (albeit ugly) and podcast.
Once you have an online space for your work, you can have a link to it on your social media platforms. Hopefully this will help you avoid constantly linking to your portfolio when you should be starting a movement.
Get People Involved
“Without leaders, there are no followers. You’re a leader. We need you.” – Seth Godin, Tribes
Love every fan/friend/colleague you have. Try to create a movement around what you do. One of the best examples I can think of is explodingdog.com, a site where the artist asks people for phrases and makes a drawing out of them. His fan base is huge and he has a blast doing it! He’s had live drawings, books, merch, everything! He doesn’t talk at people. He INVOLVES people. Imagine sending in a topic for a drawing and seeing it on the website. Imagine how awesome that must feel.
Be creative! If YOU can gather a couple thousand fans, you will be 10000000x more influential than any of the chumps who accidentally created a viral video on YouTube that reached millions. You don’t need millions. You shouldn’t want millions! You don’t need empty satisfaction. You want something real, and you can get it. Definitely.
Be Patient + Have Faith
“I quit being afraid when my first venture failed and the sky didn’t fall down.” – Allen Neuharth
These things take time. The worst thing you can do is get bitter and act like the world owes you something. Do all this stuff, be genuine, have fun, make friends, and it’ll all start coming together for you.
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