As I’ve discussed in many articles, marketing yourself; your art; and your brand, properly and consistently is no longer a commendable choice in your creative business, it is a necessity.
You must get into the heads of people you want to work with, and who stand to benefit from consuming your products and services.
That’s all marketing is. It is doing things that keep people, especially the right kinds of people, aware of you over time.
Call it ‘awareness creation’ if it makes it easier and ‘marketing’ less…metallic.
Doing this consistently over time is so important because there is often a lag period to buying stuff that you need to factor in. People rarely buy from you or hire you at the moment they first hear about you.
Yes I know it’s damn hard to promote yourself, whether it’s through emailing prospects, sharing stuff on Twitter, or giving workshops – and it’s even harder to do a lot of this stuff over time. We’ve got creative work to do! What the hell? Did we ever sign up to all this incessant need to constantly talk about ourselves and share our stuff with the world?
Ok, I get it. I agree. It has been hard for me in the past, and still often is. This doesn’t change the fact that the real winners must combine having an outstanding product with doing outstanding marketing work.
I am in a much better position to handle these objections to doing it now.
What I have realised is that marketing our stuff isn’t actually hard. We make it hard and come up with excuses because we lack clarity on what to do.
When you know with absolute clarity and conviction why it is that you must – with all your might – continually promote yourself and your business, you will find marketing a breeze.
I’m serious. A lot of the time, I actually look forward to getting myself out there and doing the things I need to do to promote my various projects because I know why and I know what works.
We need to see marketing as something we actually want to do.
Imagine that you were walking in the forest and you came across an old newspaper-dispensing machine. You found that it was spitting out newspapers that covered the news one year in the future.
Oh boy, you think to yourself. How weird. Then you realise that these newspapers can help save countless lives by giving you information on horrible disasters yet to happen and more.
If you had a newspaper like this and you knew a disaster was impending, would you do your hardest to tell the people who’s lives you could save? You likely would.
It is with this urgency that you must see the promotion of your own products and services. You must be motivated to get it out into the world and made known to the people that need your stuff.
There are four ways to make this possible, that have been tremendously powerful for me…
1) Know Your Value
If you don’t deeply understand your own product, then you can’t possibly care enough about someone else benefitting from, and using that product. When you know why you are valuable, and how you can help and really improve someone’s life with it, you will want to make it known.
Just like the value of a future-predicting newspaper clearly possesses huge value, you need to see it in your own work.
To help you do this, I’d recommend writing down a long list of all the ways your product or service can help people, improve their lives and make the world better, not to mention improving your own life and well-being.
Can you see how a lack of belief in what you create will stop your motivation to promote it in its tracks? Not liking everything you do is totally fine – it’s normal, and it’s important to not be 100% satisfied if you are ever going to improve.
You must see the positives. You must stir up your pride. You must identify the value in your work if you’re going to make it more than a hobby.
2) Go for Scale
I’ve never seen anyone else discuss this, but I believe one of the main reasons that we are reticent to promote ourselves is because we do not factor in expansion into our businesses.
A lot of us require a handful of clients each month or even each year to have a sustainable creative business. That’s ok. I often talk about how much easier it is to focus our energy on a dedicated few, over spreading ourselves thin by catering to many clients.
But this is the issue client-driven small businesses have. They’re too small. They are limited. When we know in our minds that we only need a couple of clients per month in order to be fine financially, we limit our need to promote. There is no incentive to do that much, whether the client is booked in advance or not.
We don’t want to do so much marketing that we end up with too many clients.
These limitations create hesitation. What we need is a plan for scaling the business upwards indefinitely. We need to be bold in our actions, driven by momentum. I can’t emphasise this enough.
When we have room to breath; room to grow without limits, then our marketing becomes meaningful. We push it as far as it will go because a business that is driven by abundance is exciting to be a part of.
Ever wonder why newly funded tech startups tend to incapsulate an air of buzz and excitement through the people who work there? Because the sky is the limit. They are shooting for massive scale because it is possible.
We need this in our little freelance businesses too. We all need to aim for the sky.
But what if you are a one-man band and only need a few clients?
You have some options:
- Work harder and take on more client work.
- Outsource or team up to create a larger business so that you can take on more clients.
- Create products like prints, merchandise, digital artistic brushes, stock photography, courses, books, that could complement your main service, as well as marketing the services themselves, with emphasis on the products.
All of these options provide more room to really push your marketing.
As an illustrator, I chose the third option a decade or so ago, creating stock initially, then books and courses to complement what I’d learned as an illustrator, through Red Lemon Club. My marketing is for the most part, effortless, because I’m aiming for the stars in promoting all aspects of my ever-growing business.
You really do want to have a plan for scaling up. You want to scale so that you can market and share freely and deeply.
Don’t think small, because your actions end up being small, and hesitant. I’ve seen it so many times, and these businesses always stop, start, and eventually peter out and die.
I’m not saying this to encourage you to be bold and full of bravado for the sake of it.
I’m telling you to scale to survive.
3) Market for Fun
There are countless ways in which to market ourselves these days, from sending emails, to physical brochures, to making a drawing a day and sharing it, to cold calling, to meeting people at events, to hosting online conferences, to making and sharing comics, to teaching, to doing public speaking, to making videos and podcasts, to sharing content on social media.
They can all work, but you don’t need to use a particular method or strategy if it doesn’t jibe well with you.
As I’ve said, all marketing is, is creating ongoing awareness for people that you and your products exist.
As such, you can choose what you want to do – as long as it does the above effectively. It is of course likely that if you choose to use a marketing channel, be it writing for a blog like I enjoy, or making YouTube videos, that it will be effective – because you enjoy the process.
When you do something that is fun and allows you to express yourself fully, you will find it much easier to keep doing that thing. To keep your brand front of mind for the right people.
Your readers or watchers or listeners will also love you for it.
4) See Positive Results
There is a lot of talk about the need to fail and fail plenty in order to succeed. Absolutely true. But what this fails to mention also is that occasionally we need to see a win, in order to keep motivated.
There are only so many failures we can take before our motivation struggles to get off the ground altogether.
So we need to focus on wins. Those wins don’t need to be big. Wins can simply be a small task completed.
And so you need to position yourself in a way that creates daily small wins, and allows room for the bigger ones too of course.
Traction is one such bigger win. Seeing an audience respond to your blog posts consistently is traction. Making sales and seeing those numbers grow is traction.
Traction starts with making those small wins, like getting up earlier and putting out a tweet or writing and sharing a post. Over time those wins will turn into bigger wins like traction, getting talked about, making sales, and getting hired.
When we see wins and results, we’re going to be encouraged to keep doing it. This is vital. So focus initially on the small wins. Put in the time, the patience and the effort for the bigger wins which will also come.
Put these all together and your ability to market yourself consistently will be punted along with such raw drive, that it will be almost effortless.