An Expert’s Advice on Why Creative Pros Often Struggle with Social Media

A few months ago in Ho Chi Minh City, I was introduced to Ahna Hendrix, a social media manager and writer running her own business. I was immediately impressed by her commitment to – and belief in – what is possible with not just running a business, but specifically using social media effectively.

Since then, we’ve worked together on consulting several Red Lemons on improving their marketing strategies. The feedback has been excellent, and I learned a ton from her social media contribution.

I asked Ahna, now based in the States, some questions that revealed some very important insight that you can take action on today. Do read on…



Social media marketing came naturally to me because I like people, socialising, marketing, and business.

Initially, it gave me an opportunity to connect with people in similar professions, but before I knew it, I was advising local businesses on how to incorporate social marketing into their marketing strategies.



But my business didn’t start out focusing on social media because it was still very new to most biz owners in 2009.

I used my writing and design background to offset business growth with blogging and web/graphic design until I got a few consistent social media clients. Thanks to referrals, it took off quickly.


The Benefits of Social Media for Ahna

I couldn’t count all the ways social media has benefitted me over the years.

It’s introduced me to professionals and people I would’ve never been able to meet in person for various reasons.

It’s opened doors to internships and jobs when I was in college, given me a reliable business to grow, and provided me the ability to incorporate all my strengths into one channel.


Common Mistakes We Make When Promoting Ourselves on Social Media

Consistency is the biggest issue I see, hands down.

Business owners are slammed. They’re already wearing too many hats, and social media seems like it can be done whenever there’s time. But it requires a consistent commitment to become useful for a business. It’s similar to working out.

It must be done consistently and takes times to show results. But the fastest route to those results is only achieved with consistency.

Using social media channels to only promote your business is another.

“It seems like common sense that social media networks are simply there to use for promotional purposes, but this is the wrong approach.”

What most people and business owners don’t understand is that social media platforms are exactly like networking events where people congregate in real life.

Every event has it’s own unique feel, language and culture, and we must adapt to those changes in order to communicate. We wouldn’t arrive at those events and begin giving out our cards and selling our business – that would turn people away.

Instead, we approach them, ask them about their business, their lives, and give advice or value if it’s appropriate. We only begin talking about ourselves when it’s polite or asked of us.

“It’s one of the things I tell my clients the most: treat your online interactions exactly like you would if they were standing right in front of you.”


How Social Media Can Generate New Client Opportunities

The best ways to generate client opportunities is to be consistently available, give constantly – share valuable, highly relevant content that will benefit your audience, and proactively build relationships.

These aren’t straightforward steps, but are the fastest way to turn your online audience into paying customers.

“When people trust you, have confidence in your brand, see you constantly going out of your way to answer their problems and dilemmas, then they start to like you.”

Once that begins, then they will begin considering your business, and maybe not even for themselves, but for someone they know.

You never know who a person knows, so treat all of them with respect.


How to Grow Your Audience

The biggest obstacle I see with creatives specifically, is that consistency doesn’t come naturally with marketing.

It takes a lot of discipline to be consistent, but social media marketing cannot be successful without it. If we don’t show up consistently, then no one else will.

It’s necessary to approach social media from the view of your audience, not ourselves.

Will they like the content?
Will they gain something from it?
Will it make them interact or engage? 

You can’t just be cool or talented on social media and expect to be noticed – it takes time to build credibility, relationships, and trust.

And most creatives have a problem with spending lots of time sharing content online without anyone saying anything. But it’s par for the course and it takes time.


The Most Important Piece of Getting Social Media Right

I know I sound like a broken record, but I cannot overstate the power and necessity of consistency online.

Think about going to your favorite restaurant – what happens if you go and the food isn’t good – what mentally happens?

You’re let down. You’re almost personally hurt. And then you begin to question your interest in them to begin with.

“Consistency is key, and no matter what other awesome magic wand we wave, no matter how much we spend in ads or fantastic content, if consistency isn’t present, the sales and clients will not be either.”


Who To Follow to Learn More

The people that I enjoy following are not often the big names listed in social media and that’s for a reason.

My industry is polluted with people making lots of money for talking about social media or selling social media marketing products, but are not practicing themselves or taking on clients. Therefore, my lists tends to be very small.

A few would be Robert Caruso, Mark Schaefer, Marsha Collier, Kim Garst (she’s one of the few genuines in my biz that shares an equally huge name), Kathi Kruse, and Anton Rius.

Besides these folks, the specialists on my team: Blake Jamieson and KP Kelly.


How, Say, An Illustrator Could Start Getting Results Today

An illustrator is no different from any other creative in my mind. But besides the biggies of consistency and not solely self-promoting, an illustrator should work to build a community online that he/she would want to be a part of.

Share a wide range of content that will be valuable: interviews with excellent illustrators, art directors, artists; video tutorials, industry news, how-to blogs, any creative events in the area.

Ask questions that will attract the right kinds of people – both illustrators and people who need them. And don’t be afraid to promote other illustrators and prospects.

People get locked in the competition mentality and don’t understand the incredible energy that is built in our personal and professional lives by promoting our competition.

“Share a lot of personal content that isn’t directly promoting the business but content that humanises it: videos, pictures from the workday, personal blogs, and so on.”

Another aspect that is often prevalent with creatives is a shyness to get in front of the camera and share life/self.

This can change your business dramatically. People connect with people, not logos or graphics. The more real you are, the more people identify with you.


Ahna’s Current Best Quotes

My favorite quotes would relate to life directly, not just social media. But here’s one that does, from Gary Vaynerchuk:

”Social media platforms offer us our best chance to stretch our working dollars the furthest.” 

Or these:

“I’m too busy working on my own grass to notice if yours is greener.” 

“Never think that what you have to offer is insignificant. There will always be someone out there who needs what you have to give.” 

The comment area below is an excellent forum to ask Ahna or myself any questions you have about social media and marketing strategies. Join our newsletter to hear more about posts like these, and received regular ideas on gaining clients and building your audience.

Fire away!



  1. Hi there, great article! if a total of my working-time is 100%, how much of that should be spent on social media in your opinion? Do you think social media is equivalent to going to a book fair or any personal interaction with relevant people or is that something to be done on top? thanks!

    • Hi, Constanze – stoked you liked the article! There’s no general percentage of time you need to spend on social media. I suggest starting with what you can afford, making a commitment to it, sticking to it, and then growing from there. Start small, grow big. And I’m not sure what you mean by the book fair, but I tell my clients to treat relationships online like you would face to face. It’s personal and important.

      • Hi Ahna, thank you so much for your advice, I like the part about treating social media like I would face-to-face best, I didn’t do that before and I’m sure it will make a big difference! I think this is also what mainly kept me from actively and CONSTISTENTLY using social media, because it has an impersonal feeling to it, but now I see that it is the way to look upon it… thanks!

  2. and how do you avoid spending hours, lets say on fb to check on everybody else, when you just wanted to write a short something about your new book or whatever…

  3. What a wonderful article! Consistency is the biggest issue for me when it comes to social media. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with everything but I see that I really will have to make this a priority like everything else. The quote above stating “I’m too busy working on my own grass to notice if yours is greener” is perfect! Thank you 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed the article and liked the quote!! I was so stoked to come upon that quote because it says it perfectly 🙂

  4. Hi there, thank you so much for this great advice! Could you tell us which social media platforms are the most important for Illustrators today? And do you know any strong Artist communities that promote each others art?

    • Hi there, it does depend what your goals are.

      These are my views, Ahna and others can chime in also:

      To build an active following of fans of your work: Instagram.

      To network with specific influencers and connections (and build a following): Twitter.

      Pinterest is also excellent for visual material and building fans and followers there.

      Again, the art communities depend on your product, and goals. I’ll let others suggest ideas here. It’s worth however taking a look at Society6, DeviantArt, Dribbble, ArtStack, Saatchi Online, Illustration Friday (oh, and don’t forget to have a look through Ape on the Moon, which is being developed into more of a community!)

    • Hi there, glad you enjoyed the interview! I recommend my clients to start off with 2-3 and then branch out once you feel comfortable and have built a foundation. I would recommend Facebook (because everyone is there and its a visual network), Twitter (real conversation can happen here and you can meet a lot of people), and Instagram (the perfect tool to humanize your brand and showcase your work).

      One thing to keep in mind, do not share the same content across all mediums at the same time, and do not connect them to each other so that a Twitter update goes out on Facebook or vice versa. People will follow you in different places for different reasons. If you want more info on this, download my free ebook “How To Choose The Best Social Media Platforms” ( it’s an in-depth read on the top 6 networks with an action plan to help you choose and to help you learn how to generate content to begin filling those channels.

      Hope that helps!

  5. A thought on consistency: because it is so important to keep generating opportunities on social media through being consistent – it’s important to focus on one platform at a time, and get prolific and effective on that platform, before moving on to being effective on the next.

    This beats being mediocre and inconsistent on ten different platforms.

  6. Hi Alex!

    I have instagram and facebook account as my main social media marketing tools for my freelance job as an illustrator

    But recently, my colleagues (from a not-related-to-illustrator full time job) discovered those accounts, and the news about my freelance work spread like spores. Because of that I put my instagram account in private mode. I don’t like being stalked

    Do you have any suggestions about my situation?
    I want to set up another instagram and facebook account but I’m afraid that it will take huge amount of time to build the following

    Thank you!

    • Hi, Dewi! That’s awesome you’re using social media!

      I’d need to know more about your situation, but unless your side business is threatening your day job, I wouldn’t suggest privatizing your accounts.

      It’s a turnoff when I come across private accounts and it’s the same for others. People you don’t know, who don’t know you, and can’t see why they need to ask permission – will not be interested. That’s a lot of potential business you’re throwing away.

      The easier you make yourself available on social media, the better.

      And I’d ignore your coworkers. So what if they want to follow you or look at your work? Stick to your main goal of focusing on your illustration business and let them do what they do. By privatizing your accounts, you are giving them the power – boooo.

      Do you, and don’t worry about them. And good luck 😉

  7. Thanks for article from Ahna. My big problem is keeping up the momentum with social media. The suggestion on what type of content to share might be obvious to some, but unless someone tells you it can seem a head scratcher – variety is the key.

    One thing I wanted to ask was what made you decide to set your blog separate to your portfolio site?

    • Thanks Mark. My twitter is a means to share consistent value for creative professionals to build my audience for Ape on the Moon and RLC – and so that’s the content I regularly share.

      The RLC blog, if that’s what you’re referring to is what I consider to be an entirely separate entity to my own illustration work. If I had time, I would have a personal blog, often sharing my own illustration work and updates, but I leave that to my newsletter and social media updates like Instagram.

      There are no rules to this, just that you do benefit from marketing what you have through the various and almost unlimited channels and options that are at our disposal.

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