Uncomfortable with Self-Promotion? Take Baby Steps

One of the things there is no shortage of is advice on how to be a “successful” artist. Make no mistake; in this context “successful” means “an artist who sells.” Sometimes it means “an artist who makes his/her living from his/her art.” In any case, it’s all about marketing and sales. And why not? Being a starving artist may sound like a romantic idea, but it’s only that. We can all point to artists who were successes only after they were dead, but is that the model you really want to follow?

The fact is, whether we are painters, photographers, sculptors, ceramicists, or writers, we want people to see our art, and hopefully be impacted by it. So we have two choices: give it away or sell it. The second alternative seems to be the better of the two, at least to me.

We are told that we must self-promote, and the implication is that we should model ourselves after the most financially successful self-promoting artists. We are encouraged to follow the examples of those who promote shamelessly and/or exploit the internet. We are advised to spend every minute that we are not actually producing art interacting on Twitter or Facebook or our blogs and websites or engaging in some other form of marketing and sales.

This can be a difficulty for those of us who do not have art factories or assistants or those of us who do not believe that we are temperamentally suited for marketing. Some would say that we had better find a way to make the time and become suited or resign ourselves to giving our art away, or, like Emily Dickenson or Vivian Maier, having it found and made public after we’re gone.

There is no question that marketing and sales are necessary if we want to succeed in terms of putting our work out there into the world. We must promote our own work and we must figure out ways to become comfortable doing that.

This means researching and exploring the many different venues and approaches to art marketing and sales. Spend some time analyzing tweets, exploring Facebook, reading blogs, examining web sites. You will find that there are innumerable approaches and a variety of styles. And there are more all the time. According to Barney Davey, how artists promote themselves is constantly evolving, and one of the challenges is to try to keep methodology current.

Not every successful artist is a completely shameless self-promoter. Some promote better than others. Study them; see what works and why. See what appeals to you and why. See what fits you and why.

Then try some of those methods out. Take baby steps. Move out of your comfort zone a little at a time. As you build up your courage and your repertoire of possibilities, you can begin to see what works for you. And that, finally, is the most important thing, to find the methods or combination of methods that work for you.

Date: Monday, 18. April 2011 0:05
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Audience, Communication, Social Media

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  1. 1

    A couple of things come to mind as I read this post. Even if an artist is only concerned with getting his art “out there,” and doesn’t care at all about making money from it, promotion is still necessary because you can’t even give it away if no one knows it exists. And, for many artists, that promotion turns out to be self-promotion because “self” is all there is to do it. I think it comes down to believing that what you have to offer is desirable to an audience, and having the confidence in the work to offer it “shamelessly” because there really is no shame in promoting a worth while product – even if you’re the creator. Having gotten past the psychological/emotional aspect of it, the nuts and bolts should be explored as you suggest. Use any and everything that you think might work. However, I personally would say, forget the baby steps and jump in with all four feet. Life is short. 🙂

  2. 2

    I agree with most of what you say, but I believe that baby steps are in order for some artists, simply because of the psychological/emotional aspect of it. A number of artists I know are quite humble, private people, and are able to take only tiny steps without trauma. And baby steps are certainly better than no steps.

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