Whether you’re just creating art or selling services to clients, developing a reputation and an audience is important. You might have friends or acquaintances interested in what you do. But if you want to create an impact with your work, you need to market yourself. You must be putting yourself out there.
Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “You can’t make a living as an artist”. You scoff. But it’s actually true.
You can’t make a living as an artist, but you can make a living as a marketer who sells their art.
An audience is a key part of your growth as a lettering artist and I want to share with you the things I have learned over the past couple of years that have helped me grow my own audience. Many of these topics are things I’ve learned from other successful entrepreneurs such as Gary Vaynerchuck, Sean McCabe, Kyle Adams, Sarah Dayan, Scotty Russell, and several others. I promise you from my own experience, these tactics work.
Publish Frequently and Consistently
If you want to build an audience, you need to get on people’s radar — and stay on it.
No one will notice you if you’re only posting a single piece of your work every couple weeks. They’re not going to notice you if you write two or three blog posts.
People will only notice you when you appear in their feeds or inboxes frequently and regularly. Publish weekly at the very least. Develop a routine that will allow you to create a regular amount of output. And don’t just start publishing. Build up a queue first.
When I started lettering, I would publish once a week to Instagram. Eventually, I started churning out work quicker and I began posting daily. When I started my blog, I wrote weekly, but I made sure I had 12 posts in the queue before I started publishing. You want to make sure you’re really on board for a commitment you make before you start publishing content or else it’s wasted effort.
There’s nothing wrong with taking baby steps. Start slowly with a routine you’re comfortable with and build from there. I started very slow, but over time I’ve built up to the following weekly output:
- Instagram and Dribbble posts 5 days a week
- Weekly newsletter and blog
- Weekly video of some sort
- Starting in 2017, one of my major goals is to shoot more video
If I had started with this output, I would have crashed and burned. Think of it like running. You can’t just run a marathon. You need to train yourself 1 mile at a time.
Share What You Know
Share everything you know about what you’re building an audience around. Give all of your secrets away. I’m serious. You might think your competition will gain an upper-hand, but they won’t. The people you’re “competing” against are not even paying attention to you because they’re busy hustling.
By sharing what you know in a teachable form, you’re giving a huge helping hand to those who aren’t as far along as you. To them, you’re an expert and they’ll look up to you for guidance and direction.
To those that don’t do what you do, you’re seen as the expert. They’ll think of you when they think of lettering. That’s powerful! Beyond a good portfolio of polished work, you’re displaying actual proof you know the creative process in and out.
Not only will this build an audience around your work, but it will also bring forth clients that want to work with you. By sharing all of this knowledge, you’re proving you’re passionate and experienced. You’ve positioned yourself as the obvious solution.
Curate Your Output
You’re good at a lot of things, but your audience is only going take you seriously for one of them. I love cooking, but I don’t post shots from the kitchen on my Instagram because my Instagram followers care about my lettering — not what I’m eating for dinner.
Curate a feed focused around one thing. If you look at my feed, you’ll notice it’s 100% lettering. In fact, it’s mostly blackletter style lettering, because this is the kind of work I’ve been niching down to. When people visit my page, they know what I’m about.
One is much more likely to follow someone who posts 100% of their work rather than 50% of their work and 50% cats, selfies, food, and more selfies. You want to appear in your follower’s feeds as the person who lives to create. You want them to think of you when they think of lettering.
This doesn’t mean you need to give up your love for music, or sports, or knitting, or whatever else it is you enjoy doing. Just don’t mix it in with the content you’re trying to build an audience around.
Repurpose Your Content
Creating content for all of the different social channels out there is time consuming. The variety of different content mediums (audio, visual, motion) enable you to tap into a large amount of social pools, but you need to come up with an efficient content strategy to avoid burning out.
For this reason, I would recommend developing a system that allows you to repurpose your content.
If you’ve shot a video talking about your process, you can transcribe this into a blog post. You can take imagery from the video and use it for Dribbble or Instagram. You can take the audio from the video and turn it into a podcast.
Instead of creating content for these various channels in individual silos, consider how you can leverage technology to tap into multiple mediums centered around the single piece you’re working on. In doing this, you will reach a much broader audience with this piece of work without exhausting yourself in the content creation process.
Engage with Your Audience
You might have a following who enjoys your work, but aside from some social validation, what is this actually worth to you? If you were to put out a product, how many people from your audience would actually buy it?
Build relationships with your audience members by engaging with them. They respect you for what you do and you have a lot to offer them besides sharing your work. As I mentioned earlier, you should teach everything you know. But you should also teach what people want to know. Start a conversation with some members of your audience. Follow them back. Engage with them and discuss their struggles.
Getting a peek into their lives will allow you create content that speaks directly to them.
Sometimes your followers will post things like “Amazing work!”. Aside from a quick thanks, these don’t warrant much of a response. But when one of your followers asks you a question, do you answer it? Have you ever clicked through their profiles to see their work and offered advice?
Every audience has a certain percentage of churn, but these small actions can go a long way in building an audience full of people who stick around.
Forget the Numbers
Having thousands of followers feels good. Once again, it’s social validation to see such a large number when go to your main profile screen. But let’s get real…
- How many of those followers are robots?
- How many of those followers are active profiles?
- How many of those followers actually engage with your content?
As of mid-2016, the average engagement rate for an Instagram post is about 4.3%.
If you want to get a better feel for how big your audience is, multiply your follower count by .043.
But let’s put the numbers aside because they’re really not important here. What is important is that you’re doing everything you can to promote and foster engagement. You could have an audience of 100 people who won’t buy anything or you could have an audience of 5 people and a single person actually does buy something. Which audience is better?
This is why numbers don’t matter.
Don’t pay attention to metrics unless the number actually reflects the results of a certain content strategy you might be experimenting with. Engage with your audience and find ways to turn your followers in to brand advocates.
Growing an audience is not rocket science. Your audience is comprised of people. These people won’t truly care about you until you can find a way to demonstrate you care about them. If you listen to them, teach them, and provide them everything you can, they will remain loyal and support your efforts.
Go forth and create as much valuable content as you can. Create it efficiently so you can repurpose this content for different channels. Stay focused on this topic and don’t convolute your output with posts about other things. Engage with your audience and listen to them so you can provide help in the areas they need it most.
And finally, pay attention to the relationships, not the numbers.