An Artist's Guide to Self Promotion
Do you struggle to promote yourself or your work?
How do you get recognized?
Some of the greatest artists in the world are virtually unknown. They have painted pictures that rival photographs, composed music unique and complex, written stories that transport readers to another world. Why do the thousands (and possibly millions) of talented artists all over the world get passed over every day? Self-promotion.
As the saying goes, "If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, did it really make any sound?" There are the lucky few artists who quickly get recognized for their work, rising to the top like cream in fresh milk. Yet, many do not, simply because the world does not know they exist.
The competition is fierce, the field is full of people who have something to offer, and you are part of the crowd. How do you stand out from the rest? Someone must believe in you, promote you, market you, and love you.
That person...is you.
The trap of perfectionism
Quickly read through these quotes and think back to the last year. Have you said the following to yourself?
- This piece is not ready yet. It still needs something more.
- I can't be bothered to do all the "business" stuff. I need to be inspired to work on my art.
- I want to perfect my craft more than I want to make money.
- I need a few more pieces for my portfolio before I can market myself.
- I have to wait until I have the money for that piece of equipment I need to really stand out.
All of these statements have one thing in common: They point to an artist's achilles heel- perfectionism. There is something to be said for excellence, yet many artists never move beyond this stage because they are constantly tweaking and playing around with their work of art. The excuses of not being "business" minded, not having enough artwork or equipment to be considered a professional, or saying that you want to perfect your craft and not make money, are all distractions from that great big fear: What if I am not good enough?
You are good enough. You are ready for the world when you get to the point where you believe in your own creative self.
If you paint, call yourself a painter.
If you take photos, call yourself a photographer.
If you write, call yourself an author.
If you sculpt, call yourself a sculptor.
When you believe that you are capable of your talent, the world is ready for you. It does not matter if your portfolio is small, your history is green, or your brushes are cheap. No famous artist ever started with famous inventory.
Do not undersell yourself
Your work is worth something. Many artists give away their services for free when they start out. While there is benefit to building a portfolio, you want to communicate to your clients that your work is valuable. It is worth an investment, even if it is small. You don't have to charge top dollar, but charge something. Show your work, and yourself, the dignity that it deserves.
Procrastination is the enemy
Every artist struggles with the slimy problem of procrastination. "I need to be inspired!" you say to yourself. No you don't.
Do your art to get inspired.
Don't wait for that burst of energy and motivation. When it comes, use it. When it is gone, do not fall into the trap that art only comes from an epiphany or moment of inspiration. Art comes out of you because you are an artist. Not all the art you make is good, but do it anyway. The sport's world understands this concept- Babe Ruth may have been a great hitter, but he also struck out more than anyone.
Promote yourself like you would promote someone else
Imagine for a minute that you stumbled upon a fabulous book or artist gallery. You loved it and thought the world should know. What would you do, say, or write about this artist? Would you be embarrassed to share your golden find? Would you second guess yourself when someone asked you for a recommendation? Treat yourself the way you would treat your favorite musician or painter.
Do not be afraid of failure
The only people who test the limits of success are the ones who are not afraid to fail. Failure teaches us more than success, so use each mistake as an opportunity in your ladder of success. Artists fail the same way that athletes, businessman, or other professionals do. You are not exempt. Giving up or giving into your feelings of self-pity or self-hatred will do far more damage than the failure did.
In the competitive world of musicians, writers, and painters, it is easy to see someone else's success and feel that rise of jealousy or envy. You might be tempted to hold back your praise or recommendation, as if somehow that will ensure it is reserved for yourself. The problem is that is magical thinking. It simply is not true. When you promote and support other artists, you invest in your own work too. The entire art community benefits when artists work together, support each other, and promote art across the board.
When you see another artist doing something you wish you could do, learn from them. Find out how and what they are doing differently from you. Resist the temptation to be a copycat. There is only one you in the world, and if you try to be like someone else, you will rob yourself (and your art) of the joy of self-expression.
Remember, you are more than what you produce
Try not to get too wrapped up in your work. Artist's can be terribly self-focused, and there is more to who you are then what you make. You are a human being, worthy of loving and being loved. You are a Mom, Dad, child, woman, or man who is capable of a lot of different things. There will be ebbs and flows to your art, to your success financially, and to the tide of popular opinion. When you remember who you are, the ups and downs will not feel so drastic or extreme.
Now go show the world your art.
About the author
Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and mom of three. As a psychology major, she is interested in the underbelly of human behavior, especially as it relates to self-esteem, marriage, and parenting. She is a new freelance writer, fighting to establish herself in a market full of talented artists. She comes from an artistic family of musicians and artists, and knows firsthand, how difficult it can be to promote one's own work.