You make great art.
We can see that. You’re good.
You’ve put thousands of hours into your craft. You’ve set up a coherent, and a strong portfolio of pieces; of articles; of videos.
And yet you’re not picking up those clients. You’re not making those sales.
Your art is rich, but you are not.
You see others making a great living doing what they do, working with outstanding clients.
This affects you. It makes you second-guess yourself. This poisons your ability to create freely.
But let’s be frank here.
A lot of people can make art that is similar to yours. Never the same — but similar.
For someone to come along and re-create what you create is becoming easier and easier.
Many can just copy your style.
I don’t need to tell you to flip open Instagram, Youtube or Amazon to know that creative talent is everywhere; it is abundant, and it is available in any form and style that you can imagine.
No square inch is undiscovered given the technology we currently have.
So what, then, differentiates someone who gets paid well, to someone who doesn’t?
What makes someone stand out and gain a following, over those who will not?
I can tell you it is not merely how good you can paint a picture.
Quality is essential, and having a different style to the next person is helpful. But quality is a given, and the latter is just not a requirement for ‘success’.
Take a look at your favourite illustrators or photographers, for example. Can you find other creators who are less well-known, who work to a higher standard than those who are more ‘successful’?
We cannot rely on the quality and ‘uniqueness’ of the craft itself as our strategy for winning (and certainly not on having the lowest price, unless you want to be poor).
In the 1400s, there was only a handful of people who drew like Leonardo DaVinci (including Leo himself), and they would stand out.
Today, there are tens of thousands of people out there who can draw like DaVinci.
Some may be remembered as a passing Instagram fad before the herds gather around the next emerging talent. Most will never make a dent, and few will make money.
To be the modern day Picasso (who was very well-paid while alive), your creativity must expand beyond the canvas, and into the full package.
What makes up this full package?
Be front of mind of more people
Most artists will never be able to see their work as more than a hobby because not enough people know who they are.
They are sitting in darkness; in obscurity.
You have to do what it takes to get known; to be talked about; to be front of mind of as many people as possible. Especially people in your target market, industry, or audience.
This takes work beyond the creative work. It requires sharing your content, your process, your story and putting it in front of as many people as possible in as many creative and noticeable ways you can.
The more courage you employ, the more effective this will be.
You must get excited about the idea of being known, being talked about. If you have a great product, and people stand to benefit from it, and you can see the value in what you do, then it is your duty to get it out there.
You need to become famous in your corner, even if you prefer to stay in the background, as I do. You must aim to be THE artist in your space.
The more you share, the more you inspire and support, teach, engage and persuade, and remind people that you exist, the brighter your brand as an artist or entrepreneur will be.
Commit to being a maniac in the world of self-promotion. You do this by sharing plenty of content consistently and getting in front of more people. Write articles, create a podcast, interview people, share videos.
Grow your network. Engage.
The more people who know you; the more opportunities will come your way; the more money you will make, and the more you can inject into the business so that you can bring even more awareness to your art, not to mention being more motivated to create more.
A sizeable body of work
One great piece of art may make an impact in the short term — it may create fleeting success, but only a few pieces are not a long-term strategy. People notice people who have — and are on the path to — a massive body of work.
For example, film-maker and vlogger Casey Neistat, who has over 10 million YouTube followers as of writing this, is indeed creative and talented in his work. But so are many other film-makers.
He stands out because of his dedication to volume and consistency. He’s shared over 600 videos last time I checked. At one point, he put out a film every day for years. They are not all perfect videos. They are great. But it has been the consistency, reliability, and volume that have served him and his audience the most.
‘Repetition is persuasion’ ~Unknown.
Of course, these two things will lead to new creative insights and skills that others can’t match — adding to the full, high-value package.
Share as much as you can and be dedicated to building a significant body of work.
This includes creating content documenting your work-process, your life, and ideas you share that are of value outside of the creative work.
Social media channels are the best places to share this material.
You need to develop a hunger to create with consistent frequency and the large body of work that this leads to.
A substantial body of work behind you demonstrates dedication to your craft; expertise, persistence and creates a layer of credibility and passion that is lacking with a thin portfolio.
You will persuade others that you are the ‘real-deal’ through volume, frequency and repetition.
Most importantly, through continual repetition, you are persuading the one person who matters the most in your creative journey: you.
You are strengthening your belief in your own capabilities and potential through doing it over and over again.
Position yourself as the GO-TO
Being the go-to person in your space means positioning yourself in such a way that target clients have no alternative but to hire you.
Narrow down not only on the kinds of clients you choose to get in front of, thus multiplying your promotional clout, but also make your own presentation tailored to your ideal clients.
When those people come to your website or portfolio, make it clear to them that you are a perfect fit, and exactly what they need.
If you’re an illustrator, for example, and you want to work with medium-sized, tech startups, you can feature this — in writing — on a presentation of your work on your site and in how you communicate with potential clients.
You could verbally state that you are a specialist illustrator working to improve the marketing image of tech startups. Demonstrate to them how you solve their problems and make it clear exactly what benefits they receive from working with you (and those that go BEYOND the creative work).
This will not cut off other prospects. Many from other industries will be drawn to you because you specialise — even if you say you target different markets.
Maybe you can improve your understanding of marketing or SEO, or branding that you can use as an additional skill set to help those clients.
You may even develop yourself into an authority figure on a particular area of expertise that is of interest to clients. Maybe you write articles, books or give talks on topics that directly serve and interest your clients and customers.
If you are a graphic designer, you might write books on a particular niche within graphic design, to demonstrate your unparalleled expertise, which will be like gold to prospects.
Be known for one thing, but pile on additional skills to add value. Always be thinking about how you can add more value to your target clients, subscribers or customers.
Make it clear that they are getting more than your value as a creative. You are a service-provider; caregiver; a consultant; adviser, friend, and expert rolled into one.
This will get you noticed favourably by these people, and you will more likely land a deal with them when you go to them, or they find you.
Be ‘unreasonable’ in how you provide service
Do what most people rarely do. Give your clients and followers an experience they can FEEL.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~May Angelou
This will set you apart; get you noticed; get you talked about; get you repeat buyers.
Be quick to respond. Show that you care about your customers, followers and clients (and find a way to care if you do not genuinely).
Do things that improve their lives. See them as friends and develop friendships with them. Send them traffic and opportunities and gifts. Be focused on their issues, and be generous in helping them get past those problems, even before you’ve even started to work with them. Link them up with people in your network.
Go the ‘extra mile’ as they say.
Give bold statements about how you will improve their lives and businesses. Tell them how you will grow their businesses in concrete terms. Tell them that you will guarantee success and an outstanding product for them.
Be confident in what you provide, and admit when you are wrong.
Then overdeliver even more.
Surprise your client and prospects at every turn. Give them more than they expect. This will be hugely effective for you, and it often only takes a little extra energy, creativity and awareness than most.
Be a force — not just a label. Amaze people with your energy and willingness to improve their situation.
Think about how you can deliver a service in all aspects. It’s not just providing a creative function. It’s about providing a positive experience for those who come into contact with you.
Make them say ‘WOAH! Now, THAT’s some service!’
These are just a few ways you can add value to your creative brand in a way that will leave an impression and grow your business and impact.
Make sure you’re subscribed to my newsletter here if you want to keep up to date on more articles like these, including bonuses for subscribers you won’t get on the blog.