How serious are you about making this crazy photography game full time? It is an amazing feeling to get to create every day, but are you forgetting to do the other eighty percent of what is needed to survive?
The difference between a successful creative and a starving artist is one thing, how much effort you put into marketing. I would even go to say, that marketing is the most important aspect, maybe even more so than the actual art if you want to live off the art. I know many talented creatives who are broke, and I know many poor photographers who are running thriving photography businesses. The only difference is, one has learned to market themselves.
I feel before we go any further we have to talk about the artist mindset. The thought of being a salesperson scares most artists or they feel they do not need to sell it their art as it cheapens it. Or maybe they feel if the art is good enough, it will sell itself. Whatever the reason, we have to get out of this passive mindset and jump into a pro-active mindset. We have to learn to shout about our work, how to present it to others, find ways to get it in front of people's faces and make sure those people are the correct people. I used to live in the artist mindset myself, and it is not fun worrying about money, it is one of the biggest causes of creative block; anxiety, fear, and living from month to month. With financial stability comes creative freedom. Learning how to be a salesperson will not take anything away from your artist's credibility, but it will help you to sustain the freedom of living and creativity that you have always dreamed of. So before we move on, get it into your mind, you MUST learn how to market.
Schedule Time to Market
When I first started my marketing plan I had no idea where to start or what to do. But you have to start somewhere. I downloaded a weekly planner template from Google and crossed off one day a week as a marketing day. For the first few weeks, I used that day to watch tutorials on marketing, Google marketing techniques, and to talk to friends about their marketing strategies. I would suggest you mark off at least one full day of marketing. With a full 8 hours of focussed marketing, I am sure you will start to see the benefits early on. I usually plan two days into my week, plus I do a little marketing every other day as it comes up. Just like anything in life the more you do something the better you get at it, so the choice is yours.
Marketing has to be very pro-active, you have to be actively looking for clients. Just because you create great art and you post it on Facebook or Instagram, it does not mean that you are marketing. Clients will rarely find you, you have to go to them. Look for a problem you can solve for a client. Find gaps in the market where you can add value. Be an artist who can solve the problem of any client and the work will come rolling in.
There are many spokes to the marketing wheel, the more spokes you have the more stable your wheel will be. Some of my spokes are:
Social Media Marketing
Case studies/client list
Each of these has its subcategory — for example, Email marketing includes list building, cold emails, targeted emails, and mass emails. Every extra marketing spoke will strengthen your wheel and create a more sustainable journey. Again you have to be very proactive when marketing with these tools. Some days I will spend 6 hours or more emailing people. Some days I will only get two replies. It is about building the discipline to keep doing these things even when it feels like it might not be working. Its a game of persistence and you have to get in front of as many relevant clients, brands, or businesses as possible.
The Hidden Goal of Marketing
Once your marketing game begins to evolve, you are building lists and slowly you are starting to build up relationships with clients, you will start to realize that marketing has a hidden meaning. Yes, it is to get your work out into the world, yes it is gain more clients. But the one thing that seems to be overlooked most of the time is that marketing has a hidden goal and that is to build trust. There is no point in marketing if the people you market to never leap to hire your services or buy your work. And let us be honest, that is the overall goal. To gain the trust of these brands, businesses, and clients we need to be in a relationship, and this relationship is what you are building by proxy through your marketing. This is why case studies, blog posts, follow-ups, quick in-person chats, and networking are just as important as getting your art seen. If you can build a relationship you can earn the trust, which in turn will make pitching far easier and more likely to be successful.
I hope this info sinks into any budding creatives out there thinking about doing this crazy job full time. The hard news is, it is not all photos shoots and laughter. A lot of the time you have to do the boring work, that pushes the art out. If you can get into the marketing mindset early I can guarantee you will outrun the competition who is not. Learn about pipelines, cold emails. Schedule in real marketing time, come up with systems and techniques and have the discipline to stick to them. I hated marketing in the beginning but now I enjoy the challenge, it is just another way to grow as a creative. If you can turn it into a game, find the fun in it, once you start seeing the results it will all be worth it. You have a choice, starving artist or successful creative, the choice is yours!