The Focus Is You and Your Work
I used to compare myself a lot to other artists, especially right after graduation. I was looking to see what they were doing, what steps they were taking – but not in a constructive way. At the time, I was living in Philadelphia and surrounded by so much art but unable to make anything because my energy was so scattered, its full potential blocked by doubt rather than being honed into curiosity to expand what I love. It took me leaving Philly and moving to South Carolina to find the Stillness to refocus, begin listening to my inner guides, and ultimately go through a process of rebranding, business coaching, and Reiki I & II certification to fully embrace and step into my power as a creative goddess.
To be honest, my path since graduation has been a constellation of gathering experiences, knowledge, and random classes. I’ve always let myself explore everything I’m interested in. Broadening your range of experiences helps you make strong, cohesive connections when writing about your art, whether reaching out to potential collaborators with a pitch, a magazine for a feature, or emailing a gallery for representation. It sounds lame, but truly letting your intuition guide you are going to make your art better, and that, in turn, will make you feel more empowered when articulating your ideas.
That would honestly be my top piece of advice: before you dive into obsessing over crunching numbers + hashtag strategies, you first need to TRUST yourself. Know that the work you are making is what you’re supposed to be making. That can take the longest time, travelling, testing, trying and failing; but once you finally stop feeling sorry for yourself and start visualizing the world you see yourself creating, it becomes a lot easier to make the choices to bring that to be. You basically just keep pouring your energy into your light and your magic, and you’ll naturally end up creating the world you wish to see. One day I realized that nobody would do it for me. Since then it has been what I live by.
This being said…PUSH YOUR WORK. Whether it’s hashtags on Instagram or by reaching out to every gallery in your area, what you put out will come back to you. Just starting a conversation could lead to a feature that looks so good on your CV that you land another. Once, I emailed 80 publications, got 8 replies and in the end 3 features, but those three little articles built the confidence to keep rolling with it. It’s not going to be easy, but if you put in the world you WILL get results.
Another tip I wish I’d listened to sooner- INVEST in yourself!!! I cannot stress this enough. When you’re young, you think you don’t need it or don’t deserve it or something, but that can’t be further from the truth. I graduated with a BFA in Painting and Drawing, and though I had a very multidisciplinary approach, business was not a strong suit. My parents begged me to take a class, but I was convinced that would be admitting defeat as an artist. (I know, I know. I was young.) Then one day, I stumbled upon a witchy, spiritual, Earth-based business coach. The combination of focused intent with strategy sparked my curiosity and led me to do something I never thought I’d do: I hired a business coach. Working with her, I learned that as long as I keep my media presence an integral, consistent part of my Outreach + Connection practice (which includes all do-it-yourself marketing), then it can function as a part of a larger whole, eliminating the stress that comes from media being your primary focus. The focus is You and Your Work – not anxiety and drama.
This was a game changer for me because it allowed for my analogue ways of outreach but also made space for a stress-free visual corner I could grow on the side to support my practice. For growing my following, I’ve tried a slew of trendy marketing strategies, but in the end, I found that what actually works for me is the old-school approach. Do the research, find the people whose inboxes you want to pop up in, send those emails. Meanwhile, keep your pages consistent and clean. That way, when potential buyers or collaborators check out, your online presence will be professional and seamless.
Though following algorithmic shifts such as posting times and hashtags has sometimes yielded higher numbers as far as likes, in my experience these statistics have been superficial. Often the hits are coming from bots or pre-programmed hashtag search engines that people pay for.
For real growth in engagement, I’ve found that nothing beats authentic content and most importantly wedging yourself into a little community. Use your stories to feature and shout out other artists and creatives. Leave comments. Share stories. Show support. Make friends!! Really building an online network you feel comfortable and confident within can do loads to lift blocks that you may have against marketing yourself. In the end, the point is that there are real people on the other end. It’s about the connections, not the numbers. Real success comes through authenticity; everything else will follow.
Some actionable marking tips I can give to people in my industry is to approach EVERYTHING in collaboration. Another piece of advice I can give is to NETWORK as much as possible, support what you admire and build relationships. What’s working for me is to literally not waste time being a perfectionist, sometimes it’s the imperfections that define us and our product. I also think that this is a cheat code for learning what’s needed to be ahead of the curve, research fashion jobs find big companies or any size company and see what the responsibilities would be of the people applying to the desired positions. Then you know you have to get that stuff done for your business as well.
Travelling, being a people person and staying true to myself. These three things have made it possible for me to continue to grow my following and business network. Travelling, whether to fashion or art conventions across the country. Or studying in Europe I was able to thrust myself in new work and cultural environments. This allowed me to reach a whole new demographic which would take me years to grow across the country or into Europe. On top of long distance travel, travelling on your coast, state, and the city is just as important. These can be anything from a local museum visitor visiting a local retailer to a day trip in New York. When you’re willing to put yourself in unfamiliar settings it makes making new connections and growing your following straightforward. There are billions of people on this earth so working with one another is inevitable. If you’re able to relate to others well it’ll only increase your chances of making connections and expanding your following. Now that doesn’t mean sell out and not be yourself. Just communicate who you are or what you do. Most of my customers liked my energy and passion for what I do.
When it came to music production, I invest countless hours into online tutorials and mentors to gain insight into various workflows and techniques. There are such things as happy mistakes when making music, so just go out there and play with sound, gear or programs. With DJ’ing, I’ve always tried to ensure my sets would contain exclusive music, through remixes and edits I think will grab the listeners attention. When they can’t find a track you played in your set, they have no choice but to go see you live or listen to your mixes online to hear the song.