Do you want your music, your visual art, your writing to be something that you could really make a career out of? Are you sick of your creative passions getting treated like nothing more than a hobby? If you want to get taken seriously, then you have to take yourself a bit more seriously. Think about that career, think about your art as a business. And a business needs a brand. Brands aren’t just for Coca-Cola and McDonalds. They have a lot to offer even individuals like you.
People don’t know you exist
There are a lot of artists. In every single field, there are tons and a significant portion of them are taking themselves as seriously as you should. You need to be able to compete for visibility, for the attention of non-paying enthusiastic fans and potential clients and employers alike. You should be easy to reach online, using a consistent brand name, whether it’s your own or a nom de plume. You should also have your own site, using search engine optimisation to make it much easier to find your online home. Finally, that site and all methods of catching you online need to make it easy to reach you. Whether that’s a location, a phone number, or an email address (that you absolutely must check often), you’re making it a lot harder to find opportunity if you don’t have a means for people to offer it.
The portfolio comes first
A lot of artists might scoff at the idea of creating a brand for themselves. They believe in the Death of the Author, that the work needs to speak for itself. That’s partly true. The work does need to be able to impress people on its own. That’s why you should ensure that your art takes first place in the priorities of your site. If you’re a visual artist, you need an accessible and extensive portfolio. If you’re a musician, your site should have a plugin that makes it easy for visitors to start listening immediately.
But the portfolio isn’t the be-all and end-all of how people perceive you. How many people do you know that know of Salvador Dali but know nothing about surrealism? How many people get absorbed into Kerouac’s writing without caring about the beat generation? They know the personalities, not just the art. Finding your personality is going to make it a lot easier to have an emotional resonance with your audience. It can add significance to how they experience your art that wasn’t there before. Don’t afraid to figure out your story, to define your values and tell them in writing or methods like hosting creative videos on the site. Don’t be afraid that the spotlight will occasionally shine on you as opposed to your art.
Keep it genuine
That’s not to say that you should be wracking your brain to come up with a story that is compelling, engaging, and entirely false. Credibility and integrity are important as an artist. Be true to your roots. More importantly, keep your brand true to your art. Don’t let people get distracted by things like ads on your site. Selling yourself as a brand and looking seriously at your art as a career does not mean that you have to jump at every cheap opportunity to bring in the cash. Keep the focus on you and your art. Stay true to yourself and it becomes a lot easier to keep a brand believable and consistent.
Display some professionalism
That’s not to say there aren’t some aspects of yourself and your site that you couldn’t put a little more effort into. When it comes to presentation, professionalism is definitely important. A website that doesn’t work well, an artist that doesn’t update their content, errors in the site’s copy, these aren’t acceptable. It makes it look like you don’t take your work seriously. Think about professional copywriting for websites if you can’t write good copy yourself. Get help from those who have expertise in website design and making it easier for you to add content if you’re not good at creating a website you can easily use. If you want to gain anything from your art, you have to invest a little into selling yourself as an artist.
It’s not all about you
Finding your story, your brand image, and putting the spotlight on yourself and your art is important. But a brand is a tool for communication. You have to remember the target market. This shouldn’t factor only into finding imagery and the right voice. It also means taking the time to reach out to your community and to foster a connection with any fans you’re picking up on the way. For instance, if you’re a musician, then think about making mix tapes of inspirations and songs you love for those fans who would love to learn more about your influences. If you’re an artist, show support for those who want to follow in your footsteps and follow their art.
Build long-term relationships
Your relationship with the fans is one of the most important long-term relationships you should be focused on building. But it’s not the only one. The broader world around you is just as important. Get involved in conversations and collaborations with other artists. Attend more events and join more networking groups. Give yourself some credibility by making a real appearance in the world you want to be a part of. For one, you will find more people who feel passionate about your work and can use their own platform to share it. Secondly, you make it a lot easier to find paying opportunities by getting your name stuck in the right minds. Perhaps most importantly, however, you get support and share ideas with other creative minds, constantly expanding your influences and adding depth to what you do.
A brand isn’t just about ‘selling yourself’. It’s about connecting to customers, getting visibility and establishing yourself a place in the field you want to be in. If you want a future in art, then you need to think about yourself as an artist and how the world should see you.