I have a friend who is an amazing illustrator and graphic artist. She works in a steady yet unfulfilling job. When she’s not at work, she is collaborating with other artists, writing and creating for her personal projects. She stays busy because she is so passionate.
So I asked her, what did she really want to do?
She had ideas of where she wanted her career to take her and the kind of work she’d find fulfilling. They were big, impressive dreams that only someone as tenacious as her could reach. Only thing, how was she going to get to there from here?
Here’s what I said.
- Develop a builder’s mindset
- Build a following AND a community
- Grow her brand
- In short, build herself a reputation she can leverage and grow from
This advice will apply to nearly any kind of artists- writers, illustrators and photographers. Let’s get into specifics.
1. Artists, develop a builders mindset
I really didn’t want to overwhelm her with a giant list of to dos. My main priority was to impress on her the idea of a builder’s mindset.
This mentality is about planting seeds now to create long-living brands and by extension, plentiful options.
When you take time to start a garden, you can later think about adding a tree here. A fence there, a bird bath near the corner there…
You get the picture.
2. Build a following and a community
Since she didn’t have a super specific goal such as “I want to work at Pixar”, she needed to create a foundation that gives her leverage later for when she has a “ah-ha, this is what I want!”.
Writers do this very thing now. They build a community that makes them more attractive to publishers once they have a book concept to pitch.
So I recommended she start an email list and even create a Facebook group for artists like her. Fans welcomed of course.
Her email list could be set up for minimum management. She could create a simple welcome sequence, some extra automated emails and then once or twice a month send a little update about what she’s up to. What is her latest project, an artistic musing people may appreciate, a link to a cool new tool she found- it really can be simple content like this.
Creating, or in the very least, getting involved in an artist community gets her name out there. She can become a well-known figure in these communities the longer she sticks around and helps others like herself.
3. Grow a brand
I recommended she keep an awesome Instagram account. There’s a mystique and romanticism when it comes to an artist’s life. She already sent me really neat videos of her working and thoughts she had throughout the week. All she needs to do is share that and hook others into her unique perspective.
If she got really adventurous, she could throw some of her artwork into Printful and create a super easy to manage Etsy shop. This isn’t to make a ton of money every month (especially with the humble margins in Printful). This is to give herself more social proof and legitimacy.
Plus, fans love being fans when you give them the opportunity.
4. Tend a garden you can leverage and plugin to
Imagine now that she’s done this. She has this whole following on Instagram that stays up to date on all her latest projects, a community that adores (and listens) to her on Facebook, an email list she’s tended to for years and even an Etsy shop that further proves her fandom. She’s created a strong personal brand that proves she’s got it going on as an artist. People like what she’s about and want to know what she is going to do next.
This is gold when you’re job hunting, schmoozing a publisher or even going independent in a GoFundMe campaign. She has options because she can plug in to her email list and following. She may not know the exact destination but its like packing extra gas in the car for the road so she can get there. Whatever she decides to do, she won’t have to start from scratch.