Okay, so, the time has come to advertise yourself, or something you’ve done, or something you’re going to do, and you have to do it in the real world. You know, in that glorious, lawless, mythical place some people refer to as The Outside. It will probably involve talking to people. There’s a number of things you might need to promote in the future; an art show, a gallery opening, a booth at a craft fair, a friend’s band’s show, maybe even a ritual intended to summon a Lovecraftian horror. Really, it could be anything, and you should aim to be prepared. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably not working with a very large advertising budget. This can, of course, be frustrating, especially if your arch-rival can afford glossy color fliers and you’re trying to figure out how to glue a handmade billboard to a cat due to budgetary constraints. Here are a few handy tips for advertising and promoting yourself IRL on a low budget.
Okay, so, if you’ve got a real life event that you need to publicize, you’ll need fliers. However, not everyone has the budget for the nice ones, and sometimes there’s no time, either. If you’re running low on time (or funds) just create a simple black & white design that you can fit four times onto an A4 page. Make sure to include the important details, such as:
– The name of the thing being advertised
– WHAT THE THING BEING ADVERTISED IS
– A time and an address (if it is an event)
– A price (if there are tickets sold)
– The URL of your website
– A QR code (ain’t nobody got time for typing in a url)
– Your twitter handle (if you have one?)
– Phone number of venue (if an event, if relevant? Do people still use phones?)
Once you’ve got all that info, just paste the final image four times onto a Microsoft Word document and make sure the margins are somewhat even and there’s not too much (or too little) space in between the copies of the flier. Go get it printed at a print shop; it’s like ten cents a page or something, and you get four copies for ten cents. Once it’s printed, go use that guillotine-like contraption they always have on the side for cutting paper and fingertips and the heads of miniature French royalty, and cut the pages into quarters. Boom, fliers, you’re done, congrats. It doesn’t take too long to print black & white, either, so you’ll have acceptable looking fliers done within the space of an hour.
Back in high school, I used this trick for pretty much everything, from last-minute fliers for shows to debate team recruitment posters. Sure, you won’t get the nicest thing ever (although you could use a heavier weight paper or cardstock instead of the flimsiest, cheapest paper to make it look nicer) but it’s better than nothing. Just make sure that you cut things up very evenly, so you have nice, rectangular fliers (this is important). Also, you’re an artist! You can always draw something or include a pretty photograph as well.
Don’t have the funds to invest in business cards? Need some like, right away and can’t wait for your order to be delivered to you? You have two options for when you need business cards in a rush:
The Pinterest Method: This one requires some thinking ahead. Get a custom stamp made with your name, website, email, occupation, and shoe size on it. Also, obtain some card stock, something that is the general texture and thickness and bendiness of a business card. Cut card stock to size. Stamp your info on the cardstock using ink of choice. Let dry. Use to show everyone that you are an adult.
The SHOULD HAVE DONE THIS YESTERDAY Method: Good for when you are running out of time, should have had your business cards finished by yesterday afternoon, or were trapped in a time-space paradox on your way to place an order for business cards and when you got spit up by a wormhole it was far too late and you can’t afford same day delivery. Create a file that is 9cm wide and 5.1 cm tall using Photoshop or other image editing program. Include the following information:
– Your name
– Your occupation
– Your email address
– Your phone number (if you like)
– Your website address
– Your twitter or github or dribbble or something
– Your RB profile URL
– Whatever else your potential clients or such need to know about you
– A piece of your art (far more memorable than a boring card with just info on it)
Then, fit as many copies of this image as you can on one A4 page. Go to a print shop and have several copies printed on thick, semi-glossy paper (I get mine done at Kinko’s). Then, use the mini-guillotine to cut the paper into the shape of business cards (it helps if you added some guides for cutting before printing but if you didn’t, just use a ruler and a pencil).
If you want more ideas for DIY business cards, here’s a list of cool and creative ideas. Even if you’re in a hurry, why not take a minute to make your business cards cool and unique?
Neither method is as nice as having a business card that’s also a sticker but it is way better than nothing. I like to refer to business cards as “proof I am an adult.” It’s very hard to be taken seriously if you don’t have business cards.
Yes, I know, the phrases “press kit” and “media kit” are about as intimidating as “the Dark Lord Morgoth’s Army Of Corrupt Hellbeasts” but you really should look into having one, because it will make your life about ten times easier. It’s not nearly as hard as it looks. There are many guides for constructing a good press kit online. Just make sure to include basic info about yourself; examples of your work, press coverage you’ve received, etc. This list breaks down all the information you need to have in an artist press kit.
You can send the press kit along with any press releases to anyone who is interested in your work – art galleries, local papers, bloggers, your mom, et cetera. It’s a lot easier than having to retype all about yourself all over the place, and you can send all relevant information about yourself in one tidy PDF to whomever needs that information. Also, consider making your press kit downloadable on your site – maybe on your “About Me” page. You should update your press kit at a minimum once every six months, or whenever something major and important happens.
Okay, yeah, I know, press releases, those suck. It feels really weird to write one about yourself, I can tell you that much. You might not feel like your stuff is important enough to merit a full-blown press release; you might even feel pretentious and silly and like you’ve been replaced by a strutting peacock. Do yourself a favor, and put those feelings aside; this is a thing that can really help you.
Not sure where to start with a press release? Identifying the things that make your work and the event you are advertising unique and/or important is a good start. Once you’ve got a handle on how to describe what is happening… describe what is happening. Start with a couple paragraphs about the event. Throw in a paragraph about yourself and your work. Attach a press kit. Mention you’re available for interviews. Here’s a couple helpful resources for composing a press release:
As to who should get a copy of a press release? Do some research and see if your art has a target market. Is there a blog dedicated to paintings of deer, and you just happen to be exhibiting a series of stags, does and wendigos? They might be interested in a press release. Is there a small newspaper dedicated to happenings in Queens, New York, and you just happen to be an artist based in Queens, New York and doing a gallery show locally? They might want a press release too. People can’t go to your event if they don’t know it exists, so let them know it exists.
Friends, you know, those people you hang out with a lot, you have those, right? Even I have some, so I’m going to assume you do, too. For the most part, friends are more than happy to volunteer an hour or two of their time to help out; so why not print up a bunch of fliers, gather into a group, and visit as many coffee shops as you can, leaving a trail of promotional materials behind you on tables, inside books, taped to lampposts? I’ve done this before and I can guarantee you that this can turn into a very fun way to waste an otherwise boring Saturday.
If the idea of handing people fliers on the street doesn’t give you hives, gather your heist team and set out towards heavily trafficked areas. Hand out fliers to passer-bys. Seek out outdoor flea markets, free concerts, parks on sunny days, or street fairs. People waiting in line to get into a concert venue are always a good target because you know they’re going to be there for a while and can’t run away from you, you know they’re bored and have been in line to see Lady Gaga since three days ago, and you KNOW they’re willing to spend money to see a concert, so maybe they’ll be willing to see some other sort of art in person, right?
If your friends do stalls at flea markets, craft fairs, conventions, or street fairs, ask them if you can put out a bunch of your fliers on their table. Bribe them with Starbucks if you must. Got a friend who sells their crafts online? Ask if they can include a flier or two for your work with every package that goes out to their buyers, especially if your aesthetic matches theirs. Even if the buyer isn’t local, they might find your art interesting, and seek to buy prints from you. While you’re at it, add a line about your upcoming exhibition to your Redbubble receipts; if someone’s already bought your art, chances are they’ll be interested in seeing more of it.
Tape, plus flier with pretty art and a QR code, plus lamppost – you know what that’s an equation for? That’s right, cheap promotion. Paper your area with ads for the event at hand; someone might actually see it and want to attend. Find out if your local coffee shops and libraries have community bulletin boards where you can pin an announcement. Put an ad in a handful of local papers – it’s cheaper than the big newspapers, and the only people who read local papers are people who are interested in local events. Stick an ad or two on Craigslist and Backpage, while you’re at it. Maybe nothing will come of it, maybe something will. See if there’s a newspaper or free zine dedicated to local happenings and events; if you’re a New Yorker, you’re probably familiar with Time Out New York, and that’s a great place to put an announcement about your event.
Just get creative with it! It doesn’t have to be a complicated big thing – the most important thing is to get your name out there as much as possible, and as cheaply as possible. Don’t be afraid to try something new or untested; it might just end up being really, really effective.