Shop Talk

Self-Promotion for Artists: A Beginner’s Guide

As an artist, I’m sure you’ve realized that promoting yourself can be super awkward. Shilling your wares and trying to get noticed can leave you feeling like a husk of a human (albeit a marketable, talented husk, but a husk nonetheless). And networking can truly be the worst. All that nodding and smiling and hand shaking is exhausting, not to mention unsanitary. But it’s a necessary evil if you want to be successful. Honestly, it’s really not all that evil, but it is necessary. Which is why we’re giving you some surprisingly easy techniques that you can start using today to better promote yourself and your art without feeling like a cheesy, annoying used car salesman.

Self-promotion might seem like torture, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some ways to make it better.

Don’t speak in future terms

Whenever I read artist statements or bio-introductions, there’s often a subtle give-away that the artist doesn’t believe in his or her own work. When artists talk about how they “will be exploring” or “aim to discuss” or “am beginning a series of artworks” it makes them sound like they will get around to making artwork sometime in the future.

Don’t do this! Instead, always speak like you have created the artwork, and that your artistic career is an ongoing journey (which is the truth!). If you speak in future terms, it reads like you haven’t been actively working. And that’s probably a lie, you’re probably working your butt off.

So instead of starting an artist statement or creative pitch with, “I will be focusing on,” make the simple switch to, “I have been/I am continuing to…”. It makes you sound like you’ve been making mock-ups since before you could talk, and that you’re pretty much a seasoned master.

Be confident about your work. Talk the talk. (Photo: "Berlin, Alexanderplatz" by Stephanie Jung)

Have a master CV and a master portfolio kept up to date

Keep a master copy of your CV on file. Every time you do something super rad like have artwork in an exhibition or an image used on a band poster, add it to your CV. It will end up as a master copy of everything you’ve ever done professionally. Then, when you’re applying for a specific job, you can be sure you won’t forget the experience that’s relevant to that gig.

Do  this with your portfolio of work too. Use Dropbox or some kind of digital storage facility of choice — as long as it’s not just one folder, on one computer — to create a master portfolio of every artwork you’ve ever made and documented. Include installation shots, product shots, scanned negatives, everything. You could also create a private blog to post your work so you have everything stored somewhere safe, in addition to your digital portfolio.

Doing this creates good habits. The more you make and document, the more you’ll feel like you accomplished.

Keeping a master copy of your CV and Portfolio makes life easier (Photo: "Writing" by Tordo)

Have an artists page for Facebook & Twitter separate from your personal life

With a platform like Hootsuite or TweetDeck, you can easily manage multiple social media accounts without loosing your passwords or your mind. Having a social media account for your creative career is really important so you can reach people who prefer to only connect on Facebook or Twitter, but making sure it’s separate from your personal account is imperative. Your best friend doesn’t want to be spammed with progress videos of you creating an illustration, just as potential buyers or supporters of your work don’t want to see 60 photos of your cat and what you had for dinner last night. People who are into your artwork are into your artwork, not your Facebook photos of the giant cocktail you consumed while wearing a zany hat on your 25th birthday. It’s sad but true. S0 be smart about how and to whom you market yourself.

Also, if you haven’t already, read about Redbubble’s awesome new social sharing buttons and be sure to add them to your RB profile.  They are seriously good lookin’.

Separate your social media accounts (Photo: "The Juggler - Surreal Photography" by Tamara Rogers)

Have a mission statement and let everyone know about it

You know how pretty much every company has a mission statement to explain what they’re about? Sure, they can be sinfully boring, but some of them can also be quite inspiring and an interesting insight into the company’s goals and motivations. As a professional artist, you should have one too. It can be super short (in fact it’s probably better if it is); just a few sentences on what your thing, your niche, your raison d’etre is, and why you’re awesome at it. Sum it up, put it in your Redbubble profile, and stick to it.

Mission statements can also help you refine and define what you want to work on and how you want to work on it. In fact, it’s probably worth checking out About and What pages for some inspiration and an example of a nice tone.

Learn to pitch yourself and nurture your mission (Photo: "Hopes and Dreams" by Noukka Signe)

Post follow-ups to your supporters

Often when you’re building up to a big event, like an exhibition or a book launch, you can harp on and on about what’s about to happen. This is understandable. It’s exciting. But don’t forgot, while you’re basking in your glory of your achievements, make sure you thank the people who helped you by letting them know about your success. Following up with people lets them know you truly appreciate their support, and that your creative work has a longevity and life that continues after the work has been pulled off the walls. Following up also is a lovely and covert form of networking, because you’re not asking people for anything, you’re just letting them know that really interesting creative things happened, and that’s pretty nice indeed.

Read more on this topic in a more installments of “Self-Promotion for Artists”

Let people know about your creative work (Photo: "Vintage Camera and Retro Telephone" by Andreka)

What’s worked for you in getting yourself out there? Now’s the time to spill your sharing tips and tricks in the comments below.

[Header image “Creative shopping” by (the appropriately named) buyart]