Shop Talk

RB Artists On… Self-Promotion

Last week, for our Open Discussion, we threw a topic on the table that turned out to be one that caused a lot of passionate conversation: self-promotion and why artists seem to hate it so much.

Some of you chimed in defending self-promotion as a necessary evil. Some of you explained how you find the whole process baffling. Some of you said that self-promotion is the death of creativity. And some of you were totally cool with the whole thing. We thought it’d be helpful to pull some of the best responses we received to highlight some of the advice, questions, and concerns you shared.

Head over to the post to see the rest of the (many) comments, and join the chat yourselves.

"Wasted Youth" by Damian King

The Good:

These folks are down with selling their goods.

Homeartist discussed how the promoting one’s work is fulfilling a natural need:

The idea of a starving artist is so romantic, but the reality is just not so. In these times, if you want to be an artist, would you rather be starving or self promoting? I know that is tasteless to say, especially since most of us don’t know how to self promote, but promotion is key to survival as an artist. We were all doing art in our rooms by the sunny window before Redbubble came along, but by posting here, it is also promoting your art. The need to be discovered is primal, especially in an artist.

Cindy Schnackel explains how learning how to market your art YOUR WAY is the best way to un-sleaze yourself:

Marketing seems to be a left-brain activity, while creating art is right-brain. So many artists have trouble switching to left brain activity. I’m no exception. One can learn it. Some artists are good at both and they are good models if they are doing the work they love AND selling it. It has been going pretty well for me, I’ve had increasing successes and sales, and have weathered setbacks and moved on. When I was younger I just wanted a paycheck that was related to art, and I did that by working as an employee in the arts. Later, I decided to learn marketing, so I could stay home and do my own art ‘full time’ instead of as my hobby after work. There’s still a lot to learn. So far what’s working best for me: Do the art you love and find the people who also love it. Target your marketing to people who are your right audience. Network, be part of your art community. Always be true to yourself. Never do anything that feels sleazy.

Janis Zroback reminds us to know our audiences:

Getting to know your audience is key, taking the temperature of their response and letting it guide you as to which promotional methods work is really important…most people don’t like things shoved in their faces, and when it comes to art a soft sell works much better.

Thinkbolt explains how self-promo is all around us, always:

 The internet and social media in general are ALL ABOUT self-promotion. Everybody does it all the time. When you tweet or post ANYTHING, you know people are seeing it, and you want people to like it. Accept that fact and get on with it.

Amy-Elyse Neer compares selling art to providing any type of service:

I don’t see it as bragging, or being immodest I see it as advertising my product and service. Someone running an ad in the penny saver for their window cleaning business isn’t bragging , they are letting people know they are there and will clean their windows for money. it’s just the advertising side of the business, and like advertising for any other business you’re not going to say

“This sucks and is waaay too expensive”

you say
“This is good, you should buy it, and it’s totally worth the price!”

There’s as much shameful selling out involved with selling and promoting your art as there is with a doctor practicing medicine or a baker selling cupcakes…. None. You learned it, practiced it, got good at it, and want to make a living doing it, that’s not selling out, that’s wanting to make money at what you are good at and went to school for. Just like every other profession.

And DanielBDemented lays out some very practical advice:

It’s not about being pushy or cocky, just be natural, be yourself (I know it’s trite, but it’s true).
I’ve found that if you talk to someone about your art and show that you believe in the quality of your work, they’re bound to have a more favorable impression of it as well.

Don’t be afraid of self-promotion; at worst, you’ll be dismissed – no big deal, and at best you’ll make a sale and leave a lasting impression on someone.

"Patched Up #1" by Dan Burgess

The Bad:

This group doesn’t dig the hard sell.

Alenka Co doesn’t want to brag (and wants the work to speak for itself):

I don’t hate self-promotion, I’m just not comfortable with it. For me, it’s the way I was brought up. To talk about oneself in this way was considered bragging. If one’s work was good, it was supposed to speak for itself. Good luck with that these days :)

whatthefoucault wants to get paid, but doesn’t want to spam:

Self-promotion makes me feel like the kinds of annoyingly spammy folks who are, frankly, egregiously over self-promotional. I think I err on the side of shying away from self-promotion too much for fear of coming across as the kind of person who annoys me. It’s tough as well because, yeah, this is my passion, my craft, what I do because I love it, but does it cheapen it if I say I also want and deserve to be paid for my efforts? I’ve had people say to me before, “isn’t it enough that you’ve written/photographed/painted something that you feel good about?” and I’ve been made to feel somehow like I shouldn’t be able to admit that the answer is yes, but I do actually want to be able to pay my rent and feed myself and not be afraid of how much my bills will be if I switch the heating on in my flat over the winter.

(Which I haven’t done once this season, in order to save money, probably because I’m complete garbage at self-promotion. It feels like either shouting into the void, or being lost in the shuffle of countless other voices who are just self-promoting right back at me. Where’s the sense of community there?)

YouKnowThatGuy doesn’t want to spend time on self-promo when he’s already spent so much time CREATING:

Yes, it helps us expand our audience, but why should we have to constantly devote hours sharing our work when we’ve already worked hard enough on the art we’re sharing? Cyber-Evolution, if I may call it that, can be a ruthless subject. Once a new method of self-promotion is discovered, artists must tackle the method to remain in the ranks. Those who do not evolve with the times lose their audience and miss out on boat-loads of cash.

Adam Bogusz doesn’t feel comfortable throwing around “likes” and faves”:

it’s in my chemical makeup to loathe self promotion….and I also cringe when other artists do it but I realise that’s just my opinion and not “the truth”. I tend to go through bouts of promoting, looking at other peoples work and enjoying it and then after awhile i reach a threshold and have to withdraw from it all. This is why I’ll often readd my whole watchlist and then delete it every 6 months or so [I know, I’m mad]
I’ll be honest and admit that I have “liked” faved” images that I really don’t admire but do it in order to solicit a return “like” or “fave” or because I feel I need to repay the favour….I suspect I’m not alone in this deceitful behaviour? I’d like to clarify that I don’t do this all the time…the majority of my “likes” are genuine! :o)

Then I think of it this way…If I won 50 million dollars tomorrow would I keep painting….you bet I would.
Would I keep posting those paintings on facebook etc seeking another “thumbs up” like pavlov’s dog hoping it leads to a sale? Would i connect my twitter account to my instagram profile which is linked to my google plus site and then announce my latest sale to the world?…..ugh.


I promote because I’m hoping it will lead to a sale.

This is where it gets to the core of it for me….art and money.
I love my art…I love creating it. It’s not a job for me[yes it is Adam] It’s who i am.
Every time i paint for money something inside of me dies.

please check out my website www.adambogusz.com


"Vacation" by cur3es

The Concerned and Quizzical:

The following artists express a very common feeling, “What if I’m not good enough?”

Adam Howie:

I just cant seem to get the hang of it, perhaps it feels too much like bragging, or making myself more than I feel I really am. By that I mean I know there are countless, seemingly infinite, better and more accomplished artists out there what right do I have to say I am good please buy my work? Promotion is certainly something that I need to work on :)

Kevin Exley:

For me, being overly critical of my own work can get in the way of self promotion. Regardless of how happy I am with a finished piece, I tend to feel that others are creating work of a higher quality than I am, so shouting, or politely mentioning my own images can feel like folly.


I hate it because I don’t think my stuff is good enough to promote. Lots of people have bought it, but I fear that promoting myself will create the impression that I think I’m better at this than I actually am.


I don’t like it, I feel that I’m not good enaugh to bother people with my works :)


Self-promotion makes me feel waaay too self conscious, because suddenly it makes me view my already shobby art is a whole new light like is what i made actually worth peoples attention and their money??


Kathleen Kelly-Thompson:

Like so many who have posted, I am no good at it, I find it uncomfortable. That probably isn’t even an accurate description. What I find that always hangs me up is simply this: No matter where I try to apply, be it a contest, artist representation, whatever the case is… I am always required to write about myself, my artistic intent, or vision. For the life of me, I cannot write any of this, everything I write sounds wicked pretentious to me, even though I wrote it! I keep trying, read articles, try to get better, but, it’s crazy hard and time consuming. Like everyone else, wish the work could say it all.


I’m a photographer and always have to “try” and promote my work and I always feel awkward. I had hoped my work would speak for its self but when you’re having an interview with a couple and they are looking at your work even if they are likening it they still look at you with that question “So why should we pick you”? And rightly so as they are spending hard earn money but I hate it because you can sound really up yourself! I just always hope when I’m going on that they can see my passion, my love for my photography I think that’s why I’d rather promote myself in person trying to type why they should pick me is my main battle like through E-mails or Facebook they can’t see passion through text… Can they?!?

So what’s the next step? The consensus seems to be that while some artists are comfortable with promoting their own work (and making money!), most think the act is uncomfortable at best, and a nightmare at worst. We’ve got some great resources here on the RB Blog that could give you some guidance. Feel free to further chat in the comments here about what you’d like to see on RB that might help you in your journey of creative world domination.

Head over to the original post to see the rest of what your fellow RB community members had to say.

"Identity Crisis" by Hector Mansilla

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Jen Durant

Redbubble Artist Relationship Manager