Growing Your Audience: Taking Your Talent to the Next Level
You love what you do. It’s your passion. You’ve devoted every waking moment to your craft — be it writing, music, or visual art. You find yourself thinking about it all the time, capturing ideas, sketching concepts, and planning projects. It’s invigorating. In some ways, you may feel like it chose you — not the other way around. You can’t imagine your life with your creative pursuit.
Because you work on it every day, go ahead and admit it. You’ve gotten good. You are practiced, you know the techniques, and you understand the nuances. You’ve made all the mistakes, and your work is better for it. Today, you are a stronger artist than you’ve ever been.
You know that your art is good enough to “make it,” or maybe it’s even great. If you could just get someone to listen to your demo, read your first chapter, or page through your portfolio — surely they would see how strong your work is. If they’d only give you a chance.
Does this sound like you? You just want to be recognized for the good work you do. You just want to be appreciated for your craft. You just want people to experience your creative work — and maybe even be moved by it.
It’s why you create your art, right? To connect with people. To enlighten, inspire, or entertain. To make an impact — even on just one person.
It’s You Against the World
Here’s the problem. Everyone wants this. And they’re all out there, competing for attention.
The Internet has changed all the rules for creatives, which presents an incredible opportunity to connect directly with fans, get your work out there, and actually build a business around your creative work. There are countless of examples of creatives who have done just that.
For all this opportunity though, the backside of it is that it has opened the floodgates. We now have a ton of a new talent producing a ton of new offerings, contributing to a ton of noise. We can argue all day about the variety of talent, good and bad — but it’s not going away. It’s here to stay, which means that we need to adapt our strategy to fit this new dynamic.
Most “marketing” for creatives amounts to shouting into the void. How many “Buy my book!” or “Come to my show on Friday!” messages do you see sprayed across your Twitter and Facebook feeds? Do you think this is effective? Just keep yelling until maybe someone hears you? Do you think that this inspires action?
It doesn’t work on you, and it won’t work for you either.
Instead of shouting louder to get over the noise or buying ads — you want to use what you create to get in front of the right people — the people who will appreciate and support what you do. There’s no amount of shouting you can do that will elevate you above the noise.
Having an Audience Is Power
If you’re going to get noticed — and get the recognition you deserve — you need a strategy. That strategy revolves around one simple goal: Growing your audience.
When you have an audience, you have the power. Everything starts to shift in your favor. Your audience is an unlimited source of power to help you build traction, attract attention, and create revenue and countless opportunities.
Now of course, it’s easier said than done. But here’s the secret — it’s so incredibly valuable because of the fact that it’s so challenging. If it were easy, you would’ve done it by now. And others would’ve done it by now as well.
Because of this simple fact, think of how this will set you apart from the crowd. While they’re out there shouting, you’ll be focused and efficient. Since you know that having an audience is the only thing standing in between you the recognition and attention you crave, you’ll put the work in and start to get results while others struggle.
Don’t shy away from the work. Now is not the time to be passive about it. Growing your audience won’t happen on its own. You simply can’t expect to put out good work and have people take notice. You need to have a system and method to build your audience. Hope is not a marketing plan.
Opportunity is a gift. The tools are out there, and most of them are free. The only thing that’s going to set you apart is a relentless work ethic and an effective strategy.
Here’s a quick overview of this strategy, in the form of a checklist — designed specifically for writers and other creatives: A Guide to Marketing Your Creative Work. Download the free ebook and get a free set of email lessons as well.
Create Your Own Path
Through all this, there’s one guiding principle that you should live by: Keep going. Head down, with all effort focused on two things:
- Keep producing great art.
- Keep building your audience.
Yes, you want to make adjustments. You want to actually listen to what your audience wants from you. You want to experiment with new strategies until you find the ones that work the best.
But you have to keep focused on these two things. If you’re producing excellent work — and you have a audience that is growing week by week — you’ll get the validation from your fans. You will have everything you need to do your work on your own terms.
Be realistic — it’s not going to happen overnight. Have patience. Be persistent. Half the battle is showing up each day to connect with your audience of fans and followers — building relationships with them. Do this for long enough, with a genuine intent to connect, and they will not only become fans — but they will help bring you more fans as well.
The more attention you garner, the more people will start to take notice. Think of when you start to see a crowd gather for a street performance. You can’t resist the urge to see what the fuss is about, right? This is basic human nature, and the same dynamic happens online as well. Keep doing the two things above, and a crowd will start to gather.
You’ll accumulate more and more fans. With more and more notoriety, you’ll start be recognized more and more as a good artist, and maybe even acknowledged by some of the greats — other artists whom you look up to. Just imagine — an audience that loves and respects you. Connecting with people on an emotional level. Making a positive impact with your art. Unfettered success, as you define it.
Get Focused in Growing Your Audience
From this point forward, every moment you’re not spending on your creative work is going towards growing your audience. You now have a singular goal. Be stubborn about making the time for it. Don’t get intimidated by these activities — you’re not going to be pushy and sales-y. That doesn’t feel good, for you or your fans. Focus on making real connections with real people.
Let’s start with a counterintuitive secret that most creatives don’t seem to get when they are promoting their work — they use modern media as a broadcast mechanism. They treat it like a megaphone, barking about how great they are to an invisible crowd.
Forget the crowd for a minute and just focus on one person. It always starts one person at a time. Quiet the process a little and treat it like a conversation. Think of the times when you’re talking about your art — when you’re in a café, talking with a friend. You feel passion, joy, urgency, and all the things that art makes you feel.
Bring that into the discussions with your audience. Speak directly to them, not at them. Make them feel what you feel. You’re not producing some commoditized “product,” you’re making art. And you do it to find an emotional or intellectual connection with someone. Bring that to your marketing, and it won’t feel like “marketing.”
Now, when your ultimate goal is to build a large audience, this concept may seem counterintuitive. One-to-one seems slow and hard to scale. But when you’re just getting started, you don’t want everyone as a fan. What you want instead is for the early adopters to feel connected to you — like they are a part of what you do. They should almost feel like they own what you do.
Remember that band you liked before anyone else? You felt special, right? Like you were in the know before any of your friends. You want to make your people feel like that.
When you achieve this, you now have a chance to grow faster. Again, it’s sounds counterintuitive: Focusing on fewer people helps me grow faster? Yes — the reason is that these fans will create more fans for you. When they feel invested in you and your work, they will become advocates, and give willing recommendations to others. Some of those recommendations will become new fans for you.
This is called word-of-mouth marketing, and it’s absolutely critical if you want to scale your creative business. While it’s not something you can control, it is something that you can foster and nourish.
If you’d like to learn how to build your own system to activate word-of-mouth marketing, please join me in my online course, Content Marketing for Creatives. The course is now available in three smaller versions so you can focus on the specific skills and strategies that you need to learn.
- Foundations: Build Your Website. Build a basic website to promote your creative work — and get your blog, social media, and email marketing strategy set up too.
- Outreach: Connect with Your Audience. Learn how to do the outreach necessary to find new fans — using a blog, email campaigns, and social media.
- Workflows: Get Focused and Efficient. Learn how to integrate your blog, email, and social into systematic workflows so you can get more efficient in your marketing.