Attention all artists: the days of Vincent Van Gogh are far behind us, and that means that it’s no longer cool or necessary for artists to die in poverty and obscurity. If you want people to know about the glorious works you’re creating, self-promotion is not only acceptable — it’s an absolute must.
To this end, it’s time to stop being so Emily Dickinson (i.e. composing poetry in your closet) and making it impossible for the world to recognize you, let alone pay you for your art. It’s time instead to have the confidence to create a public presence for your work by getting together a website and simple yet effective marketing tools like flyers, posters, and postcards, to invite people to come witness your talent (and potentially purchase a piece for themselves).
It doesn’t matter what kind of artist you are — a filmmaker, a painter, sculptor, dancer, poet, actor, or musician — you are an absolute lunatic if you don’t have a website yet. It goes without saying that you are the inventive type, so even if you have no experience in web design or html, you should be able to muster the creativity to carve out a simple space on the web to house a cyber version of your art. If you are a wordsmith, probably a simple, free or nearly-free service like WordPress or Blogger will be all you need to get started. And a nice feature about these two services is that they basically hold the user’s hand through the creation process, so you probably won’t have to hire outside help to get the job done. Once your blog is up and running, post frequently to encourage followers to check back often.
If, on the other hand, you are a graphic artist, a musician, a dancer, or an actor, the audio/visual aspects of your work may require that you go a few extra miles to ensure that you’re properly represented online. Think about it: you’re a painter, and this website is a portal through which millions of people who would otherwise have absolutely no way to access your work can, well, access your work. You don’t have any room for sloppiness or half-assing it on your website. If images of your paintings are not laid out well or otherwise appear less than stellar, then you appear less than stellar as an artist. You might even appear to be a joke. You’ve got to find a graphic designer and/or a web designer who can make the site — and you — look good. There is no way to emphasize enough how important your snippet of the internet is in determining your growth. If you haven’t already, we suggest you Google around to check out websites of artists you admire to start generating ideas of what an effective website looks like. Generally speaking, image-driven, frequently-updated websites are effective in generating a following for your work.
Once you’ve got your website up, don’t just twiddle your thumbs waiting for people to stumble upon it. You could be waiting for a very long time if you do. Generate buzz by alerting your Facebook and Twitter followers that the site is up, but do yourself a favor, take a deep breath, and go out in public to drive strangers to the site as well. But don’t go empty-handed. Print flyers that showcase your creativity and that make people curious about you. Choosing one of your favorite works as the centerpiece of your flyer is a good idea, and headlining the flyer with a catchy or provocative title will pique interest as well. In your flyer design, don’t forget to include the URL for your website, your Facebook and Twitter info, and your email address and phone number, at your discretion.
Prepare a short speech about yourself, your mission, and your art to start conversations with passersby. If this kind of thing makes you so nervous, you think you might puke just imagining it, suck it up. If you want to be famous, you’re going to have to grow some cajones! Plus, you never know when one of those passersby might just happen to be a big shot museum or gallery curator. All it takes to jumpstart your career is one big break, but to find that break, you’ve got to play the numbers game.