Part 6: Blah, Blah, Blah

Blurb goes here and we love blurbs. Knowing you aren’t likely to read much past this but really hoping to tempt you to, we think up something smart & funny to say. Then you the reader with your interest piqued will read on… {and hopefully share & comment! 🙂 }

[Missed out on previous parts?]

What we hope you’ll learn in this part:
  • Make it matter, make them matter.
  • Remember: YOU MATTER!
  • You’re never more appealing than when you help others
  • Help them, help you
  • You’ll come a long way this way

It doesn’t matter until they matter

Of course you are thinking about “them” the people who might read what you have to post, but are you really thinking about them? Not as a means to an end, but in what they want, need, or respond to? Again you have to de-center this notion that you post a selfie and get congratulations or encouragement. Don’t treat your business this way, or your art.

It has value, and think of what your most ardent supporter who purchases stuff will say or describe. What do they want? When you can think like them, and then take that knowledge & provide them with what they want you will have found the sweet spot. Your art is your business.

You always matter

The most reached for conclusion by creatives is that they are sidelined in their own dreams or that trying to make an appeal feels like “selling out” — the same myth that makes you think all it takes is hard work, which is the coin flipped side of compromising your art to sell it. The time where you didn’t have to wrestle with this is long gone.

That shouldn’t dishearten you though. You make a multitude of decisions between starting a project and completing it. Now in this climate, afterwards you have to take three steps away from it to fully grasp what it is you created.

First step, step over your own thoughts about it. There is nothing worse than what you think of your creativity. Fraught with so many layers of complex emotion, tangled discourses on your value and worth. Tenderly afloat on your own personal hopes and dreams. It isn’t you, and we’re oft quoted as saying: Don’t mistake the author for the words.

Meaning that a writer is more than the sum of their words or thoughts. They are a flesh & blood human being, and those words represent a sliver of who they are. Just as the next business card you receive look at the “title” portion, and not see the person as simply the sum of that recognition or status. They are more than “Regional Planning Manager” and in person you know that, you see a real life human being, made of flesh & blood, who has charisma (or doesn’t) or charms unique to them. So take the next step away, from yourself as a title.

Stepping Stones are sometimes slippery

The second layer has a warning sign. In this new economy of attentions, you have to make these bits & bytes work for you. The first pool of thought we find ourselves in is our nearest and dearest friends or families that provide assistance through support. They like everything you post, even if you were only related through a distant branch of your family tree.

They represent the limited but immediately accessible avenues of thought around who you are, while not representing all you can be. They are a good starting place, but hear their thoughts through a critical lens. Don’t disregard outright, unless toxic, but look for what they aren’t saying more than what they are saying.

Don’t put words in their mouth either. Listen at a remove from your feelings for something approaching meditation. They oft are not able to articulate what you are becoming if they’ve only known you as what you currently are. Focus when possible to what they see (or you intuit) as obstacles.

You don’t have enough experience? Check. What do you know about…? Check. This makes me feel like…? Gotcha. The power dynamic between creatives and non-creatives is often stark. They have all the stability, their lives function on routine and going with the flow, and yours lives starkly in contrast to that. You are an imagination unlimited, while playing by a whole different set of rules than their lives. Adjust your perception to that paradigm.

Helping others will help yourself

This is the biggest trap that creatives fall into, doing free work, donating time/energies and creative talent to help them. Make this logo, write this copy for my website, set up my Twitter account & show me how to tweet. Let us use your art for “exposure” and you’ll see, it will help.

No, nope, nada. It never does, and yet we all do it in some form or another. Knowing when to say ‘No’ is crucial to segment surviving from thriving in your art. True Story time, there was a friend of ours, who has a store, that had pretty things. If you visited this store as a friend & long-time supporter of their dream and wanted to buy something, it was quickly met with an explanation that there was a discount — 15% off retail price to purchase.

This is a wise move, even as it was quickly realized how uncomfortable it made our friend. The business thrived with such policies, and certainly had more comfort in the early days over giving it away at “cost.”

What do I get for it? 

So most creatives either give it away in the beginning for experience and portfolio recognition or charge a pittance, because that is all they can afford. Undervaluing what they are worth to the greatest possible damage of what they might earn. This can create deep schisms as well in these personal or associated relationships.

How to give it away without compromising is the hardest needle to thread, and your career is going to require fine needlepoint craft work, or a patchwork quilt of experiences if you are a to succeed. It isn’t going to look like a solid career path or plan that was flawlessly executed until they write that human interest story on you. They will, they always do.

This guide isn’t for the “beginner,” instead it is for the person who has the life experiences and the training to grab their personal brass ring. The beginners are all out there already doing it, millennial or not, clogging up every social media platform or internet place with what “they do.” With their ‘personal brand’ exercises screaming for your attention when you really just want to see what the weather is like.

Timing, Timing, Timing

Far more important than location in these modern times.  If it is true that a lie will make it half-way around the world while the truth is hitting the snooze button on its cellphone, then it almost beggers the question: WHY BOTHER?

Your real work versus their cheap labor seems weighted with all the odds against you. Yesterday we waded into a conversation about hashtag appropriation from an “artist” who claimed he curated & “cropped” these pictures (without permission or authority) and added words in lilac across them. That is what passes for creativity, and has a crowdfunding page for you to help support this ‘branding.’ What makes this incident more horrible, is it is to empower marginalized people.

People, and artists are never empowered by being exploited. Never in all of humanity. They die in obscurity that way and their hard work a cautionary tale. So why when such depressive and all-too-common behavior strive? Because if you google the ‘branded’ term you come up with the push-back, and a reclamation of the hashtag with its complicated sources and debate. Who wins and who decides?

So whether this new site gets funded, or success comes to this interloper with their willful erasure is yet to be seen. The dispute has sent the original party into the hinterlands and with no visible sign of social media presence. Yet people don’t forget. They remember, and note, and most of the time don’t actually say anything out loud on social media. Preferring to make mental notes rather than start a discussion.

Imitation is not flattering

So the third step, and final remove is to think like the person who will buy or sell your art. This is always the greatest hurdle for creatives and usually we all find we have undervalued ourselves & our work. Negotiations are tricky, and complex, but they aren’t helped by your self-doubt or refusal to see your own self-worth. That extends to what you make as well. Many an artist has gone broke or hungry by not knowing what they were worth, or pricing themselves either too high, but usually too low.

Worth is a tricky thing, it isn’t equal to sitting at a job all day crunching numbers, and the art world, or media in general in this the 21st century isn’t about how many hours you slaved over it, because you did. You will on most things not get that money back, there is no expense report for it, but you aren’t creating one true thing. This isn’t an application, in the App Economy, you aren’t dealing with the dreaded ‘Most Viable Product’ either. Which can be a godsend.

Most Lovable Product Model

You must play by a different set of rules, completely. If you write, and it is that one article for one magazine, only one person is paying you to share it with a bunch of others. Will that byline get you more work? Perhaps, and that is what you are trading the small sum for. Yet if they are hiring you, as many do today, simply to by osmosis get your followers to become their followers, or worse just a click, then your negotiations are vastly different. What are you trading for such limited gains?

Information, and that this power dynamic will benefit you as well. How do you know if it is working? You check to be sure that you are getting a link back to your website, a twitter handle, or some way of getting new followers. They will be but a trickle and at first might not seem all that helpful. But you have forgotten the long-tail.

What is the long-tail theory?

In modern usage it is a statistical one, which isn’t how we are invoking it. It refers to what happens after the spike. You see a graph, and there is huge spike & interest in the beginning then it trails off. You see a precipitous decline which looks like the fabled stock market crash of the twenties.

It is there, in that long spread out “tail” that you find the most interesting information for a small to micro-business. You could ask yourself why no one is interested in it anymore, but the more interesting question is why are they finding it now? That is the one that will tell you specifically what interest long term something has.

But here is an analogy that even a non-math person can understand. Stop looking at the spike. If the long tail adds up to the same amount of exposure or interest. See, you can have two million people beating down your door & not know how to manage it, or you can look at the sustaining impact (or financial security) of the slow burn.

Tomorrow we will illuminate this very new concept of the long-term theory which is usually used to by social media types to discuss finding clues in Google Adwords, and why it will reveal to you the most foundational things about your art, and its exposure, value, and worth over time.

It is not the only thing that matters, but it can go a long way to you understanding at any one given point what you are worth. Helping you qualify through quantifying progress and strategies to that ever present “overnight success” we all hope for.

Part 7→

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