Just hearing the word “marketing” often makes artists cringe, most especially if you’re introverted. But deep down you also know that marketing is really important because if you don’t have any customers, you aren’t going to make any money with your art.
So if you’re struggling with the marketing side of your creative business as an introvert, I’d like to offer 3 tips that can hopefully change how you feel about the dreaded “M” word and give you some ideas on how to get started.
Marketing Tip #1: Reframe What “Marketing” Is
At its core, marketing is simply the process of finding customers willing to pay for your art. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re selling products or services, the process is largely the same: You try a bunch of different things to find customers, work to build and maintain relationships with them, decide what works and what doesn’t, and then repeat the whole process over again.
But that can feel like a pretty insurmountable job for introverts because so many of us as artists don’t enjoy promoting ourselves. We feel like we’re bragging or sleazy when we’re constantly talking about our art and how amazing it is.
So the first step in getting more comfortable with marketing yourself as an artist is to reframe how you think about and approach marketing. Let’s go back and analyze that first sentence…
At its core, marketing is simply the process of finding customers willing to pay for your art.
When you read that at face value, what thoughts and feelings come up? Does that definition of marketing sound pushy, sleazy, or obnoxious?
It doesn’t to me.
In fact, the first thing that jumps to my mind is that marketing art sound almost like a scavenger hunt: Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to search for companies and customers who love what you create, enjoy learning about them and what they want, and WIN when you land a licensing deal or purchase. That makes marketing sound more fun, doesn’t it?!?
Or if you’re more analytical, you could think of marketing yourself as being a creative problem solver. Whether you’re marketing to companies who need art for their products or to customers who want to refresh their home decor or are looking for the perfect greeting card to send their grandmother, your beautiful artwork is actually helping them by giving them what they need right now.
So really, your success in marketing as the introverted boss artist I know you are, starts with your mindset around it. If you can work towards a more positive mindset towards it, you’ll be way more equipped to deal with any marketing challenges you face.
Marketing Tip #2: Stretch Yourself Beyond Social Media
I’ve asked artists in several live workshops what their idea of marketing was and one of the most common answers was a single word: Instagram.
Now as an artist on Instagram with multiple accounts, I totally get it! It’s a visual platform, perfect for our artwork where we can share things quickly… “Hey I made this new pattern and I love it – I’m gonna share it on Instagram and see who else loves it too!”
It’s fun to receive outside validation for our artistic efforts.
But social media does not equal marketing. And I gotta be honest, there are two major flaws in Instagram being an artist’s single marketing focus.
Flaw #1: It’s Completely Passive
Now I don’t mean the act of posting and commenting – that’s obviously not passive. What I mean is posting to Instagram as the ONLY activity you’re doing to attract customers or clients.
Because while it’s possible to get noticed by a company who wants to license your art or to make sales when posting products on your feed or stories, it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever generate enough income using Instagram as your sole marketing source (unless maybe you’re an influencer with a massive following).
Flaw #2: You Don’t Own the Platform
Remember in early October when Facebook and Instagram had a massive outage and you couldn’t access the apps for a whole day? What if that ended up being permanent?
If Instagram is the only way you’re marketing yourself and it disappeared tomorrow, that could be devastating.
And it’s not just a hypothetical situation – I’ve heard stories from more than one artist in our community who were either hacked or locked out of their own accounts permanently (some with 100k+ followers) and had to start over from scratch. Luckily, most of them were using Instagram as just part of their overall marketing strategy so it didn’t ruin their businesses but it could have if it was all they used.
Still, I realize the thought of adding other marketing tactics may sound really scary to you as an introverted artist, but if you keep tip #1 in mind as you try to stretch yourself beyond Instagram, it can ease some of the stress.
So what options do you have? Honestly, there are 100s of marketing tactics you could try, but here are the 6 that I think are especially well suited to artists:
Referrals from past clients, friends, or family
Visiting or exhibiting at trade shows
Design directories (online or in print)
Networking with artists & companies on LinkedIn
Strategically adding your art or products on Pinterest
Building an email newsletter list
Now the key to success here, just like with having multiple streams of income, is to add one new marketing channel at a time.
And if you want my opinion on which option is the best, without hesitation I’d say it’s building a newsletter list.
Because it doesn’t have the same flaws as Instagram: it’s an active marketing strategy that you can use as little or as much as you want AND you have full control over your list.
Marketing Tip #3: Join Forces with Other Creatives
This last tip is something I think all self-employed creatives should consider, but it’s especially helpful to introverted artists. And there’s a few ways you could go about it:
Option 1: Get an Accountability Partner
The key to a successful accountability partner relationship is to find someone who has:
a similar or related business goal,
is roughly at the same point in their art career, and
shares complementary personality traits.
Once you find that special person who you resonate with, you should meet together on a regular basis – anywhere from weekly to monthly – to discuss what’s happening in your businesses, keep each other on track of your goals, and offer support and advice.
I’ve had the same accountability partner for the past 5 years and even though our businesses have developed differently and led us down different paths, it’s been one of the best things I’ve don’t for myself and my business.
It’s especially helpful when it comes to marketing – we bounce ideas off each other and often our discussions lead to a better strategy than the one I originally envisioned.
Option 2: Form an Art Collective
Collectives were and still are incredibly popular in our community and it’s not surprising: artists who virtually meet each other online on Instagram or taking a class just click, so they decide to join forces & pool their resources.
It’s beneficial because each artist has their own strengths and weaknesses and you can ask for help with aspects of the business that you find challenging.
And that’s great news for introverts because you can leave some of the outgoing tasks (like marketing) to a more extroverted member of your collective while doing other tasks that use your unique strengths. Just make sure you don’t offload all of your marketing onto other members – that’s not fair to them and it won’t help you learn how to better market yourself.
Because I truly believe that any creative can learn to build a successful business, no matter how little formal education on art or marketing you’ve had.
But I know marketing our art isn’t easy so I hope this post offered you some useful tips and encouragement. Just remember: It all comes down to your mindset, developing a plan, and having support – those are the things that will help your art business grow.