Before I get started on the work of getting your work in front of people, let’s recap what we’ve covered so far:
To earn money from your creative work, you need to create a piece of work and decide how the payment aspect will intersect with it. As I wrote in Part 1, there are a bajillion ways to make money from your creative work: you can sell the work, you can give away the work for free but put ads on it, you can give away the work for free but sell T-shirts, etc.
But before you can earn money from your creative work, you need to find your audience. That’s what we discussed in Part 2: you won’t get any money from your work, no matter how good it is, unless you put your work in front of people who might be interested in it.
Today we’re going to look at how you do that.
As far as I can tell, there are four basic ways of getting your work in front of the people who might become THE AUDIENCE.
I’ll present them in order of difficulty:
Share your work on multiple channels.
This is both the easiest and in many cases the least effective way of getting your work in front of people. On the one hand, sharing your work on your website and your Twitter and your Facebook and your Instagram and your Tumblr and your Snapchat and your YouTube account and your mailing list and your local open mic (or the equivalent thereof) can help you pick up a few additional audience members.
It can also tell you where your audience is likely to be located. Maybe they hang out on Wattpad but don’t spend much time on Facebook, for example. Maybe they prefer mailing lists to Instagram stories. (Knowing something about your audience’s demographic and which social networks your demographic uses can be useful here.)
On the other hand, sharing your work across every possible channel can be viewed as placing tactics before strategy. Or, more specifically, wasting time on actions that doesn’t give you much value in return.
Collaborate with someone who already has an audience.
This is the ABSOLUTE BEST WAY I’ve found to build an audience.
It isn’t about making the perfect post/book/podcast/video and tagging a bunch of influencers with the hope that one of them will share it with their networks and you’ll go viral and everyone will love you.
It’s about finding a way to offer value to a person or entity that already has an audience, and by doing so grow your own.
Write a guest post for someone else’s blog.
Pitch a website that runs content related to the creative work you do.
Go on HARO and offer yourself as an interview source.
I realize that this method favors people who can write well, because so much of the internet is still about writing, these days.
But there are other ways of getting this work done, such as volunteering at an art gallery* or auditioning for a local theater group.
Figure out who’s giving opportunities to new creators, and then go after those opportunities.
And remember — you can always pitch me.
Invite people to collaborate with you.
I’m listing this step below “collaborate with someone who already has an audience” because if you’re in the early stages of your creative career, it’s going to be a lot easier to get a guest post on someone else’s blog than to convince someone else to write a guest post on yours.**
This is where being part of a community of creative peers can really help — and I do mean “peers” literally.
When I was at VidCon 2011, for example, I heard Hank Green give a talk on the art of growing your career through collaboration. He suggested working with people who were at your level or just above your level, because they were likely to be the people most interested in working with you.
Also because — for lack of a better phrase — a rising tide lifts all boats.
If you find your community of creative peers and begin collaborating with each other, and if one of your peers gets a bit of additional creative success that grants them access to a larger audience, that person might recommend your work to their audience or collaborate with you on a project that’ll go in front of that audience or etc. etc. etc.
And it goes without saying that if you are the person with the additional creative success, you should do the same.***
There’s another way of using this technique to grow your audience: if you are an established creator with an established audience that you’d still like to grow — because audiences are constantly shifting and changing and attrition is a real thing — you can give opportunities to other people. These people may only have a small audience (for now), but if they get excited about their guest post or podcast interview, they’ll share it with their followers and some of those followers might become your followers.
This is the other reason why you should pitch me.
Create new work.
This is the final and hardest step in building your audience, because THE WORK is both the most important part of your creative career and the most time-consuming part (and the part where you’ll agonize that it’s not good enough, or worry that you haven’t made enough revisions, or feel disappointed that it doesn’t look the way it did in your head, or feel like you need to rush to get it out there).
A single piece of excellent work might get you THE AUDIENCE.
But you’ll need a steady flow of new work to maintain and grow your audience — as well as convince your audience to give you money in exchange for the emotional experiences they’ve come to expect from your work.
So keep working. ❤️
*Volunteering can be tricky, because some organizations are really happy to let artistic types hand out tickets and pick up trash, even though everyone involved knows the volunteers want to do more than that. If you volunteer with an arts organization as a way to meet people and form artistic collaborations (vs. volunteering because you want to help with the grunt work) and your volunteering work isn’t helping you connect with other collaborators, FIND ANOTHER ORGANIZATION.
**If you have a well-written guest post, you are offering value to someone else — specifically, the value of giving them something to put on their blog without them having to do the work of writing it. You can offer this value regardless of the number of followers you currently have, if the work is good. (ASK ME HOW I KNOW.) On the other hand, if you don’t have many followers yet, asking someone to do the work of writing a guest post for you takes away time they could have put towards a more valuable project.
***There’s a really hard moment when you have to decide that a former creative peer is no longer someone you want to collaborate with, either because their work hasn’t grown and improved or because they don’t share your values. I’m not going to write much beyond that, except to note that it’s a really hard moment.