I've spent a lot of time trying to make it as a creative person. I've tried so many different creative things I can't even think of things I haven't tried. If you've been blessed with what I hear people always calling the "creative gene," you'll understand what I'm talking about. You seem to have a knack for anything that requires creativity. You can draw. You've probably made your own clothing or decorations. You can pick up a piece of technology and fiddle with it (camera, music editing software, whatever) and spit something out that's decent after a few tries. The reason I bring this up is not to brag, it's to illustrate that through my years of experimenting in a variety of disciplines, I've noticed that a few concepts hold true across them all.
Before I dig into the meat of this post, I want to clarify what I mean by "make it." By that I simply mean that you can support yourself from the fruits of your labor. It doesn't matter if you're a musician, a writer, a poet, a comedian, or a painter. It doesn't matter if you make custom jewelry. The following things will apply across the board. I plan to offer more specific tricks and techniques for accomplishing these things in future posts, but for now I want to introduce you to the basic foundation of what it will take for you to go from "aspiring [whatever]" to "professional [whatever]."
I've broken the process down into four main categories:
- Creating the product
- Building an audience
- Selling merchandise
The road to success will pass through each of these things. Wherever possible, I will illustrate how you can do this on your own (by cutting out the middle man) and without having to break the bank. In today's world, being successful is more accessible than ever before. There are so many tools available to artists that there really is no reason you shouldn't be able to eventually quit your job and do what you love. This doesn't mean you won't have to work hard, though.
You have to want success. With the right strategy and plan, you can create plenty of opportunities and luck. You can work your way into catching a "big break." If you look at any so-called overnight success and see that it was actually in the making for a long time.
Let's take a closer look at these four basic things and get some ideas on how to get started on the path to success.
The most important element is, without question, actually creating something. There is no getting around this. I know many writers who want to make it, but they find every excuse they can to avoid actually writing something.
That's not going to work, for obvious reasons.
You have to create. If you don't enjoy what you do, the quintessential question is why are you doing it in the first place?
Let's use music as an example. To make it as a musician, you need to have songs. This is the foundation of your entire existence, so spend time doing it. To further our illustration, let's say you want to get started on a solo career. You can get by at first on a handful of covers, so a good plan is to simply figure out how long your set will be. You can start with open mics and only know two or three songs. Practice them until you can play them without a second thought. Then expand your set list one song at a time. Work up until you can play a half hour set. Then an hour. Throw some original songs in the mix.
If you're a writer, you must write. Build your catalog of material. The most prolific writers have hundred of short stories floating around. Create and then create some more. Practice your art, whatever it is.
Building an Audience
Without question, you need an audience. If you're going to live off your art, someone needs to buy it. This is another thing you cannot get around. Many artists I've seen tend to shy away from this part of the equation. Writers are notorious for being introverts. You have to build a platform in order to push your product. It is a business, like it or not. A company cannot survive without customers. If you're going to make it as a professional artist, you'll need a presence. I recommend both online and face-to-face. Have a website where you can showcase your work. This is how you'll be able to get fans from all over the world. Have at least one social networking account. Try a few to find which one suits you best. You don't need an account on all of them (although I will show you later how you can easily sync accounts across many of them to minimize the work). Start a mailing list early on. This is important and often overlooked. We'll cover that, too. Lastly, get face time whenever you can. If you're a comic, go to as many open mics as possible. If you're a musician, play in front of people every opportunity you can, even if it's on the street. If you're a writer, try to open up for other writers at readings. Whenever possible during face-time, interact with people and get them to follow you online.
You won't make it unless you can promote yourself. It will feel shameless at times, but that is the price of success. If you're ashamed of your creations, you need to get to a point where you feel confident about your abilities. If you don't love your product, why should other people love it? If you want people to consume your creations, you have to tell them about them. This is where your social network, your website, and your mailing list come into play. Interact with your fan base and let them know when you create something new. Don't be afraid to ask them to buy your stuff. Promoting your creations directly to your fan base is only part of the equation, though.
The other part of the equation is going to be getting your name out there. Getting interviews, reviews, sending out press releases even. Think about all the things a record company does for its artists. You'll need to be able to take those roles on yourself. The good news is it's not that hard once you know how it's done. I will help you figure it out. Put those creative juices to work and come up with unique ways to promote yourself. You are the brand. To make a name for yourself you will need ways of getting your name out there to acquire new fans and new customers.
It all comes down to this. To be a success, people need to purchase your products. You will want to give them as many ways of doing so as possible. If you have music, you'll want it up on iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, Amazon. If you're a writer you need to put your book on Amazon Kindle, Nook, iTunes. Have it up on your website, link it everywhere. Get your stuff on store shelves, even if it means consignment with local shops. Have products available for people to buy straight from you, especially when you're doing in-person performances. The idea is to make it easy for people to get their hands on it. We'll cover a bunch of different ways of doing this.
We'll cover every aspect of all these things and more.
One Last Thing
The title of this article is "5 Things You Need..." I've only listed four so far. Saved the best for last, if you will. And this one is the most important: persistence.
Be prepared to work hard to get your stuff out there. The number one ingredient is persistence. Building your audience will also make your job easier and easier as you go. Having a solid plan of action will help you avoid future frustration and help keep you on the right track. So stay tuned for more info.
It doesn't matter what your craft is, you need to start building a platform and putting your work out there for people to take notice. Are you an aspiring actor or model? Start getting pictures and highlight reels. Are you an artist? Sign up on DeviantArt and start putting art up. Are you an aspiring writer? Start submitting stories. Are you a musician? Start putting songs on Youtube. Get out there.
Until then, here is some homework for you:
- Create. Everyday. Work on your craft. Make stuff and practice making it better.
- Get a website.
- Sign up for a mailing list and put a sign-up form on your website.
- Get a social network account and start posting things people will be interested in seeing. Start directing people to both your profile and your website.