The online landscape (especially places like Medium) places an emphasis on being “authentic.”
You’re told to stay true to your art, never pander to your audience, be your truest self, and the creative career you’ve always dreamed of will fall from the sky.
If you mention anything about marketing or try to get people to sign up for your email list, or god forbid, pay money for the value you provide, you must be some sort of slick-haired snake oil salesman.
If you do decide to mention your email newsletter, product, or services, you tuck them away in a teeny tiny p.s. section at the end of your blog post.
All of this advice sounds good, but when push comes to shove, it often leads to empty pockets and broken dreams.
You provide value in your job and get paid for it. You value education from an “established institution,” like college and pay tens of thousands of dollars for it.
Why then, should you incessantly create valuable work and give it away for free?
You can write 200 free blog posts for “exposure,” or timidly peddle an e-book that costs less than a happy meal, but eventually you’re going to have to sell something if you want to make an impact and have the type of income that supports your creative lifestyle.
If you’re just starting out in any form of creative or information based business online you’re going to run into the following scenario.
You’ll create free stuff — lots of it because people like free stuff. You’ll produce a prodigious amount of work until you feel confident enough to actually sell something.
Then, when it’s time to ask people for money, you’ll either fold in fear because you don’t know how to sell, or you’ll be met with jeers from the crowd because you “sold out.”
There are a select group of people who push past the nonsense, realize they have value to provide and sell successfully.
How do you reach this level? By realizing the following truths about art, marketing, business, and the combination of all three.
// Marketing is Necessary
Great art on its own is not enough.
There are plenty of extremely talented, yet broke, creatives.
Broke creatives have this esoteric view of their art. They think marketing and art are mutually exclusive, when in fact, art and marketing intersect with one another.
I see this happen when writers completely ignore audience, write whatever they want, and get upset when people don’t read it.
It happens when people start a website and somehow believe people are going to find it with no promotional effort.
It happens when you spend all of your time trying to be authentic, and none of it learning the ins and outs of why people spread worth of mouth, follow people’s work, and buy their products.
If you make art without learning how to market it, you’ll probably burn out, get resentful, and blame everyone else for your failure because they don’t “get it.”
Best selling fiction author Johnny B. Truant credits his knowledge of copywriting for helping him write novels that make readers turn the page.
In one of my favorite books Rich Dad Poor Dad, the author recalls a conversation he had with a young woman who wanted advice on becoming a successful author.
He told her to take a sales class.
The woman had the right credentials — an MFA and years of writing experience — and she scoffed at the idea of having to learn sales.
The author left her with these words, “It’s called best selling author, not best-writingauthor.”
Play tortured starving artist if you want. In the meantime, creatives who learn how to market their work will run circles around you while your career remains stagnant.