The heart of your personal brand as an artist? Specificity.

Posted by Andrea Wenglowskyj, Sara Jones, Mar 16, 2017 0 comments

As an artist, you have a lot on your plate. You have to make your work and nourish your career—all while marketing your work so that you can achieve your personal version of success. It’s not an easy job and no single person will have the same path. Artists, we know you work hard, but are not always the most extroverted or business-savvy people. Yet you are expected to do it all.

Take the infographic above. There is so much that hinges on success, and what your goals are may vary wildly from your neighbor’s. Marketing is usually the last thing that an artist wants to spend their time doing. We know this first hand, because we’re artists, too, and would much rather just be in the studio making our work. But it’s a vital part of an artist’s practice, and therefore we dedicate our time helping our peers succeed at shaping their story and sharing it with their ideal audiences, because this will lead to achieving those goals.

We want to reassure you that the marketing of your artwork does not have to be difficult or feel, well… icky. You may often hear the phrase, “your personal brand,” and it suddenly shifts your practice into an unknown territory, and leave you wondering if this applies to you as an individual artist.

We are here to tell you that you absolutely need a coherent, powerful personal brand in order to present your art work in the most professional and compelling way so that you can get the opportunities you want. But we are also here to tell you that this personal brand already exists within you and is waiting to come out. It’s actually not all that hard to develop, but it might be challenging to see something that is engrained in you. It’s like when you are looking for your sunglasses… but you are already wearing them.

For the sake of us all being on the same page, let’s first define what a personal brand is. A brand is all of the experiences, knowledge and impressions a person has about your product, service, or organization. It's the emotional and functional benefits (the gut reaction) people associate with your product or services vs. the actual attributes. So as an artist, we are willing to bet that you want people to have a positive gut reaction to what you do. That right there is the essence of your brand. 

So, your personal brand as an artist is a blend of your work, your artistic drive and attitude, and your history, with a sound understanding of your professional goals. Your brand will resonate with your ideal audience, but it will not be for everybody—and it's important to forgo that notion. The more specific you are about your work and who will enjoy it, the more targeted and genuine your marketing will be.

Let’s take a moment and recognize that your personal brand has a lot of parts attached to it: visuals (images of your work, typoography, logos) and language (the words you use to describe what you do). And this all then gets translated into your website, social media, proposals, and in-person networking. 

Leah Gauthier, Some Bring Gifts, 8” x variable, 2014 wool yarn, green lentils, french lentils, embroidery thread, live wild grass , window screen mesh, embroidery screen, dried grass, acorn shell, lady bugs, dried peas, dried edamame, dried strawberry, galena rock.

But the heart of your brand is you. A thoughtfully curated, professional, descriptive version of you.

So, how do you define that descriptive story that is the essence of your brand? Here are some questions to answer for yourself in order to identify that core information:                                                                           

What kind of artist or creative are you? (painter, photographer, writer...)
What does your work look like? (be incredibly descriptive, concrete, and straightforward)
What motivates you to do your work? (personal, historical, conceptual influences)
Who is the ideal audience for your work? (remember, be specific)

Answering these questions will give you the core language you need to write a compelling elevator pitch, otherwise known as a 1-2 line statement that describes your work while being memorable and leaving our curiosity piqued. This language is the story that supports your personal brand in it’s most concentrated, packs-a-punch format.

For instance, take Leah Gauthier’s pitch: 

I make wild-inspired, threaded, living sculptures and paintings, and sometimes edible community building works.”

Leah Gauthier, Some Bring Gifts, 16″ x variable, 2014 Living stones, soil, wool yarn, needlepoint mesh, pine needles, winter berry, wasp nest, embroidery thread, mica, rose leaves.

Super compelling, right? Living sculptures? Edible? Tell me more, Leah!

These kinds of words accurately describe Leah’s work but also act as a gateway to wanting to learn about them and see her sculptures and paintings. Had she just written I am a sculptor and relational artist,” it would fall flat. We’d say, oh, ok,” and move on. And this exercise in creating unique language around her work gives Leah a strong foundation on which to build imagery, research, and other viewpoints to engage with her audience. We know exactly what she’s about.

If marketing your art work as an individual artist has always daunted you, you are definitely not alone. There are so many moving parts. However, getting your elevator pitch down will help you be confident in who you are marketing to, which will help you to focus your efforts. Developing your pitch requires setting aside time to write, the confidence to recognize that you are unique and amazing like your work, and lots of practice. Especially because our goals and our work are ever evolving.

This pitch can then support your personal brand and all of its supporting materials so that you always feel genuine, accurate and clear when sharing your work with your ideal audience.

If you’re interested in more ways to develop your personal brand so that marketing your work as an individual artist can be genuine and exciting, tune in for our NAMP Webinar, Branding for Artists Demystified: Are you Doing it Right? This course will answer all of your questions about what your personal brand should be, why it’s important, and how to build your marketing confidence. Plus, you’ll learn that you’re already doing a lot of it right already!

What’s your elevator pitch? Share it below with a link to your work!

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