5 Marketing Myths For Creative Entrepreneurs

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Creating art and running a business can feel like two full-time jobs, but it doesn’t have to be if you work smarter and not harder. Sometimes I see creatives put energy into non-urgent tasks, such as, why won't people follow me on Instagram?


Our good pal Ross from the show Friends once yelled, 'Pivot!' when moving a couch up against a corner staircase. Pivoting is important. A lot of business owners refuse to pivot and thus become unsustainable. Most businesses dissolve before they hit the two-year mark. Pivoting is vital as an entrepreneur. While you might not be well-versed in all things business, you can definitely learn, try, repeat, and adjust. You must assess what you did, such as when you wrote those reflection papers in school. You need to be reviewing your actions. Think back, what did you learn?

All start-ups go through an iterative process, which essentially means you learn from your mistakes. The process by which you get closer to creating exactly what is needed in the world (a product or service) and having it stick. For example, concerts are no longer just about musicians, but also the art, outfits and light installations. An experience they can charge twice as much for.

In the art world, we also see it as the turn of the century artists who push new forms, or politics, or trendy mediums. For example, there's a trend in life-like sketching. There's also an interest in graphic design, web design, book design, and storytelling. Big brands want to collaborate with local artists because they have authentic fans that big brands could never cultivate. You should know what you do and do not want.

Knowing what to do and what not to do is key. These will change for your medium, industry and geography generally speaking. There might be more once you dig a little deeper into what you or a similar competitor is or is not doing.

5 Marketing Myths

1) Hashtags: Once a business owner asked me, how can I use hashtags to get customers? Tags don’t convert a person to purchase something or even some of the time. Hashtags are one step in attracting people to pay attention to you. Then you need a call to action – a follow, a subscribe, a message, or a newsletter sign-up. The engagement and call to action are vital steps that build up the relationship into a sales funnel. After this, you have to continue to build trust before selling. Unless you get a celebrity endorsement - people need to build trust or be referred to you.

2) New is best: vintage always makes a comeback (hello 90s hip-hop), and certain forms of art, such as macramé and life-like sketches are trending. We also see a return to analog photography. New is not always best but can be where used appropriately. If your story is aligned with vintage, old, or analog – play on that theme authentically in your marketing. Don’t try to be “new” because contemporary art says so.

3) Don’t make mistakes: failure is just another learning opportunity. You might shy away because of fear and doubt, but historically art and inventions were born out of repeated attempts at simply trying. You learn from who you are and what you know in order to evolve. Some of those learnings might be from doing it wrong, so you get closer to how to do it right. If it's worth your goals, you won't give up.

4) Marketing = sales: sometimes, but not all the time. If you’re a visual artist who’s only posting on Instagram, you might find out gallery representation is better. If you’re a graphic designer, you might find out cold-calling agencies to provide contract work or collaborations with brands might be your bread and butter. Just passively posting on social media or buying ads does not translate into direct sales, unless your marketing budget is in the five-figures. Above all, your story has to land. Your artistic medium might be saturated with competition - do you stand out and in what ways?

5) A portfolio is enough: if someone asks to see your portfolio, and you have one, but never returns, what do you do? If you do nothing, you’re not doing enough. Engagement is key in nurturing relationships over time. Remember the sales funnel is a process where someone is attracted, interested and engaged, which might translate into a sale over time. Typically, a sale is not the first step. An interested buyer might come back 6 months from now to have you interior design their whole house if you left a strong impression on them. If you don’t maintain relationships with interested parties, through professional and timely follow-ups, you might be losing a sale or referral. Just parking your work on the world wide web does not translate into sold-out tickets to your concert.

The Right Way

Social media, SEO, or word-of-mouth are each individual means of marketing, not a single one is the answer to a lucrative career. You need to find out which tactics will work best for you and your target market. If you might do best through gallery representation, and if your target market is retired women 55+ with a master’s degree, who enjoy travelling and documentaries, they might not be on social media let alone using hashtags. Are you spending too much time on Instagram?

Put aside time to research and learn about marketing, test, and gauge the impacts and results. What did you do, what didn’t you do, what worked and what didn’t. Always get feedback. Don't be shy, ask others, specifically your ideal clients, what do they like or dislike about how they can find out about your art and purchase it. Do they prefer an email, shopping in-person, or shopping online through a secure e-commerce site? Where will they hear about you or where do they frequent?

Marketing is a spectrum of approaches and tactics, from competitive analysis to pricing, to your promotions. The answers won’t come through a magic ball, but understanding the myths can help you pivot.