You Are the Product

Sometimes you just have to wave the banner yourself. (Excerpt from Have Fun, Get Paid: How to Make a Living With Your Creativity)

For most of the creative arts, the abstraction between product and purveyor doesn’t exist. If you’re a performing artist, you are the product. Even if you’re a graphic artist or fashion designer, there’s a deep emotional connection between you and the product. In a very real sense, it’s an extension of you.

In the world of business, you start with a product and then proceed to promote it. This means that we, as creative creatures, must in effect stand on a platform and tell people why we’re great. For most of us, myself included, that can be an uncomfortable experience.

If the audience approves of what I do and applauds, that’s appreciated. If they tell their friends the next day that they heard me speak and it was great, I’m okay with that. If someone writes a review and says they enjoyed a book I wrote, I’m grateful.

These are all forms of promotion in their own way. The only difference is who’s doing it. If you say something nice about my art, I can graciously accept it. If I say it about my own work, I sound like a pompous jackass. At least that’s what it feels like to me, and I know I’m not the only person who experiences this.

Waving my own banner feels egotistical. On the other hand, a very fundamental rule of business is that products do not sell without promotion. Therefore, if I want to make money with my art, I have to suck it up and do my part with the hopes that people will see what I’m doing as spreading the word about something I believe in rather than an exercise in self-aggrandizement.

Your art, whatever it is, won’t sell unless you promote it. It’s as simple as that. So suck it up and get on with it. As you get better at it, you’ll start to make money doing what you love, at which point you’ll enjoy the marketing more as well. Success is always fun.

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