There's one vision of an artist: a flamboyant, outrageous character seemingly on stage no matter where they are. And there's the second vision of an artist: solitary and sensitive, distrustful of people, living life with their head in the clouds. The truth of who we are as a collective likely resides somewhere between these two stereotypes.
In fact, I'd be willing to bet most of us simultaneously want attention and find it uncomfortable. (Sound familiar?)
Visibility = attention. There's a difference between attention-seeking designed to feed the insecure ego, and attention-seeking that showcases one's passion and soul purpose. I'm talking here, of course, about the second type of attention, which allows us all to shine like we were meant to shine. (Oh, you didn't know you were meant to shine? Well, now you do.)
If you desire an art career, and not just an art hobby, then visibility is ESSENTIAL. With that in mind, I present 9 reasons why you, dear Brilliant Artist, should be visible online:
1. Grow your audience. The internet may seem like a vast, faceless blob of humanity from the outside, but once you truly engage with it you understand that it's a series of overlapping Venn diagrams of various tribes. Finding the right platform for your work - be it a documentary film site like Snag Films or online marketplace like Etsy - will connect you to an ever-growing tribe aligned with your creative vision.
2. Test new ideas. Those who went to art school know the value (and, okay, the pain) of regular critique sessions. Sometimes we miss being able to bounce an idea off knowledgeable folks, or gather intel on a new project. Being online, particularly on social media, also allows you to share works-in-progress. It gives you feedback while increasing giddy anticipation about the finished work.
3. Be part of a community. Some of you might be saying, "Community? That only happens in the real world." Sorry, but guess what? The internet is simply a space made up of humans who inhabit the "real world." I have a whole set of filmmakers and screenwriters in my online tribe. I not only know what they're working on, but I also know what they're going through. Having a global peer support system to share the trials and tribulations of the creative journey with is pretty flippin' amazing.
4. Make more money. This goes hand in hand with my first reason, "Growing your audience." There are myriad opportunities for connecting with people who want what you have to offer. A well-run Facebook page can sell more seats to your play or film screening. It can funnel people to your Etsy page or website. Twitter is a great place to pimp your crowd-funding campaign. Bricks-and-mortar only allows those who live closest to you to buy your wares, while the online marketplace is limitless. Bottom line: the more visible you are the more money you can make.
5. Practice getting outside your comfort zone. Some of us cringe at the thought of putting our work or, worse, a photograph of ourselves online. We feel judged and scrutinized so we avoid it like the plague. Besides, isn't promoting our own work, you know, SELF-CENTERED? I've found that anyone who worries about being self-centered usually isn't. Also, remember, you're trying to create a career not a hobby. And that means there's no boss paying you regular wages and benefits, no marketing team, no safety net. YOU are your boss and part of your job is to promote you so you can get paid and make a living. (More on that here.) Getting outside our comfort zone and putting our artwork online for viewing will get easier and easier. In the meantime, take that uncomfortable feeling and turn it into art.
6. Look like a professional. I don't mean professional as in "one who wears a suit and tie, while carrying a briefcase." I mean professional as in someone who takes their art and craft seriously. When you look like a professional you instill confidence in your audience, purchaser, or patron. Having worked with fine artists as a gallery owner, I can say that I was always more inclined to forge an ongoing relationship with someone who acted professional. It meant they were going to deliver their work on time and with an inventory slip and price list. Honestly, no one likes a flake, so why risk looking like one by having little to no web presence?
7. Opportunities, opportunities, opportunities. Beyond the aforementioned financial opportunities, there are many other opportunities that may seek you out when you have an online presence. Recently, a friend who makes silkscreened tote bags and tea towels was asked to illustrate the cover of a magazine. Another artist I know was contacted, out of the blue, by a film director to storyboard his new script. And, I was emailed recently by a fellow online artist about co-teaching a seminar. The more visible you are, the more likely opportunities will come your way.
8. Promote, and be promoted. One of the great things about being in a community of artists and art lovers is all the cross-promotion that happens. We each have our own audiences, so when you share info about another person's project you give them exposure and help position yourself as a resource. In turn, that person may promote your work to their tribe and help you increase your reach. "Win-win" is the name of the game.
9. Highlight importance of the arts in society. I am particularly passionate about artist visibility because I believe we are important members of society. The more we are seen, celebrated and supported, the more we contribute to a culture of art making. Your visibility contributes to a paradigm shift, one that moves artists from the margin toward the center.
If you want to be more visible, but aren't sure where to start, I recommend a web page first, then online marketplaces (if appropriate), then social media. It takes time to build a following, so start with one step, then another, and another. Before you know it, your circle will grow wide enough to encompass folks around the world!