Selling Yourself Without Selling Out: Part 4

Arts, Featured, Visual Arts — By on September 22, 2010 at 8:00 am

In part 4 of “Selling Yourself without Selling Out,” we’ll be looking at the resources provided by Luann Jennings, who led the workshop held by Redeemer Presbyterian Church‘s Center for Faith & Work on which this series is based.  The workshop that ran on Friday, July 23, 2010, was two hours long but so chock-full of information that we’ve stretched it into four articles:  part 1 looked at the concerns many artists have about self-promotion and the biblical perspective on promoting oneself and one’s art; part 2 discussed professional identity; part 3 summarized the 4 Ps of marketing.  In this last article on self-promotion, you’ll get a list of marketing, arts, and Christian resources as well as insider insight on self-promotion from Jennings and guest speakers musician Melanie Penn and photographer Steve Williams.

Many artists don’t like marketing because they don’t consider it to be creative.  While Jennings had done the research and come up with a solid list of go-to resources, it was evident from the discussion that finding, obtaining, and implementing resources is its own unique creative process.  There are countless resources–from books to classes and organizations and from professionals with insider knowledge and experience to peers–and discovering the combination that works for you, your art, and your personality can be challenging and exciting.

Of course the most obvious of resources is books.  Books are a wealth of information.  Jennings recommended the following:

Each of these books discuss various aspects of self-promotion, networking, and business.

In addition to books, there are numerous online resources, arts organizations, and church fellowships that are geared towards artists, professionals, and those seeking career and/or financial advice.  Jennings listed the following:

While some of these are New York-specific, and even more so Redeemer-specific, Burnside Writers Collective readers may find similar organizations in their hometowns and churches.  For example, Oregon’s Imago Dei has an arts network, which helps artists connect to and learn from one another, while Michigan’s Mars Hill has a Financial Peace University, which may be beneficial to an artist/entrepreneur who’s seeking understanding on how to get their finances in order.  States have their own councils on the arts that can easily be tracked down through a Yahoo! search.

In addition to these business books and professional resources, people, whether they’re professional mentors or peers, are fantastic resources.  Redeemer, being a nationally recognized church in one of America’s most art-centered cities, attracts many talented arts professionals.  In addition to Jennings,  two established artists from Redeemer, musician Melanie Penn and photographer Steve Williams, took time out of their schedules for a Q&A at the Selling Yourself without Selling Out workshop.

Whimsical in song yet business-minded in self-promotion, Melanie Penn recently released her first album, Wake Up LoveUnder the Radar called it one of the top 10 albums of the year.  Christianity Today called it “a stellar debut.”  A song leader at a Redeemer plant in Brooklyn, Penn had some self-promotion tips for starving artists.  She suggested bargaining and bartering.  At a certain point, you’ll need “help getting to the next level,” and that’s when you’ll want to pay someone with more experience and resources than yourself.  While many inexperienced artists think they have to sign on to a big package deal, Penn advised asking publicists if instead of being full-time they would agree to doing just ten hours a month of PR work for her.

Although he is a successful photographer, Steve Williams admitted, “It’s hard to be an artist.  [It's] very, very competitive.”  Talent isn’t enough.  Rather, he said, “It’s a matter of persistence and staying in touch with people.”  He continued, “I have contacts and those contacts have contacts.”  However, Williams wasn’t talking LinkedIn here; he said: “I’m going to do snail mail.  Why?  Because no one else is doing it.”  Here we see an opportunity for creative networking.

Jennings, a theater director and arts administrator, chimed in with her own sage advice.  “Figure out where you want to be and work backwards.  Think several years out, rather than what I feel like doing when I get up in the morning,” she said.

“Get before the Lord and ask Him for help,” Penn earnestly said.  She prays “specific prayers” and asks God to be “refining my own vision.”  Jennings said, the times when she strategically did not do career-related things, instead focusing on what God has already blessed her with in other areas of her life, have “really built my faith.”

In addition to professional mentors, such as the guest speakers, Jennings said we should look toward our peers for help with self-promotion.  They may have ideas we haven’t considered.  Sitting in the Friday night workshop were designers, fine artists, classical musicians, YouTube vloggers, and writers.  Through the questions asked, points made, and general chit-chat it was evident that even amongst ourselves we had a variety of experience and knowledge–which leads us to….

Now it’s your turn to share your secret tips to success!  What are your go-to resources (books, blogs, you name it)?  What has worked–or hasn’t worked–when you’ve self-promoted your art?

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