Thursday, 6 June 2013

Freelance Creative? Relax, You Don't HAVE to Be a Social Media Marketing Genius

I've been updating my website recently and researching ways to get more business flowing my way. Specifically, I need more paying jobs. And it's really interesting to see how much advice there is out there for small businesses and freelancers, encouraging them to spend countless hours and much creative energy getting traffic to their websites or building facebook pages to impress.
Courtesy 'Cartoonize Yourself' -Sharon Burford Cartoons 

Ten years ago, most creative freelancers had never heard of social media networking and they got along just fine. Even five years ago, I was a freelance artist with plenty of work and no internet activity for jobs. And I believe that extensive social media marketing just might be an expensive and unnecessary way for some freelancers to spend their time. In fact, the creative/rebellious/hermit side of me has over the years locked this website down on more than one occasion, temporarily banning comments and actively discouraging traffic because I couldn't be bothered with spam and found I was spending too much time mediating. 

Not that I have anything against social media: I have Facebook friends who would help me hide a body, or build a patio. Or both. But that's just me. I live far away from many of my true friends, and I really love to keep up with the minutiae of their lives and their kids' latest haircuts. So I have a Facebook account, and a professional Facebook page. Linkedin can be inspiring and informative, and a good place to trade tips in groups. I've also recently fallen in lust with Pinterest, a great forum for visual creatives if you can avoid the 'popular' pinners.

But many artists and writers are just not interested in social media. And some of them worry that they will lose out if they don't market themselves on the internet, especially with all the advice out there to Become More Visible, Get More Hits and See Increased Traffic!!! 

In the words of The Hitchhiker's Guide, Don't Panic. The gurus who want you to market yourself on the internet are, generally, making a living out of marketing. They are often good at what they do and can really help you increase traffic to your website and get site visitors to engage who will, sometimes, pay you for your creative services. Of COURSE they want you to want social media marketing. 

Breaking the Rules With My
Linkedin Profile Photo: This
pic has been the start of many
interesting conversations.
I'll tell you a secret: I have an 'All Star' Linkedin profile, but I've never had a paid job via Linkedin. My Facebook page looks good and I love the conversations with fellow professionals, but I've never made money there either. My website (this very website) had over 10,000 visitors last month, and not one of them who happened to drop by said "Ooooh, you are so wonderful, write for me and here's lots of money!" 

All of the great jobs I've ever had, I got the old-fashioned way. I emailed one person and offered specific services to them. Then I emailed another person and suggested another service that would be perfect for their publication. Then I walked in to an agency (calling first of course) and said "Hi! I'm Nan." I have had work via conversations, volunteering and pitching to glossy magazines. I've had referrals from satisfied customers and phone calls from people who happened to see my work in real life. But from the many hours of hanging out on the internet and re-designing my website, hardly anything, directly. 

Having some online presence is great. It means that you can include a link in your emails that says 'You can see examples of my work here.' I am sure many readers of my countless "I'm a Freelance Writer, Hire Me Now" emails must have checked my website, Linkedin profile or Facebook page before hiring me. If they can log in and see that I appear to be basically sane and haven't filled my site with end of the world conspiracy theories, they may feel more comfortable putting their project in my hands. So having either a website, or a Facebook account, or Pinterest, or any one of the dozens of online portfolios available is important. But if you're not that into it, it's okay. Make sure it looks professional and you have photos and links of your latest published work. Visit once a week or so to say 'Hi' and let your fans know you haven't forgotten them. And then, spend your time doing what you love to do. Write, paint, create. Lie under a tree and have a nap, even, as this is one of the surest paths to creative success that I know of.

"You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new." - Steve Jobs

Ajoupa Writers' Retreat. Internet Not Included
I know successful photographers who are not on Pinterest. Brilliant troubleshooters who work only by word of mouth recommendation. Published writers who can't be bothered with social media. They use their creativity to find new ways of selling their product- And are so good at what they do that everyone wants to buy it. And yes, there are flexible and intuitive marketers who understand the creative insanity that drives some of us. They are all good at what they do, so that's what they do.

Creative people often hop from one project to another, and evolve with the times. We understand that the ebb and flow of economy and earth can't be connected with a long term marketing plan. If you're like many creative people, you won't want to be tied down by a specific 'Personal Branding' strategy anyway.

Yesterday, I made ceramic tiles, stitched and painted. Today, I write, photograph and design. Tomorrow, I might paint, garden and dance. Remember, the internet was invented by us - different, slightly eccentric creative people who thought way out of the box. Are we going to let anyone tell us how to use it?

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Keep up with Nan Sheppard's latest on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Nan is currently a freelance writer, painter and a regular contributor to Aquila Magazine and The Green Parent, and has told countless bedtime stories, some of the best of which were made up on the spot.

Nan absolutely loves talking about herself in the third person, and it is possibly the greatest contributing factor to her desire to become an author.

3 comments:

Duane Brewster said...

Nan--
Love this. You're right, tho.'
Best way for a creative to get 'paying' work is the old fashioned way--you ask for it F2F.

Doesn't hurt to send a brochure with a business card around, either.

Unknown said...

Yes, I agree! I had a website and I have a portfollio. I tried to get a job as some kind of designer but to no avail! And i was willing to do almost anything (within reason) to get my foot in the door. Some want a degree (which i don't have) and some want a degree and years of exprience (which i did have).... So I became an Analyist instead (which apprently every one wants me for... but I don't have any formal training either... and I'm not that good at math)! Hmm... Anyway I would love to do design again... but maybe this time on my own terms! Although... this might not be very profitable... hmmm!

Daisy said...

Creative people - I write and my daughter is a pro photographer. Most of my written work goes straight into lesson plans or school related social media. I'm still edging toward that elusive practice of requesting pay for my work. Some day...