Promoting yourself online is a necessary skill that any artist can learn.
Thanks to the internet there are opportunities for artists everywhere. You can find inspirations, support and collaborators online. You can receive commission requests from around the world. You may even be able to find a job, like 75% of the writing staff on the cartoon Harvey Beaks:
The times have changed. Rather than wait and hope that someone finds your art or offers you a job, you can take control of your future. Being an artist now also means thinking like an entrepreneur. So building up an online following – and thus increasing your potential opportunities – is a must. So the big question is How?
Step 1: Forget about followers
The biggest reason you will develop a following is your art. Your goal is to become a better artist. This means that creating art and working on your craft every day is your #1 priority. There are NO shortcuts to becoming a better artist. There never have been and there never will be.
Draw, sketch & paint every day. There’s no mystery about how one becomes better at anything – you have to put the work in. You have to love doing it (and if you don’t, then you should be doing something else). You have to motivate yourself on the days you don’t feel like it. You know that every time you create, you get a little better. You learn something. Improving is your goal – whatever else happens as a result is secondary.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Comparing yourself to others is a trap, as noted by our Casey Robin. Everyone improves in their own time and in their own way. Just keep practicing until you get better. Then practice some more because our journey as artists never, ever ends.
Step 2: Share your work regularly
Even if you think you suck, share your work online. Be brave – just get used to posting your work, internal critic be damned. It’s good for you because it confronts the fear of not being good enough. It’s also good for other artists who will be inspired by you. When someone can go through your past efforts and see the improvement, it removes the mystery of how artists get better. And if they are a fellow artist, it makes them feel better knowing that others go through the same thing.
Be generous with your sharing too – share incomplete or in-progress work. Many people have this idea that being artistic is a mysterious, magical skill. Seeing process and understanding the time and effort involves helps all artists. It shows aspiring artists that great works don’t magically pour out of an artist. And it apprises the public that art takes time – giving the creation of art greater value.
If you create art daily, there is NO excuse to not share your work. Make it a habit – create your art at least once a day and share some of it. It does not have to take a lot of time – even a sketch a day is enough.
Step 3: Participate in Sketch Dailies
Sketch Dailies is a daily creative prompt. Every day they release a subject to draw (usually a known character) and it’s up to artists to create their own version. It’s not a competition and is a great opportunity to find artists to inspire you – and potentially get new followers.
I’ve found and followed a lot of great artists this way. It’s also a method that our Amanda MacFarlane recommends too. Do it for fun and to challenge yourself – anything else that happens is a bonus 🙂
Follow Sketch Dailies on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter to get the daily prompts. To participate and share your art, you *have* to use Twitter and tag your posts with the hashtag #Sketch_Dailies. Click the hashtag to get an idea of how active it is – and note how frequent favorites and retweets are. Sometimes the main Sketch Dailies account will retweet your work too.
Step 4: Share your work smartly
Always use hashtags when sharing your art on social media. When you share on social media you need to be certain that as many people as possible see your posts. The best way is to use hashtags. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a hashtag is
a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and used to identify messages on a specific topic.
Hashtags make it easier to find posts about specific topics. That’s how Sketch Dailies operates – without the #Sketch_Dailies hashtag they would not be able to find your contribution. Hashtags are used on all major social networks – here’s what you can find for #dailydrawing on Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter.
Use hashtags relevant to your art – and your goals. Hashtags are meant to help people find what they are looking for. If you are a comic artist, use the #comics or #webcomics tags to help others find you. If you love drawing Disney characters, use the #Disney tag (which, btw, works like magic as they are SO many Disney fans out there). If you are sharing your latest still life, use the #StillLife tag – you get the idea. There are many tags and you’ll have to do some research to see which ones are the right ones for you.
Step 5: Share to Instagram and automatically post everywhere else
Post to Instagram and share to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr at the same time. Managing multiple social media accounts can be time consuming – especially if you have to post the same thing to multiple accounts.
Most social media accounts make it easy to share to one or two other social networks. Tumblr has built-in options to share to Facebook & Twitter. Twitter has the same for Facebook. Facebook can be shared easily to Twitter. And nothing can share to Instagram but Instagram can share to Facebook, Twitter AND Tumblr. (You’d think they were all trying to make this as challenging as possible.)
The simplest way is to share to Instagram and then use its built-in options to share to Facebook, Twitter & Tumblr (see screenshot to the right). Just click on the social networks you want to share to, then click the big blue Share button at the bottom and voila – you’ve posted to 4 different social networks in one go.
Be sure to remember your hashtags and include a short comment or description. People love to learn more about what inspires you, what you’re feeling or why you drew something. It helps others relate to you as a person – and deepens the bond between you and your fans.
Step 6: Don’t obsess over statistics – just keep sharing
Don’t worry about how many new followers you did or didn’t get after one post, or one week or one month. Yes, this is pretty much a repeat of Step 1 but it’s important. Share your work, engage with others online and ignore your numbers. Focus on your art, on engaging with others and share your work steadily – your following will grow naturally as you become a better artist and build relationships with people.