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Small Business Marketing: 3 Ways to Market Your Creative Business If You’d Rather Just Make Art

You’re a painter, or run a dance studio, or publish eBooks.

Or maybe you’re not technically an “artist,” but you run a creative business like life coaching or yoga retreats. You absolutely love what you do, and can’t imagine doing anything else.

Good for you! Finding your passion is half the battle when it comes to business. Businesses without it fail in record numbers.

But maybe you’re not earning as much as you need to feel truly successful. You believe in abundance, but that abundance seems to be passing you by, despite the fact that you’ve got happy customers and know your product is top-notch.

Being a writer and teacher, I get it. I’d much rather be writing and teaching than worrying about the business end of things, but the truth is it’s a privilege to do this work, and with privilege comes responsibility. It also often comes with stuff we don’t want to do. (For writers looking for publishing and marketing tips, check out this website.)

For example, marketing. You know it’s a key component of any business, but you could sum up your feelings about it in one word: Ugh. Or maybe, huh?

Am I right? 😉

But you’d be surprised how a little info on small business marketing can jumpstart your art!

Marketing doesn’t come naturally to you, but that’s okay. Creativity and entrepreneurship don’t necessarily come hand in hand. You just need to reframe how you think of it, then watch as abundance rolls your way.

Art is right brain, marketing is left.

Art is freeform, big idea, think outside the box. Art is hard to explain, but you know it when you see it. Your right brain loves to make art, because it feels unleashed when it does. Art doesn’t care about business or strategy or numbers. It just wants to run free like a wild horse in a field.

(Okay, now I’m getting ridiculous with the metaphors. But you get what I’m saying.)

Even though marketing is more creative than, say, accounting, it’s still more business-y than artsy. Definitely left-brain. Marketing has a budget. Marketing involves plans, strategies, and tactics. Here’s the funny part: even though marketing involves plans, strategies, and tactics, those things can begin the same way art does: freeform, big idea, think outside the box.

Back to that reframing. You’ve got to make your talented right brain think of small business marketing differently. Here are three ways to do that:

Think of it like an art project.

If you’re a painter you wouldn’t be afraid to try a new palette, or as a writer you wouldn’t blink at playing with a wild plot line. Take the same mindset with marketing. Think about what your customers would respond to and have fun with it.

Maybe you’ve got an active Facebook business page. Using Facebook for business is great because you have more freedom to communicate in different ways with your fans – more than those 140 Twitter characters, for example.

You could run a “Make Art Every Day” campaign. For one month you and your fans do one small creative act every single day, and share them on your Facebook page. This will generate fun and excitement, and will build relationships not only between you and your fans, but amongst your fans as well.

Or maybe you run a contest on your blog to see who can come up with the wackiest way to use whatever it is you sell. (Hand woven linens, leather belts, raku pottery, etc.) Your customers send you a photo, you pick your favorite, then feature the winner on your blog. Again, it creates a sense of fun and excitement, as if your customers are members of an exclusive club.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Come up with a list of easy small business marketing ideas. Go nuts. Be your most creative, right-brained self. Don’t worry about the ideas being weird or impossible. Write them down. (For more ideas about online marketing, read this post.)
  2. Whittle your list down to the three ideas you like best. Pick one of those three that appeals to you the most and can be implemented in the next couple weeks.
  3. Lay out the baby steps, start to finish, for how to make the idea happen.
  4. Put your plan into action, and note your customers’ response. Make note of how many signed up for your newsletter, or made a purchase, whatever the relevant metrics are.
  5. Repeat with the other two ideas.
  6. Which ideas did your customers respond to best? Keep those in your marketing plan. (Hey, you have a marketing plan!) Go back to your original list or come up with new ideas, keeping the ones that work and ditching the ones that don’t. Play.

Think of it like practice.

Musicians do scales, dancers plié over and over until it’s perfect. It might not be your favorite part of the day, but you know practice is a must to stay on top of your art.

Creative entrepreneurs have to do the same with the business side. (Find excellent resources on creative life and business at Eric Maisel’s website.)

You owe it to the world to let us know about your creative brilliance, and marketing does just that. The more often you spend time on small business marketing – the more often you practice – a few things will happen:

  • You’ll get better at coming up with good marketing ideas
  • Your marketing regimen will become part of your creative routine
  • It’s likelier that customers will find you and buy from you over time

Remember: Regular action = forward motion.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Set a timer and work on marketing your business for a specific amount of time – 30 minutes, an hour, the most you think you can handle in one shot. Do this three days a week.
  2. Sit there until that timer dings. Some days you’ll get little done, and that’s okay. Keep sitting there. Other days you’ll get tons done. Even better. The more you practice, the better at marketing you’ll get. You might even start looking forward to your marketing time because it’s fun and helps grow your business. (Who knew?)

Think of it like an apprenticeship.

You didn’t become an artist overnight, you studied the greats first. You apprenticed yourself to the masters, living or dead, and learned their techniques, influences, tools, subjects, and habits. You studied, tried it on your own, made mistakes, tried again, succeeded. Over time, your art blossomed.

Think of marketing the same way. No one expects you to know exactly what to do the minute you open your doors, you’re only expected to learn and make it better. You can get advice for building a business, tips for creative writing, and inspiration for a wealth of other creative processes – and they all go into your development as a professional and as a person.

Here’s what you do:

  1. Let the experts help get your small business marketing strategies and tactics in place. There are plenty of good teachers out there (including excellent blogs like this one), so look to them if you’re running dry on how to market your business effectively. There are tons of free tutorials and articles, or you can hire a consultant to get you going even faster.
  2. Look at what other successful creatives have done and mimic their methods. If you’re a writer, pick apart how another writer took her latest book to the bestseller list. Or notice where a fellow painter shows his work and what art publications he’s featured in. Take notes and think about how it applies to your business. Remember Picasso’s words: “Good artists copy; great artists steal.” I’m not suggesting you take other people’s work and claim it as your own, but he had a point. Sometimes there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

Then again, as in Picasso’s case, sometimes there is. 🙂

One last thing: creatives seem to have this strange fear that if they stoop so low as to market their work they’re selling out.

Nonsense. Unless you’re happy doing creative work by yourself in a cave somewhere – and even those guys got their paintings seen eventually – you want others to know and appreciate what you do, yes? The only way that will happen is if you get comfortable with the left side of your brain and get to marketing.

Next steps:

  • Think about these three marketing approaches. Pick the one that seems easiest or most comfortable.
  • Commit to trying it for 90 days. It’s tough to see results any quicker than that.
  • Set reasonable, quantifiable business expectations. Reasonable being the key word. Not, “I’ll triple my sales” or “The New York Times will interview me.” How about “I’ll sell 10% more a month,” or “I’ll get one show in my local gallery.”
  • After three months, see how you did. I’m betting that even if you didn’t hit your goals, you will have made progress. That’s good enough.
  • Commit to another 90 days, and watch your business grow.

What’s holding you back from marketing your creative business? Let us know in the comments!

Special opportunity for Mirasee readers:

I’m offering Mirasee readers a free live training event that teaches you how to add more focus, fun, and satisfaction to your life in just 10 minutes a day.

This easy four-step process works, and after the training you’ll:

  • Add spice to your daily life, right away
  • Feel more excited and energized than you have in ages
  • Start getting the creative, independent, hugely satisfying life (or business) you deserve

Drop off your email address at Life on the High Wire to sign up for free access. I look forward to seeing you soon!

About Deonne Kahler

Want to know more about Deonne Kahler? She writes at Life on the High Wire. She's also mom to Sam the Wonder Pup, and is obsessed with road tripping, national parks, and quirk.

30 comments

  1. Gemma D Lou says:

    Great article! It’s true marketing can seem like a chore, but then again, as you say, there’s lots of room for creativity. I like the engaging ideas you got, like a Make Art Every Day idea. That’s fun, and it’s a community project. And it’s true, the more you repeat something, the better you get at it.

  2. Natalie says:

    As businesses become increasingly competitive, the ability to come up with new ideas and strategies becomes more of a commodity, especially when it’s applied effectively.

  3. Stanley Rao says:

    Great points and I’ve always found it also easier to do this with someone else to bounce ideas off of. Helps if you think you have a great idea that is really only great to yourself. Love the idea of looking at past successes verse trying to recreate. Thanks!

    1. Deonne Kahler says:

      Stanley,

      Having a sounding board is a huge help, I agree. Plus, if we sit by ourselves with our big idea for too long, sometimes we get all hyped up and excited, then begin to talk ourselves out of it until we’re back to square one. Not good!

      Thanks for commenting.

      Deonne

  4. Kala says:

    Danny thanks this post was very helpful, I”m going to use it to move myself forward. I dont’ mind frequent emails if they are from those who add value to clients and potential clients lives. THis did just that!

  5. Deonne, this is an excellent post. Getting the balance between creating and marketing is always a challenge, and your suggestions for using the right brain to ‘creatively’ market, just chunk it into 3 and try out one at a time is very helpful. I also like copying other ‘creatives’ – of course the best way to learn is to copy and see what is working elsewhere. Sometimes marketing techniques feel odd or wrong when using them in a creative/literary context and using what seems right from others is a great suggestion. Thank you!

    1. Deonne Kahler says:

      Magdalena,

      So glad you liked the post! Best of luck with your creative projects, and thanks for commenting.

      Deonne

  6. Jason "J-Ryze" Fonceca ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I haven’t read the pos. I will, when it’s time to focus and give it full attention — but I had to comment on the headline.

    So. Good.

    This connects to every right-brained person in on the net, I’d guess.

    I’ve aimed to explain/express this to many. Maybe I’ll just link them to this 🙂

    Thanks Deonne 😀

      1. Jason "J-Ryze" Fonceca ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

        I do! I love it 🙂

        You cover so many important bases.

        Right-brain v. left., practice, planning, strategy, and you do it all in a way that explains why this is important and effective *and* creative 🙂

        And I can’t believe you used the word plié on Firepole Marketing lol.

        Rock on and ryze up, Deonne!

  7. Jacko says:

    Well if you are thinking about marketing then you don’t want to just do ART do you?

    People have to focus in on what the really want to accomplish if it is making money then it is ok to say that don’t get caught up too far on thinking things will go how you want them to just because your doing your own thing.

    1. Deonne Kahler says:

      Jacko,

      I agree, it’s not only okay to want to make money from your art, I’d say it should be the goal. What better life than creating something with your own head, heart, and hands, and have that something support you as well?

      Thanks for commenting!

      Deonne

  8. Katherine says:

    This is incredibly synchronistic. I woke up this morning dreading getting up and getting started on my to do list. NOT a good feeling.
    I wrestle with a belief that somehow I have to subjugate my creativity to what I think I should be doing. (Should, Schmoud!) And somewhere inside there is a lack of trust that if I truly follow my creative path and do the things that light me up, I’ll have the financial stability I want.
    Your approach seems doable, lighter, and somehow left me with the impression that even marketing could be fun and creative. Thanks for the reminder that creativity and visibility can work hand in hand.
    Katherine

    1. Deonne Kahler says:

      Katherine,

      I understand the lack of trust, because we get the message over and over that it’s impossible to make a living from our creative work. “You’re a writer? Interesting! How do you pay the bills?” It’s a shame because it doesn’t have to be that way, and I know plenty of people not only surviving but thriving on their talents. Keep going!

      Deonne

  9. Jacob says:

    Very cool post, Deonne. I love how many specific actions you gave people to take.

    This is definitely an issue I’ve struggled with in business, especially online. It can be a lot of fun to brainstorm, generate new ideas, and live in that creative process. Then, when you have to put the pedal to the floor and actually do the work to make an idea a reality, things change.

    It’s great to have the list of specific steps you gave to successfully crush that transition. Thanks for contributing!

    -Jacob

    1. Deonne Kahler says:

      Jacob,

      So glad the post resonated with you. I’d live in that dream phase forever, but you’re right, the dream phase won’t support you in old age, ha. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Deonne

  10. Jane Robinson says:

    Yes, yes, yes. I would like to share ideas with other creatives for “out of the box” marketing ideas. We all know about facebook, twitter, blogging, etc – but how we stand out in the “noise” of the internet? Ideas? Please share

    1. Deonne Kahler says:

      Jane,

      Hoo boy, that’s a whole other post (ha). To me the key to marketing your creative work is finding your audience. Once you know where your tribe hangs out, the marketing activities themselves will become clear when you know who you’re trying to reach and what they’re about. Hope that helps. (I suppose I’d better get to work on that new post…)

      Deonne

  11. Mike Kawula says:

    Great points and I’ve always found it also easier to do this with someone else to bounce ideas off of. Helps if you think you have a great idea that is really only great to yourself. Love the idea of looking at past successes verse trying to recreate. Thanks!

    1. Deonne Kahler says:

      Mike,

      Tossing ideas around with someone is a huge help, I agree, because four half-brains are better than two (ha). Thanks for commenting!

      Deonne

  12. Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D. says:

    Deonne,

    You tapped into the biggest problem we creatives have: reconciling that right brain artsy side with the left brain business side.

    Thankfully you gave us great ways to resolve it and finally go after the earnings we deserve. Best of all you convinced us to happy about it.

    Whether we approach marketing as an art project, practice or an apprenticeship, with the steps and resources you’ve given us, we are sure to succeed.

    1. Deonne Kahler says:

      Flora,

      Yes, reconciling the two brains is tough, and boy are they stubborn (ha). It’s all about reframing the challenge, and taking baby steps. Thanks for commenting!

      Deonne

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