Every successful author is both a creative and a business owner. Creative coach Margaret Olat shares tips for how to not lose sight of your creative side while working hard for your author brand.
With the meteoric rise of social media and digital marketing, artists and writers alike have been able to make bold predictions about business growth, study past successes and failures, understand consumer behavior, and market themselves accordingly.
Life became seemingly easier because everything we need to do to “make it” has been simplified and numbered in steps.
But somewhere along the way in modern marketing, we’ve have been conditioned to think about success only in terms of metrics and funnels. Instead of the warmth we’re used to feeling when interacting with our audience, this feeling has been replaced with uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety. As a result of this, our creativity is stifled and what previously felt like joy now brings judgment.
This isn’t a post to crucify writers who use social media platforms or ads to drive revenue. Rather, this post serves to highlight the conundrum that has resulted from digital marketing and ways to redeem our craft.
To thrive as a creative in a society that’s always hustling, here are 5 important questions you need to answer while evaluating your marketing efforts.
- Am I resistant to sharing my message?
- Do I have an evergreen brand?
- If I’m doing the right things, why am I not seeing any results?
- How will I get better at my craft?
- What can I do to make an impact today?
1. Am I resistant to sharing my message?
Call it anxiety, resistance, or writer’s block.
If you constantly feel restless regarding your writing and have developed an aversion to what you feel called to do, your resistance might be telling you something about yourself rather than your marketing. But until you identify that part of you that doesn’t want to move, and why, you can’t make decisions that matter.
Yes, you need to be honest with yourself about whether you want to reinvent yourself and how. But before you do that, you need to:
Step away from identities you don’t want to create under.
In my work with other creatives, I’ve discovered that the thing that keeps us stuck is not that we don’t know what we’re meant to do. It’s actually that we do know but we disqualify ourselves or despise our own gifts.
What do I mean by this?
While trying to market ourselves, we tend to force ourselves to appeal to mainstream online marketing. We borrow labels and titles that give us credibility and authority because we’re afraid that the vocation of being a writer might not be enough to shoulder our ambition.
But there is no way your craft will thrive from selfish desires that come from creative misalignment.
You have to, first and foremost, be a creative to succeed in the creative industry. For you, it may mean you need to embrace being called a writer.
It could mean you need to stop letting the lack of status others associate with being an indie writer pull you away from the path that you’re being called to walk on. For some, it could mean the need to drop the act and quit serving in the niche they’re currently hacking at.
The best way to fall in love with the art of writing (again) is to fully embrace the identity of being a writer. It is to understand that you need to have a relationship with writing to fully immerse yourself in it. When you hide your gifts under identities you don’t intend to create for in the pursuit of fame, you dry up your well of creativity.
2. Do I have an evergreen brand?
One of the biggest challenges writers face is the idea that our ideas will go stale, therefore, our presence won’t be needed anymore.
As a creative, your work in this world has to be based on an unshakeable belief that you have a BIG idea that only you can articulate, that there is a dedicated audience for your idea, and that you can make money by sharing your idea for years to come.
It has nothing to do with your writing. Yet.
I call this idea branding your craft with an evergreen brand. It borrows from the principles of personal branding and my observation that consumers respond better to businesses that are personal, relatable, and people they share an unselfish, common universal truth with.
Here’s why every writer needs an evergreen brand.
I have spent several months trying to understand writers who thrive in online marketing, have large audiences, and appear to make a lot of money at the same time.
Some of these writers do not have any books on the New York Times bestseller lists or similar listings but their influence extends far beyond what they sell in the creative space.
The reason is that they have chosen to brand themselves as something larger than what they create. As a result, they make more money from branding themselves than from their writing.
Having an evergreen brand that is separate from what you create gives you the wiggle room to pivot and change according to seasons without having to risk losing the audience you have built. It means you can satisfy your curiosity without being pigeonholed into one genre for life.
Don’t just be a writer. Build a brand that stands for something larger than life.
It is no longer enough to be a writer or a creative who creates. Your truest source of inspiration needs to come from the fact that you stand for something bigger than what you create. In other words, success in this hustle economy is attainable when you brand yourself and not just your business.
3. If I’m doing the right things, why am I not seeing any results?
You have embraced being called a writer and have created an evergreen brand. But why are you still struggling to make ends meet? Is hustling ever going to stop?
Several years ago, you could call yourself an artist, write one or two books, go viral, and call it a good year. But recently, with the explosion of self-publishing, the rise to the top has taken a slow and more organic approach for some writers.
Understand that the rules of marketing have changed.
The real reason writers struggle with being creative and profitable isn’t a lack of profitable ideas.
Rather, it’s one (or all) of these things:
You aren’t listening to the market. It’s no longer enough to just write a book and want to get paid. Books don’t sell themselves. You need to create something that the right people have a burning desire for and are willing to pay for.
Yes, as creatives, we must write for ourselves––for the love of the craft. But once you demand payment for your services, you must write for your audience.
You aren’t speaking with the right people. Sometimes we’re afraid to alienate those we think we have to stick with. Don’t waste your time nurturing and selling to the wrong person.
If you write thrillers that make people stay glued to their seats, you will find better luck marketing to people who enjoy this work. If you want to make money with your writing, you need to attract and engage with the RIGHT people from the very beginning.
Your prices don’t reflect the value of your work. Many writers eventually move on to accept consulting offers, coaching clients, and license their craft. A common trap we all fall into is the idea that we can only demand “premium” payment for what we consider to be very difficult, even for us.
The idea of asking others to pay for a skill we’ve mastered seems unethical. But when you price yourself out of profitability, you start to resent your work and will find every excuse in the world to resist showing up as a writer or a consultant.
Believe that you have a right to be passionate and profitable. But you need to understand the market before you ask it to pay you.
4. How will I get better at my craft?
I’ve experienced it and I know you have. The sensation of finishing something, receiving great reviews, and suddenly feeling crushed by the thought that we have nothing left to offer. The feeling that our creativity is limited, and that if we continue to show up, people will eventually see us as frauds.
But know this: if you’re creating meaningful and impactful work, there is always going to be an uphill battle at some point. You can’t escape this. But most importantly, your best work isn’t always at the surface level.
The secret to creating work that you are proud of despite fear and uncertainty is finishing what you start.
In the book You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One) author Jeff Goins shared something powerful about the myth of “good” and effective writing. According to him, effective writing covers the basics rules of grammar and composition (except when it doesn’t) and gets the job done. But beyond that, he urged writers to stop trying to be good.
Success comes from finishing what you start.
Your bestselling work is never your first draft. No matter how much you spend on marketing, it is incomplete without a creative process. It is from this creative process, which enables you to finish what you start, that you build the confidence to write without fear and satisfy your curiosity.
Joanna has credited her success to having a creative process that she adheres to every single day. It is this creative process that has allowed her to finish writing several novels and enabled her to quit her IT consulting job to go full-time as a writer.
5. What can I do to make an impact today?
There are several ideas on how to market yourself as a writer, how many times to do it, and if it needs to be a daily practice. Again, as well-intentioned as these ideas are, you can fall into the trap of comparison and imposter syndrome if you are not careful.
My favorite way for writers to market quickly and effectively is to make quick decisions that don’t take away from the need to be creative.
And it starts by asking the question: what can I do to make an impact today?
The right answer to this takes away the question of what content to create (if you hate that kind of pressure). You can be inspirational, educational, or promotional. Your content can be either be in short form or long format. You could highlight someone else’s work or share your conversation with other writers.
You have the creative freedom to define what your marketing practices look like. Hustling, however, is a choice you alone get to make.