6 Tips For Making Money As a Creative Professional

Before embarking on my PhD journey, I worked as a freelance photographer while I was completing my undergrad and master’s degree. I captured weddings, engagements, and various special events. I worked mostly out of Dallas Fort Worth and then did a few gigs in Indiana.

Bloomington, Indiana – 2020 – Ryan Collins

Although I enjoyed the creative aspects of photography, the work was sporadic with no accompanying benefits. Throughout my tenure as a creative professional, a significant realization dawned on me. While I diligently aimed for the best-composed photographs, I inadvertently lost sight of the broader perspective and felt like I was wasting my time and more stressed that I was struggling financially.

Skills Alone Do Not Always Equal Success

Numerous creative professionals are actively engaged in their work today, possibly numbering in the thousands.

In this era of social media, the competition for creative jobs and opportunities has intensified. While mastering your creative skill set is crucial, the way you present and market that skill set holds even greater significance. Success is not solely determined by skills; it requires finding distinctive ways to distinguish yourself.

To assist fellow creatives, I’ve compiled essential tips on self-marketing and strategies to stand out in a crowded field that can help you land new contracts and make some additional money.

#1 – Decide if You Want Your Art to Be a Hobby, Passion, or a Business/Side Income

Whether you find solace in coding lines of code or expressing your thoughts on canvas, burnout can affect creatives across various domains. It’s crucial to introspect and ask yourself a fundamental question at the outset: Do you envision your skill or trade as a source of personal enjoyment during leisure time, or do you aspire to transform your creative prowess into a means of financial sustenance?

If you find that you can comfortably compartmentalize your creative passions from the necessity of paying the bills, then this article might not be directly applicable to your situation. However, for those seeking insights into how to align their creative pursuits with financial viability, read on for valuable tips and strategies.

#2 – Create A Website & Social Media Accounts

If you don’t already, consider claiming social media accounts. More importantly, if you have a name or business name, it’s wise to go ahead and claim social media accounts to prevent them being taken. Even if it doens’t initially make sense, certain social media accounts have their benefit. For example, if you paint, Youtube could still be a worthwhile option if you do live streams.

Accounts to claim or manage:

  • Website and unique domain name
  • Twitter / X
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn
  • Patreon
  • Youtube
  • Twitch
  • Tiktok

#3 – Consider Personal Branding

Personal branding involves skillfully leveraging your own image to promote your product. For photographers, a crucial consideration is whether you want your audience to form a connection solely with the art you’re offering or if you desire your own personality to serve as a distinctive selling point for your business.

As the competition intensifies, presenting a recognizable face alongside your artwork can be a compelling selling proposition. It’s a common occurrence that individuals are drawn to art not merely for the piece itself but for the artist behind it.

Engaging in content marketing that delves into your journey and experiences as an artist can prove as fruitful as showcasing the art itself. The narrative surrounding your artistic process and personal insights can significantly contribute to the overall appeal and marketability of your creations.

#4 – Whose Your Audience?

Effective marketing acknowledges the reality that resources are finite, and not every individual can be reached. It prompts the question: Who constitutes your target audience, and how do you intend to connect with them? Consider this scenario: If you’re a graphic designer aiming at businesses, platforms like LinkedIn or Instagram might be more effective than Facebook for finding relevant opportunities.

Furthermore, familiarity with your audience is key. Understand their preferences and interests. Identify trending topics that align with your art. You don’t need to be a professional market researcher to conduct audience research. Simple measures like leaving surveys on your website or conducting polls on social media can yield valuable insights. Embrace the opportunity to connect with your audience, and don’t shy away from actively engaging with them.

#5 – Always have a contract or something written to protect yourself

Safeguard your interests by establishing a clear contract that outlines the specific services you are providing to the client, along with the agreed-upon payment terms.

While it might appear to be a minor detail, the absence of contracts has been a source of regret for me in the past. Verbal agreements, in reality, hold limited weight. Protect your creative endeavors by formalizing the terms in a written contract, ensuring clarity for both you and your clients.

#6 – Network Constantly

My final piece of guidance is to challenge yourself to actively network and overcome any reluctance to put yourself out there. Freelancing may not guarantee a constant flow of work, but networking is the key to unlocking new opportunities. Frequently, individuals may be following your content without your awareness.

Beyond online interactions, consider joining relevant groups and engaging in conversations with fellow creative professionals. Establishing connections in both virtual and real-world settings can significantly broaden your horizons and open doors to unforeseen possibilities.

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