Episode 43: Don’t Just Show. Tell!

Over the past few episodes I’ve been focusing on the importance of writing for marketing your creative practice. Writing is hard work, and creatives are often uncomfortable expressing themselves with words. But another barrier, when it comes to the essential business skill of writing, is coming up with ideas to write about. I’ll have more to say about this in upcoming episodes, but today let’s consider some low hanging fruit for content subject matter—the very work already in your portfolio.

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Are you ready to take the struggle out of finding new clients?

It’s true that a picture is worth a 1,000 words. But which 1,000 words? If left to the beholder, it’s entirely up to them. In the world of fine art, leaving all interpretation, and impression to the subjective experience of the viewer is perfectly fine. But when it comes to commercial art, where images are meant to convey specific branding purposes, it’s not good enough to leave the impact of your work to the whims of the viewer. And so when you present your portfolio on your website, if all you do is display the final result of your work, with no other words or context, you leave all sorts of important information completely up for grabs.

Every creative’s website includes a portfolio. But so often this portfolio consists of merely a set of jpegs displayed in a grid, perhaps filterable by type of work. Clicking on a sample often just brings up a larger lightbox view. Some creative do take the time to create separate pages for each item in their portfolio, adding some descriptive text, perhaps with something about the client, and what the goals of the project had been. But in the overwhelming number of cases, very little is said at all, which is a huge loss of opportunity.

Especially since there is so much that can be said about your work. Aside from the formal information about the client, the goal, and perhaps something about the results, if that can be quantified, every project you’ve ever done has a backstory. And when it comes to speaking to your prospects who will be viewing your work, that backstory may be just as important to their consideration to hire you, as their admiration for the final result that they see.

Your prospect’s buying decisions are based on their sense of how much they can trust you, just as much as their ability to validate the quality of your work. They not only want to know what the final result of an engagement with you might look like, they also want to know what it’s like to work with you.

A perfect example of this can be found on illustrator Brian Miller’s website—orlincultureshop.com. Brain takes the time to articulate the backstory, the process, and the stages his work goes through on its way to a finished product. Not only does this draw you in, giving you a great understanding of what to expect in working with him—it also puts search engines to work on his behalf. All those words make his work easier to discover. I can attest to the effectiveness of that effort, because I found his work through a Google search, and ended up hiring him to do the illustrations for my book, Blazing the Freelance Trail.

You’ve lived the process of creating every item in your portfolio. You have first hand stories to tell. And people really are interested in backstories and behind-the-scenes reveals. And so if you’re looking to ideas to write about, start with your own portfolio!

But your content strategy shouldn’t end there. Augmenting your portfolio with background is great once a prospect is warm enough to take time to evaluate your work in more detail. But to get those prospects looking in the first place is going to require you to have a better offense for your content strategy. You’re going to need to take more initiative.

And so next week, we’ll continue to explore ways for coming up with ideas for your content strategy. Ideas that will allow you to get the attention of prospects, and leading to your website where that revitalized and much more effective portfolio can start to do it’s part in landing great new clients.

Until next week: don’t let the business of creativity overwhelm your creative business.