Are you feeling that your market just isn’t responding to your art?
Do you ever think you picked the wrong creative niche?
Do you have the sense that your creative career is stale, moving in slow motion?
It could be that your art business or career is in need of a little adjustment to achieve a better focus.
I have a small flashlight that has the ability to narrow or expand its cone of light by turning the bezel on the front. If I widen the cone, there is a wider field that I can light up, but the downside is that the total illumination dims. But if I narrow the field of light, then the area it illuminates is brighter, more focused.
There is a saying that goes, “Get rich in a niche.” A niche is a narrowly focused market that, when you achieve some expertise in, you have a much better chance of standing out in, and you can attract more devoted followers. You have a much better chance of being unique and there is less competition.
A properly researched niche can make all the difference in your creative career. So how do you refocus into your best niche?
Well, the best niche, one that sustains you both artistically and financially, involves the convergence of three things:
1. Your talents
2. Your passions
3. A paying audience
To refer back to (and expand upon) our ‘light’ example, think of these three things as three colored spotlights. In color theory class we studied the “additive” quality of real lights for use in film and theater. These lights are called additive because when you add the colored lights together onstage the colors mix and add together, becoming brighter. When you add three strong colored lights together, they make white.
So think of our talents, passions, and paying audience as three colored spotlights. By themselves, they are pretty colors, but let’s say your goal is to achieve a pure, white light. You converge them as much as you can, and in the part where the three lights overlap, you have a brilliant white light.
When you properly focus your energies on developing your creative career where these things overlap, you will be virtually unstoppable. Let’s examine them more closely.
Showing natural creative talent at a very young age certainly can guide our lives in a certain direction, especially if we had parents or caregivers that were instrumental in spotting it and helping develop it. These natural talents tend to develop into skills, which could be seen as talents that have been honed with practice.
Sometimes we have creative gifts that aren’t used, and they remain raw or undisciplined. On the other hand, we may not have a lot of natural talent that comes easily but have a skill that has been developed through practice and experience. Either of these can result in personal creative assets.
Believe it or not, we might even have creative gifts in areas that we didn’t realize we had until much later in life. There is an episode of the popular 80’s sitcom “Cheers” where the character Norm, a mediocre accountant, finds that he is good at interior decorating. Before he knows it, his friends recommend him to other friends, and he has a little word-of-mouth interior decorating business going.
Think about your personal creative assets… What do you possess? For various reasons, we might be downplaying our skills. Try to step outside your body and look at yourself objectively.
To help you do this, here are some questions that might get you thinking:
- What did people notice you were good at as a child?
- Have people noticed your creativity in a certain area?
- What comes easily to you, that you don’t have to think about too much when you’re doing it?
- What have you done that you looked at afterwards and thought, “wow, that’s actually pretty good?“
- Are there creative things you do that people seem to respond to?
- Do people come to you often for advice about aesthetic judgments?
Write these things down and move on to the next step.
These should have an OSHA-approved sign on them that warns, “Handle With Care“. Many will advise you that just following your passions will ensure success … but by themselves, they are not what you would want to build a business on. If you do, you will continually be at the mercy of your emotions and guided by them. You will probably change your focus a lot, experience lots of ups and downs, and have long stretches where you aren’t motivated to work.
However, when tempered with experience and channeled properly, passions can provide the heart and fuel for your creative endeavors. And when added to mix of talents and a good paying market, you’re well on your way to success as an artist.
The lack of passion about the work is also a sign for you to move on. You may have a talent for something, but the desire to do it is just not there. This is often the case when we are pushed to develop a skill in childhood by others, and when we come of age, we just don’t care about doing it, even though we may be much better at it than most people.
To point to the Norm example again, while he found that he was good at interior decorating, he decided that it just wasn’t for him. He wasn’t willing to put himself out there as an interior decorator and didn’t like how it felt to be thought of as one.
You may wear what you’re passionate about for all to see, in that case finding it should be mostly easy. But the case for many of us is that we suppress our creative desires. This may be out of fear of rejection, or other reasons. If this is your situation, then you may need to do some digging and be honest with yourself. You will need to give yourself permission to pinpoint what it is that excites you.
Here are some questions that may loosen up some things:
- What do you find yourself daydreaming about?
- What do you do that makes time seem to stand still, and the minutes fly by without you noticing?
- What do you talk about that makes you speak louder, more emphatically, and use more gestures than normal?
- What makes you especially angry, sad, giddy with joy, or ecstatic?
- What would be a huge disappointment if you went through your life never being able to do it?
Write your passions in another column and continue to step three.
Your Paying Audience
While the first two spotlights involved internal exploration, the third is external. To find what an audience would be willing to pay sufficient to generate an adequate income, you will have to do some outside investigation.
The first step is to gather what you know (or at least educated guesses) about your target market. You might ask questions like these :
- What is their age range?
- Where do they live?
- What are their hobbies?
- What do they do for work?
- What is their personality like?
You can get as specific as you like here. In fact, some come up with very specific things about their target market, even condensing down information into a single person, called an ‘avatar‘. Their avatar would have a specific name, age, profession, and specific interests. If you’re a freelancer and your clients are businesses, you could still do the exercise and an ideal company might be your avatar, and a specific person at the company who would be your main liaison.
Now examine this composite person. They might seem very similar to you, which is not necessarily bad. But if you’re a graduate student living below the poverty line, and your avatar is as well, then you will probably need to refocus your target if you want to actually make a living doing this.
Look at their motives for purchasing your art. Does it address an urgent need or a burning desire? One of these should be present. Does their income warrant the price you are asking for your work? How might this person refer you to other potential clients? What might their positive review of your work sound like after the job is finished?
You will need to adjust your avatar as time goes on, or you may not have a very good picture of this avatar yet. Either way, you will need good ways of gathering the required information.
There are a number of ways to gather the information you need about your target market:
- Internet research
- Live Interviews
- Online Surveys
We will go into detail about these in other blog posts. For now, gather what you can and list the info about your target market in another column.
Here’s the really fun part! Now that all this information is down before you, in one organized place, let your eyes play over it. Allow your right brain, the playground of your imagination, guide you. Look for similarities. Does anything “jump out” at you? Circle these.
Write out your thoughts… What surprised you? Do any words have a negative feeling? Why? Do you feel compelled to change your creative business strategy (or create a new one) based on what you have here?
Now that you have these down on paper in physical form, they have tangibility. They are something you can touch and hold. You may realize that there are some things that seemed like a good idea in your head, but now that they are written down they don’t seem quite as compelling. On the other hand, some ideas may have seemed lukewarm until they were written down, and now they seem like they’re shouting at you.
If you’ve come this far in the process, congratulations! You are much farther than most people when it comes to exploring your desires, skills, and target market. You deserve a break… Give your mind a rest for a couple of days and revisit your list. Has anything changed? Write your thoughts.
At this point, it’s time to take action… choose something that you’ve circled from your list that best represents a convergence of your talents, desires, and target market.
Begin to create and get your work in front of people as soon as possible so you can see if it’s a good fit. If not, that’s ok, don’t be discouraged – revisit your list and try again. Persistence is essential to getting your creative endeavor off the ground and success is within reach for all those who never give up.
If you would like more actionable tips that will help you create your art and be compensated for doing what you love, then I would like to invite you to join the Artist Myth mailing list below. Enjoy a special bonus that you’ll get immediately for signing up.
Also, please share your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page. Have you explored your passions and talents fully enough? Did you find the courage to try something new, something that resonates with you? Are you living and creating in your point of convergence, so that you can be as effective and happy an artist as possible?