We’ve all seen the movies and developed the stereotypes.
To be a successful artist and get your name shared you simply must move to a big city or there’s no chance for you to avoid the dreaded “starving artist” fate.
Well, let me set you straight and tell you right now: bigger isn’t always better. Especially when it comes to initially growing your art business.
Allow me to let you in on the little secret that small towns aren’t telling you and save you the time that I spent uncovering this secret myself...
I grew up in a small town where we had 1 grocery store and a few stop lights. I wanted to become a 'professional artist', so after high-school I moved to a big city and got a restaurant job.
For 1.5 years I lived there working to support myself, hardly making headway in my creative endeavors, but managing to refill thousands of water glasses.
There were tons of people and opportunities in this big city, but also over-saturation. I didn’t yet have a way to make my name stand out, or know enough people that could share my work through word-of-mouth marketing. I was a small fish in a big pond.
Through a series of events, I eventually had to move back to my small hometown. Within months, word began spreading about my work again, and I was back to doing more work than I had done the entire time I was in the city!
People I had known for years were sharing my work with a friend, coworker, or acquaintance, and through word-of-mouth marketing in a small town I established a presence in a smaller pond.
This is how I discovered the value of word-of-mouth marketing and personal connection.
I began to realize the smaller the town and the more eyes seeing your work = a higher ratio of the town knowing your name...meaning your work will spread by word-of-mouth more quickly!
(Pictured above is a blog post written about a chalk mural I completed for a local fitness gym!)
By focusing on developing connections with people I already knew, I fostered interpersonal relationships that led to opportunities through their own personal connections.
It turned out the small town with the familiar faces was actually the key to my initial business growth.
Think of it this way:
- Is there a small business in your town that could use a facelift in their logo or marketing materials?
- Could you submit work into a local design competition where your work will be seen by lots of people?
- Maybe you could come up with a show-stopping visual for a local annual event that could become the event’s photo op station?
- Is there a venue where a majority of the town attends frequently that you could create a monthly large-scale themed design?
If you currently live in a small-town and feel like you’ll never be able to make it as an artist...begin looking at your town through a new perspective.
Look at your weekly acquaintances as potential customers and word-of-mouth marketers. People hire you when they know you, like you, and trust you...which means you are already WAY ahead of the game by having people in your small town know you, like you, and trust you.
When your acquaintances ask what you are up to, re-introduce yourself as an artist and tell them you do “x,y, and z”.
Before you know it, the dentist down the street, the fitness gym, and the small town grocery store will be asking if you can complete logos, murals, and design work for them.
Now THAT is how you start growing a portfolio and building a network!
We’ve all heard “it’s not what you know, but who you know”...and this couldn’t be more true when growing your art business!
Focus your efforts where people know your name enough to want to share it with others, and watch your business begin to thrive.