Blogging for Independent Artists and Creatives

Blogs N DogsLast week at Blogs N Dogs in Banff I gave several presentations including one about using blogging and web technologies specifically for indendent artists and creatives. Christina Carr was cool enough to take copius notes and post them to her blog. Thx Christina.

Blogging for the Creative Crew.

Blogs’n’dogs at The Banff Centre, Alberta, Canada – an intense workshop put on by Raincity Studios in the art of telling it like it is. This event gathered experts for North America, combined with a range of participants from novice to seasoned geek, and essentially gave us a creative licence to talk to each other, effectively. It’s about conversation, and it’s an egalitarian world on the blogosphere.

As an innocent in this new democracy, and as a writer, teacher and artist, I’d like to share with you some of the most pertinent features of blogging that I discovered through our ‘Blogging for creative people’ session, run by Kris Krug.

Reasons why you, as a creative person, will need to explore the bloggosphere are pretty obvious once you consider that this is where you can:

  1. get feedback for your stuff – after all, you want to be able to gage the public response to what it is you’re putting out there; whether you let it impact your work or not, you need to know the score.
  2. connect with ‘fans’ – the people who like your stuff will want to talk to you, and you will want to listen, especially if you’ve got something to sell.
  3. set up an online store to start trading – whether it be photography, jewellery design, a portraiture service or doggie accessories, you need to set up a PayPal account and a CafePress account.
  4. establish yourself as a presence – build your discussion with information about and around your area of expertise – the aura of photography compared to painting; minimalism in the 21st century; the impact of music for increasing brainwave activity (or the opposite).

Apart from the obvious benefits of blogging yourself a network of business contacts, ‘lest us forget’ that blogging is a conversation that adds the greatest value to you and your talk-fest jamboree as a creative interaction, and then in regards to your stuff as a commodity. Blogging is about a-u-t-h-e-n-t-i-c-i-t-y. Otherwise, it’s no better than bogus PR collateral you get in the snail mail telling you that you’re the lucky winner of some advertising executive’s tired brainspark, and that he’s gonna put you in the draw to win a million, “so call us to find out about this amazing opportunity”.

Getting with the program – approaching the blog

A blog is not a website, but often makes a good component of one, or it can run its own ring. The main difference being that a website is a professional face, while a blog is the conversational part of it – a blog is the human face as opposed to the ’suit’.

The best way to get a handle on blogging is to follow the ‘program’ that  Kris Krug, our ‘Blogging for creative people’ guru, advises. Week 1 – read as many blogs as you can. Week 2 – set up your own blog, but just for now, concentrate on commenting to other people’s blogs. Week 3 – start blogging.

Blogging is like keeping a public diary. Every post is archived, somewhere, in the ether, despite that ‘delete’ command you’ve been relying on to rewrite history. So firstly, never blog anything in anger (unless you aspire to the reputation of Jerry Springer or his guests). But, like Jerry Springer, the most successful blogs are contraversial so don’t spit it out just to be nasty, remember authenticity? Try telling it like it is, from the heart. Secondly, try and use the permanent diary type fact to your benefit – use it to capture where you were and how you’ve changed over the years of chatter splatter, and how your community has responded. This is a really exciting feature! It’s gold. It’s about you as a personality, not as a business name, and your writing style needs to say as much.

Don’t hog the blog – let other people help you out so that you’re not having to do everything – design, copy, sales, yourself. You may be a great photographer but you might just be crap at stringing those ‘personality’ words together so please, let that silver-tongued friend of yours help you write up your intro to get the conversation started, and make sure you pay him.

“So, what’s you’re strategy?” Experts at Blogs’n’dogs agree that you should attempt your blog with a child-like quality that allows you to experiment – start if off, let it grow and see what shape it takes on. Allow it to breathe and to be organic rather than planning it out. A better question might be, “So, what d’you want to discuss?”

Getting your blog in the game – exercising the blog

How you discuss is very interesting. In a blog, each post you enter will index separately using keywords, such as ‘photography’ or ‘biography’ (keywords are automatically identified by search engines). This means that your blog entry will be weighted according to how you structure the keywords in your text. So, for example, a keyword in the title might weigh 50%; a keyword in the sub-heading might result in 30%; and in the paragraphs, it might get you 20%.

The better you work out your indexing, the higher up on the list of Google, for example, your blog will rate when someone punches in one of those keywords for a search. So, write your blog with indexing in mind. Include keywords in your title where you can. And, when you have some information to add to the blog you already posted yesterday, post a follow up blog so that Google counts this as a separate entry and rates you higher on its searchability.

You need to investigate what words are driving the search for your site so you know how to pitch the words you use in your content. You also want to fnd out who your audience is, and where they are, geographically, especially if you plan on posting delicate artworks across the globe. A really useful site for gathering facts about your audience is You will also want to buy your domain name to secure your online identity.

Don’t stop talking – maintaining the blog 

Following up on the conversation is one of the most relevant things you can do in managing your blog space. After all, we hate it when our friends forget to call us back – this is no different. People will want to join your community and if you snub them, they’ll drop you like the arrogant schmuck that you are. This community may then start it’s own conversation without you, and you won’t know what’s going on unless you make it a priority to find out.

Depending on how focused you are on business, being incommunicado could also mean a breakdown at a busy intersection where you stand to lose a lot of traffick and discover that your fans have decided to make a detour to another writer, musician, artist /photographer’s camp, with their PayPal order.

Your blog is the perfect space to learn about what your community is interested in, and what it wants in terms of the creative clout you have to offer. Keep talking – start a survey, do some market research, but be up front about it.

Artist profile – Kris Krug

Now you may want to think about how you conduct business – do you want to share your stuff for free, to get exposure, or do you want to establish a pricing niche straight off? Some photographers for example prefer the Creative Commons approach of free art over the web to help build their folio and following, and rely on that exposure to secure worthwhile jobs. This is the approach adopted by Kris Krug. Here’s his 7 step story to developing his photographic business, and the community that supports it:

  1. Bought a camera
  2. Got a flickr account
  3. Formed a blogging community
  4. Met up in actual space with his community
  5. Created a business
  6. Positioned the business online
  7. Used contacts to set up an actual exhibition space

Blogging doesn’t make you a nerd, unless you are one already. It’s an exciting way to connect and explore, and as you can see from the 7 step story above, it can only help you transfer the conversation from the wireless realm of inside workstations to the sensory world out there. Blog on.