S00 #1: Skills aren't the endgame.

You’ve been comfortably working at an in-house game studio. Birds are chipping, sky is blue, you earn your life quite nicely. You look by the cafeteria window room, you smile at your coworkers naively playing on that PS5 until suddenly...

BOOM! One kid, two kids, you have to move far away, you’re burning out after spending 20 SUNDAYS IN A ROW working, you need MONEY! How can your skills be best used for that? Freelance! 

You already see yourself free of the shackles of the 9-5, free to choose your own time, your own rules! How exci...What’s that voice? 

“How do I know if I’ll do well?” 

Come on Anxiety, no need to worry! I’ll just ask friends, peers, even going to conventions like LightBox Expo! Easy peasy. 

There you hear it: “Practice your fundamentals. There’s no miracle and easy solution,grinding those 10,000 hours is the best way to get on the great projects. And post often on Instagram! I’ve heard it works well for artists.”
What the hell? You’ve been grinding for 10 FRICKING YEARS ALREADY, aren’t you still not there yet? Well, if there’s no choice…. 

Sounds familiar?

This advice, it’s anxiety talking. We know how to get better at drawing, we can control the skill outcome. By focusing all our attention on that, we improve. But do we still see what is happening around us?

Focus attention = no attention anywhere else

We are taught to believe technique will make us so good, no one will be able to ignore us. So posting often on social media is a way to measure our level so to say. Likes and follows are metrics to our skills. The more we have, the more likely someone will notice us and hire us.

It’s mathematics. (and let's be honest, we all know how good we are at maths ;)).

Practice = Skills = Audience = Probability of getting a recruiter to notice us goes up.


Two problems arise (at least)

First, the time frame. Grinding takes a lot of time, years, actually. How does it help your current situation?

Second problem is how do you know that the exact perfect client will show up in your audience and contact you? 

  • It relies on pure luck from the client to find you
  • It also relies on the good will of the almighty algorithm
  • you must produce a huge amount of content to post
  • so you can keep being relevant on social medias,
  • let alone to grow.

How does this help you? It’s like saying to a starving man: “Here’s a book to learn how to catch fishes so you can eat for a lifetime”. Yes. Good. Hopefully he’ll make it to the last page.

The only things these create are mental issues like anxiety, depression, imposter syndrome. We stress up to speed up our growth, but we can’t manage enough time to practice like we used to, 8-12-16 hours a day. We have to make concessions to take care of our family, groceries, part time jobs or no budget clients.
Can squeeze 1h between all that? Lucky you.

Losing focus leads to being more prone to following sleazy, cheap tactics. The kind that try to play the algorithm game like follow for follow, growth hacking and the likes. Our measurement of our art becomes a popularity contest. And like one, people can only compare us with the artist next in line.

Being good is one thing, it might help at building an audience. But Art alone will not give you the choice of your audience. It’s casting a wide net and hoping for the best. And some people are better located than others.

The world of marketing is filled with sharks (but there's also good in this world Mr Frodo)

We know how important fundamentals are in drawing. Yet we focus on cheap tricks in marketing ourselves.

We place all our efforts at practicing our craft. So we don’t have a clue about the fundamentals when it comes to promoting ourselves. It makes us easy targets for cheap, easy techniques that only help the ones sharing them.

But all marketers aren't sharks preying on easy targets like lost artists. Spending the past couple of years digging the rabbit hole, I finally found it : they do have fundamentals. It's not all bullshitty tactics, and it’s not that difficult to understand them. 

It begins by realizing that whether you like it or not, if you sell something, you do marketing. 

If you sell something, you do marketing.

Marketing doesn’t happen by miracle. It’s not what you see on social media. It’s an underlying, constant effort at communicating with others. Know what you do, for who you do it. THEN, be at the right place, at the right moment. Base your decision upon deep market research and not on the wind direction.

Communication is about listening to the recipient and adapting to them. When we put all our focus on art, we tend to think it's all there is to our promotion strategies. But Art is only one way to communicate, there are plenty of others. You may discover that your artworks will play a role in your communication efforts. They may also not. But you won’t let it blind you anymore.

Remember this : Skills do not bring clients, communication does.

Workshop

So, here are a couple things for you to think about:

  • Who are you working with/want to work with more? (write it down)
  • What do you currently communicate to them? (do you share flyers and logos along concept art, 3D designs and technical drawings? Or do you focus on one specific problem they might have?)
  • Why do you communicate with them in this particular way?
  • How do THEY perceive it? (Is the message you’re trying to share with them clear? This is not yours to answer, not artists’ but your clients’).

All this is pretty cool but you might tell me “I’m already communicating everywhere! My portfolio is ready, why do I still get rev-share and low budget demands?? Clients don’t understand how artists work!”

To which I'll tell you: We'll talk about it in the next episode, so come and read it so we can talk =D

Sources : If you're interested in learning from my sources they're all here

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