How long is all of this going to take?!

Let’s face it, only bad things happen quickly

One of the things that I’ve learned about this whole building your artistic repuatation online process is that it’s going to take a heck of a lot longer than most people think.  In fact, one of the biggest complaints I hear from frustrated artists is that they are doing a lot of the right things when it comes to marketing themselves as artists but sometimes they feel like they’re just not seeing the results.

The myth of the overnight success

So many times we have seen artists, writers, and musicians seemingly come out of nowhere and become overnight sensations.  The truth, however, is that the vast majority of these people have been working in obscurity for years on their art.  I talked about in an earlier post about how the Beatles played over 1,200 shows before they arrived in the states and became the overnight sensations that most people thought they were.

Many people see Lady Gaga’s sudden success and think that she is simply some sort of novelty act that came out of nowhere.  Now whether you think Lady Gaga is a great artist or not, it doesn’t change the fact that the artist formally known as Stefani Germanotta had been busting her ass for years as a musician and songwriter learning and perfecting her craft.

I left my entire family, got the cheapest apartment I could find, and ate shit until somebody would listen. ~Lady Gaga

As a testament to her determination to succeed in her art, Stefani never gave herself an alternative to succeeding as a musical artist. She once said about this period of her life, “I left my entire family, got the cheapest apartment I could find, and ate shit until somebody would listen.” Even when Lady Gaga was signed and then suddenly dropped a few months later from her first recording contract with Def Jam Records, she never gave up. Instead, she kept working and continued to hone her unique theatrical performances in the Lower East Side clubs in New York City.

In fact, there are hundreds of stories like these of  artists who worked for years behind the scenes in order to create a name for themselves.  If you get the chance, I would encourage you to spend some time reading up on the early careers of some of your personal mentors and idols in your field — I think you might be surprised what you’ll find.

The Online World is different (and not)

The problem for most of us is not that we necessarily think that we should all become overnight sensations as artists (although that would be nice).  The real problem is that because we are doing most of this marketing stuff online, we think that this process of creating a reputation for ourselves as artists should be happening faster, and it does. . . to an extent.

“Actually, I’m an overnight success, but it took twenty years.” ~Monty Hall

In other words, what might have used to take twenty or thirty years to develop a reputation as a performer or artist outside of your hometown, can now be done in a fraction of that time. Thanks to the internet and social media sites like Twitter , YouTube, and Facebook; we can now literally reach thousands of friends, fans, and potential customers with just a click of a button.

Now having said all that, why doesn’t any of this seem to be working for us?

It’s getting crowded out there

Well part of the reason is the fact that the internet is getting awful crowded these days

According to our good friends at BlogPulse who keep close track of these kind of things. There are now over 145 million blogs out there in cyberspace and roughly 56,000 new blogs are created everyday.  Not only that, but according to BlogPulse there are over one million new blog posts being posted each day.

So the question becomes, how are we as individuals who may have just joined this online mob supposed to compete and get ourselves noticed in this overcrowded environment? The answer it turns out is pretty simple

We can’t.

Wait, let me clarify that. We can’t do it by ourselves.  The internet is no longer the quaint little town where you can simply hang your shingle on your door and expect that sooner or later, somebody’s going to notice that you’re there.  Having great content is not enough to get you noticed by itself because there is simply too much competition for our time and attention, both online and off. The great paradox here of course is that you need great content to show people when they stop by your site, but at the same time, why should you be spending all your time creating great content if no one’s around to read it.

In other words, if a blog post falls in a forest and there is no one around to read it. . .

What’s the point?

Linear and Exponential Growth 101

Let’s go back to our high-school Geometry class for a moment in order to better understand why it takes so long to get noticed and admired in the online world.

You see, unlike many things in life where we gradually improve and see our progress along the way, building your reputation online as an artist has more in common with the swine flu then it does with common sense. The growth of your online identity, similar to viruses and bad movie reviews, does not occur on a linear but on an exponential growth curve.

Say what?!

Wait, before you click back over to Twitter, take a moment and look at the graph below:

On the red line we see what’s called “Linear” growth.  As you can see, linear growth starts off small and then slowly and steadily grows over time.  This type of growth can be found in such things such as our height when we are children (and unfortunately for most of us, our weight as adults).

The green line on the other hand represents “exponential” growth.  Exponential growth as you can see starts off small and doesn’t appear to grow for a very long time, but then all of a sudden the growth appears to suddenly take off out of nowhere. This is the so-called “overnight success” growth curve.

This exponential green line is the way that the internet appears to work as well. For the longest time it seems as if we’re getting absolutely nowhere, then all of a sudden we reach what appears to be a “tipping point” and at that moment everything changes.  Things suddenly begin to fall into place and we begin to pick up momentum rapidly.

So the question is, how long does it take before we begin to hit this up curve?

Obviously this depends on many different factors including your personality, your level of engagement with others, the size of your social network, and of course the quality of your work itself.  The one thing you have to realize is that when you are stuck in the “flat-line” building stage of this curve, you are actually creating the foundation of your future success.  This is when you are busy making the connections and perfecting your craft that will prepare you for when you eventually reach the up curve and your career suddenly takes off. At the same time, it appears that very little is happening.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
~Thomas Edison

The only real secret then to making this whole thing work  is that you can’t give up before this happens. You simply need time to not only master your craft, but also to build the social connections and realationships that will eventually take your career to the next level.

The moral of the story here is. . .

Just keep going

Although there are very few reliable statistics in this area, I would have to think that at least 80-95% of these blogs started each day are eventually abandoned  by their authors.

Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go. ~William Feather

Some of these people simply lose interest and move on to something else, while others may try like hell for six-months or a year, and when they are not seeing the results they imagined, they will simply give up before they ever reach their “up curve”.

I mean let’s face it, blogging, gallery site building, and building your personal brand online is hard and unrewarding work.  The secret weapon we have as creative artists/writers/musicians, however, is that we are already used to doing hard work with little or no expectation of a reward.  We are by our very nature, persistent and stubborn souls who keep going no matter what the results.

Now’s the time to take that same sense of stubbornness that you use everyday in your art and apply it to building your reputation online.

The only way you fail is to stop trying.


Photo courtesy of andreyutzu

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About the Author

Writer, teacher, and head custodian of the Skinny Artist community. His book “Getting Creative: Developing Creative Habits that Work” is all about finding the time (and energy) to live a more creative life.

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