Building a fanbase

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Ahhh, fans. Those magical beings who love your work and want to engage with you on your artistic journey. Some of us have many of these, many of us have some, and others of us have our mom and Mrs. Ross, our high school English teacher who always believed in us.

Building a fanbase can seem like an uphill battle, especially when you’re just starting out. How do you get your work into the hands of people who’d enjoy it, and then convince them to pay you for it too?

Here are a few tips to get you started building an engaged community of fans around your work:

Get personal

Shouting into voids will not get you very far. The truth is, people are more likely to respond if you reach out to them personally. Even creators with large fanbases understand the importance of creating a personal interaction with their fans. Just ask a capella musician Peter Hollens, who has amassed over 3,000 patrons through simple engagement strategies involving treating his fans like friends, not ATMs.

“You build a business one person at a time.” –Peter Hollens

Another great way to get closer to would-be fans is through live streaming, which allows you to broadcast yourself in real time across various platforms. You can live stream your creative process, a finished piece/project, or even just your everyday life. Since live streams often have a shelf life,  you don’t have to worry too much about the production value of them; and as an added benefit, social media platforms tend to surface live streams more readily than any other types of posts.

Find a mentor

Is there anyone you’ve come across who has achieved what you have only aspired to? A creator who has found success in the type of work you produce? Chances are, there is somebody out there who you look up to or who has provided you with some guidance along your creative journey.

I know, I know: the thought of reaching out to someone you idolize can seem daunting. What if they think your work sucks? Or aren’t interested in helping you? Or simply don’t respond? On the flip side, maybe they’d love your work and are excited about the idea of helping you succeed!

find a mentor

Believe it or not, the latter is more often true. As a creator, you know firsthand how important it is for you to connect with people who love your work. The same is true for your idols!

When contacting a mentor, just make sure that you are clear with what you are hoping to get out of them. They have limited time and will respond a lot faster to “I’d love to get your thoughts on the project I’m working on” than “Will you be my mentor?”

Once you’ve established a good working relationship, you can (and should) leverage your mentor’s network to build your fanbase. Don’t be afraid to ask them to share your work with their own fans–chances are, their community (aside from being larger) is not a whole lot different from your own.

Commit to at least one social media channel

News flash: you don’t have to join every new social network as a way to gain more reach. A much better way to find and build a following is by choosing one or two platforms where your target audience hangs out and then committing to keeping them regularly updated.

If you’re a visual artist, you may find that Instagram and Deviant Art are the way to go; for bloggers and journalists, Twitter might be your top pick; crafty creators might choose Pinterest. Whatever channel you choose, just make sure that you put a bit of work into keeping it updated and promoting your work through it.

🏆 Pro tip: Be wary of sites that ask you to pay them money to get you a lot of fans in a short amount of time. This usually involves a bot that automatically follows a large number of users (or spams your network), under your name. Even if it does give you a quick jump in followers, they will likely not be very engaged fans and may churn shortly after.

In the next article, we’ll dig a bit deeper into how to leverage social media to grow your business.

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