Learning all the Time

In the last year, I have been on a journey of learning how to market my personal brand. It has been interesting and challenging, especially as I don't usually have as much time to devote to it as I would like.

Even though I have been a musician for, well, my whole life, and even though I took music in college, most of my business experience has been in fields not related to being an artist. When I went through Red Deer College, their business track was still separate from their other tracks, and I chose Composition. (Thankfully, they have since remedied that, and ALL music students now take a business class, which is as it should be.)

What bits and pieces I have picked up over the years for how to market myself (which eventually grew to include being a designer and author), and the changes implemented, were gained haphazardly and in pieces, without much rhyme nor reason behind them. Okay, so I needed a musician's website. I got one in 2010. Now what? I already had a family blog, which I maintained regularly, and maintaining a separate, "music-only" blog was a lot of work. In fact, by that time, I think I had four blogs on the go that were aimed at each of my different ventures, and the only one I could seem to update with any regularity (or garner much following on) was my personal, family blog. There was just too much to do!

And I needed a Facebook page, apparently. So I got one to go with every blog, plus one more for my Young Living business. Whew! That's a lot of work, too! (I still have all of those. I am seriously thinking of paring down.)

Last year, as I finally reached the lesson in Holly Lisle's "How to Think Sideways - Novel-Writing Course" about building your author platform, I realized that I was spread way too thin to actually have any time at all left to do what I really want to do to earn a living--namely, write books, music, and knitting patterns. So after thinking long and hard, I decided that all of those things were part of me, the creative me, and all of those things (plus my family blog, which I love, and other people seemed to like to read) could live and breathe in the same space on the web, just like they do in my head.

On any given day, I will spend time:

  • working on the revision or formatting of my upcoming story
  • thinking about and/or writing my next novel
  • thinking about and/or working on my next knitting design
  • blogging
  • thinking about and/or writing a song or arranging music I have already written
  • putting in volunteer hours for Heart4Children Canada

Now, granted, I only have SO much time. So those things do NOT all happen on the same day (or rarely.) Usually, 3-4 of those happen on any given day, and I try to make sure that all of them happen every single week.

So, that is why I redesigned my web presence last summer and created the new, improved www.talenwinters.com. Now, instead of maintaining nearly a dozen sites (plus associated social media) really, really poorly, I figured I would have a shot at doing a handful of things well, or at least better than I had been. So far, that's been working out pretty well, but there is still room for improvement.

It was also thanks to Holly Lisle that I started using Twitter for the first time ever. I kinda had to be dragged kicking and screaming, because I already had enough things taking up my time. And honestly, some days I wondered if the time invested in building a Twitter following would be worth it and pay off in the end.

But! It was because of someone's post on Twitter that I found the awesome website of Kristen Lamb, and started following her blog. Not to mention, I really have met some very cool and interesting people on Twitter, and have even met other musical theatre composers (which, strangely, there are not a lot of in the Peace Country!) Kristen Lamb's passion is to teach other writers how to succeed, and a good part of what she teaches is the effective use of social media.

I have lapped it up, in the small bites I have had the time to chew on it.

Then, I got asked to teach a class on Online Marketing. After my initial reaction of "I don't think I'm qualified", I thought about it and realized that even though I may not be an "expert" yet, I do know a lot. I definitely know a few things not to do. However, I thought it might be a good idea to gain a little more information from a real expert. So on Tuesday night, I bought Kristen Lamb's book and started reading.

WOW! The stuff in there is blowing my mind. On the one hand, it has been gratifying to know that some of the steps I have already taken (motivated by the desire to preserve my sanity) such as gathering all my different creative aspects into one place were the right thing to do. There are a few other things I have been doing right, too. Yay!

And I wouldn't say that I have been doing anything wrong, precisely, except maybe blundering around without much of a plan. I had vague notions of what I wanted to accomplish, but no real direction on how to get there, and not much evidence that what I was doing would get me there, either.

I am SO excited about what I am learning. The more I learn, and more experience I have, the more I can see how achievable my goals and dreams are, with consistent work and effort. I know, we hear that all the time, right? But doing the wrong kind of work will not get you what you want. Tinkering with the tractor all day, every day will not get the field plowed.

So often, young artists are willing to put in the work to achieve their dreams (I know I was, and still am), but have absolutely NO idea what that work should be. The advice one receives is often vague and hazy, because those who made it as musicians and writers using traditional models don't know how to do it in this brave new digital world (and they don't really need to), and the few runaway internet successes (like Justin Bieber) often seem to get there more through chance than actual work--but those are what young people look at and try to emulate as "the way to do it." With an actual plan, one knows what steps need to be taken to achieve the goal. Steps that have a track record of success for hundreds of other people. And suddenly, the work required does not seem so daunting, or the dream so frustrating.

Kristen's book is geared toward authors. However, as someone who writes more than just books, I think the advice is applicable to anyone whose brand is themselves. When she talks about selling books, substitute your own product. The advice she gives about how to use social media is applicable across the board--and in fact, I will be able to incorporate parts of that into my retail, investment-capital-business, too.

Do you have any great resources for online marketing that you would recommend? What are your top five favourite social media platforms for your own online marketing?

Happy Thursday, friends!