4 Kinds of Supporters Your Creative Career Needs (and 1 Kind to Avoid)
Supporters, audience members, customers, fans…if you’re a creative entrepreneur, you know how important people are to your success. And regardless of whether you’re providing services like performing or a product like art or needlework, you’re going to need an audience if you want to grow your business.
When you think about your audience, you might be making a mistake if you’re thinking about them as a universal group. There are different kinds of support, and you’re going to want some of each to be successful. Here are four kinds of supporters you should seek out, followed by one kind to avoid:
These are people who love you and they love what you do. They are more than willing to help you spread the word, whether that’s telling their friends about your work or posting/sharing on social media. Evangelists are your biggest communicating supporters, and they are invaluable.
Evangelists have seen your work, and they may or may not have invested in it. It’s possible that your evangelists are customers, and it’s also possible that they are not. Perhaps they can’t afford your work, or it hasn’t been the right time for them to invest in it, or what you’re offering is not an ideal match for them personally – but they still love what you do and they will tell people you’re awesome.
If you need help introducing your work to more people, ask your evangelists for help. Suggest something they can share or just ask them to help you spread the word about what you’re doing.
You can identify your evangelists by listening/looking for comments like “I tell people about you all the time!” or “I LOVE your work!” These people are the ones that share your posts or info about what you do frequently.
If you’re not sure if people fall into this category, just ask them if they would be willing to help you spread the word. If they do so and they are enthusiastic about it, then they are part of your evangelist group. If they do not share or seem hesitant about doing so, that’s ok – it just means this is not for them.
Buyers (customers, clients, etc.) are happy to spend money to see/buy your work. They are interested enough in you and what you do to purchase with you, and they may or may not also be evangelists.
The most important thing you can do for buyers is to let them know what you’re doing! While they may not be equally attracted to everything you create, you should give them the opportunity to decide since the chances of them buying are good if it aligns with what they want/need.
Buyers may or may not seek out what you offer on their own, which is why it’s important to have a way to communicate with them. Email lists, Facebook profiles/groups/pages (this is another topic all its own), and other social media outlets like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter can all be useful potentially, depending on where your audience is most likely to be found.
If you want to make a living at your creative skill, these are the people for whom you want to create. Try to find out what they like and what they want/need.
Connectors like you and what you do, and they are happy to help you connect to other people who might be able to help you. These people are interested in seeing what they can do to help you achieve your goals, and they may or may not be evangelists or buyers as well.
It’s possible that people who want to help will offer to connect you with someone else, but it’s also possible for you to ask people who are already in your circle if they have any suggestions of people with whom you could connect.
We do this all the time in life: we ask friends and colleagues if they can recommend things like a good restaurant, plumbing service, or photographer. This is very similar, except you’re asking about people who could help you with things that pertain to your business.
When people serve as connectors, they typically derive joy from seeing you get ahead, so be sure to let them know if something comes about because of something they did for you (and thank them profusely!).
People who would become investors in your life want to see you succeed, and so they are willing to put up capital in one way or another. They might give or lend you money or buy things that you need to get ahead (like a new computer).
Sometimes investors give just to help, and other times they may want to see a return on their investment. For example, if you need a new camera, a favorite aunt may agree to purchase it for you, with the return favor being that you will photograph her family.
Your chances of getting investors are slim to none – if you don’t ask. People rarely hand out money without being asked. To do this, you will need to have your business hat on: you should have a solid reasoning as to why you need what you’re asking for, what you’re going to do with it, and what you expect to happen because of you having it.
You should also let the person know why you think s/he might want to invest in what you need. Painting a picture of your business’s or project’s success because of the investment is important, so you’ll want to make sure you are clear before you start talking to someone. (This is a great thing to be coached on.)
Now I also mentioned one kind of “supporter” that you should avoid, and we’ll call them takers. Takers are the people who hang around yet they have no desire to have any form or reciprocal relationship. They will never be buyers or evangelists. They expect you to give away your work for free, and if you don’t they complain. They may even insult or criticize you!
These people can easily take your focus and make you feel like you’re doing something “wrong,” so it’s important that you recognize them when they come along. Takers are not interested in you being able to make a living at what you’re doing, so you’ll want to set boundaries with these people (or ignore them if need be!).
If you haven’t taken stock of what kinds of supporters you have, now’s a good time. All businesses need people to make them successful, so be sure you’re cultivating those relationships like you cultivate your work!
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