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Show Your Work!

10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered

By: Austin Kleon

Reviewed By: Ramona Sukhraj

In his New York Times bestseller, Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon showed us how to steal ideas, combine them, and create something new of our own. It’s the perfect book for those who want to create something, but don’t know where to start or fear they don’t have any good ideas.

This time around, Kleon tackles the challenge of promoting the work you’ve created. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered outlines several strategies to promote yourself and/or your work, even if you hate the idea of self-promotion.

Following the same approach as his previous book, Show Your Work is a quick read – concise and jam-packed full of actionable advice. In fact, you could build an entire marketing strategy around each chapter if you wanted to.

"I’m going to try and teach you how to think about your work as a never-ending process, how to share your process in a way that attracts people who might be interested in what you do, and how do deal with the ups and downs of putting yourself and your work out in the world"

-Austin Kleon

Below is a summary of each of Kleon’s 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered.

1. You don’t have to be a genius.

Although the term “genius” is thrown around often, very few people are actually geniuses. Instead of trying to become a genius, Kleon suggests you find a “scenius.”

When you look at many of the most respected and accomplished creatives in the world, more often than not they started as part of a group of creative people. You don’t have to be extremely smart or have a special talent to be part of a scenius, you just need to share ideas, build connections, and start conversations.

Embrace being an amateur. The true meaning of “amateur” is someone who does something for the joy of doing it, not for fame and notoriety.

Being an amateur gives you an advantage over the pro because you can be flexible and experiment without worrying that your mistakes are going to crush you. People expect amateurs to make mistakes.

You’ll never find your voice by looking for it. You have to use your voice and let it find you. 

2. Think process, not product.

Social media and blogging have completely changed the game for marketers because it allows us to take prospects and customers behind the scenes in real-time. More than ever, people want to see the real process behind the products they purchase.

Perfection is no longer necessary and, in some ways, it can actually work against you because it seems fake. Stop listening to your ego and start showing your authentic side.

3. Share something small every day.

"A daily dispatch is even better than a resume or portfolio, because it shows what we’re working on right now"

-Austin Kleon

Turn your flow into stock. Your flow is the feed of posts, tweets, and daily updates that remind people you exist -- help you stay top-of-mind. Your stock is the content you produce that’s just as interesting in two months (or years) as it is today; it’s evergreen.

Maintain your flow while working on your stock in the background.

4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities.

People who get into creative work usually have good taste, big ideas, and vision, however, it takes some time before the quality of your work reflects your taste.

In the meantime, Kleon suggests you not be a hoarder and share what inspires you with the world. Not only does this help your audience understand the inspiration behind your work, but it helps you connect with people who share similar interests.

Most importantly, it gives credit where it’s due. You can’t expect others to give you credit for your work if you haven’t made a habit of doing so yourself.

5. Tell good stories.

Despite what you think, your work doesn’t speak for itself. Stories create context for your message and help form an emotional connection with your customers.

But don’t fall into the trap of telling fictional stories because you think the real story isn’t interesting enough. This will only come back to haunt you.

Take our friends over at GuavaBox, for example. The origin story behind the agency’s quirky name isn’t as spellbinding as you would expect, but it’s real and it shows you the kind of strategy and thought that will go into your own marketing.

Tell the truth with dignity and self-respect. You’ll get more admiration in the long-run and you’ll form a deeper connection with the right people immediately.

6. Teach what you know.

Marketers of the past were too afraid to reveal their “secret sauce.”

What if the competition uses my information against me?

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Inbound marketing has completely reversed this mindset. Today, you can beat your competition by out-teaching them.

Kleon not only suggests sharing all of your trade secrets, every time you learn something new, he advises you to turn around and teach it to others. Besides providing value while promoting yourself, you end up learning more in the process.

7. Don’t turn into human spam.

The internet is a crowded place. Everyone is trying to get their message out there, creating a lot of noise.

Most of these people are what Kleon refers to as “human spam” – people who don’t want to pay their dues or offer value.

Before you can be a great writer, you have to do a lot of reading. Before you can get more people to follow you on social media, you have to be someone worth following.

Instead of wasting time making connections, Kleon suggests honing and practicing your craft. Once you’ve developed your skills and proven your talent, new connections will find you.

As your community builds, nurture those relationships, collaborate with peers and find ways to meet with your followers in real life. Being authentic is the most effective way to stand out in a world full of human spam.

8. Learn to take a punch.

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When you share your work with the world, not everyone is going to like it. In fact, some people will hate it, but don’t let that get you down.

You have to be ready for criticism, but you also need to discern between genuine criticism and trolling. Criticism is feedback that is constructive and helps you improve your work. Trolls only want to bring you down for their own entertainment.

Kleon doesn’t believe in feeding the trolls. Delete their comments, block them, and move on.

9. Don’t be afraid to sell out.

The romanticism of the “starving artist” is a false notion that will never go away. Creatives have a tendency to think that money corrupts art, but it’s simply not true.

Even the artists during the Renaissance Era were funded by rich patrons. You need money to continue producing your art, especially if you want to do so at a high level.

Instead of passing around your hat after a performance, the modern creative builds an email list or takes up a day job (consider this honing your skill). 

Once your work is valuable enough, give it a fair price and don’t be afraid to ask your prospects to pay.

10. Stick around.

The most successful careers are generally from those who never give up. The artists, entrepreneurs, and businesses that keep showing up over and over are the ones that stand the test of time.

Momentum, even in the face of adversity, is a powerful force that takes time to build up.

As soon as you stop, you lose it all.

But that doesn’t mean you have to work 24/7. Kleon suggests taking breaks to avoid burning out.

Take a walk or a nap. Those weeks could also be weekly or monthly sabbaticals where you disappear to recharge and come back refreshed.

Conclusion

Art will always be a work in progress, so don’t wait around for it to be perfect. Share your gift with your peers and be open to their reactions. While there will also be individuals who will try to drag you down with negativity, you will also likely encounter valuable constructive feedback that could help take your work to a whole level.