In Blog We Trust?

Wednesday February 17, 2010 by Tiffany Meyers,

Posted in: Email and Web Marketing

Apparently, photographers and illustrators don't have enough on their plates already. All the world, it seems, is saying that commercial artists need to start a blog - that self-promotional tool of the century.

But do you really? And what exactly will you get in return for the time investment? We asked four commercial artists with blogs to weigh in on the matter. All agree: Keeping a blog is personally and professionally rewarding... but don't expect to drown in new business just because of it. Like any marketing effort, blogging should be one of the many tools photographers use as part of a comprehensive strategy to promote their businesses.

John Loomis

Clients: ESPN the Magazine, Men's Journal, People

I use my blog to share my own work and generally connect my photography and brand to anyone who's interested in learning how the sausage is made. There are so many great places to find out about the worlds of art and photography overall. I stay pretty focused on my own story and projects.

*For me, blogging is more about your brand and sharing work than generating new business. I have gotten business directly through my blog, but nothing I'd call major. Actually, I'm not convinced that social media is making anyone big money, unless you're working at a very high level.

One argument in favor of having a blog is that it gives you the ability to engage with other photographers out there fighting the good fight. In college, community is so important to your development as a photographer. When you become a freelancer, it can feel like you're on a remote island. To a degree, blogging can revive that sense of community.

The other benefit is that, right now, creative people from all over the world are sharing their art and talking about it. Being a part of that can be really profound. Maybe that sounds touchy-feely, but that is what's possible when you send out something that can reach a billion people worldwide.

Jeff Singer

Clients: SPM Advertising, Eleven Inc., Inc. Magazine, Playboy Magazine

My blog is primarily about me. It's about what I'm working on and random thoughts that pop into my head. There can be countless photographers' blogs about the industry, equipment and (god help us) commentary on world politics, but there can only be one blog by you, about you. I keep the tone light. I try to make it subtly humorous, which usually comes in the form of making fun of myself.

* I can't say I've gotten business directly because of the blog, but I see it as part of an overall package. Potential clients are going to care about the work first. But if they're looking at two photographers, and one has a blog, it might help them decide which to hire. And my work is definitely seen by a lot more people than without the blog. [It's amazing, Singer says, to see the range of people that search engines bring to the blog. See the weird search phrases that have directed traffic his way.]

When I started, I thought I'd use the blog to show work that I didn't want on my main website for one reason or another. I didn't plan on writing much. But, being the opinionated person that I am, I started writing more and more. I never had any aspirations to write, but the blog opened up a whole new creative outlet for me. As for my writing talent, that's another thing entirely. I recall skipping English class quite a bit in high school.

John Hendrix

Clients: The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Time Magazine

I launched my blog for many reasons. I wanted a user-friendly platform to update my work, discuss my process, have a dialog with my students and post experimental works. It wasn't a business move as much as an excuse to drive my work and sketchbook drawing.

* I can't say I ever got work from the blog. Art directors will sometimes mention that they follow "Drawing in Church" or something like that. [Hendrix regularly posts the drawings he creates in church on Sundays.] But I get the most response from other blogs. When they link to my blog or interview me, it reaches a whole new set of people who don't know my work. That's the strange democracy of the Internet. Valuable beyond measure.

For me, it's an opportunity to make stuff I like and talk about it. It really isn't about marketing myself to the Internet universe, although that's a positive side effect. I didn't expect my blog to create so much traffic, but now it gets more visitors than my website, in general.

That audience is a huge motivation for me. Just like an athlete who loves to play on the big stage at Yankee Stadium, I always feel I do my best work when I've got a platform. More pressure, more payoff, I guess.

Jessica Hische

The Daily Drop Cap blog is an ongoing project by typographer and illustrator Jessica Hische. She posts a new, handcrafted, initial cap every work day and invites visitors to use them on their own websites or blogs. Daily Drop Cap had 90,000 unique visits within its first month.

I started Daily Drop Cap because I wanted to challenge myself to do something creative every day. A daily deadline can be stressful. But it only feels like a burden when I'm so bogged down with work that I sneak the letter in at 11 pm to make it by midnight. People have suggested that I work on some ahead of time, but that's not the point of the project. It's about forcing myself to be creative under pressure.

* A lot of potential clients - probably three or four per week - have approached me because of the blog. I've also had a ton of requests to license the drop caps for identities and other work, but for the most part, I'm not licensing them at this time. Another thing the blog's been great for is that, when I meet designers who don't know me, I can mention the drop cap site and, usually, they've seen it or read it.

Most of my readers are designers, but I've found that it gets passed around non-creative circles as well. People from all over send me pictures of how they've used the drop caps - like a crafty homemaker who used L, O, V, E in a painting for her house. And someone from Venezuela put my first B on her birthday cake.

The fact that a stay-at-home mom in the middle of the country can get as much out of my blog as a designer in New York really motivates me. I don't want to let anyone down by missing a day.

Blogging Advice:

  • Determine your intent. Some bloggers, like Hische, work within a weekly or daily theme. Others use their blog to connect with people. Decide, and then stick to it.
  • Don't start a blog just because everyone else has one, says Singer. Do it because you have work to show and something to say.
  • Blog about subjects you're committed to, says Hendrix. Readers are attracted to bloggers who are passionate about their subject.
  • Be realistic: Keeping a blog is time consuming and challenging, particularly when it comes to generating fresh content regularly, says Loomis.
  • Don't expect art buyers to swarm your office. Your blog gives people the chance to get to know you, which could help you land business - but only indirectly. "In general, potential clients will email you more if you seem approachable," says Hische.
  • Expect that most of your readers will be other illustrators or photographers. "We all read other photographers' blogs to get see what they're up to and how they work," says Singer. "At least, I know I do."