When you’re first dipping your toes into the water of your next big career move, it can feel overwhelming. What once felt like an exciting adventure designed to get you closer to your goals and dreams pretty quickly becomes a giant pile of stress.
Suddenly you’re running around, constantly busy, yet never really getting anything done. You feel like your time is being wasted because while you’re constantly doing something, none of it seems to get you closer to where you want to be.
When that happens, it’s time to step back, take a breath, and re-evaluate what’s going on. A lot of times we’re so eager in the beginning of our career to make something work, that we try to skip some of the more basic steps to get started. Steps that, when we make sure they’re in place, set the foundation for a more fruitful and fulfilling career.
Don’t worry, even if you’ve been at this for a while, if you’re feeling at all stuck in your career right now, refer back to these 5 things—they’re some of the most common I see getting skipped over in the early stages of an artist’s career and they can be some of the most crucial for moving forward.
Focus on your why
When I ask my clients why they do what they do, the answer is usually one of a few things:
- I love making music
- I want to make a difference
Those are both great reasons to get into a career as a musician, but they aren’t enough to keep you going on your darkest days. Finding your why is all about digging deep to understand what it is that keeps you motivated, and what will keep you pushing forward even when things get tough.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret here too. Sometimes—oftentimes—in the beginning, your why is probably going to be a little selfish, and that’s good! Selfish means you’ll stick to it.
For instance, when I first started my PR company, I loved helping artists. I loved helping tell their story. However, the reason I started a business and didn’t just keep running my (unpaid) blog, is because I had been laid off from my 9-5 and needed a way to make money while building a life I love.
Maybe you want to see the world (and impact others) and that’s why you’re a musician. Maybe you want to leave a legacy—and help people feel less alone. There’s something in it for you and that’s not only good, that’s what we want because that’ll keep you going.
Now, on the other side of that, you want to have your more altruistic why, and you want to dig deeper than just changing people’s lives. HOW do you want to change them? WHY do you want to change them? The more specific you can get, the better you’ll be able to connect with your fans. For instance, you don’t just want to change lives, you want to change lives because as a kid your parents divorced and fought a lot and you felt alone and isolated and abandoned and now you want others to feel like they’re worthy of love. THAT is a lot more specific than just saying “I want to change lives.”
Bring that brand to life
When I say the word “branding”, what do you think of? If you solely think of logos and colors and font styles then you’d be wrong. Yes, branding includes all of those things. Yet, when we’re talking about the day-to-day branding that’s going to move the needle for you, I’m talking about how you present yourself. The way you show up online. In your press photos. At shows. In your merch. There should be one continuous theme and aesthetic going on everywhere and that starts with knowing your “why,” as mentioned above.
From there, you can work out the feelings you want your fans to have and pick colors that reflect that. Stick to 2-3 complimentary colors max (IE black, grey, white) rather than a bunch of different colors (unless your brand is all about being bold, fun, etc and then go crazy). Then, bring that to everything you do.
Have those colors in your photoshoots for press photos. As the 3 main colors used on your merch, your website, your social media posts. When you create a new music video or throw a show ask yourself—is this message aligned with my brand? Is my aesthetic present? Consistency is KEY here.
Pick a social media platform you LOVE
Everyone has their preference when it comes to social media. You may love one platform and hate the other, or you may be sort of ambivalent. While it’s important for you to be on all the major platforms, I want you to focus on just one to really grow your following and pour your heart and soul into. So, pick whichever one you naturally gravitate to and enjoy the most—and that you believe your audience is on—and focus on that.
Create a solid content schedule
In the early days, quantity > quality is what we’re going for. This doesn’t mean you should put zero effort into your posts or phone it in, but if you’re someone who agonizes over every word they post on social media, I want you to remember that right now, as you’re building a fanbase, it’s about putting out as much content as possible. It’s ok if it’s not perfect—just focus on putting authentic content out there that people can really connect to.
Social media and career growth is like anything else. If you aren’t consistent, it won’t work. Think about it this way—would you get mad if you weren’t meeting your weight goals but were only going to the gym for 30 minutes once a week? Of course not. You have to put in the time and effort if you want to see the rewards. This is very much the case with social media.
One way to do this is by having a content calendar. Sit down one day for a few hours and plan out what that week or month will look like for social posts. As in, write down the days you’re going to post (I suggest at least 3 times a week in the feed and daily 3-8 times a day for stories) and plan out what topics you’ll do on each of those days. That way, you know exactly what to post each day instead of trying to wing it and panic posting.
Plan out your goals
This one is super important, and yet, often gets skipped. You’ve gotta know where you’re going if you want to actually get there. I meet so many artists who tell me their goal is to sign to a label or tour the world or any number of lofty goals, and that’s great! However, it’s not specific enough to create an action plan out of. If you just say you want to sign to a label, how do you plan to make that happen? If you don’t know the label or what you need to get their attention, how is it going to happen?
Regardless of your goal, whether it’s big or small, I want you to work backwards to figure out what the mini goals are that you need to achieve to get there. For instance, if you want to sign to a label, what label? What do their newly signed artists have in common? What are their social media numbers, their touring history, their sales and downloads? If you figure out they all have high streams + engaged social media, then your next step is to make a plan around getting your social media following engaged or your streams up. Those are goals you can really work towards—and they’re much more tangible than just saying “I want to sign to a label” and hoping it sticks.
As a DIY artist, you have all the tools to make your career a success—sometimes, it just takes going back to basics, setting the foundation, and hitting the ground running to really start to see things take off.
Angela Mastrogiacomo is the founder and CEO of Muddy Paw PR. She loves baked goods, a good book, and hanging with her dog Sawyer.