“Don't pursue a career in the Arts unless you love the Arts truly, madly, deeply. And do not have any delusions about what awaits you both in educational settings, and in the job market. …If you think you're gonna get a break because you have a disability, think again. …You better be the best you can be at what you do, and do not allow yourself to use your disability as an excuse NOT to work continually and consistently towards total professionalism and high standards of quality.”
-- Jaehn Clare, professional theatre artist, from "A Career as an Artist Ain't an Easy Row to Hoe," keynote address for The Art of Employment: Careers in the Arts for People with Disabilities on March 25 & 26, 2002 at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN.
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An ArtsWORK exclusive by Kendal R. Miller of Frames, Phrases, and Photography by Kendal, LLC
Who are you? What do you doing these days?
Promotion is a never-ending task that can often feel like the homework of owning a business. While I would prefer spending all my time taking photographs or manipulating images, part of it has to be behind the scenes promoting my work.
Fun? Not really. Necessary? Absolutely. Time consuming? Let me count the ways…
Over the years I’ve listened to people grumble about things not transpiring within their business. Granted, a strained economy can bring havoc to any industry. However, many of these individuals were the same that expected others to step up to the plate to make them a success. Perhaps a well-known late night comedian said it best –“shameless, SELF-promotion.”
It’s your choice to be that complainer or become the go-getter.If you’re fortunate enough to have the financial resources, hiring someone to promote your business is an ideal solution if marketing is not your strong point.
Unable to employ anyone to promote my fine art photography, I utilized the knowledge I had gained through small business ownership and volunteer work at a non-profit art center. Even with a degree in business, things can be much different on paper than in actuality. With no money available for promotion, I looked for no cost options—long before the Internet.
If handling promotion is a new venture, finding a starting point may be overwhelming. Determine what you’d like to promote—your artwork, an event, or an award, as examples—and learn how to relay this information by writing and submitting a press release.
This is the second of a series of six pieces written by artists affiliated with ArtsWORK Indiana. Future topics of these "View from the Field" articles will include creating a website and getting published in a magazine. We'd like to hear what you think, so go to our Facebook page and tell us!
Samples of releases can be found on the web. Getting key information in the title and first paragraph is essential. Time is of the essence for individuals and the media. Placing vital info in the beginning is the key for those who “scan” rather than read. Keep the release to one page, and be sure that it includes contact information and a website address.
Before sending the release, compile names of media outlets, individuals, or organizations to target. Surf the net for contact information and/or person through their website.Depending on the outlet, releases may need to be sent six months or more in advance (magazines) to within a few weeks or less (newspapers.) Radio, television and cable stations, and on-line publications are also good sources.
Accompanying photographs are a nice touch but may not get used. Generally, digital photos should be at least 200 dpi for print (some outlets may require higher) and 72dpi for web. Be sure to include a caption describing the activity or artwork in the photograph.
Releases can be sent through e-mail, fax, or the United States Postal Service. If mailing photos, include a printed copy of the release. Submitting releases isn’t a guarantee that they will be used. Keep in mind that you are generally not doing an outlet a favor by sending them your information. However, they are doing you a huge favor if they decide to use it. Since large numbers of releases are submitted on an ongoing basis, consider sending them in two different ways—at different times—such as by e-mail and fax. While not required, I believe that notes of appreciation for published releases are a nice touch.
Self-submitted press releases are also good ways to spread your information. Major newspapers such as the Indianapolis Star have a “News from You” section, while the Cincinnati Enquirer provides a “Share” segment on Cincinnati.com. Depending on your location, think outside of your local area by at least 50 miles. Free on-line event calendar listings are also available such as eventful.com, upcoming.yahoo.com, and many television station websites. Search the net for additional outlets.
There are many free and low-cost options to promote your business. After getting the word out, it is often difficult to judge what is and isn’t being used.Don’t be coy about asking people where they’ve heard about you. Signing up for the free Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) service generates an e-mail when releases have been picked up and their source of publication.
No cost promotional options include:
-Joining on-line social media sites including Facebook and Twitter. These free sites can be produced in minutes. Create a page and make posts about what you’re doing or where you are showing your art. Publish low-resolution photos of your pieces. Promote your business on other organizations Facebook pages, providing a link back to yours. Linked-In is a free site to promote you the “business person” by including an on-line resume’ and examples of your work.
-If you don’t have a website, do-it-yourself free hosting sites are available, or consider hiring a website designer. (Read more about websites in, Creating a website, from concept to web.)
-Search the web for sites and databases that will accept your business information and/or samples of your work. As examples: indianaarts.org; indyarts.org, artsWORKIndiana.org, or myartspace.com. Depending on your location, specific sites may not accept your information if it doesn’t fall into its criteria.
-Network, network, network. Surrounding yourself with professionals both in and out of your field of expertise is a good way to make new contacts and share ideas. Connections made from prior work experiences continue to help place opportunities in front of me. Additionally, it has given me the chance to help others, or “pay it forward” for something in the future.
-Take tough advice from an introvert—don’t be bashful. Ask. Try something different. One of the most unique promotional opportunities I had came to be because of a whim. A (now) syndicated radio deejay spent one morning discussing an eclipse that occurred the evening before. Having photos, I e-mailed one to him. I was thrilled when he responded, asking if he could use it on their website. Talking about my photo the following morning, hits to their site dramatically increased. He contacted me again, asking if I would consider sending a new photo each week, promoting it as the “Photo of the Week.” A win-win situation for the both of us, I received free promotion for my photography and the radio station increased traffic to their website.
-Consider donating your work or services in moderation. While giving makes you feel good, be aware that it can work against you. Having donated photography services and prints often when starting out, I received positive feedback and a good deal of promotion. Before long however, I was inundated with people asking me for donations and to photograph events at no charge. While my client list was expanding, my checking account wasn’t.It was hard to reeducate the public that I was truly a professional photographer with business expenses.
Paid promotion options include:
-Business cards and promotional printed materials such as rack cards, bio sheets, and postcards. If you can only afford one, I suggest a business card. Local printers can quote prices on all of your printing needs. An on-line option—Vistaprint.com--has a good quality product and sells small quantities. While their products are often offered for free, the “complimentary” element is slightly skewed once shipping charges are added.Promotional items can often be left at other businesses and organizations such as tourism offices, a local chamber (if you are a member), and bulletin boards. Keep cards readily available to hand out to potential clients.
-Running an ad. Advertising rates depend on the outlet, size, and frequency. Whether it is print, radio, web, or television, representatives are available to assist you with wording and design. Businesses can opt for display, classified, or business listings (if available) in newspapers and magazines. Special sections—or tabs—may also be an option for topic specific advertising. Most outlets offer ad rate sheets that include information such as prices, deadlines, and multiple-listing (or airing) packages.
-Wear personalized clothing. Through the years I’ve purchased hats, jackets, polo shirts, tote bags, backpacks, vests, and coats, having “Photography by Kendal” embroidered on them. Essentially a walking billboard, I’m repeatedly asked about my photography—producing a great opportunity to hand out a business card. A word of advice, however--If you’re wearing your company’s ad, it is best to conduct yourself as a business person at all times.
Owning and operating a business is one of the most rewarding yet sometimes frustrating things that one may do. Don’t be surprised if along the way you become discouraged—a bad economy and poor sales are not pleasurable. Networking with positive people and the support of family and friends is crucial. Reading motivational materials can often help. Books I recommend are Talent is Never Enough by John C. Maxwell and Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh MacLeod. (Be forewarned that MacLeod’s book contains expletives.)
Take notes on your promotional efforts and the outlets that you have approached. Always be on the lookout for new contacts and opportunities.Make lists of ideas that others have tried that may be utilized in your own business.
If you want to make money, it won’t happen if you keep your business a secret—go promote!
“I do promotion when it is necessary, but I always want to get back to the music.” -- Enya, Irish Singer/Songwriter.
Kendal R. Miller is an award winning photographer and writer residing in rural southern Indiana. Kendal juried into the highly competitive Indiana Artisan program as one of only eight accepted photographers in the state. Kendal has a degree in business and a background in tourism and marketing.
See profiles of a few of the many accomplished individuals working in diverse fields of the arts who also have a disability.
Go to People in the Arts
Gina Soo Golden is a painter from Indianapolis, Indiana. “I like to mix realism and surrealism.” “I aim to give a visual definition of feelings one could never quite describe with words,” she has written in her artist statement. Pictured above: The Gray Room.
read more about Gina Golden
Nicolas Lyford-Pike is an artist from Columbus, Indiana. Pictured above: Toyota Avalon.
read more about Nicolas Lyford-Pike
Warren Miller is an artist from Indianapolis, Indiana. Pictured above: Rub-a-Dub.
Wug Laku is an artist from Indianapolis, Indiana. "My art is about ideas and finding the purest, simplest ways of expressing them," he says. Pictured above: Earth Poems.
read more about Wug Laku
Stu Johnson specializes in Central Indiana subjects, from black and white shots
of architectural landmarks, to picture-postcard fall landscapes, to
prints of trucks and buses digitally enhanced with tie-dye colors.. Pictured above: The Ruins.
read more about Stu Johnson
Louisville, KY artist Susan Gorsen has exhibited her art in New Albany and served as Artist-Facilitator for ArtsWORK New Albany. Pictured above: Blue Moon.