We all begin somewhere. Our journey toward what we do and our profession is one of a million steps and a lot more mis steps along the way. But, if we wait to get it perfectly, then we probably won’t make it very far.
The fact is that when we start we don’t know what we don’t know. It’s the classic inexperience versus experience. And, while I think that arts marketing professionals have some specific things they wish they knew when they got started, this post is more general.
There are probably dozens of things I could list here but I’ll just share with you the top six.
When I think about the efforts I’ve tried to build a platform and be known in my industry, I think I had a lot of false starts rooted in a couple of other things that might make it into the list. I should have started this blog much earlier. Who knows where I would be today if I had been blogging for years, not just weeks. What kind of relationships would I have know? The old Chinese proverb is clear:
“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is right now.”Chinese proverb
Build relationships sooner
This may sound like a big, “DUH!” moment, but I think if I were starting over, I would work really hard to build good solid relationships with others in my industry at the outset. Maybe this is something that’s intrinsic if you go to school for arts admin or marketing. You’ll have relationships right out of college or your MBA program that you can build on much sooner. A lesson I’m learning right now is that business starts with relationships. The same could be said for people in the nonprofit world too.
Don’t be obsessed with gear and tech
I think it’s a common pitfall for many young writers, marketers, and such to get obsessed with gear. It’s not the gear that helps you in your work, it’s your message. Waiting to have the best gear is just a way to procrastinate and make excuses to not put something out there. This is something I’m still wrestling with because I falsely believe that gear makes you better. What makes you better is that you publish, or create.
Focus brings clarity
In my early days, and yet still now, I find myself trying to master everything because really, there’s only me to do everything. That includes design, SEO, writing, coding, creative development, analytics, you name it. I think If I were to do it over again I would focus on one of those things and forget the rest. That would mean that I find out what I’m extremely good at. Or, and I wish I could have joined an agency much sooner in my career, is to get around other people who were good at those things and learn from them or make decisions as to what I wanted to focus on.
Learn to value my services more
It’s the classic chicken before the egg scenario. I think when I was starting out I wasn’t charging enough for my own consulting work. But, you can’t price yourself out of the market either. But really, and this could be the subject of another blog post and or letter to the editor of my local paper, that this town (Frankfort, KY) doesn’t understand the merits of value. We’re a state government town so It’s my belief that businesses who are in this town all play the same race to the bottom in pricing thinking that people will buy when it’s cheap. I think we don’t fundamental appreciate value. Maybe that’s everywhere. Which leads me to my final point.
Relocate to a bigger city
There are some who thrive in their own hometown. They grow up in the same city they were born in and have remarkable careers and become institutions in their own right. I’m not that privileged. In my early days I should have moved to another city, Nashville, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington DC. Fear plays a big part in this because I don’t think I would have done well if I’d have moved early on. Much easier to play it safe. But I know now that magical things rarely happen inside our comfort zone or native zip code.
I think there is a lot more I could say about what I wish I new when I was getting started. For me, I should have started sooner, built relationships sooner, not gotten obsessed with tech and gear, focused on one thing instead of many, put more value into my services and charged more, and finally, move to a bigger city.
Now it’s your turn. What would you do differently if you had to start again? What would you tell your younger self? Let us know in the comments below.