Why you’re struggling to get your creative work noticed
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
<iframe src="https://anchor.fm/alexmakesvr/embed/episodes/Ep-73-Why-Youre-Struggling-To-Get-Your-Creative-Work-Noticed-enh26j" height="102px" width="400px" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"></iframe>Hello friends and welcome back to the Alex Makes VR podcast. In today's episode, I want to talk about why you are struggling to get your creative work noticed. It’s a real problem, right? We spend hours on creative projects, we pour our blood, sweat and tears, we pour nothing but our heart and soul, the very essence of who we are into our creative, original work and then it doesn't get noticed. It doesn't get the reception that we're hoping for. Why is that? I'm going to talk about that in today's episode but before I dive into that, I am setting myself a little challenge and I would encourage you, if you fancy it, to join in. For the next 10 days, I'm going to be posting a daily podcast - a really short and sweet, daily podcast. That's something for me, I have the most fun podcasting and don't get me wrongI have fun every week, but I had the most fun when I first started and I was doing a daily podcast challenge. I loved it. What that did for me was that kick started that momentum, it kick started that productivity boost, it kick started that passion for this thing that I was quite scared of doing and I didn't know how to do it. I didn't know whether it was going to work, or maybe I should make it perfect. Does it need editing? Do I need to write notes before I start recording?
It allowed me to get over all of that perfectionism, all of those roadblocks that I was going to put in the way of myself and just started doing it. The truth was, the only result that I wanted was to have posted a daily podcast, I had no expectations of what the content was or what the quality was going to be. I just wanted to do something every day, that moved me closer to being the kind of person I wanted to be, which was the kind of person that could show up every day and do something creative to create something. So I'm going to bring that back. Whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, or any of the celebrations that go on during December, or whether you don't, this could just be a 10 day challenge for you to join in with and really see out 2020 in style.
This is a full transcription of the podcast episode, if you prefer you can listen to the podcast episode and other episodes below:
Now don't get me wrong. I know some of you are going to be listening to this and you’ll be like - Alex, it's been a bit of a shit show of a year, why now? Do I have to spend my time, which is usually spent winding down and chilling a bit more and drinking a little bit more and eating a little bit more and seeing my friends a little bit more? Why do I have to spend this time doing a challenge? Isn't that what January is for? My answer to that is - yeah, of course, you could absolutely spend the rest of December being a bit more chill, being a bit more low key, letting those habits slip a little bit or you could say, you know what, I'm not going to wait until January 1, I'm not going to wait until a new year to feel proud of myself for doing something. This challenge doesn't have to be big, it can be small, you know, two to five minutes a day and if you are the kind of person that's actually been going at it all year, you've had a chaotic, crazy year, you've had to homeschool the kids and you've changed, you've been made redundant. So you've been having to get out there and push yourself, you’ve been trying to keep things afloat, like you deserve to relax this December! Maybe your challenge is every single day doing something for five minutes that you really want to do, something that is just for you, not for anyone else. Maybe it's five minutes of mindfulness meditation, or maybe it's five minutes of walking and listen to that audio book that you really wanted to listen to, whatever it might be. It could also be similar to mine, more of a creative challenge. Five minutes writing that script, five minutes opening unity to learn the interface, five minutes to podcast, a five minute rant on video to upload to YouTube, whatever it is that you've been putting off, the thing that you would like to do, to see this this year out so that you can go into the new year and think - do you know what I've already started? I'm proud of myself, because I've already started and I've not waited until January. I've started now and I feel good for it. So if you want to join in, I would absolutely love that and I would love to hear what challenge you are giving yourself. You can reach out to me on Instagram or Twitter. It's @alexmakesvr and alongside this challenge of course there will be the usual podcasts on a Monday. If you want to be notified when those episodes go live and you want the best tips and tricks from each episode delivered straight to your inbox, then please consider signing up to the newsletter. It's www.alexmakesvr.com. Okay, I've rambled enough. This is just the intro. We're already at five minutes in…it’s going to be a long one guys. Let's jump in.
Why you are struggling to get your creative work seen? Over the last couple of weeks, I have had several messages across platforms from various creators that have been in the VR industry just as long as I have, if not longer, you know, double the time that I've been in the industry and it was quite upsetting really to read these messages, because they were messages that were born out of frustration. They were messages that were saying - “I’m really trying here, and I've been trying for years and yet, I still don't seem to get noticed, I don't get recognised for the work I'm doing, you know, I'm keeping up with innovations, I'm pushing the boundaries just as much as any of these big projects that are getting kind of publicity, but I'm just, you know, I'm not being recognised for that.” And the answer, that I've always gone back to these people with, and I guess the topic of this podcast episode, like the reason why you're struggling to get your work noticed, the reason why you're struggling to be recognised for your work, it's gonna be a little bit of an uncomfortable truth but this lie that we've been peddled about, you know the one - “oh, if you do good work, then you will win one day.” It's a complete fallacy. It's a complete lie and that is probably really hard to hear as a creator. But in my opinion, it's one of the biggest missteps of the creative world is that we tell creatives from the start - “hey, you know, it's simple as this, you put in the work, you do good work, you get better at your craft, and you will be rewarded for that.” It's just not true. Maybe it was back in the day, but not now. Not in the age of the internet, because what the internet and big tech has done is, it's given everyone a chance, it's given everyone a voice and that, in itself is a beautiful thing.
You know, back in the day, a little girl from Leicester, in the middle of nowhere, in England, you know, I wouldn't have been able to access the kind of filmmaking equipment that would have allowed me to get to where I am in my career, I wouldn't have even been allowed near the equipment. I I wouldn't have known any people that would have even had access to that equipment, let alone the fact that back in the day, I mean, you know, not to get into gender politics, but I'm a woman. So I probably wouldn't have been allowed or taken seriously in that profession. Just for the fact that I was a woman but now we have the internet and we have smartphones that have cameras that are so good that, real established, Oscar award winning, filmmakers are making projects with the cameras on these phones. Now, I have an entire Hollywood film studio, in my pocket. Well, actually currently right in front of my face, because that's how I'm recording this podcast but even that in itself, right, like back in the day - radio. How would you be a radio presenter? What would that look like? Would you have to be in the right place right time and how many years of training to be allowed to use the multimillion pound equipment that would have been used to broadcast a radio show? But, now I can whip out my iPhone, talk into it and within minutes, it could be uploaded and pushed out across all the major podcast platforms for you to be listened to it. Technology is absolutely incredible because it has given everyone a chance.
So now it's not only the most privileged and the people with the most access and the most money that gets to have a go at being a creative professionally. Now, there is a slight exception in our industry compared to others…you know if you’re a writer all you need is a pad and a pen or pencil or painting where you need some paints and a canvas. In VR there is quite a high barrier to entry, when we're working in a very technical field like filmmaking or audio engineering, or immersive creating, it’s all bit more expensive. Whilst there is still opportunity, it is still actually a privilege, the fact that any of us can have a go at making our creative work our job, at the same time, it means that whereas before you'd be competing with maybe 100 people, now you're competing with the entire world and the distribution channels are so established, not for VR, but for mainstream kind of creativity, whether it's music or filmmaking, or photographs or writing, you know, you again, you can literally upload things to the Internet, and it can potentially be access by the world, anyone that has access to the internet could theoretically, find and view your work within a matter of moments. That is wild, but what that also brings with it is massive, massive competition. So why are you struggling to get your work seen or noticed?
Number one, because there is more work than ever being created but number two, and this is another hard truth, and I don't mean this to be a negative nancy episode but I just feel like this is something that I wish someone had told me when I first started in this industry. This skill to create a project and create creative work is not the same skill, as getting your creative work noticed. That is two very, very different skill sets. In order to get your work noticed, you need to be good at marketing, and networking, and selling and press and knowing how to engage with publicists or PR people, knowing how to make your creative work appealing to outlets, to pick up and amplify across their channels. Knowing how to tap into influencer networks, it’s not the same skill as being able to create a beautifully shot, short film, or create a stunning, interactive, engaging VR game. It's not the same skill set and the truth is, if you want to get your work noticed, you're going to have to spend more of your time marketing your work than probably actually making it. Now of course, you could work with a teammate that does that for you, you could partner up with someone who is a marketer, someone who has that skill set. I think, to some extent, I think the reason that people ask me this question is because they see that I've done a vaguely good job at getting my work noticed. That's because I'm a really good marketer. And actually, I would say that I'm probably a better marketer than I am a purebred creative. I think you've got to have both, of course, but the truth is that if I wasn't very good at marketing, and I wasn't interested in, you know, the psychology of social media strategy or whatever it might be, then maybe my work wouldn't have been seen or been noticed by the people that I wanted to notice it. And so that's something you have to really think about. And my answer to some of these people that were reaching out to me over email about this topic, my answer to them was really quite bleak in terms of you know, the truth is if you want to get more, if you want to get noticed, if you want to you know…the opportunity to speak on panels about your work, if you want to be asked or invited to do keynotes at events, if you want to be invited to write guest blogs, if you want to be featured on people's channels or whatever it might be, if you want to get your work into big film festivals, the truth is that you probably need to spend less time creating and more time getting your work noticed. More time crafting and networking, more time understanding audiences, understanding who the curators are, understanding the psychology, of getting your creative work out there and for most people, that is going to sound horrific. And I totally get that. I totally appreciate that the majority of the people, you guys listening to this, you don't want to be doing that, like you got into this so that you could create, you got into this because you're passionate about creating, about making that work about saying something with your art. And here I am telling you - sorry, guys, the truth is if you want to, if you want to get it noticed a bit more, you're going to have to get a bit better at marketing it, than actually doing it. That sucks. And I hate that this is the reality and anyone that says that, that isn't the reality is lying to you. And I wish it wasn't, I wish it was a case of the best work always, like the cream rises to the top and if you put in your hours, and if you put in your work one day, you get noticed…but that's just not true.
The truth is, if you are the kind of person that just happens to be putting in the work, and then you all of a sudden get picked up and amplified, your voice gets amplified, your work gets amplified, it's because the person who noticed your work was good at that other skill set, or the person that came across your work happened upon you by luck, by chance, and they have the right network or skill set or money or channels or influence to amplify your work. But do you want to wait for luck? That's the question. Do you want to wait for that happenstance? Do you want to wait for that chance encounter? You know…these stories you hear and this is part of the problem, these chance discovery stories like Justin Bieber discovered on YouTube by Russia, you know, and what's her last name? Rachel. I'm blanking on her last name, but the creator of the Crazy Ex Girlfriend TV show, you know, discovered on YouTube, by a massive big time executive producer and show runner in Hollywood and that's how she got her start. Of course, there we romanticise these chance encounters, we romanticise the very very 1%, these rare occasions where people do get discovered by chance but the truth is, is if you want to give yourself more than just a little chance, if you want to give yourself a real shot, at having your work, do the things that you want it to do, you do need to really consider your marketing plan, your distribution plan, you need to build your network with the right kind of people that you want to get your creative work to, way before you even start making your creative work. And that sucks, doesn't it? Because as hard as it is to make a good piece of creative work on the budgets that you're working on, let alone now dedicate this more time and energy to this other thing and so if that's the truth, you might have to spend a bit less time on what you create and a bit more time on that plan if that's something that you want. But the key thing here is to, again, this comes back to something that I talked about in so many other episodes, which is reverse engineering your own success. What do you want to happen? Why is it important that people see your work? Who are the people that you want to notice your work? Because when I speak to artists that just have this pie in the sky idea of like - oh, I want to win an Oscar. Don't get me wrong, I've been that person in the past, but okay, well, what does that actually look like? Firstly, why do you want to win an Oscar? Is it just so that you can feel like some arbitrary award kind of achievement thing that makes you feel better than everyone else? Or is this proof that you are really good at the thing that you are passionate about? Like, is it so that you can feel validated by your parents because you said that I couldn't pursue this and look at me now on the biggest stage for filmmaking? Is that why? And if that is why, like maybe even understanding why you're doing it, will in itself cure you of why you are pursuing that.
So first of all reverse engineer what you want to happen and who you want to see your work. Interesting side story on the Oscar situation, a friend of mine actually had a documentary that was in the running to make the shortlist for the Oscars. They were telling me the hilarious ins and outs and the nepotism and the lobbying that goes into actually getting considered for an Oscar and they were telling me how they had to spend double the budget of their film on the lobbying process to get Academy members to vote for them, to be on the shortlist. So even like, an award like that, which most filmmakers would be like, - oh, I can imagine myself, you know, one day like, you hold it, you know, thanking my Mom and Dad at the Oscars it’s hilarious because in our minds we are like, yeah, that's the pinnacle of filmmaking! That's what happens when you work really hard at your craft, and you're the best of the best, and you rise to the top, you know, after years of hard work. But the truth is, it's not, it's that you've got a really good publicist and lobbying team that gets your film and your work in front of the right people, aka Academy members, you've got the right network, you've got the right amount of money and publishing, and angle. And obviously, your work has to be good, you're not just going to get into the Oscars, if it's crap but at the same time, there's this whole other side to it that we don't see, as creators, we don't get told that side of the story, that actually, it's as much a marketing and publicist and lobbying effort. And yeah, like trying to get people on board to vote, it's basically politics, it's shady, it's really shady. So reverse engineer what you want to happen and then for example, in that situation, not that I would encourage you to pursue that but if you were going to pursue that kind of goal, well…then you need to be building towards creating something that gets the attention of a big film funder or if, obviously, I'm using filmmaking, because that is my kind of territory but whatever discipline you're in, you’re going to go after the big funders, who would get the attention of a big distributor, all the attention of, you know, someone big in the independent film world, who would have the right connections, which would then allow you to access the kind of money and the kind of network you would need, to create a piece and get it in front of those kind of members to even be in with a chance of being considered for something like that. Do you see what I mean?
So we all know, what kind of films get nominated for Oscars, like, you can watch a film and go - yeah that's Oscar bait right there and there's a reason for that, right? So it's not like you're going to go in there with your romcom expecting to win an Oscar. So reverse engineer who you're going after, reverse engineer what you want to happen with your work. When it comes to VR and immersive work, of course, that adds this extra layer of complications, because VR work in itself is quite difficult to get out into the world. And so maybe a bit like what I've done in the last few years, maybe your target audience primarily in the VR industry itself, because those are the people that have access to VR, they're the people that will spread the word through word of mouth, that is the network that you want to cultivate. And then off the back of that, because you have that network, because you have that kind of slight prestige within an industry, you can then use that to leverage getting funding for projects. You can use that to create your own pop up cinemas, because you've got that a laurel on your film poster that allows you to access a kind of audience that would want to come and see a project that has been shown at a film festival. Do you see what I mean? Do you see what I'm getting at here? Or do you just want as many eyeballs on your project as possible? In which case, you've created a piece of work…who is the primary audience? Who is the target audience?
Okay, let’s take an example… my film…it's a generic kind of love story, but one of the main characters is vegan. So maybe I can go and tap into the vegan communities? maybe I can go and become a part of it? because actually, that's what I'm passionate about. I'm also going to go hang out
in these Facebook groups, I’m going to go and see who are the big YouTuber influences in that space, I’m going to try and tap into all of these opportunities to become part of those communities so that when I do release my film, I can go straight to this community that I know will be interested in it because it has a character that it is represents.
Let's say my film is similar to a Robert Rodriguez film. Okay, so now I'm going to go find, where are the Robert Rodriguez fans hanging out? Like people that watch his films? What other films do they kind of watch? Are they the kind of people that would spend time consuming content on YouTube? Or are they more Vimeo kind of crowd? Are they going to be on LinkedIn? What kind of jobs might they have? Think about where your audience is hanging out, think about where you're going to get in front of people. Because, say, for example, you create a piece of work for… I don't know, teenage girls, but you end up posting on YouTube and on Twitter and on LinkedIn, because that's where your networks are. And it only ends up getting seen by, I don't know, 30 to 50 year old parents, because that's who you is in your network. Then obviously, that is an example of how your piece isn't going to get seen by your target audience because that target audience isn't in your network. So really, you need to be posting on TikTok, really, you need to be tapping into, you know, networks, where you can get your film seen by the right people, do you see what I mean?
I feel like I'm kind of going around the house a little bit here but hopefully, you understand what I'm getting at, which is the number one realise that the reason you're struggling to get your creative work noticed, is because getting your work noticed, is a job in itself. So you either need to spend more time doing that, or you need to hire someone or team up with someone who is good at doing that for you.
There's actually a really interesting principle in advertising, called the 80/20 rule, where 20% of the money is spent on creating the advert and 80% of the money is spent amplifying the advert. 20% on creating, 80% amplifying so you know, if it costs 20 grand to make the TV advert, 80 grand is being spent on paying for the promotion, on the you know, getting the TV slot, paying for the Facebook ads, paying for publicity and press. 80%. Now, I'm not suggesting that you need spend 80% of your time amplifying your work, but maybe more like 50/50 at least. So number one, you need to spend more time on marketing on that other skill set, which is getting your work noticed, getting the right network and number to reverse engineer what you want to happen with your creative work. Who is your audience? And where are they hanging out? Start to build that and start to kind of target those places before you release the work. Or even when you release the work, make sure you go to where your audience are hanging out. There's no point in creating something and shoving it all up on YouTube and hoping that someone finds it especially creative work. Because most people that come across work, it's either recommended to them or if they've searched for it. Now the chances are with original work to be found on Youtube are slim, because people these days are looking for how to content…
Do you see what I'm getting at? You know, like people are going to be searching for things like that and they want to come across information based work, they don't really tend to think about it. It's like with Netflix, right? It's like, you've either heard about movie, you've seen it promoted or someone's recommended it to you, whether that's the Netflix algorithm or your mate. That's how creative work and original work is consumed. You don't often search for it. I mean, sometimes you'll say oh, I really fancy watching, you know, a really intense thriller. I might say…I want to watch a Scandi thriller TV show tonight, what are the good ones? No one I know has recommended anything. I can't find that as a subcategory on Netflix. Okay, so I'm gonna Google it…so now it's like who's who's gonna be suggesting it? Where am I going to find those suggestions? So it's going to be people that have done reviews of it right? It's going to be, YouTubers who might have done reviews of TV shows, it might be public publications online that have put out content about our best Scandi, thrillers to watch in 2020. All right, I'll get I'll have a look at that. Oh, number one, blah, blah, blah. Okay, I'll go check out Netflix. I'll give that a go. That's how people consume creative work. It's very rare that something pops up in their YouTube feed, and they go - oh yeah I'll give that a watch even though I've got no context on this at all and I don't know who they are. I don't know what the film is about. It's very rare that people do that.
Does that make sense? I feel like maybe I've just gone on a total rant for 30 minutes. But hopefully, there was some good easter eggs in here and again, I don't want to sound negative, I don't want to tell you that you shouldn't be creating work because you know, there's something beautiful about creating work just for the sake of creating work but the thing is, we are a social creature. We are, especially artists and creatives who do seek external approval, we're looking for our communities, we're looking for people to go and say - yes, I see you, I validate you, I love your work, I appreciate what you're doing, I appreciate what you're bringing into the world. That's what we're looking for as creatives isn't it? As much as our therapists might tell us that that's unhealthy, and, again, I’ve lost my thought trail. So I'm going to stop here, that's probably a good sign that I should wrap this up. So either create work for the sake of creating work, and don't worry about getting your work noticed and maybe one day you'll have that happenstance of someone stumbling upon your work that does have the kind of network or marketing prowess to be able to put you in the spotlight.
Number two, I guess is actually do put in the work to be more of a marketer, spend 50% of your time, if not more advertising and building your network, coming up with a strategy on how you're going to get your creative work seen, not just creating it itself.
Number three, reverse engineer what you want to happen and who your audience is, so that when you do your creative work, you can push it straight to them, don't just release it into the wild without thinking about who you want to see it. Understand your audience that you're trying to go after, and go to where they are hanging out. What kind of people are they? What social networks are they using? What groups are they hanging out in? How can you become part of that community so that when your creative work is ready, you can go straight into that.
I hope that helps, let me know I would love to hear from you. Whether this has been interesting and you've picked up on bits and bytes because I do fear that with a subject like this, it can be a little bit like dream shattering. Because the truth is, as creatives we've been sold this lie that if you work hard that you will get, you know, you will, you will get the kind of recognition that you deserve and it's just not true. Especially not in the age of the internet. Because I know a lot of extremely talented people that are total shit at marketing and do not get the kind of recognition they deserve. And how many, how often do we hear that story? Of artists that have been grinding for years, that should have made it big, but they haven't. It's because they weren't noticed and the reason they weren't noticed? Because they didn't either spend the time on getting noticed because it didn't understand that in itself was a huge piece of the puzzle. Or they never had the happenstance, they never had the look. They never had the privilege. They never had the access or the money to be in the right place at the right time, to be spotted to be amplified.
I'm getting off my soapbox now. I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, I would love to hear from you and also please share the episode if you think this would help a creative in your life. Let me know, please don't troll me. I don't think my vulnerable ego could take that but I'm always up for a healthy discussion. And like I say, I'm going to be posting daily episodes for the next 10 days. So come back tomorrow on your favourite podcast platform to hear me rant about something else. If you've got a subject for question for future episodes, obviously you can also reach out to me. I'd love to hear from you. Until tomorrow, my friends have a great day wherever you are in the world and keep creating.
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