The 10 Biggest Mistakes Artists and Creatives Make
at Internet Marketing (and How to Fix Them)

Cartoon: Gallery visitor asks, And do you sell your paintings? Artist replies, No, my paintings are not products, you bourgeoisie bastard

Image by Hugh MacLeod

This is a golden age of opportunity for artists and creatives. Never before have you been able to get your work in front of so many people, at such a low cost, with so few gatekeepers barring the way.

With a laptop, some free and cheap software, and a healthy dose of imagination and perspiration, you can find a global audience for your work. Find enough true fans, get permission to contact them regularly, and make it easy for them to buy your work or attend your shows, and you could find yourself earning a decent living from your creative work.

No wonder the New York Times says the world is your market.

Unless, of course, you’re making some surprisingly common mistakes that are putting up barriers between you and your would-be fans and customers.

Here’s a list of the top 10 internet marketing mistakes by artists and creatives that I see week-in, week out – and what to do about them.

I should point out that over the past five years of marketing my own creative business online, I’ve made several of these mistakes myself. It’s too painful to watch others repeating them, so I’m listing them here to help you avoid them.

If your online activities are just for a hobby, or for creative inspiration, then move along, there’s nothing to worry about here. But if you want your blog, email newsletter or social networking activities to bring you new clients and customers, you can’t afford to make the mistakes on this list.

And I’m assuming you are awesome. You do great work, that you’re proud of, and the customers you have are delighted. You’d just like a few more of them.

1. Not Doing It

I hear all kinds of reasons why creative people are passing up the opportunities available on the internet right now: they don’t know what to do, they don’t know how to do it, they don’t have the time, they’re not convinced it will work, they don’t like computers, they’re worried about people stealing their work. Take your pick.

I’m not saying you have to do this. Like the magic theatre in Herman Hesse’s novel Steppenwolf, it’s not for everyone. I’m just saying you’re missing out if you don’t.

The customers who could have found you via Google are finding other people. The bloggers who could have linked to your site are linking to other sites. The people who could have shared your stuff on Twitter are sharing other people’s stuff. The collaborators you could have met and worked with are having a blast working with other partners.

And it’s not just about the money. You’re also missing out on a lot of new friends and creative inspiration. I’ve lost count of the number of interesting people and ideas I’ve encountered since I started marketing my business online.

Solution: Do it.

Find the time, or make it. Learn the technical stuff – it’s not rocket science, if a poet like me can manage it, so can you.

And learn what works, so you’re not wasting your time and energy. A good place to start is Brian Clark’s free e-book Authority Rules: the 10 Rock Solid Elements of Online Marketing. And I’ll have plenty more to say about how these principles apply to artists and creatives, so treat yourself to a free subscription to Lateral Action.

2. Relying on Your Portfolio

Having a totally amazing portfolio (or online gallery, or showcase) is essential, but sadly it isn’t nearly enough to make you stand out online.

However good the work, the static nature of most portfolios means people have to seek them out, visit your website and click through the various categories. And most people have never heard of your site. Or maybe they have, but they’re just too busy to visit it. Or they visited it once, liked it – and forgot to go back.

Solution: build an audience by delivering fresh media content to them, regularly, for free.

Most first-time visitors to your site are not going to buy anything. So sell them a free subscription – to a blog, newsletter, podcast or video series. Send them amazing stuff, so that they don’t have to come and find it. And so that they look forward to opening your e-mails and finding your latest post in their blog reader.

Content marketing is a big trend in internet marketing right now – it basically means publishing media content that doesn’t look like advertising, but functions like advertising. You’re not selling anything directly, you are giving people a taste of your work, for free. This generates buzz, with people talking about you on Twitter, linking to your site from their blog, and forwarding your e-mails to their friends – i.e. they start doing your marketing for you, for free.

And who are the experts at creating stunning media content? That would be you. In this brave new world, artists and creatives have an unfair advantage at internet marketing.

3. Social Media Narcissism

We’ve all seen them. The blog posts, Tweets, Facebook updates and MySpace pages full of the minute, tedious details of an artist’s day, or the navel-gazing posts about their personal philosophy, and/or how much they suffer for their Art. Or name-dropping of ‘impressive’ clients. Or complaints about partners, friends, fellow artists or the world in general.

Nobody wants to read this stuff. And nobody wants to buy from people who write it.

I write a lot online, but I hardly write anything about my personal life, as I can’t imagine anyone would be remotely interested. And I do my best to keep my gripes to myself, as they wouldn’t make anyone else’s day better.

It’s not about you. So, unless you habitually fight dragons or have a gift for making the mundane hilariously funny or poignantly engaging, be careful how much you talk about yourself, your personal life and opinions. (Save that for family and friends, who love you just for who you are.)

People who stand out and succeed online, whether using a blog or another kind of platform, do so by delivering massive value to their fans and customers. They publish hilarious cartoons, music that gets under your skin, funny one-liners, Or they lift the lid on their creative process, or publish useful tutorials and videos. They inform, entertain and educate – sometimes all at once.

They don’t go online to share what they had for breakfast, or to slag off the competition, or whine about their girlfriend or the lousy customer service they received. They go online to delight and amaze people.

Even when it is about you, it’s not about you.

It’s about what you mean to your audience. If you’re doing amazing work, or pursuing a big adventure, it’s about the work and the adventure. If you’re a rock star, it’s about what they project onto you. If you’re a successful self-employed artist, it’s about the inspiration and example you provide for other artists. So it’s really about them.

Solution: give people a taste of your best work.

If you’re an artist of any kind, give away free samples. Tell us – even better, show us – how you make your work. To you it’s obvious, to the rest of us it could be fascinating. Share the resources you can’t do without. Or enthuse about your creative heroes. Or write a tutorial to teach others what you know. Or make a video of your latest show. Or make a passionate argument for changing something about your industry or art form.

In other words, when you go online, put yourself on the line – not the crotchety, bored, out-of-sorts side of you, but your best self – your most passionate, articulate, creative, inspiring self.

4. Hosting Your Blog on

Once upon a time, was an innovative platform at the cutting edge of online publishing. But that time has gone. Now, using it for a business blog makes you look like an amateur – the equivalent of using a Hotmail email address. The themes are ugly, the functionality is clunky and the commenting facilities are horrible. But none of these are the main reason you should avoid Blogger (or similar free hosted blogging services).

If you rent a property, you have to follow the landlord’s rules. If you paint the walls an unauthorized colour, have too many late-night parties, or demolish the conservatory, you’ll be served with an eviction notice. And there’s no point spending your time and money installing a new bathroom or insulating the roof, as you’ll just be adding value to someone else’s property.

But if you buy a property, you own it (assuming you pay the mortgage). You can do any legal thing you like in it. You can paint it orange and install a Jacuzzi. You can add an extension, or a new kitchen – and the value of your property will increase the more you invest in it.

Blogger is the rented property. It’s owned by Google, who can evict you if you violate their terms of service. If you improve the property – e.g. by creating a fabulous, popular blog – all the appreciation in value (incoming links, traffic, search engine rankings) of the property goes to Google (by default, your blog’s address will be, i.e. Google’s domain, not yours). The same goes for a MySpace or Facebook page, or any of your social networking profiles. If you invest all your content marketing efforts (see no.2) on someone else’s website, you risk becoming someone’s user-generated content.

Solution: Install WordPress on your own web domain.

Your own website is your property. It should be located at or As long as you stay within the law, you can do whatever you like with it. If you improve the property – e.g. by creating a fabulous, popular blog – all the extra value accrues to you, the owner. So it makes sense to improve it as much as you can.

This is why most professional bloggers install WordPress on their own site. It’s free open source software, and incredibly powerful and flexible. All my sites run on WordPress, even the ones that don’t look like blogs.

There are lots of free design themes available for WordPress, but for business purposes you’re better off with a premium theme, as they usually include technical support, and I’m told by people who know that the underlying code is often better structured for search engine optimisation (SEO) purposes. Here at Lateral Action I use the Genesis framework with a bespoke design. If you’re on a budget you can use Genesis and choose from a range of ready-made custom designs.

The only drawback with WordPress is that it’s technically more of a fiddle to set it up and maintain, so you might want to enlist some help. And be prepared for a bit of a learning curve. But this is your business, remember, not a hobby. This is one case where ‘quick and easy’ can hurt your business in the long term. And like I say, I’m a poet, not a programmer, so if I can work it out, so can you.

N.b. Make sure you download WordPress from – not (which is an excellent free hosted blogging service, but it’s still a rented property).

5. Writing Useless Headlines

By ‘useless’ I mean a headline that doesn’t work hard for you, to attract visitors to read your blog posts, download your podcasts, watch your videos or listen to your music. People won’t magically know you’ve created great work – you need to signpost it with a clear and compelling headline that stops them in their tracks and makes them click to visit your site.

Imagine your headline is just one of hundreds in someone’s inbox or feed reader, or in a long list of updates on Facebook or Twitter. If you write something boring like ‘new blog post’ or enigmatic like ‘Murky Waters’, you haven’t given them any reason to click, so all your work has been wasted.

Solution: Learn to write magnetic headlines – click the link for an in-depth tutorial. And use them.

Don’t be too proud to use the headline formulas. They’ve been proven to work. And don’t be tempted to come up with something more ‘creative’, original or mysterious. You can hit people with the ‘creative, original and mysterious’ stuff once they actually land on your website. The headline’s job is to get people to do that.

If you don’t believe me, or if you think the usual copywriting formulas don’t apply to your work, then experiment with using both kinds of headline. That’s what I did, until I realised the tried-and-tested formulas did apply to my work, and did work better than the other kind.

6. Not Building a Mailing List

All the top internet marketers agree that ‘the money’s in the list’. And that many millionaires can’t be wrong.

By ‘list’, they mean a mailing list of e-mail addresses, that people have given them as an expression of interest in their products or services.

Whether or not you want to be a millionaire, if you aren’t using your website to collect e-mail addresses of potential customers, then your website is like a bucket with a hole in it. And it doesn’t matter how much water you pour in the bucket (i.e. how much traffic you get to your site) if it all drains out the bottom.

Solution: Set up a mailing list and ask people to join it.

It’s that simple, at least in its most basic form. Put a prominent signup form on your website, and ask people to give you their e-mail address if they want to know about your latest products and services. Then, next time you have a product or service to announce – you can guess what’s coming – send an e-mail and invite them to buy it.

You need to use a reputable email marketing service provider. Not only will this make it easy for you to manage hundreds or thousands of email contacts, when spam filters see that your mail is being sent by a provider with a good reputation, they’ll open the doors and let your messages through. I use Aweber and recommend it to my clients.

Here’s an example of a barebones mailing list, over at my Wishful Thinking site. All I’m doing is asking people to let me send them sales pitches – and people are signing up. And when I send them the sales pitch, some of them buy. It’s not a particularly big list, but it’s an absurdly small amount of work for me to maintain it, and it’s generating sales. It could do the same for you.

Of course, your list will grow much faster, and make more sales, if you put more effort into it. Here at Lateral Action, I’m offering a free 25 week course for artists and creatives, as an incentive to join my list. Which means that list has grown to over 4,000 subscribers after less than five months, and generates a lot more sales than the other one. But the same basic principle applies – asking people for permission to send them marketing messages. Which brings me to the next big mistake…

7. Adding People to Your Mailing List without Permission

This happens to me every week, and it still amazes me that people think it’s acceptable, let alone effective marketing. I’ll meet someone (online or offline) and a few days later start receiving their newsletter, even though I’ve never asked for it, or been offered the choice.

Often, there’s no ‘unsubscribe’ link at the bottom of the email (a legal requirement in many parts of the world). So the only way to get off the list is to email them directly and ask to be removed. Which would be uncomfortable for both of us.

In some countries, you may well be breaking the law by adding people to your list in this way. You are also damaging your reputation. How do you feel every time you receive an unsolicited email? Even if you like the person and the newsletter is good, it’s hard not to think “Surely they could have asked…”.

Plus the more people who hit the ‘report spam’ button when they receive your emails, the more chance you have of ending up on a spam blacklist, which means you’ll find it harder and harder to get your emails delivered.

Solution: Invite people to subscribe, and make it worth their while.

The essential requirement for building a non-spammy list is that you ask people to opt in, by putting their e-mail address in a web form. You also need to give people the option to unsubscribe at any time – the easiest way to do this is to include an ‘unsubscribe’ link at the foot of every email you send. Don’t worry about the technicalities of how to do this: Aweber, or any other decent email service provider, will walk you through the process each time you set up a new list.

No, this isn’t as easy as adding people to your list without permission, and your list will grow more slowly. But if you want a quality mailing list – composed of people who are genuinely interested in hearing from you, as opposed to people who may be indifferent or downright annoyed by your messages – it’s the only way to go.

As an incentive to subscribe, it’s normal to offer a free gift. You don’t need to give away a 25-week course – other popular options are sample music tracks, ebooks, shorter email courses, and regular newsletters.

8. Using Social Networks for Socializing

OK I’m being slightly provocative with this one. Of course social networks are for socializing – but if you look at them purely as a way to keep in touch with friends, you’re missing out on a golden opportunity to build your professional network and get your marketing content (see no.2) shared widely, bringing you new visitors, subscribers and customers.

But if all you’re doing is hanging out on Facebook sharing cat videos or playing zombie games with your usual circle of friends, you’re not doing your business any favours. And depending on what you share about your private life and opinions, you could be actively harming your business. Are you comfortable with the thought of potential customers scanning your profile, status updates and photos? Because they’re doing it.

Solution: Target the most relevant social networks and use them to build your professional network and get your content into circulation.

Read through my article The Top 10 Social Networks for Creative People. Pick one or two networks that look most relevant to your business. Get to know interesting and potentially helpful people in your field. Share links to your own and others’ content.

Make it clear where you hang out online by adding ‘follow me’ or ‘connect with me’ links to your website. And encourage visitors to bookmark, Tweet and share links to your content by adding ‘share this’ buttons to your site.

9. Making It Hard to Buy

I once asked a writer friend why he didn’t have prominent links to his books on the sidebar of his blog. Here’s what he said:

But surely they can find them on Amazon?

Yes, they can, but they won’t.

Unless you include a prominent link, they won’t look on Amazon. They won’t rummage through your site to find your shop. They won’t know you’ve written a book, or recorded an album, or that you have artwork for sale, or that you could design them a fabulous website. They won’t magically guess what you have to offer.

They won’t know what you want them to do – buy your work, come to your show, hire you for a project – unless you ask them.

And they won’t understand the value of your work unless you spell it out and show them what you put into it, and what they get out of it.

They won’t buy if they’re afraid to ask the price, or whether you ship overseas, or whether it’s too heavy to mount on the wall, or whether it will play on their MP3 player, or whether you charge by the hour or the project, or whether you do the copywriting or just the design, or whether they have to sign up for an annual subscription or whether they can just buy an hour of your time.

Solution: Tell people what you want them to do. Explain the buying process and make it easy.

Have prominent links to your shop, gallery or ‘hire me’ page. If you’re selling goods, make it quick and easy to buy. Display prices clearly. Have one or two options for shipping, and say how long it will take. Spell out your guarantee and returns policy. Take credit cards and Paypal. Don’t make people set up an account before letting them buy. Test your checkout to make sure it works!

If you’re selling services, reduce anxiety by explaining what you do, how you do it, how long it will take, how you charge (by the hour/day/project) and how much it’s likely to cost. Testimonials help, especially if you include customers’ names and website addresses. Make it easy to contact you with enquiries.

10. Doing Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Back-to-Front

Every time I run my workshop on Internet Marketing for Creative People, a hand goes up and someone asks how they can ‘optimize their website with the right keywords’.

While keywords are definitely important, it’s a common misconception that the most important thing you need to do to get a new website to rank well on search engines is to fiddle about with the keywords in your website text, as well as the hidden meta tags at the top of the page.

Firstly, forget the meta tags. Google ignores them.

Secondly, when starting out with a new website, it’s more important to attract links from other websites than to get caught up in the fine detail of keywords on your site. When search engines see a lot of inbound links to a website, they take that as a strong indicator of the value of the site – particularly if the links come from sites that they already rank highly.

This is why for several years I managed to rank very well on search engines and attract a lot of search engine traffic – even though I didn’t bother doing SEO in the usual sense. Because I was writing a blog that people enjoyed, I naturally attracted a lot of links from other bloggers, which was a good thing in Google’s eyes.

Don’t ask for link exchanges. No-one with a site worth getting links from will take you seriously if you do that. Instead, content marketing (see no.2) is a much more effective way of attracting valuable links.

Here’s a quote from Brian Clark, who knows a lot more about SEO than I do:

Here’s the deal . . . much of what determines the ranking position of any particular page is due to what happens off the page, in the form of links from other sites. Getting those links naturally has become the hardest part of SEO, which is why we’ve seen the mainstream emergence of social media marketing as a way to attract links with compelling content.

Put simply: If your content isn’t good enough to attract good, natural links, it doesn’t matter how “optimized” that content is.

(Brian Clark, How to Create Compelling Content that Ranks Well in Search Engines.)

Now I’ll admit I ignored SEO for far too long. It wasn’t until last year that I really started to take it seriously. I could have done even better if I’d take the trouble to learn the basics of SEO earlier – so don’t make my mistake.

Solution: First, Produce great content (see no.2) that will naturally attract links from other sites. Then optimize your most important pages.

And once you have some inbound links and quality content to optimize, then it’s worth investing some time tweaking the keywords on your site. That’s why it’s called search engine optimization.

A tool I use and recommend for this is Scribe – it basically reviews the text you’ve written and gives you a detailed feedback about how it will look to a search engine – and what you can do to tweak it and improve your rankings.

Well, there it is. You’ll notice that a lot of the solutions I’m proposing take more time and effort than the ‘quick and easy’ alternatives. There’s no getting round the fact that internet marketing is a medium-to-long-term approach – but if you’re serious about making a successful business out of your creative work, that’s the timescale you should focus on anyway.

And the good news is, if you get the fundamentals right, you can have a lot of fun with this stuff. If you ask me, creating amazing media and hanging out with interesting creative people online beats cold-calling or paying for advertising any day.

If you want to know more about leveraging the internet to build a business around your creative talents, you’re welcome to download and share my new ebook Freedom, Money, Time – and the Key to Creative Success.

If the ideas in the ebook touch a chord for you, you may like to know that The Creative Entrepreneur Roadmap (formerly known as the Lateral Action Entrepreneur Roadmap) will soon open its doors to a new group of students. If you want to be first in line when the course opens (and to read the second free ebook I’ve written) you can hop on the advance notice list.

What Would You Add to this List?

What other common internet marketing mistakes do you see?

Are you willing to own up to any of your own – and the solutions you found?

Any tips to help artists and creatives find more fans and sell more of their stuff?

About the author: Mark McGuinness is a poet and a coach who specializes in internet marketing for artists, creatives and entrepreneurs. For more advice on using the web to find your fans and build your creative business, sign up for free updates from Lateral Action.

How to get creative work done in an "always on" world

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Mark McGuinness' latest book Productivity for Creative People is a is a collection of insights, tips, and techniques to help you carve out time for your most important work – amid the demands and distractions of 21st century life.

“Of all the writers I know, I have learned the most about how to be a productive creative person from Mark. His tips are always realistic, accessible, and sticky. It’s not just talk, this is productivity advice that will change your life.”

Jocelyn Glei, author and Founding Editor, 99U

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  1. Not understanding what it is they’re really selling or what it is that people are really buying (hint: it’s not a piece of artwork).

    • Thanks Michael, that should top the list!

      • Michael’s right. The foundational problem to all of the things you listed is not understanding exactly what you’re selling to people and that in turn means you’re not sure who you’re selling to as well.

        This post is spot on Mark. Too many creatives take the amateur-ish routes to everything simply because they don’t take themselves seriously.

        • Ah what a great point Adam. So many of us believe getting money for what we do is inherently corrupt in some way. Or perhaps we don’t honestly feel we’re worthy of being successful. Or maybe we don’t think our art is good enough yet. There are a number of beliefs that can prevent an artist or entrepreneur (I would submit that entrepreneurs ARE artists) from getting the results they deserve. Many of us want or even need to make a living at this, but results will always be dismal if you don’t believe in yourself. You simply cannot construct a compelling offer if you’re sold yourself.

  2. This is a bit related and unrelated but as a creative when you go “niche” often times it’s hard to get the word out on your website.

    For instance, I’m commenting on this website here, and I found your article very interesting, but I’m not an artist for example. Many of your tips apply, like ditching blogger. 🙂

    I guess the only thing I would like to add is that if inbound links are really the mea culpa, it would probably be best to identify more resources for making that happen. Certainly, over time, some websites might pick up your articles and such, but what is the best way to get those inbound links in?

    Blog commenting? Forum commenting? Paid advertising?
    (I realize it’s not the same for every website, but some general guidelines would be nice)

    I read a lot of articles on the subject but no real clear answers on good tools to get the word out. Of course, that could be by design, and quite understandable in my view.

    • Try thinking of it as *attracting* links, not ‘getting’ them. It’s a combination of:

      1. Publishing useful/informative/entertaining content, in a format that is easy to digest and easy to share (and remember the headline!).

      2. Networking and building relationships so that people get to know you and your work, and are disposed to sharing it with their networks.

      I don’t bother with paid advertising. You have to be good at maths to make the sums add up, and I’m more of an artist. 😉

      Re specific strategies:

      Blog commenting and forum posting can be useful – not so much directly, but in terms of building relationships. E.g. you may get little traffic and no SEO juice from leaving a comment on someone’s blog – but it may get you on the blogger’s rader, and they may start linking to your stuff.

      Guest posting can work very well – do a good job of the post and people will follow up the link in your tagline, plus you get to decide the exact format of the link itself.

  3. Some good suggestions here, Mark, but I have to differ with point number 8! I think “Artists have Klout” directly because they know how to socialize. 🙂

    • Well I did say I was being provocative with that one. 😉

      I stand by it though – and without demeaning the value of socializing. A social network is a public platform, so if you want to grow your business but all you’re doing is hanging out with friends, you end up being likeable but not influential. I can tell that doesn’t apply to you, but there are plenty out there in that category.

  4. You make a great distinction between the different approaches to interacting with people in social media. Some people really can talk about what they had for breakfast in a compelling way. They can take the mundane details of their life and create entertaining, even inspiration content. This is art. Most people can’t pull it off. Far too many people try.

  5. Thanks for this article! I think my face is sufficiently red 🙂

    One question: Is it also damaging to temporarily rely on blogger/facebook while a website is under construction? I am not a techy, and updating my site requires help and programming favours from a friend, so I set up a blog just for a few months. Was that a mistake?

    • Building a solid fan base or ranking well in search engines with a temporary site will not help you. When you make the switch to your own site the other site’s links will still be found through search engines. If you close the old site you’ll have readers that now have broken links and no clear way to find you. If you leave the old site up you could find those older links ranking higher than your new site.

      Personally, I wait until the site is up to start loading it with content. You can use social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter) to complement your website, but should not use it as an alternative to your own brand. Copyblogger nails it on the head:

      • I agree with what Gabriel said.

        If you have an old site and want to move it, then you can use a 301 redirect as a solution to the problem of deleting it vs leaving it up. But it’s much better to start on your own domain.

    • Hi Lisa, sorry for the delay, just got online again after a long-haul flight.

      I wouldn’t recommend using blogger for your blogging efforts, even temporarily. Blogging is an investment in your future business, so if you ask me it should always be on your own domain (apart from writing guest posts for other blogs).

      Facebook can be useful, but I follow Chris Brogan’s advice and treat it as an outpost – a place to connect with others and ultimately drive traffic back to your homebase (i.e. your own site). So I wouldn’t use Facebook as a replacement for a blog or website, even temporarily. See Chris’s post A Simple Presence Framework for how homebases and outposts work together.

      But I think the blogger/Facebook issue is a red herring for you – if you want your website to generate business for you, you NEED to be in control of it – you have to be able to update it without waiting several months!

      I’m not a techy either – I’m a writer and a coach (i.e. a word person and a people person, not a tech person). But I’ve taught myself as much tech knowledge as I need to run my own sites, because they are essential to my business. I can’t afford not to learn it.

      If you decide to go the WordPress route, check out Getting Started Blogging – a free course by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett, who really know their stuff, that walks you through the basics of blogging, including how to install and use WordPress.

      There are also specialist WordPress coaches who you can hire to teach you this stuff – let me know (via my contact form) if you’d like a recommendation.

      And don’t be too scared of the tech side of things – it is a bit of a learning curve, but it really isn’t rocket science if you take it a step at a time. And once you get the hang of it, it’s a LOT of fun to take control of your site and start exploring creative ways of marketing yourself. 🙂

  6. Well that wins my prize for “most useful blog post of the year so far” and wouldn’t surprise me if it remained so all year. And I jumped for joy when i saw you linked to my track! Very happy that my little ditty got under your skin, and if I needed any further proof that commenting on blogs attracts links, I have it. Once again you’ve made my day Mark. 🙂

  7. Nice article — I wanted to check to see how current this post was after you said to not use Blogger since all stats go to Blogger’s aggregate value — yet you CAN use your own custom domain name and have it point to a Blogger site, and then the stats should go to your own custom domain and not to elevate Blogger.

    (It still doesn’t cure the issue about violating their terms of service, but that is kind of a non-issue; and Blogger, being free, is one less thing to pay for — plus it’s easy to imbed video.)

    • Thanks Terri, glad you liked the piece. Re how ‘current’ it is – it was hot off the press this week. 🙂 So to address the points you raise:

      Yes, you CAN use your own custom domain name with blogger, but look at 9/10 artists’ blogs and you’ll see they don’t. Because they don’t realise it’s an issue – and Blogger is in no hurry to tell them. It’s a bit like Facebook privacy settings – you can set them to protect your information, but the default settings are typically as open as possible, and complicated to change. In both cases, the default settings are weighted in favour of the ‘landlord’.

      Even if you redirect the domain, you’re still stuck with Blogger’s limited functionality – including forcing commenters to create an account with Google or another provider before leaving comments! And if you’re going to the trouble of redirecting the domain, it’s not much more effort to install WordPress. (If you really want to use domain redirecting instead of installing WordPress, I’d suggest going to and using the domain redirect from there, as that gives you the benefits of WordPress functionality.)

      You say the TOS is ‘a non-issue’, but to me being in control of my business website is a huge issue. See #4 on Gabriel Novo’s comment below for an example of an artist who fell foul of Google and paid the penalty.

      I can’t accept the ‘one less thing to pay for’ argument either. You can get reliable domain hosting starting about $10-20 a month. And we’re talking about a business website, not a hobby. If you’re using a website as the centrepiece of your online marketing initiatives, surely it’s worth that level of investment?

      And I’ll be the first to admit WordPress is not always as quick and easy to use as some other platforms, but posting video is an exception – it takes a couple of seconds to cut and paste the code from YouTube, Vimeo etc. And if you don’t want to touch the code, there are plenty of plugins that make it even easier.

      • Mark, thank you for your reply!

        Blogger doesn’t seem to care if you use your own custom domain name or not — with them it’s a free service either way (you will still need to purchase your custom domain name somewhere, but they also offer “partner sites” like eNom and GoDaddy).

        WordPress will also let you use a custom domain name, purchased through them or elsewhere — if you buy through them, you pay (currently) $17 per year for custom domain + pointing, and $12 per year if you buy your domain name elsewhere and redirect.

        With Blogger you do not need to create a Google account to leave comments — you can easily select “Anonymous” and be done with it.

        As for the terms of service being a non-issue — for most artists, it *is* a non-issue. If you create pieces that are inflammatory enough to be seen as pornographic, then yes, you need to find a host provider who has no problem with pornography — and yes, you would actually need to *read* their terms of service in order to determine that, because many hosting sites do not allow pornography.

        It’s okay if you believe that an artist should commit to his/her website enough to pay for it; personally I would rather pay for the things that I *have* to pay for (like art supplies) and take advantage of the things that can still be had for free (like a video-hosting blog site).

        Thank you for your thoughts about it though — it’s good to hear alternate opinions.

        • Thanks for getting back to me Terri. I think we may have to agree to disagree. 🙂

          But here goes anyway…

          I know Blogger is free either way, but my point is that the default settings encourage people to use the site in a way that wastes their time and effort, from the point of view of creating a valuable business asset (which should be one of an artist’s goals in blogging). And most artists (unlike Gina below) don’t even realise this is a problem.

          Anonymous comments are terrible for conversation and useless for networking. They are a favourite refuge of trolls, which is why many bloggers don’t allow them. People want to know who they are talking to – if comments are anonymous, it’s impossible to get a conversation going.

          And from the networking viewpoint, one purpose of commenting is to get to know new people, get them to recognise your name and visit your own site – hence the space in the commenting form here that allows you to insert your own web address. Many of my friendships and collaborations – as well as the business partnership that founded Lateral Action – started with blog comments and people checking out each other’s sites.

          ‘Pornographic’ images aren’t the only thing that are covered by the terms of service, so it’s not true that if you’re not producing ‘inflammatory’ work then there won’t be any issues with TOS.

          It’s okay if you believe that an artist should commit to his/her website enough to pay for it; personally I would rather pay for the things that I *have* to pay for (like art supplies) and take advantage of the things that can still be had for free (like a video-hosting blog site).

          I absolutely do believe this. If an artist skimps on art supplies, I assume they’re not serious about their art. And if they won’t invest a few dollars a month in their site, I assume they’re not serious about their web marketing. Which is fine if they have other avenues to market – but if they expect their site to generate any business then it’s in the category of things they *have* to pay for.

          Anyway, thanks for arguing a contrarian position. Keeps things interesting. 😉

          • I’m not saying that needing an independently hosted blog is wrong (in fact, if I had lots of money I would definitely throw it at a website host and see if it stuck) – what I’m countering is your *reasoning* for stating that it is so necessary.

            Default settings are default settings, but I thought the point you stated was that a person could not both be on Blogger *and* retain their own web stats, which is incorrect. Specifically, domain stat tracking can follow your own custom domain name on Blogger or WordPress without having to purchase an independent hosting site. But you *do* have to purchase the custom domain name, and pay an additional fee to WordPress (but not Blogger).

            Your original statement was directed at how it was impossible to post a comment to Blogger without setting up an account, and that is just not true. And though I agree that anonymous comments may be exploited by trolls, they may also be constructively used to foster conversation and information exchange with people who otherwise do not wish further contact outside of the context of the comment form.

            Also, Terms of Service are not just held by Blogger and WordPress, but by every independent website host for legal reasons. Here are a few links to independent website hosts Terms of Service:
            Please understand this to mean that, as I wrote before, a person needs to *read* the terms of service and make certain that both their “artwork” and blog comply, no matter which hosting service they purchase.

            If I were attempting to create intellectual property in a comfy blog package, working to inflate the value of and later sell (either advertising or the site itself), then most assuredly the whole shebang should be neatly packaged with a custom domain name on an independent web host probably using the platform and tagged and linked to infinity and beyond — and outposts on every social networking site.

            So you see, I actually agree with you when the same goal is considered. : )

            • if I had lots of money I would definitely throw it at a website host

              $10-20 a month is not lots of money. Sell one picture and you’ve covered your hosting for a year.

              I thought the point you stated was that a person could not both be on Blogger *and* retain their own web stats, which is incorrect.

              I didn’t mention web stats anywhere in the article. My main point was that if you build a valuable blog on someone else’s domain, you’re adding value to their property, not yours.

              Your original statement was directed at how it was impossible to post a comment to Blogger without setting up an account

              It didn’t enter my head that anyone would consider anonymous comments worth having. They are totally useless, for conversation, networking or marketing.

              Also, Terms of Service are not just held by Blogger and WordPress, but by every independent website host for legal reasons.

              OK, you may have a very small point about TOS. 🙂 All hosts have them. But they don’t have as much control over your site if you’re installing your own software as if you’re using theirs. The issue here is about control – more is better IMO.

              If I were attempting to create intellectual property in a comfy blog package, working to inflate the value of and later sell (either advertising or the site itself)

              I’m not talking about selling the site or advertising. If you sell the site, you get a short-term injection of cash but lose your main asset. (So it had better be a BIG injection of cash!) And advertising is a terrible way to monetise a website, unless you have huge traffic.

              If you’re running your business properly, you’ll make far more money using the site as a platform for selling your own stuff. That’s the kind of value I’m talking about – the kind that builds your business for the long-term.

              That aside, it’s good to see we have some point of agreement. 🙂

              • Thank you for sharing your opinions. Even though we have apparently hit the wall of diminishing returns in this discussion, it’s been interesting to listen to your approach to keeping your authority when challenged by disputing facts (not the way I might have approached it, but that’s what makes each of us unique).

                I came to this link because I was looking for information, and was never trying to undermine your position. Seriously, I thought you might want to know the actual options available to people so that you would continue to be considered an authority by your audience. Thanks for your time.

              • I now understand the real reason that anonymous comments are confusing for conversation — when a post generates fifty or more comments (though I expect it could happen with only a few comments, but that’s not how I experienced it), it’s possible for seven or more people to reply anonymously. If they all write in similar styles, you can’t tell who posted what!

                So the internet has proved you correct on this occasion — just thought you might want to know. *wink*

                • You see? 🙂

                  Take a small detail in isolation – say, an anonymous comment – and it doesn’t seem to matter. But within the context of a conversation, it can make a big difference.

                  Zoom out even further – to your networking strategy, and that conversation (and comment) becomes more important. Further still – to finding your place within an online community – and it really matters who’s making the comments.

                  It’s when you look at the big picture that the details really become significant.

  8. Thanks so much for a fantastic article! This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, and I plan to print it out and go through it line by line 🙂 I’ll definitely be back for more of your thoughts…

  9. Great post. It’s not often you see practical suggestions in these types of posts.

  10. Very good, precise and concise information to build your creative marketing ATTACK!

  11. Mark,

    This is another stellar article chocked full of actionable advice. A couple of your points especially jumped out at me.

    #4 – Chris “Coop” Cooper, the lowbrow art legend, learned the hard way why Blogger isn’t a good idea. His blog–which frequently showcased his art and photography–was labeled “pornographic” by the Google overlords and they began to put all manner of lockdowns on the site. He was forced to jump ship over to to keep it going. Not exactly how I would have reacted, but since it’s just a side outlet I can understand why he’d want to keep the costs at zero.

    #6 – I’m very guilty of this. Feedburner statistics and comments alone give me a very limited view of my readership. If my blog is truly to become a hub for my other creative projects then I need to know who I’m talking to.

    #9 – I found a great song thru an online video and tracked down the artist. When I got to his site I found no easy way to buy said song as an MP3. It took me emailing the guy directly to finally get the link. If I hadn’t really liked the song I would have just left his site frustrated. Not surprisingly, he told me I was his first MP3 sale.

    • Thanks Gabriel.

      #4 Great example – and very handy (see my reply to Lisa above).

      #6 I was absurdly late to realise the power of email list-building. I could have called this post ‘Learning internet marketing the hard way – so you don’t have to!’ 😉

      #9 Another brilliant example. And I’m not surprised it was his first sale! Frightening to think how much great work is going unsold because of barriers like that.

  12. Mark, I’m an Internet marketer who found his way here through a Google search on the term “Internet Marketing”.

    Because I love to write and speak, your article really tempts me to “spill my guts” on just about every one of the 10 points you discussed. What I will say, is that in spite of the title which points this at artists and creatives, I find that these give me fresh eyes on my “failings” in IM. “Just do it” is great advice.

    As a “literate nerd”, I’m a type of “creative”, though not as I believe you mean the term. Point #2’s advice applies directly – the solution fits me! I’m going to do more with point #3’s advice. Point #4 – only point where I’m way ahead. As to point #5, I have Ted Nicholas’s book open all the time now. Points #6 & #7, agree fully, done that. Doing all I can to learn how to market on Facebook, point #8. Point #9 is excellent – “ask for the sale”! Except for areas of inaction and procrastination in implementing #10, I’m doing it – but did learn more.

    Thanks – I’ve copied your post into WordPad to read again and will re-read it several times. Thanks for a great informative post!!


  13. Christian – I think when you said this you hit the nail on the head – ‘Or perhaps we don’t honestly feel we’re worthy of being successful.’

    As humans we are very scared of success and very often dont feel worthy of what we are truly capable of.

  14. Mark,

    You continue to be my hero; you top yourself at every turn. Kudos to you, thank you for all you do for the creative class, and have the most smashing and exciting year ever!

    Your unabashed fan,


  15. Just saw this article on twitter and had to stop by. I make a living with my art/craft and find your tips to be really spot on. I do use blogger for my blog, but have a custom domain.

    I love your third tip. Social Media has so many advantages but, unfortunately, so many use it in the wrong way. The negativity is the worst. No one wants to buy from someone who is complaining about anything.

    Thanks for a great article….now I am off to tweet about it :).

  16. Thanks for a kickass post. As an artist, I’m trying to understand Internet Marketing. This makes a lot of sense – and gives me some things I need to address.

  17. The road to success is learning from your mistakes. I truly believe this, and Lord knows I’ve made and learned from my own share of mistakes… some of which you mentioned. 😉

    Blessings to you, Mark!

  18. Many of my artist clients are only concerned about the visual representation of their site. A picture may be worth a thousand words but you need WORDS not just pictures on a website for search engines. This article is a must-read for all my artist clients!

    Thanks Mark.

  19. Mark,

    You are an inspiring guy…I first found your site through your poetry (as I dabble in that) and want to buy some coaching as soon as I get some extra money….do you offer a poetry class? I’d pay for a webinar or something….hope you much success and I’m sure you continue to get it, giving creatives a much needed model.

    I blog about my own transition from ex-English literature grad student to writer (at times hack) at, a blog that is a career guide of sorts for English majors….I’ve been following a lot of your advice and recently got national coverage of my blog….awesome stuff.

    • Great to hear my poetry is pulling its weight on the marketing front. 🙂

      And well done for getting coverage of your blog. I nearly did a Ph.D. (twice) myself, and don’t regret the decision not to.

      I don’t run poetry classes, but the Poetry School do a few online classes. (Their live classes are amazing, but I see you’re not in the UK.)

      And I’ll be happy to help with some coaching when the time is right for you. (I do coach on writing, so if you wanted to focus on poetry we could do that.)

  20. Hey Mark,

    This is a nice swift wake up kick to the nads for all the artists and other “experts” out there that think marketing is beneath them. I salute you for delivering it! It is much needed and is quite thorough in giving an awesome overview of so many key points.

    One that I’d like to agree with Michael Martine that most “experts” or “artists” try to sell THEMSELVES and their EXPERTISE

    They believe that people want to buy them and what they know but they don’t. People want to buy a SOLUTION or OUTCOME to their problem or desire!!! They don’t want to know about you or your credentials and your expertise are not that relevant.

    They want results. They wanna fix the thing that’s wrong or they wanna get the thing they’re going after. They’re really not concerned about you.

    • Yep who you are to them is what makes the difference – from a marketing viewpoint, anyway.

      Some artists think they don’t solve any problems because their work isn’t functional or practical. But when you think about it, life isn’t that long. It’s painful and full of disappointments. Sometimes it feels meaningless. And yet… if an artist can bring a bit of humour, joy, inspiration (or even illumination) into peoples’ lives… I’d say they solve a pretty big problem.

  21. Paola Bueso Vadell says:

    This post was a truly helpful, thank you!

  22. Hi Mark,

    All I can say is wow. I’ve found the stuff on this site really useful and inspiring. It’s confirmed a lot of what I’ve already been thinking.

    I’m a graphic designer and I think I’m good at what I do, but I’ve realised that isn’t enough, and I’ve got to change the way I do business to be truly successful and keep my sanity! So much of what you have written about in your books “Freedom, Money, Time…” and “Marla’s Guide” rang true for me.

    I don’t usually post comments on websites (bit of a lurker me) but I’m already taking you’re advice (don’t be shy) and joining the conversation right now.

    I’m looking forward to your email updates and courses, and a link from you to my website would be really cool.

    Keep up the good work. Cheers, Mark

    • Glad to have enticed you out of the shadows to comment! And thanks for the feedback on my ebooks.

      You’re already doing a lot of the right things the way your site is set up with your portfolio and blog integrated on the same domain.

      As for attracting links – it’s basically a combination of publishing awesome stuff (with enticing headlines) and networking to get on people’s radar, via commenting, social networks, forums etc. And guest posting works really well – you get to link to yourself from someone else’s site. 🙂

      Of course, we go into all of this in a lot more detail in the Creative Entrepreneur Roadmap. I’m just saying. 😉

  23. I am so inspired by your writings here, that I am putting you on my links to get started….

  24. its My pleasure – and plenty more to come…

  25. Appreciate you sharing, great post.Really thank you! Really Great.

  26. Wow, amazing weblog format! How long have you ever been blogging for?

    you made running a blog glance easy. The total look of your website is magnificent, let alone the content material!

  27. Hello Mark McGuinness,

    I know a lot of talented people who fail miserably not only in internet marketing but in real life as well and I came across to this conclusion. “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”. This is a very powerful phrase! I wrote this phrase for people who are talented and either they have low self-esteem or they are very lazy to put the appropriate effort to succeed. I know that it may seem very challenging the short term pain of work but think about the outcome you’ll have in your future if you put effort and make things happen…

    Thank you,

  28. Thanks for the tips, always good to try new approaches! Keeeps things fresh.

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