Don't Cultivate One-Dimensional Talent
Being an online entertainer involves more than the production of high quality content. Holistically, you must:
- Produce high quality content
- That strikes a chord with people
- And is truly original
Do not make the mistake of equating incredible artistic talent with wild success. You must bring more to the table than just a high level of skill with a certain medium. You have to be able to communicate something interesting to your audiences- something that catches their attention, evokes strong emotions, and does not recycle tired ideas.
Consider the webcomic world. One of the internet's most beloved webcomics is not a carefully-colored, artistically-illustrated graphic masterpiece. In fact, it consists of simple line drawings and stick figures. We're talking, of course, of XKCD.
What makes XKCD so special is its wit, longevity, consistency, and relatable messages. It does not matter how beautifully-drawn a comic may be- if it doesn't come out regularly, if its creator isn't able to create a lot of content, and if it does not strike a chord with audiences, it will not catch on.
Don't Rely on Outdated Tactics
Artists make waves by thinking out of the box and taking creative risks, not by adhering to conventional wisdom and traipsing down well-trodden paths. Resist the temptation to utilize tactics that were popular in the past- even two years ago. The entertainment industry is evolving at a breakneck pace, and if you don't want to wipe out, you must be ready and able to surf the newest waves of change.
This is not to say you are not allowed to have dreams of someday signing a record deal or negotiating a contract with an old-school, mainstream producer, publisher, or record label. This is an entirely legitimate goal. That said, the means by which you will achieve it today are quite different from tactics that worked in the past. Due to readily-available independent production options and low barriers to entry, agents, musicians, authors, actors, artists, and directors are not likely to express interest in you until you have:
- Clearly demonstrated your talent
- Produced a significant body of work independently
- Attracted a significant audience (either to show you have a built-in following or are able to draw attention on command)
This means that you cannot rely on others to sweep you up or offer you a job. You must, instead, create your own work, your own fame, and your own fan base.
Given that, for a good amount of time, you will also need to generate your own income, you might as well find a means of supporting yourself over the long run without others' help or intervention. Waiting for a lucrative deal that may never come may limit your opportunities and prevent you from finding more creative and effective means by which you can augment your income. Even if you do ultimately sign a fancy contract, there is no guarantee that another contract will come along when the first one dies down.
You may be wise to forego the big publisher/producer/record label fantasy entirely and instead find a way to create your own business and legacy. Doing so enables you to have more control over your work and creative direction- plus you can earn higher royalties from sales. Should big corporations eventually be drawn to your success and be interested in signing a deal, great (that is, if they offer terms better than those you already have as a successful, independent creator). Should agents and producers never come knocking on your door, you will have lost nothing.
Don't Assume You're Anonymous
Many entertainers who maintain professional lives that are entirely independent of their creative work prefer to maintain a certain level of anonymity online. This anonymity might extend beyond casual use of a pen name should your creative work be something that could get you fired.
If you intend to share entertainment online under a pseudonym, review our guide to publishing anonymously for a summary of important factors to consider when shielding your physical-world identity from prying eyes. Keep in mind that the tips shared in our guide will only protect you from casual internet users.
Should the protection of your anonymity be crucial, do not publish anything risky online. Whether someone will discover your identity comes down to that individual's resources and determination. Though you can make it difficult for others to discover who you are, you cannot safely assume that any methodology or level of encryption will make it impossible.
Even without hacking skills, government privilege, or corporate access, adversaries may uncover your identity using court subpoenas. To learn how others may legally obtain information about your identity, visit the Digital Media Law Project's reader-friendly overview.
Don't Be Spammy
You need not write poorly-worded messages under the guise of a Nigerian prince to come across as spammy. Even a lack of genuine enthusiasm about your work, or a poorly-worded comment, or a thoughtless social media post can inspire potential and existing fans to toss your personal brand into their mental spam folders.
Don't dig a virtual grave for your online brand by:
- Sharing content purely out of an "obligation" to share content (rather than a desire to contribute unique value to the world)
- Posting links to social media sites without adding an articulate, customized message
- Posting links to social media sites with poorly-written descriptions like "check out my new song" or "HEY GUYZ!!! WATCH MY NEW VIDEO!!!"
- Only promoting your own content
- Failing to interact with fans, followers, and other entertainers via social media
- Automatically posting the same messages, photos, or links across all channels simultaneously (doing so clearly demonstrates that you don't actively care enough about the audience on each channel to post something unique and in real time)
If you are creating content out of a desire for fame and fortune rather than a love for your audience and work, stop what you're doing and walk away from your computer. You're wasting everyone's time.
If you feel the need to constantly promote your work, solve the root cause of the problem (the fact that your content lacks the inherent value required to spur natural word-of-mouth promotion), not the symptom (a paucity of shares, views, or downloads). Do not resort to shady "solutions" like purchased YouTube views or link exchanges. In addition to being dishonest, such tactics can ultimately damage your SEO and even get you banned from platforms and ad networks such as AdSense.
Don't Neglect Your Monetization Strategy
If you haven't thought through the means by which you will make an income as an online entertainer, you have no right to dream of someday turning your talent and passions into a full-time career.
Simple answers like "Oh, I'll just make a ton of money in ad revenue!" don't cut it anymore. Ads won't support anything beyond the simplest and most humble of entertainment careers (think: teen vlogger), and even then, they're a risky source of income. Ad rates change, traffic fluctuates, at network policies evolve, and both internal and external search algorithms are updated. A sudden policy or algorithm change could decimate your ad income in minutes.
The more diverse your income streams become, the less risk you face, so research a variety of income streams that are relevant to the entertainment you offer. Think about your short-term as well as long-term needs. Establishing the means by which you will make money as an entertainer once you become famous will not help you during the months, years, and even decades before you reach that level of renown.
Don't Set Unrealistic Expectations
Don't Underestimate the Time Required
Time is one of the most common factors aspiring entertainers fail to consider. In addition to expecting early success, many fail to realize how much time actually goes into the production of good work.
Be prepared to wait years- or even decades- before you achieve success and profitability. While independent success is easier to achieve in around four years, old-school, mainstream success, like landing a major role in a film, can take decades (and is often never achieved at all). There are no quick fixes. There are no shortcuts. Should you expect them, you will quickly join the ranks of hundreds of thousands of individuals who have quit prematurely.
Also be prepared to invest significant amounts of time in content creation. Developing a single, one-page comic often takes as many as six hours. Creating a video (even after an idea and outline have been created) frequently requires six to eight hours of work. Though a song might emerge in three hours, it could also be the summation of weeks, months, or years spent toying with lyrics and a tune.
Don't Underestimate the Effort Required
Nobody is going to come out of the blue and pay you to do something amazing just because you "have potential." If you want to get hired, build an audience, or sign a contract, you must do what you want to do independently. If you want to become a director, work on independent projects. If you want to create comic books, develop and publish your own. Should you have dreams of becoming professional musician, create, share, and sell songs and book your own appearances at local clubs, cafes, and events.
Do not assume that your life will suddenly become easy the moment a major record label, studio, or publisher reaches out to you. Interest from a prominent brand does not mean that a contract will ever be proposed, signed, or acted upon. What's more, jobs and contracts are ephemeral arrangements, dependent on both your performance and the fate of the company or partner with whom you sign. If you are not willing to make an effort to build your own independent success, you will have no hope of building a sound career.
Don't Get Comfortable
Those who succeed in the entertainment world constantly evolve and adapt. Just one novel development won't cut it. A decision to rest on your laurels is no different from a decision to slowly quit in the most embarrassing, depressing manner possible.
To remain agile, fresh, alluring, and competitive:
- Do not become cemented to a single platform (and constantly test and experiment with new formats and channels)
- Do not entrench yourself in a single, restrictive style
- Make a point of seeking out discomfort by regularly taking risks and trying new things
- Look for changes in your audiences' needs, interests, and desires
- Be prepared to cater to new audiences should you grow out or lose the interest of your initial fan base
- Seek out new income channels and monetization methods (that create richer, more enjoyable experiences for fans)
Adaption is by no means a comfortable practice, but discomfort is a key element of the entertainment profession. If it's stability that you're after, become an accountant.
Don't Idolize Fame
Though boasting significant perks, fame also has its drawbacks. Keep in mind that:
- Fame is extremely difficult to achieve
- Fame is close to impossible to maintain
- Fame exposes you to a great deal of criticism
- You may lose a certain level of privacy should you, along with your work, become famous
- Once at the top, you can only go down; you constantly run the risk of losing your fans' favor and becoming irrelevant
- New "friends" may flock to your fame, not your personality
Fame will not solve your problems. It will not guarantee future income. It will not earn you respect (on the contrary, fame typically exposes people to a great number of harsh criticisms). It will not lead to stability. It will not make you happy. It will not yield genuine friends. Instead of viewing fame as a goal or reward, you can avoid major missteps by regarding it as an ambiguous side effect that may or may not accompany your career. Do what you love, keep it real, establish genuine connections with fans, and you'll do just fine.
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