Online Audience Development: 3 Strategies for Artists

Oh, InternetLand, how ripe with opportunity you are.


The internet has made so many things possible. Some reasons why I love the Internet:

    • It has the answers to (almost) all of your burning questions
    • Tons of free tutorials
    • Endless art
    • Confirmation that you’re not the only weird one
    • Social media that’s evolving human connection (This is much debated, of course)
    • Not needing to attend your high school reunion (I already know what’s up with Brittany from high school.)

Yes - opportunity that is LIMITLESS! That’s insane - when has humanity ever had this? Gary Vee thinks that this is the best time to be alive, and I agree 100%. You’re pretty smart to want to hop in on this and really start building an online audience for your work.

Watch a video version of this topic here:

The internet’s a big place, and people have more options, clicks, and places that they can go than they’ll ever have time to get to. Because of this, we have literally less than a minute to really capture people’s attention. This makes building an online audience tricky, as you might’ve figured out already. But think about this marketing concept that makes complete sense when you look at it from the audience member’s perspective:

In general, no one cares about what you have to offer unless it helps them in some way

This ‘way’ that you help them could be educating them, providing resources, inspiring them, or entertaining them. And you might say ‘Oh - how callous and rude of them to just move on unless they’re getting something out of it!’ But think about it - when you yourself are browsing online, and you find stuff that interests you, you might click on it and check it out further, or you might just say ‘Cool’ and keep scrolling because there’s plenty of interesting stuff out there. If you do actually look into it further, and you stop relating to it, being inspired by it, or getting resources from it that help you - you’re going to move on very quickly. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not personal - it’s just the way that our 21st century brains work.

So the best strategy to grow an online audience is to start by offering something of value. And this can be a tricky concept in business because you can easily assume that people are getting enough value out of your beautiful artwork or discounts to your courses on poetry. That’s certainly value, but not always enough to really keep people coming back for more or raving about you and your work.

Value is hands-down the Best Foundation to build your audience and business on

Strategy 1: Offer up a content upgrade

Content upgrades, also called ‘lead magnets’ and ‘freebies’ are a fairly new concept, so here’s an Evergray definition:

“Bonus content like PDF downloads, guides, workbooks, spreadsheets, or quizzes that are used to incentivize website visitors into becoming an email subscriber, where they’ll get access to this bonus content.”

Content is king. (And then marketing is queen in my (current) opinion, but that’s a different story for a different day.) Every type of business with an online presence needs content - this is anything like articles and blog posts, to videos, podcasts, courses, and the all powerful social media content. By offering up regular content like blog posts and videos, and then adding on bonus content like PDF downloads or workbooks that compliment your regular content, you’re starting a marketing funnel that attracts your online audience.

If you’re an artist and all that you do is paint/draw/make music/write poetry - it might be time to expand your horizons if you're looking to grow a brand. Maybe you could teach something - it could be a technique, how to spot this from that, how to write like a certain writer, or how to paint like a certain painter. It could be how to do one of your special techniques (don’t be scared to give it away). It could be how to screenprint, or you could just be documenting what it’s like to be a 21st century artist. Whatever you’re passionate about - talk about it, teach it, or help people understand it with your online content.

Target your content at helping others. Specifically, target your content at helping your potential customers. Think of what they need or want when they’re poking around the internet. Are your potential customers art collectors? Maybe a quiz on the type of art that they should be collecting right now would be useful for them. Are your potential customers small business owners in need of design expertise? Maybe a template for making infographics would catch their eye.

Offering content upgrades: How to start:

Utilize existing content on your blog or Youtube channel, etc. for ideas on how to add bonus content that you would want if you were viewing the content as a stranger.  Build onto what you already have to make it more valuable or if you don’t really have content out there yet - get to brainstorming! (That’s the fun part for me.)

Once you have your content and content upgrade ready to go, decide on an email marketing platform to deliver your content upgrades. (To be completely honest, the most common platform - Mailchimp - is fine for beginners, but it has its limitations.)

I use Convertkit as a delivery platform that can put my content upgrade delivery on autopilot. With Convertkit, you can embed forms directly into your blog posts with just a simple 'code snippet.' From there, they’ll get an automated email containing the content upgrade (usually in the form of a downloadable PDF), and you get an email subscriber! That’s a fair trade.

(Note: new laws on data privacy like the GDPR keep coming out, so be sure to stay compliant.)


Strategy 2: Collaborate with people in your niche

Don’t have a niche yet? Marketing certainly seems to be easier when you have one. (Here's a way to find one.) You can expand later in your business, but I've found that the best way to really carve out a spot for yourself in the market is by appealing to a smaller number of people that normally can’t find what you’re offering from the big wigs.

Of course, you probably won’t be the only person doing something similar to what you’re doing to build an online audience, so find those people and follow them! Get on their email list, do some research into what their working on & putting out there, and if you find out that their audience could benefit from your content - come up with a collaboration idea or two. Then approach them once you feel like you can offer them or their audience some sort of value. .

But first, make sure that you know their brand, and that you contribute to it. Comment on their blog or video, send a response to one of their automated emails, follow them on social media and try to get on their radar. Also, try to get on their audience’s radar by hopping in and answering questions/making yourself useful.

Collaborating with brands and artists in your niche: How to start:

Keeping track of all of this once you have more than a handful of other artists/brands that you’re tracking interaction with can get sooo messy. After doing this myself for long enough, (and consistently forgetting the last point of contact/interaction/conversation, etc.), I made an Excel spreadsheet called ‘The Outreach Plan’.

The Outreach Plan contains cells for the ‘Gatekeeper’s contact info’, drop down menus so that you can update the status from something like ‘Pitched & waiting’ and ‘Needs the first follow up’, ideas on how to approach them for a collaboration, and ways to track whether or not you signed up for their email list or followed them on social media.

Get the done-for-you Outreach Plan Template emailed to you now!


If you’re a beginner with Excel, and drop down menus and ‘sorting ranges’ aren’t really in your vocabulary - have no fear! The email containing the Outreach Plan will detail all of that, and I’m 99% sure that you’ll be able to navigate it efficiently. 

Strategy 3: Capitalize on artist submissions and opportunities

For the majority of ‘doors’ that you knock on, numbers (for myself and many others), show that less than 10% of those doors will open - don’t let this discourage you. Just stay constantly vigilant and steady applying for opportunities until doors really start opening.


There’s so many media outlets, magazines, brands, galleries, and organizations that call for artist submissions - more than you’ll ever have time to apply to. Research them and sign up for their email newsletters. Put their application deadlines on your calendar and get to work putting yourself out there - do this over and over until applying for opportunities becomes a habit.  You can even set a specific time for applying for these opportunities - like after dinner on weekdays - to really solidify that habit. 

If and when you do snag one of these opportunities, not only does this open your work up for exposure to potential customers, but it builds your network. You never know when someone from one of these organizations might think of you for another opportunity or might become an invaluable mentor.

Capitalizing on artist opportunities: How to start:

All of these brands and organizations have email lists (the smart ones, at least). And guess what they’re going to do the second they need an opportunity filled: they’re telling their email list.

Brands with valuable email lists to subscribe to now:

Also, search these keywords on Google/Instagram/Tiktok/etc.:

  • artist funding
  • artist grant
  • artist opportunity
  • artist competition

Add a local keyword to those too - like ‘Houston Artist Funding’ or ‘Washington, D.C. artist opportunity’ Sometimes you have a better chance with local organizations because they already have incentive to promote you because they too have local ties and want to promote their arts in their area.

I know all of these strategies seem like a lot of work, and it’s because they are. (Unless you hire someone to help you with marketing, then they put in the work.) But if you put in this type of work consistently, you'll see some results - it's just a numbers game. You can do it! The point is to just keep building and stay with it.


Not sure where to start? The 7 Day Online Artist Plan has your back.

What is The 7 Day Online Artist Plan?

It's an online course that eliminates distractions & gives you the blueprint for being an artist with a powerful online brand. And you'll be able to create that powerful online brand foundation in 7 days.

Why is it so special?

The 7 Day Online Artist Plan is affordable, straightforward, cuts to the transformation part really fast, and there's nothing like it in the market today. This is not a smorgasbord of advice wrapped up with a bow - it's a journey that moves the needle in a MASSIVE way because the strategy behind it is coming from someone who has both the business chops and the artist perspective. And it's set up to happen so fast that you can't get distracted.

Learn More About The 7 Day Online Artist Plan Here

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