20 minutes | May 6th 2020

E114: Copywriting for the arts with Ali Strachan

We are surrounded by art every day. And artists struggle with many of the challenges that us copywriters do…

  • How to create a sense of perceived value around their work.
  • How to market their work to audiences who will not only appreciate it but pay for it too.
  • How to create a successful business without disrupting their creative process.

That’s where today’s guest comes in.

We’re talking to Ali Strachan, digging into how artists can create a successful business and how copywriters can be successful in this niche.

 

Tune in to learn:

  • What an Arts Advocate does
  • The big struggles artists face, and how Ali helps to overcome them
  • How important strong personal branding and storytelling is for artists
  • The kind of copy an arts copywriter writes
  • The conflict between art and marketing: the artist and the customers
  • Whether artists care about SEO, blogs, and mailing lists
  • What gets Ali cross about arts marketing

E114: Arts copywriting with Ali Strachan #hotcopy #copywriting
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Have you ever written for an artist? Share your thoughts on Twitter (@hotcopypodcast) or our Facebook page!

 

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Thanks to thatsmekq from the UK for a fantastic review of the show.

“Really enjoying your podcast and am going to be putting a lot of these tips to use in my new marketing manager role. I listen to a lot of marketing-related podcasts and this is my new favourite. Thanks for your high-quality content. Kay (Glasgow).”

 

Who is Ali?

 

Ali Strachan helps visual artists promote their work, make an impact, and earn more from sales and commissions.

She’s a passionate, knowledgeable, and honest advocate of the arts, who supports her clients to achieve success on their creative journey.

She regularly works with arts organisations and local council to promote and educate local artists and engage them in events to give them every opportunity to build their profile within the community.

As a fellow creative, she understands the challenges artists face when building their business – and has the tools, experience, and know-how to help artists be more profitable, so they can keep doing what they love.

 

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E114: Arts copywriting with Ali Strachan #hotcopy #copywriting
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Transcript

Kate:

We are surrounded by art every day and artists struggle with many of the challenges as copywriters do, how to create a sense of perceived value around their work, how to market their work to audiences who will actually pay a decent amount for it, how to a successful business without disrupting their creative process, and that’s where today’s guest comes in.

Kate:

Hello, and welcome to the Hot Copy podcast, a podcast for copywriters all about copywriting. My name is Kate Toon. I’m a copywriter and I’m the founder of the Clever Copywriting School, which has a shop, a directory, and membership courses, resources, and so much more. And with me as always, is the delicious Belinda Weaver… who is muted.

Belinda:

Hello everyone. I am muted. My name is Belinda and I am a copywriter as well. I have courses and groups and you can go to my website where I have tons of advice whether you want it or not.

Kate:

I love that. “Is it muted?” I think has become the phrase of 2020 I think. “Pivot. Can you unmute? Can you mute?” Anyway, let’s move on. With us today is the wonderful Ali Strachan. Hello, Ali Strachan.

Ali:

Hi, how are you?

Kate:

Have I said it right? I haven’t, have I?

Ali:

No, it’s okay. I’m all right with Ali Strachan. It makes me sound exotic.

Kate:

What is it? I always get it wrong.

Ali:

It’s Ali Strachan.

Kate:

Ali Strachan. But, my name’s Kate Toon, and you always get that wrong. Everyone gets it wrong. It’s Kate Toon, not Kate Toon, but I live with it. I’m lying. Ali Strachan, welcome. Let me read out your bio. Ali helps visual artists promote their work, make an impact, and earn more from sales and commissions. She’s a passionate, knowledgeable, and honest advocate of the arts who supports her clients to achieve success on their creative journey. She regularly works with arts organizations and local councils to promote and educate local artists and educate them in events to give them the every opportunity to build their profile within the community. As a fellow creative, she understands the challenges artists face when building their business and has the tools, experience, and knowhow to help artists be more profitable so they can keep doing what they love. Hi, Ali.

Ali:

Hi.

Kate:

Hi. It’s good to have you here, so-

Belinda:

Very happy.

Kate:

Oh yes, [inaudible] you unmuted, I was shocked then. Ali is a member of the global copywriting community and is also very lucky to be one of the chosen few on the Hot Copy Mastermind. So, we’ve got to know you very well over the last couple of months, but for other people, you’ve branded yourself as the arts advocate. What does that mean to you and to your audience?

Ali:

So, I think it comes from wanting to be a champion for the arts, but helping artists really find their voice and their confidence to keep promoting their work and putting it out there.

Belinda:

So, Ali, what kind of artists do you work with?

Ali:

So, my sweet spot is visual arts. I really love pulling apart people’s work and writing about it in a way that makes it really relatable. But, I also work with lots of musicians, but [inaudible] guess it’s like painters and photographers and sculptors, even jewelers, sometimes designers. And I also work a lot with my local council. So, my local council often runs professional development sessions and marketing sessions, and local arts organization, just one in particular, the Brisbane Multicultural Arts Center or BMAC who [inaudible] the moment to do a mentoring with it the moment and it’s fantastic work.

Kate:

It’s a bit of a mixed bag, which sounds really interesting, and I guess across all those different clients, they all face different struggles. I mean, as an artist, you go into art to be an artist, not to market yourself. What are the struggles that your clients are facing?

Ali:

Yeah, so I think underpinning it all is really a mindset, and that mindset [inaudible] comes from… Sorry, that mindset comes from seeing their work as a business and employing strategies for marketing that probably they consider to be something that other businesses do and not necessarily creative. So, that’s the first thing, and I guess joining onto that is a lack of confidence and understanding who their ideal clients are and really knowing how to find them and talk to them because I think particularly for artists themselves, they have different core audiences. So, whether you’re a musician or a fine artist or whatever, you have your buyers and your fans and your music consumers I guess, and then you’ve also got funding bodies and galleries and events organizations and things like that that you need to apply different kind of strategies to in order to speak to them and connect with them properly.

Belinda:

I bet that’s quite a concept to come to grips with for someone who maybe began their career just wanting to create, to have to suddenly think I’m not only trying to sell my work but I’m trying to appeal to these other bodies. I would never have really thought of that. What about pricing? Because copywriters, we struggle with pricing. What common issues do you see artists struggle with when it comes to the money side of things?

Ali:

[inaudible] being a creative process, I think it’s being able to create that work and then take that step back because I think you put so much of yourself into your work when you create it, and that’s just an automatic thing, it drives you, it makes you want to connect with others. But, being able to… When it comes to pricing, then you feel like you’re pressing yourself. So, be able to take that step back and price it professionally so that you can make a profit and basically keep creating. Lots of artists think that I’m not in this to make a profit, which is fine, but then art stuff is expensive, and being able to keep creating and do things on a bigger scale, whether that’s public art or whatever, there is that element to it. So, there’s one particular example that I can think of.

Ali:

It’s a lady called Tracie Eaton. She’s quite [inaudible]. She’s had work in all of the massive Ruby [inaudible] and things here. Some of her work has gone out to some of the Oscars recipients and Golden Globes and stuff like that. But, she has a marketing background. I was talking to her one day and she was saying to me that when she first started out, if someone showed an interest in her work, she was like, “Oh, you can have it,” just like what the hell am I doing? It’s that instant… I don’t know. There’s something that overrides the whole thing [inaudible] struggle with, so definitely pricing is a big issue.

Kate:

I think that it’s the delight that someone likes what you’ve done, and that you’re appreciated, and the thing is I think as writers we can be the same way. We want to be able to write and therefore if someone’s willing to pay us to do that, that’s great, we’ll take anything just as long as we can do it. That can often cause issues later down the track because as you said, you’ve got to cover your costs, maybe a studio space, and then if you do want to digitally market yourself all the costs involved with having a website. The whole starving artist in the garret thing is a nice romantic idea, but it’s probably not that much fun in reality.

Ali:

Yeah, exactly.

Kate:

But, I can imagine. So Belinda, we were going to ask about the copy that clients need. We talked about websites there.

Belinda:

Yeah, so I mean, I would think about website copy. So, when I’m thinking, Oh, what kind of copy do they need, I would think of promotional copy but wouldn’t there also be copy that is attached to the work? What kind of copy do you help artists write?

Ali:

So, a lot of the work that I do is very tailored. I really love getting in with artists to do their foundational branding and tone of voice and that kind of stuff first, because I think that’s the thing that underpins their confidence to everything else. But of course, lots of artists are really good at expressing themselves visually but not in words. So, the work that I do is a lot about addressing the immediate needs. For example, I worked with recently who needed a bio, and he already had a decent bio, but he wanted one that was more personable. But then, he also was saying to me, “Oh well, I really struggle about talking about my work online. Just how do I have that conversation with people who want to listen to my music?” So, we also worked on his brand story, and that brand’s story underpinned some of his core themes and values that makes him him, and that was really helpful. But, the work that I do can be anything from website copy right through to exhibition proposals, or video scripts, artists statements and bios. It’s so different, depends on the person.

Kate:

You ever get to write the little blurbs that go next to the pictures in the art galleries?

Ali:

Yeah, so I think that’s something that I love doing. There was one particular artist who had a series of images about the Holocaust, very, very serious subject, and I learned a lot about that. So, basically making sure that those descriptions are engaging, they tell a little bit about the work, they also connect with the people viewing, and address those SEO elements as well, so yeah.

Kate:

I think that must be fascinating. One of my favorite jobs I ever did, it’s a stupid comparison, but was writing labels for wine, and trying to articulate the flavor of the wine with all the fragrances and the honey and a hint of [inaudible]. I imagine that it must be incredibly challenging to extract what the artist’s intention was and turn that into possible prose because sometimes it’s a feeling or a vibe. Is that a hard thing to do? You must be a good listener, right?

Ali:

Yeah. I really think it comes down to those questions you ask in the beginning, and it’s sometimes it’s not about the work itself but it about what the artist is trying to say. So, it’s a mix of that particular work, but also telling those stories that are really going to… Because I guess in the end when it comes to art, it’s the viewer that brings their own interpretation as well. So, it’s being able to leave it open enough that that can happen. So yeah, it is challenging.

Belinda:

I was going to jump in and go, “Oh, I’d love to do something like that,” and then you said Holocaust and I was like, Oh, oh maybe not quite that one. But, now you mentioned as part of those little descriptions, SEO, which surprised me a little bit, but I’m really interested to hear how artists focus on SEO. Is it a big part of what they understand about marketing or do you have to really educate them about that importance?

Ali:

Yeah, so a lot of the emerging artists that I work with don’t have a clue about SEO, and a lot of them don’t even have websites, particularly musicians they rely a lot on social media in order to promote their work and other platforms. Sometimes visual artists and stuff, they might have an Etsy or they might have their art in one of those big directories like Bluethumb or Art lovers, but they rely on those platforms to promote them. Those platforms have their own audiences, they don’t have… It’s not an audience that the artist has. So, it is a big educational thing, and I have been able to help people understand it. That’s what I love about doing what I do. But yeah, there are some artists that I have worked with that really understand SEO, but majority don’t.

Kate:

Well, most people don’t understand SEO if you ask me, but thank goodness because otherwise I wouldn’t have a business. One thing that we talk about on the Hot Copy Mastermind is a way of getting really clear on how you want to brand yourself as a copywriter is to think about what makes you cross about the industry that you’re in. So, I guess I’m interested to know, and I’ve seen on Instagram that you’ve started to do these little quite topical, almost [inaudible], but quite articulate thought leadership pieces around things in the arts industry that annoy you. So, what are some of the things you’ve covered so far?

Ali:

Yes, so I guess it comes back to the point that I raised before, is that lots of artists don’t have websites. So, that is a big thing. If someone’s going to go into a gallery and find your work, if they walk out of that gallery and go, “Oh, I’m going to look up that person because I really want to learn more about them,” and you don’t have a website, you can’t guarantee that your social platforms are going to be coming up for [inaudible] somebody else might have your name and a bigger brand than you do. So, that’s one big thing. And also, just the way people talk about their work online, so that lack of storytelling and that ability to really engage people within it.

Ali:

For example, an Instagram caption that might just read this is acrylic on canvas and the canvas is this big. If I’m going to view that work, I want to know more about the artist and I want to know more about what went into that. It doesn’t have to be really detailed, but I want to be able to connect with it in some way because I think we need to be able to… We see things upwards of seven times or something, right, to be able to even register enough to make a purchase decision. So, being able to keep that constant conversation open and then really engage people in you as a brand I think is really important.

Kate:

Yeah, there’s an artist that I follow who used to work for me when I worked at [inaudible]. He wasn’t an artist then, but now he’s hugely popular. He’s called Brad Robson. You should check him out, he’s on Instagram. And one of the things I love about him is the way that he engages his audience, he gets them involved in coming up with names for his images, really voting on things. He does these huge murals in foreign cities and shows the whole story from the paint right through, and so by the end when that comes out as a print, you’re just desperate to buy it.

Ali:

Yeah, that’s exactly right.

Kate:

So, that’s the sort of thing you’re helping people do, coming up with those strategies from how to hook people in right from the beginning. So, it’s not that they’re buying the painting at the end, it’s that they’re buying the whole… They’re part of an experience, you know?

Ali:

Exactly. It’s completely right, and I think especially for musicians, I think really struggle with this as well because a lot of musicians think that just by hearing a song is enough. Very few I think artists can actually just put a picture up and expect sales. It’s all about that experience. It’s so important I think with values driven and personality driven marketing and personal branding is being really important, that’s all driven by social media. So, just understanding how to find your voice and find that confidence to be able to promote yourself in that way.

Belinda:

What I’ve loved hearing so far in our chat, Ali, and I was trying to act surprised but I actually knew it because of the Hot Copy Mastermind, but that trend… How much of your work is so much more than writing, because when we first met, I knew you as an arts copywriter, but you do a lot of coaching as well. Is that a growing part of your business?

Ali:

Yeah, it definitely is. It wasn’t something that I offered to start with, but it was something that I think I’ve obviously identified that need, because like I said, I can do parts of it, but I don’t feel right just coming in and just writing a website and then having someone walk away and still feel stuck. So, I think it’s about… That’s where the arts advocate [inaudible] being able to just support them to be able to understand. Because artists don’t have the budget to continually be outsourcing their work. We’re all small businesses. I don’t have the budget to be able to continually outsource work. So, it’s about understanding that and just giving them the skills to be able to do that for themselves.

Belinda:

I bet that really diversifies your business as well, which is great. It makes you much more an integral part of their business growth and development rather than just that one on one, “Oh, I wrote you some stuff and see you later,” which I love.

Ali:

Yeah.

Belinda:

So, for anyone listening who is really starting to get intrigued by this idea of writing for artists and working for artists, what advice would you give them?

Ali:

So, my initial advice would be to get out and network and talk to artists face to face, get an idea of the sorts of programs they are involved in galleries but also public spaces, and really get to know them. But also, your local galleries and arts organizations, just follow along and build up relationships with those people because they’re going to be your best educators within the industry. And then, get in and have a look at the different types of grants that are available, the awards and things like that because with arts, there’s so many different ways of promoting yourself, and a lot of them aren’t just the traditional ways of doing things online. So, there’s lots of publications and awards and stuff that really align with different sorts of disciplines. So, just getting an idea of what’s out there in the industry so that you can align those things with the different artists that you work with.

Kate:

Fantastic. Well, it all sounds very exciting. What have you got coming up, Ali, and where can people find out more about you?

Ali:

So, at the moment I’m working with my local artists, helping connect them with funding opportunities and create work. And you can find more information about that from my Facebook and Instagram accounts, so I’m @alistrachanwrites on those accounts. And you can also find me on my website, which is www.alistrachan.com.

Kate:

Okay, well thanks so much Ali, for sharing your knowledge on the show. Now, regular listeners will know that at this time we read out a review of the show and today we’re giving a shout out to That’s [inaudible] from the UK. I’ve probably not said that right. Really enjoying your podcast and I’m going to be putting on lots of these tips to use it in my new marketing manager role. I listen to a lot of marketing related podcasts and this is my new favorite. Thank you for your high quality content from [Kay] in Glasgow.

Kate:

Thank you very much and thanks to you for listening. If you liked the show, don’t forget to leave a rating review on iTunes, a rating or review on iTunes, Spotify, on Stitcher, or wherever you heard the podcast. It will help others find us and make us happy. You can also head to the HotCopyPodcast.com and leave your comment on the blog post for this episode. So, thank you again, Ali.

Belinda:

Thank you.

Ali:

Thank you very much.

Kate:

And thank you Belinda.

Belinda:

Great, thank you.

Kate:

And until next time, happy writing.

 

The post E114: Copywriting for the arts with Ali Strachan appeared first on A copywriting podcast for copywriters.

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