David Smooke studied economics and creative writing in university because he liked to write and felt economics had real world applications. He believed these two areas of study would be practical skills to have for his career.
After graduating, David got a job as a journalist, but felt his creativity was being stifled. He was given assignments, and was given very little leeway in how he could apply his creativity.
So he saved up a few months rent and moved to San Francisco. This turned out to be the pivotal moment in David’s career. It was here that he got his first taste of marketing while working for a startup.
At the startup David honed his marketing and community building skills. The lessons he learned here allowed him to start his own marketing firm called Art Map Inc.
In this episode, David talks about taking small incremental steps, the importance of community, and why you shouldn’t hold yourself back.
Here are three things you can learn from David:
Small Incremental Steps Work
Many artists want to run before they even learn to crawl. They want to be a well-known, successful, artist, without figuring out what steps will help them get there.
If you’ve had trouble reaching your goals, that’s a sign you might need to slow down. Instead of trying to tackle your tasks full speed, you need to break your goal down into smaller, more manageable, parts.
David believes everyone should work at their own speed. “Everyone moves at their own pace and whatever their age is irrelevant.”
He believes we need to position ourselves to make giant leaps by taking incremental steps. “You have to do a million of these incremental steps to even be in a position to make the leap, whatever the leap is.”
So, no matter what stage in life you’re in, you can make strides towards your goal. You just need to be patient and practical about it.
The Importance of Community
One of the most important and overlooked aspects of a successful creative career is finding your tribe or community. As artists, many of us would prefer to work alone or in isolation, but we can’t do everything ourselves. The most successful artists have a community they can count on in their moments of need.
David believes community engagement is much more important than vanity metrics like likes. An small active community around your work can make the world of a difference.
“One hundred likes aren’t worth as much as one comment. Someone else actually contributing and being a part of it is always been more meaningful to me.”
David owes the growth of his agency and publications to the community he’s built around them.
“Really a lot of the initial growth, from the beginning, I owe to the community.”
It has allowed him to grow his following from zero to tens of thousands of subscribers. It is how he built his business.
Don’t Hold Yourself Back
One thing that holds artists back from growing their audience is holding work to themselves. If you have a tendency to hold yourself back when sharing your art, you are doing your fans a disservice.
“If you’re a good artist, you’re probably doing a lot more than you’re putting online, and you’re probably more interesting to look at your actual work and talk to you then it is to browse and search for you on the internet. So closing that identity gap is a lot of where I would start with.”
David also believes you should share your work before it’s even finished. It allows people to see your process while you’re in the act of creation.
“I would also say that a major barrier that I see is that people being scared to put things out there before they’re what they would call finished. You know, it’s very acceptable and good marketing to put out there the process that you’re doing, while you’re doing it.”
Don’t wait for your work to end up in a gallery, or in the hands of your customer, to share it. Be proactive with sharing your art.
“You shouldn’t wait to finish a painting, get it in a gallery, get it sold, and wait for that customer to put the painting online. You don’t have to do that to market your art.”
What many artists fail to realize is that your work is interesting to other people. People are interested in your process and how you create. Share that with them and you will start to build a community around your work.
“There are so many things around what you’re doing that’s interesting content to other people, that will create your audience and community.”
- about David
- Art + Marketing – started around the same time Medium started
- didn’t like ads around content
- talked to other writers and found common threads
- grew up on east coast and went to school in west coast
- creating is different from executing
- builders vs. visionaries
- creative things as a kid
- wrote a play in the first grade
6:46 “When you’re younger, you communicate the way you want to communicate, and then when you’re older, you realize you have to cater your communication to whoever you’re talking to a little bit, just so you’re not speaking two different languages entirely.”
- his first grade play
- had to write something to explain why he wasn’t in class
- college studies
- degrees in economics and creative writing
- didn’t really know what he wanted to do
- chose based on class/teacher and what he was interested in
- has always liked to write
- the real world application of economics
- being pigeon holed into certain areas of study
- me wanting to be a Disney animator as a kid
- being a journalist
- Talent Hits the Road article
- was given topics to write about
- saw the inner workings of a newspaper
- leaving journalism job
- moved to San Francisco with three months of rent saved up
- started working with Smart Recruiters
- two criteria to hire for marketing: writing and being friendly
17:57 “When I’ve been hiring since, I basically said to marketers, ‘How well can you write and are you friendly?’ and really, if I could only have two criteria to evaluate someone to hire in marketing, that’s where I would go because it’s basically saying ‘Can you communicate effectively and do people like communicating with you?'”
18:57 “Frankly if people are listening and it’s like ‘I’m not positioned for that job or I’m not positioned to be an artist full-time.’ You just have to be honest with what your position is and you can still be what you want to be.”
- taking small steps
- good thing vs. great things and how long they take
- experimenting vs. making steps towards your goals
- building awareness
19:42 “Everyone moves at their own pace and whatever their age is irrelevant.”
19:59 “You have to do a million of these incremental steps to even be in a position to make the leap, whatever the leap is.”
- things he learned at Smart Recruiters
- doing well for a small company vs. larger business
- Disrupted by Dan Lyons
- getting burned and churned to the ground
- seeing things function at a high growth level
- making small iterations and improving
- never knowing what will bring the most traffic/attention
- success is dependent on persistence
- company values
- write every day – something you have to do every day to get better
- amplify the publish button – creating a larger network for content, no content in silos
- make clients smile – enjoy doing business with people, surrounding yourself with people enjoy working with
- serve the community – giving back and create value in the community
- add art whenever possible – attract and create things that aren’t boring
- starting his own marketing firm Art Map Inc
34:27 “It’s pretty fun to grow a thing. I really like that this is a place and this is the type of things that are in this place and this is how I make this place a lot cooler and then to see other people respond to it.”
- initial writings for Art + Marketing and how he grew it
- was writing about engagement marketing
- creating deeper engagements with articles
- being against vanity likes
35:52 “For every like on an article… one hundred likes aren’t worth as much as one comment. Someone else actually contributing and being a part of it is always been more meaningful to me.”
36:21 “Really a lot of the initial growth, from the beginning, I owe to the community.”
- choosing new publications
- the name Art Map Inc.
- was building an app while at Smart Recruiters
- backgrounds of maps are boring
- the picture taken in an area would be used as the background
- app failed because it needed more resources
- he thinks in terms of arts and maps, and likes to meet creative people
- was building an app while at Smart Recruiters
41:17 “Everyone should fail a project. If you haven’t failed a project that’s kind of big, you should probably just create a new project for yourself… hopefully it succeeds obviously, but you’ll definitely be better at your next project.”
- what Art Map Inc. does
- content/social media marketing, public relations, etc.
- getting initial customers and traction
- beginning of sales and users
- recommendations for artists who want to grow their businesses
- ask about who they are and what they do
- how does internet reflect who you are and what you do
- showing people the progress of your work
- examples of things you can do:
- take a pic of your brush
- talk about the story behind your work
43:26 “If you’re a good artist, you’re probably doing a lot more than you’re putting online, and you’re probably more interesting to look at your actual work and talk to you then it is to browse and search for you on the internet. So closing that identity gap is a lot of where I would start with.”
43:55 “I would also say that a major barrier that I see is that people being scared to put things out there before they’re what they would call finished. You know, it’s very acceptable and good marketing to put out there the process that you’re doing, while you’re doing it.”
44:06 “It’s very acceptable and good marketing to put out there the process that you’re doing, while you’re doing it.”
44:24 “You shouldn’t wait to finish a painting, get it in a gallery, get it sold, and wait for that customer to put the painting online. You don’t have to do that to market your art.”
44:45 “There are so many things around what you’re doing that’s interesting content to other people, that will create your audience and community.”
- what you do is interesting to other people and why you should just release your work
- your choices are interesting to other people, not just the finished product
- deadlines are important
- keep people updated on what you’re building
- Kanye West – all the work he shared before releasing The Life of Pablo
- dissecting the real vs. the showmanship
- David’s walking podcast
- started walking to work and listened to podcasts
- walked around with friends and talked about different subjects
- 20-25 min conversations walking around San Francisco
- wants to work on it as albums
- commonalities between his projects
- storytelling content
- sense of community
- Dogs of War album has clips from all different people/eras
- iterative process of making music
- giving feedback on music
- fostering a creative community
- writers and networks need each other to grow
- setting up win/win interactions
- mutually beneficial arrangements
- all publications need content
54:18 “Instead of you ask/I ask, it’s more like one on one projects. If it does well, we’re both better off. So I think fundamentally shifting that arrangement creates a lot more long-term value for both parties.”
- future of his work
- growing his media and content marketing
- blazing a new path
- Should his work be to serve clients or to generate media?
- favorite quote
- the line between art and practicality
- your perspective makes all the difference
- the value and practicality of ice cube trays
“I recently took up ice sculpting. Last night I made an ice cube. This morning I made 12, I was prolific.” – MItch Hedberg
“Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.” ― Andy Warhol
- morning routine
- thinking about what he’ll do during the day
- walk to work and listen to what’s going on in the street/listen to podcasts
- creative people
- definition of creativity
- working your creativity muscle like working your physical body
1:07:07 “Creatvity is connecting dots that other people haven’t thought of, but once they see them, it makes more sense. It’s a lot of how you see the world, and how you can help others see it differently.”
- coming up with a better definition of creativity than he has