I am having dinner tonight with an old friend whom I have not spoken to at length or hung out with for a couple years. He is in the creative field (an illustrator). He does not follow social media and new media as much as I am and I wanted to tell him about all of the opportunities that are available, so I made this list. This is also especially relevant to any striking Hollywood writers that might now turn to the web to make a living. This is relevant to filmmakers, musicians, writers, designers, visual artists, and analyst, and consultants.
So, here is my advice (all from observation, none learned first hand) for all creatives who are new to the Internet an need to know the key points success with the web:
1. Give away what is free to make infinite copies as a way to get noticed. License some of it Under Creative Commons, and encourage your fans to remix these works. Example: Cory Doctorow’s books, Ze Frank’s online community.
2. Sell/license most of your works that are free to make infinite copies of, and when multiple parties can pay you multiple times for it. Examples: the preachings and teachings of Mike Masnick at Techdirt.
3. Sell (don’t give away) the resources that are scare at a premium, regardless of the time they take to create (short amount or long amount of time).
4. Use social networking sites, blogs, podcasting, Twitter, blogsearch, and IM to stay in contact with fans. Use some of the ideas they suggest to you (the good ones, of course). Take the time to thank them individually and/or publicly. Meet with them in person if you can. Never poo-poo a fan’s idea publicly. If you don’t make time for these things, you limit your visibility to the market and it will be much harder for you to succeed. Examples: Ask A Ninja, Ze Frank.
6. Never get into any exclusive licensing deals for the brand you create, (unless it is no longer fun AND you can retire and live off the payout for rest of your life and/or you are ready to start your new venture). Never get into any exclusive licensing deals for ALL works you create.
7. When starting out, never order 100’s of physical goods to resell. Use a service that makes one-off’s on demand. example: use lulu.com
8. When you need to get work done that you cannot do and you cannot hire anyone or have no enthusiastic fans to do the work, partner with others at the same level but with different skills and cross promote each other. Example: almost all open source projects.
9. Take smart risks in areas where competitors will not. Break the rules. Break some laws. Be remarkable or don’t bother (hat tip to SethGodin). Example: Jet Blue, YouTube, Perez Hilton
10. Try not to compete with others, try to work with them, differentiate, harmonize. Example: Nintendo Wii
11. When you are dead sure you know how to appeal to a niche in a big way, never fall under the pressure to compromise by trying to appeal to a broader audience. That spells mediocrity. Example: BoingBoing.net, Anti-example: G4TV.
12. If your dayjob is in the creative field or is interesting to a lot of people at any level, suggest to your company that you blog about the work of your company, publicly disclosing the name of the company. If and when you leave, you will take the personal brand you have built with you, and now you have more value in the market. Use your position to lead innovation in your area. Examples (most are now freelance consultants or entrepreneurs): Micki Krimmel (formerly of Revver), Tara Hunt (formerly of Riya), Chris Messina (formerly of Flock), Jeremiah Owyang (formerly of Podtech.net and Hitachi Data Systems, coined the term “Web Strategy/Strategist” as far as I am concerned), Robert Scoble (formerly of Microsoft), Niall Kennedy (formerly of Technorati and Microsoft), Tantek Çelik (formerly of Technorati, Microsoft, and Apple).
13. Be ready and willing to embrace an opportunity, market, strategy, audience, or demographic that you had not planned on or did not expect unless you are certain it will make you miserable. This means you don’t have to plan to far ahead because there is no way you will know what is going to happen. Examples: Slide.com, RockYou.com, iLike.com who all jumped on the chance to make the first Facebook F8 apps and found success. Anti-example: Friendster who deleted fake profiles people were really having fun with (circa 2003) which drove users to MySpace.
14. Unless he or she is a social media superstar, never follow a lawyers advice against any of these guidelines. If this happens, the lawyer is thinking too much about his or her short term financial gain and not about your long term successes. Anti-example: RIAA, MPAA.
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