Profile: Alex Mathers and the Red Lemon Club
Many creative freelancers struggle in their businesses because they don’t do enough promotion.
Face it, promotion doesn’t have the greatest reputation. It’s as if you’re supposed to don a promotion hat that turns you into one of those overly gregarious car salesmen.
Well, here comes Alex Mathers from a help site for creatives called the Red Lemon Club. His advice for the rest of us? Promote less.
That’s right. Toss that car salesman’s promotional hat in the trash and try something different. In a recent issue of his Red Lemon Club e-newsletter, Alex said:
We face a deluge of advertisements and marketing from all angles, every hour of every day. It’s pretty much unavoidable. It can be stifling, and it can put us off the very products that people are trying to get us to use.
When it comes to finding success in this area, many organisations and people are failing to see that what works is almost always the counterintuitive option. In this case, it is in what we do not advertise that lies the power. It goes against the crowd, and amongst this chaos, it is what works.
We see this with the writer who has a book to sell, but brings value to people by giving talks and letting those that enjoy her talks make their own mind up about buying her book.
Tip from Martha: Have you ever spoken at a Rotary Club meeting? Would you like to? You’ll be strongly advised to educate the audience, rather than promote your services. So, here’s your all-purpose speaker’s slogan. Educate. Don’t Promote.
Tip from Alex: If the idea of getting up in front of an audience scares you out of your wits, try this advice from Alex: You can bring a lot of value to your interactions by having a pleasant attitude. That’s all. Just be pleasant.
Want more advice on how to promote your art without turning into one of those sleazy self-promoters? Or an overly gregarious car salesman? Check out Alex’s new eBook, Promo 3.0. There’s a lot of good advice about building relationships with a network which, over time, will turn into quite the sales force for you.
Why did he write Promo 3.0? Because of how creatives are. Alex says:
Many creatives work on a self-employed basis. As such, the fact that you need to be running all aspects of a business is often overlooked and ignored. Many creative people dedicate a proportionally oversized chunk of time to actually creating new work, over actively promoting it, and tending to other things like admin and finance. This and being unsure as to how to actually gain exposure, makes up most of the problem.
And don’t get us started on what we think of promotion. Just don’t.
Alex observes, “A large part of the creative community also tend to hold a very negative view of promotion, feeling it to be ‘salesy’ and a cold-hearted, selfish business.”
Promo 3.0 is Alex’s effort toward changing this attitude – and showing “creative people and others with something to share, that attracting fans and buyers can be a positive and dignified process, that serves to benefit everyone.”
Hooray for the Autodidacts!
Now, let’s meet Alex. He’s a a veritable citizen of the world, having been born in Copenhagen and growing up to be a Londoner living and working in Tokyo.
When not holding forth over at the Red Lemon Club, Alex is an accomplished illustrator. He does a lot of work for a company you’ve probably heard of – Google.
Okay, so you’re probably wondering where Alex went to art school. The answer is: He didn’t. Alex’s degrees are in geography and real estate. As an illustrator, he’s self-taught. So, call him an autodidact – and a good one.
About that Name – and 4 Other Questions for Alex…
Question 1: About that Name: When you tell people that you run a help site for creatives called the Red Lemon Club, you’re going to be asked a lot of questions. First question I had for Alex was how did the Red Lemon Club get its name?
When I was creating the site, I wanted a memorable name to reflect the community feel to the site, that would attract the kinds of creative people who are, or aspire to be, outstanding and to possess something unique. I felt Red Lemon Club was a good fit in that respect.
Question 2: Globe-trotting, Art, and Business: As mentioned above, Alex is a well-traveled illustrator. What do his international experiences bring to his art? And his view of business as a creative freelancer?
I think the most important ingredient in anything that requires creative thought, imagination and building something new, is a sense of feeling alive and motivated. Travel and being stimulated in new ways is one of the best ways to achieve this.
Seeing the world has definitely developed my sense of understanding and connectedness, pushed me out of what I’m comfortable doing, and made me more independent, which are all important insights and skills that transfer well to anyone running a creative business.
Question 3: On Freelancing and Traveling: It’s hard to meet someone like Alex and not feel envious. After all, a lot of us would like to travel the world as a freelancer. What are his recommendations for the rest of us?
For anyone with an interest in travelling the world, whilst continuing to earn money as a freelancer, you need to first ask yourself what is stopping you. More often than not, a lot of the things we think are barriers to doing so can be overcome and dealt with pretty easily.
You need to put in the research before you decide to go somewhere, so that you know roughly what to expect when you go where you want to go, and can actually do the work when you are there. For Japan, I needed a means to actually legally work out there, which involved getting hold of a ‘Working Holiday Visa’ in this case, which gave me a year there to work and travel.
Most of all, preparing for and actually going somewhere requires logical sense. It will be more challenging I suppose in going to the Congo as a wedding photographer than to the US, and for all the technical details you need, this is where your research and contacts become useful.
I would also say to embrace the pressure and sense of fear you might have as well. Not really knowing what you are in for can help you get focused even more, and you will likely be surprised at what you can get out of your time spent overseas as a freelancer.
So, there you have it. If you’re thinking of freelancing internationally, why not give it a go?
Fourth and Finally, A Question of Balance: Regardless of where you are currently freelancing, you’re probably engaged in a balancing act. So, let’s get one more round of advice from Alex, who balances the demands of being an illustrator for hire with those of running a newsletter and eBook publishing business:
I always try and stick to a set of loose goals and do everything I can to cut out distraction from my days, though this isn’t always successful!
Somehow I do manage to fit some of it in, though I inevitably have far more plans and ideas than I can feasibly work with.
The best time-management method I learned was to forget trying to schedule and plan everything to the minute, but to stay motivated by reminding yourself as to why you do what you do each day. The ‘why’ is more emotionally charged, which leads to action, better than making you feel overwhelmed through listing out what it is you need to get done.
Check out Alex’s new eBook, Promo 3.0, Why Creatives are Failing at Promoting their Art, and How to Attract Buyers and Fans in a Modern World.