Find Your Niche - or Don't... What it Means to Brand Yourself in 2021
This article is a call to all creators out there - quiet creators who make something only for themselves, monetization fiends like myself. Creators who rarely create, creators who are tenacious. This is a call to every creator out there to forget all the advice you've taken in - forget when all those articles told you consistency was key, to find your niche, to stay one track minded.
It's 2021. There isn't just one track for a person anymore.
I was having a really enlightening conversation with my ever so lovely (and wise) boyfriend recently. We just moved in together and he, a Twitch streamer, has been more than happy to let me use his wonderful gaming/streaming set up for my own desires. I could be a streamer too! (You can check me out on Twitch if you'd like!) I've been enjoying a bit of horror, some old school games that bring back all the nostalgia, and sometimes I even stream my photography work! but I'm getting ahead of myself. Being able to use his setup and try something new is something I was so thankful for. Ultimately, this spawned a larger conversation with myself about what my intentions were as a creator. Yesterday, my boyfriend and I had a pretty in depth conversation about branding, marketing, and what I wanted to do next in my career.
As a photographer, I've definitely been stuck trying to stick to one track. I've been lucky enough to have some fabulous mentors and friends out there (hello Sarah Canning and Julie Floro!) to inspire me and throw me advice when I get stuck. But if I'm being perfectly honest, I've spent the majority of my photography career trying to model myself after other creators, trying to fit into molds that just weren't me. Could I do fine art photography? Creative photography? Fantasy? Families and children? Being inspired by others is never a bad thing, but it was getting to a point where I couldn't even identify what my own goals and intentions were.
Without meaning too, I had isolated myself - from myself. Who exactly was I trying to be as a creator? Photography is a tough business with lots of competition, and I found a lot of the advice I was receiving was to find your niche, stick to it, and grow inside of it.
All in all, this is not terrible advice. Am I writing an article that completely combats this idea? Well, yes, yes I am. But for certain jobs and creators this can be a make or break point. I actually found I was receiving the exact same advice when it came to streaming on Twitch - stick to your niche and your audience will return looking for the same content every time. Like I said, not bad advice because this is oftentimes true.
And this advice has been given to me from so many different resources, when I found myself wanting to try something new like Twitch streaming, I felt kind of stuck. How could I brand myself on social media as both a fun, entertaining Twitch streamer but also a professional and passionate photographer? It's 2021, which means branding goes all across social media. I can't ONLY promote my Twitch on Twitch, and I can't only promote my photography from a website. These things span across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Patreon, and much more! I've also been interested in restarting my Patreon again, but I've felt so daunted by the task of combining all of these different creative outlets that I don't even know where to begin.
And that's exactly where my boyfriends advice came in. It felt like I was having an epiphany, except I had to give him all the credit.
I am not branding my photography business. I am not marketing my Twitch. I am not advertising the creative projects I am doing.
I am branding, marketing, and advertising myself.
People will come back for me - whether I am playing horror games one night, taking self portraits the next morning, or editing a wedding the evening after. I could share my calligraphy, I could talk about my writing career, I could play a game I've never played before. Because ultimately, what I am trying to develop is myself as a creator, not the individual projects I'm doing.
And this absolutely applies to you too. What do you create? Are you a digital illustrator who loves to play Legend of Zelda? First of all, that's awesome, you sound like a very cool person - but don't hesitate to do both in the same places. If you're using your Instagram to advertise your next Zelda stream, but also use it to post illustrations, stop hesitating and use the platform to your advantage rather than let it intimidate you. Scared your feed won't be pretty and organized? Take an hour to plan out the next week or two of posts and coordinate them together. Not sure if people will come back for more? Then you need to be taking advantage of everything in each social media platform to make sure you're branding YOURSELF. Go live on instagram, do a Q&A on youtube, share blogs on facebook, post polls and make sure people are interacting.
I could write an entire other article about how you can use social media to your advantage to brand yourself, but I think I should probably save that for another day.
What I'm trying to say here is that YOU are your own brand. It's your personality that brings people back. It's your content, too, I will never ever deny that - but if you're looking to add some variety, if you've been feeling scared to branch out, I hope you take this advice to heart and start a new path to marketing yourself. Because there's absolutely nothing wrong with exploring other avenues or creativity. There's nothing wrong with branching out, exploring, sharing EVERTHING that you do if it's something you want to share.
And hey, not all creators are monetization-crazy like I am. From the get go, I knew I wanted to build my photography career and make money from it. It's just how I've always been. Some creators still love their day jobs and just enjoy creating on the side. What I'm trying to stress here is that even if you're not viewing this from a monetized point of view, growth is always welcome and you can grow by spending more time marketing yourself as a person and creating a brand from your personality.
I'll give a personal example. My lovely boyfriend is witty, hilarious, and clever. He's quick to the joke, he keeps up really well with others, and knows how to make people feel comfortable. This is why he's so wonderful as a Twitch streamer, but also loves to create games and art and continues to stream all types of games and creating, because people come back for his entertaining personality. He's truly a variety streamer and he's proof that it works. (You can check out his channel if you don't believe me!)
My other personal example is still in development - it's me! As a photographer, I strive to be both professional and passionate. But I've never been a quiet or reserved person - I want my couples and clients to have fun, be honest and personable, and I want to capture the best of reality. As a streamer, I've really been trying to capitalize on my weakness when it comes to video games, and turning that into entertainment. Jumpscares destroy me, puzzles confuse me, and yet I'm having a hell of a time trying.
I'm getting distracted. You can clearly tell this has been on my mind - I'm trying to develop myself, and branding takes time.
I hope you, as a creator, can take something and run with this. I think if you're someone who truly only has one creative interest or only wants to brand one thing, there's nothing wrong with sticking to your niche or track. But in my life I've felt in myself and in other creators around me, there's always something new and exciting calling us to action - and there's absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to monetize or advertise a variety of creative outlets or methods.
So in 2021, let's leave our niches behind and start to focus on branding what really matters, what people really come back for - ourselves!