Find Your Audience by Sharing Your Process—Austin Kleon on Showing Your Work

Austin Kleon

Since quitting Platform University, I’ve been looking for new guidance on building an online presence. The universe responded with Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon. I feel blessed.

Austin’s book is loaded with heart. He explains how to build a platform in ways that benefit everyone: you, your followers, and your peers.

“Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love,” Austin writes, “and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff.”

Following is the table of contents for Show Your Work with my annotations. Please do read the book.

1. You don’t have to be a genius

Nobody creates in isolation. Join a community of like-minded people who freely exchange ideas.

Look for a gap in the conversation that you can fill, even if you know nothing about it. Learn about it, and share what you learn.

Voice emerges naturally when you talk about what you love.

You don’t have to have a near-death experience to get perspective and inspiration. Just read obituaries.

2. Think process, not product

On your way to producing finished products, share your works-in-progress. Talk about your “influences, inspiration, and tools.”

Combine pieces of your works-in-progress and shape them into something that you can share online.

3. Share something small every day

Take a few minutes to “find one little piece of your process that you can share.”

Before sharing something ask: Is this helpful, entertaining, or both?

Big things get built from lots of small pieces that you create daily. For example, tweets can become blog posts that become book chapters.

“Don’t think of your website as a self-promotion machine, think of it as a self-invention machine.”

4. Open up your cabinet of curiosities 

Talk about your influences—your heroes; the people you follow; the things you read, watch, and view.

Go “dumpster diving”: sort through the stuff that everyone else is ignoring and share any inspiration that you find there.

When you share someone else’s work, give context: who made it, how they made it, why you care about it, and where people can find more by that person.

5. Tell good stories

When you tell a compelling story about how and why you created something, you create interest in your work.

Novelist John Gardner described the basic structure of most stories: “A character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw.”

Practice describing what you do in terms that people understand. Limit yourself to two sentences.

6. Teach what you know

Whenever you learn something, teach it. Share reference material and step-by-step instructions.

7. Don’t turn into human spam

Promote other people’s work as well as your own.

Stop worrying about how many followers you have. Just share work that’s worth noticing.

If you consistently feel depleted after hanging out with people, avoid them.

Share your secrets with the people who share your obsessions.

Get together with people “IRL”—in real life. Face-to-face.

8. Learn to take a punch

When you put your work out into the world, be prepared for criticism. Take a deep breath and remember that you are more than your work.

Focus on feedback from the people who matter most to you.

9. Sell out

Forget the starving artist stereotype. Much of the world’s greatest art was made for money.

Set a fair price for the work that you want to sell. Then ask people to buy through donations, crowd funding, or “buy now” and “hire me” buttons on your website.

Give away great content and collect email addresses. Then when you have something remarkable to sell, e-mail everyone on your list.

Say yes to unexpected opportunities to do more of the work that you love. Then before you get too busy, learn to say no.

Give credit to your mentors and fans. Offer them opportunities to share their own work.

10. Stick around

It’s a cliché but often true: Success comes to those who persevere.

As soon as you finish a project, ask yourself what you missed and what you could have done better. There’s your next project.

Take sabbaticals—even if they’re limited to a workout or walk through the park.

When you feel like you’re not learning anymore, become a beginner at something else.

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