Artist’s Guide to Working With Marketers – Part One

You’ve done the unthinkable and sold out. Now what?


by Dave Robson

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So: you’ve done the unthinkable and sold out.

We aren’t going to take a minute and hold a little funeral for your dreams. Or for the lurching corpse of the zombified news media. There’s no time to be precious here. Content marketing can make you money, but more importantly, it can give you the opportunity to create stuff.

You’ll Have to Learn a New Language

The world of marketing is all about buy-ins, brand identity, disruptors, hyperlocalisation, engagement, snackable content . . . and believe us, we could go on. And on.

And on.

The point we’re making is there are a lot of buzzwords and jargon involved in marketing. And business in general, actually. Believe it or not, it isn’t all bullshit. Some marketing buzzwords are necessary to talk about concepts that only marketers really care about. Fortunately, learning this new language is very simple. Just get used to saying the phrase:

“I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with that term. What does it mean?”

Aside from getting an explanation, you get one other key piece of information. Any good marketer can give you a nice and simple explanation of the jargon they’re using. Sometimes they’ll even draw you a nifty diagram.

But beware the marketer who struggles mightily to define the jargon they use.

The point of jargon, of course, is to communicate field and profession specific terminology. It’s completely necessary. Unfortunately, some people disguise the fact that they don’t know what they’re doing by adopting and inappropriately using jargon. Asking for a simple explanation of the terminology being used helps you separate competent marketers from the pretenders.

Besides, good marketers are natural storytellers—they’re usually passionate about explaining marketing-specific concepts.

Always Have a Contract

Let’s emphasize a word here: “always”. Always. Always. Always.

Lots of artists new to the field of corporate freelancing take an ad hoc approach to agreements. This is a terribly foolish thing that will result in a very expensive lesson. Even if the marketing team you’re dealing with seems nice and honest, remember that they have bosses too, and those bosses might not be so nice.

Alternatively, even if everyone involved enters into the project with the best of intentions, sometimes disagreements arise and that’s where the contract becomes valuable.

At the very least, your contract should include:

  • An itemized list of the work you’re doing and the compensation rate for said work.
  • A deadline or schedule of deadlines for the work.
  • A deadline or schedule of deadlines for your compensation.
  • Some idea of what the editing process will look like, particularly in respect to who will be involved and what kind of timeframe it will take.
  • How you will be credited, creatively speaking.
  • How you will handle project cancellation, by either party, and what kind of compensation you’re entitled to in the case that happens.

Lots of artists aren’t set up for legal representation, particularly early in their careers. The smart move here is to contact your professional association. Whether you’re a writer, film maker, visual artist, songwriter, or whatever, you’ll have a professional association in your country, state, or municipality. Your professional association will have some guidance on their website, someone you can speak with in person, or even some contract examples or boilerplate you can use.

Don’t work without a contract. We can’t stress that enough. And we’re marketers.