The internet is nifty. In addition to making it possible for pizza to appear on my front porch without ever speaking to a human, it’s also made it possible for an awful lot of people to make things they love and put them out in the world to find their audience. If you read blogs or listen to podcasts (or, increasingly, read books or listen to music or play games or use knitting patterns or do just about anything else you can think of), chances are awfully good you’re consuming the work of some sort of independent content creator.
Now, that’s a slightly fuzzy phrase, but when I say independent content creator, what I mean is someone who makes things for public consumption without the sheltering umbrella of a larger company. Think self-published authors, musicians with independently-produced albums, bloggers, podcasters, etsy sellers, and scads of others. I’d guess some of this content crosses your path every day (especially when you’re on your computer), and I really hope it makes your day better.
If that’s the case, I want to ask you a favor. I want you to take a minute and see if you can do something to help the folks whose work you enjoy. You see, as fabulous as it is to be able to share things with the world directly, it does mean that you don’t get to call on the services of an advertising or PR department. So, if independent content creators are going to keep making good stuff and sharing it with you, they’re going to need you to spread the word and support what they’re doing. I’ve put together a list of five things that really help.
- Buy the things they sell: I guarantee your favorite content creators like it when you do this, but you probably already know about this option, so I won’t dwell on it. The only thing I’ll mention is that if you buy directly from them (like on their website) rather than from a third party seller (like amazon), there’s a good chance that more of your your purchase goes directly to them.
- Keep up with what they’re doing: If you like someone’s work, consider joining their mailing list or ravelry group, following them on twitter or pinterest, liking them on facebook, or subscribing to their podcast or youtube channel. It may sound silly, but seeing that tally of subscribers/followers/fans grow is a truly lovely feeling. And on a more practical note, if someone can demonstrate that they have a sizable and engaged audience, it is much easier for them to do things like talk to publishers or advertisers, propose collaborations with others, or arrange support for new projects.
- Share their work publicly: This is a big one, and it’s pretty darn easy. By ‘share their work’ I mean things like retweet their messages when they announce new products, pin your favorite images from their blog, and be sure to link your projects to their patterns on ravelry. This word-of-mouth publicity is tremendously helpful (it’s far more effective than any purchased ad), and I promise they love it!
- Write reviews of their work: This is another big one, though it does take a tiny bit more work than clicking ‘pin’ or ‘like’ or ‘retweet.’ But if you’ve got the time, writing a review of someone’s work (on places like amazon, goodreads, or board game geek) is a really wonderful thing to do. Having reviews helps new people find their work and boosts sales tremendously. And it doesn’t have to feel like a school book report! Just a sentence or two describing your favorite things about the piece is perfect.
- Ask your local venues to carry their work or have them in for a visit: This one involves a bit more face-to-face interaction, and I know that’s not always practical. But if you really love someone’s work, talk to your local store about carrying it. Even better, ask if they’d invite someone in for a book signing, class, or other special event. You never know, this might end up with you and your favorite creator having dinner together after their event at your local store.
Doing any of those things will help support the people whose work makes your world a happier place. Only one of them costs any money, and four can be done at home, in your pajamas, in front of your computer. So the next time you find yourself enjoying something someone has made and put out in the world for you, take a second and see if you might be able to do something to make it easier for them to keep making the stuff you like. I promise they will appreciate it!