How to market yourself if you’re an independent artist, a freelancer or consultant. #BobbyLefebre

Welcome to another episode of Around the Block Talk. I’m your host, Los. Today we have the honor of having Bobby Lefebre,, who is a writer, performer and cultural worker here in Denver, Colorado. Thank you for joining us today man. Thanks for the invitation. I appreciate you coming through man. So you are a multi-talented, multi-disciplined artist here in Denver, Colorado. You are also recognized on the national level as well. How did you get started? You know I I got started early on as an actor. Acting was sort of the first art form that I studied in and went with, found poetry that morphed into a combination of both, some community work and so I really try to merge all those things in what I do. Wow and that’s and that’s been a lengthy history you know you kind of evolved. Did you have all these everything that you do now like what is the type of work that you’re doing right now like what kind of projects are you working on now? You know a little bit of everything so I those three things that you mentioned: writer, performer and cultural worker, those are sort of the the buckets that I keep my creative work in, so as a writer I’m a poet, I’m a playwright and right now I’m working on a webseries sort of a short form web TV type show called Welcome to the North Side. So as a writer I do those things as a performer I’m an actor, I’m a performance poet. performance artist and as a cultural worker I really use arts as a tool for provocation and social dialogue, critique and change so those things sort of merge together to form my creative professional identity. Wow and that’s how long has that taken you to actually develop all those three factors. A long time man I’ve been I’ve been doing this work for a long long time so you know from the time that I was 15 I’m 35 now so I’ve been doing creative work,community work, since you know my mid-teens. For two decades wow that’s a long history a lot of people don’t even have that long of a career yet you know. Yeah yeah that’s true. That’s pretty great so today you know we’re going to be talking about you know there’s going to be a great episode because you’re going to be breaking down to knowledge for a a good sector of the US that are freelancers, consultants and independent artists. You know I know that you were you came out as an independent artist but you’ve also been hired to do a lot of different projects. You’ve been hired by universities, businesses, the government to do pieces for them whether it’s writing, performance or whatnot yeah you’ve been on TEDx as well and that’s a you know amazing you know thing to have on your resume you know in terms of experience and and what you’ve done in your past. So I think today is going to be really powerful because you’re really going to break it down for people who you know may not have a full-on business or have several employees but also are you know independent you know they may be working in where they’re going in and working with different businesses or different individuals or an artist who’s trying to get commissioned right? So that’s really a freelance kind of a area if you will and also like a consultant because you get advised for your expertise and as a you know cultural expert you know. So today we have three points that you’re going to break down for us right? What are those three points and then we’ll go into each one individually? Yeah so the first point really is is really being able to define yourself you know the second point that I’m going to touch on is creating community around your work and then the last one is is you know really about consistency and longevity you know once you do the work for a while you have to maintain it at a certain level and you want to always look forward to you know how to grow in the future so those are the three things that I guess we’ll talk about today. Okay awesome. And just a little backstory Bobby is really natural at promoting himself, connecting with people, really leveraging his network. We had this little discussion about he’s not a full-on marketer per se as a professional marketer but he uses a lot of techniques that he’s grown into, learned on his own over the over the years that really really do work and now we’re kind of sort of categorizing them probably for the first time for you you know in that sense. So the first point is you know defining yourself. Why is that important first and that goes for any business but especially for freelancers and consultants and artists who can be seen as sort of like a general term and not very specific, why is it so important to define define yourself? You know there’s there’s a lot of competition you know and really being able to draw from your strengths as an artist, as a community member and really being able to have a confidence in your work. Once you have a strong confidence in what you’re doing you’re then able to take that confidence, those things that you’ve learned and the really creating a persona that you use as an artist that is recognizable you know you want to you want to be able to stand out and be recognizable for your work and that’s really rooted in in a really confident place of where you come from. You have to to really put work in to get to a place where you’re comfortable who you are and really the defining yourself is really just an expansion of those things that you already are, that you’re already doing, the the work that you’re doing you want to just really be able to shine a you know shine a spotlight on that in a way that resonates with people and by creating that identity you’re I mean I guess the term is branding, you’re branding yourself in your work in a way that is attractive to people and and and that’s that’s part of that that you know identity building. And that’s a very key component because you know you actually have artistic talents in multiple different facets. Did you start out that way or did you first define yourself in one type of art, one type of medium and then expand? How did that work for you? Yeah yeah you know I think one thing that’s good about you know creatives these days and even just just professionals is we don’t necessarily have to be siloed into oh this is what I do right? We can do multiple things but if you do decide to do multiple things you have to also dedicate time and energy to make sure that you’re really developing in those areas and that you begin to see the places that they intersect in overlap so like I said I started as a performer the first time that I ever explored anything artistic was as an actor. In eighth grade Mrs. Allen if you’re out there, she brought me into a creative project and put me on stage for the first time and I had found that that was an amazing way that I was able to express myself. I got into poetry through attending an event here locally called Cafe Nuba, it’s hot and it’s black for those people who remember Café Nuba. I went to a poetry reading at the Gemini Tea Emporium in Five Points and it was the first time that I had seen performance poetry so these people on stage doing this thing that was with poetry but it was also performative and I had always been a writer, I kept a journal and things like that and then I saw these people performing poetry which reminded me of actors monologues and I immediately fell in love with it I started writing and then I started you know not only writing from my own sort of release and in my journal but I started to write to perform you know? So I was writing things that were very personal, very social and then found an outlet to perform this and then I you know you develop skills, you’re building networks and then you know before you know that it’s sort of avalanches into new things and so just following the energy about how those things come to be is has been something that I’ve really been in tune with; is how I follow that creative energy and meet new people, build on opportunities and you know so that’s sort of morphed into the multi you know dimensional creative persona that I have and that I have created for myself. And that’s really important what you you pointed out is that you know if you really are going to expect to make a living off of your art or if you’re a freelancer or consultant you really have to make sure that you put in quality quality time and effort so you get quality results. No one’s going to hire a sort of okay artists you know I mean. You probably get a lot of free invitations to do volunteer work but in terms of really expecting to be paid for it you really have to become a master of your your art right so you can do that. Yeah absolutely spending time you know mastering your craft, figuring out you know how to study, how to read up, how to research that’s all really really important in defining yourself. You have to know the traditions of what you’re coming from in order to do something new and really once you develop that you’re actually responsible for helping create the market too so once you you know you’ve been doing the poetry for a while, you’ve been doing the acting for a while, then you start to figure out you know how you can turn that into something new you know so that for me led into things like talent agents who helped me you know find work as an actor, it led to me pursuing performance poetry on levels at the college and university circuit which required an agent and then you start you know bringing in money from from your work and you turn this passion into something that’s generating you know real income which is is really really an interesting facet of it as well because you know obviously the the foundation of art needs to be genuine you know needs to come from a place of need and desire, but when you begin to monetize that it’s interesting because you have these different forces that are you know telling you that they want you to do certain things and you have to pick and choose what you’re willing to and to not do in that so it’s a really really interesting game. Yeah it is and I love how you described it in terms of like your evolution you know and it does happen by taking solid steps in every facet. Now you know you may not know exactly every decision you’re going to make, most people don’t they go as they are figuring it out but you have to have some foundations and this goes for all artists. If you’re a musician, a painter, a writer, an actor, if you’re if you’re a freelancer or a consultant is the same thing for you you have to all figure out what you’re going to be offering. Obviously it’s it’s a no-brainer if you’re going to open up a gym, if it’s a no-brainer if you’re going to open up a certain type of restaurant, but when it comes to these hybrid kind of careers that really are some of the more exciting careers out there you know you really have to have that foundation and really create quality. That leads us to the next component after you’ve really developed yourself, after you’ve mastered your your artistry, your skill set, how important and why do you need to create some sort of community behind that? You know art by nature is a social act you know so a lot of artists are you know esoteric introverts right that you know we sort of romanticize the idea of what it means to be an artist. You know we think that writers you know sit around in Berets and you know the in that you know visual artists or these you know really esoteric people they’re not you know they are we are having our guilty of all that stuff I guess but the the I believe that the the nature of art is social you know and create art to communicate we create writing to convey personal messages that other people have gone through have been through that resonate with people we create visual art to document a certain experience in existence that we all share together so engaging with community in a genuine way is something that I really tried to do and I found I’ve never really went out searching to create a market for myself yeah I’ve done what I do in the way that I do it and the way I want to do it and it drawn people in in a really organic way so I’ve built relationships with people in communities through I guess networking but if networking really sounds like a business II you know tool whereas I really just attempt to have genuine conversations with people around what I’m doing around what they’re doing and things happen organically you know and so creating that community that network of of other artists and professionals and community is really really important to me and so I think that’s a foundational element of my work which really focuses on using arts and writing and performance and community work to really connect us across the things that would otherwise divide us so well I like what you said in terms of how you created a complete community how what were some of the techniques are in which way did you engage people though I mean you’re creating your art you’ve got it down but how did you actually engage people to grow that community you know I think as a performer it’s sort of you have a leg in already when you’re in front of people and you’re performing something or you’re you know reading poetry or you’re by nature of being in front of people you have the gift and responsibility of having people listen to you and so after you have people listen to you you talk with them about you know hey how did you like that, they engage with you it’s a conversation so art that is not a two-way conversation is boring you know you’re always just you know presenting and never receiving information back, I think you’re doing it wrong and so actively seeking out spaces in which art creates dialog, creating people, creating environments where people feel like they can talk to you and not just hear from you has been really really important and that’s the relationship building that I found is really important is this this way of not only presenting something to someone but also learning from them and then you know relationships just sort of tend to tend to form in those ways. How about when that’s the in person component right and and it’s all networking I mean the networking can be you walk down the street you meet somebody and then you can network there in that moment but let’s say when you’re not in person when you’re not you don’t have that captive audience, what other ways have you been able to reach out to people? Let’s say online like what do you do online? So I think artists need to be really really in tune with what the newest ways of communication are so obviously I utilize social media quite a bit to engage with people you know social media is interesting and that you are able to build an online persona. You’re able to share with people what you want to share with them you’re able to curate in a certain image or you’re you’re able to curate the way that you wish to be perceived which is an interesting thing good and bad because you know you can tell the world you’re this person or this thing but if your work doesn’t really back that up, it’s people are going to find out about it like you’re going to be.. it’s whack when people are “I’m this I’m this” and they don’t deliver with the work yeah and that goes back to really creating a product that you’re you’re you’re you’re proud of so anything that I do I want it to be the best that I can and so utilizing social media, having that consistency in creating a community around that is really really important, finding followers, finding entry points to have communal conversations with people online, pushing my work out in a way that feels good to me you know that sells organic to me that feels you know not contrived and is something I look for so you know the way I message things, the way I talk about what I’m doing usually comes from a first-person narrative you know I’m telling people hey look this is what I’m doing, I’m interested in this, I’m excited about this and I want you to be too so engaging with people on that way through social media has really been really really important. Having that presence is huge you know having social media pressure a huge. Utilizing hashtags and and you know doing what all the kids are doing these days you know technology, what website and branding and and you know creating a physical image too you know having good headshots and and you know having all those tools to really convey the message that you’re trying to convey to people. And I like what you’re talking about because you’re always constantly as an artist, the beautiful space that you live in is that when you make content you’re striving for making original content right and then that goes into especially in social media and online is virility right? When when you create something that goes viral, how important is that to always be thinking about creating something original that can pick up that sort of traction online? Yeah yeah I think that the good thing and the bad thing about online you know marketing or online engagement is it’s created a way for something that otherwise would not have been seen by millions of people or whatever so when something goes viral it’s amazing to see how people have taken to something but it’s also created the need to be more original because the Internet is social media so oversaturated with with messaging and videos and you know you really have to try to do something new and fresh and engage people in a way that they haven’t been engaged before or to take you know a risk with doing something new. So that’s the blessing and the curse of social media is it’s flooded with things and you have to try to figure out where you fit in in in that whole world. And that’s a good thing though don’t don’t look at that as the negative that look at that as sharpening your skill you know steel sharpens steel and when you begin to get out there especially being an artist but let’s not forget freelancers and consultants, you have to be different, you can’t be cookie cutter like everyone else. If you want to be on social media just for fun it doesn’t matter but if you’re trying to really express yourself, get yourself known and really get traction, think of making original content and that’s one of the things the themes that we always go over with the clients that I work with through Blu Bambu is that what are you doing that’s original don’t cookie cutter someone else you know I would hate for someone to watch the show and think about copying someone that’s on the show or identical to let’s say your style or whatnot you need to find your own voice and make it a very good voice if you’re going to be marketing it and getting it on online. It might be like matically share or whatever but you know originality is really what sets us apart from each other right? So like getting back to the space where you’re being more of who you really are that’s what’s interesting to people. People don’t want to see the same thing over and over again. They want to know you as a person, as an artist, as a creative and you know the more original you can be with yourself the more that you can tell your personal you know small circle story, the more it’s really going to resonate with people and so there’s a lot of copycats out there. There’s a lot of buyers, there’s a lot of people that are interested in trying to reproduce things and while I actually believe that you should borrow from you know people that you you know really appreciate, that you you admire look at other people’s hustle you know like look at people that you aspire to be like, look at how they hustle. How do they market themselves? What would social media sites do they use? What works for other people so that’s something that in the conversation I think is really important. When you find someone who you really aspire to be like you know take a look at how they’re utilizing social media and messaging and things like that because that’s that’ll help you build upon your own originality you know you don’t want to bite but you just want to borrow. Yeah and that’s reverse engineering what Bobby’s talking about is looking at what other people are doing and figuring out how they did it, what are the components that work and we do that all the time and anything that you want to do in terms of like getting your voice out you want to see like Bobby said, is you want to stay up to up-to-date with technology and new techniques and approaches and that means you need to look at it and reverse engineering. Car companies, technology companies, all kinds of businesses and entities have done that throughout history, they look at something and reverse engineering and that goes into part of having a strategy you know you’ve built although it’s been like a naturally built strategy for you because the way you’ve just moved up and down with your history and your experience, you have developed some sort of strategy right? Yeah yeah absolutely I think what’s what’s unique I don’t know if it’s unique, but I operate is I have these very two distinct sides of me so I’m mad creative and crazy you know can be esoteric in that traditional artist when I’m creating and when I’m when I’m busy being creative, but I also have this very practical side that allows the business aspect to kick in and I’m very organized and I think artists you know they get a bad rep because they’re not very good business people. They don’t call people back if they do it they don’t return emails and I have a very a fire that keeps me really really well organized and that basic communication with clients or with whoever maybe that’s relying on you to communicate to get work done, I can do that well at the same time being very very creative so the work still happens but the opportunities also are able to be manifested because there’s there’s a split that happens that between the creative and the business side. So my strategy has really been you know being really really engaged in the creative work in creating but also being able to turn that into something more organized and professional to be able to present that in a way that is appealing to people. And that’s super important because if you are going to be an independent artist, a freelancer or consultant, many businesses that come to you either are coming to you because they want originality or they know that they’re going to have a very personable and personal relationship with you otherwise they would go through these big entities, they would go find someone else to fill the shoes but when you do get that assignment, when you do get commissioned to do some work, call them back, be on point, be organized. People have expectations that you need to manage and if you don’t manage those expectations you will definitely lose out on opportunity and that goes for any business but in particular freelancers, independent artists and consultants because these individuals is where I hear a lot that people don’t get called back, people didn’t send the proposal, they didn’t sign the contract and it’s little things like that that if you’re really trying to actually make a living for yourself, if you plan to have a family, if you plan to have a future, you need to be really well organized and all of that is part of your strategy. Well I think it’s also okay to have different professional identities you know so you you’re going to interact like I interact differently when I’m strictly creating something out of need and desire. When I’m commissioned to do something my professional persona is different in that arena because I know I’m being hired to deliver a product and while I’m true to the to the artistic process I know that I’m also creating something for someone else, so being able to code switch between you know creating art for personal use, creating art for community use, creating art for commercial use, it requires the different you know personality and code switching between those things and again there’s always intersection between them. They live they can live together yeah but knowing how to communicate and knowing how to really leverage those different needs is really really important in it there’s nothing bad about that no you know you can I can be you know the person who creates art for the sake of creating art. I can be someone who is hired to write a script for a company and you know those things can coexist. Yeah and they need to coexist in today’s world because things are there’s there’s not a defined line anywhere and having that said that leads us into you’re going to put all this work, now you have to be consistent. What what is the most important reason why to be consistent? Consistency really breeds a sense of longevity you know when you’re when you’re consistent, when you’re constantly producing at a certain level um it builds trust because people have trust in you, they have trust in and not only work products but they have trust in you as a person. When you when you commit to the things that you say you’re going to do it builds character and that professional character is something that you can’t buy. You can’t buy the simple things, you can’t buy loyalty and you can’t buy sincerity and and and all these things live you know together you know so that’s something that I think is really really important, is is creating that that quality that people can rely on and also appreciate you for. So consistency is the thing that keeps you in the game for a long time. If you don’t have consistency you’re going to be like those cats that are the one-hit wonders. What are some of the the key components or ways that you stay consistent? You know you have to continue creating, you have to always be busy and sometimes being busy doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re being productive so you have to be able to also manage the two. You always have to be growing and learning and being humble about sometimes you fail sometimes, You make you make something or you create something that people are going to resonate with or that you’re not going to resonate with and you have to be okay letting those things go but moving along and challenging yourself is really really important trying new things not getting stagnant is really really important and continuing to meet people continuing to build with people to you know make new connections and build new communities and really doing things that matter you know I think a lot of people get burned out because they’re either trying to create something for someone else or they get too wrapped up in the commercial aspects of creating art and in culture and it becomes more of a job than it does you know just coming from a genuine place of meaning to create and saying yes say yes and no being able to say yes and being able to say no to people is really important to like you know I’ll get approached by a non-profit who doesn’t have a budget but I really believe in what they’re doing and I’ll work for free or I’ll get approached by a corporation who has a lot of money who wants to pay me what I don’t think is a fair wage and I say no so being able to say yes to no is a privilege but you should be able to be comfortable with what your your price points are what you’re willing to and to not do and that also helps create longevity because it builds trust it also builds professional characters so so you develop yourself you you created this consistency but how important is it to keep that dialogue going with sharing updates with having good quality content and and using social media why is it important to keep in contact with you it’s just really important to show people that you’re still busy that you’re still moving that you’re still working once you’ve built that reputation of someone who who does good quality work who who cares about you know what they’re doing people tend to be drawn to that and so important to to be repetitive with what you’re doing to keep being in nd in the public eye to show people exactly you know what you’re doing and when you’re doing it to keep people interested you know that’s building audience is really really important you know and wanting to keep people engaged with your work again because it’s social I view the work that I do as a social activist a conversation and I want people to engage you know we create work so that it seemed you know create work because we have to but we also especially when you’re creating work with the message you want to be able to have people see that so that has created a lot of you know opportunities for me where people are interested in what I’m doing and they’re willing to come and talk to me about my work and then they’re able to put that on you know in newspapers in their own publications and those networks are really really really important to maintain as well you know so to reach out to people when you’re doing stuff things is you know simple as a press release letting people who may not know what you’re doing know about what you’re doing because you think it’s important you know and and when they’re documenting what you’re doing you use that as leveraging to to get your message across and when you’re doing work that is very rooted in community and social justice those those messages are important because we need more people who have something to say to be heard and if we’re able to sort of curate that message of social justice and things that matter we’re reaching more people and it’s important to continue that conversation and in the back in the day before the internet you had to do the same thing right you you had to show up at different places at different events get seen get known that’s still very much needed but also now the extension is the online right you have to keep that conversation going yeah so today we broke down some amazing pieces of insight from Bobby Lefebvre who is a super talented artist he was able to break down three key points if you’re a freelancer a consultant and an end or an independent artist or if you’re like Bobby you’re all three right you have to have three key components in your arsenal okay so let’s review you have to define yourself you have to make sure you have your identity right kind of like your fingerprint on who you are you know define who that who that is enhance your own abilities and strengths to really share that with people so then second is create a community now that you’ve developed yourself you’re an awesome writer or an actor musician freelancer of any sort now you need to create the community yeah creating community is really important because again art is a conversation and without people to engage here you’re really just you know engaging yourself in your own sort of ego so community is really really important to build definitely having community is key so that you can now create consistency for longevity right yeah consistency is really for me what I look forward to longevity and being able to be around adjusting what I’m doing to meet new demands and and really being in it for the long haul you know I don’t want to be the one hit wonder I want to be the person that is always delivering high quality work and and building you know new genuine relationships with people about things that matter and that’s super important it’s super important to really have these key components in your arsenal so that you could actually find success he’s a very successful artist found his way his voice and it’s very important that you take this information to heart so now that you’ve been able to break down this information if people want to stay in contact with you and follow you how can they stay stay up with you you know I’m on all the social media platforms so Facebook Bobby the thievery Instagram Bobby Rafi Brie Twitter Bobby laughs Avery again that that messaging right that consistency in an even social media platform is really really important Bobby with you can check me out online also with the web series I’m working on right now welcome to the Northside is the you know the name that we’re going by on social media YouTube Facebook so check us out there I also run a neighborhood vlog called we are North Denver which is really you know taking a look at the phenomenon of gentrification and how that’s affected the North Denver neighborhood so utilizing that platform as a conversation started to be at Google me or check me out on line in anyway yeah we willing to engage with anyone awesome definitely you need to stay up with him he has though we are not welcome to the north side is a great series that you have to check out it was spawned from a lot of your work in the community and that came from we are North Denver as well and that was a great platform I was able to film some content for him and help build some of the platform and it definitely has worked and we employed all the three facets that we talked about today so Bobby thank you so much for joining us today on another episode of around the block talk thanks mom I’m looking forward to the next episode of welcome to the North side yeah we’ve been having fun it’s going to be great if you liked this video and found value please like and share and make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel so you can get more marketing advice that works. I’m your host, Los, and until next time we’ll see you on the next episode of Around the Block Talk.

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