Anyone can change the entire direction of their career in just 90 days. I've seen it happen many times. To do it, you need FUEL.

FAST: Something that will build exposure fast
UNIQUE: Find ways you can stand out
EXCELLENCE: Improve the way you appear to others
LARGE: Build your career in a big way

FUEL comes from deliberate actions that create opportunity. Though there is often luck involved, we all know many people make their own luck. For instance, you won't get publicity because someone just happened to discover you. You have to make sure editors hear from you and know about your work. You don't get blog posts, TV appearances, and newspaper articles by wishing for it to happen. You need to be proactive and make them aware.

Two things that will fuel your career more than anything else are publicity and winning awards (which of course gives you publicity). Have you ever seen someone become an overnight sensation because they were discovered by the media? Well placed publicity is like rocket fuel to take you to the next level fast.

Here's a little secret from a lifetime in the media: Publicity does not just happen. People don't just get discovered for TV shows, articles, etc. Someone is working to make editors aware.

An artist friend of mine recently had articles in several art magazines at about the same time. I later learned it happened because he called the editors, told them his story, and showed them his artwork. Suddenly he appeared in three magazines three months in a row. It happened because he was working it.

Of course, editors won't just drop everything and do a story unless you have a story to tell. Editors are looking for something that's happened in your career — something unique, like an interesting painting trip, an event surrounding your art, an exhibition, etc. Even then, it doesn't always work. But in the publishing world, a dirty little secret is that we all have slow editorial moments, so we're always on the lookout for a story. One thing we all keep an eye on is who is winning awards. Sometimes publicity will follow just because an editor has noticed a trend of winning competitions, winning show awards, etc. In fact, we selected artist Ulrich Gleiter to do one of our videos because he has a streak of winning Best of Show awards. It also resulted in an article. And suddenly his career is on fire.

Two recent examples of FUEL occurred because the artists kept entering art competitions. Though the odds were stacked against them, Shelby Keefe and Eleinne Basa were the winners of the last two annual PleinAir Salon competitions, presented by my magazine PleinAir. Each received her $15,000 cash prize at that year's Plein Air Convention. The result of winning and having their paintings on the cover of PleinAir magazine has FUELed each of their careers, fast. Plus, having their image spread by our Salon marketing ads has created more awareness, and more career FUEL.

What I like about entering competitions is that if you win, it results in lots of exposure — exposure that tends to be ongoing, especially if you win the big annual prize. Promotion can continue for a year or more. Both Eleinne's and Shelby's pictures have appeared in dozens of ads, e-mails, newsletter ads, etc. This FUEL created fast momentum and large amounts of publicity for each artist, and as a result, their careers are soaring.



What can you do to get FUEL in your career?

Most FUEL comes when you least expect it, but it comes because you are trying to generate it. You should be watching for opportunities to FUEL your career by getting your name in front of the press frequently (local and national) for stories, announcements, awards won, commissions received, charity events, etc. Seek every opportunity. Contests are a great way to FUEL your career because they give you something to talk about with the press when you win.

That's why successful artists I know enter everything they can that could give them prestige if they win. They enter every month. I know of one artist who kept entering our contest every other month with the same painting and ended up winning because the judges change with every contest, and what one judge doesn't like, another judge may love. Everyone has a chance to win, and most people who win thought they never had a chance. Plus the price of entry is low compared to the publicity received if you win.

Keep your eyes open to FUEL your career. Here are the actions you should take:

  1. Ask yourself what would FUEL your career the fastest.
  2. Make a list of local and national publicity opportunities and start contacting editors. (Don't be a pest, but never give up. Every editor needs an easy story from time to time.)
  3. Enter every contest you can find that will give you major credibility and bring you publicity.
  4. Participate in local events that have publicity attached (for example, charity events). If you play a major role, you'll get some publicity.
  5. Know this is an ongoing effort that may not pan out immediately, but will eventually.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The worst thing you can do is try to leverage advertising buys in exchange for editorial coverage. CREDIBLE publications will not only reject you, they will avoid you in the future because they know their readers know the difference and they consider an ad for an article as a bribe. As you know credible people shy away from people who offer bribes. If approached by publications selling ads in exchange for the promise of editorial coverage RUN FAST! Though it seems like a good idea because you are getting coverage, their readers know the difference and this will hurt your reputation as fast as a legitimate article will help it. Typically publications selling editorial are desperate. Readers who see stories issue after issue about the same artists tend to stop reading those publications and stop taking those artists and artists in those publications seriously. The other problem with this is that SUBSTANDARD artists get stories because they have the money to spend, which hurts the credibility of any artist appearing in those publications. Is it tempting? Yes. Will it hurt your credibility as an artist? Absolutely. Quality publications hire quality editors. Readers trust those editors and know that if they actually cover an artist for their merits, it means that artist is editorial worthy. If an editor ever allowed advertising to influence content in my publications I'd fire them immediately because our credibility with readers is more important than anything. Selling editorial in exchange for advertising is simply prostitution. You would not offer a bribe in other parts of your business and you would not go to a prostitute, why would you want to be associated with publications who accept bribes for advertising when its a bad reflection on you.

FUEL is acquired by people who are always on the lookout for an opportunity. Most people miss opportunity because they are not looking for it. Professionals are always seeking ways to get someone to give them press and exposure and are always entering in hopes of winning.

Eric Rhoads

PS: FUEL for today – I should mention that our PleinAir Salon deadline to enter is TOMORROW, Friday, January 31. Now is your chance. All you have to do is take a photo of your best work and enter it online, and you could be the winner of the $15,000 cash prize and your winning work on the cover of the magazine, or you could win other prizes ($21,000 in cash prizes all together. Enter at