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Building an online audience whether it’s on Instagram or some other social media platform, can definitely get overwhelming- especially if you are just starting out.
Not having a clear approach from the very beginning can really set you back, and we all know that nobody likes wasting their time and energy.
Well fear not my lettering friends as of today you will be able to learn:
- The art of using hashtags
- How to engage with the community
- The importance of consistency
- Proper presentation of your artwork
- Why practice is the key
- How to be different and rise above the noise
Today we have the honor to drop a TON of value on all of you by the amazing Scotty Russell of Perspective-Collective!
Scotty is a freelance lettering artist, illustrator and public speaker based in Iowa, U.S, who survives only by eating pizza (it’s true).
On top of creating amazing artwork, Scotty is also the creator and curator of one of the best podcasts for not only lettering artists but for every creative person eager to learn more about how to grow and succeed in the industry.
The Perspective Podcast will celebrate it’s 2 years anniversary this August, and it recently hit a 70.000 downloads mark!!
Congrats to Scotty and thank you for contributing to the whole creative community with the massive amount of value in every single episode!
We have embedded the audio player so you can either read or listen to this episode, or both!
Elevate Your Instagram Lettering, Build an Audience & Attract Work
Over the past few years, the resurgence of lettering has skyrocketed creating tons of opportunities for lettering artists to flex their skills (and get paid).
Businesses are drooling for that personalized yet imperfect human touch that a refined typeface struggles to deliver.
They are scavenging Instagram, Behance and Dribbble searching for that perfect candidate who can execute their vision.
Just like your elementary gym class dodgeball games, you want to be the first person they pick.
Let’s face it, people with a large following (social proof) and a strong body of work tend to get picked first.
So what’s the secret to growing an Instagram audience with your lettering?
Buying followers is definitely not the answer so throw that idea in the dumpster immediately.
Sadly, growing an audience isn’t as easy as warming up leftover pizza in the microwave. It takes time, experimentation and perseverance to earn some attention on your work.
For those of you who are looking for an overnight success formula, this isn’t for you.
For those of you playing the long game of growing an audience and possibly a career from lettering, then please keep reading.
Today I want to share 6 practical tips for growing your Instagram lettering audience. Each section has an actionable takeaway so you can put things into practice ASAP.
Let’s get started.
1. The Art of Using Hashtags
NOTE: The following is what’s worked for me over the years. Study what works for others then find what works for you. I’m open to any feedback or advice as the Instagram algorithm is always changing.
What really helped me grow my audience over the past 4 years is figuring out the proper way to use hashtags.
These magical little links allow your work to be discovered by the entire planet, not just your followers.
I tend to use a mixture of 20-25 tags that range from large usage (500k – 1 million +), medium usage (100k – 500k) to small usage (10k – 100k).
I recommend researching and finding the top 10 popular hashtags related to the lettering game that have the most activity and build your list from there.
In the past, I used to post this running list of hashtags immediately as the first comment. However, latelyI’ve been experimenting with posting them in the caption.
The Instagram algorithm is always changing so I’m constantly experimenting and adapting to the platform.
TIP: Keep a running list of High, Medium and Low usage hashtags in your notes app. That way you can copy and paste easily into your post.
Getting features is the number one way I found to boost your followers quickly.
There are tons of lettering feature accounts that will feature their favorite works daily, especially if you utilize their hashtag or tag them on your post.
In no particular order these account are: @lettering_daily (of course), @goodtype, @typegang, @calligritype, @thedailytype, @typespire, @typographyinspired, @typeyeah, @artoftype, @handmadefont, @typeoozle, @typematters, @calligraphymasters, @typography_and_calligraphy.
TIP: You now have the ability to follow hashtags to keep up to date with your favorite hashtag activity.
Spend some time researching and build a list of High, Medium and Low usage hashtags. Follow the above-mentioned lettering accounts and get familiar with how they operate and their hashtags.
2. Engage with the Community
Instagram is the most popular app because of its high engagement and the niche communities that live within it. Some of my closest friends that I’ve never met in person are people I connected with on this platform…
I’m dead serious.
The Ligature Collective and I talked about one of the secrets to building an engaged audience is actually engaging with the platform itself.
DON’T: Don’t be a distant onlooker of other people’s work and expect people to flock to your account.
DO: Take the time to comment on other people’s work with something of substance and not just “dope” or a fire emoji.
Also, do your best to respond to everyone’s comment. If they took the time to comment on your work, show the decency to comment back. I know people who have 100k+ followers and they make an effort to respond back to everyone so
The more you continually show up and pour into others, the better the odds they take notice. Eventually they may swing through and browse your page to connect.
Personally, I see repeating people showing love on my account which catches my attention. Sometimes I check out their page only to be blown away by their work and I follow them immediately.
Catching the attention of big feature accounts work the same way. Constantly be active on their page, participate in their prompts like Goodtype’s #GoodtypeTuesday and leave comments on the work that they feature.
The more effort you put into engaging on the platform, the more engagement will come your way.
You get back what you put in—that’s life in general.
I challenge you to leave a genuine comment 10 times daily on people’s work you admire (you can get super brave and DM them directly). That’s 70 comments in a week…you got this.
One of the key ingredients for audience growth is reminding people that you exist.
While posting daily can be great, it’s a lot of work and hard to manage quality and valuable output.
Lauren Hom on episode 75 dropped a gold nugget stating,
“Do you have something to say or are you just making noise?”
Don’t feel the need to post just to post, instead I recommend posting at least once a week.
People love seeing how the sausage is made so consider sharing a WIP picture along with the final. That’s two posts birds with one stone.
Someone like @piesbrand is a great example of sharing WIP posts throughout the week while he works his way to the final piece.
If you use Procreate on the iPad Pro, you can export a timelapse video too creating an extra post that shows the process as well.
That’s 3 posts (WIP, final and timelapse) you can share separately or as a swipeable gallery.
Another tip for engagement
is sharing your process in your stories. I get some of my best interaction with people through my DM’s as you get to show your less curated and more human side in your stories.
If you’re stuck on generating ideas, I have two ways to keep the bucket overflowing:
- Participate in online prompts and initiatives like Lauren Hom’s #Homwork series, Stefan Kunz#CreatedToday, Colin Tierney’s #Crayligraphy Community, Inktober, 100 Days of Lettering, 36 Days of Type, etc.
- In episode 29 I share how you can battle creative block by collecting all your ideas and building a gold reserve. If you struggle generating ideas, this episode is for you.
Share two posts a week: a WIP post along with the final. Also, take the time to peel back the curtain and show your process on your stories and answer questions people may have.
Killer hand lettering presentation by @khairulitie
4. Proper Presentation
You may be wondering, “Scotty, can’t just taking a quick photo and posting it be enough?”
Unfortunately, work that’s staged tends to stand out more on this platform as this is what Instagram was originally created for.
If you want to learn more about how to present your hand lettering artwork, i highly recommend reading this guide that @argoos.letters made in collaboration with Lettering Daily
If you lack the time or skill set, Stefan Kunz makes some
solid mockups to get started in the beginning.
To go that extra mile, you can find other mockups online for free or for purchase that can help communicate what your drawing will look like in use which can attract clients.
For example, my friend Eric Friedensohn (@efdot) created some lettering, shot a photo of a brick wall in New York and imposed the lettering on it to simulate a mural.
He ended up getting contacted by the business who’s wall he mocked it up on and they hired him to actually paint it.
Study what others are doing and take the time to stage your work and edit the composition.
Go the extra mile and mock it up on real-world objects to attract possible business opportunities.
5. Deliberate Practice
This is the rule you never want to hear but it’s the most important one of them all.
People want to consume quality work consistently so grinding away on your craft behind closed doors is how you’ll improve quickly.
Know the Rules so You Can Break Them
With lettering, it’s absolutely crucial that you understand 2 basic things:
- Typography fundamentals: hierarchy, type pairing, compositions, kerning, tracking, leading, spacing, width, etc.
- Typographic structure and anatomy: counters, bowls, stems, shoulders, legs, crossbars, ligatures, entry/exit strokes, swashes, etc.
Photo taken from: IDrawLetters.com
Hand lettering is amazing
because you can create virtually anything you want within reason.
To do so, you have to know the rules so you can break them.
Avoid disguising your lack of knowledge and flaws with tons of different lettering styles, details and embellishments.
Believe me, I used to do this but when you put the weight on the vertical upstroke on a serif cap A instead of the downstroke, no amount of detail can cover that up.
Know. The. Fundamentals.
Make Time, Not Excuses
We all have the same 24 hours in a day. There are people with kids and a day job yet still find time to practice 15-30 minutes daily.
Amy Tangerine says it best in her book Craft a Life you Love: “Just 15 minutes a day equals one work day a month!”
Things can really add up over time right?
Find those pockets of time each day that you can practice like early mornings, 10 minute breaks, lunch breaks, evenings, commutes, writing grocery lists, etc.
TIP: In episode 68 I share 5 Ways to Make Time for Your Creative Side Hustle & Get Results
Take advantage of free online material like articles, tutorials, and practice sheets.
If you have the financial means, invest in yourself and purchase lettering books, take lettering workshops or purchase online courses through Skillshare, creative live, lynda, etc.
Lettering Daily also made a kick-ass review on some of the best hand lettering books – check it out here
TIP: Check out my Lettering Resources page filled with tips, books and all the tools I use and where to snag them.
Spend 15-30 minutes a day learning and practicing the fundamentals to elevate your craft. The higher quality your work, the better chances of you getting featured or better yet, hired.
6. Be Different & Rise Above the Noise
Over the years, Instagram has become a saturated sea of people regurgitating each other’s style. The majority of work and presentations start to look the same as people try so hard fit in and jump on a trend.
If you want to grow an audience, wouldn’t you want to stand out and rise above the noise?
I want to encourage you to do a deep dive and find what makes you unique.
Your stories, interests, DNA, experiences, humor, cleverness and weird quirks are what can help you differentiate yourself from the herd
I found the weird things that interest me like cats, pizza, outer space, coffee, working out and wordplay are what makes me unique and it spills into my work.
My love for line work, stippling, attention to detail and merging illustrations with lettering is what helps me keep cohesion and develop my style.
Vomiting the same motivational quote that you see all over Pinterest is boring and doesn’t work anymore.
I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone, constantly experiment and develop your own style that shows who you are in your work.
I strongly feel that the more you show yourself in work, you’ll not only stand out better but people will be more attracted to the individual behind the work as well.
Spend 10-20 minutes listing out all the weird things you are interested in.
Pick 10 of these and use them as a prompt for a small side project series.
Bonus: People to Follow
It’s easy to get wrapped up in comparison when following your heroes. However, I feel these people meet the criteria of reasons to follow because they:
- Invested the time to know the fundamentals
- Teach what they know through workshops or tutorials
- Share the process and show WIP photos
- Provide helpful products
- Constantly experiment and push the limits
- Create amazing work you can reference and study
In no particular order they are:
- Erik Marinovich @erikmarinovich
- Gemma O’Brien @mrseaves101
- Ken Barber @typelettering
- Neil Secretario @neilsecretario
- Mark Caneso @markcaneso
- Bob Ewing @bobewing
- Jessica Hische @jessicahische
- Lauren Hom @homsweethom
- Dana Tanamachi @dana_tanamachi
- Lex Wilson @lexwilson
- Martina Flor @martinaflor
- Ian Barnard @ianbarnard
- Stefan Kunz @stefankunz
The Whole Enchilada
Growing an Instagram audience isn’t easy but the benefits of improving your skills, building relationships and attracting future work is well worth the rugged climb.
These 6 tips and action steps are something you can begin implementing as soon as today.
It’s going to require time, patience and a willingness to learn. Focus on creating work that you love that resonates with you instead of creating work that you think people want to see.
Don’t get wrapped up on the affirmation and the results. Believe me, relying on people’s approval and engagement is a sure fire way to feel defeated and suffocate your passion for creating.
Keep doing you. Constantly be curious. Find and show yourself in your work.
Growing an audience is a long term byproduct of doing these things.
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About the author
Perspective-Collective is the studio of Scotty Russell, a freelance lettering artist and illustrator based out of Cedar Falls, Iowa. Some minor obsessions he has consists of drawing on everything he can find and anything to do with pizza.
Outside of being an artist, he strives to encourage his creative peers. He does this through co-hosting monthly Drink & Draws, teaching workshops, public speaking, and his weekly Perspective Podcast.
He’s a big advocate for pursuing the type of side projects you want to get paid to create. He also believes your hobby has more potential than you think.
In his spare time, you can catch him burning the pizza off in the gym and causing mischief with his partners in crime: his wife and cats.