Today, I’m so excited to share my interview with website designer and music marketer Katherine Forbes of Designing the Row! She’s been making a big splash in the Nashville music industry with the recent formation of the online community and directory Music Biz Besties. (Yours truly even has a little profile over there!) Katherine is always sharing great advice and helpful tips. I’m thankful she took the time to share some of her wisdom over here!
1. Every time I turn around, it seems that you have new, amazing content to share! How do you keep up with designing websites, writing emails, putting together courses, and running a fast-growing directory for females in the music business?
Thank you!! When you put it like that it does seem a little overwhelming but I love it all! At the end of December I created an “ideal week” schedule and it has been working like a charm. Even if I don’t stick to the exact hourly plan, I know what tasks I need to tackle every day so by the time Friday rolls around I can have some time to take it easy. With a schedule like this I don’t get overwhelmed with the feeling of always being behind because I have mapped out every project and have assigned it a day (or days) of the week. When I created the calendar I truly thought it was just a big wish and not actually possible for my days to look like that… but with one or two easy changes to what I was doing at the time, I quickly found myself in my “ideal” schedule on a weekly basis. I highly recommend everyone try this out and see what shifts need to happen so you’re working on your terms and not someone else’s.
2. You also recently moved into a new house and you’re married. How do you balance your personal and professional life?
If you had asked me this a year ago I would’ve told you that I was working a full-time job in artist management and designing websites at night until 2am with absolutely NO work-life balance. 2016 was a huge learning curve for me as I transitioned from working for someone else to working for myself! I (eventually) learned to set boundaries… learned to only agree to projects and clients that energize me… and learned that it’s ok to put my work away on the weekends!
A couple weeks ago I also turned off all social media and email push notifications on my phone and that has been a game changer. It’s so easy to open up Instagram when a new follower notification pops up, or to open Facebook when someone comments in the group – but now I only get on social media intentionally!
Most recently I have been trying to get my days started earlier so that my work day aligns better with my husband’s. He works at a corporate healthcare company so his days at the office start around 7:30am – and you could often find me sleeping in sometimes until 10am and working until 7pm. I never thought I’d be a morning person, but I actually feel less rushed when I start working around 7am.
So for me, creating balance comes from setting (and sticking to) boundaries!
3. What tips can you share with musicians and other creative entrepreneurs who are creating or updating their websites? Any must-haves or things to avoid when considering the design and content?
I’ll start with my must-have! Whether you’re a musician or creative entrepreneur, you need to have a clear call-to-action on your website. The average person only spends about a minute and a half on a website – so you need to tell them exactly what you want them to do! Do you want them to sign up for your mailing list, purchase concert tickets, read your blog, etc? Whatever it is, make it obvious and make it easy for the viewer to navigate and take action.
You’d think having a mobile friendly site in 2017 is a given… but you’d be surprised at how many people don’t have one! Plug your website URL into Google’s mobile friendly test and make sure your site is good to go. If you don’t pass the test, it’s time for a website upgrade!
4. I recently had a conversation with someone in the music business who no longer thinks that email is relevant as part of a successful marketing strategy for musicians. What are your thoughts on this and what have you seen work well for artists to get new subscribers? Does a free, exclusive mp3 still work?
Are you kidding!? I sent out a client’s email campaign yesterday and saw a surge in her online store sales… and the email didn’t even mention or link to her merch!
I think a free mp3 is the perfect way for an artist to grow their email list. You’ve got to give people a reason to trust you with their email address, because who wants to hand over their email without something in return? I also think crafting a personal (automated) message to go along with the mp3 download is equally as important. Tell the story behind the song, or share a personal message about your music journey, tell people what you’re working on and let them in behind the scenes. These days it’s all about creating an experience for fans.
5. If an artist only focuses on 2-3 social media channels, which ones do you recommend? Any pro tips?
I think the answer to this question depends on who the artist is, but my main go to channel recommendations are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. The key is to only focus on what you enjoy doing. If you’re a writer, you might enjoy Twitter more than Instagram – and that’s ok! It’s better to give it your all on Twitter than to try to split your time and force a presence on Instagram too because you think you have to. You will attract your real fans when you are true to yourself, no matter what platform you’re on.
6. What are some of your favorite blogs and podcasts right now? Any other resources you’d like to recommend?
I have been on a podcast kick lately since working by myself from home. My friend Alexis Teichmiller hosts a podcast called The Laptop Lifestyle that I love listening to. I also binge listen to Lewis Howes’ The School of Greatness, Think Creative Collective’s The Strategy Hour Podcast, and The Femtrepreneur Show with Mariah Coz and Megan Minns. None of these are music related but they all provide great business strategy and self motivation.
Thanks again, Katherine, for taking the time to answer my questions and share some amazing advice with all of us!
Be sure to follow Katherine over on Instagram! She has a great feed! @designingtherow
I’m happy to have Allen Paul guest posting today. Allen C. Paul has served over 20 years as a church staff musician, performing artist and teacher, and is the author and creative director of God and Gigs, a book and blog for faith-focused musicians and artists. He is passionate about helping artists fully enjoy their God-given creativity through the arts, and spending time with his wife Lia and their three children. You can find more info about his writing and resources at GodandGigs.com.
I get it. You lead a very busy life.
You may be reading this post in between bites at a hurried lunch, at the end of a long day, or even as you wait in standstill traffic that feels like a parking lot. Somehow, you managed to steal a few moments from work, family responsibilities, and other insistent tugs on your time.
And in the midst of all this, you are supposed to be ‘enjoying’ being an artist / musician / creative professional.
Maybe you’ve heard others who lead less artistic lives express envy when they talk to you. They might say something like, “if only I had your talent.” To which you might respond, “If only you knew my struggle.”
Maintaining passion for your creative profession while balancing the everyday responsibilities of life is far from easy. In fact, many musicians and artists feel torn between the desire to have unrestricted freedom to create, and the need to make a living and manage day-to-day issues.
The buzzword we use effectively managing all the responsibilities of life is “Work-Life Balance”. The goal is this: that if you can fit it all in, you can have it all, as author Greg McCown states in his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. McCown points out the dilemma that many creatives run head-long into – The more successful we are, the less time we seem to have to do the very things that we wanted to do.
For example, imagine that you have worked for years to record a music project. You realize your dream of finishing this album. Now what?
Now you have to promote it. Sell it. Go on tour. Do interviews. Seek out reviews. Manage the band. And people have the nerve to ask, one month after you’ve completed it… “So when are you doing the next one?”
You see, today’s success can become the enemy of future success.
So how can we avoid creative burnout? Can an artist or musician remain engaged in their love for their art without becoming jaded and burdened by the trials that everyone faces?
Yes, but it requires one key action.
Instead of trying to do more, decide to do less.
Less? Yes. Less.
As the book’s subtitle alludes to, creatives have to be disciplined in the pursuit of less, not more. There will always be another appointment, another tweet, another project, another connection to make.
But ask yourself – do these activities honestly add value to your life? Will the issue you are worried about make it into your autobiography? Can you honestly say every single moment of your day must be programmed toward a goal?
Or, should your only goal be to fully enjoy the talents you’ve been blessed with?
This is a very counter-cultural claim to make, I know. But if you look back over your calendar from the last 3 months, and you can see that most of your activities weren’t directed toward the things that matter most, you can see why it’s so important to evaluate your artistic activities carefully and honestly.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard. It means you should only invest your best efforts into the things that make the biggest impact. And pretty much drop everything else.
Your faith? That has to be your foundation for life to make sense. Family? That’s a very big deal. Close relationships? Big deal as well. Your major musical or artistic goal? Definitely keep that as a priority.
But remember how two sisters, Mary and Martha, dealt with the issue of priorities. Martha, the busy one, got frustrated trying to keep everything perfect. Mary, the unburdened one, spent time with the One that mattered the most. Only one of them had peace in the midst of the craziness.
I encourage you, as a fellow artist and musician; don’t let the pressures of life dampen your creative dream. Take a few logs off of the fire, focus on the few things that matter most, and don’t feel guilty about lightening the load.
Your schedule will be a little less hectic, you’ll feel more creative, and most importantly – you’ll enjoy life more.
What do you need to let go of in order to make more time for the most important people and activities in your life right now?