Prudence Geerts is an artist and creator, two titles she fought for and won, despite the obstacles that tried to keep her away from her art. After working what she describes as an unfulfilling “boring call center job” she found herself doodling her way back to her love of drawing. Ready to create again, Prudence used her talents to journal and share her thoughts and document them on Instagram with the fearlessness of no one watching to judge her creations. Until someone started watching. A lot of someones, in fact.
For a while that made Prudence censor her creations, making what she thought people wanted to see. But then she realized something really important: that your community can help make you fearless, too.
“At a certain moment, the fear came slipping in and that made [me make] what I thought people would want me to make instead of how it was before when I just made comics from my experiences. I think it’s normal that fear comes with larger crowds. See it as stage fright. But luckily, I have a great community and they support me a lot in everything I do, so I regained my fearlessness in my work. Sometimes it still pops up every once in awhile, but then I go back to realizing how great my community is, and that puts me back on my two feet and makes me feel grounded and brave again. So you can say that eventually, my community makes me braver.”
What Prudence learned was that it wasn’t just any followers that can help creators fearlessly pursue and stay true to their art forms. It takes a solid community of people who are in love with the same things you love. So, how did Prudence create a planet that would draw these types of followers home? Here at the three key points she shared on connecting with her community.
Communication is the ultimate currency of creatives and Prudence knows it; she talks to her fans on a regular basis. She spends hours working to reply to direct messages on Instagram and always gets back to her Patreon contributors--even if it might take a bit to respond to every single person. One of her Patreon reward tiers includes a social media shoutout, something her fans find exciting and a helpful networking tool for aspiring creators. Prudence has three amazing recommendations on how to communicate for those who are creating their own content:
- Build a portfolio. Put your efforts into building a niche portfolio, one that’s clearly your own. The right followers will find you if you are kind and genuine. Your posts and art speak for themselves, so mindfully build and communicate your personal brand.
- Build your network. Collaborate with fellow artists and be active in the community you want to be a part of. For comic artists like Prudence, that means Comic Cons and online groups that facilitate networking with fellow artists.
- Consistently create content. You’ll want to build trust with your followers, fans, and supports, so they know they can always count on you and consistent content makes that possible. If you’re worried about the time commitment, remember to enlist post scheduling tools.
We all know that creating is hard work. But Prudence recognizes that there is real value in working smarter, not harder, especially if you want to avoid burning out. When asked what warning she would give creators, she gave this sage advice: contract carefully.
“In the beginning and even still, I tend to take on jobs that turn out not to be the best decisions I made. But I always make sure that the contracts are airtight as it’s the only thing that will protect you if things go bad. A contract and an email, or any written messages, are binding agreements. It goes both ways, so if you tell someone that you’ll give your work for free to them, then it’s also binding. Make sure to stand strong towards the big guys out there offering you a job. I also make sure that if I get a contract offered, that I have it read and adjusted by an advisor. They know all about legal rights and how to adjust contracts, whether things are legal or not, what I can and can’t do, and what my rights are as an artist.”
Along the same lines, Prudence also advises creators not take on jobs they don’t love “just to make a living” because the road from there to burnout is short and those types of jobs rarely lead to a creative opportunity later.
Prudence sells some of her comics as stationery and cards in her online store. Her best-sellers are “You are a Badass!” and “One Year Closer to Granny Panties” cards, which Prudence claims are the most Planet Prudence-esque creations in her portfolio. They have all the qualities that are prized by her community: sass, confidence, humor, and an unabashed love of one’s behind. Prudence sees her relationship with her patrons as family. Not only is she sharing exclusive content with the people who she feels appreciate it most, but she also cheers for them when they cultivate friendships between one another as well. Most of all, she loves the opportunity to give back to them:
“I hear everyone. I hear what I need to talk about, what is important for them. I hear how they need my work and how it brightens their days. That is what drives me to create every single day. I want people to come home and see my work and smile and have a good night’s sleep and know that they are cared for and not alone. One of my Patrons told me something that will stay with me for the rest of my life: ‘you're helping people see that their thoughts are not alone.’ And at that point, I knew what I was doing in my community and I knew that what I drew mattered. I never felt like it mattered that much until I heard that phrase, then it all made sense.”