How did social media get me where I am?
Today I can proudly say that I am a business owner, specializing in graphic design, and illustration. Without social media however, this may not have came to fruition.
I discovered various social media platforms and began using them on a desktop at 11 years old. I launched my first YouTube channel at this age, to try it out. I uploaded content centered around my hobbies at the time; collecting die-cast cars, gaming, racing with friends, and general motorsports content. Little did I know, how much of an asset this knowledge and experience would become for me at a later age.
As early as I can remember, I have wanted to be a creative. It’s almost like it was in my DNA. As I began taking my creative work seriously and trying to find a niche, I realized that this was my opportunity to get started. Growing up in a rural community in Oklahoma, I knew that the opportunities to get noticed and build a creative career would be hard to come by. My childhood home was over 10 miles away from the nearest town I went to school at, and more than 30 miles from the closest city.
My biggest opportunities to network in my industry of choice (motorsports), were either saving up and going to racing venues/events, or going online.
Due to the cost of race tickets, travel, and having two full-time working parents with busy schedules, I didn’t get to go to very many races in my pre-adolescent years. By the age of 14, I had a small portfolio of artwork built up in a black folder; pages upon pages of drawings. I liked to bring that folder every time we left the house and use it to try making connections with people who appeared to like motorsports.
Christmas came early for me in 2014. I got to go to Texas for a NASCAR event. I brought along the black folder, with pencil sketches of Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jimmie Johnson, and other NASCAR stars back in that era. I insisted on leaving bright and early, hoping to meet a NASCAR driver or two, to get their eyes on my art. I knew that every first impression counts in this line of work. Sure enough, I got my wish.
Outside the stadiums at NASCAR event weekends, there is typically a large carnival-like atmosphere for fan entertainment, including several trade show booths, and stages where sponsored drivers show up in front of the fans. I stood in line at the Team Chevy stage, outside turn one for hours. I was lucky enough to get Jeff Gordon’s autograph on a drawing, and felt that it was a step in the right direction, as small as it may be.
After the Team Chevy fan event was over, I headed to the driver introduction stage in the infield. Originally, it was too crowded for me to stand right by the fence where the racecar drivers walked by, but after showing a family of race-fans my work, they were impressed, and let me stand with them by the fence in hopes that it would get the driver's attention and be mutually beneficial. There, I met Carl Edwards’, and Brad Keselowski. When I later re-watched the race on TV, I discovered that a media photographer got Carl autographing my work, and it was played on the national broadcast.
After the exciting day in Texas, I knew it was time, to get a social media presence for my art. I posted drawings occasionally on my personal Facebook/Instagram, but they never got much exposure, because it was difficult to share or advertise from a personal profile. I felt a strong sense of drive, that my art skills could eventually go somewhere. I didn’t know how to make it happen, but I convinced myself that I would find a way, to make it a reality.
A Facebook page that later would be re-named to Joey Perry Arts, was launched in November 2014, to kick things into gear.
I didn’t have the startup resources to launch an actual website, or do any traditional advertising at 14 years old, so I treated the Joey Perry Arts page as a website. I posted about the work in my collection and posted new ones as they got done. In the beginning, I didn’t have any clients, or fans outside of family and friends from school.
What I attribute the most credit to for starting my follower-base (on Facebook anyway), were NASCAR fan groups I joined, and often shared posts of new artwork with. I discovered one particular Facebook group for fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr. I joined and started sharing portraits of Dale in the group. As they got better, the posts started getting more, and more shares, and reactions. I started joining every racing related fan group I could find.
Every time I joined a fan group of a driver, I would try to draw that driver’s car, and share a picture of it with the group, mentioning the Joey Perry Arts page in the description. I used this method, because I was still too young to have a bank card and do paid advertising. Results came slow at first, but as the quality of my art improved over time, the posts started getting more likes, positive comments, shares, and being a bigger, more useful resource. Joey Perry Arts began gaining a small following throughout 2015 when the first time-lapse videos were posted.
This trend continued until I began looking online for racing organizations to freelance with, and potentially get some experience. I discovered a local sprint car racing organization called the Oil Capital Racing Series. I reached out, telling their Public Relations person about my art, and that I needed a chance to show the public what I could do and start getting established. I was invited to create illustrations for racers attending their awards banquet.
After the 2015 OCRS banquet, 'the rest was history'. I greatly appreciate them giving that big break to an unknown, unproven 15-year-old me. After my first paid client project, local racers began reaching out, asking if I could create custom illustrations of their cars. My parents graciously started a bank account for me to utilize until I turned 18, so that I would be able to begin selling, and learning how to market / be an entrepreneur. I am grateful for them trusting me with that responsibility at such an early age. It was a valuable learning experience that is paying dividends all of these years later.
I have since sketched many famous race-cars/drivers, gone to events to network, and gradually raised the popularity of Joey Perry Arts to over one thousand followers on Facebook, and just over 850 on Instagram, (as of the time I am writing this).
It is not much of an exaggeration to say that 3-4 out of every 5 clients I hear from, likely came from social media networks in one form or another. Every like, comment, and share really does count. It makes a real difference, especially in my line of work.
Would I have gotten where I am today without the influence and reach of social media, and other internet content? Would it have perhaps taken longer to do so? Let me know what you think in the comments!