Creative people have one product to sell, their labor. Often it is a labor of love, but labor nonetheless. What I have seen over the years is that the creative people have embraced social media as the vehicle to get noticed and sell their creative works. The problem is that creatives are damaging their brand by not taking a simple step to safeguard their creative work. No, it’s not about protecting their work. It is about putting all their eggs in one basket.

Facebook and Youtube come to mind, but there are other dangers lurking for the creative class on the net. Sites like Etsy and Shopify are also a problem for the creatives. Many of you reading know that Facebook is currently embroiled over the controversy over the misuse of personal data by Cambridge Analytica in the 2016 national elections. Facebook is also facing scrutiny over privacy issues that users are raising in Europe and in the U.S.

It is too early to tell if Facebook is losing users over the privacy controversy, but Facebook has lost millions of under-25 users since last year. In January, Youtube once again tweaked its policies over the monetization of videos it hosts on its platform. Now to monetize your video, Youtube requires that that you have 10,000 total views within your video portfolio and at least 1,000 subscribers.

The recent monetization changes by Youtube led Nasim Aghdam to wound three Youtube staffers a few weeks ago. Resolving a dispute through violence is not acceptable but Aghdam’s case demonstrates why creatives are doing it all wrong.

When a video producer, or an artist puts all their heart into a production they are hoping for someone to react to the production. For some artists it is enough to receive positive or negative reactions to their work, but for many they hope to turn their work into their livelihood. Creatives always have a hard time making money from their productions because people generally under value their work. It’s a continuous love-hate relationship with the audience.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to change the font type of a logo after many iterations because, as I’ve been told numerous times, can’t you just push a few buttons, and viola, the font is updated. Or, can’t you just use “find-and-replace” on a graphic just like people do in Word.

Non-creatives do not grasp the amount of creative thought and labor that goes into any creative work because to them it’s just “pushing a few buttons.”

This mindset translates into why would anyone pay more than a few dollars for a logo or a business card layout which leads to many creatives looking for ways to sell their artwork at the cheapest price possible. This has led artists, photographers and videographers to try to sell their work on social media.

The creative builds large followings on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or setup shop at places like Etsy or Shopify.

There is nothing wrong with leveraging those platforms for their creative work. What most forget is to take the step to protect their brand, after all, using the online tools is more about building a robust portfolio to attract attention to their work. It is about building a fan base that is willing to buy their work.

Along with building their reputations and creating their online portfolios on social media, creative laborers should also think about putting all their eggs in one basket.

Youtube has changed their monetizing and as a result I went from making a few pennies a day to making nothing at all. It’s no big deal for me because it was pennies, but for individuals like Nasim Aghdam, it apparently was damaging to her ability to pay her bills. Youtube explains its policy changes on dealing with abuse but, it is about increasing the bottom line for Google, its parent. One of Youtube’s most recent changes is prioritizing Google delivery over others on its network. For creatives, that simply means pushed further down the pecking order.

It’s their platform, and although unfair, it is their right to monetize according to what benefits them the most. Nasim Aghdam reacted violently but Youtube employees routinely complain about “irritated” users accosting them via email or personally when changes are made on their platform.

The issue for the creative is how to use social media tools to their advantage but be ready to make changes as quickly as possible to maximize their revenue streams.

Surprisingly the thing that makes Youtube, Facebook or other internet outlets attractive – a built in audience with no cost – is what makes it easy for the creative to plan.

First the creative must take control of their two most important assets, their brand and their followers. A creative will spend untold hours cultivating followers on Facebook and other outlets like Youtube. This benefits the platforms because the creatives’ labor is what attracts users to the platform. So, the first step is to be able to take your followers with you. You need to collect their email addresses as soon as possible.

The creative can manually make a list, or better yet, electronically collect the email addresses and keep their users involved by periodically showcasing their new work via an email to their fans. Constant Contact and MailChimp are two tools that are free for lists of up to 2,000 members.

As soon as the platform du jour, like Youtube goes rouge, the creative can move their work to another platform. There are always platforms looking to siphon users away from the outlets like Youtube. Vimeo and LiveLeaks want users to abandon Youtube and come to them. When the creative migrates their work to a new platform, they simply inform their users via their emails that the work can now be found elsewhere.

But email newsletters aren’t enough as some fans don’t like to give out their email addresses.

This is where branding comes in, in the form of a domain name. Rather than use or Youtube channel whatever, the creative should purchase a domain name and redirect users to the platform via the domain name. Rather than send users via the social media outlet domain, like Etsy, the creative tells their followers to go to their domain name and from there send them over to the platform du jour.

For example, I sell my art through Redbubble and Designed by Humans. I benefit from their robust platforms, but I don’t send my fans directly to them. Instead, I setup Border Bandit Studio and redirect the traffic to either site, or both from there. If any of the platforms no longer suits me, I just update the Border Bandit Studio domain and redirect my fans to a new location.

But it costs money and creatives don’t have a lot of money to spend is the obvious retort. Today, domain names can be registered for less then $20 annually. It’s an investment in the creative’s future so it is money well-spent. The best part is that the creatives does not have to bother with creating a website. All the creative needs to do, after registering their domain name, is to setup a redirect for the domain. This is usually included in the price of the domain name and is usually very easy to do.

Now, if the platform the creative uses no longer benefits them, they simply move their work to another place and update their domain name redirect.

The best part is that as the creative’s income grows from their work, they can then add more services from within their domain getting better control of their work product the more they grow.

Creatives should stop feeding the Facebook-like animals with your hard work and start using your work to benefit you, instead of the Google’s of the world.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...