By Tobias van Schneider Published February 27, 2020
Getting your work noticed in today's distracted, overstimulated world isn't easy. The internet makes it easier in some ways, giving everyone a platform and the opportunity to be seen, but harder in others – you're now competing with all of those people.
The more I think about it, the more I believe getting your work noticed comes down to two strategies. Pick the one that suits you best.
1. The gamble for virality
Gambling for virality means you need a breakthrough idea or a spectacular piece of work that opens the door for you. The challenge here is that it's unpredictable. You either have to be incredibly lucky, or good at understanding and manipulating the mechanics to make it work for you.
If you happen to have one piece that goes viral, you need to be prepared for it. If that piece is the only thing you ever did, your spotlight will most likely flicker out after those 15 minutes of fame. To benefit from virality in a meaningful way, you either need a good plan for capturing this newfound attention with more work, or you need a solid amount of work already prepared that can satisfy all your new friends.
The good news is that "going viral" happens now more than it did in the past. The bad news is that the lasting effect gets shorter and shorter. Going viral usually means millions of people take interest in what you do for two minutes, but then they're already onto something else. A small percentage, let's say 1% (often less), may stick around for a little longer and see what else you can offer. If you're prepared to take great care of this 1%, you can eventually turn virality into something more. For the few who can make it work this way, it can certainly lead to true fans and supporters.
Sadly, in most cases, you see someone go viral and then never hear from them again. They usually win the luck lottery but don't have enough to offer after to stick around. The gamble for virality is cruel, but if you can make it work, it can be beautiful.
The only other way is to put in the work. Show up every day and do something consistently, for a long period of time. Eventually, people will take notice.
Consistency is the slow but steady approach, the road less traveled because it takes a great deal of time and effort. But it pays off more faithfully and meaningfully than the first strategy, and it doesn't require an ounce of luck. Consistency helps you build up a body of work and makes you gradually better. And the better you get, the harder it is to ignore you. The best stuff usually rises to the top.
But you don't even have to be "great" to experience the effect of consistent output. We humans have a strange way of rewarding consistency when we see it, even if that consistency doesn't lead to outstanding results.
Say, for example, a designer decides to design one poster every day, for 10 years. The reason we find this worthy of our attention (and something that can potentially even go viral) is not because these posters are good. It's just the sheer amount of posters. The consistency, stamina and effort that went into a project like this makes it noteworthy. Of course, the posters can be good, but that's not why it caught our attention. It's the commitment behind it that made us look.
Of course, the real magic happens when consistency meets virality. The YouTuber who creates 200 videos before finally hitting viral success will be much better off than the YouTuber who has just one video that happened to go viral.
In the end, both strategies work, but they depend on who you are as a person and what kind of work you do. The best way is to focus on #2 while optimizing for #1. Then just let life do its thing.
Hi, I'm Tobias, a German designer living in New York. I'm the author of this blog, nice to meet you!