The One Exercise That Will Help You Find Your Ideal Audience

find your ideal audience
Photo: Kate Ter Haar on Flickr

Creating something that you are truly proud of takes an incredible amount of hard work and discipline. But it also requires a firm understanding of who your ideal audience is. That doesn’t mean you’re supposed to send out questionnaires to everyone in your apartment building asking them what they like, but instead you need to spend some time alone and, like a wizard or the guys from “Weird Science,” create the perfect person that you are creating for.

Now some people have it easy — their ideal audience is actually someone they know, or knew. Kurt Vonnegut’s ideal reader was his beloved sister, even after her death. And maybe you have a friend or idol who you make your goal to wow every time you finish something. But for many of us, we actually need to make someone up before we can try to please them. In business, these people must be a concrete ideal. They are an exact buyer or precise kind of consumer.

But in art, not so much.

As an artist — musician, writer, photographer, etc. — these people are not complicated. They don’t need a name or hair color or even have to wear clothes. All they have to be is a tiny little voice that can whisper into your ear to say, “Yes, this is good,” or “Not yet, keep going.”

So if you’re not already hearing that voice, how do you bring it to life?

It’s easy enough — just pull out a pen and paper. Write down the adjectives that best describe the art or artists you most admire (funny, heartfelt, thought-provoking, odd), then start writing down the people whose opinions you respect. They don’t have to be people with impeccable taste or will even look at your work (your parents can be on there); they just need to be those who you consider valuable when it comes to making decisions.

When you’ve thrown all these words and people into a big pot, look it over and then take out the latest thing you’re working on.

Did you hear something? If no, check your list again. Maybe add to it. Really think if you’ve listed all those important people and descriptors that mean the most to you. Then look again. The voice will come. And when it finally does, all you have to do is listen.

Shane Mehling FOLLOW >

Shane Mehling is a freelance writer and editor who plays in noiserock bands.