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Do you suffer from invisible artist syndrome? : How to get noticed online.

This post may just be an excuse to play a clip from my favourite tv show as a kid – “Randall and Hopkirk Deceased”. {“My Partner the Ghost” in the US}

This was the fabulous swinging 60’s-tastic story of a private eye (Randall) and his unfortunately deceased ghostly sleuthing partner, Marty Hopkirk {Kenneth Cope wearing a white suit}.

Swaggering leather jacketed London criminal types couldn’t see ghostly Marty Hopkirk allowing for all manner of high jinx as he got one over on them. However poor Marty was frustrated by his inability to interact with the real world {especially the ladies} the main difficulty being that he was invisible to everyone but Randall.

The real world just didn’t take any notice of poor Marty. He didn’t exist…

Do you feel a bit like this with your efforts to publicise your art online? Like you can shout from the rooftops about it and no one hears you. You spend lots of time Tweeting, Facebooking, putting new images on Etsy, adding work to Zazzle or Redbubble etc yet no-one seems to even stop by your shop.

Are you an invisible artist?

There is no denying that getting your creative work noticed online is HARD. The competition is vast and ever growing. Every day more and more artists add their work to the humongous selection of artwork available online. I sometimes get the feeling that the internet is comprised entirely of celebrity gossip, nutritional supplements, sex and art, not necessarily in that order. How can you even begin to make a dent in that mountain of content and be noticed?

So what is the secret to beating invisible artist syndrome?

I’m afraid the secret is that there is no quick fix easy answer. It comes down to a combination of working on these areas below and getting them right.

1 ] Branding – Standing out from the crowd

Getting your image right is crucially important. In fact it is the solid foundation to everything else you do. If your imagery is poor you can waste time on promotion and never get anywhere. Get this right first.

You need to stand out from the crowd and make a statement with everything you do. Great high quality photography of your work, well chosen colours and a consistent message across the web will start to make you and your work noticable.

Make sure that your website, printed materials, presence on Twitter and anywhere else your work appears all carry this consistent message. People will start to recognise you and your work and the quality that it represents.

2 ] Your artists website – make it personal

It’s very easy to set up a shop on Etsy, Redbubble, Zazzle or any of the many myriad of artists shopping websites available. Whilst this ease of access is brilliant you can soon find that getting people to visit your shop or buy an item is not so easy.

This is for the very simple reason that these sites are not there to just sell YOUR work alone. Their goal is to get traffic to their entire site, not specifically your shop. They really don’t care who makes the sale, you or any other artist on the site as they get the commission either way. Therefore they make it very easy to surf around and flit from one artist to another. Even if someone lands on your page they will probably flit off to look at another pretty item they notice. It’s the butterfly mind at work and there are SO many other artists on these sites that your work just gets lost in the crowd.

You can expend a lot of energy trying to drive visitors to your shop but chances are they will be off to look at someone else once they get there. Faced with a lot of choice, buyers tend to get befuddled, do nothing and not make a purchase. You are left feeling invisible again.

People who stand out and do well on these sites tend to do a LOT of marketing directing people to their shop but what if something changes?

Sellers on 1000Markets had an unpleasant surprise recently when it was bought out and renamed Bonanza.com, Any hard work put into promoting and creating links to a shop there was undone overnight as the web address changed. Back to invisibility.

Only YOU care passionately about your work. Use that passion to create your OWN website. You have no competition from other artists on your own site and time you spend on promoting and marketing it is well spent and will only improve your chances of being seen.

Your site isn’t going to disappear, change name or get banned. It is your own little bit of the internet and you can make it look exactly how you want. Over time, your work will become more and more visible across the web.

3 ] High quality professional work.

It goes without saying that everything you put on the internet should be your very best work. Never show anything you aren’t happy with. Much better to have a smaller selection of brilliant work to view than a sprawling mass of substandard pieces that you really aren’t happy with. Again, make sure the photography and presentation of your work is excellent. Set your quality threshold high and your work is much more likely to be noticed for all the right reasons.

4 ] And finally… Hard Work {sorry ;-(}

The greatest lie perpetuated about the web is that you can just sit back and let it do the work for you. I think we all know by now that it doesn’t work like that [unfortunately] and you do have to put the time in promoting and sharing your work in order for it to become more visible across the web to potential buyers.

In an interesting interview recently {worth a listen}, artist John T Unger said that he generally spends 30-40 hours per week marketing his art. He figured that he could either work for someone else in a job and come home and work on his art after work, or he could take the hours he would spend on another job and use them to promote his firebowl sculptures, and again work on his art after hours. This is a fairly extreme example of working really hard at promoting his work, but John is able to sell expensive high end artwork through his website and has been featured in publications such as the New York Times so he is definitely not invisible.

The bottom line is that it takes time, work and patience to gain visibility for your artwork, but unlike poor Marty, condemned to eternal invisibility, you CAN do it.

Begin taking some steps now to make sure more potential buyers get to see your fabulous work.

Time to stop being an invisible artist. Let me know in the comments how you get on.

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How to start your Artists Newsletter in 6 easy-peasy steps – A practical guide

A very practical post this week!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post exhorting artists to start collecting names on their artists mailing list.
What is your crucial secret weapon for selling art? : Lessons from “The Apprentice”

I got feedback from lots of artists who wanted to do just that and send out a newsletter but really didn’t know where to start and were confused and daunted by the whole process. So following on from this I have put together a quick guide to help.

Follow these 6 simple steps and you should be well on your way to sending out a professional email artists newsletter which will give you a head start in promoting your work.

In the words of a famous footwear brand – Just do it.

Setting this up will probably take around an hour. Then you are all ready to go and start collecting emails and contacting your fans and collectors. It’s really not a daunting techie process and trust me, it’s worth it in terms of selling your art. It’s probably THE most powerful thing you can do to keep in touch with people who love your work.

Just dedicate an hour after dinner tonight to getting this sorted out. You can even have a glass of wine whilst you’re doing it. Bonus. 😉

This post is, due to constraints of space, just a quick overview of how to do it. Basically, the software we are going to use, MailChimp,  is very user friendly which is why it’s the best place to start if you have never done this before. Don’t be daunted by it. Jump in and have a poke about. You can’t break anything. Once you get your confidence up you will be away.

So, here we go…

1 – Register with MailChimp.com for free

You really don’t want to send out your Newsletter using your normal email software {Outlook etc} for a variety of reasons, the main ones being that the template will break, it will get classed as spam and you can’t track the results.

  • Head over to www.mailchimp.com and click on the big SIGN UP FREE button. Fill in your details and click the confirmation email you will be sent.
  • You will then be asked to fill in a CAPTCHA {typing in the strange words to confirm you are human} and then taken to a page where you fill in your details.
  • At this stage you are also asked for your website address so MailChimp can grab a colour palette from your website so that your templates match. How cool is that?
  • If you don’t have your own website yet, but only a Facebook page or Twitter presence don’t worry. You can still send out a newsletter. MailChimp explains how to deal with that at this stage.
  • Finally pick the FREE account and you are taken to the MailChimp dashboard and ready to start.

2 – Create your mailing list

So before you send out any newsletters you need to get some people to send them to. You need to start a list and start collecting names and email addresses.

  • On the dashboard, click the LISTS tab at the top, or “Create a List” on the main panel and you are taken to a page where you set up a mailing list.
  • You are guided through the process of naming the list, adding in your email address and subject name. You can leave settings on default for now if unsure. The main thing is getting this set up. You can come back later and change and refine it.
  • When you click DONE the list is saved.
  • If you already have some names {legally gathered on your website} you can import them into the new list by clicking IMPORT
  • Your list is now ready to go. Yay!

3 – Put a signup form on your site

People visiting your site need to be able to signup for your list so you need to add a signup form on your website.

  • Click DESIGN SIGNUP FORM in the left column and lets get started.
  • Auto Design is a great feature which goes to your website and grabs colours and images to match the form to your site. It made a reasonable job on my site although it added a fairly bonkers header image which I had to delete. Still its a good way to start and you can then click the DESIGN IT tab at the top to poke about and refine the form. Don’t worry, you can’t break anything. Just experiment.
  • Keep your form simple. Name and email address is really all you need. The more information you ask for the less likely people will be to sign up.
  • When you are all done you then need to get this form onto your site. Look just above the form [tucked away and not very obvious} and you will see the following links. Link to subscribe form {and the link here} or create embed code for small form. Either copy and past the link {simple} and add to your site or create the embed code and copy this into the HTML of your site {slightly more techy but better}.
  • Once you have got the form onto your site make sure you check it works OK by subscribing yourself.

4 – Create a Newsletter {campaign}

Now for the exciting bit. Actually putting your newsletter together. Mailchimp uses the adspeak word “campaign” but we know we mean newsletter right?

  • Hit the campaigns tab at the top and “Create Campaign” in the left column.
  • Then select “regular ol campaign” from the pull down menu you are provided. You are then asked which list you want to send to. Select your list and continue.
  • Next give your campaign a name and message title. You can leave the other settings on default for now.
  • When you click through to the next page you are given a great choice of template designs to use. Choose a pre designed one, start from scratch if you are feeling brave or click the “Design Genius” button to customise your own.
  • When you have chosen a template, just click edit at top right of the relevant section box and add your own content.
  • When you have finished creating your newsletter, click next and mailchimp will check your newsletter is ready for delivery.
  • VERY IMPORTANT. Send a test message to yourself to make sure everything looks right. Just keep sending tests until you are sure its all good to go.
  • That’s it!!. Your artists newsletter is ready to go! Wasn’t too painful was it?

5 – Great. But what on earth do I put in my artists newsletter?

This is the ten billion dollar question I get asked A LOT. It’s all very well setting up a newsletter but you have to have good content. We all get bombarded by massive amounts of email rubbish so your newsletter needs to stand out from the crowd. A few pointers:

Your title needs the WOW factor.
This is the only thing that will get your email opened. Make it intriguing and different.

People love stories.
Share the stories behind your work. Is there an intriguing history behind a building you painted? An anecdote surrounding the evolution of a technique you use? Share it.

Share the story of your work in progress.
Has a piece of work evolved in a strange and unexpected way? Tell people about it.

Give previews.
Show your collectors your new work before it goes on your site, giving them a VIP boost.

6 – Send it out. Talk to your people

You’ve done it. Your artists newsletter is ready to go. Sending out once a month is plenty and will mean people won’t get sick of hearing from you. Quality over quantity every time.

Have fun with your artists newsletter. Cherish your fans and customers, respect them and send them great stuff. An artists newsletter is a wonderful and direct way of connecting with the precious people who love your work.

You have done the hard part. Now go out and make the most of it.

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Best of the web | October 2010 | Don’t miss these.

Take 10 minutes at lunchtime to watch this thought provoking animation. Really important discussion touching on the reason artists often find it so hard at school.

Why being a square peg is now your greatest art sales asset
I have been looking into this subject in a guest post on The Abundant Artist which you can read here.

9 creative women share secrets to suceeding with social media
A series of blog posts curated by a group of creative women blogging about how social media has helped them and their businesses, and how you can put these ideas into action.

Art School Monsters
Do you have a monster lurking from art school that tells you you are no good at art and undermines your confidence? I certainly do. I LOVED this post from Kirsty Hall.

Social Media Cheat Sheet
Extremely useul map of where you should concentrate your attention in the social media world.

Is Etsy Dying?
Thought provoking read from Skinny Artist about Etsy’s figures. A good reason to get your own artists website and not rely on Etsy as your sole web presence.

See 10 crucial reasons why every artist needs a their own hub website

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Illustrator Lisa Stubbs shares her online world

Lisa Stubbs is a freelance illustrator, artist and printmaker from Yorkshire England.

Her work is inspired by a wide variety of lovelyness ranging though Japanese graphics, vintage packaging and the creativity of her children and includes screenprinting, stitch and textiles. She writes an eclectic & inspirational blog at ‘LilSonnySky and her work can be found on both Etsy.com & Folksy.com

In this interview, Lisa shares her experiences about marketing her work, the business of art, and success selling art online. She also shares her inspirations and processes.

Your work

Lisa. How would you describe your art
I’d describe my work as narrative, characterful, honest and with a sence of humour, I want people to connect and relate to my artwork I want it to make the onlooker smile.

Please explain a little about your creative process.
For my own personal work I carry a sketch book and camera around with me, if anything inspires me I jot it down or snap it! Then later I will work further on the sketch and decide what medium to create the final artwork in, which at the moment is mainly as a screen print or a fabric collage. I have three children who are a constant inspiration to me with their energy and fresh imaginative way of looking at the things, and along with their picture book collection and their own art, this fuels ideas for my sketch book too.

What is your workspace like?
Do you have a dedicated space to create? I have a studio next to my kitchen which is open plan ( you can see an image it of it here) Where I do most of my work, my screen printing is done at the West Yorkshire Print workshop where I learnt how to screen print.

Your Online World

fossil hunting in red hatYour blog www.LilSonnySky.Blogspot.com is packed full of fascinating and exciting work, inspiration and fun. It’s created on the Blogger platform. Would you recommend Blogger to artists starting to set up a blog or would you do anything differently if you were setting it up now?
The Blogger platform is perfect for me as it’s easy to use. I’m no whiz when it comes to computers and blogging along with opening Etsy & Folksy shops has been a huge learning curve, which I’ve really enjoyed! Because I don’t have a massive range of computer skills, Blogger has been simple and easy to use and perfect for my needs.

What did you find the most difficult or challenging part of setting up your blog?
The courage to do it!! I knew the technical side would be a challenge but I could learn that side of things and overcome any difficulties by ‘help’ links and trial and error. But the actual ‘ does anyone want to read about my work and inspiration?’ bit and finding an online voice that represented me was the hardest bit! I’m so glad I did, it’s been a massively positive learning experience and have met some wonderful ‘blogging’ friends along the way!

How useful do you find your blog in terms of promoting and selling your work?
Very useful, it’s been an online shop window for me and an open studio for people to see how my work is created and what inspires me, which I think gives my work a visual history of hows it’s been created before going onto my shops.

How much do you find your online presence crosses over into the real world?
Do you find contacts and promotions that you make online help your work offline too? Yes, I think the links and contacts I’ve made through people seeing my work on my blog and Etsy shop have been wonderful, and I have received many commercial briefs because of this. My Etsy shop and my Flickr account have been almost like an online portfolio and a way to show case my work.

Out of all the things you do online to promote your work, which has been the most useful or worthwhile?
That’s difficult to say as they’re all linked, I’d say my blog as a platform leading to other links, but my Etsy shop has been wonderful at attracting interest abroad, people come to look at the blog who have bought items from the shop first. So I’d say my blog and Etsy shop.

Approximately how long do you spend each day or week, working to promote your work on the web?
I’d say an hour to maybe 2 hours a day, it depends on how much work I have to do.

You have shops on both etsy and folksy. Do these work well for you?
They don’t do too bad really, considering this is all my own personal work and not my commercial work so I don’t put my full time and energy into it. I work as a freelance illustrator so my Etsy, Folksy, Flickr and blog are all side lines if you like, but they have helped and supported my commercial work enormously. Not just as a brief free zone to experiment and try out my own ideas but also as a shop window for potential clients.

Roughly what percentage of your total sales comes through Folksy and Etsy?
For me it’s not a massive amount but it’s growing. That’s due to time and my work priority’s. I think to be really successful on these sites you need to spend a considerable amount of time networking, joining chat rooms, subscribing to news letters, getting involved in Etsy promotions, Etsy Treasury’s and online communities, generally being involved with every aspect of it to get the word around about your work. This takes time which I haven’t got as my commercial work takes priority, but I’m very proud of ‘Lil Sonny Sky’ and if I can do this just with a small amount of time, just think of what you could achieve if you gave it your full attention!

How do you get people to visit your shops on these sites? What promotion do you do to let people know about them?
I have links on my blog and links in posts. I also leave comments on other blogs and I’ve got involved with online competitions and projects, ( here and here) Offline I have exhibited at local Art fairs which have info of my shops and blog,

Your Arty Business

Japanese spring girlWhich marketing strategies have been most helpful in advancing your career and selling your work?
Investing time to learn new ways of working and experiment, this has been the best way I’ve advanced my career – not really a marketing strategy I know but by doing this everything else has just naturally followed on. The contacts I’ve made and the work I’ve sold has all been through constantly pushing myself work wise to better myself as an artist and reinvent ways of creating my ideas. My Etsy shop has been an out let for this and it’s this work that has got me noticed more than ever and got me more work. So I’d say experimenting, being open minded and inventive has been my best marketing strategy!

In a normal day, how much time do you spend on creating and how much on business related stuff?
I’ll spend the first hour of the day online, then stop and do design work making use of the day light and then on an evening spend time at my mac doing the online stuff or keeping up with the books! this is tricky with a young family so the creative time has to take priority as I can’t do this with the children around. This balance seems to be working ….. at the mo!

Can you offer any advice to someone who is just starting out down the road of self employment as an artist?
Just work really hard! invest the time you need to get organised and target who you want to notice your work. Have a clear idea or goal and then list what you need to do to achieve that goal, personally and commercially. Buy the Artists and Writers year book which should be your bible as it’s packed with loads of advice, case studies and contacts. Believe in yourself and your work otherwise nobody else will and don’t be afraid to seek advice and help, there are tonnes of resources out there, local free courses on book keeping, marketing, time management etc. Get involved with organisations like The Association of illustrators or local Art organisations, we have the Art house in Wakefield, or WYPW who have monthly news letters with lots of opportunity’s for artists! and be positive, don’t see problems as mistakes, they’re just lessons on your journey to achieving your goal!!

Do you make a living exclusively from your art and creativity or do you combine it with other work too?
I earn my living as a commercial freelance illustrator and I have just got an agent purely through my personal work online which is wonderful as it makes me nearer to my goal of becoming a children’s book illustrator.

Working for yourself

lisa stubbs - PiggybackWhat has been the biggest obstacle or difficulty you have faced whilst getting established as a self employed artist?
How did you overcome this difficulty? I started as a freelance illustrator 14 years ago which seems like a life time ago! I think for me I found juggling time difficult and being jack of all trades, understanding accounting, time management and computers and solving technical problems were all new skills I had to learn. The only way to over come this was to go on ‘new business’ courses. I went on lots which were free at the time and great as I met people in the same boat and learnt from their mistakes as well as my own. I could pick the brains of professionals in their field for free. Today I think local art associations will run similar workshops which will be better as they will be tailored to artists needs.

What is the best thing about working for yourself as a self employed artist?
Now I have a young family it’s been wonderful to be flexible time wise, I can work around my family, school runs and swimming lessons! Also just being able to get paid for something I absolutely love doing and being my own boss! I feel very lucky!

And the worst?
It’s a very solitary profession! The radio and the blogging community are my studio mates! but I get around this by going out to screen print, I also help out now and then at the school my children go to doing art classes which helps to brake up blocks of time spent on my own.

Do you have any advice for creative people who want to work for themselves or set up a business selling the products of their creativity?
The same as before really, work hard, seek advice and help, believe in your work and research your market and competition, write down your goal then list what you need to do to achieve it. And be positive! The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything!

Your Inspiration

Finally, please share something that inspires you.
My children, picture books, song lyrics, Japanese graphics, fabric, tumblr, vintage packaging. I find inspiration in so many things the list is endless! it’s ever changing, but my children mainly and their art the confidence they have when drawing and their imagination is just magic!

Thank you Lisa for sharing your work and practise with us. Don’t forget to visit Lisa’s blog at ‘LilSonnySky

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