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Trying to increase art sales to help fund another business. I need some feedback?

Erika

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Feb 25, 2019
10
11
19
South Africa
Hi guys and gals!

I want to ask you for some feedback please? I’ve been sitting with this for a while, thinking about how I want to phrase this but here goes!

I’m a digital illustrator. I paint fantasy related images and characters using Photoshop and then I place them online to sell as a digital download. Places like Patreon and ArtStation offer a service where I can upload my files, choose my own price and then people can purchase and download the files on their end.

I know this idea is not exactly perfectly Fastlane. But, this is not my end all be all business plan. I want to use it to generate some funds that I can then use to help my other business get off the ground which has much more potential to be Fastlane.

Problem is, I’ve been at this for about 2 years and made minimal sales and I’m at the point where I just want to quit. I was also listening to a podcast with MJ De Marco the other day and they were talking about a feedback loop. I realized that my feedback loop is almost nonexistent. I’ll get the occasional comment saying “nice work” or ‘lovely’ or something along those lines but nothing that indicates if I’m really on the right or wrong track. I’d even take negative feedback at this point telling me how awful my work or strategies are so that I can at least know that there is something to work on.

I often sit and ask myself how I can add more value to my art pieces to get more people interested. These are some of the ways I’ve come up with:
  • I offer the digital file in two formats. One in RGB for digital use and on in CMYK for printing so that the customer doesn’t have to worry about first having it converted or it printing out in funny colours.
  • I’ve started writing short stories about the characters in my illustrations in order to give them more personality
  • I’ve started a blog where I post free tips and tricks on Photoshop for beginners in the hopes that I can attract a larger audience (this is still in its infancy though)
  • I try to engage with my audience and reply to the comments that I do get in order to build a better relationship with them.

I’ve been trying to study other artists that are making a success to try and figure out what they are doing that I am not but I haven’t come up with a clear answer yet. Except that they have more value in some way than I do.

So my question is: How do I get people to engage more with my art? And how do I get them to move over from just being an admirer to becoming a buyer?

If anyone is interested here’s a link to my Instagram account: Erika (@saphyrescribles) • Instagram photos and videos I use this as my main portfolio with links to all my other accounts. This is not me trolling for likes or follows. This is so that I can get some feedback on what you guys might think I am doing wrong or can do differently or better from a business aspect. So have at it and poke some holes please?
 

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NMdad

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Welcome to the tribe, Erika!

A few questions:
  • Who, specifically, are your customers--who buys from you? Why do they buy this kind of art: what problem is it solving or benefit does it provide?
  • How can you reach more people like them, and highlight the pain solved / benefits created by having your art (e.g., case studies)?
  • Have you considered doing instructional videos/courses?
  • You mentioned posting tips & tricks for Photoshop. What problems do you or others run into repeatedly with Photoshop? Is it possible to create a tool that fixes those problems, or automates or makes Photoshop easier?

My hunch is that your current portfolio appeals to a small % of the population (correct me if I'm wrong), and that it's not solving a big enough problem or providing a big enough benefit for them to pay.

I've seen artists, software developers, & others box themselves into a niche--for example, focusing on what they want/like instead of what others will pay them for.
 
OP
OP
Erika

Erika

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Feb 25, 2019
10
11
19
South Africa
Welcome to the tribe, Erika!

A few questions:
  • Who, specifically, are your customers--who buys from you? Why do they buy this kind of art: what problem is it solving or benefit does it provide?
  • How can you reach more people like them, and highlight the pain solved / benefits created by having your art (e.g., case studies)?
  • Have you considered doing instructional videos/courses?
  • You mentioned posting tips & tricks for Photoshop. What problems do you or others run into repeatedly with Photoshop? Is it possible to create a tool that fixes those problems, or automates or makes Photoshop easier?

My hunch is that your current portfolio appeals to a small % of the population (correct me if I'm wrong), and that it's not solving a big enough problem or providing a big enough benefit for them to pay.

I've seen artists, software developers, & others box themselves into a niche--for example, focusing on what they want/like instead of what others will pay them for.
Hi and thank you so much for your reply!
You are 100% right about the fact that my portfolio currently appeals to a very small percentage of the population. That is a problem that I am trying to solve.

The problem with art is, it doesn't really solve a need. Or at least mine doesn't because I am not a trained graphic designer who can design logos for someones company etc. I would say my art falls more into the category of providing benefit in some way because it is 'nice to look at' (hopefully) and more aimed towards evoking a positive emotional response.

So to answer your questions:
  • My art is fantasy and fairy tale related so my audience would be people who are interested in these types of things. More specifically, a light hearted approach to fantasy so I guess that would include children in some cases too. I am aware that this is still a very small audience though.
  • To solve this and add more value to reach people I have started adding short stories to the characters and creatures that I draw. So that it's not just a pretty picture but something with personality that someone can hopefully relate to or feel something for. My plan for the future, once I have enough stories, is also to compile them all into a book for people to buy. Perhaps in the form of children's' bed time stories.
  • I have most definitely thought of making short video tutorials and courses. I even wrote down the outline for a course that I want to start with. Only issue is our current internet speed over here SUCKS. I tried starting a YouTube channel but it takes 3-4 hours just to upload a 5 min video. Either that or, on certain platforms, if the internet crashes I need to start from scratch with the upload. That is why I started the blog. In order to put in writing what I wanted to put into a video.....until we can afford a faster, more stable connection that is. So I guess I have 2 options: 1. Continue with the blog and do what I wanted to do with the videos in written form. Perhaps I can also compile these posts into a short book on how to use Photoshop eventually. Or, 2, find a way to upload videos for a course.
  • As for the Photoshop tips; I try to think back on how I felt when I was learning Photoshop. I remember spending hours and hours looking for videos and reading posts in order to try and understand what was happening and what I needed to do to get a certain effect. So my aim with the guides is to make it as easy as possible for people to follow along. To literally hold their hand and show them, with images, exactly where to click and in the most simple terms, explain what a certain feature or setting does and how and why they would use it.
Thanks again for you reply. Thinking about and answering your questions helped me to think about it in a more structured way. I'm not giving up yet!
 

NMdad

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Given the niche market and lukewarm market response (i.e., sales) over the years, are there other factors that indicate you could realistically grow your revenue, say, by 50%-100%?

If not, you might consider ceasing it as a business, and investing your energy into another endeavor that has more potential and/or higher probability of succeeding.
 

rwhyan

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I think you should probably move on.

In all honesty, your art is decent but I can't imagine very many people wanting to purchase it. It is not that unique or amazingly high quality to stand out.

But one last thing you may want to try is target a specific niche, even more specific than just "fantasy." For example online fantasy video games, or just one in particular (like World of Warcraft or Starcraft or any of those popular ones). Since those fan bases are so passionate, I can imagine that if you did art of the characters within the game and different scenes and such, people would like that.

Also some games have custom avatars. You could offer a service where you will paint their avatar.

Try it for a few months, but if you continue to not receive any market feedback, that IS your market feedback. As you said yourself, art is not a painful need. It is entertainment. For that reason it needs to be super high quality or very unique for people to purchase.
 

minivanman

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In short, I agree about moving on, if you are talking about making any major cash from it. I know people have done some unbelievable things that others didn't think possible, but I doubt anyone here has as deep of roots in the art world as I do. And while my roots are in a totally different style, I know people who have deep (DEEP) ties in many different styles that just can not make it work.

But that doesn't mean you can't use your artistic ability to make a lot of cash. Put it to use in other ways.
 
OP
OP
Erika

Erika

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Feb 25, 2019
10
11
19
South Africa
Thanks guys for all your input and sharing your thoughts.

I have also considered moving on to be honest. I'd rather have art as just a hobby to enjoy.

I do have another business endeavor that I'm working on that has a much higher potential to grow because it actually caters to a need. It's still in its infancy though.

But my goal was never to make tones of money doing art though. I wanted to use it as a means to an end. To make a few extra bucks that I can invest into helping my other business get off the ground faster. It will take a little longer without but it's not absolutely essential.
 

JWM

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Apr 14, 2018
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Thanks guys for all your input and sharing your thoughts.

I have also considered moving on to be honest. I'd rather have art as just a hobby to enjoy.

I do have another business endeavor that I'm working on that has a much higher potential to grow because it actually caters to a need. It's still in its infancy though.

But my goal was never to make tones of money doing art though. I wanted to use it as a means to an end. To make a few extra bucks that I can invest into helping my other business get off the ground faster. It will take a little longer without but it's not absolutely essential.
Art is absolutely possible to bring in a little cash to keep your head above water while you work on your project. The biggest issue is what you are charging for your work. Average people can't justify spending lots of money on art or don't understand why you charge what you do.

I am an airbrush artist and do it here and there for a little extra cash for bills etc. I mostly do portraits of customers families or comic book characters or musicians. I figure out the most they want to spend and "guide" their decision towards a painting that gives me the best hourly rate. SO because I have guided their decision, I know I can price the work so that the customer accepts the job, the job will be done in a style that is quick but effective and i get a good hourly rate.

Notice I emphasised "quick". You need to find a way to get the artworks out ASAP while maintaining quality. A customer will only see so much detail, work out what that threshold is, it might only be 60% of your capacity. The extra time spent on that 40% detail might need double the time to complete and the customer wont notice it. They wont be able to compare their commissioned piece with an identical piece that you have put your heart and soul into, so they wont even know.

The difference with what I do and what you do is that your style limits you to fantasy, whereas my customers could hand me a photo of their dog and I can make a big painting and still get somewhere in the range of $80-$100 an hour. Use your skill to create art that sells, not what you enjoy painting. Paint what you enjoy once you don't have to rely on your art to live.
 

Neng Her

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Aug 30, 2018
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There was an artist who sat in a cafe drawing a picture on a napkin. After he finished, he tossed it the trash. A women sitting on a different table offered him $20.00 for the trashed napkin.
Artists, "no, give me $5000.00"
Women, "Why you took 20 minutes"
Artist, "No this took me 50 years".

The artist picked up his napkin and left the cafe. The End.
 

NMdad

Silver Contributor
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Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
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Aug 6, 2017
472
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339
New Mexico
There was an artist who sat in a cafe drawing a picture on a napkin. After he finished, he tossed it the trash. A women sitting on a different table offered him $20.00 for the trashed napkin.
Artists, "no, give me $5000.00"
Women, "Why you took 20 minutes"
Artist, "No this took me 50 years".

The artist picked up his napkin and left the cafe. The End.
Epilogue: The artist still hadn't made any money from his art--even though there was a willing customer.
 

MHP368

the man, the myth, the Pseudo-Apollodorus
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Aug 17, 2016
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Sahuarita AZ
Hi guys and gals!

I want to ask you for some feedback please? I’ve been sitting with this for a while, thinking about how I want to phrase this but here goes!

I’m a digital illustrator. I paint fantasy related images and characters using Photoshop and then I place them online to sell as a digital download. Places like Patreon and ArtStation offer a service where I can upload my files, choose my own price and then people can purchase and download the files on their end.

I know this idea is not exactly perfectly Fastlane. But, this is not my end all be all business plan. I want to use it to generate some funds that I can then use to help my other business get off the ground which has much more potential to be Fastlane.

Problem is, I’ve been at this for about 2 years and made minimal sales and I’m at the point where I just want to quit. I was also listening to a podcast with MJ De Marco the other day and they were talking about a feedback loop. I realized that my feedback loop is almost nonexistent. I’ll get the occasional comment saying “nice work” or ‘lovely’ or something along those lines but nothing that indicates if I’m really on the right or wrong track. I’d even take negative feedback at this point telling me how awful my work or strategies are so that I can at least know that there is something to work on.

I often sit and ask myself how I can add more value to my art pieces to get more people interested. These are some of the ways I’ve come up with:
  • I offer the digital file in two formats. One in RGB for digital use and on in CMYK for printing so that the customer doesn’t have to worry about first having it converted or it printing out in funny colours.
  • I’ve started writing short stories about the characters in my illustrations in order to give them more personality
  • I’ve started a blog where I post free tips and tricks on Photoshop for beginners in the hopes that I can attract a larger audience (this is still in its infancy though)
  • I try to engage with my audience and reply to the comments that I do get in order to build a better relationship with them.

I’ve been trying to study other artists that are making a success to try and figure out what they are doing that I am not but I haven’t come up with a clear answer yet. Except that they have more value in some way than I do.

So my question is: How do I get people to engage more with my art? And how do I get them to move over from just being an admirer to becoming a buyer?

If anyone is interested here’s a link to my Instagram account: Erika (@saphyrescribles) • Instagram photos and videos I use this as my main portfolio with links to all my other accounts. This is not me trolling for likes or follows. This is so that I can get some feedback on what you guys might think I am doing wrong or can do differently or better from a business aspect. So have at it and poke some holes please?
Maybe a video blog as well? I think that would have more traction if you were painting but...thry have videos of peoplr livestreaming playiny video games with millions of views so what do I know.

Honestly though I feel like this is more a case of "chasing money" than anything , you like art and your trying to monetize it but its a saturated narket.

Shooting from the hip , open a studio and find a group of artist that covers the entire niche , scifi , fantasy , horror etc

Then what you do is offer bundles , "300 dollars to illustrate an entire web comic" , "150 dollars for a 10 page color scene" whatever

Try to get a subscription edge to it , basically they pay a set amount every month to jave your studio on retainer and you give them priority turnaround (whatever that means , 72 hours?)

If you do art dor money youll end up hating art , manage others and take your self out of the equation and maybe you end up wealthy. Again just my idea on it.
 

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OP
OP
Erika

Erika

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Feb 25, 2019
10
11
19
South Africa
Art is absolutely possible to bring in a little cash to keep your head above water while you work on your project. The biggest issue is what you are charging for your work. Average people can't justify spending lots of money on art or don't understand why you charge what you do.

I am an airbrush artist and do it here and there for a little extra cash for bills etc. I mostly do portraits of customers families or comic book characters or musicians. I figure out the most they want to spend and "guide" their decision towards a painting that gives me the best hourly rate. SO because I have guided their decision, I know I can price the work so that the customer accepts the job, the job will be done in a style that is quick but effective and i get a good hourly rate.

Notice I emphasised "quick". You need to find a way to get the artworks out ASAP while maintaining quality. A customer will only see so much detail, work out what that threshold is, it might only be 60% of your capacity. The extra time spent on that 40% detail might need double the time to complete and the customer wont notice it. They wont be able to compare their commissioned piece with an identical piece that you have put your heart and soul into, so they wont even know.

The difference with what I do and what you do is that your style limits you to fantasy, whereas my customers could hand me a photo of their dog and I can make a big painting and still get somewhere in the range of $80-$100 an hour. Use your skill to create art that sells, not what you enjoy painting. Paint what you enjoy once you don't have to rely on your art to live.
Hmmm I think I need to work on that threshold between just enough detail and too much, as you say. I have, at times, felt that I spend more time on a drawing than is really needed. I think it is quite a skill to learn though and definitely not as simple as just drawing less. But, that is definitely something I want to work on.

I don't think I over charge though. I was speaking to a potential client the other day and he wanted a very elaborate scene with lots of things going on and lots of characters in the painting. I told him that for more characters and details I charge more because obviously it's going to take longer for me to draw. In the end I think my total price was something like $150 (which would have been WAY less than even $80 per hour). Needless to say he didn't accept. But in hind sight I think I should have found out how much he was willing to pay first, as you mentioned. And then maybe suggested we start with just one character and since it's digital I could always have added the others later. But, hind sight is 20/20 right?

Either way, some sound advice for me to think about
 
OP
OP
Erika

Erika

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Feb 25, 2019
10
11
19
South Africa
Maybe a video blog as well? I think that would have more traction if you were painting but...thry have videos of peoplr livestreaming playiny video games with millions of views so what do I know.

Honestly though I feel like this is more a case of "chasing money" than anything , you like art and your trying to monetize it but its a saturated narket.

Shooting from the hip , open a studio and find a group of artist that covers the entire niche , scifi , fantasy , horror etc

Then what you do is offer bundles , "300 dollars to illustrate an entire web comic" , "150 dollars for a 10 page color scene" whatever

Try to get a subscription edge to it , basically they pay a set amount every month to jave your studio on retainer and you give them priority turnaround (whatever that means , 72 hours?)

If you do art dor money youll end up hating art , manage others and take your self out of the equation and maybe you end up wealthy. Again just my idea on it.
That sounds like a pretty decent plan. However, I am not looking to make millions off of art. Just some 'pocket money' to invest back into my other business idea which is much more scalable and will be easier to separate myself from in the future. Then I can go back to doing art as a hobby for fun
 

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