Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Review - Emily Jeffords' Making Art Work 2021



It's been a wild ride navigating the waters of COVID and my evolving career as an artist for the past 2 (going on 3) years.  2020 was a rough year for many artists who relied on convention income, including myself.  The crushing pressure of this situation made it more evident to me as an artist that I needed to get my online marketing game up!

After 2020, I desperately wanted more direction for how I could organize my scattered business and become more regimented about my online marketing practices.  Rather than go for a personalized mentorship, I opted for something I felt was more affordable for my budget, but still covered my needs for fundamental and advanced marketing info - Emily Jeffords' art marketing class, Making Art Work.

Making Art Work aims to educate artists on the fundamentals of marketing, while encouraging them to plan for their success and sustainability.  This class is self-directed with live Q&A sessions held weekly to supplement each module.

This review only covers my experience as a 2021 student, so keep that in mind for the purposes of this review, as things may change in future courses.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid review and was written without any incentives being offered to me.

The TL;DR

Emily Jeffords' Making Art Work offers an info-packed review of the basics of marketing primarily geared towards fine artists, with actionable advice, introductions to various income streams through guest experts, and suggested paths for building future marketing strategies.  This class relies on Facebook, which may cut non-FB users out unless they're willing to join up to the platform.

If you are hoping to learn more about licensing, wholesale, etc. this course only scratches the surface of these topics so you may want to seek further education from individual courses dedicated to these topics.  Aside from a few inefficient apps used for extracurricular communication, the class material presented through Kajabi was easy to follow and allows for tracking of your progress.

For more advanced entrepreneurs, this course offers a great review of the fundamentals with actionable strategies for assessing your business and best practices for planning for the future.


Things to Know:

  • Cost: $1000 (after an email coupon) + Approx. $30 for the peer group add-on
  • How Long is this Course?  12 weeks
  • Apps Utilized: Telegram, Voxer, Facebook, Zoom
  • Access to modules is not forever, but only for 2 years after sign-up.  A method to mass download all of the module worksheets was made available at the end of the course.
  • Class was previously held annually and seems to have changed to an every other year schedule

Free Preview Material: 
Emily offers a free sampling of her teaching methods via a week-long Share the Work event which is usually held shortly before Making Art Work launches, so keep an eye out for it so you can see if you like her methods!  Going through the Share the Work material convinced me to join MAW.  You can read about my experience with Share the Work here.


Who is this class for?

This class is mainly aimed at creative entrepreneurs who wish to sell their work through galleries, wholesale, merch, licensing, their own educational material, and other avenues.  While I am not primarily a Fine Artist, I still found the material relevant for assessing strategies for my own art biz, which currently focuses on independently selling my illustrative merch directly to my fans and through crowdfunding.

Emily's course very much also takes the approach that an artist should be striving for sustainability through diversification, rather than killing themselves to focus solely on the sales of paintings.  So if you're looking primarily for instruction on working directly with galleries, for example, a more in-depth course on building relationships with galleries may be more to your liking.  However, if you're seeking a breakdown of the basics and strategies for diversification and refining your marketing techniques, this class has you covered and does cover the basics of licensing, wholesale, gallery sales, etc by bringing in guest experts for each topic for short introductory segments.

A glimpse at what the Making Art Work modules were in 2021. The mix of basic & advanced marketing techniques sold me on this class.  I needed a refresher, as well as guidance for how to evolve!

The Format

Emily's class as it was presented in 2021 takes place through an online portal utilizing Kajabi, for those who know of this service.  I found this to be an easy to use site which let me check off my progress as I went along, which I enjoy as the kind of student who prefers to have a visual of their progress to help keep them focused, organized, and motivated.  Worksheets with actionable advice are provided for nearly every module, which I also enjoyed because I appreciate the material being simplified into actionable steps I can take.

The INSANELY packed amount of worksheets I had in my class binder by the end!

Each module came with a live Q&A hosted via the class' private Facebook group where we could email questions ahead of time.  I felt like my questions were heard, as Emily did the best she could to group similar questions together and answer them specifically.  (EDIT 8/18/2022: It should also be known that there were more than a few hundred students in one 'generation' of a class, so prepare for a big crowd and get your questions in as early as possible!)  This may not be as personalized as a mentorship as some might want, but for the price tag, it's about what I expect.  The Facebook group and the Kajabi portal also acted as spaces we could recieve feedback from the other students, as well as Emily and her staff.

What Did I Learn?

  • How to build a customer avatar (or "ideal customer" as Emily refers to it)
  • Guidance on how to analyze my art and ponder what messages I'm trying to convey (and how this relates to my customer avatar)
  • How to build a brand bible
  • Best practices for Instagram, with basic overviews given for other platforms
  • Best practices for website presentation
  • Best practices for timing of promotion leading up to various types of launch events (templates were provided)
  • Introduction to wholesale catalogs, licensing, SEO, Facebook/Pinterest ads, and more with links provided for further study and guest experts who offered freebies for MAW students
  • Different strategies for pricing work and the pros/cons of each
  • Assessing the viability of prospective projects
  • How to write an email pitch to collaboraters, companies, etc.
  • And much more as hinted by the module topics above
If there's a downside to the massive amount of information presented in this course, is that it's easy to feel lost or frustrated that you can't implement everything all at once!  Emily preaches the approach that "progress is quiet and slow" and she really means that, otherwise, you will find yourself frustrated by how long it will take to implement everything you want to after this course.

Some Caveats

I list these aspects as caveats because they weren't quite dealbreakers for me as far as this course being worthwhile, but I do want to make note of them for those who may find these aspects troublesome for their own experience.

Peer Groups Lacking Organization

This one may be subjective as your group experience may not be exactly the same as mine, depending on who you get grouped with.  It cost around $30 extra to be grouped into peer groups by Emily's staff, who made an effort to group us with students who were in my area with all of us being from different art fields so we could help each other by sharing different perspectives.  You'll be assigned a peer group leader who is another student of the course.  

However, our peer group leader was often unavailable and we did not have a lot of guidance, otherwise.  The suggested app for peer groups was Zoom, which is limited to 40 minute meetings unless one of your peer group members has a premium account you can use.  The rest of our communication was recommended to take place through Voxer, which is a very inefficient app (more on that in the next topic).  

Our group eventually moved to a Discord server we built ourselves where we could organize by topic, have unlimited time for video meetings, etc.  I would not sign up for this peer group extra again unless it was better organized without so much effort required on the students' behalf to stay organized and with more efficient suggested tools being pushed to peer group organizers (IE. Provide a Discord server template for students to automatically set up their own).


Too Many Inefficient Apps

I am a bit biased here, as I dislike having apps on my computer that I'll never use again.  I already have Discord and Slack because of other classes and professional projects I'm involved in.  MAW requires you to add a few more that felt inefficient in their application and use for the course.

Voxer was the suggested app for Peer Groups to use, which let other peers leave voice messages that would autoplay amongst the text messages.  I personally disliked this approach because I can read text faster than listening to voice messages.  There was also no way to organize by topic on Voxer either.

Telegram was another app used for additional commentary for the main course that I didn't enjoy.  Again, there weren't a lot of ways to organize information on it and trying to keep up there and on Facebook was a chore.

Luckily, the main bulk of the course was on Facebook so I didn't necessarily have to keep caught up with Telegram, but it did make Peer Groups a less than desirable experience because of these apps, as mentioned in the last topic.  Otherwise, it was easy to be notified of Q&A's and surf the class group on Facebook by customizing your Group notifications.  If you don't use FB, however, this may be a big hurdle to think about before entering the class!

SO Many Emails

Before, during and after MAW, I received a lot of emails from Emily which upselled to her other services. The biggest push was for us to join The Collective, where you pay a membership fee for year-round access to resources, advice, etc.  I personally didn't mind this so much, but I can see where others would find it a little spammy.  Gird your inbox and prepare when you sign up!  On the plus side, Emily did offer a very generous email coupon for MAW for signing up for Share the Work and that made it worthwhile to stay tuned for me, along with Emily's welcome words of encouragement within!

Lack of Technical Information on Web Hosting

This course was better at teaching the fundamentals of what makes a good website user experience than it was in explaining the more technical choices for website hosting, which was very glossed over.  For many artists with a lack of coding knowledge, the technical requirements of upkeep absolutely matter.  

Using the Wordpress CMS installed directly into your own hosting space where you must personally navigate constantly updating Plugins and server backups is somewhat more complicated than utilizing Squarespace, which handles testing stability of its functions so you don't have to worry about how updating a Wordpress plugin might tank your whole site.  

However, the segment on SEO for websites by guest speaker, Richard Eltringham of Digital Butter, was phenomonal and by far one of the most helpful guest segments included and I hope he returns for future iterations of this course!

Conclusion

While this may not be a one-on-one mentoring course, for the relatively affordable price (cheaper than one college course), I was able to receive a wealth of information to supplement my knowledge of marketing basics and learn how I can take actionable steps to clarify and improve the future of my art biz.  Best of all, Emily teaches us to dig deeper, to make sure we are building growth sustainably instead of burning ourselves out and that we don't just think in dollars, but in that x-factor creative businesses have in order to appeal to their clients' principles in a way that traditional businesses might not.  

Until this course, I don't think I've ever asked myself "Do you actually enjoy the process of painting what you're painting?" The answer surprised me!  For some of my more detailed pieces, I don't actually enjoy the process when it's on a shorter release schedule and that cued me on to a better path for growing my business that I might not have had without this course's gentle prodding to consider my health and enjoyment as part of the process.

This is an approach I highly agree with as someone who has struggled with burnout from growing their biz too quickly and who also believes that creative businesses are fundamentally different from traditional businesses.  Our product is our creative energy and we must guard that energy wisely!

This was a lot of information, so if you have any specific questions, leave a comment and I'll be happy to answer as best I can!  I will update this entry with answers as needed.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Kickstarter Post-Mortem: Birthstone Goddesses Coloring Book

Cross-posted from my Patreon blog and re-shared here for your convenience!
I wrote a rather extensive post on Facebook back in 2018 about my experience with my Birthstone Goddesses coloring book Kickstarter as an artist with a small following. I am finally re-posting it here so it is more accessible to all! (This project was known as the Ladies of the Months back then. Ah, title regrets!)
Book Kickstarters are a LOT of work and this post summarizes the life cycle of how this campaign operated with bonus pointers at the end as to why my first Kickstarter for the Birthstone Goddesses failed. You'll also find a compilation of links to my ads, landing pages, etc. at the end for further study.  
May this prove useful for any of you hoping to run your own Kickstarters in the future!  SHOUT OUT to the Make Your Art Work folks whose Kick Start Art Intensive with Stephanie Law prepared me for the Kickstarter journey that helped me make this campaign a success!

PROJECT STATS



  • My Project Link
  • My Project's Goal: $8k
  • Campaign Length: 30 Days
  • Hype Time: 2 months
  • Ad Budget: $200
  • All Stretch Goals Met - Ending Total - $9.4k
I started out with a somewhat small audience (approx. 250 on my mailing list at the time).

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Review - Printful for Artists



As an artist running a business with just one employee (aka. myself) and not a lot of storage space, I'm always looking for time-saving and space-saving measures so that I can focus more on art and less on other tasks that take time away from creating.  I'm at a unique position in my business' growth where I don't have a huge amount of print sales, but the few that I do get are enough to take up a good chunk of the morning to prep, package, and send out on my own.

This made Printful a good choice for me to look into until I feel comfortable expanding to printing art on my own professional printer at home and hiring more employees.  I have been using it for a little over a year and wanted to share my experience with it for those who may find themselves in a similar position as myself!

What is Printful?


Printful is a print on demand service that will drop ship directly to your customers on your behalf. This service seamlessly integrates with Etsy, WooCommerce, Shopify, and most major shop options. They take a cut of the profits and handle the printing and shipping.

They will also process returns on your behalf with you acting as an intermediary for your customers. Printful fulfills orders mainly to the US, but they have been slowly adding fulfillment centers in Europe so that they can quickly deliver items overseas.

Printful is a completely white label service, which means they will never include any of their branding within your orders. If for some reason you do not want them to integrate with your shop, you can also place orders with them to drop ship manually for you without requiring shop integration.


What Does it Cost?

Like most print on demand companies, there is no monthly fee, rather they only make money when you sell a product.  There is a base price for the cost of the item and labor, and a percentage on top of this base price which the company takes a share of.

You can set your own list price per item in your shop to suit the profit margin you want to see with each item.  Printful has a handy estimation tool so you can see exactly how much you'll make per item when you set your list price.

How is the Quality?

I have used Printful primarily to purchase luster prints, so I cannot speak to the quality of their many other products.  As far as print surfaces, they offer matte, luster, and canvas prints.

I chose their luster prints because I prefer a semi-gloss finish for my art.  Their luster prints are gorgeous and provide excellent color reproduction for some of my most difficult prints, such as dark digital pieces with subtle color like the one pictured below.

My Kushiel's Dart print arrived rolled in tissue paper inside of a mailing tube.
An example of the branding included on the outside of the package and the tightly wrapped print.

An example of the branded pack-in slip that's included for free with orders.
The main downside of using Printful for selling prints is that prints are restricted to standard sizes, meaning if you have art that would not fit in standard frames that any prints you make of them will have white borders included (unless you upload a source file that does something creative with these borders).

My very long non-standard Art Nouveau prints look like this, for example. I generally instruct my customers that they can either crop these borders off themselves or simply mat over the white when framing a piece:


The Ordering Process

  1. Once an order is placed in your shop, the cost of the order is deducted from your Printful Wallet (which you can set to refill automatically when funds are needed).
  2. Then, Printful will print and pack your order.  Basic branding information is included, such as your logo, your website, and a brief note you can customize for your customers (ie. a thank you note, coupon code, etc.).  Additionally, you can pay extra and include more advanced pack-ins, like postcards which you provide to Printful's warehouse. 
  3.  Once your order is shipped, Printful will automatically update the order in your shop with the tracking information.
NOTE:  A small flaw I've found in Etsy's integration with Printful is that gift notes from Etsy Orders are not automatically imported into Printful.  You will need to quickly copy and paste the note in manually, should you wish the order to be sent out with the gift message!  You'll usually have 24 hours to do this before the print is produced and shipped automatically.  You can also pause the order from within Printful till you get a chance to enter the message at your convenience.

EDIT 7-7-2020: I've noticed Printful finally fixed this flaw!  Gift messages are now imported automatically.

The Returns Process


I've had a few isolated incidents during the holiday rush that my prints did not arrive on time or were lost in the mail. In these cases, Printful took on the burden of re-printing and re-shipping the order while I kept the customer updated about Printful's progress. I have not yet had to have a customer return a print, but if I do in the future, by default they are to send damaged prints back to Printful, who will then replace the print at their cost.

They have a few specific instances in which they will not cover returns.  For all other cases, they will handle things on a case by case basis. You can also opt to personally handle all returns yourself.

Other Useful Tools

Another thing I adore about Printful is their Mockup Generator. This handy tool allows you to create mockup images that help your customers understand the size and scale of your art items and can provide an attractive context to your prints.

I like to use this mockup of a print being held in someone's hands to provide a personal touch, show how borders might look on the print so there aren't any surprises for my customers, as well as provide them with a general idea of scale. The size of the print in the mockup can also be changed to match your print size accurately!  There are also 'lifestyle' mockup options that show the print displayed in a living space.
A mockup image generated of my Keeper of Secrets print.
Printful also has a warehouse storage and fulfillment service you can utilize if you'd like your shop's items to be packed in the same package, but do not have all of them produced via Printful.  I have not tried their warehousing myself yet, but you can read more information about this service here.

Strategies for Using Printful


While Printful is excellent for providing quick and easy prints for customers, I know there are customers out there who appreciate a personal touch!  Another handy aspect of Printful is that I can use them to fulfill specific variants within a single listing with my Etsy shop.  

This means that I can offer quick unsigned options fulfilled via Printful for people who want to save money and then create an additional variant in the same listing for a hand-signed Giclee at a higher cost that I would fulfill personally.  It's the best of both worlds!  Customers can purchase the price point that suits their budgets, while also getting a sense of the perceived value of my signed giclees when compared to my unsigned luster prints, since they are both listed as variants on a single item listing.

Final Thoughts


I've been using Printful for a little over a year now and have been pleased with how it's allowed me to spend more time creating art and focusing on other tasks!  I plan to expand my integration into other products, as well as look into using Art of Where to help round out my product selection (review forthcoming).  I highly recommend Printful for those who want to keep things simple or who have no desire to take on the burden of printing products themselves, storing inventory, etc.

Questions about Printful or anything I've left out?  Let me know in comments and I'll keep this article updated with the answers!



If you found this review helpful and would like to consider using Printful for your business, please consider using my referral link

It will net me a little kickback, which is always appreciated and helps make it easier for me to keep writing articles. I hope it proves as useful for you all as it has for me!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Social Media for Artists 101 & 102 (v2)

Thanks to the folks who turned out for my panels about social media basics for artists at DragonCon 2017!  Here are the PowerPoint presentation for your convenience!


You can watch the previous version of this presentation here!  I'll be posting past versions of the presentation as reference so we can point and laugh at these old presentations, as well as study how trends have changed over time (which helps with predicting future trends).

Questions? Comments?  Feel free to leave them in the comments so we can continue the discussion from the panels!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Post Tags in Beta on Patreon

Good news for Patreon users!  The ability to tag posts with topics is in beta to a small percentage of users on Patreon!  These post tags will allow users to organize their posts by unique tags, which will make things like finding Rewards and referencing older posts much easier.

You can read more about this new feature here.  But the long of the short of it in beta phase is this:

  • Maximum amount of 5 tags allowed per post.
  • Tags will sort your user posts only and don't apply to other user's posts.
  • Some tags will be auto-generated for you, mainly your Reward tier tags by Pledge amount and Public/Private posts.  (See the screenshots below)
  • Patron-Only posts are blank when displayed in tag feeds where a user is not a Patron. (See the screenshots below)
  • No way to tag multiple posts at once.

Here's how the tags currently look on my art Patreon. The archive of all tags used shows up on the left. You currently cannot toggle this archive list on and off:


Here's how Patrons-only posts look to non-Patrons:


I'm personally planning to set up a Library section in the top of my bio/intro post that will link to my main Rewards and other topics, such as my finished paintings and main projects.  This would make things so much easier to find for new Patrons who might be overwhelmed by the stream of posts.

EDIT: I've tweaked my intro section to test out the new functionality of tags. See the tags in action here!

The highlighted sections of these screenshots show hyperlinks which link to tagged posts.




How do you plan to use the tags?  Share in comments!


Friday, June 24, 2016

Stock VS Art: Human Naka


I've missed a couple of months of these features, but I'm back again with this lovely art!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Stock VS Art Feature: Ambush


It's that time of month again! Every month, I want to feature the creative works people have done using my stock.

This month we have a lovely piece by Mahogany-Fay where I got to live out my gunslinging pirate-esque fantasy in someone's work!

Funny enough, she somewhat resembles a tabletop character I RP these days. Talk about serendipity!