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.