How many artists dream of making a living from their art? A popular fantasy for a countless number of creative people working daily on their craft, but often without any method to actualize a salary, profit or even one sale. Equally common is the myth that artists are terrible at business, further making their ultimate wish nothing more than a pipe dream.
Reality is, there are thousands of artists who have discovered all sorts of ways to get their work seen and sold. The internet is one of the most thriving free markets, filled with software, tools and websites made especially to aid artists and craft-makers in the sale of their products. In this article, FAIM Internet Magazine shares some effective practices from one artist/designer on how to make money online.
Chanel Kennebrew is the founder of Junkprints (www.junkprints.com). On her site you will find a fly, funky, hip-hop, retro collection of limited-edition goodies she has designed along with samples of her illustrations, editorials and product designs.
She recently collaborated with Birkenstock and ReadyMade Magazine to create a run of shoes embellished with her hand drawings. Chanel's other honorable mentions include working as the Art Director of Fredflare.com and features in Honey Magazine, The New York Sun Newspaper, on the Discovery Channel and Good Morning America.
So how did this 27-year old African-American woman from Inglewood, CA get to this point of success? Well the story goes something like this: after earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Toronto she moved to Brooklyn with aspirations to make it as a "New York artist". After hustling her work from gallery to gallery, it wasn't long before she asked herself, "how do you get in? It doesn't seem to about the work...So I focused on making money and having food in the fridge...somewhere down the line I needed to create for myself and I'm not interested in running the gamut and chasing everyone down."
Step One: List your stuff in a communal marketplace
She started an etsy account. For those not familiar with the site (www.etsy.com), it is "your place to buy and sell all things handmade". So long as the items are not mass-produced, creators can have an account for free and list products for $.20 each. The marketplace is a community in itself that produces a high amount of daily traffic and is definitely worth exploring for those interested introducing their art to an online sell space. Chanel saw that people, including art dealers and collectors, liked her "junk" and were buying it quickly. Still she needed a real marketing plan.
Step Two: Subscribe to a service and promote through email blasts.
After really studying what large companies did to attract customers, Chanel asked herself, "how can I do it for myself on a smaller scale?" The answer led her to employ the services of VerticalResponse (www.verticalresponse.com) which offers a number of plans to enable business to send e-blasts, surveys and postcards without limit for as little as $10 a month. With this element of marketing added, Chanel saw increased sales and began to consider taking it to the next level by quitting her freelance gigs and selling online full-time.
Step Three: Do quit your day job...
This is where faith, determination, guts and discipline come into play. Quitting your day job to invest the time and energy necessary to grow your own business is a decision of definite courage. Yet for Chanel, she just took the leap. "I took a pay decrease but I feel better about the day-to-day." So what does that day-to-day look like? She spells out her routine,"I get up early, around 7 or 8 in the morning and run or something to get my mind running. Then I go to the blog and get stuff off my chest."
Step Four: Blog regularly
Her blog, Dookyblog, loving subtitled as "a fine place to talk shit" , uses a customized Wordpress template. Wordpress (www.wordpress.com) is the best reputed host for bloggers. It cost nothing to get started and the company has a wide selection of features, widgets and templates to help you personalize your blog to your content. Blogging is important because it gives the Junkprints audience a reason to visit the site regularly and to interact with Chanel by leaving comments.
Step Five: Manage your store
After updating her blog, Chanel moves to the store part of her site. Even though she lists on etsy.com, she is able to manage that account from Junkprints and prefers to keep traffic centralized that way. Another e-commerce tool that she uses is Big Cartel (www.bigcartel.com), "a simple shopping cart for artists [that is] easy to use, customizable and awesome." Their plans are free for beginners, but advance to upgraded ones where the user can fully customize, offer discount codes, track statistics in depth and use their own URL, all without a contract or commitment. Chanel likes Big Cartel because the user-friendly interface offers more control. Here she can keep track of her inventory, fulfill new orders and identify the items that are the most popular.
Step Six: Make more friends micro-blogging
An avid twitterer (www.twitter.com), Chanel loves engaging on the micro-blog site where messages must be sent in 140 characters or less. Throughout her day, she is able to share photos of her latest creations with her "followers" with the convenience of her updates linking to her facebook (www.facebook.com) page as well. If she is busy, particularly during holiday seasons, she will schedule her tweets at FutureTweeets (www.futuretweets.com), a free service that lets you plan your Twitter messages and have them sent at a specific time in the future.
Chanel emphasizes the importance of social networking beyond the "look at me!" factor. It is about responding and building relationships with people. She adds, "my online presence is the main way I receive press. I let the people decide what is valid instead of sending out flyers to the press. I use technology to promote and to be an artist." Still, she keeps her online activity limited to three-four hours out of the day and then focuses on making the art and creating special projects.
The biggest challenges of running an online business is having the discipline to manage one's time effectively and efficiently. For Chanel, that meant establishing regular hours, even a regular schedule. All entrepreneurs experience highs and lows, so determination is also key for long-term success. Yet, the integration of social media tools aids tremendously in growing a business, particularly when working with a limited budget.
Step Seven: Success defined
So the big question is how much money does Junkprints make for Chanel? Well she did not give a numeric answer but simply said this, "I live in my own spot in Brooklyn, I do this full-time with no part-time gig, and I just got back from spending a month in Costa Rica." Clearly, for her success is about having a lifestyle that enables her to be creative on her own terms and to share with her work with those who appreciate it, and to make enough to take a long-vacation every now and then.