Remember a time when Facebook was new and people were busy creating Facebook brand and business pages?
Remember how easy it was to gain followers on those pages? All those friends and fans that you refer to Facebook? All the audience that you painstakingly build up?
Remember the time when Facebook changed their policy and said that whatever you post will no longer reach all of your followers, and you have to pay money and boost your post so that your followers can then see that?
That's the sad situation we are in today.
We no longer have true access to the audience that we have brought over to Facebook, unless of course we pay for it.
It was a despicable move by Facebook.
But guess what, you can do something about it, and you should.
Build your audience outside of Facebook
There is nothing wrong with continuing to share your work on Facebook if your audience is still there. But I highly recommend that you also share your work on your own website, preferably a domain that you own. In fact, all the work that you share on your social media sites should link back to your website. Because we don't know when policy changes may happen.
This means you'll have more work to do. If you're thinking of making a career out of your art, this is something you should do. If you want to make a fulltime income from your career, be prepared to spend fulltime effort to promote your own art.
Your website can be a portfolio site or a blog. It doesn't matter. What matters is for whatever art you post, make sure to caption them in such a way that people can search for them using search engines. That is how people will be able to discover you when they search for keywords. I've received commission queries because of this strategy.
If you share your art on Facebook, your art will get pushed down when new content is added. Even if you caption your artworks, there's no way for people to search through your posts. Those posts on Facebook are update-type of posts. The posts on your own website serves two purpose though, for update and archival purposes.
So here's the main difference.
Work on your website can be discovered by strangers when they do keyword searches on Google. So you have a chance expose your art to more people, and gain more followers. Work on Facebook can only be discovered by people who are already following you, so there's no way for you to gain more followers. Facebook is not a platform that actively promotes the work of individuals, unless Facebook is paid to do that. The main way for strangers to find you on Facebook is when others share your Facebook posts.
You're posting the same work on your website and on Facebook, but since Facebook is not promoting your work, you might as well focus on posting on your website instead.
Followers subscribe to you because they want to see updates from you
That's the reason why people subscribe to pages, isn't it? To see updates from the creators or companies that they follow. But because Facebook is now limiting the reach of creators and companies, it has also broke the subscription model where you can see updates. So after subscribing to your favourite creator or companies, you still have to visit their Facebook pages separately to see what they are up to. So why subscribe to them in the first place? Seriously, how many FB pages can you remember to visit? And how much time do you have to waste to visit all those pages?
To get around this problem, creators should push their followers to subscribe to their email newsletter or RSS feed. This is so that when you publish a newsletter, you can be sure that it will reach your follower. And followers who subscribe to your RSS feed, and other RSS feed can have one place to consume all the content that they wanted to.
For example, if you want to follow all the content on Parkablogs, the best way is to follow my RSS feed. If I need to reach my followers to communicate with them directly, I can email them directly with newsletters.
This is how I would like to reach my followers. But this is not how Facebook wants you to reach your followers.
Are there other platforms that are good at promoting work?
Instagram is currently a very popular platform for artists to share their art.
One advantage of Instagram is the discovery feature. You can tag your art with hashtags and when people search for those hashtags, there can be a chance that they may see your work in the search results.
Based on my personal experience, if I were to post regularly on Instagram, I can see my followers grow consistently. You can use Social Blade to track any artist you like and see how often they post, and the followers they get on a daily basis.
But even if you post on Instagram, always remember to mention your website.
I don't like Facebook but that happens to be where most people are. To get your art in front of the eyes of people, you cannot avoid using Facebook. But if you want to build a more sustainable and predictable career based on your art, you should focus on creating content for your own website. And remember, push your followers to subscribe to your newsletter and RSS feed.
Are you also frustrated at Facebook and their policy? Do you have a workaround to getting your art out in front of more people? Let me know in the comments section. I'm sure there are other creators who will want this sort of valuable information.
Search engine ranking for video content on Youtube is different compared to the ranking of webpages outside of Youtube, e.g. by Google.
On Youtube, your published video is on the same playing field as another person who has put out the same content. How Youtube determines whether your content is good or worth promoting depends on how viewers interact with it. If people watch a good percentage before clicking away (aka retention rate), or if there are lots of comments (aka engagement), Youtube knows your content is worth watching and engaging.
Whether or not a channel has more subscribers does not matter as much compared to how good your video is. The only advantage a high-subscriber-count channel has over a new channel is whenever they put out a video, they already have a huge audience to watch the content. That is the only advantage. The ranking of the video itself does not get any advantage because of the popularity of the Youtube channel.
In the normal search engine world, articles typically inherit some authority because of the (Google) pagerank or authority of the website that article is from. But on Youtube, the video only gets authority from the interaction with its audience and does not inherit authority from the main site. I don't have any sources to quote from but this is what I see over and over again on Youtube.
Do a Youtube search on "apple iphone" and you will see a lot of video content not from Apple themselves. Do the same search on Google and you will see that the top search results are all from Apple's official websites.
So no matter how big or small a channel is, all that matters is how good that video is. This means you can outrank a big company even if you are a small channel or a nobody. Take a few seconds to let that sink in.
Even if you are a nobody, your video can still outrank a channel that has subscribers many times your own.
The advantage of being small
The only advantage big companies have over individuals is the amount of resources they have. And that in itself is not always an advantage. When you have so many people in your company, sometimes making videos requires lots of planning, but when you're alone, you can put out a video whenever you feel like it. You have no one else to answer to except yourself. Your success depends directly on you and no one else. Many individuals have made careers out of their Youtube channels.
The other advantage of being small is, your audience will know that you're small and expectations are not high. People know that you're not a big company with money and they won't expect you to film with expensive cameras. Big companies have to live up to a certain level of standard when it comes to production quality. But you? You can make your videos in your bedroom, no problem at all and people won't even mind as long as the content is engaging. It's so easy to start.
And if when people's expectations are low and you make high quality videos, you will stand out.
There's no competition
As far as creating an art channel goes, I believe there is no competition at all.
People subscribe to your channel because of you. You can create exactly the same content as another artist, but people will still subscribe to you because of your style or your personality. You are not competing with Mark Crilley, Jazza or James Gurney, Proko or even me.
When you really have to worry about competition, I'm pretty sure you would have reach a subscriber count so large that you won't be bothered by competition anymore.
The only competition is you vs you from yesterday.
Another thing I really like about Youtube is it is so easy to make a Copyright complaint whenever someone rips off your content. The only way others can compete with you is if they go make art or videos.
With Parkablogs, I have had people who copy my ideas. Take tablet reviews for example, there are websites that scrap reviews from others, download product photos from official company websites, write a summary and call that a review, all without even using the product. On Youtube, the only way to pull that off is to physically review a product and to have something to show. And that's the beauty of video content, you can't just copy and paste. Can you imagine me reviewing a product on Youtube without showing the product, making a drawing tutorial without drawing? People can smell your bullshit like a narcotics dog can sniff out drugs.
People can't just copy your content on Youtube, they have to copy your effort, and the time you spend. And even if people copy your ideas, they can't copy your passion.
Is it too late to start a Youtube channel?
As mentioned, the playing field is balanced. Everyone has the same chance of succeeding. Good ideas and execution trumps having resources anytime.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to make sure that your video is worth watching. Respect your viewers' time. Make content that can info or benefit them in some way. Yeah sure, if you want to make cat video compilations you can, but I generally recommend making helpful content.
With today's easy access to the internet, there's no excuse for not building your own brand. If you feel like more people should know you and your work, read on.
Your brand is how people will remember you. If you're an artist, it could be your style, the type of work you do, or maybe even your work rate. Brand is synonymous with reputation. It is what other people say about you.
Having a strong brand is obviously beneficial. When you are the first name that clients think of in a particular niche, it is easy to get job offers, commissioned assignments, contacts, invites. When your brand is strong, people think of you, people come to you. When your brand is not strong, you have to market yourself to clients one by one. The latter is a lot of work. How many doors do you have to knock on before someone buys your cookies?
Take Parka Blogs for example. I want my blog to be associated with artbooks and art products. That's why I post content regularly relating to artbooks and art products. Over the years, it has developed its own brand and is now, probably, the best place to check out artbooks and art products due to the thousands of reviews I've posted over the years. I get requests to review books and tech products (artist reviews) frequently. That's because when people think of a book or product they want to check out, they think of my brand, and hence they contact me. I've independent creators, publishers, book distributors and art suppliers who contact me too because they want their items featured on my blog.
How to build your brand
It takes effort to build a brand.
First, you have to share your art online. Second, you have to write about your art. Third, share your work frequently.
It's not enough to just post your artwork online. You need to write something about it so that search engines can index it, so that people are able search for it. On some platforms, you can just tag your artworks. For example, searching keyword tags is how images are discovered on Instagram.
You need to have your own website and share your work there. Because your website is new and no one knows about it, you also need to share your work on other sites, like DeviantArt or whatever art forums or Facebook art groups that are out there.
You have to share your work frequently and regularly. If you're in a Facebook art group and you post art weekly. When your work is always out there, people will start to take notice of you. They will notice your constant presence, they will get a sense of your work rate, they will also be able to recognise your style, and they will remember your name in their subconscious. That's all part of building your brand.
With my Youtube channel, I wanted to be know for sketching, tech and art product reviews, that why I post content related to those subjects.
You have to determine how you want to be remembered. Put out work that you want to be associated with. If you want to be a graphic or web designer, post examples of page layouts, logos or websites you have designed. Don't post unrelated content on your website or you will confuse your audience. You need your audience to associate you with a certain keyword, style or image.
It does not take a lot of time to share your work. Dedicate 30 minutes to sharing your work on various social media sites and online art groups. The time you spend here is more productive than when used to check updates on Facebook.
To have something to share, of course you will need to create work. If you want to make a living through selling art or design, you need to make work and show off your work. Create lots of artworks, queue them up, so that you can share them regularly. When you have a batch of work to post, choose the best way to present them. See if you can post them through a schedule, like once a day, or maybe three times a week. And stick to that schedule.
If you post your work on Instagram, use Socialblade to keep track of followers that you get. You may find that as you post regularly, your followers will increase consistently. With my Instagram page, I get followers whenever I post regularly, but once I stop posting for weeks, the number of followers dropped off.
The number of followers you have is just a vanity number. If you don't post regularly, people will still forget you. So how regularly should you share your work? There's no perfect number. Once a week is the bare minimum I would recommend. Three times a week would be good. If you can post every day, that's pretty incredible, but don't get yourself burned out. You can create a batch of work and post according to schedule. That's what I do with my blog and Youtube channel.
How long will it take for people to recognise you?
It really depends on how long you have been posting. You will get new audience each day when you post regularly. And by posting regularly, you'll constantly be in other people's mind.
Your brand doesn't build itself in a day, a month or even a few months. Brand building is a constant process. And don't think of it as a chore, think of it as a challenge. Being a freelance artist or designer means you have to multi-task and handle certain activities by yourself, and that means marketing too.
You'll need patience to build your brand. This is not something you can buy with money. And because it's something you can't buy with money, it's something more valuable, and it's something that will also help you stand out from others.
Artists today are more fortunate today than artists from the past because of the Internet. The internet has really expanded the potential of selling art. You can now reach a lot more people than previously possible without the Internet. Today, there are creators with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media. Even getting tens of thousands of followers today is not that difficult -- you just need patience.
This article is going to look at how you can sell art online to make some money, and also the strategies behind selling art.
Before we start, there are two important points that you need to understand first.
First, if you want to make a full-time income from selling art, you should put in full-time effort in creating and marketing your art. You need to have art to sell art. Then you need to get your art in front of people so that they can see it. If no one can see your art, no one knows you have something to sell.
Secondly, after you finish reading this article, get to work. Write down a schedule to put your plans into action. Art doesn't sell itself, you have to sell it.
Alright, let's talk about selling art now.
People buy art because of you
Some people buy paintings not just because of the art, but because of the person. When these people buy, they are also buying into you as a person.
In the most extreme example, you can paint as good as an Old Master, but your art won't be valued as much. Many factors contribute to the price of an artwork, the person and the reputation or brand of the person is a factor that matters.
It's important to let your potential buyers know who you are. On your website, you should have your biography. Talk about why you paint. For each painting, it would be good if there's a story behind. Using Old Masters paintings for example, there are essays written about the stories behind each painting. So your art should have some sort of story too. If you can't think of a story for the art, perhaps you can make that story about you, about your process when creating the art.
There is always be someone else who can create the same type of art as you. So how do you compete? You need to find some way to differentiate from other people. By being yourself, you're already different from others, so you just have to make your brand stronger. You can engage more with your audience, or be known for a certain style, or represent a belief.
You have to market your work
Your work does not speak for itself. It really does. Think about it.
You have to market your work so that people can know that it exists. You should actively promote your work. The more you share with your potential customers, the more they will remember you in their minds.
So how do you market your work online? You can do it through your own website, blog or social media sites.
First you have to understand who you are selling to. Understand your audience and go to where they hang out. For example, if you want to sell fish, you should sell it at a fish market where people are going there specifically to buy fish.
You can share your work on art communities online, such as DeviantArt or even Facebook Groups. There are artists who share their creation process on Youtube and have gathered a good number of followers. Instagram is another good place to share your work. The common thing about all these sites is there are lots of people on those platforms already searching for art.
I share my work mostly on my blog, Instagram and Youtube. Occasionally, I would get offers from someone who wants to buy my art. That's the power of marketing.
The other way is to contact other art blogs or anyone with a huge social media following, and ask them for a referral. Look for people who already feature or create the type of work you create, so at least your work is relevant to their audience.
Develop a body of work
If you only have a handful of artworks to sell, it may not look appealing to your potential customers. Imagine going into a shop where the shelves are mostly empty except with a handful of items for sale. That's the type of feeling you should avoid.
If you're a beginner, start by creating small pieces. You can use those pieces for practice and hone your craft. Smaller pieces of art are also easier and faster to create. The more artwork you create, the more you can share them online, the more exposure you will get. Small pieces are also easier to sell because they are more affordable. They are also easier to package and ship.
To create a body of work, you can develop a theme and paint around that. Have you noticed that artist exhibitions often have themes? The theme can be landscape, portrait, still life, or some other subject matter or even style.
Developing a theme can also help your audience identify with you. For example, those buys comic illustrations will be different from those who buy paintings. You want to use your theme and your style to build up the type of collectors you want.
If you are into editorial illustration, check out this video below by Holly Exley
Figure out where to sell your work
There are many places to sell art online.
You can sell them on platforms that you are sharing your art. Or you can sign up with a website that's designed specifically to handle sales, e.g. Etsy, DeviantArt, Dailypainters.com. Or you can purchase a domain and install your own online store with e.g. BigCartel, Shopify. Or you can even sell through auction sites like eBay.
Different websites have different features. They may handle payment and invoicing and that can save you a lot of hassle. Those websites usually take a small cut. If you sell through websites like DeviantArt, they can take orders automatically, sell prints of your art and handle shipping. If you sell through eBay, payment is handled but you have to package and ship the items yourself.
Ultimately, you need to create a website for yourself. That's your home base. As for the online store, you can either embed it within your website or link it to some other sales site like Etsy.
Regardless of which platform you're selling from, you still need to market yourself. Those websites don't market for you.
Should you sell the original or a print
Not everyone can afford what you are charging. For people who like your art but can't afford, maybe you can create products at a lower price point. For example, instead of selling originals you can sell prints.
When you are starting out, do not invest in a printer. Get your prints printed at a professional print shop during the early stages of your career first because you won't know how many customers you'll get in the first few months. You can consider getting a printer to reduce cost after you notice you have a steady stream of orders each month.
How to price your art
The general strategy is to price according to the size of the art you are selling. Some artist would use $ per square inch. If you peg $1 per square inch, a 9 by 12 inch watercolour painting may be $108 dollars. Charging by size is a concept that buyers can easily understand. Don't charge by time. You'll get better with time and you'll paint faster. Your art should not drop in value as you get better. Also, buyers should not pay extra just because you're too slow.
Research other artists who are creating the same stuff as you to find out how much they are charging. You can use what they charge as a reference to find your pricing.
The type of media you use also affects pricing. For example, oil will cost more than watercolour, which will cost more than a graphite rendering.
Once you have determined your pricing formula, stick with it. You should maintain your value and not drop it. Don't appear desperate. Don't undervalue your work, but don't overvalue it of course. You should price your work to sell. After you have a few artworks sold, you can adjust the pricing. Raise prices when you can no longer keep up with demand.
If you are selling prints, you can occasionally give some discounts. If you sell originals, try not to discount too much even if you really want to sell because those early buyers who bought at the high price will feel irritated. So start low, but not too low, and work your way up.
Maintain consistent pricing across different platform. Be fair all buyers, no matter where they found your work.
When doing commissions, you can ask for more because it's a special request, and also because the process can be more complicated.
Make sure your website is enticing, professional and friendly. Have a clean and clear interface where people can get all the information required, like where to find details about the painting, pricing, how to buy.
If you sell with framing, include how the painting will look with the frame as well. It will be good to have a size comparison with a person (silhouette) standing beside the painting or holding it.
Presentation is important. It's like the window of your store. You want it to look good enough to attract customers to come in to check out more.
Build a newsletter
Start building your newsletter list today. So that when you have something to sell, you can tell your audience immediately and directly. If you rely on your website to tell people about your work, you are only relying on visitors to your website. Not everyone will remember or have the time to visit your website or social media sites daily. Even if they visit your sites regulary, they may still miss what you post.
Study the pros
Look at where people are selling their art. Check their Etsy site. Research and see how those artists are marketing their work. See how often they are creating art, engaging with their audience.
You can learn a lot from other professional artists. Those experienced artists have been around for a long time. If you can learn from them in a week what they took months or years to learn, you would have saved so much time and hassle.
Sales does not happen overnight unless you already have a huge audience. You have to build up your collector base.
Ultimately, selling anything online is a numbers game. You need a lot of visitors in order to sell something. Well, not everyone who sees your work is going to buy it. So out of the number of people who sees your work, only a handful will be interested enough to find out more, and out of those only a handful will have the real interest and intent to buy.
You have to have patience when it comes to building your collector base or following.
The good thing about the Internet is, as artists, the work you create in the past will always come back to help you in the future. The more work you create, the more you share, the more following you'll get, and the potential for sales. And the more work you create, the larger your archive and the better ability to attract even more visitors.
Thanks for reading this. If you sell your art online, I would love to hear about your experience.
Today, I want to talk about affiliate marketing. If you don't know what's affiliate marketing, it's a referral program where you earn a commission whenever you sell something. This is similar to how a car salesman or insurance agent earns their money.
Two things happened recently that prompted me to write this article.
The first incident...
If you don't know, I'm part of the Amazon Associates (AA) program, which is an affiliate marketing program. I earn a commission whenever someones buys something through an Amazon link from my blog. I get nothing if a reader just clicks and buys nothing.
This morning, I received an email from AA notifying me of changes to the commission rates. The rates are different for different categories. The rate cut that affected me is for the books category which has dropped from 8.25% to 4.5%. Before the drop, whenever someone buys a $20 book, I would earn $1.65. After the drop, I would earn $0.90. It's already difficult to earn money from selling books, and now the commission rates are cut to make it even more difficult to make money. Can you imagine how many books you have to promote to earn a sizable pocket money, or to earn a living?
The second incident is from the Craftsy affiliate program that I'm in. Craftsy if you don't know is a website the sells digital courses relating to art, craft and cooking. When Craftsy was new, they provided me with free access to courses so that I can review them and feature on my blog. Recently, they told me that they no longer provide free access to affiliate marketers. What I found silly is it does not cost them money to provide free access to affiliate marketers who will then drive customers their way to help them earn more money. Basically, they have grown big enough that they no longer require the help of affiliate marketers anymore.
The moral of the two stories is businesses can change their terms and conditions anytime. It's nothing personal, it's just business. However, if you depend on those businesses for livelihood, then you're putting yourself in a dangerous position to get screwed whenever businesses change their policies in such a way that it goes against your favor.
The danger of being in an affiliate program is you're always at the whims and fancies of the company that pays you.
The only way to counter this is not to put all your eggs in the same basket. If you want to make money online, explore different avenues.
That was why two years ago, I started diversifying the ways I earn money online. I started my Patreon page, made art courses online to sell on my Gumroad page, and also produce videos for my Youtube channel. So now I earn a bit here and there. Everything adds up. If you place your bet on one company and that company decides to kick you out, you'll be left with nothing. It's a possible risk so you should minimise the impact from that risk.
I'm disappointed by AA and Craftsy but I understand where they come from. Companies exist only to make money. But it's distasteful to disregard those who helped build the company in the first place. They care about their own interests. You should care about your own interests too.
Anyway, thankfully, affiliate marketing is not the only way to make online. This incident has motivated me work even harder to build up other revenue channels. I hope you have learned something from my awful experience.
Ultimately, to be successful comes down to building your own brand, having a product or service that you can sell (you set your own commission), and good old fashion hard work.
I've just reached the milestone of 30,000 subscribers on my Youtube channel. It took less than a year to grow my subscriber base from 4,000 in November 2015 to where I am today. I'm just amazed at the growth potential of Youtube.
Here are some smaller milestones for subscriber count that I've been tracking.
I get around 80 new subscribers each day on Youtube now compared to only 30 when I first started tracking my progress. My growth on Twitter and Facebook is so pathetic I don't even want to share them here. What's obvious is different platforms require different growth strategy. With Youtube, my strategy is to put out helpful content with relentless consistency and so far that has been working out well for me.
Where the viewers are from
On average, around 12,000 viewers watch my videos daily. Only 0.6% are referred by my blog -- that's 79 viewers from Parkablogs daily. The rest are viewers from the Youtube platform. In other words, there are a lot of viewers on Youtube searching for art content. That's no surprising though, as this is the 2nd biggest search engine on earth.
Compared to other artists on Youtube
Numbers can actually say a lot about the channel.
Here are statistics artists that I subscribe to, arranged based on the number of subscribers they have.
I may not have as many subscribers as other Youtubers, but my view count is quite high -- almost on par with Lachri Fine Art who has more than 3 times my subscribers. I attribute that to the many art product reviews I've created. I want to make one video review for all the art products that I've reviewed on my blog.
I value view count because ultimately, ads on Youtube payout are based on view count. On a bad day, the payout is around USD $1 per 1,000 views. From there, you can calculate exactly how many views, videos or subscribers you need to make a full-time living. Unless you have a knack for putting out viral content that skews your statistics, growth rate on Youtube is quite predictable and you can do forecasts easily. For example, if I get 2,500 subscribers each month, one year later, I can safely say that I will have 30,000 more subscribers.
If you have a full-time or freelance job, you won't even know if you will have a pay increment next year, or earn as much.
One reason why some Youtubers have a lot of subscribers is because they started early. A channel that started 10 years ago, provided they produce content regularly, is likely to have many times more subscribers than a new art channel today. If you want to start something, start early. The payoff will only come years later. I wished I had started my channel at the same time I started my blog. So now, I'm actually making up for lost time by putting out as many videos as possible.
There are many different strategies when it comes to choosing the type of content to produce. An art channel can focus on tutorials, artist interviews, speed paintings, art product reviews, advice or whatever you can think of really. This is probably worth an article on its own.
Youtube has incredible reach
My videos reach more people than my blog posts. For example, the article that I wrote regarding Wacom MobileStudio Pro on 14 Oct only received 2,440 views to date. The Youtube video talking about the same thing published 3 days later received 4,229 views. I believe that video was able to get a higher view count because I have a large subscriber base. Each time I publish a video, a notification email is sent out to those subscribed to my channel, making it easy for them to watch. I don't have that feature on my blog and I don't use my newsletters to promote individual posts like this, and even if I do, I only have 1000+ newsletter subscribers compared to 30,000 Youtube subscribers.
Ultimately, content is king
There are some channels with fantastic growth rates even though they don't have a lot of videos, But those channels do have compelling content. Two good examples are the art creation videos from kelogsloops (20 videos with 125,052 subscribers) and Iraville (48 videos with 94,510 subscribers). What this means is, if your content is really great, you can get subscribers easier, although how the subscribers find the content is still something I'm trying to figure out, because it's either a combination of Youtube Suggested Videos or through SEO.
Making videos daily is not easy. Some days, I may not have ideas or just don't have motivation. That's why I keep a list of ideas and populate it whenever I have an idea for a video.
I'm just gonna continue what I'm doing now and see where it will bring me next year. My prediction is I will have 60,000 subscribers by October 2017.
Hopefully, I can have 700 videos produced by the end of 2017. That would be incredible.