Artist & Creator Dinner - Freelancer Marketing Tips, Tricks and Best Practices

We worked with Hurry Curry of Tokyo in downtown Seattle to host a small dinner event where Rowan and Andrea of White Squirrel gathered a variety of artists and creators to go over questions we had about artist alley, selling, online storefronts and more! 

Gathering together such a talented group of people brought up a lot of great ideas, best practices and other tricks that we hope you find useful! 

While there, we took the questions asked and workshopped answers to them; these aren't the end-all and be-all for artist alley or online sales but are a good stepping off point for you if you're curious about the process or want to grow your audience! 

Want to learn a little more? Check out the Q&A below!

1. How do I continue to grow my audience/reach?
    • Twitter best practices:
      • Thread relevant artwork.
      • Create moments based on fandom, theme or medium used to organize your artwork.
      • Don't be afraid to retweet your art; retweeting, especially when you receive a new influx of followers allows for them to see older art they might not have discovered.
      • Aim to match the algorithm to get your tweets in as front of as many people as possible: 10-12 tweets per day.
    • Instagram best practices:
      • Try out the story function of Instagram; its push notification feature puts you on the notification page of everyone who follows you.
      • Aim for the algorithm - 2-3 posts per day.
    • Look into collaborative pieces between yourself and another artist to cross-promote each other. (One does lineart, the other does coloring.) 
    • For large, difficult, or viral pieces, go into detail about the creation or inspiration behind it. 
    • Crosspost your art on relevant social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) at the same time. 
    • Try an autobiographical comic. 
    • If you have moments created featuring collections of your artwork, tweet about them to remind your followers. 
    • Test out different post and reblog times. Eight AM EST posts can be retweeted/reblogged later in the day to capture different timezones.
    • Weekends have some of the lowest rates of interaction, but every follower demographic is different. Pay attention to what time you gain the most social media impressions and tailor your posts in the future to those timezones.

    2. How do I market my online store? 

    • Ensure your store is listed everywhere you are active.
      • For example, it should be in your Twitter profile, a pinned tweet, in a link or list tree that hosts your information.
      • If your store is closed, information about its opening time/date should be listed in the same space. Check out some examples:
    • Look into alternate fulfillment methods if you are not able to handle fulfillment yourself, or if you have a Kickstarter or other pre-order with a large response.
    • Launching a new product? Make sure the purchase or preorder link is listed in your tweet along with photos.
    • Posting preliminary product photography? Make sure your store, newsletter or other information are in the post in case it goes viral.
    • Attending a tradeshow/convention? Shopify accepts sales in both Canada and US, where others might not.  Don't forget to have your booth number located somewhere accessible (like your Twitter name!)
    • Photographing your products? Product on white looks clean and great but don't be afraid to mix it up. Try lifestyle photos, give your customers examples of how they can integrate your designs into their life! Check out some examples:

    3. What successful methods are being used to market your online store? 

    • Twitter is so far the most successful, with Pinterest being a close followup. 
      • Rather than letting other people pin your works without credit, try setting up a Pinterest account of your own and placing all of your work on it so it feeds back into your personal social media profiles. 
    • Newsletters are an effective way of updating your fans and followers who may not be as active as everyone else on social media.
      • If you haven't signed up for newsletters before there are a handful of options, some paid and some not depending on the size of the mailing list. 
      • Best practices for newsletters include:
        • If able (not all email marketing applications will allow you to on free plans) segmenting your lists by:
          • Existing customers (those who have purchased from your store before)
          • New sign-ups 
          • Old customers (those who made a purchase a while ago, but may not have recently.) 
        • Try not to include more than 3-4 new product announcements in your emails, so customers aren't overwhelmed with choices. Spreading your launches out can lead to more consistent sales. 
        • Incentivize new customers with coupon codes available through email. 
        • Monthly "catch up" emails, listing what's occurred in the last month and what your fans may have missed. 
        • Include any convention appearances or in-person engagements you will be attending over the next few weeks. 

    4. How can I tell if a convention is worth attending? 

    • There's no tried and true way because what's popular will change so quickly. However, there are some places to obtain information about sales, convention attendance, etc. 
      • Wikipedia will often include attendance numbers (these may be inflated or improperly counted by conventions) 
      • Kiriska runs an artist alley survey each year and provides invaluable data for conventions but depends on artist alley people to fill it out. You can view prior years here.
      • Trusted friends and prior attendees can let you know how sales went. 
      • Checking social media hashtags for events - look at how many times the hashtags were used, look into photos to see if the attendance shown on Wikipedia actually matches photos attendees take. 
      • Niche shows in remote locations can be valuable - there is often a lower cost to attend and attendees may not have many other options for purchasing products. Weigh the cost of attending all-inclusive vs. what you know about the show. 

    5. How can I book travel effectively to test if a convention is worthwhile?

    This depends on what you value most in attending conventions: sales, seeing friends, the location, etc. 

    • Track the amount of money you spend to get to a show (flight, hotel, cab, food, production costs, shipping cost, etc.) 
    • Track the amount you've made at prior shows to compare data (for example: if you generally make $2000 at a show, but the cost to attend will end up being $1700 it may not be worth attending.) 
    • Set a maximum amount for what you will spend to attend an untested show - the median amount our group determined was around $1500 for flight, hotel, etc. Tailor this to what you've made at prior shows. 
    • Try to book travel at least 3 months out. In some cases acceptance may come late, in which case Google Flights, Hipmunk and Hopper are three of the best options. 
    • If it's a location you want to visit, sometimes just making cost can be enough; this is a personal choice. 
    • How much value do you receive from expanding your audience? If you haven't attended a show in that location before it may be worthwhile to expand your sphere of influence/followers.
    • Conventions that make little to no mention of artist alley but are littered with mentions of the celebrities they have may not be the best fit as the focus is on directing customers to celebrities. 
    • In the group's experience, free to attend shows can be worthwhile in comics and anime, but video game conventions that are free to attend historically were not as valuable. 
    • If the convention is very expensive to stay at, purchase a badge for, etc. consumers may not spend as much money as most of their disposable income was spent arriving. 
    • For conventions out of the country, look into setting up a bank account in that country (each will differ on what is required and what you are able to do.) In some cases, it may be best to store your money in a bank account there and wait for exchange rates to even out. 

    6. How do I make products without a lot of money to invest upfront?

    • Kickstarter or other project funding options are the quickest way to test a product and get it to market. 
    • Microinvest in product based on what you can afford at the time. While it might not be possible to make three times what you put into something (which is the ideal when creating product) trying to double your initial investment is worth attempting. 
    • Offering pre-orders with short-turnaround items. 
    • If you run a Patreon, consider asking them what they want most from you; they already are invested enough to pay you. 
    • Look into group orders with people you trust; try to avoid groups larger than 8-10 or it can become a logistical nightmare. 

    7. How can I improve my production workflow?

    • Trello, Asana, and an excel spreadsheet tracking your cost of goods. 
    • Set and adhere to deadlines. 
    • Put your deadlines in visible places - on a whiteboard on your refrigerator, above your desk, etc. 
    • Use the notes or reminder function on your phone! 

    8. How can I keep up with what's relevant in fandom when it changes so quickly? 

    • Look into creating a separate/fandom social media account if your primary is for business or personal friends. Follow a variety of people and use it to gauge what is popular within different fandoms. 
    • Check into what's coming out on Netflix, Prime, etc. over the next few months. 
    • Aim for having product at launch and then re-promote your product when items like BluRay come out. 
    • Use Google Trends to see the popularity of an item or property. 

    9. How do I keep up with my own original items while also keep up with fandom? 

    • Tie your original items into genres that are popular but that you are also interested in. Cute animals, food, space, etc. are all safe bets. 
    • If your audience skews older, original items can sell better but if your audience primarily skews younger it may be harder to establish your original works. 
    • When trying to market your original works, look into craft and trade shows that are specifically for that. Search for local craft, zine or pop-up shows within a close radius to you. 
    • Always tailor your original work to what the show is about - for example, bringing lots of original paintings to a show about zines may not lead to many sales. 

    10. How can I keep up on what jobs are in my area? 


    11. Is there a centralized list of tools, resources or other items for fanartists/artists? 

    No, but there are a variety of resources out there. 

    12. How do I properly price myself and my work? 

     This is a very subjective answer based on your time, experience and a variety of other factors. In general, three times what it cost you to make. However, very rarely do people in Artist Alley or in freelance circles hold to that. Instead, the discussion turned more toward talking about best practices with pricing in general. 

    • When attending conventions, avoid change and dollar bills where possible for sanity's sake. Set pricing in increments of 5, and round up to the nearest 5 if feasible. 
    • Offer bundle deals for old product. 
    • Never print the pricing on your products in case of pricing changes, conversions based on country currency, or misprints. 
    • Poll the people around you - what is everyone else selling their prints, pins, illustrations, commissions, etc for? 
    • Limiting your production quantities and numbering/signing those products adds value. 
    • Letting people touch, pick up or otherwise interact with your work can lead to more sales. 

    13. How do I keep inspiration for new products coming? 

    • Consume new media outside your normal genres.
    • Keep a notebook or your phone close and take notes down about what you, personally want to see or purchase. 
    • If feasible, attend conventions that aren't directly related to you or your industry. What are other people doing that you can draw inspiration from? 
    • Talk to friends, have group lunches (or dinners!) and try to collaborate. 
    • Read books!
    • Go to a mall or other store and look at what's popular and being sold; is there any crossover in what's on display and what you are interested in? 
    • Look into gift or sourcing shows local to you. Some options mentioned:

    14. How can I convert convention attendees into customers?

    • Have a newsletter that they can easily sign up for to convert them to potential online customers. 
    • Look into alternate colorways or convention exclusive items.
    • Add distinct finishings to your products in person - embellishments or other items you don't offer online. 
    • Offer discount codes to convention attendees for your online storefront. 
    • If you run out of something at the show offer them a discount code for free shipping (it's like they bought it at the show but don't have to carry it!) 


    Thank you so much to Missy Peña, Andrea Demonakos, Joy Ang, Pam Wishbow, Hannako Lambert, Stasia, Jazzlyn Stone for attending, inviting, and giving their time and input!

    If you would like to attend the next gathering, offer any other helpful tips or anything else, feel free to reach out to!

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