First things first, a quick introduction coming from myself. My name is Jade Choung, but I am better known as mzzazn / mzzy on the world wide web. I am an artist that primarily focuses on digital media. My art work produced for income is of the anime/manga genre. A majority of my publicity is derived from deviantART.com. I have held the position of Community Volunteer (CV) on this popular art website in the past. A community volunteer is pretty much a moderator. This means, there's a handful of tasks given to a CV on this website, but one that last a huge impact on me was selecting Daily Deviations ('spotlights' for art pieces that are reselected every day).This is important because it taught me to see what kind of art appeals to the greater public on deviantART.
As for my experience, I have drawn digitally for about four years now. As a child, I drew on and off from time to time, but never honed my creative skills daily until a few years ago. I prefer digital art over traditional because I am faster at it and I know my digital tools better than I do my traditional ones. I am also a busy person who lives to travel and be on the go (even within my own city) so working on a portable tablet allows me to make some income as I am out and about.
I am not an artist that can punch out anything that you ask to be delivered. I have difficulty with certain aspects of art, but I know my strengths. If you are an artist who hopes to make a decent income on your work one day, then you need to know your best strengths and you need to know how to sell your skills. I did not think I would ever say this in my life, but I am happy that I have had the opportunity to work in the retail/restaurant field and I have had a handful of years of successful sales experience. Working in the retail/restaurant industry has taught me how to interact with people and create pleasant experiences.
Working as what I feel is considered successful sales consultant has taught me how to make a lasting impression on someone so when they're looking for the goods/services related in my field, they come to me first for advice or a possible sale. It has also taught me how to create and hold that trust with business relations.
Art is my hobby, not my passion. My passion is helping people and making art is another way of doing so. Example, I'm writing a helpful guide right now and it makes me happy knowing that it will be helping others out there with their struggles. I have learned to combine my hobby with my passion. I help other artists as best as I can and when I can. I take what I have learned from my own art experiences and share it with others.
Combining my passion with my hobby keeps me interested in my own work which is crucial if you want to be successful in the future (this is true with any field)!
Deliverance of this article:
I am not a fancy artist that makes thousands off of my work. I get by with what I do. I am writing this article because my followers want it and it would help them and I'd like to be that source of help. I am not here to sugar coat anything. I'm going to be honest, deliver information as it should be delivered, and try to share information I know that may help you be successful - now because of this, I may come off as harsh, but please know, I am not like that! When answering questions that are digging for "good responses" I will give detailed responses with helpful information that doesn't beat around the bush. Please keep this in mind as you read what's below. Thank you!
Websites and Networking:
Before I dive deeper into the best ways of selling your art online successfully, let's go over a few websites which I use to network with others.In any field, networking is incredibly important. You need to respect others in your field, even if you don't like them. You never know when you may need a helping hand with getting publicity about something you want to promote. What this means when it comes to websites is: never talk 'bad' about others. This is the world wide web. Things can be tracked even if you try your hardest to hide it. What you say can and will be held against you! Do not write things on sites such as Twitter and Facebook that would be considered slander. This doesn't make you look good from a business perspective and it will only help you lose respect from others who are currently supporting you. Plus, it doesn't promote a good online environment to work with. You don't want drama.
As for networking, if someone has a cause they're working towards that interests you and you want to give them a helping hand by advertising for them, do it. If your friends ask you to promote their work. do it. If a stranger or someone you hardly know asks you to promote their work, stop and think. Is this feeling more like a spam because they're randomly asking you? You do not have to advertise for them. If you're already advertising for yourself, your close friends, and for causes of your own interest, your followers have enough to look at already! You do not have to promote everyone. If you have a friend of a friend whose artwork interests you, creep on them a bit. Kind of silly to say, but look at their art gallery. Learn more about them from their biography, then approach them. Maybe start off with comments here and there first. Don't just send a note saying, "hi." As cold as it may seem, some artists will just look at this and skip it or even find it annoying. The internet isn't like 'real life' where you can simply say hi to someone and possibly get a response. It's a world where a door can instantly be shut in your face when you aren't specific about your cause or reason for approaching. If your note or email is considered short, you're best off sending that as a comment on a piece of work or on a person's main page. Notes and emails are typically used for close friends, business related reasons, or for matter that can't be summarized in a sentence or two.
In order to be successful on the online, you need to know your social media websites and how/why people use them.
Now onto the websites themselves and how I use them:
deviantART.com - you could consider this website to be my home on the internet. I post all my work here. I also add journals, tutorials, commission information, and so much more here. My account here is where I primarily communicate with my followers.
Facebook.com- I use Facebook to share my personal life and my art work with my family, friends, and followers (who add me). In addition, it's how my friends share my art work. It's a good way to network and to get quick responses to questions or to receive comments. Note that facebook is not a website full of artists - this means, you will most likely be receiving the commentary some artists hate. For example, "Oh that looks like Character X from this show!" "There's no way you drew that!" "Why do you post so much?" You will also receive positive comments such as: "Wow, so cool." "You're so talented" "Awesome work!" Although uplifting and encouraging, these comments typically don't add any helpful feedback so that's why I like to submit tons of my work to deviantART. I do however post WIPs (works in progress) on my Facebook page. Many people know I use FB for my art so it doesn't seem to bother them too much. If it does, they can scroll right past it anyway!
twitter.com - I do not use this social media often, but when I do, it's to keep in contact with companies such as wacom, microsoft, etc. Let's say you posted something really great that you made with your wacom tablet, you can twitter about it and mention wacom and if they like it, they may retweet it for you. Therefore, you may receive some attention that way.
tumblr.com - Oh tumblr, there's so much I can say about you. I use tumblr to reblog my favorite things that make me laugh, inspire me, strike an emotional cord, and so much more. It's the website where I can really be me and let loose when I need to relax a bit. It's where my followers can see that I'm active by looking at what I reblog. It's also another way we can create 'relationships' by seeing what we have in common with one another. In addition, there's an artist community within tumblr itself that can be quite supportive as well. There is a huge list of other sites out there such as Furaffinity, pixiv, and so forth, but these are the primary ones I use on an almost daily basis.
Tips to remember in order to sell your Artwork online successfully. These pieces of advice will not be given in any specific order. The key fact you should know: The deliverance of artwork isn't everything, it's the method of doing so. Think of any store you like to go to. This can be for groceries, a hair cut, etc. If you love the service or goods you get here, you're typically happy, right? Well, what if the person who was ringing you up, cutting your hair, cleaning your car, etc. was an inconsiderate person to you? Sure, you may still go to the place to do your business, but what would happen if that was the only person you could deal with? This is what it's like when it comes to selling your artwork online. The way you deliver your work is incredibly important.
Pretend you're buying the art (the commissioner). Let's say you saw this artist called UNNAMED on the internet and you think their work is amazing. You're a fan and you want to buy their stuff. You contact them and highly anticipate a message back. Then you receive it and it's not so pleasant. Perhaps they said something about the price you offered was offensive. Maybe they want to draw your character a different way that you don't really like. Perhaps they said your character reminds them of someone else's or of a character off a show. This puts a bad taste in your mouth right away.. but you really like their work so you still pay them and get the artwork at the end. This is not an ideal 'transaction'.
A commissioner should never have to settle for an art piece. A truthful serious commissioner will voice their opinion, and if you, as the artist disagree, come to a mutual agreement on whatever the topic is. If it doesn't work, skip the commission request. This is also a form of settling for something and should be avoided. You do not have to draw everything that comes your way. If you know you can't deliver it (for example), then skip it because the last thing you want is a bad interaction that can soil your name in the long run.
Always try to make the business transactions smooth and seamless. Communication is key. I believe we all hear this enough, but don't always take it into account. I recently had an art fundraiser for a trip to volunteer in Africa. I hit my goal of $3,700 in 1.5 weeks. This was incredible. I wrote a journal and my supporters advertised for me. They also donated. I communicated my goal across in a journal on deviantART and on Facebook. My supporters and those that I have gained through networking help put the word out - this is the perfect example of how networking and communication work together and can help you sell your artwork or promote a good cause.
Keep in contact with your loyal commissioners. Do you know who really supports your artwork out there on the world wide web? Can't think of anyone? Maybe you should look at your comments or notes. Don't have anyone yet? It's okay, you just need to work on networking more and perhaps also improving your art work.
It's okay to start off with 'nothing'. We all start there! If you know who really supports your art and likes to buy from you, there's nothing wrong with having a saved document/excel sheet with their contact information, but ask before you do so. Selling your artwork among other artists on the internet is extremely competitive. Knowing who your happy customers are and contacting them with promotions especially for them or letting them know that you're opening up your commissions before the entire public knows will make them feel important and more willing to spend money on you than other artists. As long as you ask for their permission, it will be okay. I know this is how it works for me. Although I don't respond back to the notes I receive on commission openings with the artists I like, I definitely keep it floating around in my mind so when I want a piece done, I know they probably won't mind making a slot behind closed doors for me.
Know your competition, accept your skill level and understand pricing. There's a ton of artists out there that sell their work for less than $5USD and there's some that sell their work for thousands or more. Find artists that are comparable in 'experience' level to you and price similarly. However, don't under price yourself. Take me for instance. I sell headshots that look like they're out of anime shows for $20-$30 depending on the current pricing. There are others that charge $15USD or even lower.
I do not adjust my pricing according to this because I know how much time it takes to make these (for my own pace) and I know how much I want to end up making per hour (minimum).
Have paypal. Many websites out there use paypal as a source of accepting payments. This should probably tell you that you're going to have to jump into the bandwagon if you can to make some money. As a buyer, if I don't see paypal as an option, I don't even bother to look at a commission list in detail. I don't want to see what cool art work I could possibly get if I paid via money order or check. I don't feel like it's a fully protected transaction that way and that is why I prefer paypal. I don't want to look at the artwork that I can't even buy! I will look at your gallery for that! Paypal is wonderful. I can accept payments on the go with the use of an email address.
I have a paypal business swiper thingamajigger that I do not use, but I know that I could if I wanted to - which means, if I'm at conventions and people want to pay with a credit card I can use it (with applicable fees of course). Paypal is used in many countries (of course there are exceptions as well as restrictions), but it's great for converting currency as well as making sure a transaction for a buyer or seller is safe. Example) If you bought art from me and paid for it, but I don't ever communicate with you (even after you emailed me several times).. it just seems like I took your money and disappeared, then you can report this to paypal and you will get your money back.
However, if this is the other way around, it's not so easy. If I delivered an art piece, but you didn't pay, well, paypal isn't going to step in and force you to pay for something. This is unfortunate for the artist. I recommend taking payment first before delivering an art work. This isn't always going to work with everyone. Some of my commissioners, especially my regulars, will make payment arrangements with me. This is fine with me because I trust them (as I've had a good history with them and we communicate effectively.
If it is possible always take payment first before delivering something. The downfall to this is you pay not necessarily get the opportunity to receive a tip unless you provide your email for paypal again at the end of a transaction.
Ask for feedback - this is for transactions themselves and for your art too. You see big companies doing this all the time, why aren't you doing it? Ask your commissioners for feedback on your transaction with them. Tell them it's okay to be honest because you want to better your business. That's right, your business.
Selling your art is a business and if you don't call it that, you're not taking it seriously enough. If you do call it that and treat like one that you'd like to see be successful, then you'll be able to sell your work a lot easier. At least this is what I believe and so far it seems to hold true. Now when you ask for feedback, don't get offended. People are giving you information that can help you improve. Soak it in and change! Businesses are always evolving. They're taking into consideration what people want and when they want it. That's why we have holidays that circulate around shopping!
Have promotions. Let's talk about holidays. Coming up is Christmas, people are always buying stuff - especially during this time. Custom gifts are always nice so hold promotions! Buy one drawing, get one free. Add a character to your drawing request for free. Make commission "packs" (which means, for $100, get a full body, a headshot drawing, and a half body). Get creative and put your thinking cap on.
Be confident with your strengths, but not cocky. It's good to know what you're good at. Play off your strengths. Keep restating them. For example, if you get a commission try to say, "I will color this to the best of my ability" if your talent is coloring. "I will draw this in a dynamic pose that you'll like" if you're great at poses. Compliment yourself, but don't overdo it. Imagine hearing it as a the commissioner themselves. If an artist says their coloring is great, you'll expect good coloring on the art piece right? When you compliment yourself, you better deliver and prove yourself too.
List what you won't to take for drawings. This is okay!
For example, I know my strength does not lie in dynamic poses or huge group drawings so I tend to only offer commissions with what I'm good at. I am great at headshots, bust drawings, and screen shot effects so I base my commissions off of this. I offer what I'm good at and I can deliver it.
Being able to do deliver what's advertised is also going to get you repeat commissioners and new ones as well. Word of mouth is always nice, which is why you shouldn't appear negative. Happy customers will recommend you to others.
Expand your horizons. On deviantART to make extra cash, a lot of artists who have strength with designing have opened up "adoptables". Adoptables are premade designs that others (such as writers) can purchase so a reference of their character that they imaged a story for has already been made. There are even some users on the internet that "collect" adoptables of certain themes or from well known artists.
Sell prints of your popular work. If you have art work that is pretty popular, I would recommend having them available as prints so people can purchase them and put them on their walls. I'd highly recommend this for fan art as well if it's allowed to be printed.
Open up commissions when you have enough followers/interested buyers. Typically, just from asking around, most people who open up commissions and fill at least three slots or so (right away), typically have over 2,000 followers. If you want to know which of your followers would be interested in buying art from you, make a poll and ask: Are you interested in purchasing art from me? (Serious answers please) 1. Yes 2. No. If this is done on deviantART the people who choose to answer don't have to worry about their identity being revealed.
Use polls to your advantage, in a way it's like asking for feedback. It's quick for people to respond to and no one has to reveal themselves!
Constantly advertise for yourself. This doesn't mean make a bunch of Facebook statuses about your art, make a ton of journals showcasing your own work, or anything along those lines, it just means adding links to your gallery in signatures or as links for 'your website' on websites you visit. If your art work is mentioned and someone likes it, then they see a link to your art prices, it may get you a possible sale!
Remember that business is always evolving, which means, don't keep your prices and the types of commissions you have available the same! Change it up. Make snagging a full body drawing hard. Only open them once in a while and then that will build up a lot of interested buyers and when you do open up for full bodies, then the slots will fill up quickly!
Get creative and share ideas with others. These are a few of my tips and I hope they help you guys. If you have any tips and would like to add to this, please list below.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Jade Choung / Mzzazn
My art gallery
My travel/art blog