How To Turn Your Art Into A Business: Putting The ‘DO’ Into ‘DOodling’

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Cai has been drawing since he’s been young, and now it’s become more of a business. He’s got a few tips for how you can do the same for your artwork.

We all know that image of a tortured artist, painting every day of their life and never getting anywhere for it.

It can be hard to make a living out of your artwork. We all know that image of a tortured artist, painting every day of their life and never getting anywhere for it. I know first hand how tricky it can be to begin with. You’re posting your art on Facebook with nobody but your grandparents liking it (thanks grandma – you’re still my number one fan) and you want to take it further but you just don’t know how. It’s an uphill battle.

After two years of showing my doodles to those who’ll look, I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere. Looking back, there’s a lot that I wish I could say to Cai from two years ago. If he knew what I knew now, I think he’d feel a lot more confident. Since I can’t let him know, you might find my advice a little more helpful…

Just Create Art For The Sake Of Creating Art’

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I spent my weeks of physics classes slowly adding to this piece during the lessons. It started out as just fun, and I didn’t realise it would become anything more than that.

When you’re starting out, the most important thing for you to do is create artwork. You can’t turn your art into a business if you haven’t got the artwork. Take the time to create art for fun and build up an audience. I will always love the drawings that I first created in my physics class for fun more than any of the prints I’ve made since. If it’s not something that you enjoy and are interested in, then making a living out of it will be hard.

Experiment – Try New Things And Suck At Them

This is what happened when I had a go at figures and landscapes. I ended up with a dark scribble of a figure, rough sunlight drawn using a rubber and smudges everywhere. But hey - at least I tried.

This is what happened when I had a go at figures and landscapes. I ended up with a dark scribble of a figure, rough sunlight drawn using a rubber and smudges everywhere. But hey, at least I tried.

It can be easy to get stuck in doing what you’re good at. Which is understandable. Of course you’re going to want to create art that you know you can do. But it’s important to try new things too. You might even find that you’re better at something else instead. I look back on some of the drawings I did when I was first starting out, and I realise that a lot of what I tried, didn’t pay off. But I’m glad I tried them nonetheless, because it helped me work out what I could do.

Don’t Rush Into Spending A Lot Of Money

I think the bad camera quality of this photo adds to the 'I had no idea what I was doing' effect here

I think the bad camera quality of this photo adds to the ‘I had no idea what I was doing’ effect here.

I decided to create some t-shirts with my designs on, and I was super eager to get them out. I rushed into making them without properly considering my decisions and ended up with a load of t-shirts that weren’t planned out properly. This is a long game that takes a while to play. It makes a lot more sense to hold back on that run of prints and just check to see how well they’ll actually sell.

But Spend A Lot Of Money Anyway

Buying my first run of prints was the most exciting thing I had done in a while.

Buying my first run of prints was the most exciting thing I had done in a while.

But of course, we learn best through our mistakes. There will always be a point where you end up spending a lot of your hard-earned money on stock. You just have to grit your teeth and power through it. You may not get a huge payout at first but in the long term, you’ll get more out of it.

Use Social Media, And Use It Well

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As an artist, social media can be your best friend: an online platform for you to interact with followers, other artists and future clients and partners. It sounds great. But it’s important that you use it well. Rather than just signing up for every ‘Ello’, ‘Hiive’ or ‘Peach’, it pays to be selective about where you post. Choose a few platforms and focus on making those the best they can be.

Try Out A Range Of Products

I decided to try making mugs based off some designs I had created.

I decided to try making mugs based off some designs I had created.

It’s easy to just sell prints. Or to just make earrings. Or just make zines. Creating one type of product can work well for some people, and it can be how they make their money. But I’ve found that having a range of products helps. It means that someone that may not want a print can get a mug instead. By having a few other items of stock, it means that I can experiment with how I use my illustrations, using them in different ways.

It’s Okay To Ask For Help

I'm always asking for help and advice.

I’m always asking for help and advice.

Every other artist knows how hard it can be. We’ve all been there. A lot of us still have it hard. So when someone asks me for advice, I’m always super keen to help. Need a printer? I know a guy. Seriously, his name is Paul and he’s got a great printing business – want his email? I make a point of if anyone asks me anything to properly consider what they’re asking me because I know how much it helped me when people gave me advice.

Ensure It’s Easy For People To Buy Your Work

I use Etsy to sell my work online - it's so simple to set a store up there.

I use Etsy to sell my work online – it’s so simple to set a store up there.

People are lazy. If they need to put much effort into getting something you’re selling, then they probably won’t. Get in contact with independent shops and ask if they’ll sell your work. Set up an online store where people can buy things directly from you. I don’t make enough from selling products to live off, but it’s a great supplement. It’s great to get an invoice through from a shop and it turns out they’ve sold several of your prints. Making it easy for people to get a hold of your work means that you’re more likely to make sales.

Make Sure You Stay Inspired

I was still looking for inspiration during my manga phase of 2008.

I was still looking for inspiration during my manga phase of 2009.

Whilst you can spend your time busying away in a back room working on your next run of prints, it is equally important to look for inspiration. Hop onto Pinterest or Instagram to have a look at what other people are posting. Head over to your local gallery to see what’s on. Pop into a local craft shop to see what else people have created. Seeing other people’s work makes me feel energized and always helps me to come up with new and refreshing ideas. It can also be fun. It’s important that you take breaks to help you to continually be the best you can be.

But Remember It’s A Long Road

The first drawing I posted online - it didn't take me to internet heights. Perhaps it's because the drawing isn't great, or perhaps it's because I spelt drawing as drawring. *SIGH* 2008.

The first drawing I posted online – it didn’t take me to internet heights. Perhaps it’s because the drawing isn’t great, or perhaps it’s because I spelt drawing as drawring. *SIGH* 2008.

Some people are destined for virality, but some people aren’t. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t achieve internet stardom straight away. Just like anything else – it takes a lot of hard work. Being self-employed comes with so many extra challenges that you may not have just being employed, but when it works, it can be so worth it. While there are lots of hard parts, it can also be so much fun and you should enjoy every second of it.

Do you love to draw and create? Do these tips inspire you? Have you got any tips of your own? Let us know on @rifemag

If you want to create your own comics and zines, Creative Youth Network are running free courses to help you.

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