A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to engage more with my Facebook and Instagram followers by inviting questions. Being quite a shy person, I've always struggled with knowing how much to share on social media - what's too much? I spend a lot of time listening to other creatives on various podcasts discussing issues around their work and now realise that it's an area that people want to hear more about. (as I certainly do!) There are so many similarities amongst self employed creatives like myself so I'm hoping this blog post (and other posts I promise to write in the future) might be of some use and inspiration to some of you. Will answer more questions soon. x
jabberworksI'd be curious to know how you get time to do all the practical stuff of taking orders and posting things out. Do you have a system, so it doesn't take up all your creative time? x - This is one of the hardest things to manage as on the one hand I need to sell my products to make a living and yet if I spend most of my day printing orders, writing address labels, going to the post office etc.. little time is left for designing so I'm then having to play 'catch up' in the evening by answering emails, doing social media and actually making my products. Since becoming a book illustrator, I stopped selling my products on a wholesale basis to free up time to illustrate. I now give myself a few days to post orders instead of sending them the day they're ordered.I tend to deal with orders in the mornings and making designing in the afternoon and evening. I do 'drop and go' at the post office so I'm not physically standing there whilst they deal with each order. I also offer less products for people to buy as at one stage, I was offering around 100 hand made items. My long term plan is to create enough income through illustrating so that I don't necessarily have to rely on selling handmade products from my web-shop at the same time.
kimberley__zara I'm trying very slowly to build an audience to sell my work. How would you advise I do this? Thank you for offering your advice xx - I would recommend showing your work as much as possible on various social media platforms as this is your shop window globally. Instagram and Pinterest are great - take the best photos you can and have a link in your profile to a web-shop (or Etsy shop) or wherever people can buy your work. It might not happen overnight but it will definitely grow gradually and authentically.
stelstareggHow expensive is it to start up a screen printing based creative business? I mean the equipment and materials I've never done it but would love to learn! #j'adore your work - When I first started screen printing, I was fortunate to be living near a printmakers in Brighton where I did a course and then popped in on a regular basis paying by the hour to use their facilities. This was a very affordable way of doing it. When I later moved, we didn't have access to anywhere so built our own little set up in a tiny windowless utility room. The set up didn't cost much as my partner Jim googled how to make your own on the internet and bought the various components. If you were just wanting to screen print using simple paper cut stencils then your set up would be even cheaper - you'd just need a silk screen, squeegee, paper and ink. You can buy kits online from shops such as Handprinted and Wickedprintingstuff. The St Ives based company Pick Pretty Paints sell some super colours and mini pots for starting out.
lauraholdenstudioThank you for this! I'd be interested to how much of the making you outsource? I'm a one man show but considering getting some help with making to build up a stock. - I don't outsource at all as I no longer sell wholesale - when did, I paid a graduate to help me a few days a week. If my whole income came from selling my products (and not illustrating books and licensing my designs for mugs etc..) then I would look into outsourcing - it's weighing up if you can afford to do this - it's usually necessary at some stage but also scary! It would be hard to grow if you didn't - let the amount of orders dictate this - if you're becoming swamped with large orders then this would be a sign!
lettersintimeI too love your style. How do you get yourself noticed when starting out? There are so many creative people, how do you set yourself apart?? - Thank you! - Like I mentioned in an answer above, try to 'show up' on a daily basis - Instagram and Facebook are good platforms but also try starting a blog (if you haven't already) as people also like to see behind the scenes and the real person behind the products. It's a challenge setting yourself apart and not necessarily one I try to do - I think it's more important to get your own unique style that carries across everything you do. One that you love and is truly 'you'. This can only evolve when you make or create everyday - it's doing it over hundreds / thousands of hours that gives you your own 'look'. There isn't a short cut here despite some people given the impression there is! I recently (and perhaps naively!) deleted 7 years of old blog posts as I felt they no longer represent what I was doing now. It might have been a silly thing to do in hindsight but all those thousands of hours blogging and showing my work in the early days (before Instagram) has definitely played a part in where I've got to now.
a612creativestudioHi Jane, thanks for doing this. I love your art!!! And my question is, how or where should I start to find a manufacturer that can make things base out of my illustrations. I have looked online but i haven't found a place that can take smaller orders and that is economic, something different from websites like zazzle o other similar printing companies - This is a good question but not one I can really answer I'm afraid! I imagine most companies would want to state a minimum order of several hundred as the set up costs are so expensive. I know there are companies out there such a Awesome Merchandise (if you do a google search) that will create mugs and merchandise but there isn't necessarily a wide profit margin unless you take the gamble and buy hundreds. (which I wouldn't recommend as unless you're sure to sell them, it's a huge costly gamble!) Good luck with your searching!
sbrown0823When did you feel you could quit your day job so to speak? I quitted my day job 8 years ago. It was pre-planned a long time in advance as although I'd been working as a full time music teacher, I was already selling my work in local shops at least a year prior to this.I had had a few pieces of my work published (I was signed to The Art Group who produced prints of my designs in Habitat) and was also collecting and selling rare vintage fabrics online all over the world. I'd also saved a bit of money form teaching to tie me over for a few months. What many of you might not know is that 2 weeks after I left teaching, I adopted a baby girl and was determined to work every second I could (through all her naps and long into the nights) to make this new career work. It was incredibly hard and I didn't get any maternity benefit. I spent much of those early years before she went to school working incredibly late nights but I was incredibly driven and happy as I was creating the life I wanted and I was so thrilled to be a mum at last, nothing was going to stop me!
hellospinspinHi Jane! How do you balance the creative work that fulfils you with the work that generates income (assuming the two are different?) - The two are often very different but don't need to be. In the early days, I literally lived hand to mouth and needed to experiment and create products that would be a sure win of selling. This isn't ever obvious until you test the market with a wide range of products to see what sells. You can't aways predict which is part of the fun. Every morning my questions would be "How am I going to make some money today and what can I try?". It was quite a painful process at times as although some product did sell, many didn't and it was soul destroying . I had to keep picking myself up and trying new designs. Now, I use my time in a mixture of ways, I have fun in my studio designing a making products on a small scale to sell in my web shop - these are pretty much all things I enjoy designing and making. I'm also lucky in that I've had books to illustrate that I can pretty much illustrate in my own style, which are also very enjoyable and license my designs to a company who use them on mugs etc.. Earning a living has always been a must for me as there's not ever been an option of not - therefore, if I produce products that don't sell, that's just a glorified hobby and a luxury. I imagine if I was ever in a situation where I didn't have to earn money (there are folks out there who are in this position!) then I would indulge myself with fun projects and experiments such as late oil painting canvases, silversmithing and woodwork! I have so many ideas!! x
simplysusiebybeverleyI love your work and I wondered how did you get into publishing books? Did the publisher come to you or did you find them? Thank you. - I was incredibly fortunate in that I was approached by an agency asking me if I'd ever wanted to write a book. My response was that I had but had never been asked! That was several years ago now - my work had been spotted online and that was when I signed a three Craft Book deal with Pavilion Books and produced Fun With Fabric, Creative Craft With Kids and then more recently my Jane Foster's Colouring Book. These early books focused on screen printing projects and projects using vintage fabrics, (Exactly what I was doing and showing online at the time) My second craft book contained some little illustrations that I did an it was these that gave my agent at the time the idea tat I could try to get a children's book deal. I was very fortunate to the be signed up with Templar Books for several baby board books, initially ABC and 123. This was my tipping moment I guess as it allowed me to stop selling my handmade products wholesale and spend more time illustrating which is what I realised I loved doing. I think it's easier getting a book deal the you have an agent to represent you but at the same time If you show your work often enough online, that's were you can be spotted in the first place. You can also send your own book proposals off to publishers and there are many online tips for doing this if you search.