Ask my 70 year old grandmother - The internet is the place to be. We've come a long way since the glittery gifs of Myspace (btw - those are gonna have a revival any day now). Everybody's got a website, Instagram, Twitter, you name it. But for the freelance artist, online shops are the defining signature of how serious you are about staying independent. I've signed up, and receive regular newsletters for every free to sign-up deal from Society6, Threadless, Redbubble, Saatchi Art and Big Cartel. However, it's never as easy as signing up and uploading. Each platform has its quirks, requirements and most importantly - their own image and branding to associate with. These things take time, time a lot of us would rather spend making work we love for people who really want it.
I’m still getting comfortable with shameless self promotion, so I mostly rely on social media and this site for having an online identity and getting exposure. I’ve recently started using Pinterest to promote myself more (so if you see me on there, please do pin). But there's always Society6 lurking in the background taunting me with possibilities of massive sales. It gives a lot to take advantage of. When it comes to selling work online, it's not just about making sales, it's about curating a portfolio, exhibiting pieces that compliment each other so you appeal to the market viewing that space. And although the cash factor is the main draw, it's also about exposure; giving the impression that you make a lot of good work and stay consistent even when you're not making sales. Because only you see your bank balance at the end of each month, your popularity relies on how hard you can push through.
Its hard to stay motivated in that world because the success is slow and a guaranteed pay check takes precedent over the couple dollars you could make on selling a mug. But in terms of showing work and having it simultaneously on sale for minimal amount of time - Society6 is great. It’s fun and I make monthly sales, but not enough to consider it a second income. Unless you're willing to give up the passion projects, Society6 will always take second place. There are so many good artists on there who promote their work relentlessly and also produce more to sell on a regular basis, it's easy to fall into the kind-of-cool-but-less-established shop.
But even if you’re like me, and can't seem to make time for it, I think it’s a great platform for any artist. It takes about an hour to upload and format the image, but its free and once its there, you always have an earning potential. I like seeing my work on all the cool products that people use everyday. It’s also a good place to put all the commercial-ish work that doesn't really fit in on my website. I think before I had my shop I used to think those styles of drawing were lame, but I loved to do them, so it gave them a purpose and a place to be appreciated. So all in all, keep Society in your arsenal of goodies.
Beyond that, and more than anything else. It's the walk-ins, the randoms mailing you for quotes or telling you they love your work, the people who don't have much but are only asking for a little anyway. Those are the people to give most of your attention to. The most fulfilling work I’ve had is from people who have watched me grow as an artist or who I did work for as a student. I’ve planted seeds and nurtured relationships with the people who really matter to me, and slowly they all seem to be growing into something more solid. They’re becoming a small network of people I trust and respect in the industry, which may not mean a lot of work for a lot of money all the time, but it does mean that I’m surrounded and supported by like-minded people who are also just doing their thing and making work they love.