Whether we want to admit it or not, everyone wants a hit. Every time we post something on social media we hope that it’s the one that blasts off into the stratosphere and solves all our problems. Suddenly our audience is massive - we’ve made it and the days of watching the sales roll in while we sip cocktails in the sun (or La Croix in the shade) are here! But this moment isn’t reality. The "hits" you see aren’t overnight successes, they are the results of sometimes decade-long efforts to cultivate an audience.
Building an audience takes time, it takes dedication and discipline, but it also takes planning. We’ve committed to dedicating our lives to making art, but how do we know that we’re heading in the right direction? Sometimes it can feel like we’re adrift in the sea alone - it’s time we made ourselves a compass.
Growing up, we traveled and moved a lot as a family, packing our lives up into a handful of trunks to move between countries. This constant packing and unpacking has made me efficient at squeezing my life into a suitcase.
One of my early experiences traveling to a show was for an event while I was still living in Japan. At the time we didn't own a car, and my only option for getting there was public transportation. I packed up everything I would need for my small 4ft by 3ft space at Design Festa, including a folding table, and with the help of my mom, carried everything on the train over an hour into downtown Tokyo. That was the longest I have ever walked carrying my convention setup, and every show since then has been a breeze by comparison.
Talking with a friend last night, I realized there’s something important that is too often left unsaid. I told him “You’re work has value, all on its own”.
When discussing business options with creators, it’s common to hear them talk about aspirations to turn their illustration into books, games, cards or other products that make use of art. On the face of it, hearing about plans to make some big beautiful thing seems straightforward enough but there can be a darker subtext to it. An inexperienced artist attempting to wrap a lot of writing or game rules around the art can be reflective of the artist’s fear that their work isn’t worthwhile all on its own. Often times when I hear a pitch for a project like that, I consider how common it is for creators to undervalue their work. The urge to build up something else around the art feels like yet another manifestation of the ever present impostor syndrome that pervades the creative community.
This is a serious bag. It’s not some simple tote you toss your stuff into. No, this pack demands respect. It’s the kind of bag you take home and introduce to your mother!
When I first opened up my new Etchr Art Satchel is was honestly overwhelmed by all the options. I had to set it down and come back after letting it all sink in a bit. I then spent some time researching all the various "modes" to arrange the bag. I got so excited I had to show my wife! This bag is crazy customizable!
Artists are at their best when they can push their artistic vision to its fullest. However, when this runs against what the majority of people might want to purchase it can be hard to make a living. So, how do we fulfill our creative vision and still afford to live?
We start from what I call a ‘minimum effective audience’ or the smallest number of people willing to invest enough money so you can afford to focus on making art. With the right strategy we can find our minimum effective audience and make the products they want to buy at a price they are willing to pay.
In my last article I talked about crafting an experience at your convention booth. This experience needs to extend to the items you’re selling. What types of items does your audience want to purchase? What type of materials make sense to print your work on? These are great questions to ask yourself to fulfill the wants of your audience and help yourself stand out even more. Most importantly we have to price effectively and offer a range of products to allow our audience to invest what they are willing to.