Friday, September 7, 2012

Sneaky Thief

"Sneaky Thief" got your attention, did it?

Well it should. But no, I'm not talking about some nefarious person on the Internet, but it might as well be, because it can steal business from you. More on that later.

The sneaky thief isn't a person, The sneaky thief is the distracting, time-sucking electronic quicksand spam emails you receive. All of it probably isn't even "spam" per se, but could be stuff that you signed up for!

I'm just as guilty as anyone reading this could possibly be. I just spent at least half an hour of valuable time to unsubscribe from different email newsletters. All kinds of stuff - health information from WebMD, recipes and special offers, really old business groups, and the like.

I think one of the problems we creative folks have is that we are just so gosh darn interested in EVERYTHING! But it becomes clutter.

I've had a problem lately of emails being "lost." I wondered if it was because I had my email account for so long, there was just so much junk in it that that could be bogging it down. So I took a closer look. There were a lot of email newsletters that I really don't read anymore. Either the information isn't something I'm into anymore, or I just don't have the time. But I realized I would just delete them out of habit. Deleting is fine, but the problem was that there would be a new email from the same newsletter the next week! So it was like shoveling snow while it's snowing. Running in mud, to use another nature analogy.

Well duh! Time to unsubscribe!

Most emails have an 'unsubscribe' link at the bottom (they're supposed to, but not all have that...sneaky jerks!) Safe Unsubscribe links are easy and convenient and follow the same format, which speeds up the process of unsubscribing from many mailings. Other sites have unsubscribe pages but some are made so you really have to do a lot of reading to make sure you actually tell it to do what you want. They do that so it will be harder for you to leave their list.
Now this unsubscribe process is ridiculously long when you have 100 to do. So here's my advice for what it's worth.

1) Before subscribing to anything, really think twice about how important it is to you. Do you really need it?

2) Review your junk emails on a monthly basis, so you can rid yourself of the time-sucking albatross more conveniently.

3) When you check your email, try not to quickly click 'Delete,' instead think about whether you really need that subscription or what-have-you any more. If you've received a newsletter from the same site or organization before and you've routinely deleted it, it's time for it to go.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that those extraneous emails steal business from you. How so?
I have so many emails that I didn't see all of them. It has caused me to be late in returning correspondence. That's death for any business.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Advice on packing and shipping your art

For the additional slideshows in this series, please see Harriete Estel Berman's website: Big thanks to Alyson Stanfield, of the Art Biz Coach for sharing this information!  Of course this is not specific to pencil portrait shipping, but a lot of the advice applies, and/or will give you something to think about!

Also check out: 

3 Great things to include with your outbound orders
Mailing your pencil portraits
Repeat after more round mailing tubes!

Free Shipping on 100,000 Top Sellers

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Should you give clients previews of your unfinished pencil portraits?

Every customer has different needs. Some want to follow the portrait through every step of the drawing process. This type of client wants previews and updates all the way through the job and often.

The problem with the in-progress, unfinished preview from the artist's point of view is that the artwork does not yet look great. Because of this, an unfinished picture often causes too many problems in that it causes the client to doubt their decision to hire you. They may nitpick the artwork. 

Of course, the artwork's not perfect at this point, because it’s not finished!
Another negative aspect is that if you are sensitive, the criticism may effect your ability to create. Your self esteem may suffer.

I think it's best to avoid any in-progress previews, but rough sketches of your layout are okay.

So, how can you avoid sending a client an unfinished preview? You can diplomatically avoid sending an unfinished picture by letting the client know what to expect ahead of time, when you accept the commission.

You can tell the client you will send a preview by email when the art is finished, or you can tell them that you will send one in-progress picture. Assure them that you will stay in touch with them throughout the process.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Repeat after more round mailing tubes!

It really pays to have a good UPS Store guy (Store #2721 in Loganville Georgia) to give you the information you need to hear, like: "Boxes or triangular-shaped is better than round mailing tubes, because round can in, ROLLS OFF THE TRUCK!"

Did you ever think of  that? That a round mailing tube could roll off the truck? Probably not. Seems obvious though, doesn't it?
 "Dammit, Jim! I'm an ARTIST, not a LOGISTICS EXPERT!"

The reason I completely switched over to shipping via UPS was an experience I had with regular U.S. Mail one Christmas.  I had a pencil portrait that needed to get to Ireland in time for Christmas. I had sent it in a round mailing tube (mistakes help us learn!)

I heard from the customer that his artwork arrived very late on Christmas Eve, but it all ended well since it got there, but it was a real nail biter. UPS gives me better tracking. I am happy to pay a bit more money for less stress and to be able to give better customer service.

I still have to mail larger artworks in a mailing tube, but now I often put the round tube inside a triangular-shaped one.
"I'll put that box inside of another box, and then I'll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives... I'll smash it with a hammer! It's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say!"

Most of the portraits I do are 11"x14", so I mail them flat. If you have ever tried to flatten out anything that has been rolled up for some time, you know how difficult it is to handle.

That's why I prefer to send flat whenever possible. It's easier for the customer.

And it doesn't roll off a truck.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Time Management Tips for Freelance Artists

In cleaning out my desk, I always find interesting things. I am a collector of clippings, etc -- but not so much a good organizer of these clippings! So I often have to just be brutal and throw a lot of stuff out. But sometimes there are clippings/notes that are too good to throw away, but where to put them is the problem -- so I realized that putting it in this blog might be the best place for them.

Here is one of them, called Time Management for Freelance Artists.
  • Ask yourself, what can I do right now to get started?
  • Know exactly what you're doing and why.
  • Concentrate on what you're doing, live in the NOW.
  • Work with as much energy and enthusiasm as you can.
  • Know when you are working and when you are not.
  • Spend as much time as possible on priorities.
  • Eliminate procrastination!
  • Know your specific goals and your specific motivators.
  • Think of time spent in waiting rooms as creative time.
  • Invest time in exercise. Walk, run, join a fitness club.
  • Keep your long-term goals always in view
  • Pinpoint your most productive times of the day and use them to your greatest benefit.
  • Set your own deadlines, and be a tough boss.
  • When possible start every job when it is assigned even if your client doesn't need it until next week. You'll do a better job than if youre under unnecessary stress. Sloppy work doesn't pay.
  • Avoid interruptions whenever possible.
  • Learn how to say "no" and "goodbye."
  • Know how long things take and always add on some more time for good measure "just in case."
  • Establish high quality leisure and rest time
  • Plan your day around routines that are a necessary part of your lifestyle -- showering, meals, daily chores and errands. Such regular routines are easy to plan around.
  • When you can't be interrupted, kick on your answering machine and call them back later.
I do not know where this came from. I've had it for years, as you can tell by the reference to the answering machine! Just replace that last one with "if you are creating, let your calls go to voice-mail and call them back later."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pencil portrait art business advice

Letter I received (edited)
Dear Darla,
I am an incarcerated artist with 25 years experience drawing pencil portraits from photos. I am due to be paroled this August to the Las Vegas area. However, my goal is to find a job in the arts-related field, so, if the pursuit of that job leads me elsewhere, so be it.  I'm excited and nervous as to what prospects may lie ahead.
I have a business/marketing degree that will be of some help, and a lot of creative energy to apply to any endeavor.
If you happen to have any more information that would be helpful to a person in my situation, please let me know.
Thank you for your time and help.
Dear RH,
Thank you for your nice letter. It is a good idea to be researching what you can do.
I think the best information I can give you is to tell you what you can expect. I have been creating pencil portraits by commission for about 12 years now. The best year I have had, I grossed $8,000. That is, before taxes and expenses. I am not saying this to be discouraging, but to give you an idea of what you can realistically expect.
I augment this income by writing, affiliate marketing and pay-per-click marketing. That brings about $2,000 a year.
This income helps me stay home with our kids. Also realize that because I am spending a lot of time raising children, I do not have as much time to devote to my art as you might.
Portraits may be something you can do to bring money in while you look for a job, and when you get a job, you can do portraits in the evenings and on weekends.
The art example you sent me is very good and you definitely should work on getting into an art-related field to stay positive and fulfilled.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A portrait artist takes Triberr for a test run

I recently tried a site called Triberr - it's a site where you join a "tribe" of other people and share each other's tweets by retweeting, etc. When the people in the tribe post to their blogs, the site autosends the posts to Twitter. Not just for that user, but to the Twitter feed of every person in the tribe. It did indeed increase hits to my blog (Triberr calls itself "the reach multiplier"). I think for some kinds of businesses it is great. For writers, I see it as an extremely valuable tool.

However, I received messages from some Twitter followers saying that they missed the "personal nature" of my Twitter account as it was before. A couple tweets went out automatically that had some kind of questionable titles and/or content.

Between the kind nudges from the fans and the inappropriate tweets going out, I decided it wasn't for me. Not to be prudish, it wasn't so much the content as much as my feeling of lack of control of things being posted that looked like I was posting them but I wasn't actually creating each action. I really don't feel comfortable in having that control taken out of my hands.

I will say though, that the networking and friendship factor in Triberr is a great thing, and one time when I had a problem, one of the creators of the website (Dino Dogan) emailed me personally and fixed my problem for me. I was very impressed! So Triberr has a lot of great things going for it.

I'm not knocking Triberr, but I do encourage you to really think about it, whether using a tool like Triberr to auto-tweet is going to be helpful for you, or whether it won't be a good "fit" for a portraitist. Personally, I think that portraits are such a personal thing for people to order, it deserves the personal touch.

If you want to learn more about how Triberr works, check out this About Us page of Triberr's blog.