What If Social Media Disappeared Overnight?

A couple of years ago, I woke up in the morning trying to check into my Facebook group as usual. When I logged on to the group on my phone, I noticed something was wrong. The latest post was from two days ago (multiple new posts every day in usual), and some images couldn’t load. As soon as I refresh the screen, my body froze. It said my group is no longer accessible due to a violation of Facebook’s community policy. I tried logging in on different devices – same thing. I almost fainted, as I came to realize a Facebook group I spent more than a year to build with 30k+ members had vanished overnight.

The Game Social Media Plays

After two weeks of back and forth communication with Facebook ( most of which was waiting for their response), I claimed my group back. If you haven’t experienced such drama in your life, GOOD, but it could happen to you.

The question isn’t when this may happen or what to do when that happens to you. The question is what you can do from now. If one day your social media account vanishes, you don’t panic.

Social media gives us this fake notion that marketing on social media is free and easy. Yes, it is. However, because it is free and easy, everyone can do it. Now Facebook and other social media are building fences, and they say to everyone

“Come over, we have all the great stuff from free.”

People show up, and then they turn to people who want to reach out a specific demographic, and they say

“We know who are you are trying to reach. If you want to reach out to more people like them, you need to pay.”

People start paying, and some pay more so their message gets to the top, and then the others caught up, so the bidding goes on until a handful of player can afford to stay in the bidding war and everyone else backs down. Facebook is clearing across the table during this process, by selling your attention. We see this being played on Instagram, Google, Pinterest, etc. Then one day, Facebook shut you down regardless of your contribution, because you violated the community policy, which they try very hard to hide from you.

Is this fair? Yes, it is. Because the rules are there, and as long as you agree to play the social media game, you need to follow the rules. Facebook can change the rules overnight, and there is little you can do about it. What you can do is to be prepared before the social media does something you don’t like.

Social Media Doomsday Preparation Plan

  1. Remember, you CANNOT rely on social media to store and manage your contact list. Don’t get confused. Storing and managing your contact list is not their job. Also remember, that only because someone follows you on social media, it doesn’t mean he or she will see everything you post. It doesn’t work that way.
  2. Create a contact list with these essential fieldsFist and last name, email, phone number and mailing address.

    Store this list somewhere outside of social media. I recommend a CRM like Copper and email software like MailChimp or Convertkit. They get paid to manage your contact list. As long as you are paying (not expensive at all), your list will be safe. But….wait, even then, back up your list to an Excel file on your hard drive and your online storage such as Dropbox and Google Drive once a quarter religiously.

  3. Build the habit of using social media to test the market, but use other ways that promise a higher open rate to reach out to your audience. For example, email or chatbot.
  4. Consider your ROI (Return On Investment) when you buy ads on social media. I will explain how to prioritize your ROI in a different post. I just want to put this on your radar for now.

Thoughts? Question? Leave a comment.

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How Much Should I Price My Artwork?

When people say “I can afford this”, they are lying. If you dare to ask, someone will pay for it, but that person may not be right in front of you when you ask.

How much should my time cost? How much should my emotion cost? Does this price fair to me as a creator and fair to the consumer? As an artist, I struggle with questions like these all the time. Two years ago, I realized I have been thinking it all wrong.

When it comes to pricing a piece of work, the mathematical mind says

Price = material cost +  time spent creating it  x hourly rate  + marketing cost + length of the average sales cycle in days x how much do I spend each day on average + any cost of post-sale customer service cost

Your version of the formula may be slightly different, but the logic behind it is the same. When I use this formula, I hate myself. No matter what number I plug into the variables, I still feel I undervalue myself.

In addition to material and time cost, there is also emotional cost, which can be difficult to calculate. Supposed I have to create a design by a certain date. Because of that, I had to postpone the trip to the waterpark with my son. If I had to add a price on father & son time, that can make my work very expensive.

In 2018, I did an experiment. I was selling a draft version of my HappyOki series at an event. I didn’t make a price tag for the artwork. Instead, I ask how much each customer is willing to pay for it. If the customer thinks it is worth $1, I will happily accept it. If the customer hands me a $100, I will take it too. As a result, the highest I received on that day was $25, and the lowest was $5. I sold all 10 of them, and I got about $180. If you do the math, on average people pay $18 for a piece of paper with my design on it.

I was happy with the result, not the $180, but the assurance that I could move that product for $18/copy. With a little background story and Japanese business manner added when I greet each customer, I set the price for a slightly upgraded version at $25. The cash started to come in.

Is $25/copy a good deal as far as a business concern?

Absolutely, that’s 1000% profit margin.

Is that a good idea for me with all the time and emotion I spent on creating it?

It doesn’t matter. What matters is customers are happy to pay $25. As for me, $25 is MUCH less than the emotional cost I put in those late night hours and stress before the deadline. But in the long run, as long as there are people happy to pay me $25 for that print, I will make the money back.

The lesson I have learned is that it is NOT up to me to set the price, it is up to the market. If the price is too low, instead of raising the price or getting upset about the quality of the customer, I should find a different market. We no longer live in a world where there is only one marketplace in town and everyone nearby trades there. When my mom was 14 years old, the family budget was tight. On weekends she took a four-hour bus ride to a remote village to buy a type of locally grown fungus that is valued highly in the city. She will haul them back and sell them in the market near her house in the city.  If one day the products don’t sell well. She loses money, and then she will have to go back to that same market the next day to try again. She had no choice because that was the only market she could buy the fungus, and the only market she can sell without traveling out of town. We don’t live in that age anymore. Within clicks, we have access to so many markets, and everyone is working so hard to build more markets and bring people to them.

By the way, if you have competitions, and you fail to differentiate your products from theirs. You need to deploy other pricing strategies. I will talk about that in a later day.

My pricing strategy is to let the customer tell me how much they are willing to spend on my products, and I find a way to control cost so I can make a profit in the long run. The focus of this blog is to help you build scalable and consistent income streams so you can spend time creating while your business continues to grow. In my opinion, there is nothing scarier than creating expensive masterpieces and then spinning long sales cycle trying to move them. I can’t set my mind in creative mode if I had to worry about when my next cheque is going to come in. If I don’t like how much I am getting paid, I move on to find a better market where I feel appreciated and valued.

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Thoughts? Please leave a comment.

Your Next Sales Event

I participate in sales events once a month in various locations. There are two reasons I go to these events. One, sell my work. Second, meet with my customers. I go to these sales events, open up a table, layout my drawings on the table, and I sell them. Pretty straightforward. The question is, when does the sales event start? The event doesn’t start when you arrive at the venue, or when you open the table, or when your first customer shows. That is the beginning of the end.

Your sales event starts way earlier. How early? It starts when you make a commitment to participate as a vendor/or host at the event. When you arrive at the venue, and you don’t know how much you will sell that day, it is almost over, the risk is high.

When you try to sell yourself as a brand, 90% of the sale is done before the event. The other 10%, which is critical, is showing up. Without the final 10%, the previous 90% is wasted.

So what is in the 90% prior to the event? I am going to point out what I do to ensure a great turnout (ROI positive). Each item can be another long post, and I will dig deep on each one of them in future posts.

The 90%

Set goals: What do you want to achieve during the event? How do you measure if you have reached your goal at the end of it?

Planning: What will you do to achieve your goals? If your goal is to sell products and make a profit, how much do you need to sell? Do you need to order extra inventory? If so, by when, and how much do you need? If you want to meet your audience, what will you do to make sure they show up?

Marketing: People don’t just come to your event just because you will be at the event, unless you are super famous. In that case, you should stop reading. Even if you consider yourself have a big following on social media, say, 20,000 followers, expect 1% of your followers who see your event announcement, and 1-5% of that 1% will show up and buy something at your event. That is 10 people on a good day. Stop worrying about how many people like your event on social media, focus on what story you can tell your followers so they are motivated enough to act.

Logistics: What method of payment will you accept at the event? How will you package the products? How long does it take to complete the payment and packaging? Will you have a roof? What if it rains? Will you have tables and chair? Will there be power outlet? How is the lighting at the event?

Pricing: How much will you price your product? Will people spend that kind of money at the event? What are your most profitable items? Do you have a plan to drive people’s attention to your profitable items,? What will you say to convince them to buy? Do you have pricing tiers, or will everything costs the same (not a good idea)?

Help: How much traffic do you expect? How much profit do you expect? Will it take a long time to convert a customer? Will it make sense to hire someone to handle the cashier for you so you can spend/enjoy more time chatting with your customers. Do you need help moving your products in and out? Will the venue provide any help?

I hope this short post helps you start thinking about how to prepare your next sale event. It certainly helped me. Thought? Leave a comment.

Cash Flow

When I was starting out in the art world, I didn’t know how to turn my creation to cash.  I went to exhibitions, artist meetups, and art markets, hoping to see what other artists are already doing, learn about what works and what doesn’t work, and apply their successful experience to myself. During this process, I met a lot of interesting people. Seems like most artists are following a similar path. They spend a lot of time creating a masterpiece and then wait for someone who will pay a lot of money to buy it, and then repeat. I couldn’t articulate what’s wrong with that at that time, but the marketing side of my brain already told me that wasn’t something I should do.

You don’t starve yourself for days and then eat a big meal, why would you do that to your career?

You don’t starve yourself for days and then eat a big meal. It is a terrible way to live. But many artists are doing exactly that for the career, and that is a mistake for beginners. Producing and selling masterpieces are great, if you are already famous and you know there will be people who will just buy whatever you create. When you are hunting with bare hands, you don’t go for the elephant. Instead, you go for the smaller animals or the low hanging fruits to secure your food source before you aim for something bigger, and bigger, and bigger. One day you will catch the elephant. I am not suggesting artists shouldn’t set big goals. It is important to have big goals, but it is more important to develop a plan that will get you to your goal, step by step.

So what does all this have to do with cash flow?

You need to be creative to become an artist, and you need cash flow management skills to become a successful one.

A = How long you can go without income

B = How long it takes to sell your artwork

If A < B, you are in trouble.

My best seller is the Okinawa typographic map print, and it is going for $10 – $18 USD a copy depends on the store. Store managers and customers have been telling me that the price is way too low and suggest I should at least go for $25. The price hasn’t been changed since its initial release, and when I go to the market, I am the busiest guy in the block. I will be collecting $10 every two to five minutes throughout the entire event, because $10 is a great deal and an easy decision, not to mention my profit margin is north of 90%. One bill for a great product. Customers are happy, and I am happy too. The artist next to me sells $300 masterpieces. A lot of people walk by, some stop, a few ask questions, hardly a transaction. If he sells one, the profit he makes is the same as me selling for 3 hours straight, but I’d rather be getting small wins every two to five minute than waiting for that big win which may or may not come that day. The same financial outcome, completely different level of stress. That is cash flow management.

Cash flow at the beginning of your creative career

If you are starting out, like me, with little to zero capital, how do you get the ball rolling? Have a credit card? Great! Credit cards are great tools. You can spend the money to get supply and on marketing. As long as you can pay back the money within 45 days, you are safe. Many people are afraid of using credit card to fund their business. For obvious reasons.

What if I can’t pay back the money on time?

What if I ruin my credit?

90% of the things we worry about actually won’t happen.

I forget who said it, but I can relate to that in my experience. I am a big fan of Napoleon Hill’s 1930s classic THINK AND GROW RICH. To achieve success, we need to control negative self-talks and redirect all that energy to solve our current situation.

Current situation: Need capital to start my art business.

Opportunity: Credit card is available.

Condition: Don’t miss a credit card payment.

Next target: How can I pay for what I need to start my art business using a credit card without missing a due date?

Once you hit the target, find your next problem and repeat the same process.

Cash flow management will always get in your way if you don’t pay attention to it. Cash flow management is not fun for most artists. Unfortunately, if you don’t become good at it, it will push you to compromise either your income or the quality of your artwork. Cash flow problems will always be there throughout your creative career, pay attention, and learn to be good at managing it. Most importantly, don’t ignore it.

I will drill deeper on this topic later on. Today I just bring cash flow management to your attention.

Thought? Leave a comment.

Free Giveaway, Good Idea or Bad Idea?

It seems intuitive that free giveaways attract more people to your campaign. More people, more leads, more opportunity, and if you do it right, more sales. There is also a widespread belief that free giveaway is essential to marketing. I have seen it in almost every marketing blog and book I read. Does the free giveaway tactic work? It depends. When does it work? When does it not work? If you are an artist, how do you apply free giveaway effectively?

Does the free giveaway tactic work? and when does it not work?

Absolutely. Who doesn’t like freebies? But, you need to be careful about what you are giving away. Rabbits eat carrots, chickens don’t. If you try to catch chickens, don’t use carrots as bait. Agree on that? Use the wrong bait, and you will never catch what you want, and sometimes your giveaway can backfire on you if it attracts the people you don’t want.

Solution: Don’t start with what you will giveaway. Start with who you are trying to catch, and then figure out what they are attracted to.

How to apply free giveaway effectively?

Supposed to are clear on what type of people you want to attract, and you understand what they need. You create a free giveaway that can add value to your audience’s life, it is critical to figure out how to give it away. There is no right answer to this question, you need to experiment until you figure out the most effective way to deliver your free giveaway at the time that is convenient to your audience. If your giveaway is delivered digitally via social media or your website, you need to make it as easy as possible for your audience to obtain it while capturing the information you need about your audience. If your giveaway is tangible objects, you need to minimize the logistics involved while creating the most impact. It is free after all, you don’t want to spend too much time no it, but you need to make sure the experience of receiving it is good. You want to share your audience that the gift is valuable both to them and you. Nobody wants to feel like they are receiving something the giver has little regard to.

What does your giveaway say about you and your business?

If you are giving your products away, you are desperate. If you can give away a whole cake, just let the prospect see it and smell it, but don’t let them try it until they pay. Generosity can backfire on you, as some may take advantage of you, while others may think what you are selling has little value. You can afford to give it away after all. Artists, if you are welling your prints at a show, don’t create a raffle to give away one of them. Not only it tells your audience that you couldn’t care less to the point you will give away what they were supposed to pay you for, but it will also devaluate everything else you sell across the board.

How frequently should you give away?

You can give away every hour or even minutes, this is not the point. The point is how scarce your giveaway is. Can people get the gift somewhere else other than participating in your free giveaway campaign? How many will you give away and how many are they will be available? It doesn’t matter how often you give if you are giving away bean. But if the beans you are giving is a specific type of beans that only you and a handful of other people have, and they are valuable to a group of people who will pay a high price for, you will have eyeballs.

Thought? Question? Leave a comment.

This is for me?

This is a blog about turning your drawing into money. If you believe you can draw, and you want to sell what you draw, lots of it, without losing yourself, stick around, this is for you.

In 2015, two months after I told my manager I want to end my career as a marketer and web developer in San Francisco to a small remote island to start a new life, I wasn’t thinking straight about what I was getting into. But who cares, would anyone ever know what they are getting into tomorrow? or even the next second? So it began, a journey where I started from knowing no one in a strange place to making a living selling what I draw.

I wake up every day thinking about two things. One, what I am going to draw today. Two, how do I sell lots of it. The norm of being an artist is keep painting until you make it. We all heard the terrifying story of the starving artist whose work was sold for a lot of money, after his dies. There is an even more terrifying version of that – the starving artist whom no one knows, before and after he dies. It is the age of the Internet and personal marketing. An artist today can easily make a living and generate a stable and substantial amount of income with multiple income streams. With a little of knowledge upgrade and constant effort, you can do it too.

I write this blog to record the lessons I learn along the way, and tricks, tips, process, and frameworks that I found useful to myself on the journey to selling my drawing in scale.  What I have documented here is not the only way, but it is a way. Now, let’s get started.

If this is not for you, I am sorry I wasted your time, and I appreciate the attention. I hope you stick around, as you may find content on this blog useful to you.