lb_lee: A pencil sketch of me drawing/writing in my sketchpad. (art)
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I was talking to my friend B. M. Prager earlier today, and we got into discussing the business of art. Apparently I do pretty okay for a freelancer, so let's talk about how I do it.

(Disclaimer: this is NOT a post about making art, choosing your genre or medium, any of that. This assumes you already have the work, and just want to sell it. Also oh god this is long, so I'm breaking it into parts.)

When I first wanted to be a working artist, business seemed mysterious and terrifying, and I had no idea where to start. Well, let me cut through a lot of the terror right now. Business is actually not that complicated. As far as I can tell, it consists of three parts:

1. Make it easy for people to find you.
2. Make it easy for people to give you money.
3. Keep track of the money.

Let's get started!

#1: Make it as easy as possible for people to find you.

People can not give you money if they do not know you exist. So find a place to set up shop, online or off, and if it works for you, STAY THERE. Believe me, it'll take you way longer than you want to build up momentum, so you might as well pick a place you like.

You don't need to do every site or event under the sun, and you shouldn't; you'll burn out. Instead, ask yourself: which things can you handle with the least effort? It might take some experimentation, but you'll find what suits you. Here are a few ways I've tried:

Conventions: the traditional place for comics, zines, and sometimes fandom work/art as well! Pros: face-to-face interaction and networking. Cons: they can be hella expensive and really draining. Also, you really can not forecast how well you'll do. You might bank big, or you might lose money. I can only do about three cons a year without wearing out, so I choose them carefully.

Brick-and-mortar Shops: another old standby for books, comics, zines, and fashion/bathware/crafts. This can be a shop that takes your stuff at a flat rate or on consignment, or a collective that you actively work in as retailer. Pros: your stuff on a shelf, and joining a collective can help you network and learn business skills from other creators. Cons: it can take a while to sell, plus you might have to pay for the space you use. I personally don't use this method much at all; I'm too impatient and broke.

Websites: quickly becoming the big standard, and what I use myself. LJ, Etsy, Wordpress, Gumroad, Patreon, whatever. Pros: so much cheaper, do not require face-to-face stuff. Cons: constantly in flux, and which do you even PICK?

Answer: it often doesn't matter, as long as it's free, and as long as you're consistent. 74% of my business in 2014 came from Livejournal, which is long past its heyday, but hey, it's free, people can comment and pay anon, and I've been there eight years, so have a following. I post often and throw writeathons regularly, so people don't forget me. Sure, if there was a site with an audience for me tailor-built in, I'd use it, but there isn't, so LJ it is.

Your web presence doesn't have to be sales-only. I socialize on LJ and DW like anyone else. A lot of my fans came from a feminist snark site I used to comment a lot on. And this isn't a bad thing! People are more likely to remember you if you post regularly and are a person to them, rather than a creation machine. A lot of advertising is just reminding people you're still around.

Once you find the sites you like, stick with them. Once your fans get used to where you are, they'll keep coming back, so make sure it's a place where anons can show up. Nobody wants to have to pay or sign up for a site they use only to contact you.

There are also other easy things you can do to make it easy for folks to find you. Include a couple business cards with mail orders, so people can easily hand your info over to a friend. I have a website and email on the back of every comic I sell, just in case someone runs across a book in some podunk bookshop or something and wonders who we are. This is a thing that really happens! So take advantage of it. Think what a shame it would be if someone finds some of your old work left at a bus stop or something, wants more, but can't find you anywhere!

That's advertising in a nutshell. Find a site or shop where anyone can find you, be there often, and be there regularly. Onward.

The fun continues in Part Two!
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