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How Designing With Intent Can Lead to 5-Figure Months

Megan Roy, a Los Angeles Illustrator, shares how she uses various income streams to run her art business.

What’s up artrepreneurs! Welcome to another edition of the Stay Sketchy newsletter.

Whether you're a seasoned artist or just starting out, our newsletter is your go-to source for actionable advice, thought-provoking insights, and inspiration to fuel your artistic journey.

This week we’ve got:

  • ⭐️ Megan Roy as our featured artist

  • 💿 Some helpful digital drawing products

  • 📖 How a newsletter can boost sales

  • 🚔 Why selling 145 fake paintings is a bad idea

Megan Roy - Illustrator

Courtesy of Megan Roy

📸 Instagram: roymeister

🌐 Website: megan-roy.com

Sometimes, when you get an idea in your head, it’s hard to let it go.

Especially when that idea is your career.

Megan Roy grew up as a creative kid in New England. She did theater, made collages, filmed silly home videos, and took every visual arts & photography class that her high school offered.

After graduating college with a degree in television & film production, she moved across the country to pursue a life in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles.

But, the industry wasn’t exactly what she expected.

She wasn’t happy with the general work culture and felt burned out after a few years. She began to doubt one of her core characteristics - her creativity. Even though her passions were rooted in creative pursuits her whole life, she started believeing that she wasn’t cutout for a creative career.

She made the difficult decision - the one that involves letting go of an idea you held in your head for years - and she quit the entertainment industry.

And unfortunately, things didn’t get better.

At least not right away.

Megan enrolled in a credential program to become an english teacher but lasted all of one semester before she realized she couldn’t do that either. It didn’t fulfill her the same way as a more creative path would. She just felt like something was missing.

She bided her time while working as a receptionist at a school and entertained various opportunities while attempting to chart a new course for her life that offered the level of fulfilment she was seeking.

It’s often times that when youre unsatisfied enough with something, it’ll actually serve as the catalyst you need to make a change in your life. Megan’s craving for creativity coupled with an unfulfilling job was enough for her to seek change, however big or small.

Megan took to drawing again during this time - an “old” hobby she hoped to find some solace in after not having done it in years.

This was her “lightbulb” moment.

It had taken a roundabout journey, but Megan had come full circle. She had started doing the collage-making, art-class-taking stuff the teenage Megan always loved, and found her way back to making art.

The feeling of rightness was too much for her to ignore, so she did what other artists we’ve spoken to on this newsletter have done, and took a leap of faith.

She quit her receptionist job and decided she was going to make a living from her art.

Now, years later, Megan’s ambitions have become a reality: working full-time as a freelance artist. She’s her own boss and makes her own schedule, all while scratching the creative itch she’s never been able to ignore.

She was more than happy to share the lessons she learned along the way.

Courtesy of Megan Roy

Consistency, Perseverance, & Opportunity

Megan didn’t grow her Instagram following to 90,000+ overnight. It took time… a lot of time. Her audience today is the result of nearly a decade’s worth of work.

Instead of offering any hacks or “get big quick” tricks, Megan preaches consistency and perseverance. Whether it was for work or for fun, she posted her art to Instagram constantly. Over time her following grew.

In a way, Megan’s following had no other choice but to find her eventually. When was the last time you found an Instagram account that had created hundreds of posts over the course of several years (or more) and had no followers? Don’t get discouraged by a slow start. Audiences tend to compound over time. You just have to put in the work.

On top of of grinding away and putting in the hours needed to produce a large portfolio, Megan said there were a few standout opportunities she took advantage of that grew her following quite a bit. These mainly include collaborative drawing challenges created by other artists - a well known example being the “Inktober” drawing challenge that takes place every October.

Riding trends in the art community is a great way to win a little extra attention. This leads us to insight #2…

Leverage Repeating/Predictable Trends

If you look at Megan’s Instagram, you’ll see that a lot of her work revolves around holidays. This is no accident.

Megan says that she produces so much work in this category because there’s no shortage of projects or licensing opportunites for seasonal holidays. They repeat annually and clients will always have a need for new artwork that corresponds to whatever time of year it is.

Another benefit is that once you’ve built up a large enough portfolio of work, you can pitch something you made a year ago for an upcoming occasion.

Since Megan has a catalog of work that covers all the months, seasons and holidays, she doesn’t even have to make anything new right now. That being said, she’s still always creating seasonal art in order to have the option to pitch new work next year.

Courtesy of Megan Roy

Design With Intent to Sell

When asked how her designing process has changed over the years Megan said this:

I’m more intentional about the end use of what I’m designing. In the beginning, I would just draw to draw. I wasn’t thinking about where that drawing might end up later. Now, I start with the end in mind. Do I want to make a greeting card? Do I want to make a pattern that can be licensed? Do I want to make a sticker or t-shirt design? That gives me an idea of the format and style and I can build it out from there, and have a ready-made piece to pitch to brands or sell myself later on.

Megan Roy

Adopting this mindset can be incredibly helpful for artists looking to make a living off their artwork. It’s a particularly effective way to get business clients too. Remember, your art business doesnt need to just be B2C (business-to-consumer), it can be B2B (business-to-business) too. This is often where the money is for most artists.

Much of Megan’s work involves licensing her art for use on retail products. If you’d like to to try your hand in that space, consider Megan’s advice below.

Designing in small collections can be helpful, even 3-5 designs could be considered a collection. What makes a collection a “collection” is usually the color palette, recurring motifs, and an overall theme that connects everything (like Christmas, Wildflowers, or Animals). If you plan to pitch to a specific brand, it can’t hurt to take a look at their existing products to get a sense of the style they gravitate towards and include pieces like that. I also like to use product mockups in my pitches, so if I’m pitching to a pet accessories brand I might use a dog bowl or a dog collar mockup and present it with my design on it as part of the pitch.

Make the work you want to be hired for upfront. Don’t reach out to a greeting card company asking to design for them if you’ve never made a greeting card before. Make a whole collection, then reach out and include the collection in your email. Show them that you can do the job before they’ve hired you to do it.

Megan Roy
Diversify Where You Sell & What You Sell

Megan sells her art at online marketplaces like Etsy, Casetify, Society6, Fy!, and more. Each platform tends to have its own audience, so by diversifying where she sells, Megan ends up reaching more people than if she had just one online shop. It’s free to upload designs on many of these sites, so there’s no drawback to trying it out and seeing what happens - nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Diversifying your revenue streams is also important for full-time freelancers. Megan generates income from art prints, custom procreate brushes, books, digital guides, licensing deals, brand partnerships, and a host of other forms of client work.

When income from one of these streams slows down, Megan has income from the other streams keeping her afloat.

Courtesy of Megan Roy

Provide a Call to Action in Your Social Media Posts

One of the simplest ideas you can implement immediately is to start including a call to action (CTA) in your social media posts.

Instead of only posting a photo or video of your art, maybe also try showing it in its final productized form - art print, t-shirt, greeting cards, etc.

Don’t just post a picture of an art print and say “Here’s my art print.” Instead say “Here’s my art print and you can get it on Etsy right now! Click the link in my bio to see the whole collection.” You have to tell people what to do, just assume they won’t know until you tell them.

Megan Roy

Tell people that what you just made is something they can buy and not just pretty Instagram content. Your social media following will only help your art business if you actually drive them to where they can buy your products.

Courtesy of Megan Roy

TL;DR
  • Share your art consistently and leverage trends and challenges that will help you gain attention and grow your audience.

  • Take advantage of designing art around the holidays and seasons. They come around every year, and businesses are always searching for new holiday-themed designs.

  • Design with intent to sell. Making art for fun is fine, but if you’re looking to grow your business, start with the end product in mind.

  • Diversify your income streams and the marketplaces where you sell your work.

  • Include a call to action on your social media posts. Let your followers know what & where they can buy.

Additional Tidbits
  • Megan frequently takes notes on her phone of brands she thinks she’d like to work with. When she’s got a few different brands written down, she’ll go to her computer and try to find some contact info for a person at the company that she can reach out to pitch some work to. This gives her an opportunity to work with brands that haven’t found her yet through social media.

  • Some licensing deals can pay dividends for years. Megan’s been selling Casetify phone cases for 10 years now and still gets a monthly check for case designs she made a decade ago.

  • Total income from freelancing can fluctuate anywhere from a couple thousand dollars to well into the five-figures per month, so being good at planning and staying on top of your income streams is a valuable skill to cultivate in this form of art business.

Megan’s Tech Stack
Useful Products for Digital Illustrators

Astropad’s Rock Paper Pencil - A removable screen protector for your iPad that provides a paper-like texture when drawing.

Paperlike’s iPad Screen Protector - Similar to the Rock Paper Pencil protector in regard to texture, but this one’s not removable.

Pen.Tips Products - A collection of various pen tips to attach to your Apple Pencil for a better drawing experience.

Why every artist NEEDS their own newsletter ✉️

The simplest step an artist can take to improve their sales is to create a mailing list.

That’s right. Not a huge following on Instagram or TikTok, but a modest - or even small - list of email addresses belonging to dedicated fans.

Why is this so valuable?

  1. Customer Retention. Don’t just get a sale then send that customer back into the marketplace maelstrom 🌀. Capture their email. Establish a longer term relationship with them. Build hype for upcoming projects. Sell to them again in the future! Maybe they’ll become a collector of your work 👀.

  2. Platform Independence. Don’t be beholden to the algorithms of Instagram, Etsy, Facebook… A mailing list is completely platform independent. You control the narrative, and if you decide to change the platform you use to send your newsletter, you can just export your entire mailing list and take it with you wherever you go. It’s yours forever 🤩.

  3. Cultivate Relationships. Use your newsletter to create long-form content for your fans. These folks love your work and might want to hear more about your process than what you squeezed into your latest Instagram caption. This can even lead to new business opportunites and partnerships down the road 🤝.

If you’re asking yourself where you can get started, look no further than this newsletter! Stay Sketchy is built on a dedicated newsletter platform called Beehiiv.

Beehiiv was created by the developers that made the Morning Brew newsletter into the media giant it is today (so they sorta know what they’re doing). It’s got a ton of tools that help you grow and better understand your audience.

The best part is that you can make your newsletter on Beehiiv for free - and not for a limited amount of time, but free forever.

If you DO, however, want to take advantage of one of their payed tiers that offer more features, the button below will give you 20% off your first 3 months with Beehiiv after a complimentary 30-day free trial.

Whether you want to send your newsletter weekly, monthly, quarterly, or even just a couple times per year, adding this one feature to your business might be the lowest-effort, highest-return change you ever make!

How NOT to Become a Successful Artist
Break Up GIF by America's Got Talent

via Giphy

There are a lot of different paths one may take to become a successful artist.

Selling 145 fake paintings by Pop artist Peter Max isn’t one of them.

On June 17th, Connecticut man, Nicholas Hatch, will begin a 14-month prison sentence for selling counterfeit art back in May of 2023.

Hatch sold the paintings for $1,325 to $2,833 each making a whopping $248,600. Some paintings even included a forged certificate of authenticity.

Hatch enlisted the help of some of his company’s employees to pull off the crime. They added brushstrokes and phony signatures to the pieces to make them look a bit more legit.

Ultimately, it was one of these (disgruntled) employees that tipped off the FBI.

I guess he didn’t throw enough pizza parties at the office to keep everyone happy.

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Thanks for checking out another edition of Stay Sketchy. Catch you next week! ✌️

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