How To Prepare Yourself For Taking On New Design Clients

Taking on new clients can be a dream for fresh freelancers… or a dreaded endeavour for the inexperienced.

You don’t know your worth, your clients’ expectations or even what your edge on the competition is. It’s very easy to undervalue yourself when you’re first starting out!

But what if you knew what to ask these higher-paying clients? Would you still be intimidated by taking on higher-paying work—work that feeds you, while building your dream portfolio?

I’m going to share how I started asserting my worth as an artist and exactly what to cover with your new client to give them the best product possible!

Establish a budget upfront!

I ask for their budget in the same motion as about their idea, but that’ll take practice. Asking for their budget upfront establishes your worth and asserts that you expect proper compensation. You then showcase what you can provide for them based on this budget, not based on their expectations—that’s where you get into abusive territory.

Clients have grand visions, sometimes expecting way too much. You need to establish boundaries with who you’re working with right away—because ultimately you are working with them, not for them—ensuring your time isn’t abused. You don’t revise things half a dozen times for no extra compensation.

To avoid any future confusion or altercations with new clients, I religiously go through these questions to get a full picture of my clients needs and expectations, the scope of the project and how much time you’re devoting to the project. An individual or brand with a logo budget of $200 will not receive the same product as one with a budget of $1000, for example (and yes you can make that much for one licensing deal, just not on Fivver).

Why waste time doing this? Why can’t you just start getting paid right now on Upwork or Fivver?

Well, there’s nothing stopping you from doing that, but if you want a sustainable income that pays you what you’re worth as a craftsman you need a niche group of regular clientele that will be fanatical about everything you say (and sell)!

Viewing this intimate conversation about your clients passions (and ultimately their project) as a waste of time means you’re probably reading the wrong blog and should just go scavenge across abusive job-boards that undercut the value of every other freelance worker out there then just go on ahead and “make that bank”.

But if you want to get paid by people who value your work and will hire you over and over again—and recommend you for more even more dream projects—then you need to read this!

Establish A Budget With New Clients Upfront With These 8 Questions:

  1. What is the Company/Product/Service name to be used in the logo/branding?
    • This may seem silly, but you wouldn’t believe how often I’m brought onto a project thinking it was a rebranding job and found out it’s for a new/different/offshoot brand—wasting my notes and sketches, as well as their time.
  2. What is your Tag line (if any)?
    • Whether or not you need this for the design, it will give you a better picture of what your client’s message is
  3. What are you selling?
    • Get them to tell you as much about their product or service
    • What is the message they’re trying to convey with your work?
  4. Who are you selling to?
    • Describe the audience you’re targeting as best as possible.
    • Dig deeper (age, gender, interests, income, geography, etc. are only the basics)
  5. How do you want to be known in your industry and when compared to your competitors?
    • Competitors, fellow creatives or whatever you wish to call them, you are comparing both aesthetic and ethos as well as products and content.
    • Where are they at vs. where they want to be and how your work will get them there. Getting them to show you their “Dream Aesthetic” and favourite brands/pages from social media is usually the easiest way to involve clients in this part of the conversation.
  6. Do you have an idea of what you want? If so, describe your visions in as much or as little detail as you’d like.
    • Sometimes less is more here. Setting your boundaries early on is important and you have the right to know what you’re being hired for. In most cases, you’ll have already told them your niche or they have approached you because of your existing work (or even by recommendation from a fan!)
  7. Are you currently working with any time constraints? Ideally, how soon would you like to have your project completed?
    • This is another step where you need to set boundaries for yourself. If you’re having trouble keeping up, be transparent about your current work-load and be honest about how quickly you can complete a project.
  8. What is your budget?
    • The burning question that no artist has the answer for. I’m not going to pretend to know how much a human is worth, but I know how much money I need to make to pay these pesky bills: start there.
    • Talking about money is difficult for millennials. It’s okay to talk about money.
    • Feeling your skills should be compensated properly is not a crime. Don’t allow them to devalue your worth or make you feel you’re being unreasonable.
    • If you can’t justify the cost of your work by breaking it down for your client, you’re still too unclear on your self-worth and just might be over-selling yourself if you’re constantly being rejected at the “final sell”.

It can be a scary to take on new things. Just remember this for your next call on Zoom:

We didn’t become self-employed only to go broke.

We did it to become self-sustainable—to cope with chronic pain and illness, find employment as marginalized folks, to survive in tough times—while still doing something that breathes life back into us, rather than drain us.

If you produce a variety of content, you need to establish your niche and specialties for them right away—to set the boundaries in this new relationship at the beginning—not half-way through, when you realize you’re no longer working on what you signed up for. Unlike a romantic relationship, you’ve (hopefully) established some sort of written agreement via (at minimum) a paid invoice.

Whether you’re still navigating where you fit in within your field or are geared up to grab the new opportunity right now, you can download this unique and professional questionnaire I designed: print it off for your next new client here!

If you would like more coverage on drafting an invoice and red-flags freelancers should look out for on job-board websites, let me know by commenting on this post!

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

Questions To Ask Yourself When Trying To Nail Down Your Niche + Why You Need To Envision Your Success

Do you ever feel lost in what you’re doing?

Do you have trouble remembering the bigger picture?

As artists and creative people, it can be easy to forget why we began creating in the first place.

It can so easily feel like you’re talking into the vacuum of space, posting all your hard work into a black hole.

So how you do get noticed?

You need “a thing”, or a niche.

Something important to us as human beings is being good at something. We all like to feel like we have ‘our thing’. Not only does defining your niche make you more memorable as a creator, but it also makes your work feel more filling—your heart has to be in it for it to work.

For us to have ‘our thing’ we kind of have to make it up on our own. 

Whether that’s your middle school awards or that class in college that totally changed your life, you’ve found your thing.

When trying to compete in the rat-race of social media popularity, gaining commissions, and finding new clients—we often lose sight of ‘our thing’, and which work made us happy to begin with.

You work hard, but you don’t know where you want to go with your art or business.

Whenever I’m feeling this way (because we all do from time to time), I always go through the same exercise that I’m going to share with you right now!

  • What do you do and why? 
  • How do you do it? 
  • What’s your method and why do you do it that way? 

That’s it? Almost.

Envisioning your future can be the simplest exercise for self-discovery.

The importance of having a vision of your future:

  1. To keep you focused on a plan
  2. To keep you motivated towards your goals
  3. To master your skillset—narrowing down to one niche to build capitol to support your plan

What that might look like:

I wanted to share an expert of my Future Vision as an example of what measures you should focus on as a newbie, rather than looking at vanity metrics and low-ROI tasks.

So, here is part of my personal Future Vision from 2017—a pinnacle point in my life, when I was finishing school and planning to become self-employed:

At 28 I picture my life modern, but simple. With a dog and my own patch of grass, living in a smart home and tending a greenhouse. Where we live is only filled with what we need and love. I'm happy and healthy. 
My dreams of being a self-employed artist are a reality. I have a mildly successful blog I write and a podcast I do every month. I am finally thrilled to be living and have built better positive thinking techniques. I have healthy habits and meditate every day. I do yoga and jog to stay healthy and active. I eat the best foods for my body with lots of fresh greens and nuts. 
I feel great in the skin I'm in and only wear what is for me. I want to tread my own path in life and pursue my passions. I focus my energy on producing rather than consuming, being more conscious of whats going into my body, and making my body move more. To spend more time and effort on experiences than possessions- 
It has made me so humble and grateful to have kept this life.

14 Questions To Guide You Towards Your Niche + Vision

  1. What are my strengths? What am I good at?
  2. What do people come to me for advice or help with?
  3. What do I get excited or passionate about?
  4. Who are the most important people in my life and why?
  5. What do I need (to do) to feel my best?
  6. Where is the majority of my energy and attention been going lately?
  7. What lessons have I learned in the past 3 months? 6 months? Year?
  8. List my recent wins & failures.
  9. What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
  10. If I had all the money in the world, what would I do?
  11. How would I like to give back or help others?
  12. What drives me & what do I hunger for?
  13. What do I need more of in my life?
  14. What are my values & how do I live out those values in my own life?

I urge you to pull out your journal, day-planner, notes app, or whatever it is you use to record your ideas and get started on answering these questions! I promise you that this exercise will without a doubt help you refine your niche and overall vision for your life and art business.

If you need some extra reading, check out my other post on finding your niche, as well as advice on getting started as an online seller, and tips for marketing your creative business right now!

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

The Best Way To Spend Your Time As A Creative Business Owner

Before I started this project, I really had no clue what I did in a day.

If there’s no pictures, it didn’t happen as far as my memory is concerned

But when I recently had to write a piece on my experiences as a creative business owner and freelancer, I had to figure out what I actually did before I could start writing.


During this project I also came across a big problem…

It’s difficult to gauge your output in the early stages of being self-employed, and whether you’re working up to an industry standard. 

Am I doing enough, or am I slacking off?

It’s too easy to lose track of time, especially when working on one big project over the course of days or weeks. It can be even easier to fall behind on your progress, unnoticed.

When you first start out your milestones cannot be measured by the money you make—this can make tracking your progress a lot more difficult.

You won’t be making anything your first day working for yourself. Maybe not the first week, or even the first month, but that doesn’t mean you’re not working hard. 

I spent a lot of time feeling guilty whenever I wasn’t actively working on a paid project.

But a lot of what we do as self-employed people is unpaid labour—a lot of our time is devoted to unpaid tasks like social media marketing, promoting sales, applying to grants—leaving us with less time to look for more work, get commissions, and still finish passion projects…

There’s moments where it feels like all of your stress and hard work is for nothing. It gets hard, sometimes it will feel like it’s too hard. Comparing yourself too closely to others can leave you feeling shitty and dejected.

We get this way is because we often don’t have a clear overall vision of what we want to accomplish. 

You may have a vague idea of what you want your life to look like in 5 years, but could you write it out on paper; fill a page or two? 

This is an exercise I first started doing regularly because of Lavendaire, a successful content creator who focuses on minimalism and mindfulness. You write out your ‘Future Vision’, as she refers to it, which is basically everything you envision your life to be in a year; in 2 years; in 5 years. 

Envision every detail you can picture, smell, hear, and to totally immerse yourself in whatever you want your future to be.

It’s easy to put off doing the things that will give us the most returns—it’s a lot easier to paint a canvas than to sell it when you’re finished—but taking a look at my future needs and having an overall theme for my life has been a great way to be consistent in my efforts, both in my professional and my personal life. 


A huge part of creating compelling artwork is storytelling, or effectively content marketing.

It’s not enough to say “Buy my art!”, these days. It no longer speaks for itself; you need to breathe life into your work with refreshing words and flowing phrases.

You can have the most beautiful art in the world, but all people care about is a good story. If you’re not saying anything with your work, no one will resonate with it — and no one will buy it.

Social media is a content marketing goldmine, and now with shoppable posts it’s easier than ever to make money off Instagram and Facebook.

All you need is a clear vision of where you want to go with your creative business.

One of the many ways to clarify that looks like is with a social media marketing strategy.

For example, I use my content to show off my designs, get in touch with my audience, and promote my projects. In tandem with well-written captions, frequent posts are a great way to start a conversation or to get feedback on what your project while you’re still working on it!

What will you use your platform for?

I want you to download this FREE worksheet so you can get started with setting your goals to clearly see where you’re going with your creative business!

If you’re still feeling like you’re missing something, go read about how to build your confidence and business as well as advice on establishing your niche to gain some footing in your content marketing plan.


Until next time, look below for some of my other digital reading materials to keep you busy during quarantine!

Joey @ The A/J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

How You’re Using Your Day-Planner Wrong: Get Better At Working From Home (Part 2)

Do you struggle with time management?

If you often find yourself scrambling to get out the door in the morning, arriving late for almost everything, missing meals, forgetting important dates; you most likely are bad at time management.

Being bad at managing our time can not only hurt our productivity, but also our relationships and quality of life— it can even lead to us disappointing the people we care about most.

I don’t often miss my bus, but when I do it puts a damper on my day because the next one won’t come for 30 minutes, making me late.

What if this happened every day?

I would be miserable. I would dread catching the bus every day because I would always miss it. Rather than missing my bus, I just give myself way more time to catch it.

I don’t have a special routine. I don’t have to wake up at 5am (you can’t get me out of bed until at least 8am, if you’re lucky). 

So what’s my secret?

My day planner… That’s it!

Even though it’s one of the first things (and arguably the only things) we learn in elementary school, time management escapes us.

If you remember your school timetable—or maybe you still have one in the form of a calendar planner—it was or is the thing that rules your life. It tells you where to be and what you’re doing at every hour of the (school/work) day.


As adults of a planning-mindset, we usually adopt a day-planner to manage our lives.

But did you know you’re probably using it wrong?

What your daily planner IS NOT FOR:

  • To do lists of what to do each day—this isn’t useful because it doesn’t tell you WHEN and HOW LONG you’re doing those things on your list. 
  • Items without dedicated time intervals. If you don’t know how long something will take, set an amount of time (i.e. 2 hours) to work on it—try setting a timer and don’t break your concentration until it goes off.
  • Items that are not actionable: they have to be broken down into smaller tasks in order to be completed.

These things are what make us realize at the end of the day that we only got through half of what we planned to accomplish; we always plan too much in one day when we fall into these ‘productivity traps’.

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‘Productivity traps’ are what make us feel busy all day, but leave us disappointed by what we finished (or didn’t) that day.

Things like chasing ‘vanity metrics’, we’re pouring our energy into things that don’t reward us the most when we don’t plan our days.


So what’s the big secret that’s transformed how I think about my time and productivity?

Two words my friend: time-blocking. Or is that two words? Whatever.

Learning about time-blocking is what started to totally change how I work. I never feel like I’m wasting my time. 

It’s given me the freedom as a freelancer to be more present; I don’t feel like I have to be glued to my phone because I know when I need to be… I scheduled it.


So how can you get better at time management right now?

If you haven’t already, you should really read my Part 1 of this post before going any further! If you haven’t done any time-tracking, time-blocking will be a failure.

Why?

Because you need to know what you do with your time first.

So go read that post right now if you need to learn what time-tracking is along with my tips and favourite apps to get started!

Now I’ve been raving for a while, but what’s the big deal?

You might be thinking “I’m self-employed and don’t need a schedule”, but that would be a huge mistake!

Our minds tend to segment things — to break them off into smaller chunks, so they’re easier for our brains to digest. This can naturally make it difficult to accurately track your time.

We sit down and draw for an hour, but it feels like it’s been minutes. Or, you’ll be at work for an hour and feel like you’ve been there all day. 

Our animal brains have no real concept of time.

That’s why I find time-blocking so important.


Time-blocking is the act of delegating set amounts of time for the tasks you need to complete, but in as much detail and specific as possible.

Whether, it’s my work life or the activities I do in my free time, I like to keep track of the time I’m doing anything because it forces me to be present.

Applying time-blocking to my entire life — rather than just my work life — is what really kicked my productivity into gear this year. Extending this philosophy past the common conception of a ‘work day’, I found is where I starting seeing the most returns.

I force myself to take a moment to asses (or reassess) what I’m doing, how long I’ve been doing it, and if it’s a thing I should be doing.

Spending 3 hours drafting a comic is great, but three hours of ‘drafting a comic’ with nothing to show but a queue of watched Youtube videos is not. 

How to increase engagement Live-streaming - Pin title card
Read about what live-streaming is and how it boosted my art at The Artist Journal.ca + download a FREE printable to get your goals ready for 2020!

Tracking your time alongside time-blocking will force to be in the present moment and will hold you accountable for how you use your time.

See how it all comes together?

I know this sounds totally neurotic and overkill, but I wouldn’t talk about it so much if it didn’t totally change my workflow.

Tracking all of my time has shown me a lot about how I work. It’s shown me:

  • What hours are my most productive
  • How long the regular tasks I do take
  • How much time I’m making for family and friends
  • What foods I like to eat and when

I’ve even figured out the best times of day to work on different projects.

I wouldn’t talk about it this much if it were no big deal.

I really want you try this too!

So, I’m going to break down how I effectively use my day planner so you can get better at time-management and get more time out of your day with time-blocking!

First off, I use colours to segment my day into the blocks I want. This is what my planner looks like before I even write in it:

I’ve been doing this for a while, so I know when I’m most productive and when I need to take breaks. I use the different colours to show that here! 

Having these blocks determined already really helps later in the week when I’m trying to remember when is the best times to pencil in clients, collaborate with others, and carve out time for intense ‘deep-work’ sessions.

When you time-block your entire day, make it look like a school time table, with clear hour blocks of time to write in. The acceptation here is it begins when you wake up, and stops when you go to sleep. This can even be done on plain notebook paper.

Things to include when doing this (including how long it takes to do it):

  • Wake up, get clean and dressed 
  • Make and eat Breakfast
  • Commute
  • Buying Groceries on your way home
  • Walking the dog after dinner
  • Binging YouTube tutorials, all of it

Everything you do doesn’t need to be productive, it shouldn’t be; it should just be what you want to accomplish. 

Whether you want to bake yourself cake and eat the whole thing, or go to the movies with an old friend — your time should be spent on things you’ve set out to do and not letting yourself go idle, losing hours to Netflix.

This is about what my day planner looks like after filling it out:

I give myself extra cushions of time to be sure I’m not late for things while still having time for regular tasks. When I have extra time I usually have a book on hand or an article I wanted to read online.

I leave some of my regular tasks out because I have notification reminders for them on my phone, or they’re already a part of my natural routine; things like watering my plants, doing dishes while I start dinner, and other household chores that take less than 30 minutes.

I suggest only planning 2-3 days in advance in this sort of detail, unless you have a regular job where you work a set amount of hours at the same time every day.

Now that I’m better at journalling and planning my days, I find myself planning in detail 4-5 days in advance. Any more than that is overwhelming for me — my queue can’t get too long or I get very stressed out.

I’m sure you can relate to that feeling of overwhelm, having so many things to do you can’t remember them all. That’s why writing it out is great.

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I do a brain dump at the end of every week of things I didn’t get done and things I need to finish the next week. I also think about new tasks I want to accomplish for the next week. 

I do this by referencing actionable items in my ‘brain dump’, allowing me to let go of my mental to-do list.

This allows me to concentrate on the task at hand, because I intentionally planned time to do it. Whether that’s enjoying playing video games or writing for my blog until my iPad dies, I no longer feel any guilt or weight on my shoulders because I know I’m doing what I set out to.


Planning my days this way has totally changed how I work and how I accomplish more of the things I want to do, faster.

I’m hoping this in-depth walk-through of my day planner has convinced you the impact of time-blocking to improve your productivity and quality of work, and life.

If you found this article helpful I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments! This is a much longer piece than I usually write and I would love to know what you think, or what you would like to see more of in the future.

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

Why Instagram Stats Are Ruining Your Artwork

My best tips for dealing with “posting anxiety” as an artist on Instagram:

Creative and emotional people: Don’t look at your statistics!

There’s a new phrase I’ve heard recently, as I was speaking with a friend and colleague about social media management — and mainly the stress of constantly creating content. After a while, we arrived at a common major issue: posting anxiety.

Posting the right content for Instagram — to be picked up on the explore page and gain traction — can feel like the most important thing sometimes, especially in content marketing.

The truth is, “how to get famous on Instagram” is a mystery to most people trying to grow a following or business. I know this because too many other artists that have cried out to me, “I have no idea how Instagram works!”

Even worse, I know people who don’t post their artwork at all!

Why?

They’re scared! Rightfully so, the Internet can be a mean place. Someone who wants to casually show off their hard work doesn’t necessarily want to be subjected to the same scrutiny as a professional artist open to critique.

artist painting watercolours
Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay

Brand new artists need to know — the internet doesn’t have to be a scary place!

Instagram is perfect for artists as a digital marketing platform! Filled with beautifully spaced and cropped photos, there’s so many creative ways to lay out your feed.

I’m not going to tell you how it works — no one truly knows how these social media algorithms work and I’m not going to pretend I do.


Today I’m going to talk about why you SHOULD NOT check your statistics on Instagram.

This article is intended for artists and crafters with a small following of less than one thousand. That being said, an account with less than 1000 followers can still get their art sold!

Do not obsess over your Instagram analytics yet, if:

  1. You have less than 1000 followers
  2. You have poor-quality engagement
  3. You’re still self-conscious or intimidated by posting

Why shouldn’t I care about my statistics?

As artists, it is our job to feel — don’t force it.

  1. Your following is too small to give an accurate picture of your target market, unless you already have high-quality engagement — people liking, commenting, and BUYING your stuff! You’re just going to unnecessarily bruise your ego if you pay too much attention to numbers too early — and you’re going to make less art.
  2. Your followers aren’t engaging with your posts, giving you poor-quality engagement. In most cases, it’s because your followers can’t see your posts! A caption with only a couple sentences and 4 hashtags doesn’t cut it anymore. You need to get creative with your posts and do some story-telling or you’re going to be drowned out by higher-quality posts. Try experimenting with different post layouts, emojis, and hashtags — Instagram allows up to 30 and I suggest using all of them.!
  3. You’re still scared to hit “post” on your work, even more-so when you care about it. This is where I want to help you — I’m going to share my tips on posting your work and growing your following without obsessing over statistics every day!

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  1. Comment on at least 10 posts a day. I’ve read social media gurus suggested leaving 50 comments, but I just devote an hour to Instagram every day and see how much I can do in that hour.
  2. Be genuine on the platformpost about yourself, show your face, and leave comments with 4 or more words and an emoji.
  3. Share to Instagram like you’re already “famous”. Carry that energy into your posts with consistent colour and lighting in your feed — it makes a huge difference you wouldn’t think. If you’re new to social media marketing, there are many feed-layout planning apps out there to get started, but I have not yet found one I would recommend.
  4. Spam your story and share your latest post there! Instagram’s story feature is great for flooding with content. Followers are more likely to see your IG story than your post, since it’s always at the very top when you first open the app. The feature is hard to ignore, so take advantage of it! I wouldn’t post more then a dozen times in a day, unless you’re actively engaging with people (via a Q&A, a poll, livestream, etc.)
  5. Have a master-list of all the hashtags you like to use — keep them in the notes on your phone. This way, you only have to pick those 30 hashtags one time, and then simply paste them into your posts later.
  6. Have a pod. You may have heard of Instagram-pods before, but if you have a small following you might not be in one yet. Start one with other artists on the platform, especially people your fans of — it can be a nice safety blanket to know a handful of people will engage with your posts. Feel free to follow me!

7 Big And Bad Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Instagram Reputation:

  1. NEVER BUY FOLLOWERS! Period. Apps that say they’ll boost your account’s numbers, or give you more “authentic followers” are feeding you BS.
  2. Never give anyone any of your personal information, account information, or money! This should go without saying, but seeing people’s readiness to login into an unknown app with their Facebook information (which is now also Instagram too, folx) scares me. If you’re at all serious about this, you’re putting the security and ownership of your business on the line by doing this.
  3. People might also pray upon you via direct messaging, saying they love your account and will feature it on their page… for a cost. DO NOT GIVE THESE PEOLE YOUR MONEY! (See #1 and #2)
  4. An app for instagram statistics reports is probably the worst thing you could do right now, for your self-esteem and content quality. It’s important to know who your target market is, but checking the numbers more often than once a week will leave you most likely disappointed. In my opinion, I have not found the best app to track Instagram statistics because I haven’t found a single one with terms of service that aren’t sketchy AF (See #2).
  5. Follow other artists with a similarly-sized following — they’ll probably be interested in your work too. I have also made so many friends this way! Some of which I now collaborate with. Don’t expect artists with over 5000 followers to follow you back.
  6. The internet is a democracy — you can delete rude comments and block whoever you want. I fully support this, especially when you’re first starting because the odds of receiving valuable criticism is so low.
  7. Turning off comments is a nuclear option that I only see huge accounts doing: models, adult content creators, public figures, and other people who receive inconceivable amounts of awful harassment. If you’re still very sensitive about your work you can do this, but don’t expect your following to growengaging with the people in your comments is probably the most fun, too.

How are you feeling? Inspired? Empowered? Overwhelmed?

I want you feeling equipped to take the next step. Whether you feel ready or not, I suggest working through my journalling prompt sheet for your best year yet! I feel like it will really help you find some confidence and clarity for what you envision this year looking like for you and your art.

I would also love it if you shared a time you experienced posting-anxiety in the comments. Starting conversations about these kinds of things is how we learn and grow with each other!

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

How Artists Can Use Their Art To Improve Their Self-Care Routine

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

I have trouble making time for my art these days — I bet you can relate. 

Something about having to find the right lighting and drag out all my supplies has me constantly putting off my painting. The thought of sitting down for 3 hours to illustrate sometimes has me hiding my pens away.

We make excuses, sometimes without noticing they’re excuses at all.

An uninspired mind creates a lack of energy for the body, resulting in a lack of performance filled with excuses.

Farshad Asl, The “No Excuses” Mindset: A Life of Purpose, Passion, and Clarity

To bring back balance to my days, I’ve been making an effort to incorporate my creativity in my self-care routine.

femme punk inspirational graphic
“Lace up your Doc Martens, get out there, and kick some ass.”

Some things I love to do to destress:

  • Play video games – I’ve been live-streaming video games online for about a month now and have been enjoying getting back into my favourite games while connecting with my audience in a relaxed and personal environment, while still able to moderate content.
  • Journal my thoughts, goals, and brainstorm new ideas for art, design, writing and just life! Dotted journals are my absolute favourite. I haven’t found accessibly priced notebooks anywhere but Muji, and they only have one size — it’s very tiny, too. It can be handy, but limiting! My best solution has been with Notability on my iPad pro, it’s an amazing paid app that I’ve been using for almost 4 years now.
  • Try new cleaning and beauty DIYs on Pinterest – this can be a great instant confidence booster by making you feel handy by making yourself something and can be totally unrelated to your work if you’re feeling totally burnt out. 
  • Learn how to make my favourite foods for myself. This is also another one of my favourite non-work-related things to do — while listening to a podcast or my stereo.
  • Doodle – lately I’ve been doing doodles on sticker paper and been live-streaming on Instagram
  • Follow watercolour tutorials – I still feel my watercolour skills have a long easy to grow, so I push through artist block by practicing watercolour tutorials. Lately, I’ve been playing with different kinds of tea for different washes! I’ve found chai and green tea are especially my favourite and a nice subtle colour combo!

Having an air diffuser in my home has been amazing!

I love having one of my air diffusers going in the two main rooms of my home with my favourite essential oil blends.

I’ve collected many essential oils over the years, but my simple energizing go-to blend is geranium and grapefruit! I do 5-8 drops of each, depending on the size of the room (and who’s in it). Remember to check which essential oils are okay to use around pets and people with scent-sensitivities/allergies.

The best part about the diffuser in my bedroom studio is it goes for about 4 hours — a big chunk of time I could be working on something. When it shuts off, I know I can take a break!

Creative Ways To Beat Artist's Block in red
Creative Ways To Beat Artist’s Block Faster

Taking care of yourself during these cold and dark days will help you better enjoy this season!

Winter can be a difficult time of year for everyone — whether it be loneliness or stress — and some extra self-care during your daily life will help you enjoy more moments.

How are you feeling right now? I hope you’re feeling up to work through my journalling prompt sheet — you still have time to plan your best year yet, it’s never too late to start! If you’re feeling stuck, I urge you to go read my piece on working through burn-out.

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

How To Keep Working On Your Art When You’re Burnt-Out

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

Let’s face it — we all get burnt out.

It can look like working over-time and living off take-out for a week, or for me it looks more like eating pizza in bed with my cats and not contacting another soul for days.

Winter is known to worsen our mental health (or “steal your spoons”, as I like to say) — between the pressure of holidays and the physical stress of the cold, it’s easy to lose track of ourselves. That’s why I want to talk about prioritizing self-care and self-compassion this time of year.


The most restorative thing I can do for myself is feed my body.

Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

I’m the worst for skipping meals, saying I’m “too busy” to tend to my physical self. So when I do, I fill my bod with soul food!

One of my go-to feel-good snacks is milk and cookies. When I was a kid it was 2% milk and chip-a-hoy — these days it’s unsweetened vanilla almond milk and homemade cookies of a much more nutritious and filling variety.


My second go-to for instant relief is a hot bath

Photo by Hanna Postova on Unsplash

Lush Bath Bombs are nice, but I make my own relaxing bath concoctions. I throw in a big dollop of coconut oil, my favourite essential oils, and epsom salt for days.

I’m always playing with different combinations of essential oils as well, but I have two favourites:

An unexpected duo I love is tea-tree and grapefruit essential oil! The tea-tree oil is an amazing natural anti-septic, which is great for when I feel like I need a deep-clean. The grapefruit oil is to overpower the scent of the tea-tree oil, as it‘s not the most pleasant.

aromatherapy, essential oils, diffusers

Thirdly, I recharge my soul by doing things for myself.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.

― audre lorde
Photo by Analise Benevides on Unsplash

Here are 5 quick, restorative practices I’ve picked up that help manage burn-out:

  1. A short sun-salut yoga-routine forces me to focus on my breath and clear my head. This is usually when I get my best ideas (as well as the shower, of course). 
  2. A really intense work-out. If yoga isn’t your thing (and I totally get that, sometimes I can’t bear to be on the mat for more than 5 minutes), tire yourself out and take a nap. It’s another tool I use to clear my head. Be sure to eat properly before and after so you don’t end up feeling even worse!
  3. Spoil yourself with your favourite food — I told you food was my favourite! Bonus: order from Skip The Dishes to relieve yourself from any additional effort aside from putting on pants to open the front door. Although, I like to save a bit of money by getting pick up. It’s great to spoil yourself in moderation.
  4. Journal. Journalling my thoughts, goals, and roadblocks really helps me ease my cluttered mind. Maybe try doodling something to go with it. Even if you don’t think you can draw. You may be pleasantly surprised!
  5. Make something for yourself. I make things for a living, but I rarely make things for myself. If you’re in a similar position, taking the time to do a personal DIY can feel very rewarding.
5 minute journal

Working through burn-out is tough — if you’re truly having a hard time, take the day off. It’s the easiest and fastest way to relieve exhaustion. The world will keep turning.

How are you feeling? I hope you’re feeling equipped to work through my journalling prompt sheet for your best year yet! Feel free to let me know what you like to do to re-charge your soul in the comments.

Until next time,

-J

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Read about My Top 10 Free Apps I Actually Use For My Online Art Business

Why Artists Need To Consider Live-Streaming And Video Content for 2020

After all of the algorithmic changes across social media, content creators have been feeling the impact. With ‘the death of email’ amongst my generation, I needed a space to directly connect with my readers and followers. Somewhere the people who care about my work the most are guaranteed to see it.

If you’re feeling ignored, overlooked, or censored (which was my issue) — creating your own platform is the best way to fix this, but it’s difficult to get the traffic you once had on Instagram, Twitter, etc. You are looking to build more than a business or platform, but a community. If this sounds like you, online streaming is probably where you want to go next. 

So What Is Live-Streaming?

Well, It’s what it sounds like. You Stream video online of you doing something, live — rather than a pre-recorded video.

It’s great because you have a chance to engage with your viewers, live on stream! This makes people want to participate by chatting with you and other viewers.

Why Should I Live-Stream Online?

Start Livestreaming Blog title card
Read about what live-streaming is and how it boosted my art at The Artist Journal.ca + download a FREE printable to get your goals ready for 2020!

Live-streaming works as venue to promote yourself without feeling like you’re selling yourself constantly across social media.

My ultimate goal with live-streaming is to gain a more regular income while authentically connecting with people online who share my interests and enjoy my work. I also want my Twitch to be an online safe-space for other LGBTQ+ folx on the internet to hang out and listen to banging’ tunes.

You should make sure your reason for livestreaming is more than to just make money; it takes a while to build enough trust between you and your viewer to begin asking for donations and you need to offer them something worth it in return.

How Do I Start?

Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment… Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life — and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you.

Eckhart Tolle
By Paige Cody on Unsplash

There a few platforms for live-streaming online: Twitch, Youtube, and Picarto are the largest platforms right now. I’m personally on Twitch because of the content I stream.

You can start with, or without an existing following. I’ve only been streaming a few weeks and gained a few followers during my first stream, ever!

Having a loyal fan or two from the beginning is so helpful; keeping your view count up and engaging in chat are important when making a first impression online and  for engaging regularly with your audience.

Sign yourself up for a Twitch account and honestly, the rest is easy. If you would like a post about downloading and working with OBS and Streamlabs streaming software let me know!


What Do I Stream?

You should be providing value as well as entertainment — the easiest way for an artist to do this is to teach what you know! Being good company, personable, and active in chat can significantly enhance your experience streaming as well.

This is the kind of personal experience people who watch livestreams are expecting and enjoy most, whether they’re aware of it or not. I already have a regular chat to hang out with — this is also a great motivator to get back online and stream, you’re eager to see some regulars and catch up with them.

A lot of people don’t watch your live-stream — They’re listening. I’m definitely guilty of putting a livestream on for just the audio commentary.

Because of this, I don’t allow ‘dead air’ on stream. I always have music playing; I have an extension that posts the currently paying title in chat for me. Be sure to properly credit any music and media you use in your streams — don’t be that person. I also use my music visually on-screen, as album art is always a nice visual for those not reading the chat.

How to increase engagement Live-streaming - Pin title card
Read about what live-streaming is and how it boosted my art at The Artist Journal.ca + download a FREE printable to get your goals ready for 2020!

Many people will ‘lurk’ in chat the whole time and never say a word — they’re just around to observe, and that’s okay. Some stick around and watch for 20 minutes and leave, which is also normal.

You won’t always be talking about yourself on stream (because that would be boring), so having your most important information present at all times is important. That’s why I include my information across the bottom of my streaming screen as well as my Patreon page link at the top of the stream description.


Why I Started Live-Streaming Video Games Instead Of Art

One of my favourite Twitch live-streamers says he plays speed-runs of Mario64 to give himself a break from writing music. 

My favourite YouTube-streamer — and who ultimately inspired me to finally start streaming — does extremely casual playthroughs of vintage console and handheld games on a CRT in his “Valley”. He uses it as an scheduled break from working on his solo full-length animated film.

See where I’m going with this?

After trying live-streaming art on Instagram; presenting myself on my strongest platform didn’t yield the results I wanted, the video quality I expected, or the video access I was promised. YouTube is fine for streaming, but Twitch works better with my limited set-up.

If You’re not comfortable being live-on-camera, try video instead!

Video is great if you need to edit out mistakes and misinformation.

The biggest thing I hear from Folx who are camera-shy is they’re afraid of “messing up” or “looking stupid”. You won’t mess up or look stupid in front of anyone else, because you can edit it out later!

I warmed up to the camera by holding ‘test’ live-streams on my Instagram as well as recording videos for my Patreon subscribers.

You can also create extra video content by editing down your livestreams into concise lessons or ‘episodes’ for social media or a YouTube Channel. Transcripts and Closed Captions are very valuable if you’re producing educational content, but since I do casual, multi-hour streams I forgo this extra step.

Start Livestreaming Pinterest graphic
Read about what live-streaming is and how it boosted my art at The Artist Journal.ca + download a FREE printable to get your goals ready for 2020!

So, that’s why I’m now on Twitch! I’ve been live-streaming video games two nights a week. I do AMA (ask me anything) livestreams about mental health, queerness, and other topics of sensitivity — I want my Twitch to be an online safe-space for other LGBTQ+ folx on the internet to hang out and listen to banging’ tunes.

In the meantime, I urge you to read about how to make people care about your art and how to maximize your time creating in your studio in preparation for the New Year. You can also download this journalling prompt sheetabsolutely free, to get a head-start on 2020!

Until next time,

-J


My Top 10 Free Apps I Actually Use For My Online Art Business

These 10 apps will help you nail your next art project, keep on top of your clients, and build your social media presence!

I’ve been using an iPad Pro since I began working for myself, back in 2016. It was the first investment I had ever made in my business, ever. It was a big deal!

There were a lot of things I needed out out one device and couldn’t spend so much. I had limited experience with technology use and had an aversion to the big ol’ Apple Corp.

The iPad Pro has become my best artist tool and the most used technology in my office, even to this day.  

I’m here to help you get the most out of your Tablet experience, artist-to-artist, for free.

I’ve created a list of my favourite free iPad Pro apps to help artists and small creative online businesses.

These apps are easy to incorporate into your art, design, or online business practices. There is a learning curve, but they’re not too tricky to get a handle on. Once you get the hang of using these, you’ll be glad you did!

Here are my 10 favourite free apps I actually use for my online art business!

  • Adobe Draw (Art + Design) — A free vector-drawing app I have been using for years, all you need is a free account! I prefer using Adobe Draw over Fresco for certain projects because of its ability to import directly to Illustrator on my desktop.
  • Adobe Spark Post (Art + Design) — Perfect for quickly planning out design ideas for social media posts, blog covers, headings and footers, and much more!
  • Canva (Art + Design) — My absolute favourite design tool, Canva’s free tools and resources are more than enough to beef up your branding and get on your social media game! You can save pallets and fonts to your brand profile to keep your posts looking consistently beautiful and on-brand.
  • Sell on Etsy App (Business + Productivity) — If you haven’t already, check out my post about why I love Etsy as my e-commerce platform right here!
  • 2do (Business + Productivity) — The only to-do list you will ever need!
  • Hootsuite (Business + Productivity) — The best FREE social media scheduling tool out there, I’ve tried so many and now that Hoot covers Instagram, I’m all-in!
  • Photoshop Mix (Art + Design)Easy photo-editing on-the-go? Yes please! I also love using this for the photos I use in my Etsy shop listings.
  • Protonmail (Business + Productivity)You need to stop using Google, right now! I keep my clients’ information safe by using this encrypted email service for my business (and personal) emails. This means no one, not even Protonmail, can read my confidential emails!
  • Toggl (Business + Productivity)You need this for easy, detailed time-tracking! Toggl sends you a report at the end of each week, making invoicing clients accurately way easier.
  • Adobe Capture (Art + Design) — Quickly creates colour pallets, brushes, fonts, and shapes from real-life photographs!

As soon as you’re done reading this: download some of these apps, try them out, and tell me what you think. Comment which of these apps are your favourite, and why! I would love to know.

Set effective goals for the new year - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

In the meantime, I urge you to read about how to make people care about your art and how to maximize your time creating in your studio in preparation for the New Year. You can also download this journalling prompt sheet, absolutely free, to get a head-start on 2020!

Until next time,

-J

A Minimalist Tidying Up With Mari Kondo

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

Despite reading similar or related information from many other sources, reading the life-changing magic of tidying up first hand was a whole new experience. 

The night before this project began, I had cracked open the life-changing magic of tidying up by Mari Kondo. 

After reading the first 55 pages that Friday night — like all the cool kids do — I knew I had to start then and there.

That, and I had gotten an email indicating the book was due back to the library on the Tuesday and I couldn’t renew it…

I decided to embark on the challenge: to apply the KonMari method of tidying to my entire space in a single weekend.

If you’re not familiar with the KonMari method, it is the Japanese style of tidying up. The idea is to tidy everything in your home, in totality, and your mess will never relapse. It’s become more widely read thanks to the popular Netflix show, Tidying Up With Mari Kondo.

Starting off as someone who already considered themselves a minimalist, I wasn’t sure there was much for me to take away from this book that I hadn’t read somewhere else already. Everyone in the community references Kondo and I figured I knew it all by proxy.

I have been down-sizing since 2015 and I was at first apprehensive about whether this idea was a good one. Was this project even worth my time?

Does the KonMari method actually work? Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash
Does the KonMari method actually work? Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

I was open to learning more about the lifestyle I had adopted, but I didn’t think there was anything left for me to get rid of… I was very much wrong.

Clothes are always first in the KonMari method, and the most fun in the tidying process.

30-day minimalist wardrobe challenges are the most popular minimalist content in mainstream media (other than this book). As fun as those are, they’re ineffective and contrary to the KonMari method.

I spend much of my time taking care of my house, entertaining friends weekly, and host clubs and workshops out of my home. After establishing this vision, I awoke that Saturday morning feeling far more excited than I anticipated.

My first goal was to fit all my off-season wardrobe into a single carry-on bag to free up my closet space to create more breathing room in my closets. I was sick of struggling to find properly-fitting linens and hanging guests’ coats on the armchair because the closet is overflowing with the households’ Canadian winter gear. My hats, scarves, flip-flops, swim trunks… Everything scattering amongst 2 closets, as well as a full-size suitcase and 2 carry-on bags. My partner seemed unconvinced when I first revealed my plan, but they were then bewildered when I met my first goal.

Transform your home in only one weekend using this method!
Learn the top tips I used to transform my home in a single weekend!

My second goal was to fit my entire wardrobe (underwear, socks, hats — everything) onto a rolling clothing rack. I’ve had this goal for more than 3 years.

During my first big clothing-cull in 2016 I got rid of over 6 113L [24 Gal.] garbage bags of clothes. In 2017 I let go of about three more. Each time, this task took me over 2 days and I never accomplished my goal to only have one clothing rack of items to choose from every day.

This year, following the KonMari method outlined in her book, I still filled an entire 113L [24 Gal.] garbage bag — I had clothes I loved that were three sizes too big for me, and a size I never wanted to be again! The amount of baggage that went with those clothes lifted a weight I didn’t know was there, thanks to following this book.

This time around, it only took me 5 hours to fully sort my entire wardrobe and I finally met my first minimalist goal ever!

Saturday night, I went through my books. 

The next day I didn’t get to start working on my KonMari project until about 3pm, which was a huge set back. How could I finish the rest of my project in only 7 hours?!

On top of that, I still had the most difficult categories left to organize: papers, komono, and sentimental items. Kondo defines komono as miscellaneous items Pg 106.

As someone who takes great pride in their home — especially my office-space — I gazed bewildered by my desk overflowing with papers. I watched as they spilled onto the floor in a comical fashion.

Papers spilling off my desk, onto the floor in a comical fashion.

My desk with all of my papers, before sorting (and my dog). I would of been too embarrassed if anyone knew how many more filing systems I thought I needed for all this meaningless “stuff”.

Where I determined to keep my papers.

It took all day Sunday to go through my papers. I ended up with another garbage bag in the hall, 4 vacant storage devices, and a half-dozen empty folders. I now finally have 3 portfolios filled with work I’m proud of rather than a pile of binders and folders of sketches and prints I “have to go through one day”.

My desk with all of my papers, after sorting. 4 full portfolios and an empty filing box sit under my desk (until sorting them away).

Despite my many successes and visual results with this project I’m disappointed I didn’t finish in the time-line I set, even if I felt I had completed it.

I asked ,“Does this spark joy?”, throughout the entirety of cleaning out my late-grandmother’s house in spring 2017. This question helped me only keep valuable essentials I would use throughout my life. It turned a burden into a process of closure and acceptance. The things I ended up keeping out of guilt left shortly after they arrived.

A minimalist in 1 weekend Pinterest card
Click to see more pins like this one!

After going through all my miscellaneous items in summer 2018, we ended up moving only about a third of our belongings to our new home.

I’m sure Kondo would think going through the same process again with the same items would be redundant — especially timeless, important things after already deciding they “spark joy”. I will consider it for the future, but I’m more than satisfied with the single Rubbermaid tote of photo albums, scrapbooks, and other komono that still bring me joy as I flip through them. I’m curious, do you think this counts? 

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10 Key things I took away from the life-changing magic of tidying up by Mari Kondo:

  1. We should be choosing what we wish to keep, not what we want to be rid of. Pg 41
  2. Vertical storage is key; stacking is a spell for clutter . Kondo mentions this throughout the book (folding shirts, storing papers, etc.)
  3. Do not over-categorize as this complicates things and results in keeping more than you need. Simplicity is key. Pg 84
  4. The moment you first encounter a particular book is the right time to read it. Pg 95
  5. Presents are not things, but convey someone’s feelings at the time the gift was given. If you don’t use or enjoy what they picked out for you, the gift-giver wouldn’t want to burden you with it and it has served its’ purpose (of being received and conveying one’s feelings).
  6. Have a defined location for everything you own. I’m already a master at this, but it’s information you must know!
  7. Pursue ultimate simplicity in storage and do not scatter storage spaces. I was guilty of this one, but it was an easy fix.
  8. Don’t underestimate the “noise” of written information, especially in your native language. It can feel like some is whispering cleaning instructions to you whenever you open a closet.
  9. Letting go is more important that adding healthy habits. Letting go, in itself, is a healthy habit of its’ own.
  10. At last, thank your belongings. They support you in some way, sometimes the entire day. Practicing gratitude for your possessions will help reinforce what is important to you. You might also see what is unessential to you.

Overjoyed Sunday evening, I was rid of the two dozen sketchbooks I had been standing knee-deep in. I was taken aback at my car trunk full of baggage I didn’t know I had.

The most important thing to me was shaking off my minimalist Imposter syndrome. I did what I set out to do in only a single weekend, accomplished many of my personal goals, and am eager to see the ongoing impact of tidying up. I’ve also just finished reading through and practicing Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, another fantastic book I plan on covering soon.

Finding Minimalism in one weekend
Transform your space into a peaceful place in only 2 days!

If you’re interested in how I manage my artwork archives or even my wardrobe, let me know. I’m always curious about what you’re curious about!

Whether you’re new to minimalism or you think it’s a dumb trend, let me know that as well! I’m always open to interesting dialogue from different backgrounds. You can find me active on Facebook and posting more blog content on my personal Patreon page, I respond to all comments and questions!

Until next time,

-Joey @ The A/J

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joey Dean, painter & Designer
About Joey.