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.

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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

How To Make People Care About Your Art

Connection = Caring

So I was perusing the Internet yesterday thinking up a new side-hustle, when I found someone else had already taken my idea!

This happens to me all the time, but this time was different.

The blog I came across was featuring an artist — the artist with my idea — and all they talked about was their childhood and how it’s affected their current work.

Easiest branding tips for artists | Best marketing tips | How to promote your art when you have no time | How to market your art on a budget | an artist's guide to marketing without being salesy | How to sell art online without selling your soul
How to make people care about your art – Instagram Post

They neglected to give any contact info, despite saying they’re open (and desperate) for commissions numerous times.

This artist even neglected to list their subject matter, themes, or any mediums they used.

To top it off, the few pictures included were poorly lit snapshots of some comic sketches and sloppily edited photos of a few paintings. You could tell they were all taken in their poorly-lit NYC apartment.

They didn’t have a Website, Twitter, Instagram… nothing. All they had was a Tumblr page they posted to every week or so making it basically impossible for clients to reach them. There wasn’t even an email address listed, what a PR disaster!

I can’t imagine being a showcased artist in an article — the opportunity to meet hundreds, if not thousands of new clients at almost no cost — and not providing any contact information!

It’s artists like this that get stuck in that “starving artist” mentality, thinking you need to beg everyone to look at your work. They advertise themselves as a walking mess because they don’t take themselves seriously enough to be credited as anything else.

Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.

Andy Warhol

Employers can smell this desperation, and will most often write you off as inexperienced, or try to talk down your rates.

Making art has never been about the money, money is merely what we use to obtain the things we need to survive (if you’re in the art world looking for money, let the rest of us know where you find any).

Making enough to survive as an artist is challenging, but not having a website is like shooting yourself in the foot with an arrow before your Olympic 100 m dash. You’re fucking yourself over.

Easiest branding tips for artists | Best marketing tips | How to promote your art when you have no time | How to market your art on a budget | an artist's guide to marketing without being salesy | How to sell art online without selling your soul
Top Tips For Free Marketing Online –
Pinterest Post

An artist website is incredibly important for gaining new clients. Someone who has never heard of you or what you do should be able to see all that on your site, preferably clicking through your about page, portfolio, and social media links. I’ve had almost all of my button-pressing inquiries via email, from my contact form on my site.

Most employers won’t spend the time clicking through your site; make sure to keep that in mind when setting up your home page.

Maybe you have a drop-down menu to access your archives? Perhaps you want everything on a single minimalist landing page?

Just as when making art, there’s more to consider than just “what looks good”.

What (or who) is your website for and what do you want out of it? It can be intimidating, but a little thing called Design Thinking can make answering these questions a bit easier.

This also opens up a dialogue to talk about your design process and how you make art! The more questions you ask, the more connections you can make between your work and your experiences.

Adding more real-world connections to your work makes for more opportunities to engage with your audience.

Our struggles define us as artists, but let’s face it nobody cares you were bullied in elementary school (who wasn’t) and are still bitter about it 20 years later. No one wants to read about your parents divorce or your father’s drinking problem.

I especially don’t care where you went to school, if at all. And you guessed it, neither does anyone else!

So what makes people care about art?

Easiest branding tips for artists | Best marketing tips | How to promote your art when you have no time | How to market your art on a budget | an artist's guide to marketing without being salesy | How to sell art online without selling your soul
5 Easy Marketing Tips for Artists – Pinterest Post

You need a kick-ass story.

Your story needs to be compelling, original, and have substance. You’re not writing an essay about your life or a bland biography for your grade 12 History class.

You don’t start at the beginning.

You start when you first became unique. When you finally started making different art — art that stands out, has a style — is when you’re worth people’s attention, or even worth mentioning. Before that, you are just like everyone else who says they’re an artist on the internet.

Your art is beautiful, but words will always take your work to the next level.

Craft a dialogue for your work of art.

People love stories. Words have effect, emotionally impactful effects that can generate inquiries, discussions, and (most importantly) sales. You’re literally adding a new dimension to your piece by giving it the soul it deserves through written language.

Another effective way to communicate what you and your art is all about is through branding.

The idea of branding, or becoming a brand, is seen as a bad thing by many artists I talk to… but guess what? It is the most important thing. Period. You, as an artist, are a brand. You represent your art business and your art represents you in return.

Shying away from branding yourself is holding you back. Embracing it will make you flourish!

A simple social media strategy could be the breakthrough marketing plan you need. With a bit of creative discipline and vision, your social media feeds could look calm and compelling. This creates a great energy, putting your work in the spot-light.

Developing interpersonal relationships on social media is also another great way to receive free exposure from authentically engaged audiences. Hyperlinking to other people’s work is a great way to make connections with people whose work you admire. Make sure your links are all clickable, meaning none of them are broken links!

Easiest branding tips for artists | Best marketing tips | How to promote your art when you have no time | How to market your art on a budget | an artist's guide to marketing without being salesy | How to sell art online without selling your soul
Stop hurting yourself, start embracing your brand.

Here’s 5 things you can do right now to improve your artist branding and online presence:

  1. Have a website. Make sure your website acts as a tool for your viewers. Make everything clearly identified and easy to find. Be sure to include EVERYTHING! Bonus: Get your own domain to look like a total pro.
  2. Have a custom colour pallet to use for everything. Subtleties like custom colour themes across all your platforms can create a cohesive feel for all your online work.
  3. Display the same logo/profile photo everywhere! You want people to recognize you and your work and the best way to do that is with a killer logo or clear headshot. Whichever you choose is based on your audience and niche.
  4. Bump up your social media profiles right now! Use every word to mention the coolest things about what you do. Take the chance to make an impression. Convert a stranger into a follower simply by writing yourself a killer bio!
  5. Most importantly, keep it consistent; post content every day! Keep your content consistent in quality. As in, use similar lighting, fonts, editing presets, and filters on your photos. Bonus: If you can make your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and website all visually similar and still compelling… I forgive you for all your previous discretions because this is some next-level shit!

In the meantime you can keep up with my creations on Patreon, follow my artist travels on Instagram, and see me live-stream video games on Twitch!

Until next time,

-J

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About the author title card: Joey Dean
About Joey.

The Truth About How I Started An Online Art Business What You Should Know Before Getting Started

In the beginning…

I was a stable and reliable worker my entire educational career. I went to school full time, volunteered 15 hours per week on campus, and had two separate tutoring gigs going while never missing an appointment.

These days, it can take all my effort to be on time for a single meeting with a client and I’m sure you can relate to this.

My art career started when I was a college drop-out and totally unemployed for almost 7 weeks. I had spent the previous 8 months jumping from job-to-job. Whether it be seasonal work for months or my single day working at a call centre (which is a whole other story), nothing was working.

I couldn’t believe I was an unemployed college drop-out struggling to pay my bills every month.

Why can’t I commit to my work? How do I learn to love what I do? Do these questions sound familiar to you?

I didn’t seem to be the only one with this problem. When I first began looking at self-employment in 2016, my generation had the highest unemployment rate in recent history (at a whopping 53%).

The real cause was what I was working on. I realized there wasn’t a way to change how to think and feel about work fast enough to start paying my bills for the long-term.

Photo by DJ Johnson on Unsplash

The first step I took was to change my work, not my attitude.

Repeating my mistakes was the problem. Mistakes I didn’t know I was making. I wasn’t playing to my strengths. Rather, I was fighting to overcome my weaknesses every day because “that’s just how it is”.

I began to shift the scope of my job searches and limiting the side hustles I was investing my time in.

Confused about what I wanted for so long, I had never had a focus. I never figured out how to apply my strengths to my work. That’s why I kept disappointing myself and decided it needed to stop.

I’m here for you.

Helping empower other creators is my passion. 

I focus on helping people find their passion and the courage to support their passion by providing quality and accessible tools, information, and resources.

I work to dispel common myths of our generation, like laziness and lack of initiative. I want to prove the new generations have more to offer than we get credit for. I’m here to make your life start working for you.

I write for single-person operations and online stores or anyone looking to start selling their goods and services. If you’re of another nature, please let me know in the comments your job title/why you’re here!

Welcome to The Artist Journal,

-Joey @ The A/J

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Logo for The Artist Journal.

How I Accidentally Started A Brand And You Can Too!

Before writing more great advice about creating content, I wanted to give you a run-down of my background, what I make, and how I got started. I’ve been really excited to share this story, as I feel it’s a great learning experience to share with other creators, whether you’re just starting out, or stuck in a career-rut.

Toadstool Illustrates is the online apparel and print shop I run. I use it to facilitate creative conversation around LGBTQ+ and its’ expression. Toadstool has evolved with me as an artist, being the brand’s third iteration it has become exactly what I set out to do when I first officially opened up shop in October 2016.

But back when I started, that wasn’t my plan or even my intention. I actually had no idea of what I wanted other than “I want to make stuff and make an impact”. In the beginning I mistook that for something else…


How I got started.

The patches all started in 2015.

I was in college for Environmental Technology and found there weren’t any active environmentalists or other activists among my peers. I additionally found that even working for the government I couldn’t make in impact. It was extremely disheartening.

While in college I worked for a summer at a popular craft store, and was doing a lot of sewing and clothing alterations. I had piles of scraps piling up because I just couldn’t bear to throw it all in the trash. 

Table covered in scattered bobbins of thread, yarn, and other sewing supplies in a green cutting board.
Photo by Vladimir Proskurovskiy on Unsplash

Weeks go by and I’m still wondering what to do with all of these scraps. They appeared to be nothing but a pile of shredded denim and bleached t-shirt arms. I decided I would cut them into squares, as large as I could, and noticed they were all coming out at similar sizes. I still couldn’t figure out a use for them.

I am suddenly struck with these questions: can I make an impact by spreading messages? Can messages spread via the things you wear? Of course, that’s what brand logos and tattoos are for, but wouldn’t it be better if you could spread multiple messages at the same time? This and many similar thoughts led me to do some brainstorming.

After doing a little research, I decided hand-made punk patches were the perfect way to start. Even better, this idea allowed me to recycle over 90% of my scrap fabric that was piling up around my workspace! My patches are now all hand-painted on recycled scrap fabric.

I’m inspired by LGBTQ+ issues, and Transgender rights specifically, as well as other humanitarian ideals and sex-positive humour. I try not to take myself too seriously when it come to my patches and pins; they’re meant to be conscientious, but still fun.


About my pins.

I started collecting pins and buttons when I was a child. It was the early 2000’s, but my bags and lanyards were totally decked out like it was 1988. 

Fast-forward 15 years and I’m making my own buttons.

After the success of my patches in mid-2016, I was able to invest in new merchandise: buttons! I was so excited to take this next big step into new territory. 

I found the ideas and motivations behind my patches — that were too colourful and complex for fabric painting — easily translated into these tiny buttons. In the beginning I couldn’t afford a press and had to outsource production to other local makers.

After about 2 years I was finally able to buy my own button press!

Since then, I have been having fun helping other artists and creative businesses with custom button pressing and design services.

I include the first 20 buttons in the base fee to do my best to help out; I know starting off can be tough and buttons are great way to dabble into new merchandise.

I personally started with handing mine out for free at in-person events, which I feel really helped my online performance. I began working small craft fairs and art shows with them in about April 2017. By October people remembered me and were coming back to buy again!

Artists use them to experiment with turning their art into a physical medium. I’ve been told they’re also great when you want to expand your price range as a seller. 

My latest and biggest project so far would be my Sword & Shield Enamel pin set.

My LGBTQ enamel pin set was in the works for over a year. I still remember thinking — over 2 years ago at my first Hamilton Pride festival — about how I wanted to contribute to my community and how I didn’t think I could.

I definitely didn’t know at the time it would be with my designs. Giving people a unique way of showing their transgender identity was not the initial intention, but with a more neutral-masculine design and colour pallet my pin was a stark contrast to most of the other all-black geometric designs flooding the search results.

My main concern was that I love our flags’ colours, but didn’t feel comfortable being decked out in pastel garb (and got the consensus that other trans-masculine folx out there felt the same way). That’s what inspired me to begin sketching.

These enamel pins were meant to help bridge the gap between the Transgender pride flag colours and the use of original neutral/masculine design.


Text "DO MORE" on an iMac screen on top of a minimalist office desk.
Photo by Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

So, that’s my Etsy shop story.

Don’t leave thinking this entire article a big flex. It’s not, it’s for you to know I speak from years of real experience and about a metric tonne of books. I will be creating a 2020 reading list to help you get in a more creative and productive mindset to start your year off right. Let me know if that’s something you would look forward to, or any book recommendations you may have for me!

Until then, I hope you read through my last article where I talk about How To Use Your Doubts and Fears To Build And Motivate Your Business Part 2. If you missed Part 1 of that series, it’s important you go there first!

If you want to read some Etsy Shop tips I’ve gained through my experience go read How To Run Your Etsy Shop From Only Your iPhone And Increase Your Sales! Stay tuned for the next Artist Journal by following on Facebook or Instagram.

-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 I Successfully Improved My Etsy Shop Performance: Love Setting Up As A New Shop Owner!

If you are:

  • Someone who has ever wanted to run a side hustle
  • A creator with too much physical merchandise
  • An artist with an overflowing archive
  • A crocheter or any other talented crafter with more creations than you can give away

My point is, if you make anything, one of my favourite ways for you to make an easy income is Etsy. I want to be transparent that this is not a sponsored post, I’m just a long-time user of their platform.

I use Etsy as my online business platform for the following reasons;

  • I found it the easiest to navigate; vs. Shopify, Ebay, Depop, or even Squarespace.
  • It guides you through filling out every attribute for a more thorough listing description, making it easier for people to find you in related purchases and Etsy searches.
  • Everything is there if you need it, you just have to look for it. The Etsy Seller Handbook is a good place to start.
  • I didn’t have reliable access to a computer until 2018. For 2 years I used my iPad to run my business, and website designers do not take kindly to them.
  • I find the fees reasonable for the service and customizability, as well as the legal protections your business receives as a seller. My shop was paying for itself within my first financial quarter.

I have been using Etsy as the marketplace to sell my handcrafted goods and artwork since October 2016. In the beginning, I didn’t have many resources at my disposal. At the time I was running the shop and making all of my work from my iPad and a $70 printer…

Increase Sales In Your Etsy Shop With This One Strategy
Increase Sales In Your Etsy Shop With This One Strategy!

My problems at the time were access to poor-quality cameras, rudimentary editing software, and having slower order turn-around times as a result. It would sometimes take me up to 5 business days to ship something out because using these poor quality tools took so long!

After switching to operating from my phone I was able to cut that time down to 1-2 business days, which is a huge advantage in regard to Etsy’s internal SEO.

The increase in quality lead to more sales, which I was able to use to buy a laser-printer for all my business printing needs!


Creating a listing using the Sell on Etsy mobile app is a breeze.

Esty’s app guides you through the first couple of tedious steps and then easily lays out all the other information your listing needs. You should be filling in as much as possible while also using all 13 hashtags. 

You must use the right hashtags. They should be more than one-word searches and not sweeping, broad categories. They should be as relevant and descriptive as possible. 

Try also using synonyms; buttons are to pins as paintings are to artwork. I use tags such as; punk patches, trans pride pins, pronoun enamel pins, etc. These are extremely specific to my niche market and relevant to my products.

I do all of my photography and editing on my phone.

vintage camera hanging from black strap against a white wall
Photo by Yoann Siloine on Unsplash

I use my iPhone 8 Plus to take all my photos. I only mention this because of the high quality camera with stabilization, so I don’t ever have to worry about my shaky artist hands. I’m sure many phones have this now, but I love the portrait function for taking photos of my apparel outdoors.

I edit my photos either using the in-camera editing function, or when I’m not happy with that I also use Photoshop Express. It’s a free Adobe mobile app; all you need is a Creative Cloud account!

After editing, they’re ready for uploading. I write up my item descriptions in either the Apple Pages or Notes app. Pages is great because it can give you a word count; you should be writing at least 250-500 words, this will additionally aid Etsy’s internal SEO.

Sales are clear and easy to manage.

After the listing is all set up, it’s time to address sales. When you make a sale, it will create an order for you in it’s own tab. Using the app I check the order contents and shipping info. This way I can pack my orders, still without touching another device.

Photo by Rohit Tandon on Unsplash

I write my shipping labels by hand. I have pre-printed business cards, return labels, and flyers to stuff in my orders. That way I don’t need to print things more often than once or twice a month. Since I designed these assets in Adobe Draw on my iPad, I can access all of my printing assets through Creative Cloud and print them from my phone! Thought there was a loophole, huh?

I have found the one thing the app is missing is you cannot mark multiple orders as shipped at the same time. You have to mark each listing as completed separately, but if you’re not shipping more than 5 orders per day it’s not a big deal.

I fill out my international customs forms from my phone, send the barcodes to my email, and save them as pictures to a new note on my phone.

All I have to do is present the barcodes at the post office counter and pay with tap using, you guessed it, my iPhone! I guess you could use your wallet for this step, but it’s not as futuristic and cool.

Increase Sales In Your Etsy Shop With This One Strategy
Increase Sales In Your Etsy Shop With This One Strategy!

And that’s how I increased my Etsy sales by reducing my administrative work and freeing me from my desk. I know adapting this workflow will benefit your small business practice and make you feel like the badass boss you are! 

I would love it if you let me know what your trends look like after fully filling out your listings, or if you have tips to share about your Etsy shop practices. Stay tuned for the next Artist Journal by following on Facebook or Instagram!

Until next time,

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.


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