I absolutely love to interview artists making passive income on RedBubble (and other print on demand sites), and this interview with artist Carly Watts is no exception!
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Artists Making Passive Income on RedBubble: Meet Carly Watts
Jules: First, please tell me a bit about yourself, ie. Where you live, any schooling, how long you’ve been making art, your favorite medium(s), favorite artists/influences, and when you started to sell your art online?
Carly: I’m Carly and I’m an Illustrator and Surface Pattern Designer based in Sheffield, UK. Sheffield is a fairly creative city with some lovely galleries and public spaces. The biggest gallery here is actually set inside the Winter Garden which is a huge glasshouse filled with amazing plants!
I only studied Art at A-levels and then I went on to study Drama at university, with a strong focus on set design. Designing model boxes at uni really made me miss making art on a daily basis, so after I left, I started practicing fashion illustration just as a fun hobby. After awhile my boyfriend introduced me to digital art software, and this is when my artwork really blossomed – I no longer had to rely on using expensive paints and papers to create!
My favourite painter of all time is Kurt Jackson, his stunning landscapes are usually inspired by Cornwall and the surrounding area and they are so full of expression and life. I first studied his work at A-level and I continue to be inspired by it!
Jules: I really loved looking through your RedBubble, when did you decide to take your art – as a business – seriously? What habits do you strongly believe contribute to your success?
Carly: Thank you very much! It was probably around 2016 when I decided to try and push myself a little more after seeing my sales steadily increasing and I started to be featured on the Redbubble homepage more often. That’s when I had a really good look at my portfolio and started to remove illustrations that I wasn’t particularly proud of.
I believe it’s important to frequently upload new work, and try to keep it as consistent as possible! Commenting on other artists work is a really important habit to pick up, but make sure to be genuine and not spammy – and always remember to say thank you if someone leaves you a nice comment!
Jules: How long have you been selling on RedBubble (and/or similar sites)? Was that the first place you starting selling your work online? And have you tried other platforms?
Carly: I’ve been selling on Redbubble for around 3 years and it was the first POD site that I found out about. I also sell my work on Society6 & Casetify, and I have some patterns available to license over on Patternbank. I only set up my Casetify and Patternbank shops last year so I’m still figuring out how best to grow them but I’ve really enjoyed using both sites so far!
Jules: Did it take you a long time to sell your first product(s) there? And how many products (on average) do you sell monthly?
Carly: It took me many weeks to make my first sale, and the sales have built up very gradually over the years! It really does vary month to month, but during February, I have made around 100 sales which I would say is fairly average for me. I was really fortunate over the Christmas season though, and I made many hundreds of sales, it was my most successful period to date!
Jules: How often do you add new designs to your shop? Do you find certain products (ie., prints, cell phone cases, clothes, accessories, etc.) sell better than others on a consistent basis? If you sell on multiple platforms, do you have a system for keeping track of what sells and where?
Carly: I try to add around two new designs to my shops each week, sometimes more if there is an important holiday coming up. On Redbubble I seem to sell more apparel such as classic t-shirts, and on Society6 I definitely sell more of a mixture. I’ve had a lot of success selling the new duffle bags on Society6 which has been such a pleasant surprise! I think it’s really important to make sure your products are optimised when a new type of product launches as it’s a great opportunity to get noticed.
Jules: Do you have a social media strategy for driving traffic to your shop?
Carly: I’m fairly hopeless with social media! I have only recently created an Instagram account, but I’m trying my best to post frequently and share some work in progress images whenever I can. I really love using Twitter as a platform to engage with other artists and I take part in a weekly challenge called #colourcollective where you make a piece of art based on a chosen colour, everyone is welcome!
Jules: Do you drive traffic to your RedBubble shop in other ways?
Carly: I really like pinning my products on Pinterest so it’s easy to click through to my shops.
Jules: Is there anything you find particularly challenging or frustrating about selling on RedBubble?
Carly: The only minor frustration I have is that the product dimensions are not included in the up-loader, so if you are looking for specifics you have to go to a different page – I hope to see them added in the future! Aside from that, Redbubble is so easy to use for beginners, and they have a really awesome blog filled with lots of artist resources including product templates so you can promote your work more easily. The other amazing thing about Redbubble is that the customer service team are really fantastic so I know that any problems will get resolved quickly.
Jules: Do you remove any old designs and/or designs that don’t seem to sell as well?
Carly: I’ve removed a ton of old designs from all of my shops, simply because my style has evolved so much and I don’t feel like those designs represent my overall brand any longer. If I love a particular design a lot, I will leave it on my shops, even if it doesn’t sell well!
Jules: Do you set any sales goals for your art?
Carly: I have never been one for setting specific goals but I was reading a Society6 blog post at the start of the year which got me thinking about what I might like to achieve with my shops in 2018. I’m aiming to try and earn $1000 per month solely from one platform by the end of the year, and it does seem like Society6 is my best shot at making this happen for the time being.
Jules: What advice would you give to artists hoping to sell work on RedBubble?
Carly: It can be really tough to make sales when you are just starting out, but keep persevering because good work does get noticed! If you upload your best quality work that is tailored to each product then you are more likely to get featured on the homepage which often leads to sales and follows. Having a consistent portfolio is also fairly important when it comes to being selected for features on the blog or homepage, but this is something I still struggle with!
Jules: And finally, some quick and fun — totally optional — questions:
If you could collaborate with any other artist, living or dead, who would it be?
I’d love to make some Cut-Outs with Matisse!
What is your favorite music/song/band to listen to while making art?
I hardly ever listen to music when I make art, I much prefer to have a Twitch stream on in the background.
What is your favorite art movement / period of art history?
This is a tough one! I’m fascinated with Mid-Century Modern art, artists such as Charley Harper produced such distinctive, instantly recognisable work.
What/who/where inspires you most?
Honestly, there is no one thing that inspires me most but I seem to find a lot of my inspiration in nature, there’s always something interesting to see and learn.
Who is your favorite living artist? And do you own any of their artwork?
I’m going to say Heikala – her work is pure magic! I own some of her prints, art books, pins, and embroidered patches so you could say I’m a big fan!
Who is your favorite artist to follow on Social Media?
Maruti Bitamin is my favourite artist to follow on social media. Her work is colourful, unusual and so inspiring!
Awesome! Thanks again, Carly! This has been super inspiring! You can find more about Carly in any of these places:
P.S.: Would YOU like to make passive income with your art? I now have a FREE class on how to do just that! You can learn all about it here!