Starting a brand from scratch is thrilling, but after that initial enthusiasm wears off, things get progressively harder. Especially when you don’t see much success posting online to keep you motivated. It’s easy to get frustrated making artwork no one sees. This is part of what I experienced during Month 2 of Ink Tuesday, my 365 project where I freehand paint for 52 weeks straight.
Even though I didn’t see the kind of growth I wanted during September, I’m still very much in this for the long game. And hey, I did get my first ever sale! Mind you, it was just the one, but that’s still progress in my book. This past month, I’ve made quite a few mistakes along the way, but luckily that’s how we learn to improve. Maybe you can learn from my missteps, so you can hit your Artist Shop goals that much faster. Continue reading to find out what happened during Month 2 of Ink Tuesday.
Beta testing makes a huge difference.
One thing I know for certain about TikTok is that it is more like a lottery when you first start, especially since you can’t lean on existing followers to help boost your content. So you gotta post often and beta test every single thing you can think of.
For most of my Ink Tuesday videos where you see me inking new works, I’ve been posting two different videos of the same piece to see if subtle differences in presentation can change the performance of a video. Small changes like what text you have on screen, the sounds you choose, and the timing of a time lapse can make all the difference.
VERSION 1: ENTIRE PIECE
VERSION 2: PUNCHLINE ONLY
For this troll piece, the version showing me drawing the punchline of the joke in real time performed 13 times better than the version showing the entire piece as a time lapse. There is a big difference between 1,606 views and 14,000 views, and all I really changed was the sound, the pacing, and what part of the video I showed. This is why I record everything natively in my camera instead of recording everything in the app.
VERSION 1: LONG LENGTH
VERSION 2: SHORT LENGTH
This next beta test blew my mind, with one of the videos getting almost half a million views! What made the difference between 17,200 views and 480,500 views? Length. The shorter video got way more views. So what does all this beta testing teach us? The algorithm does not care about duplicate content, and viewers didn’t seem to care in the slightest. I’ll continue to beta test videos in lots of different ways, and I’m excited to share with you all the data points.
When hundreds of people say they’ll buy it, but only one person does.
One of my top Ink Tuesday videos in September had me so unbelievably frustrated and awe struck that I stopped posting completely for a while because I was so heartbroken.
I made a video that began with text that says “Should I put this on a t-shirt?” It received about 90,000 views, and hundreds of people said, “Yes, I would totally buy this!” I was floored and beyond excited thinking the sales were finally going to start piling in. I had finally made a viral video that could actually get me paid.
But I only received one sale. My first sale actually, but I expected more. What did I do wrong? Here are my best guesses:
There was no call to action to purchase.
The video only shows me making the piece, not finishing it. So of course people didn’t think it was available yet. Yes, they could have guessed that I had a shop and checked out the link in my bio themselves, but I need to prompt people to look there.
Although this video got a lot of views I did not receive too many followers from it. If I had just added text on the screen that said, “Follow to see the final design,” I think it would have made a world of difference. I had reeled people in, but my closing skills were nowhere to be found.
I took too long to add the design to my Artist Shop.
I hate to admit this but, I didn’t know that the video was performing well until the next day! I didn’t follow up in time, and believe me, I was banging my head against the wall because of it.
I didn’t have the artwork in my Ink Tuesday Artist Shop until a full 24 hours after I posted the video. I tried pinning a comment telling people where to go after the fact, but that made no difference. I thought maybe a video reply would help get my artwork back on people’s radar, but less than 900 people saw it. That may sound like a alot to some, but that’s only 1% of the 90,000 views the original video had.
From now on, I plan to include more calls to action and text in my videos so I don’t miss out on another opportunity for sales. I plan to make a piece, edit it right away, and add it to my Artist Shop before I post it. Lesson learned.
Is Instagram as dead as everyone says?
After a month of consistently posting on Instagram, I have a whole 17 followers. That’s a huge difference between the 4,000 I was able to gain with the same content on TikTok. The first thing I learned about Instagram is that Reels are key for new accounts, but large views don’t necessarily mean engagement or followers. My first video on Reels received only 4 views, but the second got a whopping 4,300 views! But neither gave me many followers or comments like on TikTok, even though my work got a lot of eyeballs.
I’m not giving up yet. Next month, I plan on reaching out to bigger curated pages for reposts and doing a few paid promotions. Perhaps I can also post a few TikToks to encourage people to follow me on Instagram. Either way, I’ve decided that if I can’t reach at least 50 followers on Instagram by the end of October, I’ll abandon the platform to focus more on other platforms that might work better for me.
Does adding more illustrations make a difference?
The majority of popular designs on Threadless have illustrations rather than only text, so I thought maybe adding more hand-drawn elements into my work would help. Interestingly enough, the TikTok videos of those designs seemed to actually do worse than the ones with just lettering.
The lack of interest could be because the pieces I created were too complicated and perhaps boring to watch. Or maybe, just maybe, people don’t care about how good a piece of art is. They care more if it means something specific for them. So that is what I’m going to focus on. Adding more meat into my phrases, but keeping the design itself simple.
Going live without giving away my identity.
Going live is a challenge for me, since I can’t talk or show my face if I want to maintain my anonymity. So the first few lives, I made it all about the work by showing the behind-the-scenes of me inking out my phrases in real time.
I won’t lie, people were confused that I wasn’t talking. I even put up a sign saying, “Not talking just drawing,” and that just made people angry. Live streams for the most part are all about connecting, and I certainly wasn’t connecting with anyone by ignoring the chat to draw.
So I tried something even weirder for my next live show. Instead of showing my process, I pointed my camera at an empty Google Doc and just typed. People came in and asked questions, and I just typed back, almost like a very weird chatroom. It worked and people loved it! As long as I had a good playlist and could fill the chat with talking points, it was all smooth sailing.
As far as how going live can help your views, the trick is to do it when the majority of your followers are online and when you already have a video performing well. Even though my first few live streams were almost dead with barely 3 active viewers, on average going live helped get my videos more views. It puts your content more on the “For You” page, but if you don’t have anything popular for algorithms to show off, it doesn’t do much.
So if you wanna give your account a boost, anytime you see one of your videos starting to perform better than average, that’s your cue to go live.
What’s next for Ink Tuesday?
For Month 3 of building my brand from scratch, I’m going to try a variety of things that I hope will move the needle in growing my audience and getting my next sale. I plan to experiment with…
- Posting only to Reels on Instagram, since it’s the only thing that works for me so far
- Posting at least 3 to 5 times Monday–Thursday on TikTok, instead of every single day
- Adding an About Page in my Artist Shop
- Creating collections in my shop to make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for, since I upload about 1-3 pieces a day now
- Making new pieces based on TikTok trends, recent events, and memes
- Getting into the habit of showing products at the end of each video
- Using TikTok to push people to my Instagram to see if I can hit my 50 follower goal
Come back next month to find out whether these made a difference in my shop’s performance. Maybe even try some of them yourself to see if they work for you!