I’m the creator of Ink Tuesday, and this past month has been the best of my life. This is surprising, considering this summer I was the most anxious I’ve been in years. I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I was just going through the motions of work, eat, sleep, and repeat with very little to look forward to.
All those gut-wrenching feelings of self-doubt went away when I decided to start a 365 project where I freehand paint every single day for 52 weeks straight and see where it takes me.
So far, I’ve been showing the progression of this project with an anonymous TikTok account. This is a place where it’s all about the art. Not my face, gender, skin tone, or weight. Just the ink smoothly painted against the soft grain of the paper. Spoiler alert: I’ve already gained almost 4,000 followers, and I’m excited to share how it all played out (more on that later).
But why am I here? At the beginning of Ink Tuesday, I had a few commenters on TikTok say, “I want this on a shirt!” That’s when I decided to create my own Threadless Artist Shop to make my drawings available for purchase on a variety of products. This article you’re reading is the first in an ongoing series tracking my progress as I build my own brand from scratch.
No, I haven’t had any sales in my shop…yet. I’m not famous, and I just started posting on social media this past August. And if you haven’t guessed, I have no idea what I’m doing. But I’m going to try to move the needle every week and share with you what I learn. So let’s get right into it. Here’s what happened during the first month of Ink Tuesday.
My First Big Win: Gaining 1,000 Followers in 5 Days on TikTok
After just a few days of posting on the app, I woke up to my first 1,000 followers! The part that blew my mind was that all of the engagement came from one video! It had 35,000 views and an impressive follow-to-view ratio. It’s a full minute long, and most people watched until the very end! I didn’t know people’s attention span could last that long.
There are four main things that I believe made the video a success. Hopefully these practices will also help you build your audience and ultimately lead people to your Artist Shop.
1. Stop planning and start doing.
This milestone felt like I was going in the right direction. After some experimentation, I learned that I need to stop overthinking and over-planning when it comes to social media. You will plan yourself right out of getting anything productive done. That’s why keeping it simple with a paintbrush and some India Ink was all the planning I needed.
2. Tell a story with every post.
The reason I think the video did so well was because of its storytelling. I told people I was nervous. I mentioned that I had only 170 followers at the time, which was only my fifth day on TikTok. The illustration I drew was elementary, and the lettering was wobbly. Still, people didn’t care because they loved watching a startup story.
3. Always engage and reply.
Social media is a place where we should have a conversation with people. It shouldn’t be one-sided. Plus, you double your comments if you reply to all of them. It’s even better if you reply with a video, especially if your original video got more views than usual. That way, the people who interacted with your original video will most likely see your reply video. I also love the Q&A section, where people can request what they would like me to draw next.
4. Choose sounds for the vibe, not the popularity.
On TikTok, you’ll see the same top 20 sounds for WEEKS. That means people will have heard those sounds so many times that they might just swipe right past your art. Instead, I recommend choosing a song that makes sense with the tone of your artwork. For example, in this process video, I paired INZO’s “Overthinker” with footage of me drawing the quote “Hang on, let me overthink this.” I like to help the audience understand the feeling I’m trying to evoke before I even lay down that first brush stroke.
My Next Milestone: Adding 22 Designs to My Artist Shop in 31 Days
I didn’t add a new piece to my shop every day as I originally planned, but dammit, I still did a ton of work. However, I couldn’t help but feel insecure that I didn’t add more. I had to accept that not every piece I made for TikTok made sense as a product. For example, this dumb joke I thought of at 2 a.m. is about getting rich off parrots that say motivational Instagram quotes. Although entertaining, turning it into a shirt or pillow wouldn’t make a lick of sense.
In the first month of Ink Tuesday, I added 22 designs to my Artist Shop. Although I haven’t made a sale yet, I know if I keep adding products and having fun making new pieces for social media, those first sales will roll in soon. It’s easy to feel discouraged, but reading this Creative Resources post by Fox Shiver owner Justyna Dorsz lifted my spirits. She talks about the persistence and patience it took for her to grow her shop. She now has over 200 designs and earns $1,000–$4,000 a month in passive income at Threadless. Talk about life goals!
My Biggest Obstacle: Burning Out Hard and Finding a Better Balance
My biggest mistake these first 31 days was that I ran before I learned how to walk. Then I fell right into a depression manhole. Things started to slip because I was too focused on going viral instead of working on my craft. Once I got a dopamine hit of approval, I was consumed with trying to get that feeling again as soon as possible. You’ll notice that after my big spike, my TikTok account took a dip, and most of my videos were lucky to hit 200 views. That feeling of failure murdered my motivation, and I should have never let it.
After my first two weeks, I started to try different routines that would allow me to stay consistent, but without the imposter syndrome. Here are all the things I tried, along with my 1–10 rating of how they worked for me.
Drawing every day first thing in the morning: Rating 3/10
I’ve read so many articles about the power of being a morning person, and I was convinced this would do the trick. Turns out, it was nearly impossible for me. I’m the kind of person that needs to warm up before I can feel creative. I need life experiences to fuel my ideas. Trying to draw before going to my job only exhausted me even more.
Scheduling my drawing sessions on my off days: Rating 4/10
It was clear that drawing every day was not realistic for me. So I thought picking a day of the week to draw when my work schedule wasn’t so hectic would do the trick. It felt almost poetic to have Tuesday be the one day that I would dedicate to inking all my pieces for the week. Yeah, that didn’t work either. Turns out, I need to also make time for errands, laundry, and staying alive with food that isn’t from Doordash. Making my only day off an Ink Tuesday day wasn’t the best idea.
Drawing in bulk when inspiration strikes: Rating 8/10
Psyching yourself up to draw can feel impossible some days. So it’s crucial to take advantage of those few moments where you feel excited to make something. As a TikTok creator, the best tip I can give is recording many videos at once and saving them to your drafts. That way, you have plenty of videos to cover you when you’re not feeling it.
Throwing out perfectionism: Rating 10/10
As artists, we are our own worst critics. This is even harder if you have a chemical imbalance in your brain like me, and depression is waiting to ruin your day without any cause at all. But, somehow, I find a way to ignore the voices in my head telling me “this is garbage” because I know the TikTok algorithm has my back. It’s intelligent enough to know that if my art isn’t connecting with people, it won’t show my videos to anyone. Kind of hard to embarrass yourself with no one watching.
So now, every piece I make, I post. Sometimes it takes literally one minute to complete, and others way longer. But I give myself permission to create more simple designs and throw out perfectionism, leaving me with a sense of peace I hadn’t felt since grade school.
What’s Next for Ink Tuesday
After my first month, I feel like I have a better handle on my drawing schedule, staying out of the chokehold of burnout, and getting better at storytelling on TikTok. I’ve learned a lot, but I want to experiment with so many other things. Here’s what I plan to focus on during Month 2:
- Finding out if Instagram is as dead as everyone says: I’m starting a new Instagram account so I can compare it to my experience growing on TikTok. I know the algorithm sucks, and I’ve read countless articles saying beginning a new account now is basically a waste of time. Still, I got to try.
- Going live on social media to drive engagement: I’ve heard that going live can make or break a brand. Letting people get to know you and not just your work can go a long way with building an audience and hopefully getting sales. But as an anonymous, faceless brand, this is going to be tricky!
- Experimenting with more complex drawing styles: When I began Ink Tuesday, I wanted to keep everything simple. That way, I could afford to post more. But now I find myself itching to try something more detailed. I recently drew a portrait of itz.Jaz.hehe after getting inspiration from the Fashion Sketchbook filter, and something awoke in me.
Until next month.