Posts tagged ‘art’

Put on Your Sales Face

Since there aren’t flashing signs over our heads that say our personality types, we really need to be careful of the front we present to the public when representing our brands. Joe Schmo who doesn’t know me at all may not give me the mercy of the introvert card. They may just think I’m rude or disinterested.

Continue Reading February 25, 2017 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment

SacAnime Summer 2014

Just sneaking in with a quick update (it’s been crazy busy here lately). I’ll be at SacAnime Summer next weekend at the Sacramento Convention Center. Come see me at table AA94 – near the Art Show. I will be promoting the Sweet Dreams Kickstarter which will be in it’s final push.

Map to my table AA94 at SacAnime summer 2014.

Speaking of the Kickstarter, we are  38% funded as of posting. There are 16 days left so we still have some ways to go. Please help spread the word as these will ONLY go into production if we get full funding by September 9, 2014.

Sweet Dreams Kickstarter. Help fund professional manufacture of a popular Kimchi Kawaii plush original.

Sweet Dreams Kickstarter. Help fund professional manufacture of a popular Kimchi Kawaii plush original.

August 24, 2014 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

Kickstarter 2.0: Sweet Dreams Plush

Sweet Dreams Kickstarter. Help fund professional manufacture of a popular Kimchi Kawaii plush original.

Kimchi Kawaii is giving this Kickstarter thing another shot. I was going to wait a little after the Panda Bar one, but momentum and interest is high for my Sweet Dreams Strawberries and I’m having trouble keeping up with production. After speaking with a fellow artist who had just completed a successful Kickstarter, I was advised to strike while the iron is hot.

My goal is to fund professional manufacture the Sweet Dreams strawberry plush. If successful, they will be made by Gann Memorials. This project will run for 35 days, ending in early September, 2014. Barring any production delays, plush should arrive and start shipping out in December and possibly arrive in time for the holidays.

I have a lot of exclusive items for backer rewards like Rickshaw messenger bags and limited edition, hand sewn, plush.

I’ve also paired up with some artist friends who are also creating exclusive items for this project’s rewards.

I hope you’ll check out the Kickstarter for more details and consider pledging and/or sharing online!

Let’s make this sweet dream come true!

 

August 5, 2014 at 8:37 am Leave a comment

Print on Demand: Cafe Press

I’ve had a few artists in the Artist Alley community ask me about the print on demand companies that I use for Kimchi Kawaii so thought it could be helpful to write up some blog posts comparing the pro’s and con’s of the ones I’m familiar with. Usually, my explanations are a bit TL;DR for a Facebook comment or reply. I’m going to break this into a multipart series.

I started off the series with a general explanation about what print on demand is and how it works. The following posts will focus on the websites that I am familiar with through years of use.

Cafe Press was my introduction to the print on demand world and it is one of the first sites to offer this service to the general customer. They started in 1999, offering customizable t-shirts. It has since grown to include a wide variety of objects from clothing to electronics accessories like iPhone and Samsung cases, paper products, home decor, and even items for your pets and much more. According to the Cafe Press corporate site, there are over 2 million CafePress shops creating some 300 million unique products (with over 135,000 new designs added each week). And over 11 million people visit their sites each month to find products that express their personality

The main draw was for artists like me who wanted a way to access a wide audience that I would normally not be able to reach to at the get go and also offer a huge variety of products. It took me a few years from hearing about it to setting up shop, but finally in August of 2008, I got started. Cafe Press was where Kimchi Kawaii got its start and was the first location where I sold my pun-filled artwork.

As a newbie business owner, I did not have a ton of money to work with at the get go. Cafe Press was an affordable way to get started. At the time, there were two shop levels that you could pick from when opening up a store front on their site: basic and premium. Basic was pretty much what it sounds like and was (and still is) free. Premium allowed some more features that would allow me to run my shop easier, namely on the back end stuff like the uploading and organizing of my products. Premium shops do have a monthly fee attached to them and you choose the plan that works best for you. It’s been a while since I set up shop, but I think I started out at the annual rate of about $60 a year. I figured it was easier to just pay once a year and not have to worry about it every month. I was just getting started so I had a lot of other things to worry about, like art creation!

You upload your designs to the Image Basket and then go about setting your art on the items you want to sell and listing it in your shop. They have organized all the items available to customize into categories. There are some that overlap – I’ve found Kindle cases in both Bags and the Cases categories. You go into each category and click on the items you like to add them to your shop. One of the nice features of Cafe Press is that you can create a grouping of products. If you find that you’re offering your different designs on the same products (ex. shirts, mugs, phone cases, dishes), you can just select the group and then you don’t have to go through and select each one over and over. It’s a definite time saver!

Once you’ve selected everything, you are taken to a screen where you can then adjust the design on each item. Sometimes, the design needs to be scaled down a bit to make sure it fits in the safety zone (the area where it is guaranteed you won’t lose any part of your design when the item is printed/manufactured). Adjusting images can be a bit tedious, especially if you are adding your design to a lot of products. However, it’s highly recommended as you don’t want your artwork displayed poorly all because you didn’t want to take the time to do this step.

The design tools are where Cafe Press is a bit lacking in my opinion. They seem very limited vs. what I’ve been able to do on other sites. You can only scale up or down and scaling up is only to a set size predetermined by Cafe Press. Sometimes, I like to zoom in on an image for certain items – ex. a button can look really nice with a close up of the character’s face instead of the full piece where you’ll lose some detail on a 2.25″ button. You can upload multiple instances of the artwork, but who wants to save 5 different files of the same piece? Images are also placed in the dead center of the item with no ability to move it elsewhere. All sites have specific printable areas, but others offer more flexibility of placement within that window. Cafe Press’s scaling tools only allow you to enlarge or shrink the image placed in the center of this window.

Two pillows one from Cafe Press with a white background and a second one from Zazzle with a black background that I was able to add in the website.

Cafe Press Pillow on left with the white background and the same design on a pillow in Zazzle with a black background that I was able to add in-site.

Another design element that I find lacking is the ability to add a background color. I design my pieces once and in a 10×10″ square with a transparent background. Most of my artwork can stand alone without a background as it usually features a single character with a pun or humous caption. But sometimes, a simple background color can really make a design pop.

Pictured are two similar pillows from my shops in Cafe Press and Zazzle featuring the same candycorn (get it?) design. I created the design in Illustrator and saved it as a png. This allows me to use one file across a wide variety of products. I can put it on a shirt and not have a colored square framing it. Anyway, in Cafe Press, I’m stuck with the background being the color of the pillow which is just white unless I upload a file with a background that fits the dimensions of the pillow. Zazzle has a way for me to add background color within their website (I even did a contrasting color on the flip side of the pillow for added fun). Considering I often sell my designs on 20-30 products each, you can imagine why I don’t want to have to create specific files that have backgrounds fitting the dimensions of each one.

Once you’ve fixed your designs to be the way you want, it’s time to put it up for sale! Items have their base price which is pre-set by Cafe Press and you determine the amount of markup you want to make. You can set either a specific dollar amount or a percentage. Average percent across the board from what I’ve seen online is 15%. I just do the percentage. Your items can sell in two different locations – directly from your shop site or through the Cafe Press Marketplace.

The Marketplace is where you are going to get a majority of your sales as this is where people discover your items through a general search. Joe Schmoe from across the country who does not know you from the next person goes into Cafe Press and knows he wants to buy something with a dog on it. He types in “dog” in the search bar and sees all the items with dogs on them. He likes your design the best and buys it right there. This is considered a marketplace sale. Shop sales are rarer unless you market the heck out of your shop as they are generated when people specifically buy from your shop page which has it’s own custom URL.

And this brings me to the biggest complaint I have with Cafe Press. Items sold through the Marketplace are set at a 10% markup and the artists do not have control over this. It is set by Cafe Press. Markup commissions from items sold directly from your shop are set by you. As I said earlier, I go with the average and have my items set at a 15% commission. When I first started, I had control over the markup in both the marketplace and my shop and so both were set at 15%. However, a few years ago, Cafe Press changed this policy to the current one. They also did a redesign and made it nearly impossible for customers to find my direct shop link unless they knew me directly either in person or through one of my social media sites. As a majority of my sales come through the marketplace, this means that I’m kind of stuck at the lower markup rate. I thought this was rather unfair and honestly, it took some of the magical glitter away from Cafe Press for me.

They did a more recent update and their site is more social media friendly. You can now follow an artist and my brand name is more prominent, however it still does not take the general customer to my shop where I have the higher commission rate. When they did the first change to the different commission rates, I started to look for other venues to sell my works and that was when I discovered Zazzle which I’ll talk about in the next post.

 

Summary: Cafe Press

Pros:

  • Have been around longest of the ones I use, so therefore gets more traffic, is more well known
  • Adding products to your shop is very easy and quick.
  • I didn’t mention this earlier, but if you want to update an image in a section (I’ve updated some of my older designs to reflect the skills I’ve learned over the years), it’s very easy to do so, you don’t have to re-list the item or have doubles. This is especially helpful as I don’t lose link history that’s been building up on something that’s been around for a few years.
  • Ability to create custom groups of items for easy selection when adding new designs.
  • Large selection of products to customize. One of the coolest ones is the ability to print on mylar balloons. That’s just fun!

Cons:

  • Design tools rather limited, no ability to add a background color within the site. Nearly all products are on white backgrounds. Only a few items come in different colors – namely shirts and phone cases.
  • Image always in the center of the object.
  • Majority of sales come from the Marketplace where CP controls the markup rate (set at 10%)
  • Extremely hard for the new shopper  to find your direct shop link where you have control over your markup percentage.

 

April 8, 2014 at 8:24 pm 3 comments

Print on Demand: What is It?

I’ve had a few artists in the Artist Alley community ask me about the print on demand companies that I use for Kimchi Kawaii so thought it could be helpful to write up some blog posts comparing the pro’s and con’s of the ones I’m familiar with. Usually, my explanations are a bit TL;DR for a Facebook comment or reply. I’m going to break this into a multipart series, starting off with a little explanation how print on demand works.

Roary, Kimchi Kawaii's tiger mascot with a magpie.

My original logo when I started.

A Little History
I started Kimchi Kawaii through Cafe Press over 5 years ago. I had heard about the company through a newspaper article via my mom. She’s great about saving stories for me that would be of interest. It seemed like a really good way to go about getting my art out there on products and to a global audience that I would have had a lot more difficulty reaching on my own. I work a full time graphic design job and I was familiar with the somewhat prohibitive costs of screen printing for an artist like me who was just starting out and didn’t have a huge operating budget.

At the time, Cafe Press had two levels of shops – there was a free basic one and a premium shop for something like $59 a month (can’t remember the exact cost off the top of my head and they’ve since changed their shop levels and fees). This meant that I could sell my stuff on shirts and many other products all from this one shop for one fee*. Sounded like a pretty sweat deal to get my feet wet!

So What is Print on Demand?
Basically, you create your artwork and upload it to the website offering the services. You select the items you want your piece to sell on. Cafe Press and similar companies like Zazzle have TONS of product to pick from and your design may not fit well on certain things. Items you can pick from range from clothing to housewares like pillows, kitchen utensils; electronics accessories (cases for all your mobile devices); to stationary items (stickers, post-its, greeting cards, etc.). Once you’ve put your product on the items you like, you put your items up in your shop. When a customer buys an item, Cafe Press will print, process the payment and ship the item. You don’t have to stock inventory or worry about finding production time.

Show Me the Money!
You get paid by setting up your mark-up on top of the base price set by the company. Here’s an example: say you want to sell Design A on a t-shirt. It’s base price is $12.99. You set your mark up for  15% (the general recommended percentage) which is about $1.95. The company posts the shirt with a price that reflects their base and your mark up, in this case $14.94. A customer, let’s call them John, finds your design on the site and buys it. The site keeps their base price and sends you your mark up of $1.95. Usually, they will hold all your profits until you reach a minimum amount like $25 and then cut you a monthly check or direct deposit into an account like Paypal.

Note that these companies often have a customer satisfaction guarantee, so your commission won’t clear for 30 days.

Now, at this point, you’re probably thinking ‘$1.95 isn’t much of a profit. I can’t even get a Starbucks with that’! This is true. However, I think of it this way to take the ‘sting’ out – I only had to create the design once. So maybe I put in about 2-3 hours of work on my art. I upload it once and set it on all the products I want once and then let it do it’s thing. Sure, I do market it on my own as well as take advantage of the site’s own search engine optimization (SEO), but my work is largely done. I sell one product and get my 15% tiny mark up. But then, fast forward a year or more to when I’ve sold that same design that I did all the work for ONCE multiple times over. Those 15%’s start to add up in the big picture. On some of my more popular designs, I’ve sold enough instances of them to be making a pretty decent profit off those initial 2-3 hours.

I will say this – it is NOT a get rich quick by any stretch of the imagination. Sales will trickle in very  slowly for the first year or so unless you are either A) extremely well connected to people with money and influence and/or B) the Gandalf of SEO and can wiz traffic to your shop. Let’s face it, most of us are not, lol! So it’s the slow and steady road for us.

Get Out There and Sell!
The other thing to keep in mind is the fact that you do have to do some leg work yourself. Sure sites like Cafe Press and Zazzle have people dedicated to developing their sites’ SEO cause obviously, they want your products to sell cause they also get a cut. However, if you want your shop to grow, you need to do some marketing work of your own. Spread the word through social media like Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and Wanelo. Tell your friends. Buy your own products and become walking advertising. Do what you gotta do, but do it and don’t just sit on your laurels.

I see a lot of people saying ‘I set up my shop a month ago and I’ve not had ONE sale’ and then they get frustrated and chalk it up as a waste of time. Like I said, it’s going to take at least a year to get stuff going depending on how much effort you also throw in. When I started, there were months at a time where nothing happened and I didn’t even get a check. But I kept on marketing and adding new designs and by a year, started to get monthly checks. Not all of them were huge, but I was making sales!

So, hopefully this intro helped you understand a bit of what it is these sites like Cafe Press and Zazzle do and if it’s something you want to jump into. I definitely recommend print on demand as a way to get started. It’s low overhead (you’re not stuck buying a ton of inventory with money you don’t have yet) and allows you to sell your designs on a huge variety of products. Most of these sites have global reach that people starting out rarely have. For a while, I had a world map and would color in the countries where I made sales. I remember feeling really excited when I sold to a customer in the U.A.E. I never thought I would have product selling there!

 

In the following entries, I’ll start to review the pro’s and con’s of specific sites that I’ve used. First up will be Cafe Press 🙂

 

Side note: I only mention Cafe Press and Zazzle in this entry as those are the two large ones and the ones I’m most familiar with. There are a lot of other print on demand companies out there to chose from. Some offer more items than others. Take a look at them and figure out which works best for you to set up shop.

*Not all sites charge a fee to have a shop. Zazzle and Redbubble, the other sites I use are currently free.

April 4, 2014 at 6:38 am 4 comments

Five Year Old Kimchi: Part 3 – How Art Thou?

Then and now comparison of my Soy Happy design which was one of my first designs.

Then and now comparison of my Soy Happy design which was one of my first designs. I did a v. 2.0 in 2012.

Soy Happy Together was one of the first designs I ever did for Kimchi Kawaii. Originally, it was to serve as my logo and a stand alone piece, but that all had to change when I had to change the business name from Soy Happy to the current name. Anyway, I’ve been drawing kawaii designs now for 5 years. I use Illustrator because I love the way you can scale vector pieces and not lose resolution as happens with rasterized artwork. It’s gotten to the point where I’m so familiar with it that I know the keyboard shortcuts, but can’t find the stuff in the menus, lol! And yet, I’m still learning a lot about the program.

In 2012, I decided to revisit the Soy Happy design just to have a comparison on how much I’ve improved on my Illustrator artwork. It was a really fun little experiment. I’ve since uploaded the new one to the shops and have been working on slowly phasing out the old (and I must say, rather embarrassing) design. I’m trying to hold back the perfectionist in me who wants to go back and revamp some of my other older designs that still remain popular.

August 20, 2013 at 2:27 am Leave a comment

Five Year Old Kimchi: Part 1 – The Shops

I can’t believe it’s been 5 years since I started this whole venture. This will be the first in a multi part series about all the things I’ve experienced in those 5 years as a small business owner.

I’ve always wanted to make money with my artwork. Over 5 years ago, my mom saved me a newspaper clipping about this site called Cafe Press. It was a print on demand site where you could upload your original designs and put them up for sale on various items like shirts, mugs, buttons, etc. She thought it would be a really good outlet for my artwork and I agreed. However at that time, I was busy with other things in my life and so it got filed away as ‘something to do in the future’.

One of the items available through Cafe Press.

One of the items available through Cafe Press.

I had some things change and suddenly, I decided to tackle this and take a step out to see if I could make some money off this. I did a little research to find out what I needed to do to get started (and probably over researched and over prepared as I tend to do, but it put me ahead of the game in the long run) and set up shop. Cafe Press was the first public outing for Kimchi Kawaii – though at the time, I was called Soy Happy (more on that in another post). I also bought my dream computer iMac and Adobe Illustrator – which freaked out my credit card company who then froze the card and called my land line to make sure it was really me doing this fatty purchase. That in turn freaked ME out at the Apple store cause I thought someone had taken all my money, lol! Thanks to my friend and her cell phone (was cell phone less at the time), we got it all sorted out and I went home with my computer and got to work on all the bad puns and kawaii style art Kimchi has become known for.

About a year later, I heard about another print on demand called Zazzle and decided to open another shop there to reach as many people as I could. While at times it’s been a bit of a pain to maintain both shops, there are some things in each site that are not carried by the other. I really like the cocktail dishes through Cafe Press and love the messenger bags through Zazzle.

Fast forward to another year or so down the line when I started crafting items. Zazzle and CP have their items that are available to the shopkeepers, but if I wanted to create my own crafted items, I had find another site to sell those items through. I looked at some sites including Etsy, but honestly didn’t really like their fee structure so I went with Art Fire. I started selling my acrylic charms, jewelry, and Frosted Fleur de Lis (sweets and lolita related items) there. Basically, it was the same stuff that I was selling at anime cons, but this could reach beyond the one city I was in for a con. I had a some what good run there, but in the end, it just wasn’t working out for me, so I closed that shop down and moved to Storenvy this year. I’m still building things up in there, but I’m hoping with some marketing and the fact that Storenvy is getting more well known, I hope it can do well.

And finally, I started selling my original fabric designs through Spoonflower under the Frosted Fleur name. I love making original lolita dresses, but let’s face it, cute boarder prints are super hard to come by here in the states unless you want country kitsch. Which I didn’t. So, you want something lolita, you gotta draw it yourself 🙂 As I’m trying to pack a lot of detail into my designs, progress is slow there. I have a huge list of designs I want to do, but not enough time to do them in. I’m hoping to get some more done during Christmas break which is when I tend to do most of my art for the year.

Yep, I’m pretty much all over the place with my shops and always looking for more ideas/products to do under the Kimchi or Fleur name. Btw, if you want to keep up with everything going on, the best place to do so is on the Facebook pages listed below. I update there the most about all the various shops.

Kimchi Kawaii Facebook Page

Frosted Fleur de Lis Facebook Page

Ok, that’s all from me for this first post. Time to call it a night!

August 6, 2013 at 6:11 am Leave a comment

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