In my journey to find and interview artists making passive income, I found Tracie Andrews. Her work is a bit eclectic — from patterns to portraits to pop culture and beyond — but her style really stands out, and I’m so happy to be interviewing her today! One of the most interesting things I learned from this interview is that Tracie does very little in the way of social media, and she doesn’t (yet) have an Etsy shop, but she still earns her full-time income with art. She’s definitely an inspiration for artists who maybe aren’t so great at social media.
So let’s get to it…
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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?
Tracie: I live in Wales, UK, and have a Fine Art degree from Cardiff University. I have been making art on and off for the last 20 years and seriously (as in, it’s my main income) for the last 10 of those years. I love using and experimenting with all mediums both digital and traditional, but at the moment my current obsession is with paint, printmaking and Photoshop.
I started selling my artwork online in 2013, after many years doing freelance design work and micro-stock illustration.
Jules: I really loved looking through your RedBubble portfolio, when did you decide to take your art – as a business – seriously? What habits do you strongly believe contribute to your success?
Tracie: I started teaching myself Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and began selling design elements online in 2007 through micro-stock agencies. By 2008 the income I was earning enabled me to work full-time. This gave me the opportunity to start incorporating my fine art roots into my artwork, mixing traditional and digital together. This started me down the path that would lead me to where I am today.
Success… I think above all you need hard work and commitment, but also an equal work-life balance. I used to work all the time, weekends, holidays – I would probably take just two weeks off at Christmas, of course, I eventually burnt out. Now I live at a much slower pace and have equal amounts of work and downtime, this slower pace has made me more productive and happier – and as an added bonus, my income doubled within a year! It’s important to take time and think, give your creativity a chance to recuperate.
Jules: How long have you been selling on RedBubble? Was that the first place you starting selling your work online? And have you tried other platforms (like Society6/Zazzle/Etsy/Saatchi/etc.)?
Tracie: I signed up with RedBubble in 2013, although I joined Society6 two years earlier. I dabbled a bit with Zazzle in the early days, but it wasn’t for me. I also have stores with DesignByHumans, Curioos and Nuvango, as well as artwork licensed for sale with East End Prints, Juniqe and I just recently signed with Ecell Global (goheadcase.com). I’m looking to open an Etsy store by the end of the year selling prints of my designs. I love being busy, and push myself forward with new goals and challenges.
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?
Tracie: I joined RedBubble in April 2013 and got my first payment in the September (enough for a couple of cappuccinos!) I feel in the beginning it’s more important to build up a good portfolio of work than thinking of the financial side. I think if you are consistent and honest with your work the money will eventually come. I currently sell between 50-100+ various products per month, after 3 years of a slow but steady increase in sales.
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?
Tracie: I aim to add at least one new design a week, although this can vary – sometimes I get a creative burst and make a lot more, other times I have a creative drought and end up doing my taxes or some other boring job – that usually does the trick! I sell a wide range of products, sometimes art prints will be popular, other times it will be phone-cases. No one product really stands out in particular.
I don’t really keep track of what designs I’m selling, there’s no spreadsheet or anything, but I am aware of what’s currently popular.
Jules: Do you have a social media strategy for driving traffic to your shop?
Tracie: No. but I should have 🙂 social media is not my strong point, but I am getting to grips with it slowly. I have a Twitter and Instagram account and that’s it. I try to post at least a few times a week regarding promos and any new work, but nothing more beyond that.
Jules: Do you drive traffic to your RedBubble shop in other ways?
Tracie: No, as with social media, marketing is also not my strong point! 🙂 I have recently finished my new website which I am hoping will serve as my hub of operations, where I’ll blog about new work, products etc but nothing heavy handed.
Jules: Is there anything you find particularly challenging or frustrating about selling on RedBubble?
Tracie: No, I can’t say I’ve had any problems. Redbubble are great at keeping me informed about promos, sales, etc. and their uploading process is one of my favourites for ease of use.
Jules: Do you remove any old designs and/or designs that don’t seem to sell as well?
Tracie: Yes. every few months I’ll have a spring clean of my portfolio, I usually remove designs I no longer love or occasionally the ones with no sales. I do have some designs that I really like that haven’t sold but I keep them because I really like them. 🙂
Jules: Do you set any sales goals for your art?
Tracie: No. I don’t set sales goals – I try not to think too much about money, it can cause creative block 🙂 so I set creative goals though, those are much more fun. 😉
I’m lucky enough that I’ve reached a point where my combined income from all of my stores is enough for bills, rent, kids, cats, gadgets with some left over for cappuccinos and rainy days. 🙂
Jules: What advice would you give to artists hoping to sell work on RedBubble?
Tracie: Try to be consistent by uploading regularly, and even if you don’t sell anything to begin with, keep at it. Generating a steady income takes time and commitment. Although it can be a good idea to be aware of what’s trending and popular always be yourself. Push you own ideas, what excites you and what you enjoy making, it will show in the work and who knows, maybe you’ll set some new trends. 🙂
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?
Tracie: For me art is a very personal endeavour so I like to keep complete control for myself 🙂 I have worked on some projects throughout the years with my artist husband (we have a joint Redbubble shop ‘Wordquirk’) but I’m very much focused on my art and where it’s leading me.
Jules: What is your favorite music/song/band to listen to while making art?
Tracie: Changes all the time – I go through periods of listening to the same band/artist over and over again until I move onto the next obsession 🙂 it’s currently Radiohead’s ‘Moon Shaped Pool’, before that Coldplay, Muse, David Bowie, Janis Joplin, Morrissey…
Jules: What is your favorite art movement / period of art history?
Tracie: I’d have to say the abstract expressionists. I see similarities in my method of working to their philosophy of using tools and mediums in new, and not always conventional, ways. For me the act of making marks on paper, canvas, a digital screen, and seeing where it will take me, is the best part about being an artist.
Jules: What/who/where inspires you most?
Tracie: Everything, nature, science, technology, space, movies, gaming, music…
Jules: Who is your favorite living artist? And do you own any of their artwork?
Tracie: Grayson Perry and no. 🙁
Jules: Well, hopefully someday! 😉 Who is your favorite artist to follow on Social Media?
Tracie: I don’t really spend that much time on social media. There is loads of work out there that I like from fellow Redbubble and Society6 artists, as well as Behance, so too many to have a favourite. I’m more of a dip in and out kind of Social Media type who likes to browse now and again and look at the great stuff out there.
Jules: Oh! And this is super important: How can my readers find you and your art online?
Thanks again to Tracie for doing this interview with me. One of the biggest takeaways for me is that I need to regularly add new designs to my Society6 shop, and start on more platforms (like RedBubble.) I’d love to hear your thoughts and greatest takeaways from this interview in the comments below!