by guest contributor Fina Tejada
Ali J is a freelance illustrator from Perth, Australia and a great example of how far an artist can take their indie business. Her illustrations have been published in Marie Claire Australia, Lip Magazine, on Design*Sponge and even on Indie Fixx before just to name a few. When she’s not creating designs for publications, her website Alijart, her flickr, her Esty store, then she is flipping through fashion magazines and watching FOUR TVs at once. I think I found my new best friend.
Can you give me a brief description of your business?
I sell products with illustrations of modern women who have a strong sense of independence. My idea started when I failed at the job I always wanted, and turned to my art supplies in desperation. I just started drawing sad girls with red rosy cheeks and a strong sense of fashion playing on my own emotions and ideas. Then as time progressed I allowed my imagination to run away, started drawing what felt right. Now, one year later, my range is expanding to children, men and animals. My aim is to allow the everyday person to access illustrations outside of a book or an art gallery. I sell a variety of products from badges to magnets, greeting cards, prints and paintings. I also like to design plush dolls, clay figures and bags.
Where do you sell your products?
I sell my products in all areas that give me exposure. Etsy, eBay, Made-it as well as designer outlets such as Shana Logic and Leeloo. You never know where your next sale will come from, and unless someone knows you exist, they can’t help your business grow.
Are most of your customers international?
Through the Internet most of my customers are international. So far, I’ve sold to over 24 countries worldwide across the past year. The only difficult part that I have is trying to talk to someone else who doesn’t understand English very well, and I like to converse with all of my customers. In regards to the packaging, all of my items are packed firmly no matter where they travel, and it is only one more item of paperwork that you need to send overseas. If anything I think it is easier, although not always cheaper.
How have you attracted so many customers to your Etsy page?
I get traffic to my Etsy store from my exposure right across the Internet. I’ve been featured on major websites and blogs. I’ve been featured in online magazines, printed magazines and newspapers. I send out flyers, business cards, promote on forums. I participate in groups, give advice, have accounts on deviantart, flickr, myspace and facebook. My whole promotional and marketing strategy relies on the Internet, and is the sole reason I’ve managed to achieve everything to date. Live painting sessions in front of crowds, commissions for CD designs for Sony/BMG, and upcoming licensing deal for Target/Sears. I’m not here with the aim to sell, I just create work and have the added bonus that it goes to new home. I’m just so glad that so many people enjoy my work.
What are your plans for your business?
There is so much I want to do, but the longer I do this, the more I realize that opportunities will present themselves on their own. One day I do hope to have my own gallery space, and I want to exhibit internationally. Until then I plan to participate in many more exhibitions and keep on creating. I plan to extend my line to clothing, bags and fabric. I also wish to do some book illustrating, and really….. the sky is the limit! Oh, I’d love to graffiti my girls on some buildings too.
What keeps you motivated?
Fashion is my main motivation. Also strong emotion. I tend to create my best work when I’m tired, stressed and angry. When my passion comes to a head, painting is my release. I tend then not to over think the work and just attack it, allowing it to create its own form as I create. I find that reality TV shows also feed my motivation as well as podcasts, youtube, secondhand shopping and magazines.
Do you have any tips for crafters who want to start their own business?
Don’t ever give up. No matter what anyone tells you, or that your items may not be selling as quick as you wanted, or that maybe no-one is buying them at all. If you have an idea and you market it right, they will come. It does take a whole lot of passion to start it up, and there are thousands of designers who fail every year because they lose that passion. You need to start out with a desire to achieve your goal, and not let anything get in your way. Don’t expect to be a millionaire, or even make a living for the first few years. Expect to market your products for as much time as you spend creating them. You need to consider that no matter where you sell your products you are the one working to establish your brand, your style and your name. Getting them into your store isn’t the problem that you’ll have. It is having them return.
About the contributor: Fina Tejada owns Miss Fruitfly, an indie lifestyle company featuring artwork and home accessories. She is also a blogger who loves to cook, is a closeted reality show junkie and supports independent designers. She will be posting on the Indie Fixx Guest Blog featuring international indie crafters & bloggers to find out what motivates them creatively, how they started their businesses and how they approach the U.S. market. Fina will be posting periodically on Thursdays.