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How to sell merch as an Illustrator – top tips from Katie Abey

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do?

Hello! *waves* I am Katie, a freelance illustrator living in a tiny hobbit-like house in Derbyshire with my cat and boyfriend. I work from home taking on freelance illustration work and also creating quirky and colourful illustrative products to sell. A lot of these products include the characters I have created: Super Sloth, Annoying Dinosaur, Indifferent Iguana and the Wonton Warthog to name but a few. (They all say hello too!)

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Your Etsy page is crammed full of print & design – did you start small and build it up over time?

Etsy has definitely worked wonders for me, in a reasonably short space of time too! I set it up just before I finished uni, so my shop has only been active for just over a year. For the first few months I only had a few bits and bobs on there and I found that it was when I started adding more that I started to get real interest and proper sales. There is so much to Etsy, I think it takes a while to get it looking snazzy and to get to grips with how to get people to see your work. I think having a wide price range of stuff works too so there is something everyone can afford.

“Etsy is excellent and is definitely a great place to start! There are other great online platforms too; I’ve recently opened a Folksy shop which is a great website purely for UK sellers.”

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You’ve nearly sold a whopping 2500 items on Etsy… that’s impressive. Does it take a lot of time to keep it updated and send items out in the post?

It is so crazy, I’m forever amazed! It does take a lot of time and there is so many different aspects to it. Designing, creating and ordering products in, listing, packaging, replying to messages, post office runs. I really love doing it though and the more time you put in to it the more you seem to get back. Plus whenever it gets a bit mad I rope in various family members to build mug boxes and help package up orders!

Would you recommend using Etsy over other selling platforms?

Etsy is excellent and is definitely a great place to start! There are other great online platforms too; I’ve recently opened a Folksy shop which is a great website purely for UK sellers. I’ve also recently become a seller through The Lost Lanes which is a excellent online platform for quirky gifts. My favourite way to sell is definitely in person though, craft markets are so much fun! It’s really cool meeting other sellers and also being able to see peoples reactions to your work and get some feedback. It is the best thing ever being able to witness people having a good chuckle at my drawings!

My advice would be to try lots of different products and see what works – the great thing about illustration is that is can be applied to pretty much anything! 

In terms of merch – what did you start with? Any advice for other illustrators? 

I think *racks brains* that I started with prints and greeting cards. Then I started getting more adventurous with applying my work to different products. My advice would be to try lots of different products and see what works – the great thing about illustration is that it can be applied to pretty much anything! 

Do you use social media to promote your shop wares? Which is your favourite platform for this?

Haha yes I have everything! I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Pinterest too but I seem to keep neglecting that one! They take time to upkeep but I feel like for me they all bring something. All it takes is the right share or repost and you’ve got yourself some new followers and potential sales!

We’ve noticed on Facebook that you run contests on there – does this also encourage merch sales?

Yes I’ve started running a Freebie Friday every week on there and people seem to really love it! I find it to be a really good way of introducing new products and getting people interested in my work.

“I have done a ‘Daily doodle’ every day since January 2014…. I post them on social media and take note of peoples reactions to decide what I think is going to sell well.”

You seem to draw great stuff every day.. is there a temptation to print it all? How do you know what will sell? 

I have done a ‘Daily doodle’ every day since January 2014, it is the longest I have ever kept a new years resolution I can tell you that! It has helped improve my confidence with my drawing skills crazy amounts. Some are really quick and others I spend a while planning out. I post them on social media and take note of peoples reactions to decide what I think is going to sell well.

You can find out more via Katie’s website & please check out her Etsy store.

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