Real Talk: My Interview with Society6

I was recently asked to participate in Society6's blog for their latest article, #NoFilter: Top Artists Reveal Their Tips for Instagram Success. I joined six other top-selling artists to discuss all the tips and tricks we utilize to make the most of social media.

Check out the article here.
...& my Instagram here.

S6: What's your best advice for growing Instagram followers?

Cat: Figure out your theme and stick with it, because consistency is key. My brand is all about watercolor paintings with bright bursts of color, hand-lettering, and a cheerful vibe. It also helps to figure out what your audience likes. For example, my process shots always get the most attention. People like getting a glimpse of the behind-the-scenes. I try to keep personal photos to a minimum unless they’ve got something to do with my artwork. The best Instagram accounts are the ones that stick to their style guide and totally nail it. 

I post a variety of content: finished paintings, works-in-process, products with my designs (apparel, home decor, etc.), and the inspiration behind my artwork. Much of my inspiration is gathered from traveling, so I post about my adventures as well. Since some of the subject matter of my travel pics winds up as paintings itself, it’s relevant to my brand. I always Geotag the cities I visit and usually gain additional followers from the area. The added bonus is the opportunity to cross-pollinate my audience a bit: art lovers & travel lovers alike.

Instagram is a great tool for connecting with bloggers, brands, potential clients, fans and fellow artists. If I buy a print or product created by another artist, I usually snap a photo for Instagram and give credit where credit is due. Instagram is also a great method for conversing with your fans. If someone posts a picture of my work, I always thank them and sometimes repost as well.

In general, I skip the selfies. My audience doesn’t follow me for my quirky facial expressions, so I leave it out of the equation. That being said, I will include occasional photos of me painting in my studio. I love seeing other artists in their own environments working their magic. To me, that’s infinitely more interesting that a zoomed-in selfie.

Overall, it’s important to have fun with it. Your brand is a reflection of your own unique aesthetic and voice. Be authentic and be yourself. I keep my captions casual and conversational, leave genuine comments, and post what best reflects my brand. 

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S6: What are your tips/tricks for making sales on Instagram?

Cat: It’s a bummer that you can’t click on links within Instagram captions, but there are always workarounds. I use TinyURL when linking to a specific product, but otherwise use my general S6 URL to link to my whole store: I also utilize hashtags to promote Society6 in order to reach people who might not be familiar with my work, but are fans of the S6 brand. Hashtags are a great opportunity to expose my brand to a larger and more targeted audience.

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S6: What are your tips/filters/apps for taking the perfect Instagram photo?

Cat: If a photo doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest of my feed, I skip it. Similarly, if I don’t want to post too much of the same visuals in a row. I prefer to break up the monotony with a variety of macro shots and big-picture lifestyle images.

Lighting is key. I shoot most of my work in bright, natural light with my Canon, then upload it to my iPhone and polish it up with the VSCO Cam app. I also pay attention to the composition. You can never go wrong with the rule of thirds. Most of my posts are simple scenes with limited props. This ensures that my artwork is the focal point. If I do decide to take a photo with my phone, I use the camera app & crop the viewfinder to a square so I have a good idea of how to set up the composition. If I’m on the fence about a particular photo, I don’t post it.

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S6: How do I get Instagram influencers to share my work on their channels?

Cat: Influencers promoting your work is one of the fastest ways to grow followers. I’ve begun reaching out to Instagram influencers, offering to send them some samples of my work. They usually respond about 50% of the time. I pick my best pieces to mail and always include a hand-written note. When I notice that a major blogger has posted a photo that includes my work, I thank them & share it with my followers as well.

• • •

S6: How do I get clients?

Cat: I don’t do a lot of cold-calling. Instead, I make it known (on social media and my website) that I’m available for freelance work. Because of this, most of my clients wind up reaching out to me first. The work I post to Instagram is the same type of work I’m looking to do for clients: illustration, hand-lettering, branding and packaging. I’ve done a lot of wedding invites for friends, but am not interested in doing that sort of work for clients, so I leave it out of my Instagram feed.

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S6: How do I deal with/protect myself against terrible clients?

Cat: Not to brag, but the overwhelming majority of clients I’ve worked with have been wonderful. However, if a project isn't going smoothly, it's always better to address things directly. I’ve found that the vast majority of issues can be resolved just by having an open dialogue. If a client doesn’t seem satisfied and I feel like I’m making revision after revision, I usually suggest that we step back and reevaluate the big picture. Sometimes it’s helpful to show where you started and each step you’ve taken along the way. This way, you can pinpoint exactly where things got off track.

After all, both you and your client have the same end goal: create something awesome that they love and you're proud of.

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S6: How do I negotiate a rate/compensation?

Cat: I have an hourly rate that I apply to my freelance work. I’m transparent with the client about my fees and how many hours I estimate it will take to complete a project. I work with them to reach a compensation that we’re both comfortable with. For my licensing, I have a royalty percentage that I prefer, although it fluctuates with the type of product, estimated quantities, and the popularity of that piece. (I ask for a higher royalty rate on my best-sellers.) I’m pretty flexible when it comes to licensing my work; while most of my contracts are royalty-based, I do offer limited runs at a flat fee, which the client sometimes prefers. I also ask for an advance up front with royalties if I’m going to be taking the time to create new work for a client.

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S6: How do I balance client work with personal work?

Cat: My income is 90% licensing and 10% commissions. This gives me a LOT of freedom to do my own thing. I paint what I want and if a client is interested, they pick it up for licensing. I follow trends and keep an eye out on what aspirational clients are selling. It’s vital to know what trends are dead and what’s emerging on the scene. I have a ton of resources for creative inspiration, including Designspiration, Pinterest, FFFFound, Behance, Graphic Exchange and Grain Edit. I also follow my favorite artists, designers, and brands on Instagram on Twitter to see what they’re working on or stocking in-store.