When I left my job at Winnetka Presbyterian Church last June, if you told me that I was going to be running a fairly successful illustration business, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’m not a formally trained artist and I didn’t really think people would be too interested in buying my stuff.
And yet, it is now almost the end of December, and over the past 6 months I’ve been living into two new identities: artist and solopreneur.
I launched Illustrated Children’s Moments back in September, and immediately realized that I was tapping into a significant “pain point” for people in children’s ministry. The mailing list started growing, and just kept growing, and I had good responses to the initial illustrations that I sold. But still, I don’t think I knew that I really “had” something until I mailed out a few of my giant Advent coloring posters.
As soon as people started seeing them being shared on Instagram and Facebook, the word spread. And it spread quickly. Actually, a bit too quickly.
I will spare you all of the gruesome details of my printing hassles with Staples (they ended up coming through in a big way: printing, collating, rolling and stuffing almost 200 sets of posters into tubes for me) or my shipping woes with the USPS (while I have resolved almost everyone’s problems and gotten them copies one way or another, there are still 30+ poster tubes that are missing in the USPS system). But it was most definitely a learning experience, and it’s given me some good ideas on the next round of shipments in the new year.
While the posters became one of the biggest sellers, the primary product was An Illustrated Advent – the resource for families and churches to use during Advent. I haven’t shared any financial numbers yet – have to think through that – but it was a very successful launch for this initial product. But this might give you an idea of the success of it:
- 291 people bought the Advent coloring posters (either the physical posters or vector files)
- 147 people bought the 8.5 x 11 version of the Advent coloring materials
- 127 people bought An Illustrated Advent: Church Edition
- 130 people bought An Illustrated Advent: Family Edition (and many of those were pastors, and many of them sent the materials out to families in their congregations)
- You can check out the search results on Instagram for #anillustratedadvent to get a feel for how people are engaging with this material during Advent – it’s pretty fun to check out.
I’m looking forward to getting feedback from people, but what I have received so far has been very positive about the materials. My wife, Sarah, wrote most of the content, and I put together the illustrations. A last minute addition to the line was a Spanish version, translated by my friend Abby Dawn Barrantes. Unfortunately, we had no purchases of it, but we also hadn’t been advertising that we were going to have a Spanish version (because we didn’t know).
I think doing a better job of advertising about the upcoming Spanish version of An Illustrated Lent, as well as more and more people hearing about this resource, I’m guessing we’ll do as good, if not better, for Lent.
While we are more than halfway through Advent, there are still some of the Advent poster sets for sale (which can really be used at any time – they just have the words Hope, Joy, Peace, Love and Emmanuel on them – which we can use throughout the year), and I also have sets of Inspired Coloring Posters for sale (they have the words Inspire, Dream, Imagine, Laugh and Believe on them). You can buy them here.
I’ve found that the life of a solopreneur can be really exhausting. After all, I’m the illustrator, designer, marketer, administrator, shipper, packer, errand-runner, dreamer, financial person and more. One thing I heard recently on a podcast was someone talking about the “work culture” that you create when you run a business. And that can even be a culture that just one person creates and lives in. Do I like the work culture that I’ve created for myself? Not quite. It’s been busy. I’ve been pulling all-nighters and staying up too late. I do feel like I’ve pretty much been constantly working. And while some of that has been necessary for this product launch and doing something like this for the first time, but I’m looking forward to finding some more balance in my life.
If you’re interested in this venture of mine, I’d encourage you to sign up for the mailing list here – that’s where I’ll share all about my new illustrations and projects.