A thortful Success Story

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As one of thortful’s biggest success stories over the last 6 months, Kasia has had quite the journey with us! From a few odd sales here and there to one of our top selling creators for Valentine’s this year, she’s grown her thortful sales and become almost an overnight success. But how did she do it? Below, she shares her story and gives you some of her top tips for raking in those royalties!

My journey with thortful started off as an experiment, and I must admit I didn’t have any particular idea what I was doing at the beginning! I simply created my profile, uploaded a few designs with funny little monsters and that was about it! I didn’t really worry about making my cards suitable for any specific occasions, or about drawing them in any particular style. If I’m honest, looking at it now, I think that my approach was a bit soulless and mechanical. Without giving the whole process much thought, I just took the path of least resistance, and as a result, saw very few sales.

It all changed in December last year. As huge movie geeks, my friends and I often spend time discussing films, TV series, and documentaries. During one of these conversations an idea came to my mind: what about drawing something I’m really, truly, passionate about?

This was how my Star Wars themed card series came to life! The whole creation process was great fun. It seemed so natural and easy to draw my favourite movie characters, to make them speak their funny language and to play with their unique features.

Kasia xmas card for blog

 

I quickly found that tapping into particular trends is a key step that will take you further on your way to becoming a successful thortful designer. Finding a new trend and predicting the next big thing is never a simple task, but keeping your finger on the pulse will make it easier.

Read popular design magazines, sign up to art newsletters, follow famous art bloggers, pay attention to the issues your friends and colleagues are buzzing about, observe which are the most popular topics on social media. What are people interested in? What is getting them talking and capturing the collective imagination? These are the questions that you should be asking. Paying attention on what’s going on around you will give you a broader picture of what people want and what trends are hot!

I also decided that this time round my cards should target specific, card-sending occasions, and as Christmas was coming up I took this as my inspiration. Playing a bit with the characters, I adapted them specifically around this theme, and managed to secure a good few more sales than usual!

This just goes to show that when designing your cards, it’s important to remember what occasion they are for. Whether it’s Valentine’s Day, a Wedding Anniversary or Birthday, creating your designs to target specific events will always help you to produce a more customer-orientated product, and as a result it will drive more sales.

Kasia Valentine's card for blog

 

As my Christmas collection did well, I decided to stick with the movie theme. I extended my collection of characters but this time they were equipped with Cupid’s arrows and heart-melting declarations of love, just in time for Valentine’s Day. The whole collection was an instant hit! 

I soon learned that once you’ve established a design which is popular, you can always create new versions to fit other occasions by changing captions or references, which will give you more opportunities to sell your cards. And if you need some ideas of different events and occasions? Just head to the thortful website!

Once you find your niche, remember your bestsellers and grow your collection around them. Making what you know consumers want yields far more sales than making whatever you feel like and hoping there’s a market for it! It is much smarter to find where your passions and skills intersect with what customers seek.

I discovered that humour was key for me, too. I use it all the time in my cards: it is basically at the centre of every design I do, and the simpler the joke the better. By making my cards funny, I found that I was giving customers more reason to choose my designs, and my sales reflected this.

If it fits with your design then why not try implementing some humour in your cards? From a humorous caption to a clever pun, anything you can do to give a little laugh can help your designs stand out. It will make them feel good, and most importantly it will really help customers to remember your cards: a perfect recipe for a success!

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It’s been quite a journey we’ve been on together with thortful for the last few months, and I couldn’t ask for a better team to work with. They’ve watched me grow and been very supportive along the way, patiently replying to all my questions, and solving any arising issues at the speed of light! They’ve advised me on my designs, suggested ideas that worked really well and have been even kind enough to let me takeover their Instagram account for a weekend! You can be sure when starting your thortful profile that you’ve got a whole brilliant team behind you, who will always be there for you to answer any questions you might have.

It took some time for me to realise which ways to take and which paths to avoid in order to succeed, but today I get lots of joy of being able to do what I love and to share it with others. Hopefully my story will inspire you to pursue your own thortful adventure! 

Thanks for reading,
May the force be with you !

Kasia

 

 

Find Kasia’s thortful profile here.

 

 

How to Build a Following on Instagram

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Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms right now, and the good news is that visual content can really help you to build your brand! Not only this, but you’ll also be able to connect with your followers (and potential customers!). We’ve asked one of our talented creators Charly Clements for some tips on how to gain followers, after her latest Instagram account @reallifelines grew from zero to 25k followers in just a few months. Read her simple, practical steps to becoming a pro below:

Post Regularly

Posting frequently will help you become a notable voice amongst the white noise, as people are more likely to see your posts. Charly advises posting every day if you can: ‘consistency is key when trying to build a strong following on Instagram. People will become very familiar with your work and it will lower the risk of your followers forgetting why they followed you in the first place.’

 

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Find your Niche

It’s best to establish a general theme which reflects your brand, and make sure that all of your posts reflect this. ‘Find a niche and stick with it,’ says Charly. ‘Experimenting with different content can confuse your audience, so once you’ve found your niche try hard to build on that.‘ This might be a running visual theme, or perhaps more of a personality which is put across through your posts, but either way it needs to be built around a general theme. If your brand is doing well without including lifestyle shots or quotes then don’t get distracted with them! 

Offer Insights

Your Instagram is the perfect place to give followers little insights into the day-to-day of your work. This can really help to pique their interest, and make your brand relatable. Why not get a shot of your (relatively tidy!) workspace, or a design in progress? Just make sure the posts are relevant, interesting and fit with your brand’s personality. If you’re keen to show a less-manicured side to your brand then Instagram Stories are made for you: aligning themselves with the likes of Snapchat, Instagram have created this tool for you to give real, relatable insights into your world, and Instagram often sends users notifications to encourage them to see the videos before they’re gone!

Engagement is key

Engage with your audience – whether that’s through the content of your posts or actively finding people in your niche and commenting on their photos,‘ Charly says. Think about who your posts appeal to, and once you’ve established your target audience then think about what more you can do to make your posts relevant to them. As Charly explains, this might mean creating a post to specifically pique their interest, replying to their comments and feedback, or even finding key followers and commenting on their posts where relevant. ‘Posting content that your audience can relate to will drastically improve the engagement on your posts as well as help build a community.

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Hashtags Increase Views

Hashtags are often used as a fun way to express your personality within a post, but they can actually be used to expose your post to more users. Adding popular hashtags means that people who are looking for this content can easily find your posts, so they’re more likely to discover you this way. Ones such as #makersgonnamake, #independentdesigner and #illustratorsoninstagram are regularly searched by users, so by tagging your posts with these you’ll be putting them in front of a captive audience.

Link to your profile

Charly advises using your bio to link out to your website or a different platform, so that it’s easy for followers to find out more about you and your brand: ‘Instagram is a great way to showcase your work/brand, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket!‘ If you’re looking to use your account to drive sales then regularly linking out to your thortful profile or featuring it in your bio is a great way to make sure potential customers can find you!

Find Charly’s own range of cards here, her Real Life Lines range here, and find her on Instagram here and here.

How to: Make Sales Outside of the Big Occasions!

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We all know that having designs for the big occasions is the most hard-and-fast way to ensure that you maximise your sales figures overall, but what about those times when there isn’t a big occasion on the horizon?

First of all it’s best to ensure that you’ve got at least one design for all of the non-seasonal occasion categories – people have babies and get sick all year round!

Next, make sure your Birthday cards are up to scratch. Birthdays are the one occasion which nearly everyone buys for at some point each year, even if it’s only for their nearest and dearest! Making sure your cards are on point for this occasion is key, as this will help to maintain your sales across the quieter periods.

Get sorted for the next big occasion, even if it’s still a way off. You should aim to have your cards uploaded around 2 months prior to an occasion date (earlier for Christmas!). Getting them up early means you’ll make more sales in that initial period before the collection grows, and have a better chance of allowing your designs to gain popularity.

Think about buying seasons for occasions such as Wedding and Anniversary. Whilst cards for these occasions are bought all year round, there is a marked increase in demand from May – October every year, as the summer months bring more weddings (and by default, more anniversaries!). Make sure you’re prepared well in advance by getting your designs uploaded by April at the latest, adding to your collection or refreshing some old designs by using the ‘Update’ button to change a small element on the artwork.

Another thing to try, particularly with Birthday designs, is tapping into trends in order to increase sales by targeting specific customers. By using your designs to play upon a popular theme (think Game Of Thrones, Star Wars or Gin), you’re more likely to catch a customer’s eye, and this will give your perennial designs more chance of being chosen and help to boost those sales. In addition, if you’ve had a good seller for a seasonal occasion, is there a way you could adapt this design or concept for a Birthday or Love card? This can be a great way to create cards around themes which you know customers are already interested in.

Finally, you can also use a slight lull in sales to spring clean your profile, to push out the older designs which don’t sell, and ensure you’re ready for the next occasion. This is the perfect time to make any changes, as you’ll be able to assess your profile with the experience of the previous occasion, and get it all prepped and primed in time for the next! Use this handy guide to find out our top tips for doing this.

 

 

Your December Creator Calendar!

Get a heads up on what we’ve got planned for December, and tailor your own marketing around it with our handy Creator Calendar! Make sure to use our handy tips for getting your cards out there and increasing sales too 🙂

thortful Creator Calendar December 16

thortful Creator Calendar December 2016

(Just click the link to download.)

A Cup of Tea With…Hoppy Bunnies

If you caught some of our excellent Instagram takeover by Lucy Player from Hoppy Bunnies over the weekend, you’ll have been treated to a glimpse of those cute little critters she illustrates! We sat down for a cup of tea with Lucy and asked her for the lowdown on where the idea for bunnies came from, her creative inspo and the design process…

Lucy Player: the genius behind those cute little Hoppy Bunnies!

Lucy Player: the genius behind those cute little Hoppy Bunnies!

Your cards are based solely around cute bunnies – what was the inspiration behind this?

It all came about from a project I worked on at university… We’re talking 8 years ago now, which is a little scary! As part of my graphic design degree we had to do a typographic piece, creating our own fonts. Out out this came the Bunny Rabbit Alphabet, which started my whole little obsession for drawing bunnies! 

What comes first with your designs – the pun or illustration?

It can vary – sometimes a bunny pun will hop (sorry, I can’t help myself) into my head and that dictates the illustration. But now I’m focusing much more on the greeting card market, I tend to think more in terms of occasions, and how to tailor a bunny character to it… to be fair, replace ‘Happy’ with ‘Hoppy’ for most occasions and you’re on to a winner!

Where do you seek inspiration?

The internet is a wonderful thing, let’s face it. Having so much creative work at the click of a mouse – be that on Pinterest, blogs, Twitter, Instagram, or sites like thorful, Folksy and Not On The High Street, it’s so valuable to see what other designers and makers are up to, and what new trends are emerging. 

What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a creative rut?

Look on the sites mentioned above, generally! But sometimes you just need to get out the house with a notebook and a pencil, and scribble away without caring about the outcome. A good brainstorm or a chat with a friend can always help get ideas flowing. 

Lucy's bestselling Wedding design!

Lucy’s bestselling Wedding design!

What’s your best-selling card?

The Hoppy Couple wedding card tends to go down quite well, and I’ve recently worked up designs for same-sex marriages, too.

Can you give us a sneak description of what you’re working on next?

I’ve always got a little list of card design ideas on the go that I’m gradually working my way through, but I’m also looking to expand out of cards and in to more prints and gifting… watch this space!

Whose work do you admire?

I’m a big fan of The Old English Co – just really simple typographic pieces that have a lovely tone of voice. And Alison Hardcastle has such a good way with colour, simple shapes and wonky lines. And finally, Crispin Finn have an amazing range of 2-colour designs which just ooze cool.

What’s your favourite social media platform to showcase your designs?

I’m a bit obsessed with Instagram – I have accounts for my personal life, the Hoppy Bunnies, and my graphic design business – each has their own purpose and their own following. It’s just a great visual platform, both to be seen, and to see others’ work.

Tell us a good joke…

What’s the first sign of Madness? Suggs walking up your driveway… (sorry, such a ‘dad joke’, and probably goes over the heads of anyone born post-1990!)

Lastly, what exciting work plans do you have on the horizon?

I did my first trade show this year at Progressive Greetings Live, and it went so well that I’ve booked in again for June 2017!

Discover the full range of Hoppy Bunnies cards here!

Make Your Profile Pop!

Having a great profile page is really important in order to pull those customers in and let them know what you and your brand are all about. This is especially true if you’re going to be sharing your profile on your social channels too, and is essential if you want to be featured by us in our marketing campaigns and on our social channels (cash in on the free advertising!) 🙂

A complete profile!

A complete profile!

So how can you achieve this? Read on for our three simple steps to profile perfection.

1. Upload a great profile pic!

Your profile picture will be shown next to all of your cards in the main thortful catalogue, so not only is it going to be one of the first things customers see when they get to your profile, it will also represent your brand across thortful. Some of our creators have designed a logo, whilst others have opted for a simple, professional headshot. Whatever your style, try to make sure that the picture emulates your brand: match it to the style you use for your cards to really create a visual thread throughout your page. Bear in mind that the profile picture is optimised for square images, so it may look distorted if you go for a rectangular one!

Add a profile pic!

Add a profile pic!

2. Catch their eye with a banner image!

An effective banner image will tell your shop’s story in visual form. The right banner for you might be a lifestyle photograph of some of your cards in situ, or maybe an illustration or photograph that represents your style and brand. Make sure your image is the correct dimensions to be displayed optimally (1160 x 210px), and remember that it has to fit nicely with your profile image which will sit just in front of it. Consistency is key!

Add a banner image...

Add a banner image…

3. Tell them how it is with a captivating bio line!

Your bio line is your opportunity to explain who you are and what you’re all about. The key here is to be succinct as you only have 140 characters to get this across! Pique people’s interest: what makes your designs unique? What sets you apart from the crowd? What’s your story? Remember this information will be printed on the back of every card you sell too, so make sure it’s P.C.!

Add a bio

Add a bio

4. Name your page and give your shop front a unique identity!

Finally, make sure to use our fancy new function to create a custom URL for your page! Make it something memorable and not too long so that it looks good when you’re sharing your page on social. You can use a combination of any lowercase letters, hyphens (-) and underscores (_).

Create your own custom URL!

Create your own custom URL!

Et voilà! Your profile should be up to date and ready for all those customers to start spotting you and buying your cards 🙂 Get started on your profile optimisation bby logging in here.

 

Our Very First #thortfulillustrates Design Brief!

Psssst… In case you didn’t know, one of our original thortful creators Jon Higham teaches illustration to the rather lucky students of Sussex Coast College, Hastings! In aid of givingsomething back, a little while ago, thortful decided to team up with Jon and his students to give them a shiny new project: to design some AWESOME greeting cards!

Students brief

Eager-faced and pencils in hand, ten budding illustration students all arrived at the thortful office to receive a live briefing this week, and we want to share some insider info on what we told them! 

The brief was to design three cards, for three of the top-selling occasion categories across the industry: Birthday, Thank You and New Home. With this in mind, we gave them some top tips on how to create fantastic (and most importantly!) commercial cards. Check out this informative guide we created:

7 Tips for creating amazing greeting cards

Psssst… In case you didn’t know, one of our original thortful creators Jon Higham teaches illustration to the rather lucky students of Sussex Coast College, Hastings! In aid of giving a little something back, a little while ago, thortful decided to team up with Jon and his students to give them a shiny new project: to design some AWESOME greeting cards! Eager-faced and pencils in hand, ten budding illustration students all arrived at the thortful office to receive a live briefing this week, and we want to share some insider info on what we told them :) The brief was to design three cards, for three of the top-selling occasion categories across the industry: Birthday, Thank You and New Home. With this in mind, we gave them some top tips on how to create fantastic - and most importantly commercial - cards! Check out this informative guide we created: Biscuits were eaten, cards were studied and assessed, and ideas were mulled over, but to see the finished results you’ll have to wait until October! Hopefully the project will offer students some valuable work experience so that they develop the skills and confidence to work professionally, not to mention help them to get on board as thortful creators and conquer the greeting card market… Stay tuned to our social accounts for some behind the scenes shots of our students working on their designs in the build up to the submission date!

Biscuits were eaten, cards were studied and assessed, and ideas were mulled over, but to see the finished results you’ll have to wait until October! Hopefully the project will offer the students some valuable work experience, so that they gain some insight into the skills and confidence needed to work professionally, not to mention help them to get on board as thortful creators and conquer the greeting card market…

Stay tuned to all thortful news with our social accounts for some behind-the-scenes shots of our students working on their designs in the build up to the submission date!

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6 Ways To Capture A Stunning Photograph

Is your camera just gathering dust because you don’t really know ‘where to start’ when it comes to taking a brilliant photograph?

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We spoke to Dave Peck, who knows how to take a fantastic photograph or two, and he shared his six top tips for achieving a magical picture.

Here’s what he had to say:

As a landscape/seascape photographer who has featured on the site, thortful asked me to compile a ‘6 top tips’ to help you capture that perfect scene. I am aiming this at beginners and those of you who want to quickly improve their imagery. Here we go then…

1. Use ‘A’ or ‘Aperture Priority’

Most landscapes should feature interest from the foreground to the background and usually you want all of those features sharply in focus. The Aperture of your camera’s lens controls how much is in focus and you ideally need this to be as small as possible. On a DSLR you should ideally aim for an f-stop of f16 upwards. If you focus on a point in the mid ground, this should make sure everything is acceptably sharp. Of course, rules are there to be broken, so do not be afraid to experiment! The best way to learn about ‘Depth of Field’, which is the term photographers use to describe this, is to photograph a fence or wall at an angle of around 45 degrees and change the aperture for each shot. Then look at the results. Portraits, conversely benefit from using a wider aperture to throw the background out of focus

2. Use a tripod

One of the downsides of using a small f-stop will be a slower shutter speed. This can result in blurred photographs. There is little point in having everything in focus if the whole photograph is blurred. My photograph of Bamburgh Castle was taken an hour before sunrise and needed an exposure of one-minute to properly expose it. Therefore, use a tripod or other support to help. There are cheap tripods for sale from many online auction sites that, although they may not last forever, will help you experiment with your photography. If you cannot afford one, or do not want to buy a tripod, look for somewhere to balance the camera. For a long time I have carried a small beanbag in my camera bag to put onto rocks, posts or the floor, which enabled me to get that shot that would otherwise be ruined through camera shake. You can also use jumpers, coats etc. or just put your camera down on anything solid and then use some imagery software to crop your photograph to make it straight.
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3. Hold your breath as you squeeze the shutter button

The most common mistake beginners make is pressing the shutter button too hard when taking an image. If your camera is on a tripod this should not really apply, although I have seen it happen! With the camera on a tripod use a ‘cable release’ or use the ‘self-timer’ setting on your camera to allow camera shake to disappear before the shutter fires. If you are shooting without a tripod, briefly hold your breath as you gently squeeze the shutter to make sure everything you think you are capturing remains in shot. The familiar portraits with the top of peoples heads missing is usually caused by an over excited shutter button press. Gently does it.

4. Shoot from higher for lower viewpoints

We are used to viewing the world from the height at which we stand. To give your images more impact think about climbing higher if possible or, get down on your knees. Sometimes a good image can be turned into a brilliant image just by shooting from an unusual angle.
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5. Composition

Landscape photographers usually pay some regards to the ‘rule of thirds’ in their compositions. This rule involves dividing the frame of your image into equal thirds and, where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect (at four points), using one to place your main point of interest in the photograph. This could be someone’s face in a portrait, a castle in a landscape or a motorbike or car in a sports shot. Usually, with action images you would give more space in front of the subject for it to move into. Following the rule of thirds also means keeping your horizons either a third of the way down from the top of the frame or a third of the way up from the bottom if you want to include a dramatic sky. Using this simple compositional tip will improve your photographs straight away.

6. Look at photographs

If you love photography then this seems obvious, but I have learnt almost all that I have learned in my 35-year career by looking at loads of images, some I liked, some I didn’t and working out why they had this affect on me. The next stage is to try and work out how it was achieved and try and recreate it with your own twist. It may be a particular lighting technique takes your eye, or a particular way of composing an image, but either way look at good images with a quizzical eye to improve.

See more of Dave Peck’s cards on thortful here.

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