Life is a jerk sometimes. As artists we can either sink or swim in the seas of life’s jerkdom. But that’s a meaningless cliche worded weirdly. Follow me while I try to find something minimally useful.
But first, I was such a huge Gilda Radner fan! She was in the first Saturday Night Live cast. They were FUNNY. She had her ups and downs like all of us. In fact, she died far too young of cancer. I decided to paint her delightful face to cheer myself up. She is available on my website.
I suck at being a caregiver, but when I need to, I do my best. My husband, it turns out, is awesome at being a caregiver. So much for the women’s work paradigm, right?
But recently, he has needed caregiving. He had skin cancer on his nose, and it was worse than anticipated. He needed a big old schnozzal reconstruction thingie over the course of two surgeries. The first surgery was rough. He wasn’t supposed to lie down at all for more than a week, but we didn’t know that in advance. There were a couple of days of rearranging furniture and buying special cushions. There were some pretty gnarly bandage changes for a month, a husband who felt horrible and was understandably irritable. Only now, nearly a month later is he starting to feel better, but guess what? His second surgery is tomorrow, as of this writing.
Meanwhile I had a side-hustle happening, and had to work at my desk and away from my studio for weeks. I still haven’t made it back to the studio and the commissions I have waiting are really stressing me out. I WANT to be painting. I will be back in the studio later this week, and I won’t be coming out of there for a long time. If my hair looks crazier than normal on TikTok, that’s just the way it is. Paint first, shower later.
But what about when you just can’t paint? Like now. This post is not about painter’s block or fear of the blank canvas. It’s about complete overwhelm and responsibilities and needing to help someone I love get through a rough time.
When I entered this phase, I tried to squeeze in an hour or two of painting every day, but I ended up just being frustrated that I couldn’t paint more. Yet, I was too exhausted to paint more. I just couldn’t do the main stuff that makes me feel better. But I could write. So, I’ve been writing. Brainfog notwithstanding, if I can’t sleep due to pain, I might as well write through the pain.
And then my fibromyalgia kicked in like a jerk about a week ago. I know no one wants to hear about anyone’s chronic muscular pain. I get it. It’s boring and irritating for me, too, and I have it! So, without any great detail, my body wants to take oxycodone and curl up in a ball in my bed, but my schedule and the lack of oxycodone make that impossible. (It’s a good thing that oxy is no longer easy to get, but I would so totally take it right now if I had it.) Stress related? Probably. Throw in some cold, rainy weather, and here we are.
So, what do I do about the clients that are waiting for me to work on their projects? It’s hard. Basically, you let them know before you start the work that the time frame varies because of paint needing to dry and various issues coming up. Presumably you’re not taking on a ton of new work when you’re sick or caregiving, but you should be clear about expectations even in the best of times.
But then, it’s just about making it clear that something beyond your control has come up and you need a minute. Offer their money back if they’re not flexible. But honestly, my people have been extremely flexible and understanding. I love them. I will do my best to make it worth their wait.
And yes, I hear you. Sometimes you need the money you can’t earn while this stuff is going on. That can be the time to offer a big sale on the stuff you have on hand, or make prints. Something that doesn’t require a bunch of studio time.
I can’t wait to get back to work. Soon. Very soon.
It’s been a hard month, November. My husband had skin cancer on the end of his nose, the second schnozzal skin cancer of the year. The first one wasn’t that big of a deal, but this one was much more involved and requires two surgeries. He has been pretty down about it, and I’ve been unable to be as spoiled as he usually makes me. As you can see my part in the misery is mostly self-serving. (I love the guy. I’m doing my best to be nearly as good at taking care of him as he is at taking care of me. But he’s better at it.)
This has impacted my artwork life (and I’m fine with that. That’s the deal we have going here in this marriage situation). I went through a phase not long ago when for months I painted for several hours a day, completing commission after commission and dozens of small daily paintings, and a few larger more whimsical paintings. My mood was pure peace and contentment. I was taking baby steps in the direction of artistic success and fulfillment. So this is a mere bump in the road.
Its amazing how a thing that the doctor describes as “not too bad” can upset all your best laid plans and habits. It has been a big deal.
At the same time as all of that stuff in italics, Facebook and Instagram kicked me out. The first thing I did was really look at what, if any, good those Meta accounts did me.
It turns out Instagram was doing basically nothing for my business. It is supposed to be THE art marketing platform for artists. It’s all visual and junk. But around the time I joined they were changing the parts of Insta they pushed (namely they went from photos to reels). This meant that for me to get any traction, I thought, I had to make reels. I started making reels. I made a reel almost every day. And by the time I reached approximately 1,736 followers, I just couldn’t get any more. For the last many months I was on the platform I was stuck at the same number of followers. I was within 10 followers of that number for months, even with paid ads.
The mantra when something is not working on social media is, “They changed their algorithm”. I have no idea if they changed it, all I know is that I couldn’t get my account to grow. I spent way too much money on ads that did nothing for me. And I spent too much time on making reels that did squat.
I only sold one painting through Instagram over the course of 2 years of active posting. How is it that I kept doing it for that long? They call it vanity metrics. I was focusing so much on how many damn followers I had that I didn’t really notice that I was doing all that self-promotion for nothing. I was trained as a behavior analyst. In the experimental psychology world, it’s called reinforcement. Positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement through contingent social contingencies. (Don’t worry. There won’t be a quiz.)
I have an artist friend on Instagram that has almost entirely left Instagram in favor of fairs and art markets. She used to make most of her sales through the platform, and now she can’t even get people to like her stuff. Another artist friend has over 70,000 followers, but she said her page has become stagnant. Her views are down, her likes are down, and her followers are staying roughly the same. She’s staying because she still reaches enough of her large audience to make sales, but she is discouraged and concerned.
What I really missed during my time out of Instagram was following other artists. I love seeing their work, learning about their projects, and being inspired, so I’m happy to be back on there, I just know that it may not last, so I’m trying to enjoy it while I can. And I’m not counting on it as a business magnet.
I did way better on Facebook, but not through my business page. I made most of my sales through my personal timeline. I had about 2,500 friends on my old account that lasted from 2008-2022. Most of them were from past interests I’d been involved in, and the rest were friends of friends (of friends, and so forth). All I did was post pictures of what I was working on and people contacted me and asked if it was for sale, or asked me to do something for them. For two years, between Facebook and word of mouth from people on Facebook, my fledgling art business was growing this way. Facebook was opposed to selling from personal accounts for most of its existence, but now they’ve added the Professional mode for personal accounts. They say its goal is to entice more individual creators to promote themselves, so I guess they got over it. The thing is, after what happened to my old account, I’m wary. I know from personal experience that they can rip it out from under our feet whenever they want to. As artists we cannot depend on any social media platform, unless we own it. I don’t know about you, but I don’t own one.
The clients I have lined up right now are people I got when I offered the Name Your Own Price Deal on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. I am behind on those paintings due to the husband’s surgery situation, but fortunately everyone seems happy to wait. So, Facebook is the frontrunner. I’m hoping that with some new stuff it’s rolled out lately it will help a lot of artists, but I just flat don’t trust it.
So, what about Tiktok? Tiktok is fun. There’s a lot of crazy, funny stuff on there, the usual cat videos, and some inspirational stuff. People respond to it when I post my art. But once again, the big frustration is that even with the attention I get on TikTok (trust me, they love a bawdy old woman who curses like a punk rocker – and dutifully bleeps it out), I don’t get customers from there. At least I haven’t yet. Basically I can get away with calling time spent on Instagram “research”, but time spent on TikTok is really just play time. You can follow me on Tiktok at @kellieyellow. And yeah, TikTok has been known to give users the boot, too, although from my limited vantage point it doesn’t seem to be nearly as common as with Facebook.
I have been able to create new Meta accounts, but from personal experience I know they’re not reliable. I may get one or two likes on Instagram for the same exact posts that on TikTok reach 300-500 people and get 40-50 likes. I understand that this is not Influencer level attention by any stretch, but it’s entertaining. And it’s only entertainment so far. It’s not selling any artwork. At this point I only consider Instagram a way to follow other artists. I don’t truly expect it to start working for small creators like me, and if it does, I know they can take it away or change it at any time. (Follow me at Kellie Snider on Facebook, and Artist Kellie Snider on Instagram.)
So, the lessons here are:
Thing 1: No matter what you do, life will periodically be a jerk and make everything harder for a while. It just will. There’s no point in wallowing in it, you just have to know it will happen so it doesn’t side swipe you when it burns rubber in your damn front yard. And it will divot your personal lawn once in a while.
Thing 2: While I did cheat and use social media (my new tiny baby Facebook account) to ask people to join my mailing list, I have a nice line-up of work for the next few months due to the Name Your Own Price offer, and I have some new people following my blog. Those are my people.
Thing 3: I’ve still got to get a bigger off-Social audience. Social media is fun, and it’s socially rewarding, but it’s not working as a business tool for many people. (Please tell Facebook that I was their biggest fan before they started putting me in jail and ultimately kicked me out! I’m not their biggest fan any more.) But since they can’t tell the difference between a cat pushing a bowl off a countertop and inciting violence, we probably won’t be all that close again.
How being an introvert messes with your ability to market your art and what to do about it without selling your soul.
Before we get down to business, These foxes were painted for Rebecca Lynch of Thieving Otter Farms in Tennessee. She’s a chicken breeder, but lots of other wildlife share their property. Foxes sometimes raise kits there, which must be tricky with the chickens. This painting isn’t available, obviously, but if there is something you’d like to have painted, you can reach out and we can work something out! In the meantime, visit my website at: KellieSnider.com.
Down to business. Social Media is a tricky bastard. It’s addictive. I should know. It eats my lunch every damn day. It’s a time waster. And it’s a good social networking situation. It’s a conniving, contradictory connundrum.
Reminder: I am working on creating a marketing practice that will sustain my art business without depending 100% on the undependable universe of social media.
I can stop whenever I want. I just don’t want.
In a former life I got my education in behavior analysis. Two college degrees in behavior, so I should know better and catch myself when I realize I’m sliding into too much of the old S&M. (Oh, stop it! I know it’s just SM.) The thing is, behavioral reinforcement can happen whether you are paying attention or not. In a nutshell behavioral reinforcement means that if something works for you, you’re going to do more of it, and you’ll do it even if you don’t realize why you’re doing it. We think we can just stop whenever we want, but like with alcoholism, it’s not that easy. If you post something on Facebook, and you get likes, and you like likes, you’re going to post more on Facebook. And if Facebook kicks you off, like they kicked me off, it’s going to be painful because you’re not getting that online social reward you’ve come to depend on. (In fact, that would be called behavioral extinction. Seriously, it’s bad!) Especially if Facebook is your main social situation. (Thanks so much, Covid!)
Social Media interactions can override IRL interactions
Those of us who are susceptible to social media “addiction” tend to not go out in public and practice social interactions because we already have an easier social network inside our house. (They say something mean? Block ’em! They post things you agree with? Follow ’em!) Social media is easier to access. You can do it butt nekkid with Cheeto dust in your hair if you want. If it’s easier, you’re more likely to do it, unless you’ve already had tons and tons of reinforcement for social interaction and are chomping at the bit to get back to it. But for a lot of us, if we have to choose between make-up, heels, and Spanx or jammies and true crime with your dog, come on. We all know what we’re going to choose.
IRL Takes Practice
I have something to tell you about the recent Introvert theme on Facebook. Everyone posts Introvert memes nowadays, and a lot of us can identify with them. It’s gotten way more extreme since Covid, but it was already there before that. But there’s a reason it seems to be getting more common. When we don’t practice social interactions in person, we don’t get good at them. Especially if we’ve had bad social interactions in the past, and pretty much everyone has. If we are already good at IRL social interactions, but we stop practicing (thanks again, Covid!), they get harder than they used to be. So, a lot of Introverts are really just people who haven’t had enough recent practice being around other people. (I’m not saying you’re not really an introvert. I’m saying extroverted behavior is learned and needs to be practiced if it’s going to stick.)
Ew, People – Homecoming, y’all!
But it’s really peopley out there. And people are likely to be icky. Oh, people! But it’s not all bad news. You don’t have to go directly from Cheese powdered hair to the red carpet at the Oscars. Thank god. Getting your peopling chops up to speed is just a matter of saying hi.
When my son was in high school he came to me with concerns about his extreme shyness. He loved theater, and he had good friends, but he had always been a very shy kid. He wanted to spread his wings, and it was just painfully hard. With his permission, I talked with my graduate professor in behavior analysis, as I was in grad school at the time. He suggested that he not try to just go up to the most popular girl in school and ask her out the next day. Instead, the next day he should just pass one person he knows well and is friends with in the hall and say, “Hi,” outloud. That’s it. Nothing more. So he did. And nothing bad happened. The other kid said Hi and everyone went about their days. The other kid probably never knew that they were doing therapy.
After several days of that, I suggested picking someone he knows less well, but that he has had a good interaction with previously. Like someone he sits near in a class. He did, and it didn’t hurt. He kept working up to someone he’d never spoken to before. It kept working out just fine until one day he told me he didn’t need my help anymore. He was feeling a lot more confident.
And guess what happened? He went to the Homecoming Dance with the Homecoming Queen that year and found out that she was really self-absorbed. Baby steps. It started with saying hello to a friend in passing, and ended with the confidence to ask the Homecoming Queen to the Homecoming Dance. It didn’t last, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise. Pay attention.
The Artist’s Homecoming Dance
What I am working on now is asking me to the Art Homecoming Dance. In 2023, my goal is to start making small contacts with galleries and anyone else I might be able to collaborate with. First, maybe I’ll just visit galleries, get the lay of the land. Later I might attend some openings. And hopefully before the end of the winter semester I’ll have grown the huevos to ask a gallery representative if they would be willing to show my work.
In a former life I worked with aggressive dogs. I got a couple of degrees in behavior analysis in my mid-40s, and like a goofball raised my hand when the suggestion of working with aggressive dogs was tossed out there for grad students looking for thesis research ideas. Doink. It turned out to be a pretty sweet experience. I learned how not to scream while gigantic dogs were lunging at me, and I wrote a thesis that got a lot of mileage. Here we are some 15 years later and people still ask me to teach about it. For money. That’s cool. That’s one of my side hustles. I could make more money doing that than doing art, but the fact is, I want to do art, so Art is my main hustle.
Artists that want to be Real Live Artists often think there’s no way they can make that work because, you know, bills and whatnot. But, y’all, this is the era of the gig economy. There are ways to make it work.
Thing One: Art is Always Thing One
The first bit of advice I toss ever so casually in your direction is to make your art your Thing One. Even if you’re a lawyer in your day job, if you want to be a full time artist, you have to make art your main hustle and lawyering your side hustle. This sounds preposterous, I know. Well, unless your lawyering isn’t making you any money, then the choice is easy. If you’re trying to jump from the lawyer pot to the art frying pan, you gotta prioritize art. Do this no matter how much money your lawyering (or waitering or insurance-selling or doctoring or dog walking) makes you. If you, for real, want to be an artist, put art in the front seat.
This means you schedule art time and stick to that schedule. You may not have the option of changing the hours of your other job (aka side hustle) to accommodate your art (which sucks) but you can schedule your Art Hours. You can grab dinner after work and head to your workspace instead of putting on your jammies and watching TV. Or you can paint in your jammies, I don’t care. Just don’t blow off art hours, because, remember. Art is your main hustle. It’s even perfectly fine to paint with the TV on, or listen to Podcasts or audiobooks or music. I do! Honestly, Niblings. You don’t have to be curmudgeonly about your art time. Make it fun. But make it solid. Never skimp on art time.
Thing Two: Art Hours
Prioritize Thing One by keeping Art Hours. If your friend wants you to go clubbing tonight (do people still go clubbing?), tell them that tonight is a work night for you, and that you’d love to do it on the night off that you’ve scheduled for such things as that. They may argue, but hold firm. Remember that you want to be a real live artist. Schedule some down time and some Art Time. You can paint on an off night if you want, but always Art during Art Hours.
What if there’s a special event that can’t be moved around, and it is scheduled during your Art Hours? Depends on what it is. If it’s important, like your child’s birthday, or inflexible and super special, like a concert, swap it for one of your normal days off from art. But be honest and actually move your Art Hours. And don’t make this a habit because you’ll start getting sloppy about keeping Art Hours.
As I said one of my side hustles is teaching about aggression in dogs. I loved that work for a long while, but one gets tired of working with unhappy dogs all the time. I had done enough work with them to have garnered a pretty generous cache of knowledge, so now I share that knowledge with people that are still in the trenches. That’s a way I can still contribute to the wellbeing of animals, something that is near and dear to my heart, but I can step away from some of the heartache that comes with working with troubled animals, even when your job is about helping them live happier lives.
These days I often paint the dogs of people that work with dogs, and that is a niche market for me. So I’ve been able to harness the knowledge of a former career into a support mechanism for my new career.
What do you know that you can lasso into that kind of a sweet deal?
Two Things I’m doing to promote my art with less social media.
If you try to figure out how to run an art business today, the big message is to get your ass on Instagram and get rich quick. In fact, as soon as you start posting about art on Facebook or Instagram, you start getting ads from people who have figured out how artists can make 6 figures their first quarter of their first year in business. Seriously?
The problem is, these people who are selling this line of caca doodoo are not making money doing art. They’re selling their “secret to success” to artists who are desperate to quit their day jobs and become full time artists. This is an age-old get rich quick scheme that used to take place through direct mail that came to your actual physical mail box, or laid wait in the backs of magazines. One such ad said Draw Me, and showed a sketch of a chipmunk named Winky, or a girl with a 1960s hairstyle, saying you could win a scholarship to art school if you could draw that picture. I did it when I was 12. Luckily they wrote back that I was too young.
Nowadays, the free courses that proliferate on Social Media are funnels to get you to take another course for $1,000 or $5,000. I took some of those courses in 2020 and 2021 when I got laid off my real job in the nonprofit sector during Covid. There is some good info in some of them, to be fair. The thing is, they’re all selling the same stuff, and it’s not art. They’re selling marketing courses. They’re all saying some version of “you can make a fortune with very little effort in hardly any time by giving money to us”. Yeah. Maybe there was this one guy this one time before Instagram cranked their algorithm down so tight that no one can get any organic traction anymore that made the big time. But it’s not happening now. Before I got kicked off of Instagram for posting cat videos on Facebook (yeah, that happened), I had been stuck at roughly 1,737 followers for months. I could not get the needle to move even though I’m incredibly awesome and posted amazing stuff. Yes, I know that’s not many followers, relatively speaking, but they were all organic, and were gained with about a year of daily posting, often multiple times a day. So many posts! But you used to be able to get tens of thousands of followers that way. Now you can only get those numbers if you buy them, and Instagram will limit your reach if you buy them. So, real, genuine artists trying to make a living are screwed.
The good news for us is that an artist doesn’t need a million followers. An artist needs a few collectors, especially if they are collectors who will share you with their friends.
Well, first of all, we don’t have to stop doing Social Media entirely. We just have to stop trusting those fellers completely with our businesses. Put SM in the back seat, and use it as a back up for your Apartish work. We can use it to enhance the other things we are doing. Which means we gotta figure out other things to do.
I’m terribly sorry to break this to you, but we need to start spreading our wings into the IRL world of person-to-person contact. Yikes, right? PEOPLING IS HARD! I’m not saying it isn’t. I’m so good at being at home with just my husband and my three cats it’s freakish. Well, no, it’s awesome because I’m happy. But it’s not going to sell my art. I’m a borderline Introvert/Extrovert, but the capital “I” is taking over more and more. Introverts are finally getting their moment on Social Media, I know, I know, but really this boils down to whether we want to do art for a living or not. Not all person-to-person stuff means you have to meet a stranger who isn’t receptive to what you have to offer. I’ll bet we can still do some of it from a little distance.
As I told you in my last posts, my husband has been going through some medical crap, and it’s turned out to be way more involved than expected. For the next couple of months I’m going to be sticking close to home with him, so I’m not going to go gallery hopping or schmoozing with the big kids in the Pittsburgh Art Scene. Mostly I need to figure out who the damn big kids are, and where they are, and what they have coming up. That’s something I can do from home.
Thing One: So, amongst my things to do is web searching to learn more about the Pittsburgh art scene. This will set me up to visit some galleries in the New Year.
Thing Two: My next experiment is launched. I ordered snail mail stamps from the post office that say “Thank You”, and I ordered printable greeting cards. I’m going to paint something for the New Year, print it on New Year’s greeting cards and send those suckers out to every one of my customers and anyone that comes to mind that might become a customer, or might know someone that might become a customer. This year I anticipate sending about 100 cards. Recipients will get a free print on a greeting card, a personal, handwritten message from me, and a discount coupon good throughout 2022. Can you stand it? How about if I provide 2 discount coupons so they can share with a friend?
I’ll let you know how it goes. The very worst thing that can happen is they’ll get something personal from me, which will genuinely come from my heart.
A Franken-Klingon and some small marketing steps for Aunt Kellie
May you endure the pain is a traditional Klingon greeting. Saying, “May you endure the pain” upon meeting is part of the Klingon basic etiquette. And goddamn it, my Niblings, altho I am not a particularly enthusiastic Star Trek fan, I love this. It stabs me in the heart when people diminish what you’re experiencing with lazy responses like, “Oh, it’s not that bad,” or “God never gives you anything you can’t handle,” when you’re going through something difficult. Fuck that. Sometimes you’re going through a thing. Saying it’s not a big deal is mean. “May you endure the pain” is a damn fine response to someone else’s suffering.
When your small business has been punched in the gut by Big Social Media, you really shouldn’t make any other plans. And, yet, damn it, even if you don’t, life will. At the time I’m writing this, my husband just had surgery to reconstruct his nose after some skin cancer nonsense. It ended up being a lot more involved than we expected. To top it off, it happened on the 6th anniversary of my mother’s death and the Trump election, so this week has been complicated to navigate.
It just not an option to stop doing marketing because of life. Well, within reason. I am a real live artist. If you art for a living, you’ve gotta sell art, too. I am emotionally exhausted, so there’s no way I was going to do anything big, but I would have felt worse if I did nothing at all.
Thing One I Did: Read a book, damn it.
So I started reading Art/Work: Everything You Need to Know (and Do) As You Pursue Your Art Career by Heather Darcy Bhandari and Jonathan Melber. The book is very yellow. Yellow is my favorite color. The first bit of wisdom I glommed onto from Art/Work is to figure out what your life/work schedule is going to look like and stick to it. Don’t try to fit arting around the other parts of your life because if you get off schedule for some reason, like, say, your husband’s face exploded, it’s really hard to get it back. Fit the other parts around your art life. This doesn’t mean you should neglect your kids or the job that pays the bills, if you have one… or your spouse’s nose. It does mean that maybe TikTok and true crime TV isn’t that big of a deal and studio time is a great big fucking deal. And besides. You like to art, right? Elevate your art time. It’s essential.
My husband is not supposed to lie down during this part of his recovery at all, not even to sleep, so after trying to retrofit our bed to accommodate this, he ended up sleeping in the pull-out chair in my studio. This meant there was no way I was going to go into my studio to paint today. That’s okay. I have computer work to do and a blog to write. Today I moved the chair to our bedroom, and I’ll be able to paint tomorrow. Today I write.
Thing Two I Did: Reaching out one-on-one.
I mentioned an artist named Jose Trujillo in my second post. After getting kicked out of Instagram where I followed him, I searched for him online and took a marketing course he offers on Teachable. Turns out he also lives in Pittsburgh, where I live. So, I decided to reach out to him by email and let him know that I wrote about him, and that I joined his email list so that I can attend future exhibits of his work. I’ll let you know if I hear back from him!
Revelation: I realized that I should do this any time I mention other artists or other small business owners. I wanted to reach out to the author of Art/Work also, but have been unable to find contact info. I will at least write a positive review when I finish reading it.
I’m feeling really good about this. Good reviews for artists (of all genres) that I like, and sending them some sort of contact letting them know they’re awesome, and maybe even collaborating with them, is a way to do good instead of just self-promoting.
Then I remembered someone else I used to follow on Insta. Her name is Lori Ruiz, and she does amazing watercolor paintings, and is a watercolorist and mixed media painter from Western Colorado. She is a self taught artist and nature enthusiast. She advocates for women supporting women within the creative community. She’s a cool person. So, I reached out to Lori by email, and asked if she would either let me interview her or write a guest blog. I hope we can work something out. I’ll let you know.
So Thing Two I Did was really three things, but they weren’t hard, they didn’t add to the stress on my plate. They just reached out to some real live artists and writers out in the universe. The worst thing that can happen is that they know I admire their work. The best thing is that they can also share my work or collaborate with me in some way.
I’ll let you know.
Thing Three I Did: I’m going to chill in front of the TV.
Despite what I said about prioritizing art time, our own emotional health is a huge deal, too, so I’m going to kick back and watch TV tonight. I’ll be searching for an art documentary or … I admit it … some true crime crap to watch. A glass of wine, something marginally healthy for dinner, and some down time with a cat over my shoulder.
I’ll be back in touch soon.
Oh, while I’m thinking about it, I also read up on the best times to post a blog. Apparently Tuesday afternoon and evening is best for social media sharing (ahem), and Sunday is best for less competition. So, I’ll have to experiment with that. I think I’m going to start with posting this on Tuesday afternoon, and sending out a reminder to the SM I’m still on this Sunday. I’m experimenting with Discord, LinkedIn, and may check out Mastadon. But this doesn’t mean I will be primarily marketing through any of them. I’ll get the value I can from them, but I’m focusing on the part that is outside of social media.
There’s a reply link at the top left of this post.
Yesterday in a spiraling of inanity that hit me after Meta divorced me, I hopped on TikTok. I haven’t posted anything of any import on there in a week, so, obviously the first thing I did was play with a filter where numbers spin on the top of your head and guess your age.
It naturally assumed I am eight.
This morning I was scrolling TikTok again, stressed for reasons outside of social media. Lo and behold, that post… THAT post… the goofy guess-my-age video I made with the Tiktok filter was removed from Tiktok BY Tiktok for breaking their own Community Standards. I’m not kidding or lying. All I did was use their own filter for a bit of idiotic fun, and they tagged me for a CS violation.
That’s my first strike. My appeal was to click the button saying I didn’t understand how I broke CS. I’m not expecting an explanation.
All this means is that we can’t trust ANY social media platform. It’s not just Meta. It’s all of them. Use them for fun, just don’t put any faith in them.
It may sound like I’m saying not to use social media for anything related to business. That would be a fruitless ask. (What year is this, really?) I sure plan to use social media for some stuff. What I’m saying is to go ahead and use it, but always assume it is on the verge of dropping you at any moment, without warning. The social media platforms tell you you can avoid punishment by adhering to their community standards, but as many users and former users can tell you, there’s no way to avoid breaking the CS. You have to assume you are at risk of being dumped at any time.
Heads up. You are.
When a video of a cat pushing a bowl off a countertop is flagged as bullying, and the user is jailed (suspended), as happened to me for one of my multiple Facebook jailings before the Meta divorce, it’s obvious there’s no rhyme nor reason to the standards. The rules are just the cat’s way of playing with prey. And the users that made them rich are the prey. That’s us. We’ve handed over too much control to those guys.
Some of you may be old enough to remember the little analog stuff we used to do to get attention for our businesses before social media was the presumptive approach to social anything. Do me a favor? Zap me a comment with any you remember. I might recycle them and let you know if I can figure out a way to tweak them and superpower them for the modern era.
In my first week since being jilted by Meta, I already broke a rule that has been pounded into my brain since I went full time into my art gig in 2020. Everyone has been telling me I don’t charge enough for my art. And maybe I don’t. But as I charged more, I sold less. So, I did a thing.
Charging more isn’t the whole answer. We’ve got to figure out what the question is. My question at the moment is how TF can I sustain and grow my fledgling art business when Meta has just taken away my customer base? Charging more doesn’t answer that question.
This week as I was reeling from my Meta Breakup (see my first post, link at the bottom of the page), I started looking outside of the Meta trap for some artists I had followed on Instagram. Frankly, I only sold a couple of pieces of art through Instagram anyway, My main sales were through Facebook. I was mainly on Insta to follow artists.
One of the artists I really enjoy is Jose Trujillo. (There is a link on his name, just hover.) I LOVE his artwork. It’s bright, playful, and has brushwork that I adore.
One of the most off-the-wall things he said was that if you need to make money, just figure out how much you can conceivably sell your art for, and sell it for that. Make it something valuable that you’re selling for less than you would ideally, in a dream world, sell it for. And honestly, that’s pretty cool, because you’re putting your art into the hands of someone who might love it but who might not be able to afford it otherwise. And they could tell their friends. And word of mouth is a good thing.
Lowballing yourself sounds totally messed up, right? Logically it seems like I should be charging more if I want to make more. But the truth is that in order to make more money you have to get your products moving into the hands of collectors. And that happens in two steps:
Make art that people want to own
At a price point they’ll easily pay.
The first part is not saying that the work has to be “good”. What does “good” mean, anyway? It’s completely subjective. We all like what we like, and if we like it enough to buy it, that’s good. Not “good enough”. That’s REALLY GOOD. Find somebody who wants to buy your shit, whatever it is.
Trujillo says. don’t just “put it on sale”. Leverage it for something you need to get out of it.
What do I need?
I need email subscribers. I cannot trust Facebook and Instagram. I’ve already been kicked out of them for no understandable reason. I was just starting to get leverage after 2 years in my art biz. The loss they arbitrarily caused STINKS. It takes a couple of years to get a new business to float in an ideal world, and honey, this world ain’t ideal. I was just starting to gain some traction, but I made a fatal mistake. I put my eggs in the Meta basket, and they hate Monty Python quotes. (See the first blog post for more on that. Link at end.)
I don’t want to annoy people with an email list, but I want to continue making art for a living. So, guess what? I won’t annoy them with an email list. I’ll give them something valuable for a price they’re comfortable paying.
I thought and thought about how much I could sell my paintings for that wouldn’t break the bank, and even did some math. But I didn’t feel comfortable with trying to decide what people are willing to pay. I think it was Miriah Coz who said, “Don’t look in your customer’s wallet! It’s not your business!” Granted, she said that while she was saying not to undersell yourself, but here we are.
But I knew who DOES know how much my collectors are willing to pay for my art. My collectors, and the people who will become my collectors know how much they are willing and able to pay for my art. Why not ask them?
NAME YOUR OWN PRICE
So, yesterday I posted to my Facebook account…. Wait, I didn’t tell you about that, did I? I managed to create an alternative Facebook account. I’m not confident it will last, but at this moment, as I write this, I have a new Facebook account.
So, yesterday I posted to my new baby Facebook account that is sitting on a razor thin tightrope, that if people would sign up for my email list, I would do an 8×10 painting commission for them that I would normally sell for $250, and they could name their own price, plus shipping. I created a cutoff of about 36 hours. I told them why I was doing it, and told them that they could unsubscribe at any time. Complete transparency.
I got 31 email subscribers before the time was up. Yes, I realize that means I have 31 paintings to do, but YAY. I love painting.
The first person not only offered to pay the full price, they went ahead and actually paid the full price. Boom. So, I made a solid sale, I have 30 other people lined up, and even if some can only do $0, I’ll be in good shape. Because now, along with the 48 wonderful collectors I already had on my email list, I now have 31 more. And some of those have referred me to their friends, so those are more potential collectors.
I now have a tool I know I can use occasionally when I need subscribers. I won’t use it often. It would not work if I were busting this routine out every month.
So there’s the first step on my recovery from Meta products. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what happens next.
Seven Things I Learned when Meta Disabled My Accounts
MY FACEBOOK DEATH NOTICE
On October 27, 2022, I opened Facebook from my phone and found a white screen with bold text that said my account was disabled. Not just that I was in Facebook jail for posting a Monty Python quote as usual. It was disabled. It didn’t work anymore. It was deceased. It was no more. And “its total lack of movement was [NOT] due to it bein’ tired and shagged out following a prolonged squawk.”
WAIT. Who the hell am I?
I am Kellie. Some people call me Aunt Kellie because sometimes people need a nutty old aunt who has seen some things, who loves them no matter who they love, no matter how they identify, whether they are neurotypical or not, if they have mental illness, if they’re recovering from religious abuse, are funny as fuck, and if they’re not. Sometimes you just need an old aunt, and not everyone has one, so I offer my services. Oh, my kids call me Mom, my husband calls me, “Ready to eat?” and my cats call me Lady.
Oh, yeah. There will be cursing.
And I am an artist. I had a growing art business doing commissions and selling artworks over the last two years since being laid off from a job that was doing its best to kill me. (That could be a whole blog of its own.) I took advantage of Covid to regroup and head off in a happier direction. And I was very happy.
But because of Meta I’ve hit a snag. I’ve decided to use this as AFGO. Another fucking growth opportunity. My plan is to drag you along on my journey to figure out how to fix this problem and prevent it from happening in the future. So, buckle your seatbelts. I’m going to be telling some truth up in here, and I’m not sure where it will lead.
So, I clicked the appeal button and Meta instantly (immediately, right away, without hesitation, pronto, lickety split) replied that the case had already been reviewed and this account was closed, no further actions possible. Kellie Sisson Snider, the account we once knew, was now dead. She was no more. No reason given. Just dead. NOT just pinin’ for the fjords. (If you’re not a Monty Python fan, you can assume that any obscure quotes are from Monty Python. They might not be, but I don’t know, it’s worth a try.) The account I opened in 2008 with all the memories, hilarity, feminist anger, and pet pictures passed down through the ages is no more.
Yes, I know if I contact HACK_ME@SCAMMER they can fix it for me. Right. Got it. Heard it before.
Black Knight: ‘Tis but a scratch. King Arthur: A scratch? Your arm’s off. Black Knight: No it isn’t. King Arthur: What’s that, then? Black Knight: [after a pause] I’ve had worse. King Arthur: You liar. Black Knight: Come on ya pansy.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
“I’m not dead yet!”
So here’s some stuff I’ve already learned about this situation.
(Oh, don’t act like such a smarty pants! You may not know some of this! Hell, you might not even agree with some of it! But tell me this. How well have all those art marketing trainings they hawk on Facebook worked for you? Did you make six figures your first month? I sure didn’t.)
LESSON #1: Marketing people always say that you must not rely on social media for your business, immediately before they sell you their program on how to build your social media marketing chops. I’m not a marketing person, but I’m going to lay some truth on you.
Truth: You can and should USE social media, but you MUST collect your CONTACTS in another way outside of the social media platform. If you have all your audience, content, photos, and other awesome shit on any given social media platform, they can take it away from you at any time. You don’t own the platform, even though, technically your content is copyrighted to you. They can shut you down. It happened to me. It can happen to you, too. Facebook is notorious for it, but other sites do it, also.
How will I collect my audience in a safe place? I’m going to explore that in future posts. Stay tuned, y’all, this blog is about figuring out what to do about this. I’m going to ignore some marketing wisdom, run with scissors, and maybe raise some hell, but whatever happens, I’m going to tell you about it. There could be data. In fact, just go ahead and assume there will be data. It will probably be collected on one Subject, Moi. But it will be data-esque. (I read this article today. It doesn’t have any data about me, but it was very good and includes some data.)
THE WEE HOURS PEE
My Facebook banishment happened at about 5am after my wee hours pee (There’s a reason it’s called The Wee Hours) so I didn’t register an emotional response. Or maybe my antidepressants are really working well at that hour, I don’t know. I checked Instagram, and it was still active, so I scrolled there for a while, pondering the state of my future under these new conditions before going back to sleep for a few hours.
When I woke up again I checked Facebook and found I was still persona non grata. So, I checked Instagram for comfort, and DAMN IT! Instagram flashed a message that said that said because my Instagram and Facebook Accounts were connected, and my Facebook account was naughty, I couldn’t play in Instagram either. Forever. It was dead to me. Instagram fired me, too.
My brain started clicking through the ramifications. My business account was inside my dead Facebook, and I used Instagram for business marketing. BOTH were gone. Gone, gone, gone. Just gone.
And all my friends were gone, too. So many friendships, just gone.
LESSON #2: If you have a business account on Facebook or Instagram, keep it separate from your personal account. Most small business owners let everything blend together for convenience. Meta encourages this and makes separation a real pain in the ass, but it’s really important to keep them separate if your business account is important to you. (Voice of experience.)
LESSON #3: Although Meta Business Suite makes everything super easy for scheduling things to both Facebook and Instagram, it also ties your accounts together. This means that if one of your accounts is accused of wrongdoing, as my personal Facebook account was, all of your Meta accounts will be at risk of being shut the fuck down as my Facebook and Instagram accounts were. (I told you there would be cursing. One time I wrote a novel and gave my aunt a copy. She went through and marked out all the curse words before she loaned it to people. That’s another story for another day. Yet, I told it to you just now. BONUS!!)
LESSON #4: Do NOT reuse the same email accounts you are using for your different Meta accounts as backup emails for other Meta accounts. Meta will not let you sign up for a new personal account with an email used on another account, but you can’t just rearrange the accounts to get them all onto separate platforms. For example, if you have an email account as your backup account for your personal Facebook page, don’t just delete it from your personal Facebook account and use it for your Instagram account or your Business page. Meta “remembers” all the phone numbers and email addresses you have ever used in the past, and will quickly figure out that your two accounts are connected. After that, if one of the accounts is disabled, they will also disable all your account(s). This happened to me, and they were able to quickly determine out that I was pure evil. More on that as I drag you along kicking and screaming on this treacherous journey of danger and hope. And trepidation.
You may be wondering why the hell Meta gave me the boot. I’m not 100% sure, but my suspicion is that it has to do with the following events. These took place over the past year, maybe even a bit longer, but they have a long memory.
I posted a video of a cat pushing a bowl off a countertop. It was considered bullying. I was jailed for a day. An appeal didn’t work.
I posted a meme about a rich guy named Johan Eliasch purchasing a bunch of Amazonian rain forest for a certain amount of money to protect it from deforestation. Facebook said their fact checkers could not verify the amount of money so they deemed the whole meme fake news and I got more jail time for posting fake news. An appeal didn’t work.
I posted to a friend in jest that if she didn’t stop whatever joking she was doing I was going to poke her in the eye. She got that it was a joke, but Facebook did not. I was jailed for about a week that time, I think. This was clearly inciting violence.
There were some other jailings that I was given, including one that lasted a whole month. Some just a day. Generally they went from a day to 3 days, to a week, to a month.
There were a couple of instances of my appeals working, and I was released from jail early. Just giving credit where credit is due and all.
The week before my account went to hell, I was jailed for posting a Monty Python quote in response to a Monty Python post, with the punishment due to last 72 hours. It was lifted after about a day. The quote was “A Witch! Burn Her!” (Don’t quote famous Monty Python Quotes. They go against Community Standards.)
Then they said I couldn’t like anything because I was constantly breaking Community Standards laws or whatever. Or maybe it had to do with loving too much. I just don’t know. That was supposed to last 30 days, and was only about half completed when I was given the boot. I feel jilted.
So, there isn’t a lot I would have thought to do differently. Oh, except that I completely stopped telling friends I would poke them in the eye, and I started misspelling things like “A Stitch! Durn her!” I used to be a grammar Nazi, and now I see that poor grammar and spelling are merely self-preservation strategies.
Where do I stand now?
At this moment I have created a new Facebook account using a separate email address and my passport. You can follow me on Facebook at Kellie Snider. We’ll see how long that lasts. (Some of you are getting ready to comment about how I should never show anyone my passport. Just please don’t. Just read the next lesson.)
LESSON #5: There are times when Meta will ask you for your personal ID. A drivers license, a government ID card, or a passport. This happens when you lose access to your account like by forgetting your password too many times or getting stuck after setting up two factor identification. They will keep it on file for up to a year. Seriously. I know. That sucks. But it’s true.
But, word to the wise, they will also request ID if you have been kicked out and are trying to set up a different account. This just happened to me. I used a different email account to set it up and didn’t enter a phone number, but since I only have one driver’s license, when they asked for ID because they said they suspected I was attached to a different account (they admitted this), I tried using my passport card. I was sure that that would be the end of Facebook for me, but the passport card worked, and for the moment I am back in. I have gathered a lot of contact info so I hope I don’t lose all my friends.
I don’t know if it was the Buddha or that guy on the Werther’s Candy Commercials, but, “Impermanence is forever”.
LESSON #6: Instagram will not let you join without giving a unique phone number unless your accounts are linked. And if your phone number is linked to an account that is disabled, you can’t use that phone number at all. Right now, Facebook will allow joining without a phone number, but I suspect it will also move to the phone-number-required model soon. I would need to set up a burner phone to do that, and I am just not motivated enough. I miss my artist friends over at Insta, and my behavior friends over at Facebook, but I’m not going to deal with that at the moment. I’ve found the primary ones on different platforms or have just moved to texting.
LESSON #7: Facebook and Instagram are already sewn together, but I fully expect their symbiosis to get worse, possibly melding into one entity at some point. Zuck is busy with his Metaverse fiasco at the moment so it might not happen this week or this year, even, but it is in process now. I’ll be interested to see how long it takes for them to either merge into one platform or, worse, merge into the Metaverse.
What’s the Next Step?
I’m going to share about the process of rebuilding my art business following without Meta Products. I don’t know what that will end up looking like. I already did one thing you’re not supposed to do as an artist, and it’s working nicely, so I’ll tell you about it soon and give credit where credit is due.
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