64 – Print on Demand with Dave Conrey

Dave Conrey is an artist and designer from Southern California, currently working towards building a client free creative business model. When he isn’t working on his own creative projects, he spends his time exploring new resources for creating and selling art and then shares what he learns with his fellow designers and artists. He also makes cool things so others can go make their things and put more cash in their pockets.

The number of things Dave does makes our heads spin. He paints, he designs posters, t-shirts, typefaces, magazines, he blogs, makes YouTube videos, now he’s even exploring NFTs, and about a zillion other things. There are so many things that we could talk about with Dave that we could record for hours and hours. But today, we want to introduce you to him and focus on print on demand and creating art and design challenges.

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Laura

0:06
Hi, this is Laura Lee Griffin.

Nikki

1:24
And this is Nikki May, with the Startist Society, inspiring you to stop getting in your own way and start building an art biz and life that you love.

Laura

1:24
We are artists who believe strongly in the power of community, accountability, following your intuition, taking small actionable steps and breaking down the barriers of fear and procrastination that keep you stuck.

Nikki

1:24
Follow along with us on our creative business journey as we encourage you on yours.

Laura

1:24
Dave Conrey is an artist and designer from Southern California, currently working towards building a client free creative business model. When he isn’t working on his own creative projects, he spends his time exploring new resources for creating and selling art and then shares what he learns with his fellow designers and artists. He also makes cool things so others can go make their things and put more cash in their pockets.

Nikki

1:24
I’ve been following Dave for a long time and the number of things that he does makes my head spin. He paints, he designs posters, t-shirts, typefaces, magazines, he blogs, makes YouTube videos, now he’s even exploring NFTs, and about a zillion other things. There are so many things that we could talk about with Dave that we could record for hours and hours. But today, we want to introduce you to him and focus on print on demand and creating art and design challenges.

Laura

1:27
Dave<, welcome to the Startist Society.

Dave

1:28
Thank you for having me, I appreciate it.

Nikki

1:29
Thanks for being here.

So we like to start off our interviews, Dave<, with asking our guests about their Startist story. So what has led you to become this amazing creator and designer that you are today.

Dave

1:45
So it’s a pretty long journey. I mean, you know, a lot of gray hairs have come and gone. But, you know, I’ve been doing design work since the late 90s when I graduated design school. And I started working with some small boutique firms. And then 911 happened and it kind of just crushed everything. I was working solo freelance for a long time, until I ended up getting a job working as an art director for a fairly large magazine publishing company. And I was basically, I would bounce around from magazine to magazine just doing whatever work needed to be done for a while, until I finally landed on a couple that I could stay with for years. But the thing about magazine art direction, is it’s not as beautiful, all the time. I mean, it’s really, it was a fun job, and I can’t complain about it, but the creative aspects of the job were fewer and further between than you might expect. And so I felt like at a certain point, while I was working on these magazines, just pushing out pages every single day that I was like losing my creative touch. So I decided to start dabbling outside, starting to do some abstract canvases, just to get some sort of creative flow. And one thing led to another, and I ended up doing a lot more of that. And I started creating some physical collages and then some digital collages and started selling on Etsy and started printing out stuff and going to different fairs and whatever to sell it. And then I started, blogging kind of at the same time, I was just kind of blogging about my experience, but also interjecting some of my knowledge of meaning in the design world, in the advertising world. And just marketing in general, what I’ve learned and I started just building up a little bit of a following in different places. Because of that, I started a podcast, not much different to what you guys have got going on, talking to people about kind of a similar subject matter. And it just kind of snowballed. And what I found out about myself is that I really enjoyed helping other people, like I really got juice from whenever somebody would take something I did and turn that into something, whether it’s actually just to go make something, or to actually start their their business journey, or to at least get past a particular hurdle that they may have gotten through or gotten stuck on in the past. And so that was going pretty well for a while. And then I remember the year, I think it was 2013, I’ll never forget this. It was shortly after, I guess it was probably around February of 2013. And one day I just sat down at my desk and it was just kind of fed up with doing the work in general. I wasn’t having a good time. It wasn’t really enjoying my coworkers in this one particular magazine that it was working on. We weren’t getting along well. And I sat down at my desk when I first walked in the door. And I sat down and said I just don’t want to be here. And I open up my email and there’s two emails in there and one of them is from the VP of pretty much everything in the company. You have an emergency meeting.

Nikki

5:07
Wait, I want that job title, VP of Pretty Much Everything.

Dave

5:10
Yeah, and I was like, I’d never met this guy before in my life. I knew his name, but I’d never met this guy. He didn’t work in our building. He worked in like a different state. And I was like, okay, that’s weird. But the thing was, the meeting was at like, 8:30. And here it was 9:15. I was like, I mean, I don’t check my emails from home. I wasn’t checking emails from home because I was one of those guys, I would like shuck all that work, that stays at the office when I leave. And then the second email was like, we have another emergency meeting of the entire motorcycle group, which is what I was working, I was working on a motorcycle magazine at the time. So the entire motorcycle group of our company was all getting together for an emergency meeting. And I was like, What is going on? And then nobody was there. Like nobody. I couldn’t see anybody, couldn’t find anybody. Until I saw one of my other art director, coworkers come around the corner, just with this sullen look on his face, and a big manila envelope in his hand.

Nikki

6:10
We know what that means.

Dave

6:11
Right? Yeah, it was just like, Oh, my God, what’s going on? And we’re like, Oh, my God. And then when they finally started to sink in, it was like, Yeah, this is really happening. This is really happening. Like, did I just manifest this? Before I even sat down and sent them they get in the computer. And before I turned it on, did I just manifest my own pink slip, you know, and I was like, everybody else was like, so upset and everything. And I was just, I mean, I was still a little in shock about it. But it was like, right, I was actually a little excited. I was like, but I didn’t know what to do. Because the meeting that I was supposed to be at, it already happened. I went upstairs to go see him to see that guy, but he wasn’t there. You know, VP of everything. You know, he wasn’t there in his office at the time. So he must have been…

Nikki

6:55
Where’s my severance package?

Dave

6:57
Right? Yes, I was like, whatever. So then I went to this meeting. And they basically told us that they had sold off the entire, like, our company had sold off the entire motorcycle group to another company. And that they were basically only taking the editors, and all the salespeople for the magazine. Like the people that generated income and the people that generated content, as an art director I wasn’t generating content, anybody could really do my job. And I ended up like, I mean, I just was like, it was just so surreal, eventually, you know, obviously had a conversation with HR and that guy came in and, and you know, VP of everything came in and gave me this severance packet. And I immediately went, I was like, This is so weird, right? And so my buddy who was carpooling with me, I drove, my buddy was carpooling with me. I said, Dude, you’re gonna have to find a ride home, I’m out. And then I had my laptop with me, because I always took it with me wherever I went. And I drove to the nearest Starbucks, like, not a quarter of a mile from where it was, I sat down, and I wrote down a blog post about the color of the day is pink. And it just essentially just set myself on that. Oh, and yeah, I’m gonna backtrack just a little bit. Like in February, before this happened. I’d written an article that basically said that I considered myself unemployable. Meaning that even though I am employed, I no longer feel like I could ever work for anybody else but myself.

Nikki

8:31
I know that feeling well.

Dave

8:33
Yeah, right. So here it is May, I think it was it was actually May when the layoffs happen. So it was several months later that I sat down and did that thing. And I was just like, oh my gosh, right. So here we are, we’re on this journey. Okay, I’ve got a big fat fat severance check because I’ve been with the company for 10 years. Let’s go do something. And…

Nikki

8:49
That’s kind of awesome.

Dave

8:50
That’s yeah, that’s kind of like, yeah, that was a long winded approach. But it’s I always found it, it’d be a good story.

Nikki

8:55
So what did you do next?

Dave

8:57
I mean, everything.

Nikki

8:59
Yes. And you’re still, and you’re still doing everything?

Dave

9:03
Yeah, no, I was still I was still blogging at the time, I was trying to sell some art prints here and there. But what I told myself at the time is that I was, in the blog, there was a series of blog posts that got a whole lot of attention. And it was essentially, you know, one of these listicles of like, five different places you can sell your art, it was like five different days of five different places you could sell your art. And so I took all of those posts, and I just expanded on them and went in detail. And I wrote this book, I self published my own book called Selling Art Online. And it’s still out there but it’s totally I mean, all the information is basically antiquated by this time, but…

Nikki

9:40
What year was this?

Dave

9:41
This was 2013.

Nikki

9:42
Okay.

Dave

9:43
So the landscape has changed dramatically. And I probably could go back and write it again, but I really don’t have the impulse to do that. But I should, I should, but I probably won’t. But, so I wrote that book, and then that mixex with the the podcast and all it just kind of like, just kind of like pushed me in this direction to just really like, not only to help myself, but also to help other people do their thing. And that went like that for quite a few years, until that got to a certain point where I was going to start another book about, you know, the practical applications of selling your art in a new digital world. And I started to write that book, but I thought to myself, you know, I need to be selling more art, like, I need to actually be doing more of this, because really, I was getting most of my money from like, affiliate income and, you know, like, some of these books sales and whatever, because I’ve written a couple books by that time. And I was like, you know what, I need to make more art, and start selling more art. And then I can say, Okay, this is the steps that I’m taking, and you can see my entire journey, and I started doing that. I was like, you know what, I’m really enjoying making the art again. And then that was just like, so I really got into that, and I started documenting more of that. And the podcast kind of fell aside, because I was no longer as interested in talking with other people, which is what I was doing on the show, I was more interested in just kind of documenting my own journey. And that’s the way it’s been ever since.

Nikki

11:10
And what kind of art were you making at that time?

Dave

11:13
At the time there was still a lot of digital collage. But it was more like, it was a little different than what I do now, where it was like, I would kind of just like, take pictures of things, and then cut them out and then collage them together onto a, you know, a Photoshop canvas. And now it’s like, I just kind of like pull stuff from everywhere. Like, I still take pictures or whatever. But this would be a be like, I’ll pull things from everything, I’ll destroy things, and I’ll put them back together, I’ll tear them apart or whatever. And it’s not much different. But it’s a little bit more, I guess, I would just say that I’m better at it now than it was before.

Nikki

11:47
Yeah.

Laura

11:47
Yeah.

Dave

11:48
You know.

Nikki

11:49
So I’ve mentioned, I listed a few of the things you do. And I know that there’s even more that I didn’t even mention, like, I guess it was last year sometime you did this whole series of painting on spray paint cans, which was awesome. And…

Dave

12:05
I don’t have them readily available or I’d show you one right now.

Nikki

12:09
But so we always hear that it’s important to niche down and focus in on one or just a few specific things. But you seem to just go all in on something new all the time, which I think is fantastic. And then you share and teach about what you just learned. So, I mean, what’s your process? Or how do you decide what to focus on next? Or do you just kind of follow whatever you’re curious about?

Dave

12:38
It is, okay, so here’s the thing that once I realized what my true calling was, it’s not necessary to make art. I mean, I feel like I’m pretty good at making art. You know, I’m not gonna be hung in Tate Modern anytime soon. But I do feel like I’m, I’ve progressed pretty good with my work. But that’s not my truest calling. And it’s like, I’m called to it because I can’t not create. I’m always doodling, making, doing something. I’m alway, I got my iPad near me all the time. Even on my iPhone, I’ve got the Procreate Pocket app. And just like, even if, like, if I get too fidgety, I’ll break that out and just like start messing around with it, even though it’s like, really difficult. It’s super challenging to do that. But you know, if I got to, I’ve got to.

Nikki

13:19
To draw with your fingers.

Dave

13:20
Yeah, pretty much, yeah. Yeah. But my real calling is the is the helping of others people, right? That’s really my thing. And so the way I look at this is that it doesn’t matter what all these other things I do. Right? If I want to talk about how to make digital posters, one day, turn around how to do things in alternative apps, like the Affinity suite versus Adobe Suite, or paint on cans, or you know, how to whatever, it all kind of comes full circle, because ultimately, I’m just trying to say, Listen, you know, this is all exploration. And we’re all trying to, you know, I’m trying to trying to figure out all this stuff, so that I can share what information I can with other people. But I also see that when I do jump into these other areas, I do jump into different mediums. One of my biggest goals was like trying to find the juxtaposition or the crossroads rather, of my design skill and my art skill, right? Because 10 years ago, if you looked at those things, they would be completely disparate. They wouldn’t even be connected at all right. But now as I’ve gone, they just kind of bringing themselves closer and closer and closer together. And I think that everything that I work on, whether I pursue it for a long period, or even a short period, all of those things are just helping me become a better artist in general. And they’re all working towards the main goal.

Nikki

14:45
Yeah, and I can totally see that in your work, you definitely have… and I have that exact same thing. I’m both an artist and a designer and I’ve done the same thing, my two separate things have merged into one, whether I want them to or not. So I can definitely, I can definitely see that in your work as well.

Dave

15:03
Yeah, yeah, the whether I want to or not. And sometimes that’s a little bit of a struggle sometimes too is like,

Nikki

15:09
Do you find, like I do that, that sometimes I want to be looser and let the art side come out, but the designer who wants everything to be perfect, kind of keeps that from happening?

Dave

15:23
Yeah, especially in the design side, for sure. You know, because, you know, I, you know, magazine design is very, you know, I wasn’t allowed to be David Carson, right, you know, right. And for anybody who’s unfamiliar, David Carson was a designer, is still a designer, but he was he was kind of an up and coming designer in the late 80s, early 90s. And really is responsible for kind of opening everybody’s eyes to some pretty radical design alternatives in magazine publishing, and every designer, every magazine designer back then probably had some aspirations to a certain degree to be that kind of expressive. So everybody wanted, in fact, I’m looking over here, I’ve got end of print, which is his first book, just sitting right here, just conveniently sitting right next to me, right. But um, you know, like, everybody wanted that. But it was like, unrealistic that that was going to happen for…

Nikki

16:12
The editors and publishers didn’t want that.

Dave

16:15
Yeah, well, I mean, he purposely, you know, would legitimately go out of his way to make things illegible on, because he was interested in how it looked on the page, rather than whether it read well, or not. But there is that learned behavior that we have, with the design side, the grid based design, everything, you know, boxed in with everything, and so, there’s oftentimes I’ll just be, I’ll be designing something, and I’ll just completely shut off the, it’s all analytical, it’s almost like it’s left brain design. Like, yeah, the right brain stuff just disappears. And, and then I’ll look at it and like, from a design standpoint, it’s aesthetically okay. But it doesn’t feel like me. And so I’ll have to go back in and just like, you know, throw spray paint on it somehow, you know, like cut something up and just destroy it. You know, even, I’m doing a course right now on how to build handwritten fonts. And, you know, because this wasn’t something easy for people to do in the past, but it’s actually a lot easier now. So I’m doing a course on this…

Nikki

17:25
I’ll take that course.

Dave

17:27
Coming soon, very, very soon. So if I’m creating bumpers that go with videos, you know, between the cutscenes or PDFs that are downloadable stuff that people have to go with the course, like, I catch myself, you know, like just designing regular designer stuff. And then, like, have to go back and like, okay, that’s not what this should look like, you know, because it’s like, you know, when you see my video, I’m a little bit chaotic, in, in a good way, right? I’m trying to be fun, trying to be entertaining, trying to be a little bit fast paced. And, you know, like, I want that same energy in the stuff that I’m putting out, right. And it should reflect everything, everything about my personality, everything about my artistic skill should come through in everything that I’m putting through. And so I have to check myself often, even just on those little things.

Nikki

18:15
Well, I love, I love your idea of wanting to build a client free creative business, because, I mean, you don’t have clients telling you to stay in that box. So you have all the freedom in the world to break out of it.

Dave

18:31
Yeah, you know, and that’s, it’s just been one of the it’s one of these things where you like self realization, right? Self awareness is such a big, big, big part of how I’ve become what I’ve become. And not that I’ve become anything super fancy, but it just makes me… I’m more fulfilled now as an artist and designer, because of that self awareness. And understanding that I’ve just, I don’t know if I have the gene inside me that says, it’s okay to say yes to a client, right? It’s or it’s okay to accept a client’s input, right? Or to not be combative when they do put their input in. Right. And, you know, it just never gave me joy. And there were plenty of clients who were good clients. Plenty of clients who were good clients paid. Well, you know, but the work didn’t give me joy. I never felt like I was really that into it. And I never felt like anybody wanted design from me the way I wanted to design. I always felt like I was hedging a little bit to compensate, right. They appreciated my level of skill, they didn’t necessarily want what I was designing. And so…

Nikki

19:44
They didn’t want what made you unique in your design.

Dave

19:47
Exactly.

Laura

19:48
Yeah. Okay, so the pink slip happened and it ended up being like, a positive thing in disguise, right. And you started on your own and you realized I love helping people that where I get my juice? So how, after leaving sort of a steady paycheck? How have you diversified your income today so that you can support this thing where you don’t have to have clients that you get to do all the artwork and the design work that you love.

Dave

20:15
Lot of fingers in a lot of pies, right, I mean, a lot of fingers and a lot of pies, a lot of very small pies, you know, like, and so like the books, the books still sell, even though they don’t sell as well as they used to, the books still sell. I’ve done, I’ve done I’ve experimented with pretty much every type of print on demand, we’ve talked, we’ll talk about this, I’m sure but every type of print on demand, whether it’s going through, like doing a print on demand directly to an Etsy shop, or to something like Red Bubble, or Teespring, or TeePublic or whatever, Amazon’s KDP, I mean, I have all of these different things in those ways, just generating small bits of income here and there.. I’m also I’m on YouTube, and I earn income from YouTube, you know, I, I’ve had some sponsorships, not a lot, but I’ve had sponsorships from that. I have a Patreon account that, kind of started because it was doing the YouTube thing, but really is kind of like all encompassing of everything. And, and now I just, I mean, on top of that, I sell everything I sell, you go to my website, and I sell, you know, merchandise like shirts and mugs, and also art prints or posters. And then I sell digital assets that I’ve created, that are, you know, to help other people do things, you know, textures and now fonts and, and other things. And so I’m always reaching for little things, just to kind of, you know, because I’ve always been a little bit fearful of only having, you know, like, all your eggs in one basket, right, you know, but it was like, it really is a cliche. Right, you know, I mean, even it’s just a couple of eggs in a couple of baskets is just like it always, it just always got to like, you know, it’s like, I just need to make sure that that you like because what happens if that doesn’t, you know, happen there? Right. So

Nikki

22:03
So is there one thing that’s your that’s a higher percentage of your income? Or is it truly just really spread all over the place?

Dave

22:12
I mean, the the website is obviously my biggest source of income, you know, and it’s pretty consistent. Well, I wouldn’t say that. It’s actually not consistent. It’s consistently my biggest income. Let me put it that way. It’s, it’s not inconsistent at all right now. But you know, like, it’s such a weird, weird time, it was so weird, because you, you know, a lot of people went into 2020 and 2021, you know, like, worried about what was going to happen with their income and my income skyrocketed during 2020. I don’t know why I honestly don’t know why, but my income skyrocketed. It’s dwindled down since but, um, you know, it’s, it’s still consistently better than anything else. And then second from that would be the YouTube. You know, it’s not crazy money. But it’s really, it’s pretty reliable money that helps me, you know, earn some income, you know, plus some of the sponsorships here and there.

Nikki

23:03
Nice.

Laura

23:04
So we just actually had a podcast all about print on demand. And you’ve mentioned all these different avenues for print on demand that you’ve tried. You’ve done the marketplaces, it looks like you’ve done the print on demand on your own website using a service. Right? What do you recommend for those that are first getting started in POD? And what is your experience been on that?

Dave

23:24
So the second part of that question is huge. But my first recommendation would be for people to just get their feet wet in something, whether it’s Red Bubble, or you know, I would start there just to get an idea of how it works. The thing is, is that don’t go in with the expectation that you’re going to be making lots and lots of money there because it that is a Red Bubble, Society6, TeePublic, any one of those sites where it’s like, you just add your work, it’s free to join, easy to get in it, but it is a numbers game with that. And it really is about, it’s figuring out the algorithm. It’s figuring out the trends. It’s figuring out what your niche is, if you want to hit a particular niche, and really getting deep in that and if you want to go there you can I know people who are making reasonable income on doing just that. But it does take a lot of work. However, it’s a really good jumping off point to get started in understanding how print on demand works. So that you can at least get a feel for it. And then you I mean, there’s nothing that says that you can’t have your designs there. And also have your designs on say Etsy, right, and what I’ve actually talked to this one guy, his name is Juno, and he goes by Detour Shirts, on YouTube and on Instagram and other places, Detour Shirts, but he he’s basically said that what he does is design for Red Bubble and Merch by Amazon. And when he finds something that hits, he’ll take that and put that on an Etsy page. Right? And then like, because then he knows like it’s working because the algorithm is working, the search is working. And so if people are searching RedBubble for that, then they’re definitely going to be probably, well, they’re not definitely, but they’re highly likely going to be searching Etsy for it. And so he’ll go and integrate his I don’t know what service he uses to integrate into Etsy, but you can use the top ones are Printful.com, Printify.com, which is the one I’m currently using. I always forget what the other one is. There’s Gooten. There you go. And that’s another one. Those are the top three.

Nikki

25:45
Those are the three that I use for sure. So that’s interesting. That’s really clever.

Dave

25:50
Yeah, so that’s just one, I mean, that’s that’s the way I would do it, you know, go from Red Bubble to either the, you know, the service provider connected with Etsy or the service for connected to WooCommerce, Shopify, Squarespace one of those options, which I use Shopify, Printify to Shopify. I do all the ify…

Nikki

26:11
Laura, and I use WooCommerce. And I’ve got Printify, Printful, and Gooten all hooked up to my WooCommerce.

Dave

26:19
Nice.

Laura

26:21
I’m super scared about figuring out the shipping. That’s the thing that’s sort of held me back on getting my stuff started…

Nikki

26:26
Oh, it’s horrible

Laura

26:26
stuff started because WooCommerce and the shipping and then all those platforms, and if you sell your own products, as well, how all of that works. And yeah,

Nikki

26:35
There’s no elegant solution.

Dave

26:36
No, there is not, especially when you’re going in, especially if you’re going directly to Etsy, because that’s the you know, they really threw a wrench in the system, when they started asking people or rather, like, demand-ask people to, you know, do free shipping on you know, anything, whatever. 35 bucks or over? And it really, you know, like, sometimes, like, if you use the the Printful, or Printify standard shipping, sometimes Etsy will say, hey, just like, you know, this is a more higher than what most people would charge for shipping. It’s like, well, I didn’t write the thing.

Nikki

27:12
Yeah, we know, we know, thanks Etsy.

Dave

27:15
You know, so what I’ve done on my website at least is I just do flat, I just do flat, reasonable shipping. Um, you know, I try not to gouge anybody

Laura

27:26
By country, or, how does that work?

Dave

27:28
I’ve actually set up to three regions. I have United States. And then I have it’s Canada, Mexico, and then everywhere else. Right. The thing is, is I know that everywhere else is probably Australia. England, you know, UK? And, you know, like, maybe a handful of others. You know, some are EU, right? The, I’m not getting a ton of, you know, I’ve sold to Vietnam once, probably in my life. Right. And, you know, like, if I paid a little extra in shipping for that one, whatever, you know, like, it’s, it’s one of those lost leader things like, okay, sometimes you’re going to eat it on that, but I just charge a flat, reasonable, you know, as reasonable as I can get from, but I’m also not afraid to kind of look at things like, you know, when you do a print on demand t-shirt, the biggest issue that some people have with t-shirts is that they have an idea of how much a t-shirt should cost. Right? And it’s like this weird thing that t-shirts should only be $20 which is so bananas to me, because when I was a teenager, you know, wanting to go buy shirts at my local surf shop near me, they were $20. This is the 80s, it’s now 40 years later, and we’re still only looking at t-shirts to cost $20. It just doesn’t make sense.

Nikki

28:52
Wait, I have to recover from the fact that the 80s was 40 years ago.

Dave

28:59
Right it is now. You know, like it’s just one of the things I like the there’s this you know, I believe in the consumers’ mind there’s this misconception that you know, this is all the things should cost and especially, you know, when we’re talking about buying stuff from artists and designers small manufacturers you know, if all you were doing was making t-shirts that say live, laugh, love well then okay, I’m not going to spend more than $20 on that because I know that you know even though they cost the same, but it’s all relative, right? But that’s why you know, when I design something it’s like I’m putting every last essence of myself in the work

Nikki

29:34
And it’s not one of a kind but it’s still very unique.

Dave

29:38
Yes, absolutely.

Laura

29:39
Well and I’ll tell you my nephew is actually really into urban fashion and he played he’ll he’ll pay like 80 bucks for a t-shirt if it’s something he loves. So there’s this weird…

Nikki

29:49
what’s his email address?

Laura

29:53
But it’s a really weird gap right between like some brands can just you know, have really high but but on print on demand and stuff and in general people just think that you should pay $15 or $20 like you’re saying,

Dave

30:05
I think establishing that, you know, and there’s no rules that say you had to have established it long before. I think about this brand that I follow pretty closely, mostly because I follow the, one of the founders of the company called The Hundreds, that streetwear brand. And they, you know, you can’t get a t shirt there for less than $40. Your, you know, I have a sweatshirt from them, and it cost 90 bucks. Which is crazy. Because I’ve never bought a sweatshirt for more than $30 I think in my life, maybe maybe 40 If I was really really really had to have it, but $90. But the thing was, here’s the thing. I didn’t buy from The Hundreds because the sweatshirt was really cool. It is cool. But I didn’t go to The Hundreds just to buy a sweatshirt. I went to The Hundreds because Bobby Hundred’s the founder of the company is one of these guys that I’ve just have a, you know, a social media connection with, somebody that I really appreciate his view, his voice his, what he shares with the world. I went there, I bought that because of him. There’s so many other streetwear brands out there that I could have bought from and I could have spent a lot of money on, but I bought from him because I like him. And so that’s really kind of the point of view that I take on this is like, I don’t expect to sell thousands and thousands of shirts. I just expect to sell a few shirts, few mugs, art prints or whatever to people that really appreciate who I am.

Laura

31:31
And then are those the primary things that you sell then art prints, mugs, T shirts on your website right

Dave

31:36
Right now at least on the website plus all the digital assets. Right, right. And then of course, NF T’s

Nikki

31:43
But as far as print on demand. It’s mostly. Yeah.

Dave

31:47
And it’s really the T shirts, the prints and the mugs, that kind of thing. I almost wanted to push away for the mugs a little bit, but people buy, like I swear the mugs are almost like the the most consistent thing on my shop. People buy mugs, and they buy shirts. And you know, I mean, they buy art, but the art has a really good margin you know so you know, I can sell less art and still make good money on that for sure.

Laura

32:09
And you mentioned that you’re using printify Right now, is that correct? That’s gonna fi Yeah, I’ve been I’ve been debating between Printful and printify. But printify has a lot more products, I think they maybe have more suppliers or something.

Dave

32:21
So here’s the thing, here’s the thing that my measure with Printful and Printify. And you know, I’m not trying to sway anybody one way or another, you could do what you want to but Printful has a really good connection with the entire industry. Like if you go and look at their, their connections to other ecommerce platforms, they have significantly more ecommerce platforms than Printify does. Printful is also its own company like so when you send the order they print it. They’re the ones that do all the printing, Printify is kind of an arbiter. They’re a third party that connects to other print shops, right? And so they’re their e commerce solutions are much more limited. The thing about Printful is that they’re more expensive. And yeah, when you look at it, you know, a lot of times pound for pound there, that can be 20 30% more than some of these other companies. You know, it just depends on the product,

Laura

33:12
But their quality might be a little bit more consistent.

Dave

33:15
You know, it’s funny, I have had, I had more issues with Printful than I did with Printify. Like, I’ve never had anybody returned anything in print while I’ve been using Printify. Now, maybe they haven’t told me but

Nikki

33:29
First of all, none of the big ones have a whole lot of issues, they do a really good job. And if there are issues, they take care of it really quickly. But I think I’ve probably had equal issues with all the different companies. But what I find is you kind of have to do a little trial and error with different products. And like, you know, I like Printify’s phone cases better than Printful. But I like Printful’s T shirts better than Printify and you know Printify has more unique mugs styles with the latte mugs versus the standard mugs that everybody has. So yeah

Laura

34:09
So that’s why Nikki has three different providers on her website.

Nikki

34:11
Yeah, and that’s why if you buy from Nikki’s website, your checkout page is gonna have like three lines of shipping from different companies and it’s really confusing.

Dave

34:22
Yeah, you know, it’s, it is one of those things. And, you know, the reason I even went to Printify in the first place was that during the middle of the pandemic, Printful got hit, like, like a Mack truck. Because, you know, everybody was gone, and their entire company was down, right? They had to shut down the entire company, like a lot of companies did. Printify had a little bit more leverage because they were working with different…

Nikki

34:47
They’re so spread out.

Dave

34:49
Right. And so they had a little bit more leverage there and there was a period there where Printful’s production time was like 30 business days for a t-shirt. Business days. So like you’re looking at like seven weeks to get a t shirt or something like that

Nikki

35:06
When normally, under normal circumstances, they all turn them around really quickly.

Dave

35:10
Yeah,, really quickly. Yeah, really quickly. Like I remember one time putting in an order with I don’t remember who it was, it was one of the two is a Printful, Printify, but the t shirt order came in. Before, like, within six hours, it had been processed and packaged, or at least ready to go out the door before the even the end of the day. It didn’t, you know, like the mail that will probably already come. So they couldn’t do anything about it. But like it was already ready to go within the same day. And that’s that’s happened a few times. And it’s just like, that’s just amazing. They’re that they’re that on it? Right? So, you know, I, I wouldn’t discourage anybody from checking out all three, you know, and, you know, they all do really good work. It’s just a matter of like, you know, where you want to, you know, put time and energy. And you know, focus if you’re first getting into print on demand. Pick one. Don’t do all three.

Nikki

35:59
Yeah, don’t get overwhelmed. Just pick one that look, that feels to you.

Laura

36:03
That’s what I’m gonna do I’m gonna get one. I actually had picked Printful. But now you might be convincing me to use Printify.

Dave

36:08
Naw, just just to Printful just do Printful, right. And then if you, as you start to get more comfortable with it, then go look at the other ones. Because you will get, just get that analysis paralysis, right? Oh, well, maybe well, they do this different than this over here.

Nikki

36:28
Well, Laura does have a special skill in overthinking

Laura

36:31
I do. I do.

Dave

36:33
I would just do Printful and then let it ride.

Laura

36:35
But here’s the thing, when people are just getting started. It can be really intimidating if you had just started your own website, right, like, and then now you’re trying to create an e-commerce shop and connect all of that with Printful or Printify. So I think that’s why some people choose something like Society6 first, because they don’t have to worry about the tech side of things.

Dave

36:55
Yeah. The thing about that is that what and this is a lesson I’ve learned a long time ago, is that that’s a viable, that’s absolutely viable, even just to do it to Etsy, right? Still viable, because you have a connection to Etsy’s algorithm for search and all that stuff that you will not get on your own website. Right. But at the end of the day, those customers, they belong to the platform. They’re not your customers. You don’t have any recourse for being able to reach out to them directly. Yeah, I mean, yes, sure, you can send a message to somebody on Etsy, but what’s the chances of being able to, you know, like, say, Hey, I gotta, you know, you’re not going to do one message at a time to every person that’s ever bought from you saying, Hey, I’ve got a sale coming on, or something like that. But if you bring them into your website, you know, pull their email address, or, you know, ask them gently for their email address. You know, and then you have that ability. You know, so many years ago, on my podcast years ago, I spoke with a woman who was on Etsy, and then also her at her own website. And this is actually what sent me on the path of me doing my own thing for the website was, and she, she had told me, I said, Why do you have both? And she said, Well, you know, I’m trying to move more people over to my website, because she was getting more of a name for herself. And she, she made like, these really nice wool device sleeves. So I found her because I bought like, I had a Kindle, and I wanted to sleeve to put my Kindle in. And, you know, just kind of went, you know, founder that way. But she made these really nice ones. And she was finding a name for herself, like she was had connections, or she had made a collaboration with Room and Board. And she was getting found on all these different, you know, bloggers, websites, and also some different magazines that relate to accessories and, you know, fashion and all that stuff. Anyway, so I said, why so why not just kill off the Etsy or want to just like, stop use Etsy. And she said, because the Etsy algorithm is just too strong. It’s just too powerful. I’m getting attention from these other places because of Etsy. They’re not finding me because of my website. They’re finding me because Etsy and then going over there.

Nikki

39:04
So let’s, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about how you get how you get found how you market your own print on demand stuff and how you how you get found on your own platform. Do you have any, any insight for us, any?

Dave

39:17
Oh, man, you know, it’s just I was a big subscriber, for a long time to the whole Gary Vee mentality of be everywhere, right? For many, many years, I’d done that. You know, look, I was on every single platform out there.

Laura

39:36
That sounds exhausting.

Dave

39:40
I mean, it’s super easy for Gary Vee to do it because he’s got, you know, a team of 18 people. All he has to do is sit there and be a loud mouth on the camera, and then they’ll…

Nikki

39:49
And it does it so well.

Dave

39:51
Right. So, you know, it’s just, I think, at a certain point, again, this is self awareness, also, you know, but it’s like realizing where your people are at, you know, and but then also having respect for your own energy. Right your own you know what, what suits you and what makes you feel good? Because I was actually starting to, in fact Nikki, I don’t remember if you found did you find me on TikTok first or on Instagram first .

Nikki

40:19
Instagram.

Dave

40:20
Okay, so I’m on TikTok.

Nikki

40:21
I barely ever look at TikTok.

Dave

40:24
I’m the same now actually. But I was doing really well during them being a load pandemic or I was actually before the pandemic. But middle of pandemic I kind of blew up a little bit, a little bit not not crazy, but I really kind of had hit a hit a surge. And I was enjoying it for a while. But then I was noticing that I wasn’t making as much stuff. I was like spending more time scrolling through other people’s TikToks And you know, doing stupid videos and not really focusing my energy and then you just like for a while there was just like, this is just not suiting me. It’s not doing me well. It’s like, I don’t feel as good about this. And so yeah, I kind of pulled away from that.

Nikki

41:00
I think you have to be 18 to feel really good about TikTok.

Dave

41:03
I know some people that have blown up on there, but I think that they also like, you know, you get wrapped up in the weird kind of socio politics of things in there sometimes it’s just like, this is just not fun. But

Laura

41:13
Yes, and how much of that traffic really converts, you know, into a paid customer.

Dave

41:18
Actually, so what really worked for me on TikTok wasn’t necessarily the videos that I would do, but it would what it was when I would go live on on TikTok. And that built up quite a bit of following there for a while, that, like people would come in and you know, participate. And we would have a good time. And I mean, going live is fun with when you’ve got a bunch of friends hanging around. And, you know, it wasn’t meant to be like, hey, buy my stuff. But it was just like, you talk about things and you get commiseration with people and they feel good about things and they want to go do their own thing. And they turn around and go, just like I said, they might not necessarily have their own side hustle. But, you know, they listen to me long enough and they get you know, get juice from me. Then they turn around and go buy a Do The Work mug. Yeah, I don’t have a sweatshirt on me right now. But, you know, they’ll go buy a mug right? After they, after they heard me talk for a while. So I actually did pretty well because of that, during the pandemic. And that was good for a while. But then TikTokchanged the algorithm. And I wasn’t getting nearly as many people in my lives as I as I was before, wasn’t get as much discovery, as the story usually goes. So not as much vibe there. And so I was like, Well, my energy isn’t as well spent here anymore. So you know, I turned to YouTube, which was a lot more easier, because I wasn’t, you know, it was more like, I felt like I could control my energy, as I’m sitting here trying to express myself in different ways. And, you know, I’d always been on YouTube, but I really turned my energy around and started focusing on there a lot more. And that between that and Instagram, which I have a love hate relationship with because I don’t particularly appreciate the company. But I understand that Instagram is one of these, you know, like, you know, must have evil things.

Laura

43:04
A necessary, evil.

Dave

43:06
Exactly. There you go, thank you

Nikki

43:07
You do a lot of Instagram Stories. And then I was just showing Laura, the other day, all of all of the things that you talk about on on YouTube, you have lots of great instructional things about Shopify, Etsy, Affinity, all kinds of things. So, I mean, I’m guessing all of those things drive traffic to your website.

Dave

43:35
Yeah, to a certain degree. Yeah. You know, and especially if it’s like, yeah, I especially with the, with the design oriented tutorials, like when I’m talking about Affinity, and people really appreciate that. But then I turn around and say, Hey, I’ve built this thing, this digital asset that you can use in Affinity or Photoshop or whatever, you can use this thing. And here’s how you use it. And here’s, you know, here’s what I do with it. And I only build stuff that I would actually use myself. Like, there’s a lot of places out there that will build a bunch of stuff that just like, you know, it’s like, but do you actually design like that? Is that something you would actually put on your own work? And, like, I just, you know, I so many times I, I’ve told myself, like, oh, maybe I should do a thing like this, because I saw somebody else do it when I like, shake my head at myself, because I was like, No, I’m not gonna do that. But yes, so YouTube drives traffic, Instagram will drive traffic, and, you know, to the website or whatever. And I think it’s really again, it just comes down to the more I show up in a way that is meant to help somebody do something, then, you know, I’m always going to get somebody coming around. And if they don’t buy a digital asset, then they buy an art print or they buy a poster, right?

Laura

44:44
Yeah, yeah. We actually interviewed Lisa Glanz a while back on digital product creation. She does a lot of Procreate brushes and things like that.

Dave

44:53
Yeah. I’m very familiar with her.

Nikki

44:55
Character development things.

Laura

44:58
Yeah, yeah. And I probably own all of them.

Nikki

45:03
There’s no probably about it.

Dave

45:06
Yeah, I know about her because of the Honest Designers show that she’s on with with

Laura

45:12
Right with Tom. Yeah.

Dave

45:13
And it was actually through them that I applied to Design Cuts, right. I applied design goods, and I have some of my graphic assets on there because of that podcast, right?

Laura

45:23
Oh, that’s awesome. Yeah. So you said you sell textures? And what other what? What kind of digital assets? You said textures and fonts?

Dave

45:31
I have one font available. Now. I’m actually building a handwritten type face right now. Because well, I’m doing it for this course that I’ve got that it’s not out yet. But it’s coming. But I’m building like, an I don’t. Is this? Is this video going live? Or is it just audio? I don’t even know. It’s just audio. We can show an image of it though. Okay, I’ll take a picture. But there’s a, you know, pretend I’m holding up a sheet of paper with a bunch of handwritten scribbles on it. And so that’s,

Nikki

45:58
I just grabbed a screenshot of it.

Dave

46:02
So I, I’m doing that. Yeah. So I’m building fonts for that. And I’m building, you know, I built the other font just because I’m like, Hey, I wonder what would happen if I took Helvetica, which is definitely absolutely my favorite typeface in the world. If I took Helvetica, and just, you know, I just turned it on set, I just tried to screw with it and make it you know, my own right. And so I made that for that reason, and I want to experiment with it. And that actually, what, that’s the reason why I started the whole course in the first place is because of that, because of like, Oh, I know how to do this, I’m going to share it with everybody else. But yeah, but um, so I have textures. And I like gritty stuff. the textures that I bring in are things that I’ve actually experienced in my own, you know, area, like, like I did a whole one that’s just, it’s called stained. And it’s all just distressed concrete from my entire city, like I walk around my city, I just take pictures of like, whether it’s stained by paint, or oil, or weathered by rain or whatever, and I just took a bunch of pictures of that and just, you know, converted them so that they would turn into something nice to you know, to use as textures. I created a whole, like, I go around, take pictures of like, all kinds of distressed type, like stickers that are torn apart, or signage that just kind of got wears.

Nikki

47:19
You show a lot of that in your, on your Instagram, too. I really enjoy that.

Dave

47:23
Yeah. So I just pull all these assets, as I see. And I was just like, I have all these things. Why aren’t I not putting them together for other people to enjoy? Or to use? Yeah, great. Yeah. So and then I’ve experimented with some like like add ons to the, like, I only do an affinity but where you can drop in like, like a color overlay? What am I thinking? Or like a gradient overlay. So you know, you can add some gradient over those pieces and whatnot, things like that. So

Laura

47:53
Well, we’ll definitely link to your website, as well as your Design Cuts assets, because we’re big Design Cuts fans over here.

Dave

47:55
Yeah, for sure.

Yeah, I need to I need to update so badly. But yeah,

Nikki

48:04
I want to switch gears a bit because we, we, we can talk to you for hours, but we’re coming up on an hour already. Okay. And we really want to talk about about art and design challenges. And I participated in the Shirtember Challenge that you started just last fall for print on demand and where you had, you did it yourself and you had other artists create a t shirt design a day to sell on whatever print on demand platform they were comfortable with. And I loved it. I loved it. I really did.

Dave

48:39
Good, I’m glad you had a good time with it.

Laura

48:41
Yeah, you came up with some really cool designs, Nikki.

Nikki

48:44
Thanks. Thanks. And you know, I didn’t have a ton of time. And I thought it was a great challenge to participate in, because what I could do is I could take drawings that I had already created, but turn them into t shirt designs and not just slap a design on a t shirt. I had a lot of fun with creating like an all over t shirt design. Anyway, but we want to talk about what it was like to create the challenge, to promote it and you even participated in your own challenge. Where did the idea come from? How did that go for you?

Dave

49:18
You know, it’s it’s funny, I was like trying to remember exactly where the name, I was already doing a poster a day challenge.

Nikki

49:25
I remember, but that was mostly, you kind of set that up for yourself, right?

Dave

49:29
Just for myself, just like a daily challenge do daily poster day for daily challenge, just to because you know, why not? Right? Stretch the legs every day in a certain way. And I don’t remember exactly what the what was the cause of me thinking about it, it probably just, you know, like, shower thoughts right in the middle of a shower, right.

Nikki

49:50
Inktober.

Dave

49:52
Well, it wasn’t you know, like I knew I wasn’t gonna do Inktober this year or this past year because I’ve done it years in the past and I was just like, I’m not gonna do it. But I knew that if I was going to do a challenge, I wanted it to be like, if I was going to encourage people to do a challenge, I want it to be more than just, hey, let’s draw things.

Nikki

50:11
Right.

Dave

50:11
Right. Let’s draw things so that we can make things so that maybe we can put a little coin in our pocket. I mean, I really wanted it to be more enterprising than just the idea of making stuff, because everybody does make stuff challenges, which is cool. If you want to do 100 Day challenge Inktober, whatever November is, I feel there’s another name for November, like you could do these every day, every year. Right?

Laura

50:36
Well, I mean, the drawing ones are a great place to start. Then it’s like taking it to the next level, right?

Dave

50:42
Yes. Yeah. And I think it’s just, it helps people start thinking about just building something beyond the scope of just whatever art that they were doing before. Because that was part of the parameters was that you just, it wasn’t just about drawing something and mocking it up on a shirt, it was about getting it up on to a platform, whether it it’s Red Bubble, or Etsy, or your own website, or whatever, it was just, let’s get something moving. And hopefully build momentum, because there’s something to be said about momentum in these things. You know, sometimes you get to the end of 30 days, and you’re just like, I don’t want to do another shirt for the rest of my life. But, you know, like, the idea is just to build the momentum. And you know, just, and also, kind of, I don’t just get acquainted with the idea of doing this, and how easy it really could be if you just spent a little bit of time and should you do it every day, after the fact? Probably not, you know, I don’t design shirts every single day. I do them when I feel the real urge to make something cool, you know.

Nikki

51:50
Well so let’s talk about how it was received. It seemed like a lot of people were participating, and you were sharing a lot of people’s stuff. You shared mine quite a bit. And I really appreciated that.

Laura

52:04
It was called Shirtember. Is that right?

Dave

52:06
Shirtember? Yeah.

Nikki

52:07
Every day in September? So, did you have any expectations for how many people would participate? How many things you would sell? And, you know…

Dave

52:18
No, not really. I mean, I knew I wanted to do it, it really was initially just something I’m going to design a shirt every day in September, and I was going to call it Shirtember. And I was just gonna do that. But I thought, You know what, I’m, I’m gonna get other people to do it. Because I don’t like I think the, that’s what I was getting at is that with the posters, I was just, I was doing it for myself, just to see if I could do posters every day. But I said, instead, I’m going to do shirts, so that I can have, you know, a bunch of shirts up on my website, because I was like, I need new stuff, I need more stuff to fill my website, you know, something fresh. But I thought, Well, why not just let other people participate. And so I didn’t really have any ideas of how many people would participate. It’s really sometimes hard to tell where my base kind of, because of all the different things that I do, it’s a little bit hard to tell sometimes, like, how active my base is going to be interested in this, you know, these little dalliances that I have with these things. So I didn’t have any expectations. But I was pleasantly surprised that we were building up a little bit of a community there for a bit, and everybody was like, interacting with each other and, and a lot of people followed each other and everything like that. And so I thought that was pretty cool.

Nikki

53:27
Yeah, I definitely got some new followers from it and followed some new people.

Dave

53:31
Yeah. And I think that it also was it just good to have some sort of, number one have camaraderie from other people that you know, what you’re like, kind of like the the encouragement of other people to help you kind of keep through, keep pushing through to the end. Or just being able to see what other people can create, to kind of spur other ideas within you to make cool stuff.

Laura

53:52
Right. Yeah.

Nikki

53:53
So do you feel like it grew your social media following at all?

Dave

53:58
To a certain degree? It didn’t go, it wasn’t crazy. I had to say that there were, you know, I mean, it’s the first year doing it. And really, like, it was like, last minute, yeah, you know, idea to do something. You know, I think I gained maybe, you know, maybe 100 followers on Instagram, because, I mean, I had I have at least that on the shirt, timber account, Instagram by its site. But you know, I think from that, you know, a derivative, I, you know, those people followed me over to Instagram, you know, so

Nikki

54:26
Are you going to do it again next year?

Dave

54:27
I mean, that’s the plan. You know, I mean, I’m trying to see it…

Nikki

54:31
I’d love to see it grow into a, you know, a regular thing that just gets more and more of an audience and participation. I’ll do it again.

Dave

54:39
Yeah, you know, and I think it’s something interesting for people that because, you know, like, if they’re so interested in doing something like Inktober, which has gotten, you know, hugely popular. Yeah. Like, you take the same idea, but make it even better for yourself than just, let’s draw.

Nikki

54:56
Right.

Laura

54:57
Well, maybe next year should be Mugtober. Mugtember.

Dave

55:04
And here’s the thing I actually, you know, I call the shirt timber. But I told people that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a shirt if you wanted it to be mugs, be mugs. But it should be, the goal isn’t so much about what substrate you’re using, but rather the idea of getting the thing up onto a shop. So you can turn around and tell people about it later. You know, that was really the goal. I mean, it could be you know, duvet covers, I don’t care, do whatever you want.

Nikki

55:34
But there’s no alliteration there.

Dave

55:38
Duvet-cover-ember. Do bed semi? Good.

Laura

55:46
Well, pod makes it easy, these platforms. So you’re literally uploading your artwork, you might have to have a certain dimension and, and if it’s a physical thing, you have to scan it in and do that stuff. But in essence, it’s become so accessible for people to do this, but we feel like it’s hard, and so we don’t. So I think what you’re saying is having that momentum and going in there and doing it really is awesome. So I actually have two questions for you that I’m super curious about. Since you are an incredible experimenter. Can you share with us one thing that you tried out that did incredibly well for you? And one thing that you tested out that completely bombed?

Dave

56:28
Oh, my gosh, do I have to pick one on that last one? Because there’s like so many. So many. Okay, so one thing that did incredibly well, was, well, I, the number one thing that I sell is my Do The Work mug? Well, it’s actually I would say Do The Work. Anything will link to it. Yeah. Link to it. It’s it was so simple. You know, it was a phrase that I was using anyway, and somebody just said like, that would be so cool on a mug. So I you know, I painted it with actual ink on paper, man talking about you know, versions of it, like just I killed so many pieces of white printer paper just like just killing off a whole ream of paper. Just get this just so, right. I just didn’t get so weird because it’s like a Sumi brush oriented design and, and I felt like I was like getting full on art director on this thing. Like no, the O has to be just this way. And I was like, tweaking this design for so long. You know, until you know it started doing it. And then I put it on a mug. I put it on a print, I put it on a shirt and a sweatshirt. It is the thing that I get consistently, that consistently sells and it’s also the thing that gets consistently shared. Yeah, it is the one thing that I get, like mugs shared all the time, like somebody will tag me in a post. You know,

Laura

57:53
I love that phrase. I think Steven Pressfield has a book called that. Steven, Steven Pressfield. I have to look that up.

Dave

58:01
Maybe? Yeah, I just it’s it just, it’s something well, it’s transcended into my family life. It’s something I share with my son all the time and said, Listen, man, you know, you got to do the work. Right all the time, I tell him that, like if you want to be successful at this got to do the work, right. It’s something that transcends and so I believe that it resonates with people on multi levels. They don’t have to be an artist or designer. It could be and

Nikki

58:23
Oh yeah, that could go for anything.

Laura

58:26
Yeah, it is. Steven does have a book called do the work.

Dave

58:29
Oh, does he, nice? Yeah. Well, he took it from me. I’m just saying, I want my royalties, Steven. No, but as far as bombs, man. Okay, so this was quite a few years ago. And, and it’s actually part of the reason why it’s taken me so many years to get back to creating my own course. Is it back in, probably 2013-14, yeah maybe it’s 2014 I created my first course ever. And it was all about magazine design. And it was like how to build your own zine, or magazine. Because I know that there’s a lot of designers who probably have never, they, you know, they may have an understanding of how to build something like that. But, you know, they didn’t have the direct connection to it, like how to process like, all the different, you know, getting all the gears in the right place, you know, everything working together, so you can put something out that, you know, nice instead of like, you know, that you know, something that people actually want to read and enjoy. And so I put out this course and I you know, test the idea with people and like so many people just said, Oh yeah, that sounds great, I would love to learn how to do that. And I built the whole course. I built the entire course. And it fell completely flat. I didn’t get, no I got two sales. Which I was like well This is just not even worth it, right? Because it was like part of it was like gonna be the live interaction, but things but it ended up like, I was gonna refund both. And I did that to one person than the other person said, Well, why don’t you, why don’t we just want we just turn it into consultation instead. And so I ended up becoming like a design consultant instead for that person. I was just like, you know, and then I thought about digging it out, and trying to see if I could repurpose it, you know, these days, but I was like, I’m just, I don’t know if it’s gonna, it wouldn’t go anywhere, plus the the the information has changed, and I was so much more awkward on the camera than I am now.

Laura

1:00:37
What would you have done differently that you think would have made it succeed? Knowing what you know now.

Dave

1:00:41
I think I would have done a lot more market testing, you know, really kind of understand a little bit more, because there’s probably something there within the idea of, you know, wanting to teach people how to build something. Well, I’ll give you a perfect example. Because it’s actually very real time information. For me right now, I had this idea of creating a course about Shopify, like how to really kind of, Shopify for creatives. Right, right. Yeah. Because in the process of two weeks, couple months ago, or maybe it was then or maybe last month, November or something like that. In the process of two weeks, I had four different friends all reach out to me about knowledge on the topic of Shopify, and it was like, well, jeez, maybe there’s something here.

Nikki

1:01:28
There’s definitely something there.

Dave

1:01:30
There’s something here. So I thought about that, and started to kind of formulate the idea. And then as I started to, you know, drip the information out to people via, you know, social media, on YouTube or whatever. Like, it was just falling 100% flat, like, it just was going nowhere. I was like, Okay, so there’s obviously something about the way I’m approaching it. Like, maybe it’s the way I’m sharing it, the what I’m talking about, that isn’t getting people inspired, and or at least, you know, I’m not triggering the need, I’m not triggering that, you know, I’m not answering the question that they need answered right there. So I tabled that idea for a little bit, and, and then instead I said, okay, so ultimately, What’s my goal with that course? Like, what do I want? You know, it’s gonna be a big ticket item, at some point, what would be my goal? Or rather, what would be the end result of that course? What do I really want these people to walk away from it. And it’s like, it kind of goes back to the whole thing about shop or Shirtember, right? Being able to walk away with something where you have a functional website that’s working, that you know, has print on demand integrated, and it’s just something that you can just like the you, you’re just ready to go. And you know, you’re no longer struggling, you’re no longer crippled by the technology, or, you know, or whatever, you know, sense that might be keeping you from doing it now. So that’s what I want to achieve. How do I get people more ramped up to that idea? And so I just said to myself, like, Okay, well, I think what I need to do is kind of baby step people into that idea. So, right, I’m creating actually courses right now that are very, they’re design oriented courses that are driven towards the idea of building something for themselves. So this course about turning your own handwritten type into a font is so that, okay, now you have something that you can use, but you can sell it. The next course I’m going to create is like, poster design, you know, like, okay, so it’s called Poster Maker, right? And so it’s like, okay, so creating poster prints, right? And using print on demand to, you know, integrate that but talking about very clearly about what works about poster design, why does certain posters work and certain posters are crap, and whatever, you know, things like that. And then I want to do another one about T shirts, and called, it’s called, Shirt Machine. And it’s all about my ideologies on T shirts, and what I think about T shirts and, and then also integrating the idea of like, how to integrate how to get it ready to go into print on demand. And so it’s all these different things, like these little baby steps towards building something. So then Okay, now, now, we’ve taught you all these things. What are you going to do with it? Right? Oh, you don’t know how to use Shopify? Guess what? I got another course…

Nikki

1:04:26
I see. Clever.

Dave

1:04:28
You know, and not to try and noodle people into it to buy into all these different things. You know, like, I’m not trying to be one of those, you know, constant. What do you call it? The it’s like, you know, the next upsell, right. That’s not really what this is about.

Nikki

1:04:42
One just naturally leads into the other in terms of what people are going to want to know.

Laura

1:04:49
Yeah, it’s, it’s, I can’t say that word. It’s a sequential learning process.

Dave

1:04:54
Yes. Exactly.

Nikki

1:04:56
Yeah. That’s great.

Dave

1:04:57
I’m glad you said it and I didn’t. But cuz I would have fumbled that too.

Nikki

1:05:01
Words are hard.

Dave

1:05:04
And it’s, you know, maybe people don’t want posters, but they do want t shirts, or what work, you know, like, I don’t plan on doing one for mugs. But you know, like, I do plan on doing one, and the cheeky name that I have for it now is Assets and Profits, right, because it’s like graphic assets, building your own graphic assets, and then making profits from that.

Nikki

1:05:25
Awesome.

Dave

1:05:26
So, um, you know, so it’s like, tapping into all the things that I do know, that I know that people may want to do for themselves, and bring in an opportunity for them to, you know, hopefully turn some of that into cash.

Laura

1:05:39
Awesome.

Nikki

1:05:40
So as sad as this is, we’re gonna have to start wrapping things up so that we don’t talk for like six hours, which I’d love to do.

Dave

1:05:50
We’ll continue another time for sure.

Nikki

1:05:54
So we have just kind of a couple questions that we like to throw at everybody at the end. And one of them is, what’s one piece of advice that you can give to artists, illustrators, designers who are just getting started?

Dave

1:06:09
Oh, my gosh, that’s always such a, you know, it’s a it’s a big one, because it’s so, the best advice that I think I ever got, was that the way you’ve internalized your fear is way bigger than it actually is. Right? What you imagine your fear to be way bigger than, you know, whatever, that what’s actually real. Right? Yeah.

Nikki

1:06:33
Reality is never as bad as the as the anticipation of it.

Dave

1:06:38
Right. But fear is weak. I mean, it’s so weak, it’s soft, it may look big and scary. But it is so weak, because the first time you ever push against it, it falls away every single time. I mean, unless you’re like, you know, like, got this deathly fear of snakes and you got thrown into a snake pit, right? I mean, I’m not, I’m not going into full on psychosis here.

Nikki

1:06:47
We’re not talking about serious phobias. We’re talking about everyday fears.

Laura

1:07:09
Right. I’m not gonna be swimming with sharks anytime soon. Right? Yes.

Dave

1:07:14
Right. You don’t know what print on demand service to us. So you don’t try any? Well, there’s a there’s a fear there. There’s a fear there’s a fear of picking the wrong one. Well, there is no wrong one. It’s just the one you choose, right.

Nikki

1:07:29
Any one is better than not picking one.

Dave

1:07:31
Right. You know, and so stepping into whatever that fear is, by pushing back against that fear of stepping into it, is, it’s really the biggest thing, because I think part of the reason that I am so willing to try all these new things is because I’ve recognized that I don’t have to be scared of these things. And I never know what’s going to be the real thing until I jump in. Yeah. Right? With the sharks.

Nikki

1:08:00
With the sharks.

Dave

1:08:03
Right? No, it you know, and so, you know, and that that in combination with the idea of that, you know, your comfort circle, every time you take one step outside of that comfort circle, it’s not like the circle follows you, but stays the same diameter, it expands. Yeah, every single tiny baby step that you take outside your circle expands your circle. And so, you know, the more that you move outside of there, the more comfortable you’re going to get with stuff you know, and you may not want to do live video on Instagram or TikTok you may not want to do dances.

Nikki

1:08:39
Are you looking at us when you say that?

Dave

1:08:42
Look at the camera. Other people behind their eyes are watching me, right?

You may not want to get up on YouTube and film yourself. You may not want to record a podcast you may not want to jump into Red Bubble because it just looks so intimidating. You may not want to even consider the idea of doing NFT’s because what the hell is cryptocurrency? I don’t even know, what it is just a JPEG no there’s so much more to it, but you won’t know until you take that first step into something. And you’ll find out real quickly that it wasn’t anywhere as scary as you expected it to be.

Nikki

1:09:20
For sure.

Laura

1:09:21
It’s taking action makes that fear go away.

Dave

1:09:24
Yeah. Yeah. Gotta be brave. Well, Dave, where can our listeners find you online?

Nikki

1:09:30
Everywhere.

Dave

1:09:31
Everywhere, yeah. I’ll give you the laundry list of all my links to all my social media. @daveconrey is largely where you’ll find me. You know, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube at Dave Conrey. Or you go to my website daveconrey.com. And if you search Dave Conrey on the internet, it’ll tell you on Google it will tell you everything you need to know about me. There’s like my son did this not to be dad. I looked at your name at Google and you came up everywhere, like yeah, I know.

Nikki

1:09:58
Your son is adorable.

Dave

1:10:02
Thank you. Thank you very much. Yeah, I’m not looking forward to him being 16 years old trying to sneak girls into the into the bedroom.

Nikki

1:10:11
And that’s a different podcast, right?

Dave

1:10:12
Yeah, I don’t even know. I’m not gonna share a picture with him on the web on this podcast episode. But ladies, I’m just telling you like he’s, he’s a handsome devil.

Nikki

1:10:21
Oh, he’s a cutie.

Dave

1:10:24
He gets it from his mom.

Laura

1:10:26

Dave

, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today. We’ve so enjoyed this conversation. I know our listeners are going to get crazy amount of value out of it. With your story and and all the educational content you’ve created for designers and artists. We’ll be sure to link to all of your links in the show notes. And we just thank you for being here.

Dave

1:10:46
Thanks for having me. It was a fun conversation. I really enjoyed it.

Nikki

1:10:50
To learn more about Dave and read today’s Startist Society show notes go to startist society.com/daveconrey.

Laura

1:10:59
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