Taking subscriptions and donations through PayPal – How To

Hey peeps,

So – Patreon, eh? There’s been some upheaval over there since they announced they’re restructuring their fees and people aren’t happy. That’s an understatement. People are furious.

Here’s a post I made on Patreon explaining the fees in case you have no idea what I’m talking about.

I’ve lost Patrons over this – no where near as many as others, some people have lost $100s of dollars – but I realised I needed to quickly make a new solution in case any of my Patrons wanted to jump ship. That solution ended up being a donation button through my website (which you can see on the right) which can also be made into a monthly donation with a single click. I still get charged PayPal fees, but you get charged what it says on the tin. It’s a short term solution, and I’m still looking at alternatives, but I’ll probably keep the PayPal button open in case people want to continue to use that. It’s also currently only £1, but it is possible to set up multiple donation “tiers” in the same way as Patreon – I’m still working out how best to distribute rewards using this method though. Here’s a page on my site that goes into a BIT more detail of what I’m doing.

I want to share this info with you all, so if you want to set up your own donation button, it’s easy enough to do.

How to set up a PayPal donations / subscription button

You will need:

  • Your own website (I’m pretty sure you can do this through Tumblr, not sure about Wix or other sites)
  • A Business PayPal account (which is fairly straightforward to set up).
  • A VERY basic understanding of HTML – it’s basically just a bunch of code (I’ll take screenshots so you know what to look for)
  • I’d also recommend you make a “Thank you” page, for when people make a donation, and a “Confirm Cancellation” page, for when people unsubscribe. However you make a page on your website is fine. On the Thank You page, make sure to also include an unsubscribe button, and on the Confirm Cancellation page, include a link to where people can sign up again – this is just in case people do things by accident and makes your page a little more user-friendly. I go through how to make an unsubscribe button below, so keep following along and you’ll find it 🙂

Let’s get started

Figure out where you’re gonna put this on your website first so you have somewhere to dump the code. I recommend putting this on a seperate page on your website (see my own page above).

Log into your business PayPal account.

Select “Tools” and then “More Tools” from the dropdown menu.

You’ll be given a large list of options to choose from. You’ll want “recurring payments“.

That’ll take you to the Recurring Payments Dashboard, which is where you’ll be able to view your customers once you have some.

On the right there are a bunch of options. You MIGHT want to do something a little different to what I did here. I chose a donation button, which has the option of clicking “make this a monthly donation” option. But you can also chose a subscription option, which lets you chose from three different tiers from a dropdown menu. I’ll show you what I did, and then I’ll show you the subscription option as well.

Making a donation button

Click on “Make a Donate Button

This will take you to the donate button creation page. Keep the button type as Donations, give your button a name (mine was “Test Donate Button” for this scenario). Play around with the options a bit, it depends whether you want your own donation image or keep PayPals own image. Change the currency if you want to use something other than GBP of course. The options under that say “Contibution amount”, this is where you can decide whether to chose a fixed amount or leave people to choose how much to donate. On my button I’ve left it so people can chose their own amount, but it depends what you want to do. You’ll also have the option to use your merchant ID, or your primary email address, to be paid. I chose my email address. It just depends whether you might your email address being shown, but my email address is available elsewhere on my website anyway, so I chose it to display my email address. Up to you on that one!

After you’ve done that part, we can ignore Step 2 because it’s not necessary, and then click into Step 3. (The next part is exactly the same if you are creating a Subscription Button, so continue below to see what I’m doing)

 

Create a Subscription Button

A subscription button lets you chose different “tier” levels, so people cann subscribe to you at different amounts. Follow the above steps until you get to where I start talking about the Donate button. You should be on the “Recurring Payments Dashboard”, and on the right there is a link saying “Create a Subscription Button”. Click it.

This’ll take you to a similar page as the Donate Button, but this time the “subscription” button is selected on the drop down. (Actually, this is the same page, but for easy explanation I took you here this way in case anyone gets confused).

On the “Customise button”, click “Add a dropdown menu with prices and  options”, and add as many price tiers as you want. I’ve gone with three. You can change it to monthly or yearly if you want, but I chose monthly as it’s similar to Patreon.

I’d recomment ignoring the other two options to be honest as it’s not necessary!

Step Three – customising the button

Step 3 lets us customise things a bit more. Because we’re currently not setting anything up for tier rewards or anything, I’ve clicked no on the first two options about requesting information off people as well as their postal address, I don’t need that info.

The next two boxes are  why I suggested making a Cancellation Confirmation page, and a Thank You page. Put the URL for both of those into the boxes when prompted.

Now that part is done, so click “Create Button“.

Your button is done. In that little drop down box, is a bunch of code called HTML. Don’t edit any of it or delete any of it, you just need to copy it and paste it into your website. Click on the “Select Code” button to make sure you’ve got it all (the text will go blue), right click and select “Copy”.

Go back into your website and find the HTML editor. Usually it’s a button that says </> or “Plain Text” or something like that. Paste the code where you want the button to go, and then save your page.

Visit the page and test the button out to make sure it works! Clicking the button (Subscribe or Donate, depending on what you’ve chosen) will take you to the page to confirm your decision, and if you get that up it means the rest will work too (you can’t donate to yourself but you could get a friend to do a test run if you need to)

Easy peasy, right?

(Let me know if it’s NOT easy peasy, and I’ll try and walk you through it some more).

 

Creating an Unsubscribe button

You need a way to help people unsubscribe to you if you need to.

Go back to the “Add button to your website” page where you copied the HTML. On that page, at the bottom, there is a link that says “Create an Unsubscribe button”. Click that. It’s pretty straight forward from there, the page will ask you if you want to use PayPals button or your own, so if you’ve made your own unsubscribe button you can upload that and click “Create Button”. It’ll take you to a page where you’ll have some more HTML to copy onto your new site. Do the same thing here as you did before and copy and paste it onto your page.

I recommend posting it onto the same page as your Subscription / Donation button, so people can have an easy go to for it, as well as on your Thank You page, so people can quickly unsubscribe if they did it by accident.

Here are my thank you and cancelled pages if you want to have a look and see how I’ve done it.

And here’s my regular Subscription page, if you want to see how I set mine up.

Did you find this helpful?

If this helped  you, please consider donating something to say thank you 😉




Let me know if I have any questions by emailing me at

sarah@sarahandthestrange.com

Or going through my Contact Page

Thanks!

How to support a kickstarter for the uninitiated, part one: FAQ

Hey everyone! So in a couple of weeks I’m going to be launching a kickstarter to fund my very first Children’s Book, Love You Lots Like Jelly Tots! I announced the kickstarter last week, and since then I’ve had a bunch of comments from friends and family admitting that they’re not quite sure what a kickstarter is, and that they’re a bit confused by the whole thing. These people want to help me, but they don’t know how! So I’m here to help you figure out how to support my kickstarter.

If you have any more questions, please please ask me! If you want to support me but don’t know how, all you need to do is ask. You can email me at sarah@sarahandthestrange.com or Facebook me, or contact me in any of the ways you usually do 🙂

What IS kickstarter?

Ok this is probably a good starting place. Kickstarter is a website that let’s a person or an organisation get the financial backing to run creative projects. For example, I need £700 to fund the first print run of my book. In order to get the money, I ask lots of people for small donations. These small donations build up and eventually (hopefully) by the end of the month I have the money to print the books.

Kickstarter isn’t a give with no return process, either. Each kickstarter offers something called “rewards”. When you donate (or “pledge”) to a kickstarter, you are buying a particular reward. In my case, I’ll be offering anything from digital copies of the book, to printed copies, signed copies, commissions, and more.

What if you don’t hit your target?

If I don’t hit the £700 target on Kickstarter, I don’t get any money. Kickstarter is an “all or nothing” platform, meaning even if I raise £699 and no more, I get nothing. The project flops, and I pick up the pieces and figure out what I did wrong. It’s a big risk, but at the same time it could reap enormous reward… However: You won’t be charged for your pledge until the campaign has ended successfully! At the end of the month, if I’m not successful, you don’t get charged and your pledge doesn’t go through. If I am successful at the end of the month, your pledge will go through!

Why Kickstarter? Why not just find the money yourself?

True fact: I’m broke. I’m a self employed independent artist, what do you expect?! I could get the money together myself, but it would take a long time and frankly by the time I do it, I’ll probably have finished a whole bunch of other projects that I really want to work on as well! Doing a kickstarter means, when successful, I’ll have access to the money right off the bat. There are other benefits too – Getting a successful kickstarter is a huge marketing boost, you reach a whole new audience who might not have heard of your work, and make all sorts of new connections. Plus, it’s fun. Yeah, you heard me right. This is fun!

What’s stopping you from just taking the money and running?

Honestly? Not a lot. There’s a lot of trust involved in this kind of project. There are also, however, a lot of better ways to scam people out of their money and if I really wanted to do that kinda thing, I wouldn’t be doing this. Running a kickstarter campaign is a LOT of work, and I’m more interested in creating books and drawing pictures and telling stories than I am in stealing yer money. If you don’t trust me, don’t pledge. Simple as that 🙂

I have to give my card details to Kickstarter but I’m nervous – is it safe?

It it absolutely safe. Kickstarter has handled over $9 billion worth of transactions since it started, and hasn’t had any issues with security. And at the end of the month, when the campaign is over, you can remove your card details. Please remember to do this AFTER the 31st of March if you’re planning on doing it, or you’ll have to give them all over again in order for the pledge to go through. Remember – Kickstarter doesn’t take a payment from you until the end of the campaign, in my case that’s the 31st March.

For more information kickstarters security, you can view their own FAQ about the subject here.

Coming next: HOW to pledge on kickstarter

Regarding the question ‘I want to improve my art’

I see a lot of people on art groups, tumblr, and a bunch of places elsewhere asking the same question: “I want to improve my art; what do I do?” And regardless of where I see it, the response is always the same: “practice”. In most cases “use reference pictures, draw from life, practice realism.”

As an artist who used to ask this question a lot, and got hella frustrated by that answer, I’m here to throw this into the mix: There’s a lot more to improving your art than just practicing.

If someone comes to me and say “I want to get better at drawing”, the first thing I’m gonna ask them is this:

“Why?”

WHY do you want to draw? What made you pick up the pencil / pen / paints in the first place? Ask yourself this: What do you want to do with your art? Some people want to draw comics. Some people want to draw photorealistic portraits. Some want to do children’s illustration, or perhaps even architecture.

Depending on your answer to that question, I’m gonna give you different advice. If you want to draw comics or illustration, you don’t need to be an incredibly detailed artist, you need to learn how to tell a story and interpret the scenes of that story in pictures. That requires a wholly different skill set than if you want to draw photorealism. There’s nothing at all stopping you from doing both but you don’t need to. A lot of artists I see on here want to draw to be able to express their story ideas, they’re not overly bothered about the technical side of drawing and that is absolutely ok. Some people get arsey about this and think you should focus exclusively on technical skill, but in order to tell a story, you don’t need beautifully detailed pieces of art. Heck, XKCD uses stick figures and that’s one of the most popular comics of all time, and some comics have been beautiful, epic examples of storytelling.

When you’re drawing characters, challenge yourself with your poses. People get stuck in the same pose over and over (I’m guilty of this myself), so find new ways to get new poses. Look at magazines and draw the people in them. Or even better, watch a DVD, pause it every few seconds and draw whatever pose the characters are in, just for practice. If there aren’t any characters then draw the scenery. That way you’re getting random poses instead of sticking to things your comfortable with.

Also, look in the mirror and make a bunch of dumb faces. Take photographs of them and draw them. See if your friends will do the same. In fact, it might even be a good idea to ask your friends if you can draw their Facebook profile pictures, it’s great practice for you in drawing facial varieties and expressions, and they get a fun picture at the end of it.

Lastly, don’t just practice. Don’t wait until you’re “good enough” to make the art you want to make, or the stories you want to tell. Partially because if you wait to make those things until you think you’re good enough, if you’re like most people, you’ll never start. You’ll “practice” constantly and you won’t have anything actually finished to say. You learn something from every art piece you finish, every story you tell, every panel you draw. What better way to practice your art then to work on actually creating the work you want to make? And then, after weeks / months / years, you can look back on that piece and use it as a benchmark to find out how far you’ve come.

Yes, my advice does boil down to “practice” but it’s important to practice in specific ways. There’s no point in practising the same thing over and over and over again because you’ll get good at that thing, but you’ll fall short in the ways you’re not practising. Practice, practice, practice – specific things and you’ll be creating works you’re satisfied with.

The last thing I want to say is, no matter what you’re doing with your art, you’re never going to stop improving. You’ll find that the frustration at not being as good as you want to be, the feeling never goes away. Don’t let that discourage you. The desire to improve is an extremely important quality that makes you constantly develop your skills. That feeling is what will get you better at art, because that is the thing that drives you to practice.

Enjoy arting, folks!

Sarah
xx

How to make a colouring book! Part 1

Hey everyone! Welcome to another “How to” blog with your favourite neighbourhood Sarah! My previous post was about How to make art prints and loads of people said they found it really helpful, and I love helping artists make stuff with their art so this time we’re talking about how to make a colouring book. Part one covers everything up to the making of the PDF of the book, and part two will be covering everything after that, and will be out later this week 🙂

A little disclaimer to start; I am in no way an expert at this. I’ve done this a grand total of once.  There are probably more detailed explanations out there on how to do it exactly, or better, but for a basic colouring book these are the basics that you need to know!

Draw stuff!

It wouldn’t be much good having a colouring book if you haven’t drawn anything, so this step is fairly obvious… But you should probably do some research into what kinds of images work best in a colouring book. If you’re making an A4 size book, make sure to draw A4 size drawings, if you want to make a smaller book you’ll need to figure out the print size before you draw anything so you can match that size. The amount of images you’ll need depends entirely on how many pages you want your book to have, but I would recommend a minimum of twenty images. In terms of maximum, there are colouring books out there with 50, 100, 300+ images, so just do however many you feel comfortable with.

Scan stuff!

Unless you’ve drawn the images on the computer already, you need to get your art onto a computer. Scan it at at least 300dpi – this is the recommended scan for printing your work. If you have photoshop you’ll be at an advantage here, as you’ll probably have to edit the work in order to get the black and white of the image right. If you don’t have photoshop, GIMP is a free, open source alternative. It has a bit of a learning curve in order to get the images to the quality that you’ll want, but it’s worth the extra effort to get the book looking like you want it to.

I have been asked whether or not taking photographs of your art is a good idea, and the answer is that you can but I wouldn’t recommend it. You’d need a good quality camera (a cheap, handheld camera or phone camera wouldn’t get the image quality you need) and you’d need to get a photograph directly overhead the work or you’ll end up with a distorted view of the piece. It’s also harder to edit. I mean, if you don’t have access to a scanner at all and all you have is a good camera and good lighting, and you can edit the work so the black lines are black and the white space is white, go for it! But getting access to a decent scanner would save you a lot of hassle.

Make a PDF

Once you’ve got all your images scanned and edited, you’ll need to put them all into a PDF. You can do this a number of ways, including using Microsoft Word and using the Save As feature to save it as a PDF file. If you go by the Word route, make sure to change the margins to as closer to zero as you can get so you can get the images to fill the page. Windows 10 apparently has a print-to-PDF feature, where you can select a bunch of images and instead of printing them on paper you can convert the files to PDF through the print feature. I personally used Word, but in hindsight I would’ve used something like Cute PDF as the images in my printed colouring book aren’t quite as good as I would’ve liked, probably because Word slightly distorted them. (They still look fine. Part of this is me being a perfectionist.)

You might also want to include a cover image with your PDF, but this depends entirely on how you want to distribute it. If you want to distribute it digitally, letting people print out the pages themselves, then it’s probably best to include the cover inside the PDF. If you want to print it, most distribution places will want you to upload the cover image separately.

Hurray for getting a PDF! You’ve done most of the hard work. Part two of this will cover distribution, and will be out later this week so come back soon 🙂

How to make art prints!

A few people have been asking recently how to turn your paintings, photographs etc into art prints. I’m no expert, but I have printed my own work and have been told my advice is pretty helpful, so I thought I’d write it out and share it here.

There are a couple of main ways I know how to do this and they both come with their own set of pros and cons. The first way, and the easiest way, is to get a scanner scan your picture, or take a high quality photograph with a (GOOD) camera, then send the image sites like red bubble or society 6.

The second way is to go to a professional printers and get them done this way.

Outsourcing – Using sites like redbubble, society6, etc

Outsourcing printing is by far the easiest way of getting prints made. How to do this is pretty simple, but do a lot of research into each site. Most of them are free to make the products, they get their profit when the item sells. They’ll take the cut of how much it costs to create the product, and a percentage of whatever profit you make. I’ve found that it only really leaves you with a small amount of profit, to be honest, and it can take a lot of work to advertise your stuff.

When you scan in your image, getting a good scan is vital. I’d recommend scanning at at least 300dpi resolution, this is a pretty basic resolution for printing. Depending on the quality of your scan, you may need to tweak it a bit in photoshop in order to get a good image for uploading but this is all up to you and your skill level in whatever you used to upload 🙂

I’m not going to go into each individual site here because I don’t know that much about them. All I know is, I used society6 and was pretty happy with their service, they have a good print quality and their customer service is pretty good too. But I’ve heard great things about other services too, so check them out and see what you prefer.

Pros and Cons of outsourcing

Pros Cons
You literally have to do nothing but advertise once you’ve uploaded the print into the website. No shipping, no storing the print, nothing. You’re relying on another company to get it working and this can sometimes backfire, for example they may have issues with shipping items and this reflects badly on you if a customer has a bad experience with them.
There’s no initial costs, as long as you’ve got a scanner OR a high quality camera. Depending on the company, getting individual prints of your own work can be expensive.
Print on demand, so you don’t make a loss. You won’t know what your work actually looks like in person without purchasing a print yourself. Not all sites give you a discount on purchasing your own work
Most sites don’t just make prints, they make totes, greeting cards, clocks, t-shirts… All sorts of stuff. If your canvas is BIG, you may not be able to scan it, so may not be able to make decent prints
Some sites offer discount codes, free shipping, etc. Your work can often get overshadowed by the sheer volume of other artists on the site. You need to really promote the site itself to make any sales. To the outsourcing company, unless you’re making a LOT of  money for them, you’re just another brick in the wall.

Going to an actual printers

This is the second option and the option I personally recommend if you’re moving into doing art more full time, rather than doing this as a hobby. It’s pretty straight forward, but you’ll want to do some research into the printers.

For the best quality art prints, you’re going to want Giclée printing. “Giclée” is basically french for “print”, and we use it kind of like we use “lingerie” for underwear, it means the same thing, but the french version is fancier. So they’re basically fancier prints. They’re usually more expensive, and you can still get a very good quality print without Giclée printing but it’s worth knowing and can be something to aim for if not something you do straight away.

To actually get the print done, take your original work into the printers and find out how much it’ll cost. If you have a few printers local to you to chose from, see if you can do a test print (usually these a free) to see what the colours will look like, and get one from each and compare quality vs price. Make sure to consider how much you want to sell your prints for, how much profit you want to give yourself per-print, etc. If you’re unhappy with the colour test, you can ask to make a few changes and they’ll tinker with it for you, but you want to be nice to these people because they’re going to be handling your original work…

Pros and cons of going to a printers:

Pros Cons
It puts you in the drivers seat, you control the stock, the sales, the price, the storage, everything … it puts you in the drivers seat, so if things go tits up, you’ve gotta fix it. This is a pro AND a con, really, but I personally feel it’s MORE of a pro, because I’d prefer to be in control of my own work, but that’s me!
You have complete flexibility over the price – you can give discounts, freebies, run competitions There is an initial fee to get them printed. Depending on the company you use, this can be fairly expensive, so if you don’t have much to spend initially, it might not work out too well
You can sell your work at shows, stalls, markets etc. You have to store your own work, if your work isn’t selling you have to store it anyway
I’ve found that more people are wiling to buy prints directly from the artist than from an outsourcing website. Initial cost: although usually minimal, it does mean taking a risk on whether they will sell.
It works out cheaper in the long term (once you’ve factored in costs for each print, and the fees the outsourcer applies) Lugging around your work back and forth to the printers, or to the market stalls, or anywhere else can be a pain.
Most sizes accepted.
You get a sample of what the work looks like so you know what you’re buying.
Build a relationship with that printers, keep coming back and printing with them, you might be able to work out a regular customer discount.

In conclusion…

I personally really like having my own prints, there’s something more… “real” about it. I really want to be in control of my own production and it gives me that flexibility. I can give prints away for free if I want to and it hardly costs me anything. I’ve used outsourcing sites before but I found I hardly made any profit with them, because most of the cash went to them for production and they take a cut of the profit.

Like I said, I’m in no way an expert, and there’ll certainly be stuff I’ve said here that other artist might contradict or want to add to, but this is the basic stuff to know!

I hope this helped. If you have any questions, feel free to Facebook message me, or email me (sarahandthestrange@gmail.com).

Thanks!

Sarah Bates