Discover more from The Hungry
This Digital Artist Wins by NOT Selling Art
...Or how to be a high net worth earner without showing your face
In 2020, I bought an iPad Pro to learn how to use Procreate. Ambitious as I was, I quickly learned the app wouldn’t automatically make me an art genius, so I turned to YouTube to learn how to illustrate simple things within the app.
At the top of the YouTube search results were several videos from a faceless woman with a Scandinavian accent named Flo showing me how to draw cartoon characters and fantasy landscapes.
Flo’s business model is so unique and easily replicable that I thought she would be the perfect subject for a deep dive. By the end of this, you’ll learn Flo’s approach to:
1. Social media
Flo is selective about where she spends her time online and one platform that may surprise you.
2. Free Tutorials
Flo’s free tutorials have earned hundreds of thousands of dollars, all without selling any art or merchandise.
3. Digital Tools, Training, and Membership
Flo has numerous digital brush packs, each one with a specific purpose. Her approach to encouraging people to buy those digital assets is genius, but there’s a secret I know that most people don’t, and I share it below.
4. Newsletter Marketing
Many artists dread the idea of writing weekly newsletters, but Flo has mastered the process of simple yet effective email communication.
Finally, I’ll talk about how she could improve her revenue and quickly take her earnings deep into the 7-figure range.
Oh, and she does all these without ever showing her face—an artist’s dream come true.
These deep dives are free for all subscribers, but what you may not know is that I go even deeper in The Makercast, my exclusive podcast for paid members. If you want to hear me talk about this from a more personal perspective, upgrade today.
1. Social Media Strategy
I don’t typically consider YouTube a social media platform, even though it has a social aspect. I’m including it in this section for our conversation today mainly because Flo is primarily a video creator. So, let's start there.
YouTube is Flo's number one platform. With nearly 1,000,000 subscribers and over 130 million views across 350 videos, she’s doing a fantastic job bringing in a sizable income from the video platform and educating and entertaining hundreds of thousands of people every week.
In every video that she uploads, at some point, she talks about her Patreon account and a way for viewers to get free Procreate brushes, which, of course, leads them to her website, where they can buy even more Procreate brushes.
She is also very active on Instagram, and those posts feed her Facebook page, but that page is mostly an afterthought, and she’s actively engaging there.
Instagram is perfect for her since she’s already sharing short-form videos on YouTube, and the content can easily be created for all video platforms.
She also has accounts on TikTok, Twitter, and Art Station but hasn’t been active on any of those in a while. It’s okay because YouTube and Instagram drive tons of traffic to her more essential places because of the high-quality, easily digestible video content.
2. Free Tutorials
As mentioned, Flo has 350 free long-form and 180 short-form video tutorials on her channel. I’m willing to bet if you had zero experience as an illustrator if you spent the next several months studying her tutorials, you could become an expert by the time you finished watching even half of those vids.
The videos are high-quality and so simple to follow that even my young son learned basic illustration skills during the pandemic with them.
There are a lot of different Procreate illustrators on YouTube and Instagram, some even with significantly higher production value, like GawxArt and DrawWithRishi, but where Flo has them beat is in self-promotion and earning potential.
3. Digital Tools
What if you start testing out Flo’s free tutorials, but you’re not quite getting the expected results? Maybe that’s because you’re not using the right brushes, but you can get those brushes from ArtWithFlo for just a few bucks.
You can pick up several brush packs for less than you spend on pumpkin-spiced lattes in September alone. There are over 40 packs to choose from, many with a specific purpose, guaranteeing you’ll need each of them if you ever want to be brilliant at digital art.
SIDEBAR: Some digital illustrators insist you can create any piece of art within Procreate or Photoshop with just a single brush, varying the size and opacity as you go, but why only have one brush when you can have hundreds, right?
Training and Membership
Now, you may want to buy all those brushes, but there may be a better way to get them, and along with them, you get tons of additional content that isn’t featured on YouTube or Instagram.
Join Flo’s Patreon page; you can access all the brushes and tutorials before anyone else. You also get direct access to Flo, including specialized training she only shares in another place, Skillshare.
It isn’t easy to know how well she’s doing on Skillshare, but she has over 10,000 followers there and teaches several full-length courses you can’t get on YouTube.
If I used my meager teacher stats as a reference point, I think it’s safe to assume she’s making several thousand dollars each month from the content she made once and now makes money while she sleeps.
Flo doesn’t sell art prints or merch, and she doesn’t do print-on-demand. She has no physical products available anywhere. More on this later, though.
The true genius of Flo’s business model is everything she sells is evergreen and infinitely sellable.
She makes them once and sells them forever, and every video she posts is an opportunity to promote her products and offerings.
When she’s long removed from this mortal coil, her children (assuming she has any) can continue her legacy simply by reposting older videos in an infinite loop. In fact, Flo could retire today and let the work live on just by re-uploading those older videos.
If Procreate doesn’t advance so much that her digital products become obsolete, she could never make another one and continue to earn. Of course, she won’t do that because she has a Patreon community to consider.
4. Newsletter Marketing
Flo is as consistent with her email marketing as she is with posting videos. Once a week, she sends a simple newsletter that typically includes two or more of these things:
Her latest video from YouTube
A new product in her shop
An exclusive thing she made for her Patreon members
A special offer or opportunity
As far as newsletters go, she’s not reinventing anything. She does an adequate job of keeping her subscribers up to date, but I would guess she experiences a reasonable amount of churn (unsubscribes) each week, which means she needs to keep enticing new people to join her list.
If you go to FreeFromFlo.com, you can get a complimentary pack of digital goodies simply by subscribing. Those items will change occasionally, which I assume keeps people engaged for a short while but not a long-term play.
She must move people from that email list to her shop and Patreon account to keep them within the fold.
Overall, Flo is doing a fantastic job of generating passive income through multiple sources every single month. She could adjust a few other things to make an even more significant impact.
Create a Character
Flo is so private even when she shows an actual photo of herself, most of it is painted over. I understand the desire for privacy, but a painted-over photo is odd. She’s an illustrator—why not create a cartoon character or avatar that represents her and gives her audience some sense of who she is?
I haven’t bought from her, but I hope she does specialized marketing, where she sends exclusive messages to anyone who has bought from her to get them interested in new products or even joining her Patreon community. She should incorporate it into her marketing plan if she's not doing that.
Patreon is notorious for not sponsoring digital artists because the software company knows artists will continue using the app whether they get paid or not. However, I am sure dozens of companies would spend good money to be introduced to her YouTube community.
I’m sure Flo has a philosophical reason for not taking on sponsors, but she’s leaving a LOT of money on the table.
At least once a week, Flo shares new short-form content on Instagram and YouTube, but much of her older content no longer gets shown to people. Instead of making new content every week, why not re-introduce older content back to the front of the feed?
This could also work for long-form content. She could make “best of” videos, reaction videos, or even just share flashback content to get it back in front of people who may not have seen it before.
Archive Older Products
As she introduces new brush packs and other digital assets, she could archive some stagnated items. If she announced that certain items were going away, she could get a rush of buyers to pick up those items before they were gone.
Later, she could reintroduce those items as throwbacks as a limited-time offer or bring them back permanently while archiving something else. She might not even need to archive them completely but make them Patreon exclusives, which might help drive people to become paid members.
With the following she has now, she could produce a capsule collection of merchandise, whether that’s limited edition products or legacy designs that live on indefinitely, and she would make piles of cash.
If she didn’t want to manage it herself, she could partner with a print-on-demand provider or even use a local printer to produce the work for her and hire an assistant to help with fulfillment.
No matter what I say about ArtWithFlo, she’s killing it in the simple yet consistent ways she shows up. I couldn’t possibly guess accurately how much she is making, but I know it’s at least in the high 6-figure range, if not significantly more.
As I’ve said before, success leaves clues. These are some ideas for you to use in your own business to help get more attention and earn more money.
Make video content sharing your process. Even if you’re a beginner, you’re still a few days or more ahead of someone else. It’s okay to share your journey no matter where you are.
Faceless videos are okay. You can also go without words, as Flo’s done many times, but sharing your voice will help give confidence and context to anyone watching.
Share a combination of big and small ideas. Sometimes, Flo shares how to draw lips. Other times, she talks about drawing entire figures or scenes. Mix things up with broad and specific subjects.
Make things once and sell them multiple times. Even if you’re not a digital creator, there might be something you could make as a digital tool for others.
When you make something, never stop sharing it. Flo talks about her free goodie pack in every single video she posts and email she sends.
Give people multiple ways to buy from you. Some may want to be part of your paid community. Others may want to buy a single thing from you. Make them all available.
Stay in touch. A newsletter is only as good as the frequency you send it. If you let it go dormant for weeks or months and then touch base again, people will have forgotten about you and unsubscribe.
Now that you’ve read how simple this strategy is, all you need is time…
Which starts right now.
The Hungry is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.