2013 Year End Wrap Up/ Looking forward to 2014
Wow! Another year has come and gone!
Last year around this time I launch this new website/blog. (Not so new in internet years.) One of my first posts was a 2012 year end wrap up, so I guess that means it’s time to wrap up 2013, taking a look back on what I accomplished in the previous year and setting some goals for this one.
By the way, I would encourage anyone who is interested in setting goals to blog about them. Once your to do list is out on the blogosphere for all to see, it helps hold you accountable and gives you more of an incentive to achieve your goals. Not to mention making it easy to look back and assess how you did. So let’s look back, shall we
Now, I’m not the most superstitious person and I have never bought into the idea that 13 is an unlucky number, but after 2013 I may have to reevaluate my thinking. 2013 was a series of ups and downs for me professionally. And unfortunately, there were a few more downs than ups
The beginning of the year marked my departure from my awesome day job at Broken Bulb Game Studios where I worked for three years as a game designer. This was especially difficult because my time at “The Bulb” ranks among the best working experiences of my career. I learned a lot about the gaming industry, worked with some incredibly talented people, and contributed to some amazing projects. However, regrettably the company was forced to make some major changes and for many of us it was time to move on
So on I went from one of the best “real” jobs of my life to quite possibly the worst. I was offered a graphic design position at a national media company. I won’t get into too much detail except to say the culture of the company was the polar opposite of what I was accustomed to, and in turn allowed very little creative freedom. Maybe I was spoiled by my years at Broken Bulb, or freelancing on my own for so long, but I knew I couldn’t stay there long.
Fortunately, I was soon offered another game designer position at a new start-up game studio working alongside many of the artists I had worked with at Broken Bulb. Unfortunately, within a few months, the second wave of funding the company was contracted to receive didn’t materialize and my friends and I were once again forced to move on. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.
The good news is that it’s a brand new year. There are opportunities on the horizon, and while day jobs come and go, I have never stopped tinkering away in the background, working on cool arts ,and planning for the future of Serkworks.
More on that later.
Last years goals:
Create a more effective online storefront. Knowing that I wanted to produce a lot more products in 2013, I needed a better storefront. I had been using Big Cartel which only allowed me to market up to five items for free before upgrading to a higher monthly payment plan. I looked into a few options, but ultimately went with Store Envy, which I love. I can feature as many items in as many categories as I want for free. There are tons of extras available for promoting products, social media tools, and a built in marketplace with an established customer base. I was able to blend the storefront into my site relatively seamlessly without a whole lot of complicated coding. All in all, a win win scenario. You can check out my online store here: http://serkworks.storenvy.com/
Be more active with social media. This is something I constantly struggle with, and though I try to keep up my online presence it seems there is always room for improvement. In the past I have focused most of efforts through my Facebook fan page, but I recently started posting to Google Plus. I like it much more than Facebook, however Facebook still seems to be where all the traffic is. I have since linked my Google Plus account to post to my Facebook page, Tumblr, and even my old Blogger account which still gets some traffic. I also try to post semi-regularly to Instagram and Twitter. In addition, I started using my Pinterest account as a way to build a library of categorized reference photos which Pinterest seems to be perfect for. Although I try to post to social networks frequently, I really need to work on engaging and interacting with my audience, not just post new art.
Video/live stream content. In 2013 I set up a U-stream account and did a series of live streams. However, I was never very impressed with the service. There was no way to brand your channel without opting for expensive add-ons, and in order to provide screen capture capability I needed to instal a third party plug-in which had it’s own branding on top of U-stream’s. It all looked like a huge jumbled mess of logos and ads, none of which represented Serkworks. I originally wanted to use Google Hangouts because it allows you to upload your own graphics and only contained one relatively small non-intrusive Google logo. Unfortunately, at the time it had no chat feature which was a necessity for me. (Again, it’s about interacting with your audience.) The good news is Google Hangouts rolled out some new features, among them a live Q & A which I think I can use in lieu of a chat. So expect to see more live streams from me via Google Hangouts and on You Tube in 2014.
Sketch more. I haven’t done as much sketching lately as I would like. Most of the sketching I was doing in 2013 was fan art, and I’m making an effort to do more original characters and less pop culture-based art. The pop culture stuff is fun and people respond well to it, but I think it’s important that I be known for creating original ideas, not just for doing my own spin on someone else’s I.P.
Finish issue two of “Young and the Dead.” I’m happy to say I did complete issue two and I am very happy how it turned out. I still have yet to run the story online as a web comic or to create digital versions for purchase.
Go digital for comics creation. I was hoping to purchase a tablet display in 2013. Although most artists who use them agree they are a good investment, I couldn’t really justify the price tag having just started to freelance full-time again. I did play around drawing in Manga studio but opted to draw and ink issue two of “Young and the Dead” traditionally out of habit and convenience.
Make new designs. I said I wanted to triple the amount of products to sell online and at shows. This meant six new prints, eight button designs, and a new set of mix and match character cards. Well, I only created four new buttons, but I created 18 new print designs and a Wizard of Oz themed set of mix and match cards. So I would call that a success.
Improve on my trade show booth. I did make the changes I mentioned when I exhibited at Phoenix Comic Con. I added a backdrop and made some changes to my displays. This year I sprung for a larger booth and plan to build an all new booth.
Market my children’s book to publishers. I decided not to focus on the book at this time. Although I still love the idea, I’m not sure the theme fits the direction I’m taking the Serkworks brand. I would love for a publisher to pick up the book separate from Serkworks, but since my back up plan was to market it myself and sell the book at shows, I just don’t know if it fits the overall theme, so I’m going to have to shelf it again for now.
Work on home art projects. I made some progress on my home projects but sadly did not finish everything I wanted to. I was able to create the fancy molding on my daughter’s bed, but did not get around to the stair case or slide. She keeps bugging me about it so I’m hoping to finish it soon. As for my work space expansion, I have started some of the shelves, but as you can see by the photo it still need a bit of work.
That sums up the 2013 recap. Here are the list of things I plan to accomplish in 2014.
First, I need to get around to all the leftover stuff I failed to complete in 2013. This includes learning Manga Studio, launching “Young and the Dead” as an online web comic, and finishing construction on my workspace and daughter’s castle bed.
My primary goal is to stay hyper-focused on marketing Serkworks as a brand. When I first started Serkworks way back in 1999, it was really just a banner for my freelance illustration and design work. I still plan to take on a fair amount of freelance work in order to keep the lights on, but I also want Serkworks to represent all of the original artwork I have been producing, and work on my own creations that fit within an overarching theme.
Last year I did a number of pop culture designs to sell as prints and to market to t-shirt sites. I’ve decided that this isn’t really the direction I want to go with Serkworks. There are a lot of artists that make a very good living designing fan art or pop culture parody tees, but it’s a hard business to break in to. I have submitted dozens of designs to a number of t-shirt companies and have only been accepted once. I have a design coming out on Tee Fury, plus a few pop parody concepts that I have already started and I intend to finish up, but whether I continue to do any more pup culture-inspired art will probably depend on how well my design does on Tee Fury.
So what is this new direction I’ve been talking about for Serkworks? Well, as I imagine it, Serkworks is a moniker for a fictional sinister mega-corporation that designs and manufactures a wide array of geeky retro-future inventions, many of which will most certainly spell doom for the human race. Products might include giant killer robots, alien technology-based death rays, bio-genetically lab created zombies — basically stuff you would purchase if you happen to be a mad scientist bent on world domination.
I have already began designing a series of prints, postcards, buttons, and comics that will fit under the Serkworks umbrella, and plan to continue to create many similar products in 2014.
Here’s what I have planned:
An all new bigger and better trade show booth for conventions. My existing booth looks pretty nice and is a good attention getter, however it is made of many large plastic pipes and a huge spinning display that is difficult to transport. My goal is to design a booth that is bigger, but can break down to be more compact and easier to tote around. I also want it to be modular so I can adjust it to work booths in smaller and larger venues.
More Shows. Right now I am only doing two shows a year, but I would love to add at least one more big event and keep growing from there.
A whole mess of new products. I have a good head start but want to have at least twice the amount of products that I currently have for sale by the end of the year.
Share and interact more online. As I said before, this is something I need to be more proactive about. I’ve upped my social media game a bit, but I still need to be more present on the social networks.
Sketch more and more. It may be time for me to go back to starting my day with some warm up sketches or work on some daily sketch cards.
More video and live stream content. I think sketching, sharing, and streaming can all be bundled together to kill three birds with one stone.
Complete issue three of “Young and the Dead.” I plan on starting to write and illustrate issue three this summer after Phoenix Comic Con. I really want to go fully digital this time around. I usually pencil all the pages, then ink, letter, and add the tones in that order, but I want to see if I can switch to completing a full page at a time. That way I will have individual pages ready to post online when I start running YATD as a web comic, which I definitely plan to do this year.
Well, there you have it. My list for 2014 is a bit shorter, and many of my goals are continuing the work I was doing in 2013. It’s more important for me to further perpetuate the Serkworks’ brand and refrain from focusing on anything that doesn’t fall under that umbrella. This is an exciting time for me. I’m very curious to see what Serkworks will look like in 2015.