Designing in style

Selling art to your friends is rewarding. Selling to a buyer in London is astonishing. Senior Joanna Li has been designing and selling personalized merchandise since April 2017.

Li uploads her illustrations of cats, sharks and other simplistic designs to be printed on products such as sweatshirts, stickers, phone cases and tote bags through Redbubble, an online marketplace.  

“I wanted to try to make profit off my art because it’s difficult to sell original works of art,” Li said. “It’s mostly my friends [who buy] because they like my designs and want to support me, and I really appreciate that even when Redbubble merchandise can be pretty overpriced. I also think it’s really cool that people I haven’t even met are willing to buy my stuff.”

Before deciding to sell things online, she conducted polls on her personal Instagram to connect with her followers and determine the potential demand for her products. Li now promotes the items through her personal network as well as her art-specific Instagram, @spoopyjo.

“I’ve learned there’s a lot of planning in trying to run a business, and I have to put a lot more work into it if I want to make it work,” Li said. “Another thing I’ve learned is that it’s hard to sell your own original work, so you kind of have to appeal to what people want.”

In the future, she plans to expand her business by consistently advertising, creating a Facebook page and self-printing her products to lower the cost. Li has generated a total of around $50 in profit.

“I wanted to see if I can use my art to support myself in the future. I also see many artists do the same thing; they try to make a brand out of their designs,” Li said. “Being able to earn money with my work was really satisfying. It was pretty rewarding, knowing that people like my art and are willing to buy merchandise with my designs on it.”


By Angela Cao, Online lead
Photo courtesy of Joanna Li