Today I’m launching something new, which marks a different way of working for me.
It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me (apologies), but I’m back now.
What’s the best way for an artist to make a living in 2022? Some sell original artwork, but as I draw digitally on a tablet there usually aren’t any physical originals.
- Some artists, including many cartoonists, sell to publications, which is something I’ve been fortunate to be able to do, as you know, and will continue to do.
- Others sell merchandise, which I have also done, and will continue to do, but for ethical reasons, (ie in a climate emergency we need to consume less ‘stuff’), I won’t be making merchandise with drawings on the mainstay of what I do.
- Other artists do commissions for private clients, which is great if it’s something you’re good at, but I find it challenging, so don’t take on as many commissions as I used to.
- And some creators make books, which is an opportunity I’ve been thankful to have, but very few artists (or indeed writers) can make a living from doing so.
There’s one other possibility: memberships and patronage – making art for a group of people who like what you do, and are willing to fund you to do it. I’ve dabbled with this approach for my CartoonChurch site – essentially selling artwork for use in church magazines, and it’s been great that people have wanted to use my work in this way.
However, having done quite a lot of work on cycling, sustainable transport, and related themes in recent years, I wanted something for the many people who enjoy my drawings on these topics, along with those who like my cartoons about current events, and not-quite-so-tied-to-a-topic work about life in general.
So, here’s the plan. I’m starting a club. I’ve spent months trying to come up with a name, and not particularly succeeding, but here we are: Diagram Club. It’s a club, and I draw diagrams. I use the word ‘diagram’ to describe what I draw interchangeably with ‘cartoon’, but ‘cartoon club’ isn’t ideal for various reasons, so Diagram Club it is.
‘Hang on’, I hear you say. ‘Isn’t this a bit like Patreon?’ Well, yes, it is. Patreon is a website which allows creators to offer memberships. I’ve decided not to use Patreon for two reasons. One. I want to remain independent. Two. Using my own website allows me to do various things, but most especially make libraries of my work available to members, in ways that Patreon doesn’t.
So, what are the benefits of joining Diagram Club?
1. Firstly, you are helping to funding my work on the following topics: Cycling, Sustainable Transport, Current events, Everyday life. Just to note: My church-themed work continues on CartoonChurch.com. If that’s the side of my work you like then please divert your attention there (and buy a licence, if you’d like to). I’m hoping that, as a result of Diagram Club supporters, I’ll be able to produce a significant amount of new work. I’m promising one new diagram of some kind on average every week, though there will be weeks with more, and weeks (when I’m on holiday, for instance) with less that one (ie none). But my aim is to overdeliver on this promise, so that over a year there will be more than 52 new diagrams. All of my diagrams I produce (‘downloads’ excluded – see no 4, below) will continue to be visible to anyone, member or not.
2. You’ll be able to join a community of likeminded people who support my work. Among other things, there will be opportunities to help shape the direction of new diagrams, and suggest ideas. I’m hosting this community on a members-only Facebook group. I know, I know, Facebook isn’t ideal, for all kinds of reasons. Unfortunately the technical challenges of running and maintaining a community aspect to things on my own website (which I have spent a lot of time trying out) was tricky. I’m hoping the community will be a fun and creative place, and will (among other things) help guide my future work. When you sign up to the club you’ll receive info about how to join the Facebook group. For those who really can’t join a Facebook group – I’ll make sure important updates are always sent by email too.
3. You’ll be able to reuse my diagrams yourself. this could be in presentations, in printed form, and online. There will be some guidelines and parameters (so you can’t make your own merchandise, for instance), but I’m hoping that for some people this alone will make membership very worthwhile. This will apply to all work in the Diagrams’ section of this website, which will include some (but not all – that wouldn’t be fair on the publishers) of the work from my cycling books, the drawings I’ve done for Cycling UK, and new work that I’ll produce from now on.
4. There will be stuff you can print off. ‘Printables’ is one term people use, but I’m calling them ‘Downloads’. As I’ve said, my intention is to keep my diagrams themselves free for everyone to see and enjoy, but also create special printable work that is exclusive to Diagram Club members. As an example: You may have seen my cargo-bike themed weekly planner, which I’ve offered free for people who sign up to my email list. But over time I hope to build up a collection of additional planners, colouring pages and whatnot, and these will be available only to members.
5. I’m planning to offer online events, such as Q and A sessions, on Zoom or similar. Never done this kind of thing before, but let’s give it a go. It’ll be fun!
6. Merchandise won’t be central to the Diagram Club, but I’d like to do some physical products, like greetings cards, for instance, in the future. The original plan was to offer a ‘membership plus art’ tier of the club, whereby you could pay more and have stuff through the post. But the problem with that idea is that people would probably end up with stuff that doesn’t really interest them, which would be a waste of time and resources. So I’m planning to offer the merchandise at very reasonable and discounted prices to members that actually want to receive it instead. Also I decided against the ‘tiers’ idea in general, and decided that having one membership level for everyone was more equitable and… better. As with many other aspects, I’ll give this a go and see how it works.
7. The plan is for the details to develop, in consultation with members, as time goes on. Perhaps the online Zoom calls turn out to be an unmitigated disaster, so we all agree to quietly drop them, or perhaps they go so well we meet up and have a picnic in Hyde Park. Who knows.
The question everyone is thinking is: How much is this going to cost?
I wanted to make the membership good value so as many people as want to can join in, and I really hope that it will be. My plan is (and working this out has taken about five months) to do things on a ‘pay what you can afford’ basis. It seemed like a good approach, particularly in the current times.
The ‘standard’ price will be £2 a month, payable in advance as £24 for a year. I’m hoping that’s fair and reasonable.
For those who feel the membership is good value for what they’ll get out of it, and think that I’m undercharging, and who can afford to pay more, there are ‘Pay what you can afford’ options to do so. And if you can do that – thank you! You’re a star.
But I know in the current times anything at all is a stretch for many, so I’m offering a reduced rate too, of £1 a month. I really do want to make this open to as many people as possible, but on the other hand I can’t always give everything I do away for free. I hope the solutions I’ve come up with are fair.
So, how does one go about joining? Here’s the page: Join Diagram Club.
If you have any further questions there’s a Frequently Asked Questions page for the questions people might ask frequently had I not preempted them by writing a page. You can also read the Membership conditions, if the details are important to you, all linked from the page above. As with everything I reserve the right to edit these as we go.
Thanks for reading everyone. I hope you’d like to join the Diagram Club. If not, I understand, but if so, see you there!