Interview with Artist Roben-Marie Smith
Roben-Marie Smith Bio
Roben-Marie provides ideas, inspiration and quality instruction for hobbyists and art entrepreneurs. She teaches artists from beginners to those making a living from their art through her blog and her popular online workshops.
As an artist, blogger, woman of faith and founder of Maker’s Tech U, her mission is to serve others and help them get the most out of their art as a hobby, or as a business.
She lives in Florida with her husband of 33 years, loves to read, bake, travel and also has a heart for mission work, having served in Panama, El Salvador, Romania and Honduras.
Please tell us about your art background.
My love of art and creating started when I was a young child and turned into keeping journals and scrapbooks before officially discovering art journaling. When it came time to choose a career, I would have loved to have studied art but was pretty much told you can’t make a living at it. My journey has had many twists and turns but I have always nurtured my desire to be creative. I don’t have formal art training and have learned by play and experimentation.
In early 2000, I began teaching locally and at art retreats around the country, started a rubber stamp company and began dabbling in creating a website and blogging. In 2018, I closed my stamp company and began focusing on helping other artists with the tech side of running a digital business.
Please tell us about your business.
My business is multi-faceted in that I teach art courses both online and in-person, sell my original art and digital creations and run a membership for artists called Maker’s Tech U.
Please tell us about your art classes.
Many of my art classes center around creating books or journals with lots of techniques and exploration of art supplies thrown in.
How do you promote your art classes?
Marketing, especially these days, can be quite tricky. I have seen a lot of changes in the online business world over the last 5 years. It isn’t enough to “build it” and wait for the signups.
My most effective way to promote my classes is hands down through my email list. A well-thought-out sales page with lots of images, details, and a preview video are essential.
I also use Instagram and Pinterest as part of my marketing strategy.
You call yourself the Tech-Savvy Artist, do you find that many artists struggle with websites and promoting themselves online?
From as early as I can remember, I have always been drawn to technology. I remember back in early 2000 seeing this thing called a blog and while I didn’t understand what it was I knew I wanted one.
Yes, many artists struggle with the tech side of running an online business because technology doesn’t make sense to them. For years, I found myself helping my artist friends with their “tech” needs and quickly realized how much time they were wasting trying to figure things out on their own.
Artists usually have tons of ideas, dreams, and creative projects but for many, the “tech stuff” is a massive barrier to actually building an effective website and sharing their creativity online!
That’s why I created a program called Maker’s Tech U to provide resources and guidance to fellow artists.
Please tell us about your Maker’s Tech U?
Maker’s Tech U is a supportive monthly membership for artists at all levels who want to learn new tech skills, create a powerfully effective online presence, and grow their following.
You have a large social media following, do you have any advice for getting followers?
Social media has changed a lot over the years and it can be challenging to keep up. I think the key is to remain consistent on the platform(s) you choose. Don’t think you have to be on every platform. It will drive you mad and burn you out if you try.
I don’t spend as much time now as I used to on social media. I don’t use Twitter anymore and I hardly use Facebook. I focus my efforts with Instagram and Pinterest. Pinterest works for me because I have a website and I still blog.
Can you give us an overview of how YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram compare for artists?
Everyone’s business is different so it is important to look at your numbers. How much effort are you spending on a platform? Do you see it as a benefit to your business? The majority of my customers find me via my website.
Instagram is visual and most artists enjoy it and can be found there. However, it is changing rapidly and is now focusing more on video than images.
Pinterest works for me because I have a website and still blog. I am creating posts that are helpful, inspiring, and educational so I can move people from Pinterest to my website. If an artist doesn’t have a website/blog then I would not recommend putting a lot of energy there. Pinterest is a search engine and visitors are there looking for something specific.
YouTube is a search engine as well and if you’re an artist who creates video tutorials, this can be a great platform to grow your following.
I’m hearing a lot of creatives are moving away from Facebook. Again, you have to consider the effort to the return. It is much easier to focus your time and energy on a platform that is working for you.
If you were starting over today, what would you do differently to grow your art business?
I would have focused far more attention on growing my email list and sending weekly emails consistently.
Do you have any advice for artists early in their careers?
You need an online presence that is yours – a website that introduces who you are and what you do. I love social media but accounts can be closed and algorithms change so a site that you own is very important.
Develop a strong email list so that you have a direct form of communication with the people who discover you. Reach out for help and guidance. Starting a new venture can be overwhelming and time-consuming!