How to Get Free Art Supplies and Become a ‘Micro-Influencer’

Leverage your social following and work with well known companies.

The first time I got free art supplies from a company through my Instagram account was one of those “I’ve made it!” moments. Looking back, the supplies I received probably only retailed at $12, but I was still crazy excited for it. Whether you are a professional artist, or just a hobbyist you have the potential to become a micro-influencer on Instagram and get free products in exchange for social exposure.

This post isn’t really for everyone and getting the “free” supplies will require work. I will not be including resources here on how to just click a link, fill out a form, and get free supplies delivered to you. Although, I did provide something like that a long time ago that has since expired–I promise if I find more absolutely- no-strings-attached-free-supplies, I’ll let you know about it.

First, getting free supplies will require that you have a decent social presence for your art. I know. I know. It’s not easy to build a following online. I’ve written a lot of blog posts on how to grow a following on Instagram and I will continue to put out more information on that subject.  Though, lucky for you, you don’t have to have a butt-ton of followers in order to have social power as a ‘micro-influencer’.

What is a micro influencer?

Being a micro-influencer basically means that you have created a brand for yourself online and have a dedicated and engaged following. Micro-influencers are usually pretty niche and appeal to a specific audience. The exact follower range for a micro-influencer varies depending on where you get your information, but you can have anywhere from 1,000-50,000 followers.

Companies need to advertise their products, and often giving free products to a micro-influencer can be more cost effective than spending money on actual advertisements or paying big influencers. Also, micro-influencers often have a higher engagement rate than big influencer accounts.

If you currently have an account for your art above 1,000 followers, then you can start exploring your pull as a micro-influencer and approach companies for free products. Though, this will require you to step out of your comfort zone and make the opportunities happen.

Here’s How to Get free Supplies as a Micro-Influencer

1. Reach out to art supplies companies you want to work with.

Yup. I’m telling you to ask for free products. Though, you need to start thinking about how it’s not a ‘free’ product and it is actually a trade. In order to get a company’s attention you need to convince them you have something to offer. Having an engaged audience that will be interested in the products you mention is the main draw.

Customer service contact information is usually listed on company websites. I look for an email address and craft a basic email that includes a few key things:

  • Start with an intro of who you are.
  • Explain your current social power (how many followers, your engagement rate, your niche, and how you can provide a benefit to the company by promoting their products).
  • Ask if they would be interested in providing free products in exchange for social exposure or as a focal point for a review.
  • You can even ask to partner in a giveaway.
  • Consider making/offering YouTube reviews or blog posts as well.
  • Thank them for their time.

You have nothing to lose by approaching a company with an opportunity that can benefit both of you. Just focus on what you can offer them and be prepared for rejection.

2. Tag companies on social media.

When you create art and post it online, start tagging the companies that made the supplies you used. This is a really indirect way to open the door to getting free supplies, but occasionally these companies take notice and may offer up more supplies as a thank you for your dedication. Your success is their success.

Don’t hold your breath, though! The direct approach will work much better.

3. Let the universe decide.

If you want to leave everything up to chance, you can just focus on your art and growing your following. As you build a bigger presence online, companies may reach out to you completely organically to offer you free things to promote on your account. This has happened to me multiple times without tagging or mentioning any company.

One time I got free soup.

Yup. Soup.

Additional things to consider

Greedy Companies- When free supplies aren’t enough.

If a company approaches you with free products, do not let them dictate the terms of how and if you present the products on your social accounts without considering requesting additional payment for your time and work.

Free supplies can only buy so much from an influencer. Your following has a value and sometimes a free product isn’t enough. I’ll go over actually getting paid to promote products in a bit.

Whenever a company approaches me, I tell them all the same thing: I’d be more than happy to try your product. If I love it, I can share on social media as I see fit. If I don’t like it, I simply won’t say anything. If you want control over any part of the post, then you must pay for a sponsored post.

Companies weigh the cost of paying for advertisements against the cost of free products for influencers. Learn how to establish the value of your posts vs. promotions.

Companies likely aren’t just going to give you free products out of the kindness of their hearts. Free products are just another way to advertise. I know when I first started getting offers for free supplies, I didn’t realize the value of my social exposure. So, I want you be smarter than I was and to evaluate your Instagram posts through two things: 1) the ‘reach’ of your average post through the post insights (see the left picture) and 2) a hypothetical promotion spend through Instagram (see the right picture).

You will need your account to be a business account to see both of these screens (you should get on that if you haven’t already). I took a look at the insights from one of my posts in July 2018 (I had around 53,000 followers at the time). You can see the post reached 11,343 accounts. If you scroll to the bottom of the insights, you can see an option to promote the post.

I want you to go through the promotion screens until you get to the one that looks like the right picture. From here, you can slide the Budget and Duration around until you get a projected ‘reach’ that is similar to your post. That will give you an idea of how much a company would have to spend on one post in order to get the reach your average posts get already. Then just back out of the promotion.

If a company is sending you a $20 kit of supplies, and you reach an audience of that would cost more than that through paid promotions, the company will likely be happy with the results. Not to mention, the retail value of a product is marked up from the actual cost of making the product…

Greedy Influencers- Are you asking for too much?

If you approach a company first, be mindful of the value of the products you request when compared to the value you can give the company. By looking at the cost of advertising vs. the reach on your posts like we did above, you can get a better idea of what kinds of products you can realistically expect to get for free.

Breaking away from your brand- Don’t promote unrelated content.

If a company reaches out to you and their products have nothing to do with you, your art, or the brand you’ve created–then I suggest not promoting the product on your social media accounts. Building a social following takes a lot of work, and if you start to pollute your brand with content your followers have no interest in, then you risk losing dedicated followers.

Stay true to the brand you’ve created. Though, you can get away with posting company shout outs in your stories that stray from your brand a bit.

Instagram micro-influencers can make money in addition to getting free supplies.

Free supplies are great, but free supplies plus a paycheck is even better. If you are reaching out to companies, I wouldn’t push your luck with asking for free supplies AND money unless you really have a good deal to offer them. But, if companies approach you to promote their products, you have all the power to ask for more and/or turn down or accept the offer.

You can find a lot of different suggestions for what influencers should be paid, but it’s different for every company you work with and you will need to develop some negotiating skills. Though, to get a general idea of what you can be paid as an influencer check out this Influencer tool by Influencer Marketing Hub.

Moral of the story…

You can get free supplies if you work for it and create opportunities for yourself. Keep in mind that companies will be more willing to work with influencers who can clearly benefit them. Sell yourself. Start searching for email addresses and send out a couple of emails and see what happens.

Becoming a micro or macro influencer doesn’t sound like it should be a real thing but it totally is. You can start at any level and the bigger you get, the more opportunities you can create for yourself and the more free stuff you’ll be able to get in your mailbox. Though, the bigger you get, the more you should demand payment for your social posts.

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I hope you enjoyed this post! Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Why You Should Create Videos of Your Art Process

This is what I do to get more exposure on social media and you should do it too.

I’ve written a lot of blog posts about how to grow your following as an artist online. How to pick the right hashtags, how to brand your Instagram, how often to post, and more, but there is one huge thing that helps me continually grow my following on social media and I want you to do this too: Make videos of your art process.

I have shared my recording setup in a couple of other blog posts, so I apologize if you find some of this info repetitive, but you’ll still get something out of the first bit of this post. Especially if you still haven’t gotten around to actually making videos.

Videos, videos, videos!

Process videos, time lapse videos, close up videos, slow motion videos, real time videos. Any kind of video you can think of. I’m going to give you a clear chunk of proof as to why videos will be beneficial for your social media accounts.

Take a look at the insights I pulled from my Instagram account for the last 30 days below. On the left is a screenshot of the number of accounts I reached through still photo posts, and on the right is the reach of my video posts.

All you have to do is look at the first thumbnail on each screenshot.

  • Best Photo Post: 68,793 accounts reached
  • Best Video Post: 165,999 accounts reached

My best video post clearly blows my best photo post out of the water. Same with the next 6 video posts. I could use the same hashtags, post at the same time of the day, use similar captions, or replicate any other variable, but videos get more attention than photos on average.

This has been consistent for me since September of 2017 when my following first started to grow and I’ve continued to create videos since then to maintain the momentum. Don’t delay. Start making videos. I’ll show you how I do it.

How to Create Videos of Your Art for Social Media

*Any product links provided in this post are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you make a purchase. These commissions help fund the creation of more content like this at no additional cost to you. So thank you for supporting this site! Buy all the things 😉 *

You don’t need any crazy expensive equipment to get started with making videos. Most of us have high quality cameras in our pockets that we can start recording with. When I first started making videos, I used my Samsung Galaxy S6 phone, a cheap smartphone tripod, and a pre-installed video app to create time lapse videos. Regardless of the equipment you use, I have some tips for you:

Basic tips for creating videos:
  1. Use good lighting: In photos and videos, you want to make sure you don’t have dimly lit or highly shadowed products. Keep things bright and clean with natural sunlight or daylight bulbs.
  2. Control the chaos around your art: Keep your work space clean and make sure the colors of the surface you’re working on don’t clash with your art. I stick with clean(ish) white surfaces. Reduce the clutter around your art so the viewer’s eyes don’t get distracted.
  3. Show an interesting part of your process, and capture dynamic moments: People who aren’t artists will not know what your pencil sketch of a bird will look like once you add your distinct watercolor style unless you show them. Capture a piece from start to finish, or capture satisfying moments of adding details during the last 25% of a piece. Show a transformation and tell a story through your videos.
  4. Don’t waste your time with video intros: You only have a couple of seconds to grab your viewer’s attention. I suggest jumping right into your art content.
  5. Consider working small to create more content: If you only work on large pieces, creating 7 videos a week may be a bit difficult. I suggest working on “content filler” pieces of art that are smaller and that you can finish quickly.

My Video Setup:

When I was at my most ambitious state, I was posting a time lapse video of my work once a day. If you want to aggressively try to grow your following, I would suggest you do the same (and don’t forget to research a good list of hashtags). At a minimum that means I needed 7 videos a week, so I basically started to record everything I did in the studio. This led me to “upgrade” my recording equipment to make it as easy as possible for me to hit record. (Smartphones run out of storage space quickly when you record that much!)

Right now, I record all of my videos using a webcam. I record right onto my laptop and I edit them with Adobe Premiere Pro. Easy peasy.

If you want to stick with using your phone to start, you can still use the lights, scissor arm, and then get your hands on that cellphone tripod and screw the phone holder onto your clamp arm.

Are you ready to get started?

I can’t stress enough how beneficial video content can be for your social exposure. Using videos on Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and whatever other platform you’re on can easily grab more attention than a still photo. Making videos may seem intimidating at first, but we have so much technology around us that we can use.

If you have a smartphone, webcam, iPad, or even a camcorder, you can get started. Use what you have and hit record.

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Lastly, I want to take a moment to touch on the fear that a lot of artists have about sharing their art process. I understand that you may not want to show people how you make your art for fear that it’s giving them a blueprint of how to copy what you do. A lot of us fear having our work copied, but take a moment to read this post if that fear is holding you back from making videos. Don’t let fear get in your way.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

Why Your Social Media Posts Should Start a Conversation

And how to do it! (For Artists and Creatives on Instagram)

I am an introvert. In social situations, that means I will be closest to the wall and I will rarely approach new people and be the one to initiate a conversation. When I walk into a party, I usually observe conversations until someone says something I find interesting. I’m too lazy and too awkward to be the one searching for what makes each person in a room interesting. So I wait.

On social media, you need to assume that everyone in your audience is like me. We don’t care about you until you show us why we should and you have to invite us into your bubble. It seems a little cold when I word it like that, but really it’s just an effort in energy conservation. Most people don’t have the time or energy to dig into what makes every random person special on the internet. You are that random person, and you have to show them.

As an artist or creative person on social media, starting conversations with your posts is a great way to reach out to your quiet audience members who just creep in the background until somebody mentions a topic they care about.

There are two reasons why you need to create conversations on social media:

  1. Conversations= engagement and engagement= more eyes on your work/more followers. Getting meaningful comments on your posts helps show social media platforms that your post is popular and it should be boosted to other users. Basically, you need to get genuine comments that are more than 4 words on your posts.
  2. Conversations help your audience connect with you and your brand, which builds trust, and trust helps lead to sales.

More engagement, more followers, more trust, more potential to make money from your craft. Yay, conversations!

Every Social Media Post is an opportunity to have a conversation.

Every caption doesn’t need to be meaningful, deep, profound, or anything like that, but many of your captions should invite people into a simple conversation at the very least. Your goal should be to create space for your audience to connect with you and add their own voice.

First, let’s look at the wrong way to start a conversation. Look at these three sample Instagram captions that an artist might write:

“Here’s what I’ve been working on in the studio today.”

“A little update on my progress with this piece.”

“18”x24 acrylic on canvas. DM to purchase.”

From the three examples above, do you feel like they are an invitation to participate in a conversation? What kinds of responses do these captions ask for? Maybe “looks good,” or “love it.” If you’re lucky, you might get a few emojis, but you’ll likely get silence from most people unless your photo REALLY speaks to them. Captions like this leave hardly any room for conversation. In real life it would look like this:

“Hey, look at my art!”

“Looks cool!”

“Thanks!”

*Both of you then stare awkwardly in other directions, because the conversation died after 8 words.*

On social media, captions like this put all of the conversational burden on your audience to come up with more questions for you. You’re the creator. You’re the one presenting your work to the world. You’re the one asking for attention, so you must be the one to take on that conversational work to keep things moving.

I also want to challenge you to use your captions to complement your brand without always speaking directly about the content of the photos and videos you’ve posted. Nobody says you have to narrate your visuals in your captions. Let your visuals capture your creativity and let your captions tell the story about you as the artist. Your captions can be completely unrelated to the art in the photo as long as they are still relevant to your brand and you as an artist.

Now, look at this caption I used on one of my posts from a couple of weeks ago when I was visiting my home state:

“One of my favorite things about living in California has been the hills and mountains around where I live. Every time we take the dog for a walk, we get that good booty burn while working our way upwards. So it’s really funny to be in Minnesota and realize just how flat it really is. There was a “hill” I used to bike down as a kid in my home town and I remembered it being the steepest hill around. Seeing it now, I laughed out loud. It’s cute how much bigger the world is through young eyes.” (Original Post)

And this one:

“I wonder if I’m ever going to be a morning person… That could be nice. *she says as she struggles to hold her eyes open and roll out of bed*” (Original Post)

The first is a story from my past that others might be able to relate to, and the second is a general display of my personality. Neither of these ask a direct question, but they still leave room for more conversation beyond “nice pic”. People may respond with stories from their own childhood, or their mutual hatred for mornings. You can see that neither caption is profoundly meaningful, but they help add another layer of my story as an artist on top of the visuals I post.

You are multidimensional and you are not just the art you post. You have so much more to offer your audience than “I just finished up this piece. Check it out!” What did that piece mean to you? What struggles did you encounter? What inspires you? What weird thing happened to you while you were creating? Most people in your audience won’t actually ask you these questions so you have to do the work for them and present answers from the beginning.

Tips to Start a Meaningful Conversation on Social Media

  1. Straight up ask a question in your caption: Make it somewhat meaningful and don’t just ask for people to comment on your art. Think about your audience and what they might like to talk about.
  2. Be vulnerable: When you are a creative person, your struggles and vulnerabilities are inherently connected to your craft. Figure out how your personal struggles can work to elevate your brand and share those stories responsibly and with intention. (Example)
  3. Find meaning in the mundane: Everything in life has the potential to be entertaining. Tomorrow morning, wake up and try to view your life as if someone is narrating it. How would an author describe the way you get out of bed. What idiosyncrasies do you have that you normally don’t notice? Capture small moments from your life and share it with an audience, but be intentional with your tone (funny, thoughtful, quirky, etc.)
  4. Speak of your origins: There may be millions of artists out there trying to get attention on social media, but we all have a different story to tell. Share your experiences.
  5. Share your quirks and imperfections: The things we are self conscious about are often the things that make us delightfully different. A little encouragement to your audience to then share their quirks can start a lovely conversation.

If you are struggling to find things to talk about, imagine yourself in front of a couple of friends and run through topics they might be interested in talking about. Or, what stories would you tell them about your week? What do you find meaningful in life? What kinds of conversations do you like to be a part of? I keep notes on my phone with ideas for captions and stories to tell. That might be helpful for you as well.

You can also take note of the types of social media accounts you follow and how different captions pull you in. Then you can sort of reverse engineer social interactions.

And remember, every one of your captions should have a purpose, but you don’t have to make 100% of them conversation starters. Sometimes “New items are in my shop, follow the link in my bio” is perfect. Just make sure you are showing your audience why they should want to support you as a creator in posts before that.

Lastly, make time to respond to comments and further the conversation.

If someone takes the time to leave you a comment on social media, try to respond in some way. On Instagram, your comments are rumored to count as engagement as well. This is why I recommend going to your new post about an hour after publishing and responding to all the meaningful comments. Even if this doesn’t help boost your post to new users, it will at the very least show your audience that you are accessible and have a desire to connect with them.

(I know that you may not actually want to connect with people and you just want to sell your art–but I’m going to encourage you to fake it a little. Nobody on the other side of the screen can see the annoyed look on your face while you’re typing responses, so just power through!)

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Many of the artists I work with in my consulting sessions feel a struggle with writing good conversation starting captions, but I promise it does get easier with time. You don’t have to be a comedian, have perfect grammar, be a story teller, or have yourself figured out in order to start a conversation on social media. You just have to be you and put yourself out there. One random little story or thought at a time.

When nobody responds to a caption you spent a bunch of time on, don’t get discouraged. Keep doing your thing every day and the persistence will pay off. Or just make time lapse videos of your art. Those are inherently engaging 😉 If your visuals can compensate for sub-par captions, then you can still find a lot of success on social media. You don’t have to be great at everything.

Now go start a conversation! Even if it’s just about your favorite paint brush named George or that time you walked around your high school all day with green oil paint smeared on your neck.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! And make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: