10 Lessons from Starting SVSLearn
Art by Li Xin
We’ve been working on SVSLearn for years now, and many podcast listeners are familiar with it -- it’s the premiere place on the internet to learn how to make a living as a children’s book illustrator, founded by working artists Jake Parker, Lee White, and Will Terry. But how did the company start? And what did we learn along the way? Turns out a lot of the lessons we learned building this business apply to lots of other artistically minded businesses, and can help you make money from your art. So let’s dive in and break down the 10 (technically 14!) best lessons we learned since starting SVSLearn.
Sue Knause last edited by
I have to tell you that the the forum situation you mentioned is spot on. I was trying to articulate to someone the other day I was talking to about why I like SVS platform over the others I have been on, besides content. Other formats I have been on and paid for are Sketchbook Skool, Proko, Sktchy and they do not have an internal forum format. They take you to FB or other forums formats and it just doesn't work the same when they take you outside the learning platform and then you get lost in the FB or other rabbit holes. I think that is such a big bonus! Well done.
One thing that I think SVS has done really well is to reward loyalty. For example, I joined back when you were just starting out and when you raised the monthly cost, you grandfathered in all of those who were already members as a thank you. As a result, I have continued my membership even in months I wasn't using the classes because I don't want to lose that status. (And I like having the "badges" on the forum because it also fosters that loyalty.) All in all, what SVS has done really well is to sell not just a product, or classes, but a community experience and not all sites for online classes have managed to do that.
deborah Haagenson last edited by
I love this site! I know you guys want it to grow, but personally I am very happy with it now. There is so much to learn and along with the forum and podcasts, I spend a lot of time on this site. One site that I saw really grow overtime, that provides training videos to graphic designers. was Lynda.com. I worked there as a contractor adding web analytics to their site about 10 years ago. They were 'bought out' by LinkedIn. They made a fortune! If you can get information on how they accomplished their growth it might help you too. Just please stay humble and fun!! Thanks for all you do!
Ha. Okay. I had to say something about “not all amazing artists make good teachers.” I know of this one couple. The guy may or may not have taught classes at SVS. I did learn TONS! But the guy probably shouldn’t make a living as a personality. Still super guy I’m sure. However, his wife who is an artist... that girl is fabulous. Art is lovely, but she is super nice and is on the tv all the time and huge conferences and Uber entertaining. Not to mention, I’ve asked her random questions over the years and she always responds. We have chatted over DM several times. I wish I knew them in real life, cause their teacher/social media personas are so different.
You guys... glad you realized your chatter was a strength and decided to do a podcast to capture your witty banter. Probably should record your office meetings too. We’d all watch.
ArtofAleksey last edited by
Ooo in response to your inquiry for suggestions for podcast topics. I would really love a podcast episode where you interview a guest but the guest is an SVSlearn student who now works as a professional illustrator.
Sue Knause last edited by
@ArtofAleksey I Second that!
Fantastic episode, I loved hearing about how you just got started and made adjustments along the way. SVS has grown into an amazing library, with the option of engaging live classes, and a supportive forum.
I'm a bit biased but I'd love the next focus to be on comics/graphic novels. There's a lot of overlap with the strong children's book foundation you have, and comics are "visual storytelling" incarnate! Maybe by the time you roll it out, I'll be awesome enough to teach for it.
Another great episode, thanks guys! I'll admit I'm a little curious what the first version was like.
Some ideas for episodes:
1/ I think it would be great to have an episode specifically on being an author/illustrator, since all of you have done that. It comes up frequently, and you all have always made the distinction between this work and working with an author, but it's kind of its own mysterious thing to most people and even if you guys would casually chat about it, i'm sure it would be insightful.
2/ Another idea I'm finding important this year is the idea from the new year episode about paring down our idea debt inventory (actually i'm no longer sure which episode it's in). It seems like everyone needs to do that pretty frequently in order to move forward, especially letting ideas go. I have no one to help me let unworkable ideas go, so I need to learn to do that.
3/ Also would like an episode on what illustration briefs are like. I know what an editorial illustration brief looks like from the svs class, but I generally have no idea what they're like. What would it be like with a manuscript? Or is there even one with a picture book manuscript?
4/ Has anyone listened to the Neil Gaiman commencement speech mentioned in the new year episode? He talks about freelancer secrets and how you need two of the three things: your work needs to be good, you need to turn your work in on time, and you need to be easy to get along with. I'm curious what an episode would be like if you guys talked about experiences related to this idea and whether or not you think it's true, although some of the stuff you've talked about has been about this. He also lied about his work experience to get his foot in the door, but i'm def not going to try that
5/ What about an episode on lettering and type? This would probably make a great class, but I mean more in terms of things illustrators don't know about what graphic designers do that make it more difficult for everyone to produce great work. Maybe also resources to learn to do lettering when they need to be part of an illustration. There are trends in type and layout and I think sometimes illustrators aren't quite aware of this.
6/ One of the things I am really interested in is FIRE (financial independence retire early) for artists. Around the time my daughter was born i became so interested in blogs about financial independence that I started cutting costs and budgeting. Although I didn't know this at the time, it led me to the opportunity I'm taking advantage of now, which is the ability to stay home with her and have some time to learn illustration. This might be too personal for an episode, but even talking about how these concepts matter in terms of learning how to run a business would be great.
7/ a discussion on the history of illustration in a way that is more of a personal discussion than a class would be. Some examples of things you learned about