As many of you may already know, I’m a big fan of Chris Guillebeau and his Unconventional Guides franchise. Not only did I help out with one of his first guides—Art & Money—but I’ve enjoyed watching his blog and story unfold over the past several years.
So, when the latest Unconventional Guide titled Designed to Sell hit the (digital) shelves a few weeks ago, I was thrilled to get a copy by email and see what was inside. And, I’m looking forward to sharing my opinion about it—because while some people can probably use it, it’s definitely NOT for everyone.
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Ready? Then let’s do this!
What’s Designed to Sell all about?
In short, it’s a roadmap/guide explaining everything that’s required in order to successfully sell a creative product online. It’s tailored primarily to people in the art, fashion, and handmade industries, and will probably be MOST useful if you have a great product already—and just need to know how to efficiently produce it, market it, and sell it online.
In addition to information, links, resources, and suggestions for anyone on this creative path, Designed to Sell also includes a number of stories and anecdotes from creative professionals who have already “made it.” These stories are inspirational, and in some cases, educational.
If I had to put a number on it, I’d say this eBook is made up of about 35% “inspirational” content, and 65% hard-hitting “actionable” content. As with all instructional books, you’ve got to motivate as you teach, and in this eBook, I think there’s a nice balance—there’s some extraneous stuff, but not too much.
OK, so who wrote Designed to Sell?
The authors are designers and artists Jen Adrion and Omar Noory. They’re best-known as creators of stylish wall-art maps, but they also create and sell a number of other beautiful items. Their illustration work can be found at thesearethings.com, and they write about the “behind the scenes” aspects of their creative career at makingit.co.
Jen and Omar have DONE what this guide sets out to teach. They’ve made it in a creative, and very competitive space—illustration—and they run their own business. These are great credentials, and just having those credentials lends a lot of weight to the information presented in Designed to Sell.
I actually remember seeing Jen and Omar’s gorgeous “Modern World Map” when it first hit the internet, so it’s fun to learn more about how they achieved their success. They’re the first to admit they made plenty of mistakes along the way, but that’s good news for anyone interested in Designed to Sell. . . the mistakes, and more importantly, what they got out of it, are included.
Give me some specifics—what will I learn?
Designed to Sell is split up into 5 main sections. You can read a lot about what’s included on the official website, but I’ll go over it in detail below:
The first section discusses your big idea—the thing that you’re trying to sell. Maybe it’s fine art, maybe it’s something handmade, who knows. The important thing is to validate your big idea if you already have it, and discover it if you don’t. (They talk about how to do both.)
Once you’ve got your big idea, there are several other important steps to work through before it’s ready to sell. Jen and Omar cover the importance of design, production, and pricing, and give lots of great information on how to create a truly stellar product.
This section includes a lot of stories, almost case studies, of other artists, crafters, and creative professionals, and how they’ve achieved the success they have today.
The second section covers the business side of things. This means fundraising, budgeting, saving, legal requirements, tax preparation, etc. You could learn this information elsewhere, but it’s nice to have it all here, packaged specifically for creative people and artists. When it’s not covered in full detail, there are links and suggested resources to get you the rest of the way.
The third section is titled “Open for Business”—it gives some great information on where to sell online (based on Jen and Omar’s experiences) as well as how to launch successfully, how to market your launch, and how to really promote the heck out of your product while still being true to YOU, the maker.
This is probably my favorite section because it really digs into some very common stumbling blocks that many artists and creators experience when trying to promote and sell their art online. Designed to Sell talks about those issues, in depth, and explains how to do it right.
The fourth and fifth sections talk about promotion and production. This includes social media integration, understanding your website traffic and views, and creating a manageable production method for your art (or product line) that you can add to and revise over time. This is useful information whether you’re a fine artist looking to create a line of prints or reproductions, or an indie clothing designer, jewelry-maker, or anyone who can mass-produce some or all of their product.
NOTE: I also really enjoyed the simple social media schedule—basically a repeatable weekly action list—that Jen and Omar included in their add-on resource, “Social Media for Artists.” They came up with a great, easy way to be consistently active in social media. This is an extra PDF that comes with a more expensive version of the guide, however, so it may not be for everyone. Learn more about that here.
OK, brass tacks. How much does it cost?
This is the sticking point for me, and I assume it will be for many other artists as well. I really like this eBook, BUT. . . the cheapest version costs $147, and only includes the 139 page guide plus two additional resources: the Creative Freedom Roadmap and Creative Business Resources Directory.
The roadmap is a checklist of all the topics discussed in the main guide, which is pretty handy if you’re going to do everything in the guide from A-Z and want to check off all the boxes. If you’re not doing that, then you might not use the Creative Freedom Roadmap at all.
On the other hand, the directory of resources was both fun and helpful. Some of the stuff they link to isn’t necessary or helpful for everyone, but there’s a LOT that is. I was pleasantly surprised by that, and I think for many artists, that directory will really help.
Now, there are two more levels of Designed to Sell which you can also purchase: the Business Builder version costs $247 and comes with a few additional resources, including 10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way from Jen and Omar, and 6 Artist Interviews (from the artists featured in the guide itself). Also, you’ll get Social Media for Artists, and Finding your Big Idea.
Of the things included in the Business Builder package, I think the social media resource is the most helpful, although I didn’t get a chance to read 10 Lessons Learned the Hard Way so I can’t comment on that one. The artist interviews may be interesting (I read through one) but they’re not as nitty-gritty as the guide, and you may get less or more out of them depending on what your own product is.
Lastly, the most expensive package is the Masters Edition. This’ll put you back $447, so I can’t in good conscience recommend it. It just seems way overpriced. You’ll get a few more audio interviews on building your business, and a pricing tool-kit, plus a few other things—but ultimately, nothing that’ll change your life.
In short, Designed to Sell is an expensive product. I can really only recommend the cheapest version, and I don’t recommend it for every artist—simply because of the price. If it weren’t for the great guarantee that comes with it, I really don’t think I could recommend it at all.
If you study the materials in depth and don’t believe you can apply something from it to make at least $5,000 in additional income over the next year, let us know—and you’ll get your money back even if you like it.
Wondering about the fine print? There isn’t any, but this guarantee is offered on the honor system. Please don’t abuse it by purchasing just to ask for a refund.
My two-cents? If you’re already creating a product or line of artwork that’s currently selling, this guide WILL help you take your business to the next level and make more money, especially if you’re mostly selling locally, rather than online. (The guide is really quite targeted towards helping people sell online.)
But if you’re not sure that your product is ready, or your artwork isn’t selling anywhere consistently. . . then I just don’t think it’s the right time to be purchasing an expensive eBook. Wait until you’re creating and selling something that has a really strong appeal, and then take the plunge with an eBook like this. That’s my advice anyway.
Last but not least, if you decide to purchase Designed to Sell through one of the links in this review, we will get a commission to help support EmptyEasel.com. But please feel no obligation to do that. My goal is to help YOU decide if this eBook is right for you, and that’s what I hope I’ve done today.