Anna Hamilton’s quiet social media plea turned into an overnight sensation, shifting her from financial despair to overwhelming success
“I hate doing this, but I am desperate for sales, as currently a few hundred pounds short of being able to cover my bills this month. Please, if you’ve ever thought about buying from me, now would be a great time. Even if all you can do is retweet this, I’d be so grateful. I haven’t slept properly for days, I feel ill with stress and honestly don’t know what to do other than ask for help. Anything you can do would be so very much appreciated.”
Many people have been hit hard by the sheer cost of living over the last year. For Dorset artist Anna Hamilton, scraping by from month to month, Thursday 10th August was rock bottom. She knew that this month, ‘scraping by’ simply wasn’t going to happen. She was out of options, and desperation lead her to make that single Tweet. Anna could never have predicted what would happen next.
‘I hoped it might prompt three, perhaps four sales,’ she says. ‘Honestly, I thought it was a vain hope, but I was desperate and might just sell something to get me through the month.’
Anna woke the next day to find her polite, hopeful little tweet had gone viral. She had more than 3,000 orders, her online shop had sold out, the website buckling under the strain. Every inbox was overflowing with messages.
‘I was stunned. Overwhelmed. I have no idea why it happened.’
Backed up by art which is both beautiful and accessible, it seems all Anna really needed was to be seen, and that single sad, lonely, late night message had a magical effect on the often-cynical Twittersphere. The comments and re-tweets flooded in. Compliments on her art abounded, and many also shared it on – a simple, generous act which cost them nothing. In so doing, a bigger audience than Anna could ever have dreamed of saw her work. At time of writing, the tweet has been seen by 3.2million people. It’s been reposted more than 15,000 times, and bookmarked by almost 700 people – presumably those waiting for Anna’s shop to restock.
An accidental career
Anna is entirely self-taught, and her career as a professional artist was almost accidental.
‘I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a pencil. But I never really considered making it my job – the only artists who earn money are the dead ones, right? So I spent 12 years as a data analyst – about as far as you can get from creativity!
‘But I never stopped drawing as a hobby. A friend asked if I could draw their dog. Then another requested me to ‘do their cat’. Eventually, about eight years ago, someone pointed out I should really stop doing them as favours and actually charge for my pet portraits!
‘In 2018 I was able to give up the day job, and become a full-time professional artist through both my pet portraits and wildlife art.’
Anna only works in pencil, ‘… mainly because I don’t like having to clean anything after I’ve been working! Sadly, art is a luxury item, and it’s an obvious thing to cut back on when times get tough. I had to take on two part time jobs to make ends meet. It’s been so incredibly stressful, and I was at a very low point. It’s tough to ask for help.’
Unexpectedly making 3,000 sales in 24 hours brings its own level of stress, however. ‘I’m now kept awake at night having a bit of a panic attack about all the emails I’m getting about orders that haven’t arrived. My tiny flat looks like a warehouse!
‘It seemed like such a good idea to individually sign and hand write the title on my limited edition prints – it was a really nice touch when I was doing a couple a month.
‘But now I have to get 300 done – once I’ve mounted them by hand – and also put together 7,000 greeting cards. I had to order complete new stock, but that arriving was a double-edged sword. I had to holepunch 1,800 bookmarks and add the tassels myself (though I did buy some posher tassels to celebrate!).
‘Even if I were to send out 100 orders a day (which in itself is impossible), it would take me a full month to get through every order that has come in. The size of the task in front of me is very scary, and now I’ve had a few people complain because they haven’t received orders yet. It’s upsetting, I’m trying but simply can’t keep up – I’m surviving on very little sleep at the moment!
‘But most people have been really understanding and are just happy for me. And of course, I’m so grateful for the orders. It’s just been a wild, exhausting and unbelievable few weeks. This has been the hardest but best thing that’s ever happened to me and I feel incredibly lucky. I’m sure at some point I’ll look back and laugh!’