What I've Learned Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of What I've Learned My First Year Running My Art Business Full-time! If you haven't yet read part 1, you can do so here. The first year has been a journey of discovery for me as a small business owner as well as an artist. I've been reflecting on all that i've learned and would like to share that with all of you as I know there are many others out there looking to start their own thing! Part 2 picks up where I left off, with #7.

7. Take action

I've learned that one creates their own success through constant action. Dreaming up your business goals is definitely an important step to getting things off the ground (thoughts become things after all), but taking action is what actually propels you forward. At the beginning of my business, I would fill notebooks with ideas of products and designs I wanted to create. I would then do research and think about them for a very long time, never actually pulling the trigger. These days, I do many actionable steps, big and small, to keep my business moving and growing daily. There's always a project in the works, orders to fill, tweaks to make on the website etc. Even on my days off, I make sure to at least post something to social media or on my blog. Gotta keep it moving!

There was a time when let the fear of not knowing how to do something severely slow me down on executing a project. It's freeing once you understand that you don't have all the answers at the beginning and should expect to make mistakes. Simply try do your best and try. I recently witnessed an amazing business launch with a friend here in Paris. She made a decision to start a wine-tasting business for tourists, worked hard everyday for a month and now has a beautifully designed and executed wine business, with clients booked for the next few months! She trusted her vision, acted decisively EVERYDAY, knew her strengths and pulled the trigger. Fortune favors the brave!

What you put out into the universe comes right back to you, so make it happen through action! 

8. Find your tribe

"Find Your Tribe" may be an overused phrase on the blog circuit these days, but it's all for good reason! Your tribe are your people! They are on the same wavelength as you. It's SO important to connect with other like-minded individuals while growing your business. Motivational speaker Jim Rohn said "we are the average sum of the five people we spend the most time with" - so choose wisely! I'm so happy to have found a group of kind, crazy-talented, ambitious and like-minded supportive ladies both in Paris and on Instagram. They inspire me and hold me accountable. They've helped push me and turn my ideas into action and I happily return the favor!

Also, collaboration is key!! Collaborative projects and endeavors have always been my favorite things to work on, as I find it produces the most interesting work! Collaboration also introduces your brand to a whole new audience - the followers of your collaborator. 

9. Be consistent

I first learned about this while working in advertising and from freelancing. If you are consistently good, you will become known and trusted as being someone who consistently executes high-quality work and will be recommended for future work without hesitation.

Consistency is what builds your reputation, your following and keeps buyers coming back. It's what turns buyers into collectors. It's also the reason why you return to a favorite restaurant or shop - because they consistently offer you an enjoyable experience or product.

I've explored ways I could be more consistent in my business. I try to post to Instagram at least once a day and my followers can expect my images to be colorful, painterly, a product or a whimsical photo of Paris/ France. I know that my followers tend to like seeing my colorful paintings when they scroll through instagram in the morning - it gives them a little boost of good feelings and happy energy. Therefore, I try to post those images consistently in the mornings.

I've improved my buyer's experiences by packaging up all of my orders like gifts, so that when someone orders from me for a second time they know what to expect - and it feels like Christmas!


10. Let go of what isn't working 

Allow your business to evolve. If something isn't working, change your focus or let it go! This is VERY important! I've held on to designs/ products that weren't selling like they should and it definitely inhibited my business growth because my focus was misplaced. After noticing there was more interest in the original pieces in my shop than the print reproductions, I changed the focus of my shop from art prints to original pieces.

At first, it was hard for me to let go of the prints as my main focus because they are what I started growing my business on. They were selling alright, but I was exerting too much energy for the return I was getting. Many times an order would come in for an art print that I no longer had in stock, so I would have to make a special run to the print shop for that one print. I of course would print multiple to have stock built back up, causing an overflow of stock that wasn't moving fast enough. This wasn't very cost effective and an unproductive use of my time and energy.

Now that i've set my shop focus to original pieces it has resulted less wasted time, more creative exploration and higher profits. Embrace change!

11. Show your work

Sharing your work with the world can be intimidating, yet the only way people will know what you are capable of is to show them. A great reference for this is the book Show Your Work. I love sharing my work, even if it's just a work in progress. It's helps me know if the work generates excitement in others as it does in myself.

If you hide away your work in fear of someone ripping you off then your work will never get the attention it deserves. I had to let go of this fear. I had a project featured on a major design blog, many many people saw it and the project ended up getting ripped off by another designer (I will do a post on this subject). I was able to have their work taken down. Yet, If I had decided to never share my work on this major design blog in the first place, in fear of it getting copied, then I would've missed out on all of the good opportunities that came from it.

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12. Instagram is a hell of a selling tool

Instagram goes hand-in-hand with #11 above, Show Your Work.

At the moment, Instagram drives 75% of my sales. Not only is it a place to share work available in my shop, inspiration and new pieces to come, but it's a fun way to connect with my community of like-minded color-loving folks! 

It allows people to take a deeper dive into your universe on a daily basis, follow along in your creative journey while also serving as a portfolio. A lot of my business opportunities, collaborations and partnerships have come from people stumbling across my instagram feed in the first place. 

If you aren't already following my colorful journey, you can do so here!

13. Keep going

And lastly, this is the most important thing i've learned in my first year running my art business full-time and that is to keep going! Many people see successful small businesses and may want the same for themselves, but expect instant success and gratification. One must be willing to do the work. A good friend of mine runs a very successful jewelry business that may appear to some to have just blown-up over night. What people don't know is that she's been working hard for YEARS tweaking her business ideas and products to achieve the success she has today. Below are a few reasons to keep going.

Keep going...

  • If it bring you joy! Your happiness is everything.
  • Because you never know who's watching! Major brands, product developers, art collectors, celebrities, creative directors... you just never know!
  • Because it inspires others!
  • Because each action (big or small) brings you closer to your goal
  • Keep going because it will happen for you!

I must admit, I've had my moments of uncertainty and doubts of whether or not I was making the right decisions for the direction of my business. But I can now say, that I have a good rhythm and workflow going, an upward trajectory and a clearer picture of the endgame. Running a successful/ profitable business takes time and A LOT of work. There were two things that helped me get on the right track... 

1. Getting very specific about what I wanted for the future of EttaVee and the kind of lifestyle I want to live.

2. Taking the time to analyze my business with a critical eye to see what had and hadn't been working for the previous year. 

I hope you've found these bits of information and insights helpful. I'm always learning and growing everyday! If you have any questions please feel free to comment below! Thank you so so much for taking the time to read this novel of a post. 



    What I've Learned Part 1

    It's been one year since I left my full-time job as an advertising art director to set out on my own to build my art business, EttaVee. I had been balancing both creating pieces and shipping out orders to grow my business, while working a demanding full-time job. The more my little business grew, the happier I became and the harder it was for me to shuffle into my art director job. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE art directing, but the agency I was at wasn't the right fit for me. I had been wanting to leave the job since I started it and building my own thing was not only fun but creatively fulfilling! It wasn't until I read the book The Crossroads Between Do and Must that I got the push I needed. I eagerly left my job and didn't look back. Before leaving I made sure I was able to support myself financially for at least 6 months and continuing to freelance, while I gave this growing my own business thing a proper go! The first year has been a journey of discovery for me as a small business owner as well as an artist. I've been reflecting on all that i've learned and would like to share that with all of you as I know there are many others out there looking to start their own thing!

    1. Work with intention

    Intention is everything! It requires decisiveness and focus. I started strong out the gates at the beginning of my first year. I was growing my sales month by month and it was clear that the more time I had to invest in my business, the more my sales grew. However, I wasn't working with a specific end goal in mind. This caused me to get somewhat stagnant in my work flow. Instead of exploring, playing and pushing myself creatively,  I was just maintaining the norm. It wasn't until I analyzed where I was, got specific about what it was I wanted and started working with intention - that my dreams and goals for my business started to manifest.

    2. Pay attention to your money

    I've had the good habit of paying attention to what money was coming in, but fell short when it came to tracking what was going out. Once I started paying attention to my income, expenses and revenue I was able to strategically grow my earnings! What really jump started this was overcoming a fear of looking at my business bank account and to take charge. I took the time to see what automated payments I've been making monthly and which ones I could get rid of. An example: I rarely open Microsoft Word, Powerpoint etc. but was paying for it monthly - Dropped that! I also dropped Iconosquare and am now using Instagram business insights instead. I kept Adobe because it's essential to the running of my business and Spotify because I jam to it everyday.

    I looked at my bank statements and noticed I was spending WAY too much money at the art store each month. The art store by my apartment isn't cheap, but filled with so many lovely things - a real weakness of mine! So I did a HUGE cleanout of my studio, got organized and saw that I really didn't need to make weekly trips to the art store as I had everything I needed already. I also was able to save money on shipping supplies, by starting to order mailers via wholesale and reusing shipping materials from shipments we receive! Managing my money responsibly and strategically stopped money from flying out of my bank account and allowed me to enjoy and grow my profits :)

    3. Listen to your heART

    Take the time to really find a your creative voice and style. At the beginning of my first year, I was too focused on keeping up with the latest home decor/ art print design trends in order to make sales. Yes, it's good to know what the trends are for the year/ what sells (ya gotta make money right?), but this is not what makes any artist stand out! What makes an artist stand out is their own true voice and unique style. I was recently contacted to partner with a major brand and it was because they love the colorful style I've created. It pays off to be yourself!  

    A great way to unearth and develop your style is to produce a lot of work via play (see #6). Daily sketching and keeping an art journal is a great way to keep a visual diary of how you're developing over time. Starting a creative project is a fun way to explore new ideas and mediums. After lots of creative exploration and tinkering away everyday, my loose colorful style emerged. Sure there are many many artists out there who create colorful artwork, but mine is unique to me, just as theirs is unique to them and yours is unique to you! Only you can produce what's swimming around in your heart - no one else.

    4. Don't sweat the small stuff

    This is something I learned in art school, but continue to implement and it has saved my sanity more times than I can count! Keep your head down, work hard and don't pay attention to the distractions. Sometimes all it takes is one person throwing a low blow, or making a questionably rude comment to knock us off our day. But one must remember that there will always be someone who has something to say about everything! And only you can control what you allow to bother you. I've adopted a somewhat "don't care" attitude and it has freed my mind and spirit. Negativity has no home here! There have been people who have doubted me and my business, after I left my seemingly amazing job to set out on my own. I think most of them have doubt because they don't understand and would be afraid to do such a thing themselves. I don't let their doubt change how I feel about myself and my work. 

    5. Your time is valuable

    I can't tell you how many times I've pulled myself away from a creative workflow to run to the print shop or post office. Be smart and efficient with your time. Find ways to work smarter. I limited my post office runs to no more than twice a week. I've started ordering my items in bulk online to not only save money, but to save time and energy. Also, it's okay to say "no" to things in order to say "yes" to yourself. Sometimes you need to be selfish with your time and if that means staying in one night to focus on finishing a project then so be it!

    "Only you can produce what's swimming around in your heart - no one else."     - EttaVee

    6. PLAY!!

    Most of my collaborative opportunities have come from people seeing work that I created when I was just having fun playing and exploring new aspects of my work. Play is very important as it's a way to get your creative brain working without the pressure to do something amazing. Mistakes are welcome! It was during "play" that I created one of my most popular projects "Let's Get Tropical" which eventually led to an art licensing deal (I will reveal more on that when the time comes)! Play allows you to stay inspired and keep pushing the envelope.

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    There is just so much I want to say, that I decided to break this post into two! Keep a look out for part 2 of what i've learned since leaving my full-time job to run my art business full time!

    Thanks for taking to time to read along!

    xo, Jessi

    Melancia Mag Interview

    Hello friends!!

    This month I had the pleasure of interviewing with online art magazine Melancia Mag! Melancia, which means watermelon in portuguese, is a brazilian magazine tells the stories of artists from around the world, while showcasing their work! I really like the concept as each month they have a different piece of watermelon themed art as their cover. This month they chose to showcase some of my painted melons ! 

    You can check out the magazine below. I also included some interview excerpts in english :)

    Melancia Magazine Interview with english excerpts:

    Explain to us how you organize your projects and your creative process and you employ materials.

    All projects start with an idea. Most of the ideas come to me when I'm not thinking about art at all, like while i'm sitting in the metro or traveling. I'm always sure to note my ideas in my phone. Sometimes when i'm out taking a walk and i'll see a color combination I like or a pattern on a door and i'm sure to take a photo. It's important to always be a collector of inspiration! Then i'll head into my studio and will start creating. I try not to overthink anything, let color lead the way and have fun. I feel if I were to put too much pressure on myself to create, then it would be a stressful and unenjoyable experience. My most used tools/ mediums are acrylic paint, gold leaf, my DSLR and photoshop.

    Do you have your favorite artwork? Those in which you are proud. Tells us what it is and why.

    Hmmm this is a hard one! I think at this moment in time, my favorite pieces are my painted fruit series. To me the fruit series represents a shift in my work where I was able to combine the graphic style of my art direction background with my artistic side of fine art and joys of playing with color. 

    What is your PURPOSE of life?

    My purpose in life is to live a life i'm proud of and to live a life that is true to who I am. Also, I hope to bring happiness to others with the bright colors and happy energy in my art. If it can simply bring a smile to someone's face or inspire others to create then I'm beyond happy!

    Thanks to Melancia Mag, for the wonderful interview!!




    4 Ways to Reduce Waste Creatively

    As an artist who works with many materials, it's crazy how quickly excessive art supplies and scrap paper accumulates in my studio. This summer I've made it a goal to be more conscious of using what I already have in order save money and reduce waste. 

    The first thing I did was to take stock of all the materials I currently have. I was amazed by how many materials I had stored away from previous projects such as book making, jewelry making and wedding DIYing! 

    Here are some ways I've been able to reduce waste creatively:

    1. Using smaller paper scraps to make new pieces

    Instead of throwing away scrap paper, I've saved it all in a shoe box. See all the colors sitting in the box inspired me to create some fun new pieces.

    Tapis Magique (Magic Carpet) Series | Paris 2016

    Tapis Magique (Magic Carpet) Series | Paris 2016

    2. Cutting up old paintings into thank you cards

    I've seen many other artist do this as well. It's a wonderful way to cut back on branding costs as well as add a human personal touch to your thank you cards/ note cards. Many clients love framing them as art :)

    3. Using up leftover paint

    There have been many times I've washed leftover paint down the sink after finishing a piece. Such a shame to let all those pretty colors go to waste! Now, when I have leftover paint, i'll use what's left to decorate the envelopes I use to ship orders in. Not only am I wasting less paint, but my collectors LOVE receiving their colorful packages in the mail!

    4. recycling shipping material scraps as a canvas

    A big part of my art sales comes from art prints, which means I need lots of shipping materials to make sure they arrive to their destinations in good condition. I purchase large format boards and then cut them down to fit my prints, which leaves a lot of extra board that are too small to use for shipping other prints. 

    I visited Amsterdam in July and knew I wanted to do some painting during my visit. Not wanting to carry bulky canvases around, I quickly grabbed some of the extra stiff board pieces and took them along with me to paint on. Not only was I able to create some cute small paintings, but I was able to create a whole new series without having to spend extra money on supplies. Since, I've painting throughout my summer travels in Amsterdam, Italy and the south of france <3

    Red Lights | Amsterdam 2016&nbsp;

    Red Lights | Amsterdam 2016 

    I'm having a blast exercising my creativity in a different way!

    As a result:

    •  I've taken less trips to the art store, which is always a temptation since it's located just around the corner!! 
    • Challenged myself artistically by using materials I wouldn't normally use
    • Saved money 
    • I've also sparked many new ideas just from doing things differently!

    Looking forward to seeing what else comes of this little revelation! Have a great weekend everyone :)




    Interview with online magazine Speaking of Everything

    I had the honor of being the June "it girl" for online magazine Speaking of Everything. Below is a snippet of the interview I did with them! In the interview I talk about the day in the life of being an online shop owner, as well as life in Paris!! 

    By: Danae Edmonds

    One of my favorite things to do when I am in need of inspiration is to browse the ‘Explore’ feed on Instagram. The pictures I find there are always so beautiful! I had the pleasure of stumbling upon @EttaVee and I was instantly in love. The pictures of Paris, original artwork and behind-the-scenes looks at her full-time job are absolutely stunning and I am pretty sure I ‘liked’ every single photo I saw. Her feed is a perfectly arranged blend of an American girl living in Paris creating beautiful artwork and enjoying life. I am completely thrilled to bring you the woman behind the magic, Jessi Michelle Thomas.

    Name: Jessi Michelle Thomas

    Age: 28

    Job Title/Company: Founder + Artist / EttaVee

    Education Background: I have a Masters of Fine Arts specializing in Art Direction and a BA in Communications with a focus is Advertising and PR

    1. Tell us a little about who you are.

    I’m Jessi Michelle, I’m a 28 year old American artist living in Paris with my frenchie fiancé. I was born and raised in the Mid West. Lover of all things colorful, leopard, food and travel! I believed in working hard and keeping being optimistic. I love inspiring and bringing joy to others.

    2. Can you explain to us what you do for your 9-5 as well as your work with Etta Vee?

    9-5: During the day I work as an art director at a small advertising agency located just outside Paris. My job includes, developing ad campaigns, graphic design, branding and directing photo shoots.

    Side hustle: By night I run EttaVee, an online art print and fine art boutique on etsy. I would describe my pieces as colorfully whimsical, from the heart and always with a dash of gold leaf, which I add by hand! A lot of my work is inspired by travel, pop culture and nature. I aspire to have this as my main hustle!

    3. What do you enjoy most and what are the biggest challenges you faced as an American living in Paris?

    Being an American in Paris is much different than I had imagined! Before moving here I had often heard that the French weren’t big fans of Americans, but in fact I’ve found it to be quite opposite!! They really appreciate our optimistic “can do” attitude, openness, ambition and fun approach to life. And contrary to popular belief – they also love to practice their English  I really enjoy living here. It has helped me grow as an artist. There’s so much art and history readily available here, one can’t help but be inspired. My fiancé is a pastry chef so I’ve been enjoying all of the delicious food that comes my way! Also, it’s nice to have so many different countries just a train ride away!

    I would say learning french has been the biggest hurdle I’ve had to jump since moving to Paris. French is a complicated language, even for French people! I started studying French a few months before moving here. I found it to be especially challenging when interviewing for jobs and when I eventually started working. In the advertising industry I need to be able to communicate creative ideas, which can already be challenging in English- let alone in French. Let’s just say, I have had my fair share of laughable mix-ups and awkward moments! Thankfully, my french has improved immensely.

    read the rest of the interview here