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
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.
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!