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.
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.
- 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.