5 Tips for Aspiring Artists and Business Owners...
If you're like me (well, a younger version of me) you dream of the day you will be able to quit your job and support yourself solely on an income you create by doing your dream job! It's an exciting thought, but a slightly more scary reality. How do you know you're ready to take this step? How can you be sure that doing your favorite 'hobby' (ie photography, painting or sewing) as a career won't change the way you feel about it in time? These are valid questions. I want to share a few quick tips that helped me, as a young artist, to put things into perspective and gain a little bit of mental staying-power for my creative career. Don't be naive about 'how great it's going to be', be prepared and do your research! Owning a business is considerably more work than working for another company. Doing a 'dream job' requires a level of sacrifice that can be overwhelming at times, but the payoff is that you have the opportunity to create something that love! Owning an independent business is not for the faint of heart. Here are 5 quick tips for those considering this lifestyle and are just getting started...
1. Good planning means more than hard work.
When I started my business I felt like the key to success was to never stop making things, never sleep and never get caught up with one project for too long. Boy was I wrong! Good planning is infinitely more important than hard work. You need both, but without the plans your work will not get you very far. My tip is to spend quality time each week making a goal list and carry it with you everywhere! You'll also want to plan 'big picture' ideas at least once per season (and plan a few seasons ahead). Post your goals where you will see them and make sure that all the hard work you are putting in on individual projects is also serving a larger purpose!
2. Time is not money.
This old adage might be true in some scenarios, but I feel it can be an unhealthy mindset for small business owners who are just getting started. The fact is that when you start a creative business you can (and should) expect to do hundreds of hours of groundwork in the first few years that you will never see a penny for! It's the only way to get a small operation set up for long term success. Tasks like photo shoots, blogging, bookkeeping and online advertising are jobs you'll need to perform for no pay. Keeping a mental checklist of the hourly rate you are earning in the first few years can be just plain depressing. In fact, many new business owners choose to reinvest all of their profits for the first few years! Instead of focusing on the hourly rate you are earning (or not earning) focus on the value of the business you are creating!
3. Marketing to the masses is a BAD move for small businesses.
In many conversations I've had over the past few years I've heard new business owners explain to me how they can't understand the lack of interest in their product because they feel that their items have a very wide appeal. It's important to understand that marketing to a mass audience (the way Wal-Mart or Target does) is a smart choice for large corporations, but an unwise choice for small, creative businesses. The number one reason it's better to market toward a small audience is that it makes your business stand out. Being different is an advantage, not a disadvantage. If you don't believe me yet, think about your last few shopping experiences on Etsy. There are seas of sellers selling similar items in similar styles, but who stands out to you... which sellers do you remember?
My advise is to choose a small niche for your company or product line and make your products VERY distinctive. Use ideas that aren't being used and be a trend starter, not just a trend follower.
4. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses.
I'm not very good at answering my e-mail. I need rewards, reminders and encouragement to stay on top of it. I feel discouraged and drained just thinking about it. This is a big sign that it's a weakness. Admitting to myself that this is a weakness and that it's never going to be a strength has given me more power to manage it. There are lots of ways to improve, but I didn't realize that until I was able to admit that it wasn't my strength.
I am really good at illustrating and thinking of new ideas. These things take me almost no time at all and make me feel HAPPY and inspired. This is a sign that it's a strength. I know that after a long night of doing these things that I will be over-the-moon excited and will be able to fall asleep with a smile on my face! This is also a great thing for me to realize and admit. When you know your strengths and weaknesses you understand more about yourself and how to create a schedule that's more productive and inspired!
5. Market for the audience you want.
This is your dream job. You owe it to yourself to make products you LOVE and you'll need an audience who 'gets it'. Once you know what you want to create you need to test your current audience/market and see if they respond well to it. Locally or online you already have a market, even if it's small. If your market is not responsive to the product you are so proud of, don't shelve your idea. It's your responsibility, as an artist and business owner, to develop an audience that loves your vision as much as you do! This may take years, but it's worth it! If you run a primarily local business you may need to move. If you run an online business you will need to focus your blog, branding and online marketing toward an audience that loves what you love. It may sound overwhelming, but out of all the tips I've given today this is the most important!
Thanks so much for reading my new '5 Tips' feature! My next 5 Tips will be for bloggers, coming next week. XO. elsie