Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A look back at my first year as an artist.

I suppose that title really isn't all that accurate.  The truth is, this has been my first year to bravely call myself an artist.  The handful of times I've uttered it to a stranger when they've asked what I do (besides being mama which obviously comes out of my mouth first), when I've said "A mixed media artist" I've felt a mix of both strangeness and excitement at the same time.

I can think back to moments throughout childhood and even college where it now all makes sense…I was an artist, waiting in the wings.  I just didn't know it yet.  From trying to rearrange my college dorm room or decorate my childhood room……to the sketches I did in art class as a child, I guess I just always knew something was there.


Fast forward to about a year ago, zooming past my years as an elementary teacher and then becoming a new stay-at-home mama.  I decided I wanted to learn to paint.  For the life of me I honestly can't remember what put such a notion in my head.  I'd already been dabbling in photography and a very creative life the past two years but something about the paint specifically called out to me.

My very first class to sign up for was Christy Tomlinson's She Art class, all about learning to paint girls.  She had you sketch some ideas first and I sat in the craft room for hours one evening, with a basic set of cheap colored pencils.  I sketched and sketched and kept having the resounding thought "I didn't know I could do that!"  The "girls" weren't perfect, but they were mine.  Straight from my own brain and soul and imagination and right onto the paper.   Once I then began to put paint on paper and canvas, I was definitely in love.
A few months later I was boldly trying some of my own ideas, using techniques I had learned in Christy's class.  One night after watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I made this.
After receiving several questions about me selling an art print of it, I decided to open my own Etsy business.  This was a bit hard for me to do, not because of the logistics, but because this would be my THIRD Etsy shop to have.  The first being a handmade business, the second a photography business, and now..painting.  I pushed the fears aside and "she did it anyway".

There were several steps that had to happen logistically, in order for me to be able to open.  Something I don't think others are always aware of is how much work it truly takes, even just to have a small shop! I first read Kelly Rae Robert's Flying Lessons Business Course after I purchased it for half off, which she only does once a year.  She shared so many valuable tips I don't think I could have opened the shop without her course.  It was like having a friend around to answer my questions.
I also bought a very expensive, high-quality printer and very good archival quality ink and paper.  This was after researching whether I should have someone else make the prints or do them myself.  I am 100% pleased that I chose to do them myself! The quality is exceptional and I am able to print on demand.

Once I had everything in place (printer, art prints in shop, business cards ordered, etc) I opened up!

And here's where the biggest question of all time comes in that I get from others and that I am puzzled by myself.  "Is it hard to run an Etsy shop?"  Yes, and no.
The "hard" part to me comes in two parts actually.  I find it hard sometimes to know how to market my shop.  I've read just about every book or online article out there on how to authentically and effectively market yourself.  And I see other shops or gals with thousands upon thousands of sales and I wonder what their trick is?  I honestly don't know.  I've made hundreds of pieces of SWAG for different craft retreats and had very little response for how much time was put in.  I've done paid advertising and had a bit of a response, but not much.  The biggest thing that seems to be working for me is to simply remain myself and keep blogging away.  I don't do that for a marketing trick or scam, I do it because I just simply love to blog.  But that's where most of my sales have come from….people who have read my blog or followed me on IG.

I have also learned to respond (and do it well) when other blogs ask me to guest post for them.  I've done this a handful of times and had a great response to my shop!
The second hard part for me has been the business side of things.  WHOA. It can be extremely overwhelming to know what to do.  Especially for someone like me who doesn't have a huge business yet, but I certainly have a whole list of ideas (like the children's book I've written) up my sleeve, to where I want to be prepared if a big opportunity comes along.

So all that to say my business is registered and I am a sole proprietor.  I also have a Tax ID, save receipts and all paperwork for my business, and have my own bank account.  In my opinion, no one else will take you seriously until you do.  So even if my business is quite small right now, it's not something I plan on leaving or quitting.  I take myself seriously, even if others don't.  And I think you should too!
Now onto the fun part.  Want to know my most favorite part, ever about this whole journey?!

The painting and learning and community.  I mean, I just love to paint and draw.  Like I could probably do it 8 hours a day.  When days are filled with more of the business side of things my fingers just ache to paint.  When I finally do get my hands on a paintbrush something inside of me just breaks free….I can feel my soul let out the biggest breath.
This little (big) journey of being an artist hasn't been easy.  There have been many days where opportunities haven't worked out and I've told Brett I was quitting.  People haven't called back, or canceled on me last minute.  My self-worth immediately plummets.  But then, I pray and remember who God made me to be.  And you know what?  It's been the very next day (or few minutes even!) after those rough, low moments that here comes another opportunity rolling around.  A person extending grace (like Alisa Burke asking me to do a studio tour on her blog), a YES to my request at being in Vintage Market Days…or sign-ups trickling in for my photography retreat.
Wherever you are on your dream journey…I want you to keep going.  I'm guessing the whole "Dream Big" message has befuddled you a time or two as well.  Because the truth of the matter is with big dreams comes big work.  It isn't always easy.  You won't always have the cheerleaders you want. But go on anyway.  Your gifts are needed for just the right people at just the right time.  God created you for it!  I believe that.  I applaud you for bravely stepping out on your journey.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


13 comments:

  1. So many rich nuggets of truth. I feel like you wrote it just for me today. The creating is easy, now it's time to start thinking like a business woman. I cringe at the receipts I've thrown away...lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi dear Patty!
      Thinking like a business woman is not my strength. At all. It's the very thing that makes me want to quit sometimes! But lucky for me I have a twin sister and husband who are very business minded! :) :)

      Delete
  2. If you could recommend two books on starting a creative business what would they be?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would highly recommend Kelly Rae Robert's online course that I mentioned above or a favorite book of mine is Art, Inc: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career As an Artist by Lisa Congdon!

      Delete
  3. Hi Sara,
    I loved this post! It definitely resonates and likely resonates with anyone who has actually tried to start something on their own. I have found promoting/marketing my shop is the biggest challenge. I've had my heart broken when dear friends don't appear to be the slightest bit interested in what I do and I've been thrilled when a perfect stranger loves my jewelry. I started off looking at other shops and wondering the same thing...how did they get over 300 sales in the same amount of time I got 29. I was excited about 29...but then felt like a failure when I saw +300. And when I found myself actually feeling jealous..whoa...that is when I really needed to reflect! So now I am focused on doing the best I can do one customer at a time. I love what I do and intend to be the best I can be. I enjoy trying to solve the problem of how to grow my business. We will all have to write a book once we crack the code...LOL. I'm so glad I found your blog. You are doing a great job!
    Susan
    Susan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Susan!
      Thank-you so much for sharing your honest response. I felt myself nodding my head along with what you wrote. It can be so easy to feel let down or not good enough when we start looking around too much. I struggle with that…so sometimes "ignorance is bliss". :)

      I appreciate your encouragement and send it right back to ya! :)

      Delete
  4. Sara, you are so inspiring. I didn't know you were so new to painting and that is one of my goals for this year and you are making me feel like it can really happen! Thank you lady!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank-you so much Jen! You have blessed me with your words! As for painting, you can absolutely do it! :) :) As I've written like a million times, I just love watching Christy Tomlinson's classes or Junelle Jacobsen is another good one too! :) :) Happy Painting! I can't wait to see what you make.

      Delete
  5. loved your post today....You are a blessing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank-you so much Jane. Your sweet words are tucked down deep in my heart.

      Delete
  6. I am copying and printing out the paragraph about taking yourself seriously as a business and the steps you took... because I fail at that. Really great post!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh friend, I am so new to all this business stuff and I know how intimidating it is! I've asked so many questions from so many people…and what I've found is people are kind and helpful 99% of the time. :) :) I wish you luck as you conquer all the business stuff. You can do it!

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete

Let's chat. :) Penny for your thoughts!

Blogging tips