What to expect when becoming a full-time artist / creative entrepreneur



People often perceive the day-to-day life of a full-time artist as a happy-go-lucky one, thinking that we just paint all day and are in a deep meditative state, because, you know, we do what we love the most.

It is true that we are indeed working on what we are passionate about, but as every entrepreneur in any field out there, pursuing art as a full-time career takes a considerable amount of HARD WORK, PERSEVERANCE, COURAGE and requires you to develop strong BUSINESS ACUMEN, since you need to navigate in a very ambiguous and highly volatile market!

Some days I have to put my artistic hat on and concentrate only on perfecting my skill and creating beautiful work. Other days, though, I have to put my business hat on and concentrate on my business strategy and how I can best promote my work to a larger target audience in the world. Truth be told, when you first start your own creative business, 60-70% of your time will require you to keep your business hat on in order to get it going!

While I was part of the corporate world, my day-to-day tasks were pre-determined for me by management. I had little say in what my day would look like and I would heedlessly follow someone else’s requests. My day typically involved completing a project, sending it to management, getting it approved, receiving another project, sending it to management and the cycle went on and on...

However, that predictability of a 9 to 5 job dissipated as soon as I started my own career as a creative entrepreneur, and unpredictability and chaos ensued in my daily life! I would spend hours in my studio painting, but I had no clue where to begin creating a business out of my artistic talent, especially in a market that I had never navigated. All the unpredictability and chaos came with feelings of guilt and self-doubt because I had recently completed a Master of Business Administration from Duke University, so I believed that I ought to know how to build a business, market it, and grow it exponentially!

I am telling you this from experience – it DOES NOT MATTER how business savvy you are or how many years you have spent in the business world; when it comes to entrepreneurship you are going to encounter a big learning curve on a professional and personal level.

Continue reading in order to discover what you can expect when starting your own creative business and gain insight on how my day-to-day life as a full-time artist and entrepreneur looks.


1. CREATING MY OWN ONLINE ART STORE

The first step to launching my art business was creating my own website, where I could display and sell my artworks. I experimented with Wix.com and Squarespace.com platforms. They were the top website platforms in terms of user reviews and offered competitive rates in comparison to other platforms (After signing up for a one-month trial, Wix offered me a 50% discount on a yearly subscription).

Wix won me over, because its ADI (Artificial Design Intelligence) or more commonly known as user platform, was easier to navigate and was more beginner-friendly than Squarespace. I wanted to quickly launch my website, so I did not miss on potential clients. Squarespace seemed like it would take me much longer to configure and operate. I had never created a website previously, let alone used coding to add features onto a website.

It took me nearly two months to finalize my website. While I worked on learning how to establish and organize a website I also had to come up with meaningful content to fill it with (such as my artist story, artist statement, mission statement, terms of service, privacy policy, return policy, FAQs, as well as backstories, descriptions, and features for each of my paintings). In addition I had to navigate the look-and-feel of the site, play with the add-on features provided by Wix (and they are so many of them!), and ensure that my site was operational and aesthetically appealing on my website's desktop and mobile versions.


2. TAKING PROFESSIONAL PICTURES OF MY ARTWORKS

As the expression goes "a picture is worth a thousand words" so the production of my pictures had to be appealing, since they are the first and main reason why potential customers visit your website. That took a fair amount of time, since I had to select the correct lighting, experiment/adjust the setup of the equipment in my studio, and select a couple shots from the dozens of photos I took to ensure the right images were published onto my website for each of my artworks. All the while, I was continuing to create more works of art so this process was repeated numerous times.

In order to ensure the photo quality was professional, I purchased the following items from Amazon in order to facilitate the vision I had for the photographs:

a. Emart Photo Video Studio

b. Emart 6 x 9 ft Photography Backdrop Background

c. LimoStudio Photography Photo Portrait Studio



3. PRICING MY ARTWORKS

Determining the price of my artworks was another major hurdle, which I will talk about in-depth in an upcoming blog post. For now I will say that it took me a few weeks of thorough research and significant amount of introspection in order to determine the right price point for my artworks (that's when my business background came in handy)! It was an arduous task as art can be priced very arbitrarily in the marketplace at times. Establishing a consistent pricing strategy that is congruent with your skillset, experience level, and medium you are using is important. Oh, and don't forget the unforeseen and additional costs most people forget to mention (which I will disclose in-depth in a follow-up blog).


4. FOCUSING ON CREATING ART

During the initial establishing of the business portion of my art a considerable amount of my time was spent creating and maintaining a website, running my website's analytics and focusing on the promotion of my artworks through various social media platforms.

Thus, during the first few weeks of launching my business I lost focus on why I started this journey to begin with; which was to create beautiful and meaningful artworks. After re-allocating my time more appropriately, I was able to get back to creating the beautiful and meaningful works of art that filled my heart with joy.

Therefore, before embarking on my journey to Europe during Christmas of last year, I purchased a traveling easel, canvases, and painting essentials to continue creating while being a traveling artist (for tips on how to pack your art supplies while traveling internationally check my blog post here). Now as I am still traveling, I ensure that I set up a studio space in every airbnb I stay in so that I can do what I love the most, which is creating art!



5. MAINTAINING A DAY-TO-DAY SCHEDULE


After working without a schedule and with a schedule, I am telling you that creating a schedule is one of the most important tasks you can do when starting your own creative business. When I worked without a schedule I found the first weeks as a traveling artist to be a bit hectic and chaotic. After creating a schedule I was able to really set goals and work to complete the tasks I set out to complete day-to-day, all while leaving enough time to continue creating art. I recommend creating a professional email that is dedicated solely to your business in order to keep professional and personal correspondences separate...As we all know, personal emails can get cluttered with a multitude of information and as a creative art business you do not want to miss customer and business-related emails.

After creating a professional email (I created mine through Wix), I recommend downloading the Spark app on your desktop and mobile device. Spark allows you to integrate your email with a calendar that you can personalize. It also has a “smart” inbox that separates my emails by people, notifications, newsletters, pinned emails, and already seen emails (I will cover in an upcoming blog post what apps I am using that help me with my online business and Spark is certainly one of them).


6. PROMOTING MY ART ON SOCIAL MEDIA

I work constantly on my social media engagement strategy, which for me came with a significant learning curve, since I had no considerable experience promoting a business on any social media platforms. I concentrated first on promoting my art business through Instagram (I started with zero followers in the beginning of January). I was determined, however, to grow my followers steadily and organically. I endeavor to create thought-invoking videos and posts that will create hype about my upcoming artworks. I strive to add thoughtful blurbs to my posts that are engaging and memorable for people to better understand the purpose/message of specific artworks I have created, and am creating (displaying a work-in-progress engages the audience in such a way that they want to return to see the completion of the work and also allows them to understand the process that occurred during the creation of a particular artwork). Wix provides a lot of video and post templates that I can choose from (as shown in my dashboard below) that certainly makes the task of marketing my business on social media more manageable.



Understanding myself and the time I like to place in my artwork, I have chosen to not take on multiple social media platforms while still in the infancy of my business. After I have firmly established my footprint on Instagram, I will venture onto additional platforms, such as YouTube, Pinterest, and Facebook. I believe this strategy will keep me from a burnout scenario in the future.


7. UTILIZING GOOGLE ANALYTICS


Upon the completion of each week, I grab a cup of coffee and log into my Google analytics account (as shown above), in order to analyze the data for my website. Google analytics provides my business with valuable information about where my customers are located, how many unique and/or returning visitors I have each day and the times of the day that they are engaging with my website, demographic information about my visitors, the bounce rate (the number of visitors that explore your website versus the number of visitors that just open and close the website without exploration), and how my website users flow within my site, to name a few. Last month I repeatedly evaluated and redesigned my business and social media strategy by analyzing and interpreting the data I received from Google analytics and increased my website engagement by almost 300% and increased my Instagram following.

You can receive a lot of information and data through Google analytics and Instagram analytics tools. The analytics can sometimes be overwhelming if you are not used to analyzing business information. I worked as a business analyst for almost 5 years as well as studied business analytics while earning my Master of Business Administration, so I was familiar with analyzing the data provided, but if i didn’t have this experience this would be an overwhelming task to undertake.


If you are someone that started your own creative website/online store and are new to interpreting your data or wants to learn more about any of the topics I discussed above, I would be happy to offer you my help and insights! Just SUBSCRIBE to my website at the bottom of this page and send me a note here with your questions and/or concerns.


And remember to always maintain a POSITIVE attitude and keep things into PERSPECTIVE, because any task undertaken is always difficult in the beginning!


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