I have a million and one things to do right now because of a big event that I’m hosting tomorrow (Break Rules, Barriers, and Trends hosted at DP Hue in Edina from 6-9 I will be live painting and No Square Peg, Urban Undercover and I will have some goods for sale!) but when the words come to me, I don’t say no. So here I am, writing a blog post.
This is right around the time when I start reflecting on my year and ask myself, “AM I DOING IT RIGHT?” “DID I DO ENOUGH?” “WHAT AM I DOING?” You know the deal.
Not just in business but in life. The back half of this year has been nothing short of challenging and as I struggled through navigating some said challenges, I realized some important things that I have yet to write about.
Recently I went to an amazing conference about the legal side of running a small business and I was sitting next to lovely ladies from a variety of different creative businesses. A few wedding planners, one floral business owner, and another illustrator. Someone at the table kindly asked me how my business works and I announced to the table that THERE IS NO STRUCTURE. It’s just me and I work another job so I do the best I can. Talk about something you don’t want to say to impress other people but I’ve never had a problem with just being honest about how it is. Someone else at the table chimed in that I just blurted out what everyone else at the table was thinking. And that statement got ME thinking…
When you embrace the reality of your story it can be really empowering to yourself and others. The number one question I get asked on a daily basis is “Did you go to art school?” I used to be so ashamed that I didn’t because I wasn’t “taught.” I told this to a woman at one of my pop-ups and she responded, “You are so lucky to have found your calling at such a young age.” I no longer apologize for not going to art school.
My only rule I’ve had for my business is to put one foot in front of the other and figure it out…and to make really beautiful things. Those are the only rules I’ve been able to follow consistently because I hate rules. Trust me, I’ve tried to set rules for myself and I’ve failed miserably. I’ve tried the whole I’m going to blog on this day and draw at this time and pin x amount of things…etc. I hated it. So I go with my feeling and I work really hard at what I do but there is nothing more uninspiring to me than trying to follow a formula for an art business. So I let it go and it was incredibly freeing.
There is a lot to be said for figuring it out and there are still a lot of things I have to figure out. You only need to know what you need to know for your business. You don’t need to know it all. At the beginning of this year I could barely open Illustrator without getting some sort of anxiety. Now I confidently format all of my work in this program because I learned how to use it through googling and just simply learning from trial and error.
I also learned how much time you spend working on the business side of things versus creating when you have a creative business. I read somewhere it’s about 80% business and 20% creating. Sad, but true. You really have to carve out time for yourself to create. Not just to work on client projects but your personal creative projects. They will keep you inspired and hungry to keep going.
Give yourself permission to try and fail. This year I came out with mugs and pillows. Both a COMPLETE FAILURE BUT I AM NOT THE FAILURE. I have had to draw a firm line in my life between who I am as a person and how certain creative endeavors go. If anything, I am an amazing success because I keep taking those risks and trying. This lesson makes me think of my track career. I was one of the best hurdlers on our team for 3 years after a complete failure of a freshman season. Most people would have walked away after the first year but YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP. I would say most of my teammates can’t remember a race of mine but they can remember the passion I had for track, the extra time I spent at the track trying to get better, and the conversations we would have about putting your all into something. I transferred all of those same values into my business.
This brings me to the last lesson: It is not what you do but how you do it and how you make others feel. Heaven forbid for some reason I couldn’t be an artist tomorrow, I would most certainly find something else to be equally passionate about.
“Consult not your fears but your hopes and dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what is still possible for you to do.” -Pope John XXXIII