A year as a professional artist

10:54 AM

Today I am reflecting over my journey as a paid artist and art professional. And I think it is important to get that story out there because the growth has been amazing for just a little over a year.
But make no mistake, none of that growth is due to luck, there is NO luck whatsoever in my journey, beside, I don't believe in luck (or bad luck for that matter).

The title says "a year" but that is because it's incredibly more catchy than saying "x amount of months".
I first signed up at Society6 in April 2017 and I made it a big announcement on the blog back then. It was right after we moved to out new flat. I was barely out of the boxes that I was drawing and scanning up a storm, launching myself head on into the world of digital editing for art work like there was no tomorrow.
I was also working hard to build my presence (and still am) as an artist. That has become the reason why this blog and my social media are now pretty much all about how I want my brand to look.

To be fair, I made it clear long before that I wanted to not be seen as the "firangi wife married to an Indian" or even the "Expat in India" anymore years ago.
That ship has sail, and if I am going to be defined by anything in my life, it's not going to be based on the sole achievement of who my husband is god dammit!
I want to be recognised for my real talents, entrepreneurial skills, and the lady who carved her own path in life.

It's just that I made this whole plan more intentional and decisive last year, for all kind of reasons, including the one that I wanted to give a good role model to my daughter to look up to.

When it comes to selling your art on Print on Demand websites, people assume it's "easy money" and nothing could be further from the turth.
I made my first sale on Society6 in June 2017, a little under 2 months after I started selling there. What I sold was the Turquoise seashell beach towel in the picture above, and I made 3.80 dollars on it.
From that point onward I started making at least one sale a month, on various items, and a year later, I still do between 1 and 3 sales a month at Society6 and about the same at Colorpur, and sometimes on Redbubble.

BUT! That is not my measure of success. What has massively changed in that past year or so, is how I grew, and how my recognition grew.
Back in April 2017, I was new at everything, I didn't have a following as an artist, most people in my immediate social circles had no idea I was even into art, because I did a crazily amazing job at being super private and secretive about my talent (it is a very stupid thing to do by the way).

With suddenly deciding to sell my work and putting myself out there, I had to sell myself too. This means for a few weeks, not only did my blog Facebook page and my Instagram feed became very art dominated, I also advertised my products on my personal Facebook profile as well, so that all my family and friends would know that I was an ARTIST.

And this is what ended up happening : 

One of my friend contacted me in November last year to know if I was open to teach art to her daughter, and I gained my first art student in December, a few months later I gained another, and then another, and then another. Right now I have a full class batch going every Wednesdays.

Not only because one friend figured out I would be great at teaching her daughter to doodle, but because instead of saying "I don't think I'll be good enough at teaching" I decide to say "Hey that is a great idea" and took the challenge heads on.

As I kept that class going, I decided to start doing "Dot Mandala" workshops for adults as well, and they have been quite a success as well. It's hard to get an adult that is convinced of their lack of creativity to paint anything. I have done it, not only did I get adults to paint something one dot at a time, I got them to have fun with it in the process.

My approach with all my classes is to put an end to academic teaching BS. I am so SICK of the fact that people believe you must master the techniques, and do the same old boring exercises before you ever get the right to have fun with art.

It's boring for adults, and even more so for kids. So I market my art classes as "creativity development classes. It's all about art, but my teaching style is my unique selling point. I always teach art by giving a few sets of simple guidelines per projects, but do not intervene beyond the fact I want those guidelines to be respected.
This means that if the topic of the class is dot painting, I will want my students to paint with dotting tools, but the colors and style of mandala (or not mandala) they produce is up to them. I'm here for guidance, but I strongly believe we all are creative and that it just has been repressed in adults, and need a push in children.

Guess what? I became known for that teaching style and fun approach to art. 

A few month ago, a friend of mine who has taken my workshop, asked me if I was opened to the idea of conducting mini workshops for kids. 
This friend of mine is dedicated to live as close as possible to a zero waste lifestyle, and birthday gifts has always been something she struggled with. 
So she now gift a paint session to the birthday boy or girl each time her kids are invited to a birthday party. 
What's more, she makes her "paint party" vouchers good for a "+ one" so the birthday child gets to invite his or her best friend to the paint session. 

The kids have tons of fun, the mess happen at my place, and they take home their masterpiece at the end of the session. 
It's also good for my business because not only does the birthday kid mom get to know about me and my work, the mother of the plus one kid does as well. 
Since I started this service, I've had a couple of enquiry for regular art classes to come. 

My home is my art credential and business card

Because I hold workshops and classes in my home regularly, I make sure my artwork is prominently displayed in my living room. People need to see what I can do and be inspired by that. So my whole living room decor revolves around what I can do. 

If you want to make it as an artist, you need to show EVERYONE what you can do. This is what all artists do. We don't sell our work as much as we sell ourselves and our skills. 
This is marketing, and this is a round the clock affair, and I am surprised at how I progressed in that regard. 
Because being Swiss, I naturally tend to want to blend in. This is a cultural trait, being a wallflower in Switzerland is seen as a virtue. Sadly, it is not very compatible with being an entrepreneur or artist, so I forced myself to stop that crap already. 

Growing my audience took time

And I am still working hard at it if I am being honest, a solid following doesn't happen overnight, and in this time and age of creative businesses, it's essential to know once and for all that people don't buy your work just because it's great, they buy it because they like you as a person as well. 
So it's important to build a relationship with your fans, and no it's not about them deciding what you should be like, it's about you being confident in who YOU want to be, and project that to the world. Those who like what they see will follow you, those that don't won't and it's ok, you can't please everybody in this world. 

Back in April 2017 my Instagram followers amounted to around 300 followers, I don't have the exact figure, because I did not keep track of it. On December 28 of last year, I reached 400 followers. 
As I type this on this Sunday 23rd of September 2018, I have 629 followers. 
This means that in less than a year, I gained 229 followers, through regular posting, sharing and interacting with the people reaching out to me. 
Like every instagrammer, I deal with the highly unethical bunch of people that practice "follow for follow" and I loose as many if not more follower than I gain in any given month. 

But it's fine, I am in this for the long run, I always have been. 

Publicly, it may seem like I've not put a lot of effort to grow, and let's face it, people tend to think that way of every single artists or creative out there. 
There are talks of lucky breaks, lucky opportunities, sheer dumb luck...bla bla bla and yada yada yada! 

You believe that? Good, you'll never make it in this field! 

I'll repeat it once more: It has NOTHING to do with luck! Opportunities aren't send like booming gifts from the heavens, and are always the result of the work you did. You may or may not recognise them as opportunities, or turn something down when you shouldn't have done so. But trust me, every steps of my journey is due to my hard work, and my ability to take in every opportunity coming my way to grow. 
I could have said no to teaching art classes, I could have decided that holding adult paint workshops in my home was too much of a hassle, I could have decided that offering birthday gifts services was not my thing. 
I also could have decided that spending time on social media was a waste of time, and frankly if I had ever done so and not promoted my work anywhere, I could very well be still waiting for that elusive first sale on Society6. 

Failure is part of the journey

One thing that a lot of people are not ready to accept is failure. But guess what? The road to success is paved with failure. You don't grow from success, you grow from failure, and that is something that every single entrepreneur on the planet will tell you. 
If you never fail, you never really see a point to improve anything, or never really see a point of learning more. 
I have failed at a lot of things in life, not just on that artist journey, if I ever bothered to define my life, it would be through failures. But mostly about the inner fire I have to just get over those failures and push harder to go beyond them.
Do you think I would have made it 15 years in India if it wasn't for my determination to make it work? Nope, I would have ran away at the first big bout of culture shock hitting me in face or the first bigoted neighbour to tell me to go back where I came from. 
I am a stubborn, pig headed person, a lot of people call that a flaw, but I grew to see it as a massive quality over the years. 

On this artist journey there have been quite a few failure, some more annoying than others. The first one was contacting the Indian company Daily Object to sell my work with them (3 times) on the 3rd contact attempt, they made me sign a contract, asked me to upload 40 design in super high TIFF resolution file on my Google drive only to send me an email a week later saying that some of my designs had pencil marks and they were cancelling my contract. 

What I learned is that a) I had to learn to clean up my work in Photoshop better and took a few online classes to perfect that skill. b) I looked harder for other print on demand websites based in India and c) Knew for a fact I would never work with a company that would ask me to upload TIFF high res files upfront ever again. Because I still have that nagging fear my designs are probably being used somewhere without me being paid for it. 

Another failure was that two of the print on demand websites I was working with in India shut down without me even getting paid for the few sales I made there. I learned that those things will happen, and that diversifying my income streams were a wise idea from the start. 

Then there has been the failed paint experiments, the long evening of struggling to figure out something in Photoshop, the days of not feeling good enough. And all the learning opportunities that came from those failures. 

I keep on learning, everyday

If marketing, painting and putting myself out there wasn't enough in a days work (and don't get me started as the responsibilities I have as a parent), I still make a point to learn new things regarding my work...EVERYDAY!

I read self help books, business books, and inspirational stories almost everyday. And I recently put a blog post about some of the books I read (I'll have to do another, the list keeps growing).
If I am not reading, I am watching videos to learn new techniques, marketing strategies and editing tips. 
And if it wasn't enough, I use the time I power walk to keep diabetes at bay to listen to Podcast, motivational speeches or strong powerful music that inspire me to think and visualise success as I want it to happen. 
Power walking and thinking is awesome! I love doing it, because when I power walk I keep my posture straight and "badass" and when you hold your body straight and strong, you really can't help but think straight and strong, add to it the right music or speeches, and you feel invincible, which is a great feeling and habit to get into because, again, it makes dealing with failures and getting back up that much easier. 

What's coming soon

My journey will never be over, I have big plans and dreams, and I am constantly working toward it. The step to come very soon is having an Etsy shop, and I am working on my best Calendar printable yet (follow me on Instagram to know more). Once I master the art of selling on Etsy, I'll move on to my next step, and then the next, and the next. 

You see I got into the habit of making goals, and always moving to a bigger goal as soon as one has been achieved. Again, that's not something new, I've been doing it for years. 

Some might give up the instant they saw that selling on print on demand websites was hard, I see it as a catalyst and engine to get me to push harder for what I want. 

Now stay tune, for more to come, and give me another year to update you all on the awesomeness I will achieve in the coming months. 

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  1. Anonymous6:48 PM

    Congratulations on your incredible journey and good luck for future endeavours.



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