My etsy shop is celebrating its 9th birthday today, which also means that I’ve been a full time self employed artist for nine years. It’s crazy!
I want to help all of you who have the same dream as I do, so in this post I’ll share some of my experiences and tips that you might find useful. 🙂
1. Start today, you’ll never be ‘ready’
It’s easy to daydream about having your own small business, but it’s very hard to take the first step to achieve it. It looks very scary and hard. I won’t lie, it’s scary and hard indeed, but if you really want to do it, you can.
You obviously need to know what product you want to sell (paintings, jewelry, pottery, etc.) and need to have a good intermediate skill in that field, but that’s all you need to have to start.
2. Don’t try to turn all your hobbies into a business
You can have more than one hobby you enjoy (actually it’s good to have 2-3 which can inspire one another), but don’t try to sell everything.
If you open a shop and have several different kinds of crafts in it, people will think that you are not dedicated enough to choose only one, which can also mean that you’re not good enough in any of them.
At the moment I still do have some paintings in my etsy shop, but they are connected with my jewelry. I paint portraits that inspire my jewelry, and I create jewelry inspired by my paintings.
I also have wearable art pieces, which are a combination of jewelry and painting.
However, I’ve decided that this year I won’t offer new paintings for sale, partly because I’m too attached to my paintings, and partly because I find it impossible now to spend as much time with painting as with jewelry. It works fine for me now.
You shouldn’t try to cover all the styles in your art/craft either. For example, if you’re a painter, don’t try to paint abstract and photorealist portraits and impressionist landscapes and children’s book illustrations just because you want to be succesful (by the way, you won’t be, if you do that). Do what you like the most, and master that field.
3. Know and use your strengths
If you want your own art/craft business, you need to do a lot of things from creating your products to keeping in touch with your customers and promoting.
We are all different, and we have our strengths and also our weak points, so you have to know which those parts you’re the best in are – but you also need to know what you have to work on.
I’m an introvert, so what’s hard for me is promoting my work and ‘selling myself’. But I enjoy being alone at home creating new pieces, and I can stay focused for a long time. I also have smaller problems with the technical parts like photography or this blog. Luckily, my boyfriend is a great designer, and a huge help for me. He also goes to the post office twice a week to ship my orders. 🙂
I also have a great accountant who does the bookkeeping for me, she also saves me a lot of time and stress.
If you’re an extrovert, you might find it easier to deal with ‘people-stuff’.
You don’t have to know everything, but you need to find a way to make everything work. You might ask for help (from your family, or you may even hire someone), or start to learn those skills you’re missing.
4. Dare to be yourself
I know, you see this all the time (because it’s true), but it’s not so easy to really understand and do it.
Obviously, you need to know who you are first, this is what is called your ‘style’. You need to spend time with yourself. Think about the things that you like, the things you’re inspired by, and make a list. Try to figure out what they mean to you, why you like these things. Find symbols, shapes and colors to express yourself.
Some of the keywords for my own style are: gothic, victorian, black, mystery, steampunk, grey, immortal, secrets, night, moon, key, eye, creator, magic, witch.
Naturally, your style is not like a frozen flower that’s permanent till the end of your days. It’s always changing, but it’s rare that it changes completely within days or months. This is why we are always learning and experimenting. But the base will stay the same.
5. Don’t be a copycat
Actually, it’s the same thing as the previous point, just the other way around.
If you don’t accept who you are, or if you’re too afraid to express it, then you’ll have no choice but to follow someone else’s path – you’ll be a copy of someone.
The first problem with that is that a copy is never as good as the original one.
The second is that most people don’t like fake things, and if you choose this path, you’ll have to face the consequences.
The third and the most scary one is that if you start to copy someone else, the more you do it, the less you’ll be able to do things from your own heart, and one day you’ll have to realize that you’ve killed the artist in you.
So be very careful of this, you’re the only person who will lose.
Naturally, it’s perfectly OK to copy things for learning purposes – this is the only way of learning. But never try to convince anyone (including yourself) that it’s your own work. Always ask permission from the original artist, and give them full credit.
6. Work hard and enjoy it
If you decided what the thing you want to do as a full time job is, then it’s time to start working.
Building your own business takes a lot of time, work, tears and swearing, but if it’s your path, you’ll love it like I do. 🙂
Though I was popular on deviantart when I opened my etsy store, it still took me about four years and several happy accidents (features & interviews) to make a decent living of it. And if you do start making a living of it, it doesn’t mean that you can stop working. If you stop, people will forget about you within five minutes. So, if you’re not sure you are motivated and stubborn enough – like me 🙂 – to work all day every day, you might want to keep your regular job, and do the new one part time. There’s nothing wrong with that either.
7. Be nice
I think it’s pretty obvious. 🙂
The world is just a small town now, and if you’re arrogant, if you ignore your customers, or don’t respect the other artists, sooner or later you’ll have no customers.
You’ll meet mean people from time to time (customers, or other sellers you buy supplies from), and sometimes it’s hard to handle these people – at least for me –, but I always try my best to be nice… or at least fair.
8. Define your success, have goals
The last important thing is to have a plan to see where you’re going.
Sometimes it’s hard to feel motivated, especially when you live hard times (you surely will), and if you don’t have goals, you’ll more likely give up.
I never wanted to be a millionaire. I don’t really care about what people think when I tell them that I’ve never had a car (I hate cars), or if they see that I have a four-year-old phone. These things are simply not important to me. But I have everything I ever wanted: I have a job I’ve dreamed about (and worked for), I have a cute small home, food to eat, supplies to work with, and the most important thing – my freedom! 🙂
You too have to think about what’s important to you. Write a list (yes, again… lists are important), set goals, and work to reach them every day.
9. Learn about the practical things
There are other important things you need to know when you want to be a full time artist, like SEO, customer service, promoting tips, etc. You can find a ton of articles and blog posts about these online.
Don’t forget the seller handbook if you want to open a shop on etsy.
Reading the forum on etsy can be useful too, though I go there less and less, because most of the posts are just whining. Many sellers expect etsy to sell their products for them, and they feel disappointed when they realize that etsy doesn’t do that. They don’t understand that etsy (or ebay or any other similar sites) are helping us to have a good base to work with. We don’t have to make (design, code, and host) our own webshop or follow all the new regulations of online selling, but still we have to create products worth buying, and we have to let the world know that we exist.
I hope these tips (if they can be called tips) can help you a bit. I surely would have been happy to know more about these things when I started. 🙂
♦ ♦ ♦
Next week it’s time to have another monthly review!