Crash Course in Business
Running a creative and handmade business can be daunting, and there seems to be too many hats for just one person to wear. Goodness, have I learned some lessons, failed a few times, and had some incredible successes. I have never worked so hard in my life, and every day I am infinitely thankful that I have the opportunity. I'm hoping whether you are still in the thinking-about-it phase of running your own business, if you're looking to make the leap into full-time, or even if you've been at the game for ages, you'll find new insights and actionable tips here.
Let’s start this New Year off right!
Find Your Communities.
Yes, plural. Not only is it important to find the folks that want to purchase your offerings, but also the community that you can be supported by & learn from. Instagram is brilliant for this. Suddenly we have a community-finding tool right in the palm of our hands.
Use Instagram’s search tool to find people and tags relating to what you create.
Find those that are likely to use or purchase your product. Where does your potential customer hang out, what are their interests? It all seems a little voyeuristic, but looking at the photos & tags of your potential customers can tell you a lot about them.
And don’t forget to take a look at creatives doing or making something similar to what you are creating. Find some folks that seem to have it figured out already and learn from them. Look at their tags and links. This is not to say that you should completely copy what someone else is doing, but by being observant and trying some of their methods, you’ll find a path to your own audience, and your own voice.
Communities like CYL Collective are incredibly helpful and supportive. Get active and be involved. You’ll be surprised at the opportunities, friendships and connections you’ll make. These are the communities where you can find help and advice, and will make you feel like you're not in it alone.
Get Out There & Be Seen.
Show people who you are, and that you are relatable. Photos, stories, conversations, and connections are key. Share what you and your work are all about. It's not just about the final product.
If you don’t do this already, take a selfie and share it with your audience. Prove there is a real person behind all the product photos.
Write short personal stories and share. Doesn’t have to be deep and you don’t need to tell the world your secrets. Like the tip above, show that there is a real person, with relatable issues, wants, desires, and even fears behind your brand.
Share your process, your failures, and your accomplishments.
Find opportunities to your sell your work in person! I know that can sound scary, but more often than not, people enjoy meeting the person that made the object they just fell in love with, and has the potential to make her a repeat customer, and even a referrer.
Get Creative With Your Marketing.
No one wants to be “sold to”, which is why the tips above are so important. Making relationships is the difference between a potential customer falling in love with your product, your brand, and even you - or just passing by. For many, finding influencers can be a huge help. What is an influencer? Someone with a large network that is willing to share your brand and story with their loyal community. This is a great way to build your brand, gain interest and potentially reach future customers.
Do a little research to find the influencers in your community. Most often influencers want to be paid in exchange for sharing your brand. Some want you to share their brand with your network (most often this occurs when two brands have similar network sizes). And some want your product in exchange, and this helps them give your brand and product a complete review. Very little is better than a trusted source raving about your product.
Keep a Budget.
Boring, yes, but do it. If you are serious about creating and building a successful business, then keeping track of every dollar coming in and going out is crucial. It’s not scary or intimidating, just time consuming.
Research: there are free budget apps and software, and even companies to do it for you if you’re willing to pay. (I use a free pre-made template available through Google Docs)
Tracking these numbers will help you see if your operating costs are exceeding what you're selling your product for. If that’s the case, time to increase your prices, or re-examine what you're spending your money on.
Over time, you’ll be able to compare one month to another (When do I sell the most? What are my slow months?), and even one year to the next (I had an incredible year! I did the same as last year, or worse).
These insights will help guide you to make better decisions, give you goals, and keeping you moving forward. Don’t get discouraged if you see things going in the opposite direction you had hoped for. Find the lesson to learn and then make improvements.
Get an Email List.
This is a targeted group that wants to hear from you! Every chance you get, ask people if they’d like to sign up to your email list. People are bombarded with information daily. Just because you posted something to Instagram, Facebook, or your blog doesn’t mean people are going to see it.
There are many free email marketing products out there. Do a little a research and find the one that works for you. I happen to use Mailchimp and love it.
If you’re a blogger, sending out an email to your audience to let them know it’s there is a great way to drive more traffic to your website.
If you don’t have a blog, a monthly newsletter is a great way to stay connected with those interested in what you are doing.
Hello there! Wanna sign up to my monthly newsletter? ;) I share my latest work, talk about the business of being an artist, and let you know what events you can find me at! Click here! (See, that was easy!)
Hello! I’m Leah Davies and I create fine art pet portraits in oils, graphite and color pencil. January 2014 was the start of my brand new life. I had just quit my day job, and was diving in, head first, turning my art into my full-time gig. The end of 2015 marked my second full year running this little biz of mine. In just two years I was able to double the amount of paintings I sold the previous year, which in turn, meant I doubled last year's total income. I spent over ten years slowly building up my business, learning lessons along the way, and working at it after my non art-related day jobs. Everyday is the most challenging and rewarding day. I consider myself fortunate to have the opportunity to work on my passion and share it with the world.
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