Oct 18, 2017

What's it like becoming a full time artist?

While I have been selling artwork for nearly 10 years, it was always a kind of side hustle so that I could just simply pay for my art supplies. If I had never sold a single piece, I'd still be doing it today and every other day. That's how I've always known it's what I'm meant to be doing and one of the only things that gives me purpose. And purpose is pretty damn important in this life.

I have been doing this 'full time' now for just over a year. I've taken my little side hustle into my full time job. Which although very liberating and exciting, is also kind of terrifying.

As you know my blog posts are generally very selfish and a way for me to document what the hell is going on inside my mind and I wanted to document the things I have learned in this time and also to give people a little insight into what I actually do. 

Won't you starve if you become a full time artist?

We all know that labelling yourself as an artist can often lead people to wonder if you actually make any money. The words starving and artist seem to have gone hand in hand as far as stereotypes go. But you definitely can make a good living as an artist.

Sometimes I feel like I'm living the bohemian dream, I can pick and choose what I want to do, I can generally be very flexible and the absolute BEST thing is I can constantly build on my skill-set. I'm no longer manically finishing everything else in my life quickly so I can spend more time on my art, I can now spend all day completing paintings, experimenting, trying new things with my drawings, paintings and also photography, whilst playing around with different medias and developing a style. This means so much to me. I can't tell you how much stress I had in my life before, simply because I wasn't doing what I wanted and I didn't really have the time to grow as an artist or get better. I was always fighting for time just to create.

That being said, there are a lot of pressures that come from running a real life business that you depend on as your sole income, with no buffer of a part time job or a never ending savings account. While I am luckily quite good at and also really enjoy the 'business' side of things, there is stuff I have had to learn, stuff that has been really hard, stuff that I had absolutely no idea about at the beginning of this venture, important stuff that has probably held me back. And there are a few things that I don't really enjoy but I have to do.

So while reflecting on everything I have achieved in my art over the last year and a half, I have achieved and learnt a lot about running a business, about being proactive and really pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

What do I do all day?

Everyday I drop my kids off at school, I come home, make myself a cup of tea and I start the day by answering a few emails, going through any orders or contact forms through my website. Then when my 'admin' is done I start painting. I usually work on an oil painting that is going up for sale in my shop. When I have finished an original artwork I photograph it and if it's something that I think people will really like I will order a print run of it and also list those for sale on my website. 

I spend a huge amount of time taking photographs of my work in interesting ways for the purpose of marketing, advertising the product on my website and sharing on social media.
Luckily I have always dabbled in photography and already had a great camera to take my photographs. While it can be quite time consuming always editing photos, I do enjoy it and it's a huge part of being able to tell your story and obviously, selling your product.

I find it helpful to write a rough plan on Sunday night for what I want (or need) my week ahead to look like. Because I work from home, it is so easy to get distracted by house work and tidying up (especially when there's 4 people living in your house, things get messy). 
I prioritize jobs that need to be done, for example if I have been paid to do a commission that will take priority over finishing personal projects. In the same way if someone orders a print, my priority will be to package it and post it out on the same day or the next day.

But most of my time is spent either at my desk painting in watercolours, or at my easel where I can sometimes be doing an oil painting on canvas, anywhere from 5-8 hours a day.

Things I have found tough

Work hours
I have found it tough in not being able to switch off. I feel like I'm constantly thinking of how I can grow my business or new ideas and although I love it, I have to be mindful that there are other things outside of my job that need attention. Like cooking dinner and playing with the kids!

I have tried to implement work hours now and stick to them as well as a schedule.

Email Lists
If you read any kind of 'grow your business' book, blog etc. There is so much focus on growing your email list. I only really started actively building my email list a few MONTHS ago. That's right, ten years worth of customers and people purchasing my art and I only decide to start building a mailing list now. 

I did join mailchimp a few years ago and I tried adding a form to my blog, because at one time, most of my traffic came through my blog. But there were a few problems wit people signing up and not getting added to the list or emails ending up in spam folders and so I basically just put it all in the 'too-hard' basket. Now of course, I really know the value of the golden list and have since implemented the mailing feature on my business plan of my website, which works perfectly.

Speaking of which, if you'd like to subscribe to my mailing list (not only will I love you) you receive a free print and a discount code on your next purchase. Theres a popup form over at hayleywalkerart.com if you'd like to ;)

The CONSTANT marketing
Bearing in mind I am naturally an introvert, I hate networking or trying to sell myself in a real-life situation. I am a hopeless sales person. If people ask me what I do, I quietly tell them I'm an artist and get really shy. On the online world I know that my whole job depends on marketing myself and selling my work and putting the spotlight on my business. I have sometimes found it hard to do this repetitively, I keep thinking 'I don't want to annoy people' but after making my facebook page and instagram accounts my business pages, I have to remember the people that follow it, follow because they like my artwork or want to hear about what I'm doing...

Self doubt
Oh the relentless self doubt. Imagine pouring your heart and soul, conjuring emotion and spending hours painting it all out. Photographing, editing and posting online, open to public opinion.
What if everyone hates it? Is this a piece of shit? What the fuck am I doing... I'm deleting it...I'm not going to be an artist anymore, I'll get an office job....

Sometimes I spend hours painting something. Days..And then I finish it and it really is SHIT. I can't tell you the depression I feel when a piece of my art has failed or not turned out like I wanted. I'm sad because it's wasted time, it's a beautiful piece of art that I ruined. 
BUT I have to remember, I try and tell myself, that failure is part of the process, you need to know what doesn't work. Failure is all part of success. It sucks though, it's time wasted and as a business, when you've spent two days working on a piece of crap, that's not profitable. Then I get annoyed for even thinking that way.

Things I loved, things that worked

-Being genuine and authentic in speaking about my life and my art
-Meeting amazing people at markets/art events (even though markets can kind of suck sometimes, you usually meet some great people)
-Being consistent with my message and branding
-Using google spreadsheets and making progress money trackers
-Getting on top of a mailing system
-Growing my pinterest
-Pushing myself
-watching countless hours of artists and tutorials on youtube
-Making youtube videos

Things I'd recommend if you are thinking of making that jump from art as a hobby to it being your career.

-Start building a following now. And by that I mean, joining facebook groups and basically connecting with like minded people and of course, sharing your work. Post photos, tell people the story about it. To me art is about evoking emotion for you and for those who see it. I personally love knowing the meaning (and also seeing the process) behind a painting.

Create artwork every day. Even if you can only spare half an hour a day.

Build a portfolio.

Start a website or if that's a bit too full on, start advertising on ebay, etsy or society6 / redbubble.
Instagram. Instagram is a great place for artists to be.

Grow your mailing list!

Try and have a couple of different income streams, whether that's art sales, commissions, working on commercial projects, monetizing youtube videos, blogs
Getting illustrating jobs through an agency etc. 
Teaching art classes

Take good pictures for your listings and social media. Seriously it's important, you don't need a degree in photography but knowing your way around a decent camera and also taking decent photos is very important.

Just try and work out, what is realistic for you and what your ways of earning money would be.

But most importantly, just love and believe in your work, grow your skills and push yourself out of your comfort zone. It's like anything, the more you put in, the more you will get out.

Latest work from me....


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