I have always created but it was more recently that my art sales warranted a " for real" business setup and I wish I had known these things beforehand. Its not that I was so naive that I had never heard these things, but rather the lesson learned by choosing to heed the words or not heed them and then deal with the consequences is something different.
Having figured out these things makes me wonder what I will wish I knew about business 5 and 10 years from now.
1. Boundaries. Boundaries are so difficult for a non-confrontational person like me but so very necessary.
Last year, there was a minor upset when we told a family member not to come and stay for a few days. We were so very busy and the thoughts of remaking a bed and cooking just about put me over the edge. I am glad we were firm about that.
That was my first lesson on setting boundaries. Working from home does not mean that you are available for other things even though others may think that you are.
2. Bookkeeping. Oh how I wish that sort of thing had been easier for me. It was something that I over complicated in my mind and found frustrating and even tear-producing. I now have a simple paper form that I complete each month. I am tech-savvy enough to do something else but find comfort in having things on paper. If I had a nickel for the number of people that recommended an accounting program...
My lesson here was: do what works for you and you business. It is such an important thing that a business owner know their monthly sales, expenses and profit margin and I always do by using the method that is a good fit for me.
3. Details affect your image. Thankfully it took me a very short period of time to be horrified at the thought of packaging my artwork in a leftover makeshift cardboard box for shipping. Its a small thing but a customer who spends hundreds on a handmade item deserves a new box that is packed up in a tidy professional way. This philosophy comes up in many ways like using the best quality materials I can afford at my price point and responding even the smallest questions in a timely, respectful and friendly manner.
4. Building relationships is key. I am the artist so I do everything, right? Wrong.Yep, my husband builds wood crates for the biggies so I need to be nice to him but I need more help than that. I have a relationship with the owner and employees of my local UPS store that is invaluable to me. I could use another shipper but I value the relationship enough to stick with them. Artist friends are great to bounce ideas off of and a small art supply store is my best source for custom stretcher bars. Everything I do would be drastically more difficult without these cultivated relationships.
5. Ride the dips. Seth Godin devoted an entire book to knowing when to quit. A dip can make you feel like quitting. A dip is a lull in business, creativity, or both and it is scary as hell. Like the biggest rollercoaster ever scary. I found that dips are good. In my case, a creative dip allowed my subconscious time to do problem solving about creativity. It ended in a series of "Eureka" moments and it was only in hindsight that I saw that thing I viewed as a slump was rather a regrouping of energy.
My daughter at age four said it best while painting one evening, "I am a real artist because I never give up."
In business, things are not always linear, rarely exactly as you expected and mostly tougher than you thought it would be but the rewards are immeasurable and I never want to do anything else.
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