I've had several people tell me how much they enjoy following my journey on social media. I wish I could say that my social channels gives you an in-depth view into my daily life, but I'd be lying if I said it did. I thought it would be fun to use today's blog post to dig a little deeper into my new artistic life.
Since leaving my corporate job in December, it's really been an adventure of trial and error in order to figure out how to juggle everything. It's also been one huge exercise in developing patience and learning how not to freak out with every new unexpected thing. 2018 has been far from a mundane or ordinary year.
From January through April, I was still really figuring things out. I was in this giant transition - turning off big parts of my brain only to fire up long-unused ones. I was trying to figure out what to paint, what to do, what to focus on. Thanks to meditation, I started to learn how to manage negative thoughts, unfounded worries (I wasn't good enough, no one would like my art, I wouldn't be able to paint, on and on and on - bleck!) and really start to focus and build a plan for myself. During those first few months, we were also planning for our wedding while also saying good-bye to Anna's father. It was a lot emotionally, physically and spiritually.
In May, we got married, went on our honeymoon and a couple of weeks after we got home, my mom (and her cat) moved in with us. My beautiful niece, Luna, was also born. June brought the end of the school year, a broken collarbone for Emily, several birthdays and a summer with everyone at home. In July, we welcomed a new dog to our family and now it's August and we are back to school - middle school at that!
Whew! It's been a whirlwind! In between all of the life stuff, I've been painting, and sketching, and dreaming, and planning. All to get to the next step - showing and selling my art.
Planning for this next chapter in my little business feels like planning for the Superbowl. You guys, when I tell you that there is a lot of work that goes into preparing for selling your art - I am not lying.
I made and sold art in my 20's and it was no where as intense as it is now. Granted, my energy levels were much higher in my 20's than in my 40's. Another huge difference is that back then (I'm so old!), I only had myself to account for. I was also working full-time, so I didn't approach it as mindfully as I am now. I didn't worry about finances or setting monthly goals for myself. I just painted all of the time and then took my stuff to galleries or popped up my tent at a show and called it a day. It was fun and super easy.
And now here I am - twenty-something years later. So much has changed. I'm learning so much more this go around. From setting business goals, to building an online presence, managing social media, figuring out what tools and techniques work best for me and learning how to stay motivated and energized through all of life's surprises -- it's non-stop. I'm not complaining. Most of the time I am having a lot of fun. Well, except for Search Engine Optimization on Etsy (SEO). SEO is not fun - SEO is currently the bane of my existence, but life isn't perfect and I'm trying to approach SEO just like I do everything else - as a learning opportunity. I have to tell you though, SEO was a lot more fun when I was in client services and I could talk about the concept of SEO, the performance of words and provide recommendations based on huddling with a team of professionals who actually knew way more about optimizing things than I did. But I digress. There's a lot going on over here, and right now, everything is amplified. There's an official countdown happening and I have about 32 days to go!
Everything starts with a plan. In February, I took a long weekend and tucked away in a B&B and wrote my business plan. At the beginning of each month, I sit down and I make a list of all of the things I need to do in that month. I also review my business plan to see what I need to tweak or pay attention to. Once I have my list, I plot the tasks out on the calendar. Each month, I also set financial and non-financial goals for myself. I also hold myself accountable to what is working and what's not. It's like my very own QBR (quarterly business review), except it's done monthly and so far, it's just me giving and receiving the feedback.
I manage all of my inventory and accounting (for now) in a spreadsheet. My agency days really stuck with me as I can itemize the hell out my work. I can tell you to the penny what a 8x10" cellophane bag costs and the difference in cost of a sheet of watercolor paper by brand.
My days start off with coffee, getting the kid to school, followed by journaling and meditation. From there I usually head to the studio. If there are orders to send off, I usually package those up around lunch and then head to the post office. After that, I either head back to the studio, stay in the house to work on things with the computer or I attend to family matters. If I'm doing what I should be - the gym also gets a visit from me in the afternoon.
This month, I'm also pulling everything together that I've been collecting and purchasing over the past few months. It's really exciting to see all of this come together.
Anna and I have been hitting the antique shops, as we love to do, and she's spotted some great items for me to use at shows. I've got this awesome toolbox to hold small prints and these great card catalog drawers to hold single cards. I also have this super fun little gum rack that I picked up in Amelia Island in February. I've been so excited to use it, and now it's almost time. This will hold my boxed cards and will hang on one of the display walls.
Beyond this, I've had to figure out taxes, get a Tax ID, purchase a credit card payment processing machine and deal with SEO for my shop listings. Have I mentioned that I don't like SEO? Oh, and I have to paint. A lot. This is not a complaint. For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to making my living by painting and being creative. I do get stressed out sometimes. I also feel guilty sometimes - I don't have a salary. And when the dishwasher breaks or the A/C doesn't start or someone has to go to the ER, I worry about money.
Most days, however, I wonder how this happened. I wanted it for soooo long. And now I am making it a reality. My goal is to be able to support my family with income from this business. I have a long way to go and I know that it won't happen overnight. It's daunting to be 47 and doing this now. Retirement is looming. I had stock options and a nice 401K. It felt safe. If the dishwasher broke a year ago, I didn't think twice. It would have been fixed and that would have been that. Like I said, I felt safe, but now I feel alive. And even on the days where I feel frozen with fear, I really don't want to trade a thing. Especially with this big goal being almost here. The start of shows. I'm almost to the top of the hill and once I break the crest, it will be time to quickly celebrate and then set my sight on the next big goal and figure out how to get there.
All of this has been nerve-wracking and wonderful and the most terrifying dream-come-true thrill ride experience that I've ever had. Some days have felt impossible. There have been many days where I have to give myself a pep talk, and when I don't trust myself - my incredibly supportive wife and friends fill in. My heart is in each of the paintings or drawings that I make. There is a story in each one of them, even if they just look light and colorful on the surface. Opening my shop online was a huge leap for me. I was putting myself out there. I felt naked. I was terrified, but I did it. And I stayed up half the night to get that sucker live because I had set a date by which I was going to have it live, and by God I was NOT going to miss it! Doing shows this fall has been the BIG goal for the year. I have so many other ideas and directions that I want to explore, but I haven't allowed myself to really play with or plan for those scenarios yet. I needed my focus to be on this and I think that is paying off. I'll plan for 2019 in November and December, but for now - I'm focused. I'm trying to maintain flexibility to my approach while staying true to myself. I'm nervous but really, really excited to see how this shakes out!