This post is about what it is like to be an artist which includes trying to make it as a small business owner. This is for people like me. It is also for me, because I won't always be where I am now and I want to remember what it was like. And I want to process what I am currently experiencing. Maybe I should just start journaling but I figure it might be helpful for someone else.
So this might not interest you if you aren't an artist or a small business owner.
Looking towards the future...
There are several possibilities:
1) I give up
2) I continue but never quite succeed
3) I reimagine what success looks like
(i.e. not financial)
4) I succeed- financially & artistically
What I do
My art practice is complied of commissions which is my most reliable source of income.
Also original fine art in watercolor and oil paints, original "illustrations" which is just fine art but simpler so I can make it faster, prints of original fine art, & designing products .
Marketing/ selling myself on social media, my website & looking for opportunities to enter my work
Accounting- keeping track of the money
Printing- ordering things
Admin- answering emails etc.
I have a part time job working for a Tax & Bookkeeping company. (10 hours a week)
Occasionally I work in the garden for some old friends.
Life is family & friend commitments. It's cleaning the house and doing the laundry. It's spending time with my husband.
Life also includes that thing that is a heavy burden. I think everyone has at least one of these. (sometimes people have 2+ these burdens, they blow my mind). My heavy burden is my chronic pain. I'm undiagnosed, but I deal with muscle pain and fatigue on a daily basis. It limits how much I work and what sort of things I can do. Sometimes I can be normal, other times I am resigned to the couch.
What it feels like
Being an artist is so personal. I'm always going to be making work, but if I make work then I want to sell work. But at the same time if my business isn't succeeding it is a huge source of stress and makes me feel like a failure. But I can't just not make the work.
>So when the business isn't going well I continually think about money and promoting myself. Two things which are disgusting. I don't want to become consumed with money or myself.
>On top of that is the heavy burden (different for everyone, but we all got one). For me it is also very connected to my work because my pain and fatigue hold me back from accomplishing everything I want to in a work day.
It isn't all dire. I do love the flexibility and freedom that comes from working from home and having multiple sources of income (thank you day job, I took that job to alleviate some stress from being "fulltime artist"). I love that I get to have lunch with my husband. I love that the work I do really matters to me and it really brings joy to other people. There is more beauty in the world because of what I do.
So I guess what I'm saying is- I love the work itself but the stress of making the business succeed while balancing life can be overwhelming and stressful. It can plunge me into a toxic spiral of caring about the wrong things and stealing my peace/joy.
What I think about it
I've just been pushing through. I'm an optimist in a lot of ways and I have a continually hope that good things are just around the corner. And often they really are.
In January of this year, I made $40 (depressing). In February, for the first time ever, I sold a in art piece. Followed by 2 more in March.
Right now as I'm writing, I'm overwhelmed and discouraged (could you tell?). But I am a firm believer in providence. God has alwaysss been faithful to me. I've always had enough, even if it wasn't everything I wanted. He has given me these skills and dreams, He will continue to be faithful to me. But He loves to make us wait & trust in him.
If you aren't a Christian this ending is a let down for you. Because like myself, you've probably searched through business and art business books looking for the answer.
How can I succeed??
I don't know. If I knew I'd be rich from my art and I'd be publishing this as a book revealing the secret we are all searching for.
I don't know if I'll ever get rid of my pain or sell enough work to have a sustainable business.
It is not easy to find peace in the unknown. But whether you're a Christian or not. Unknowns are inevitable and we have to find ways to make everyday count.
If I wait until I succeed to be happy or have peace & joy. I'm going to find that success hollow. It's in so many stories it's cliché- the person who only wants riches and glory will never have enough. But we still tell ourselves that we need those things to be content.
Our joy can't be reliant on something that is so fleeting. Life is too important and precious to not appreciate every day we have on this earth. I want my life to be more than the success or failure of my business. Hard things take so much of our attention and they can become consuming.
Busyness gets in the way and makes me forget these truths. I have to remind myself daily of what really matters and choose contentment & live with gratitude.