As tomorrow I'm going back to work after 10 months of maternity leave, I thought I'd share with you how I have been running my Art Biz while I was working full time, and what has changed since entering motherhood.
Before we dive in, let's set expectations:
- I do not run a multi-million euro art business. Yet. But we are in the green and every year I have been hitting my target :)
- Everything you see (from the art to Instagram, website, blog posts, newsletter, pictures and video editing, course creation and so on...) is made/created/written/produced by me, myself and I.
- I do have a design and ecommerce background but I do not know how to code.
- I have been working full time before baby A. come along.
- Before Covid I had a 3 hours a day commute to work.
Ok, now... running an art business while also working a full-time job and/or being a parent requires a good amount of dedication but it is definitely possible with the right mindset and strategies in place. And by this I mean, I'm no super human, I'm just dedicated and a tiny bit obsessed.
In this blog post, I have highlighted what has helped me so far in my art biz journey, while working full time and during the first 10 months of life of my baby.
Dedicate time for your art and protect it
Thinking we are trapped by time is probably the biggest mistake we can do. We do have the power to decide how we spend our time.
The sentence "I wish I had the time" means "this isn't a priority for me".
Let's be 100% clear here, I'm not telling you to wake up at 4am and/or never sleep or eat or see a friend. Because that's no living.
But art and the business of your art has to become a priority, so that you do find the time.
Whether is to paint or to work on your social media, or your website, one of the most important things you can do as an artist is to set aside dedicated time for your business.
This could be a few hours each week or even just 30 minutes a day. Whatever the time frame, it's important to make sure you protect that time and use it solely for your art. This may mean getting help from your spouse or from a parent, but it's important to remember that your art is a priority and it should be treated as such.
I think here is where a lot of people get lost. Because it's hard, on top of a busy day, to also have the energy to run your side hustle. But, if you're not the one protecting that time, making this a priority... no one else will do it for you.
Before I had baby A., I used to paint every Saturday morning for about 6/7 hours straight.
For those Saturdays where I wasn't feeling like painting, I'd work on my website/newsletter/course... the digital stuff.
When I was commuting to work, I'd use the time on the train (about 2 hours a day) as well to work on my art business.
After baby: the painting time has reduced, so I'm a bit more selective of the hours I do spend in the studio and I do a little bit less experimentation than I used to.
But every Saturday afternoon, husband takes baby and I have 3/4 hours to work.
I do paint a little bit less, but I was still able to create 1 painting a day for the whole month of February as well as finalising a collection for last year's Art Fair in Dublin.
I paint a bit in the morning before baby is awake, and finishing everything up in the evening when my husband would get home.
Since baby, I work more on the business side of things rather than painting. So I'm up early in the morning to write things (blog posts/newsletters) and to edit videos (YouTube and Online Courses). In the evening I take calls with clients and run my 1:1 sessions/workshops.
Now, for example, I'm writing this blog post (under my cat's supervision) at 5:16am, before my baby wakes up.
And no, I do not wake up at 5am every morning. And there are days where I'm extremely tired and I'm less dedicated. But not a day has gone by, since 2016 (when I actually understood I could be selling my art), when I haven't done work on my art and business.
Well... maybe the day I gave birth. Aside from that, every day, tired or not, I do something towards my business goal.
Obsession = Having and Defining a Goal
Are there moments where I want to take my computer or my phone or all my canvases and throw them out of the window?
Have I actually done it?
Not really. (I might have killed a canvas once, I might have...)
And the reason is that I've been obsesses with making this happening.
Which means I have goals for where I want to be, regardless of mistakes (oh I have made plenty - and will make more for sure - might have to write a blog post about them 😁), so I can stay on track.
Look, there are moments when things simply aren't going. Even if you think you've done all the work. But every time something isn't going in the right way, I remember a quote I've come across on Pinterest a while back that said something on the lines of: road bumps are there to see if you want it bad enough.
I'm probably butchering it, but the actual words aren't really important. What's important isn't never falling, but getting up again.
Defining clear goals is an important step in running any business, and it's especially important for your art business.
Setting goals gives you something to work towards, a to-do list if you want, and it can help you stay focused and motivated.
When I'm setting my goals, I always make sure they are specific, measurable, and achievable.
For example, instead of just saying "I want to sell more art" which is very vague, I set a goal to sell a certain amount of art within a specific time frame.
And this translates into an actual to do list of things I need to do to get there.
Get organised and be selective
Very much related to the previous point, but I want to stress on this for a bit longer 😉
There are potentially an infinite amount of things you could be doing, but, realistically, you won't be able (and need) to do them all.
Success in your art business can mean a lot of different things, depending who you're asking and what your vision of success looks like.
I recently met a fellow artist at an art show and they said "ah you have to be at all the markets/fairs in a 30km radius from your home if you want to make it!".
The moment I heard this I envisioned myself in the cold Irish wind, struggling to keep warm and with my canvases flying away. Not to mention away from my baby and cats. Nope.
While this artist is successful at these markets, I knew immediately this wasn't for me. I like to sell art from the comfort of my home. I also happen to be an introvert that likes tea and leggings. And I'm good at selling online.
So, instead of going down the rabbit hole of trying to find local markets to attend to, I made a list of more online activities I could be focusing on.
Which means, having a list of things to do that make sense for who I am as an artist and as a person.
While being selective at the very beginning can be hard because you still have to figure out what works for your art and what doesn't, do not force yourself into situations that make you want to run away, because you might be less likely to come back.
Remember: if you are an Italian house plant like I am, don't be in the cold Irish wind with your canvases 😂
Find a mentor to guide you
Don't listen to everybody's opinion. Don't listen to mine, if it doesn't make sense for you and for your business.
One of the best aspects of being online is potentially having access to anyone that can help you. Someone that understands you, your art and your art business needs.
I'm a firm believer of standing on the shoulder of giants, that's why having a mentor can be extremely helpful when it comes to running your art business.
Why would you have to do it all by yourself, figuring out ALL the tools and tricks, when someone out there has already done it before you? And they can teach you? AMAZING!
A mentor can provide guidance and advice, as well as a sounding board for your ideas. They can also help you navigate the business side of the art world, such as pricing your work and finding the right platform to sell on or shows to participate in.
And I know what you're thinking "I'm not making any money yet, how can I afford to pay someone to be my mentor?".
There are 3 answers to this question:
1. Think about how much time (and trial and error) it would take you to figure it all out by yourself.
2. In the same way you purchase a canvas before you can sell it, you're investing in your business, we just value time and learning in a different way!
3. Not all mentors need to cost you a fortune. And if you're not ready for an expensive mentor, maybe join a community first, or join a facebook group. But be part of the conversations.
I still remember the first time I paid for a mentor. I was so nervous.
I thought "Who do I think I am to be wasting money on this?".
Fast forward 10 minutes into the call and I got really excited and started wondering why I hadn't done it sooner.
If you get value, it's always worth it!
A piece of advice here: work with mentors that have gone through what you are going through and that you can trust! Follow someone on social media for a while before you give them money.
See if they have free resources on their website. See if you like their tone of voice.
Because if you do, you're more likely to trust them with your business, money and expertise.
Running an art business while working a full-time job and/or being a parent can be a daunting task, but it is definitely possible with the right mindset and strategies in place. You can do this. 💪
I'm sure you can successfully navigate the balancing act of being an artist, a full-time employee, and a parent. Remember to take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.