All links in this post are non-affiliated. I receive no compensation – I just really like what this guy has to say!! I’ve reworked this article over the last year or so depending on the industry I was writing for. I wear a few hats, so some of you might read this and think “Hmmmm….sounds familiar”. This post will be its permanent home as I have started to put all of my energy into my fibre artwork.
This post was inspired by a great little free ebook by Owen, over at Marketing Tools For Artists. When I read what he had to say I got excited because I’ve been trying to figure out how to say this, and his words gave me a jumping point. Even though this ebook may not be geared towards your industry, it’s worth a read, anyway.
I love what I do!! I heart crochet in a big huge way, since the dawn of time. Even when I have veered off into other fields, I have always brought my love of crafting with me. My salon clients look for the yarn and hooks tucked behind my manicure table or sticking out of my bag. My other love is divination, more specifically, numerology and runes, so from time to time articles I have written show up in my Twitter feed, confusing the hell out of other hookers. I use the principles of sacred geometry and runes in my mandalas and other crochet creations. I love to travel and being self-employed is important in that regard because if I worked for someone else I might not have the freedom to see the world. I love that I can be my creative artsy-fartsy self all the live long day and not get held to the same standard of boring that others are. I love that not stuck in an office processing documents because although that may be heavenly to some, it’s medieval torture to me. I love that my income potential is unlimited, I love that I’m in an environment hand-tailored for left brained freaky people such as myself, an environment that allows me to succeed in a predominantly right-brained culture – because all you logical people that think you rule the world, you need people like me to show you a different world view of the bumps in the road – boy howdy, you do.
“Just” a crafter. Heh.
A lot of us don’t stay at this very long. In fact, I can guarantee that most of the craft bloggers I read ten years ago aren’t doing this right now. This makes me sad – it really, really does – I know people say that all the time “That makes me sad”, but I’m telling you the truth. I know that not all of us will be raving successes in our fields of choice, but surely more of us could be doing better. Because I genuinely hate to see people throw away a perfectly good opportunity, I have thought long and hard about why this could be. I have come up with a list of what I believe are behaviours that need to change among artsy-fartsy folks in many fields:
- Not sticking to a specific method and/or getting to know a system really well. Hand in hand with this is not taking the time to master a technique. If you mix things up and consistently produce poor work then stop doing that!! I’ve ranted about this before, but if you’re going to invest in learning a skill, then take the time out to get to know what you are using. Don’t start filling gaps with other tools. Some techniques are better than others for certain types of work but you won’t know this if you keep flitting around. This means that some things just won’t work together no matter how much you try to force them. If you constantly go hopping around, looking for the next shiny hook or paintbrush to make your work “easier”, you will deny yourself the opportunity to really grow and develop your skill set. Explore something to its fullest and exploit the hell out of it before you decide to throw your yarn/hooks/needles/looms into the Closet of Shame.
- Not developing a solid routine. Creative chaos is a beautiful thing that brings a tear to my eye, but underneath that spread out mess of yarn, glitter, glue, random papers with inspired writing scribbled on them has to be an underlying process to keep you organized and on track. Your creative process will go to hell quickly and not manifest in brilliance without a plan. This is true of anything that you do, whether it is Tarot readings, weaving, knitting, or even drywalling. Half-assery helps no one.
- Trying to please everyone. Creative fields attract a lot of heart-centred people pleasers that end up getting burned out and bitter quickly. You can’t please everyone and sooner or later you will learn that lesson. Don’t take it personally when it happens, although you probably will. I’ll be here for hugs when you need them and a kind push back into the frying pan. Spend some quality time really thinking about who your ideal client is and then work your ass off to attract that client. Do your best for everyone, but be selective when building your client base. You don’t have to take everyone and do everything.
- Not paying enough attention to the business end of things. In your first year or two of your fabulously cool creative endeavours take every fun artsy-fartsy seminar. Go to craft expos to watch well known artisans and other crafty folks do fabulous things. Knock yourself out. At some point you will figure out that the foofoo classes are all the same, regardless of the focus of your study. You don’t need to watch every designer cast on every stitch. You don’t need to see a hundred different demonstrations on techniques that you already know how to do. Develop your own style and start setting aside your professional development budget for seminars and classes on things like: marketing, payroll, labour laws, understanding client behaviour, blogging/social media, business planning – things that will enhance your career education and make your foundation that much more solid. There’s no point in designing the best! baby booties! ever! if you don’t know how to promote yourself. If you build it, they won’t come if they don’t know.
- Not charging properly. Get over your hangups NOW about making money. This one really sticks in my craw because I get really tired of seeing people complain about not making money, but then not charging what they’re worth. Stop being emotional about your client’s money. If s/he wants your work, they can afford you. If they really can’t – NEXT!! Bid them good day graciously, and carry on, ever forward.
- For the love of all that is glittery and sacred – and I’m squinting right at you sweet, sweet crafting folk – stop taking things out in trade for crap that doesn’t benefit you. You will start to feel very, very resentful after a while, “OMG here comes Susan AHHHGAIN. I bet she wants a scarf and I bet she’s going to offer to pay me in f*cking scrapbooking crap AHHHGAIN.” You are every bit as entitled as anyone else in this world to receive useful payment for services rendered. Sometimes it’s nice to take things out in trade but if you don’t draw clear boundaries around this you’ll end up with a closet full of soap and candles, and no rent money in the cookie jar.
- Having unrealistic expectations about their path to success. Having creative talent is only a small part of this. I will say this until I am blue in the face: the most successful of us are NOT the most talented. The most successful professionals in any field are the ones who can hustle and get their names out there and keep them out there. Quite often, their work is no better than anyone else’s, and in some cases it’s full of little mistakes once you start looking closely. The difference between those of us who become well known and those of us who don’t is that whether they are conscious of it or not, industry celebrities use exposure as a tool to keep moving forward, not as a means to an end. Blogs, magazine interviews, YouTube channels, Instagram pages – these are all tools and the more you acquire, the harder you have to work to stay relevant. It’s also important to bear in mind that exposure exposes you – all of you – it opens your work and life up to praise and criticism.
- Before you hit the road to embark on your (hopefully) successful career path, give some thought to what being successful actually means to you. Is it peer recognition? Awards? Having a huge client base? Being able to go to Mexico every year? Owning a home? Getting a column in a magazine? Being on a TV show? I never thought of myself as successful until someone in the industry told me that they thought I was, a few years ago. As soon as I started to shift my perception of what success was, to something that actually suited me, things changed and suddenly the universe became a far less threatening place.
- Not taking time to understand client needs. If you’re like most of us in artistic fields, you take in-person clients for commission work and that constitutes the bulk of your income. It’s a good idea to put the bulk of your energy into the place that pays you the most. For most of us, the clients pay our bills, not the strangers clicking the hearts on Instagram – unless your business involves digital information also. Communication is a big part of understanding client needs. It’s also a big part of them understanding you and your process. Most people are not artists or artisans and they don’t mean to be offensive in their ignorance. They don’t get how long it takes to make something or how much it costs. They just see the end result. This will be an ongoing thing for you as a creative professional. When you encounter a patron that understands your medium and appreciates it in a way that benefits you financially – celebrate this person, and then learn how to attract more of them. The next time you’re engaging in small talk, ask your clients/patrons specifically what they look for when they buy items in your field. Then listen without judgement. They may not be the client you end up wanting right now, but you may be able to point them in the right direction. It’s all a big circle and what goes around comes back.
- Not having a plan. For years I winged it and for years I was frustrated and it sucked to be me. Business plans are not just for people who want to open a business. They are for employees too. They are for file clerks, receptionists, hairstyling assistants, actors, teachers, Tarot readers, estheticians, sculptors, Reiki Masters, and ditch diggers, too. They can be as complex or as simple as you want to make them. What a business plan does is allows you to plan out your future in nice little bites that don’t seem quite so intimidating once you map it all out. An ideal starting point for those of us in this industry is the Right Brained Business Plan, by Jennifer Lee. This book makes business planning fun and sparkly, for those of us who are more about flinging glitter than we are about charts and columns. A good business plan sets out a yearly goal (for example: enough craft sales to pay the bills) and then quarterly goals for that year (for example: perfecting one type of technique every quarter), followed by monthly goals (for example: write an email newsletter to your clients every month, or film a relevant YouTube video) and then weekly goals (for example: order supplies every Monday, sit down and update client data files with info that may have been missed, call back the ones who haven’t seen you in a while, see if they still like their sweater – maybe it fell apart in the wash – you never know.), and daily goals (for example: dust your studio before working or receiving patrons, straighten up the photographs and paintings on the walls, capture some data on every client that comes to see you, if you have social media then spend 20 minutes every day engaging with your followers). These are all things that will work together to get you to being busy and if you create a plan and follow it daily, you will see success.