full time artist

Time and Money

Time and money. Common stresses for many people, right? Me too. Big time. In fact right now, I'm feeling paralyzed by them, and I don't quite know what to do about it.

Time doesn't often feel likes it's on my side when it comes to my art career. There's just never enough time! I feel guilty saying that, as I used to hold down a challenging full time job and still manage to make art. Now, I still work, but less....And feel like I am accomplishing a lot less in my art career than I did back then. 2.5 years ago, when I left my teaching job, I was hoping I could make a real full-time go of being an artist. Today, I feel stagnant, and rushed. Very rushed.

There seems to never really be enough time to think things all the way through, to plan and figure out my next move. There's always a home project, a looming deadline or a trip that forces me have to make decisions without a lot of thought. I hate that feeling. I don't like feeling like this art career of mine doesn't have a good solid vision behind it. I know I want to make things. I know that I need to do some things differently than I have in the past, but there never seems to be time to make that happen.

Now that the holidays are over, I theoretically should have time to look back on the good and bad of 2013, and methodically plot my next steps. Instead, I've hastily applied to 2014 art fairs to make January application deadlines. Why am I doing this when there were points in time last year when I wondered if I should even be doing art fairs? (I had some real stinkers last year.) Why do I keep doing this to myself?

And then, when I do take the time to work on business planning, I feel guilty that I'm not spending that time making something. I'm feeling quite guilty as sit here now and write. Is this my best use of my limited studio time as I've only got 1-2 days a week, if that? This is the constant dilemma I have with myself.

I do have some goals and aspirations for my art career in 2014.....
  • Make 40+ new pieces.
  • Hire someone to design me a new jenniferjohansson.com, that can integrate my current portfolio site, my blog and also a new independent e-commerce site. 
  • Build, consistent online sales, and etsy just isn't doing that for me. 
  • Pursue wholesale accounts for my prints and cards. 
  • Develop an effective marketing strategy.
  • Expand my product range, and experiment with printing my work on textiles.
  • Hire one of the many artist business coaches out there to help me make a plan and be more successful.
So I've got goals. Yahoo! That's all I need right?? Ha.

Besides time, it takes money to buy necessary art supplies, design a new website, have an e-commerce site and hire a business coach, and there just isn't any for that. Now I guess I could try and put together my own website....There are plenty of different sites out there that make it pretty easy, but I know that I wouldn't be truly pleased with the results. Yes, I know that a website alone is not going to revolutionize my business, but it's something I'd like to do. A strong, well designed and cohesive web presence is important. And the business coach thing......I've read countless blog posts (in fact I spend way too much time doing this), have participated in e-courses, and watched lectures by the experts, all which have been free. But, that's not been enough. I need some one-on-one, personalized feedback. And yes, I know that a business coach is also not going to suddenly make me a thriving artist, but I believe it will give me a good boost, some confidence and some direction. This flying by the seat of my pants thing is clearly not working.

The bosses at my "day job" have asked me to take on more hours at work. This is a good thing, right?  I would take home more money to put towards my artistic goals, but there goes my time! How can I make enough art and do enough marketing in just one day a week? How do I make enough money in art to leave that day job?  Do I just hang up my professional artist hat and just go full time working for someone else? It breaks my heart to have to think that.
So here I am, feeling stuck. What is my next step? How do I make these goals a reality? And how do I become the successful artist I want to become? Feeling a little paralyzed and tired of making bad moves.

I didn't write this post to garner sympathy or help, or money, I just needed to write. I don't know if this will even ever get posted, it just had to come out. And I guess, I'm feeling a little better now that it is.

There are some things you could help me with though. Anyone have any recommendations for a fab web designer? And what about a business coach? Have you worked with one? Any recommendations?  Do you have any experience using/ setting up a Shopify, Big Cartel or any other independent online shopping platform. Any insights would be much appreciated.

I'm off to work. I'll see you next Tuesday with some happier news! Ta-Ta. 

Art Fairs are a Tough Way to Make a Living.

Hi there. How are you? Me....I've been better. 

2 years ago, I quit my teaching job. We moved 300 miles away from home, so my husband could start a new career. I was hoping to make art a full time gig in our new surroundings. 2 years later, I'm feeling dejected and pretty lost. Full time artist, I am not. 

Art fairs were part of my full time artist plan. I had been doing a fair or two each year while I was still teaching and had much success. (I won "Best of Show" in the first art fair I ever participated in.) Now....I'm not so sure about the art fair gig. Let me explain.

I spent this past weekend participating in an art fair in Chicago. This should have been a good show for me, or so I thought. It was a well run, well promoted fair, with a great reputation in a well-to-do Chicago neighborhood. I was surrounded by high caliber artists and I was excited. Conditions seemed ideal for sales. 

Before I get to the bad news,  I'm happy to report that I did sell this Male Cardinal original! (I knew this guy was special and would sell quick. I did this piece just a week before the show.) Otherwise, this fair was a bust..... I  didn't make enough money to cover the application and booth fees I had to pay to participate in this show. This was the second fair in a row this summer that I've lost money doing. Ouch. 
I've had bad art fairs before. Plenty, in fact. But there seemed to be a very logical reason why those shows turned out bad. The show was poorly promoted, the fair attendees were not my target demographic,  or I was placed in a really bad spot with no traffic. There seems to be no excuse for this one. It's hard not to take this one personally......I start questioning my skills as an artist and a salesman.  I wonder if it will ever be possible for me to make it as a full time artist. I have my home town art fair in 2 weeks time. This usually is my most profitable show every year. But after 2 really bad shows, I'm even worried about this one. I'm losing my confidence.

There are plenty of people out there who make their living at art fairs. I have some ceramicist friends that have been doing the art fair circuit full time for 20 years. I just don't think I will be one of those people. It is so much work and travel for so little reward! I know I don't have the constitution for that!

I'm at a crossroads. After 2 years, I've spent much more money on fees, travel expenses and supplies than I've made participating in art fairs. My credit card debt is ballooning and it doesn't seem fiscally responsible for me to continue to pursue many more art fairs. Matt and I can't afford for me not to make money!  If I'm going to make it as a full time artist, I need to find other revenue streams....But where? This is my current struggle. I'm feeling pretty lost right now. 

Don't worry, I'm not giving up, but I have to find a better way. Ta-Ta.