The business of running your art career doesn’t have to be boring

SHOCK – The spirit of Christmas found in a beautiful simple little piece of marketing

Let me tell you an true Xmas tale…

Here in Yorkshire it has been snowing… hard. After a week of literally being snowed in the house {and the associated insanity this brings on} I ventured out into my local town to try and catch up with a little Christmas shopping.

It’s a proper little Yorkshire place, the solid buildings hewn out of golden stone. It has a bank, a butchers, a florists and all the associated hustle and bustle of a thriving Market Town. Under a hefty dollop of snow, with the main street lit by fairly lights it’s about as Christmassy as it gets. However, the older I get the more Scrooge like I get so I was dashing about, not noticing any of this, intent on getting to the bank and all the other tedious bits of general life that seem to escalate into lunacy in the run up to Xmas.

In the bleak midwinter…

For as long as I have lived here, a tiny woman has stationed herself outside the bank, selling “The Big Issue”. If you don’t know, this is a magazine, sold by the homeless to provide an alternative to begging. The woman stands outside the bank in all weathers {and in Yorkshire we really DO get ALL weathers and many of them are hideous} selling the magazine. I think she’s Eastern European and she speaks very little English. She may be a refugee from one of the hideous wars in the region in the past, but I’m surmising. She generally only has a thin coat and headscarf and looks freezing most of the time. But she’s always there…always polite and smiling and although I always say hello when I go to the bank, for some reason I have never bought a magazine from her…

Well today I must have had an attack of festive spirit, as when I came out of the bank I bought one of her copies of “The Big Issue”, shoved it in my bag, whilst tussling with a restive toddler and headed for home.

Finally I got to sit down with my coffee in front of the fire to have a thumb through the magazine [which is always a good read]. Along with all the magazine detritus that fell out, there was a small handwritten envelope with something I couldn’t quite decipher on the front. Intrigued I opened it and inside was a little Chrismas card. The message inside, written in tiny spidery writing, read exactly as follows:

To my coustmer. I am Lejla and my little girl. Merry Christmas. From Lejla and Dushanka xx

Well, that was me melted!

The Xmas card proudly joined my ranks of others on the mantelpiece and Lejla in one absolutely genius fell swoop of marketing had converted me from a stranger into a customer.

No longer is she “the homeless woman outside the bank who must be FREEZING in this weather” but a person with a name, a little girl and a story. She has made herself REAL, genuine and worthwhile spending money on. I will definitely be buying her magazine next time I see her and I’m sure her regular customers will continue to buy too.

So thanks to Lejla for reminding me of the spirit of Christmas and bringing a warm glow to my sometimes slightly Scroogy heart, and for also teaching a valuable marketing lesson.

BE REAL and CONNECT with your customers! They are the lifeblood of your business.

And thanks to you too, reader and supporter of this blog. Thanks for reading and commenting and just being there over the past year. I really do appreciate it. So it’s only left for me to wish you a very merry, wonderful and peaceful Christmas wherever you are in the world…

Merry Christmas

Helen x

Photo Credit under Creative Commons licence by pareeerica

You may also like

How to start your Artists Newsletter in 6 easy-peasy steps – A practical guide

A very practical post this week!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post exhorting artists to start collecting names on their artists mailing list.
What is your crucial secret weapon for selling art? : Lessons from “The Apprentice”

I got feedback from lots of artists who wanted to do just that and send out a newsletter but really didn’t know where to start and were confused and daunted by the whole process. So following on from this I have put together a quick guide to help.

Follow these 6 simple steps and you should be well on your way to sending out a professional email artists newsletter which will give you a head start in promoting your work.

In the words of a famous footwear brand – Just do it.

Setting this up will probably take around an hour. Then you are all ready to go and start collecting emails and contacting your fans and collectors. It’s really not a daunting techie process and trust me, it’s worth it in terms of selling your art. It’s probably THE most powerful thing you can do to keep in touch with people who love your work.

Just dedicate an hour after dinner tonight to getting this sorted out. You can even have a glass of wine whilst you’re doing it. Bonus. 😉

This post is, due to constraints of space, just a quick overview of how to do it. Basically, the software we are going to use, MailChimp,  is very user friendly which is why it’s the best place to start if you have never done this before. Don’t be daunted by it. Jump in and have a poke about. You can’t break anything. Once you get your confidence up you will be away.

So, here we go…

1 – Register with MailChimp.com for free

You really don’t want to send out your Newsletter using your normal email software {Outlook etc} for a variety of reasons, the main ones being that the template will break, it will get classed as spam and you can’t track the results.

  • Head over to www.mailchimp.com and click on the big SIGN UP FREE button. Fill in your details and click the confirmation email you will be sent.
  • You will then be asked to fill in a CAPTCHA {typing in the strange words to confirm you are human} and then taken to a page where you fill in your details.
  • At this stage you are also asked for your website address so MailChimp can grab a colour palette from your website so that your templates match. How cool is that?
  • If you don’t have your own website yet, but only a Facebook page or Twitter presence don’t worry. You can still send out a newsletter. MailChimp explains how to deal with that at this stage.
  • Finally pick the FREE account and you are taken to the MailChimp dashboard and ready to start.

2 – Create your mailing list

So before you send out any newsletters you need to get some people to send them to. You need to start a list and start collecting names and email addresses.

  • On the dashboard, click the LISTS tab at the top, or “Create a List” on the main panel and you are taken to a page where you set up a mailing list.
  • You are guided through the process of naming the list, adding in your email address and subject name. You can leave settings on default for now if unsure. The main thing is getting this set up. You can come back later and change and refine it.
  • When you click DONE the list is saved.
  • If you already have some names {legally gathered on your website} you can import them into the new list by clicking IMPORT
  • Your list is now ready to go. Yay!

3 – Put a signup form on your site

People visiting your site need to be able to signup for your list so you need to add a signup form on your website.

  • Click DESIGN SIGNUP FORM in the left column and lets get started.
  • Auto Design is a great feature which goes to your website and grabs colours and images to match the form to your site. It made a reasonable job on my site although it added a fairly bonkers header image which I had to delete. Still its a good way to start and you can then click the DESIGN IT tab at the top to poke about and refine the form. Don’t worry, you can’t break anything. Just experiment.
  • Keep your form simple. Name and email address is really all you need. The more information you ask for the less likely people will be to sign up.
  • When you are all done you then need to get this form onto your site. Look just above the form [tucked away and not very obvious} and you will see the following links. Link to subscribe form {and the link here} or create embed code for small form. Either copy and past the link {simple} and add to your site or create the embed code and copy this into the HTML of your site {slightly more techy but better}.
  • Once you have got the form onto your site make sure you check it works OK by subscribing yourself.

4 – Create a Newsletter {campaign}

Now for the exciting bit. Actually putting your newsletter together. Mailchimp uses the adspeak word “campaign” but we know we mean newsletter right?

  • Hit the campaigns tab at the top and “Create Campaign” in the left column.
  • Then select “regular ol campaign” from the pull down menu you are provided. You are then asked which list you want to send to. Select your list and continue.
  • Next give your campaign a name and message title. You can leave the other settings on default for now.
  • When you click through to the next page you are given a great choice of template designs to use. Choose a pre designed one, start from scratch if you are feeling brave or click the “Design Genius” button to customise your own.
  • When you have chosen a template, just click edit at top right of the relevant section box and add your own content.
  • When you have finished creating your newsletter, click next and mailchimp will check your newsletter is ready for delivery.
  • VERY IMPORTANT. Send a test message to yourself to make sure everything looks right. Just keep sending tests until you are sure its all good to go.
  • That’s it!!. Your artists newsletter is ready to go! Wasn’t too painful was it?

5 – Great. But what on earth do I put in my artists newsletter?

This is the ten billion dollar question I get asked A LOT. It’s all very well setting up a newsletter but you have to have good content. We all get bombarded by massive amounts of email rubbish so your newsletter needs to stand out from the crowd. A few pointers:

Your title needs the WOW factor.
This is the only thing that will get your email opened. Make it intriguing and different.

People love stories.
Share the stories behind your work. Is there an intriguing history behind a building you painted? An anecdote surrounding the evolution of a technique you use? Share it.

Share the story of your work in progress.
Has a piece of work evolved in a strange and unexpected way? Tell people about it.

Give previews.
Show your collectors your new work before it goes on your site, giving them a VIP boost.

6 – Send it out. Talk to your people

You’ve done it. Your artists newsletter is ready to go. Sending out once a month is plenty and will mean people won’t get sick of hearing from you. Quality over quantity every time.

Have fun with your artists newsletter. Cherish your fans and customers, respect them and send them great stuff. An artists newsletter is a wonderful and direct way of connecting with the precious people who love your work.

You have done the hard part. Now go out and make the most of it.

You may also like

Best of the web | November 2010 | Don’t miss these

Disconnect to connect

As an artist I have found it’s crucially important to try and disconnect from the web sometimes in order to recharge my creative batteries and enjoy reality more. Sunday has become my “disconnect to connect” day. This lovely little ad from Thailand reminds us why this is a good idea.

Online scams targetting artists. Advice on how to avoid getting caught out.

Unfortunately artists who sell their work online seem to be targets for fraudsters operating on the web. If you familiarise yourself with their methods you should be able to avoid falling for their scams. I thought it was a good idea to talk about this for any artists who weren’t aware so this month I have found some great resources to help protect and advise against this problem.

Sure Signs of an Internet Scam and How to Stop It Cold

Alyson B Stanfield gives a great outline of what an internet art scam can look like and ways to deal with it.

Art Scammer Database

If you get a suspicious message you can check the name against known art scammers in this database from Fine Art Studio Online. {Remember though, if the name isn’t in the database it could still be a scam}.

And in other news…

14 art business tips from the top art pros on Twitter

This is a gem. Lori McNee asked the art pros on Twitter to share an artbiz tip in 140 characters. Their response contains some GREAT advice.

The creative process – illustrated!

This is totally genius. If you ever think that it’s just you who goes around in ever decreasing creative circles in your head then look at this illustration. We all do this 😉

You may also like

What is your crucial secret weapon for selling art? : Lessons from “The Apprentice”

Lets put on our “imagining” hat for a second. {I hope you have an imagining hat? I wouldn’t go anywhere without mine}.

Imagine for some strange and unknown reason you {heaven forbid}suddenly find yourself taking part in an episode of “The Apprentice”. Your objective is to sell as many of your paintings as possible in 5 hours from a rented shop. People come in, wander round disinterested in your work and leave. They don’t come back. You gradually get more and more panicky at the thought of bearing the brunt of the gimlet eye of Sir Alan Sugar and his henchmen and resort to standing at the shop door shouting and trying to grab passers by. They cross the road to avoid you as, by this point, you have become more than a little bonkers looking. You fail the task miserably, get fired and go home sobbing in a taxi.

Stop! Rewiiiiiiind

Now lets re imagine it…
Same Apprentice style task, same scenario. But this time you have a secret weapon. You have a big list of people who you already know LOVE your work. You set up your gallery and contact them. They arrive in droves and because they are already pre-qualified to like what you do, they buy a lot of paintings. You trounce the other team, get a fabulous job with Sir Alan and get to fly off to Royal Ascot in a private jet quaffing champagne.

Your mailing list is your secret weapon.

That’s pretty much why you need an artist’s mailing list in a nutshell {omitting the champagne, jets and Sir Alan bits}. It’s your secret weapon for selling art online and off.

Many many people will visit your website or see your work in a gallery but unless you make some kind of record of who they are you will probably never see them again and an opportunity is wasted.

This is why you need to collect their details, start your artists mailing list and keep growing it.

Many people set up a site but neglect to grow their mailing list when really at the end of the day it should be the FOCUS of your entire online presence.

So what exactly is it?

An artist’s mailing list is simply a list of the details of people who expressed an interest in your work, whether they be on your site or viewing your work in a gallery. Name and email address is really all you need {unless your audience predominately don’t use the internet and you want to send out invitations by post.}

The less information you ask for, the more likely people will be to give it to you. Asking for peoples inside leg measurements and the name of their dog will result in a very small mailing list.

What do I use it for?

You use your mailing list to keep people up to date with your latest work. A good idea is to send out an email newsletter once a month detailing new work, things that you are working on and your general announcements {upcoming exhibitions etc}

Is it worth the hassle?

Absolutely! For example Artist, Hazel Dooney {some of Hazel’s work may be NSFW} has built a great deal of her success on keeping her own group of collectors informed of her work. Hazel sends out a monthly “Studio Notes” email, thus allowing her to operate independently outside the gallery system. Basically if you have your own list you aren’t reliant on a galleries list of interested folk. You have your own. Hoorah.

When do I start?

I love this Japanese saying. “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now” If you start now, a year down the line you will have a healthy list of collectors. Just do it.

So, how do I do it?

At the very basic end, just make sure you have a book for people to add their details at your next exhibition.

Read this post for some ideas about how to get people to sign up. Simple tips to increase your mailing list signup at gallery exhibitions & craft fairs

At the more high tech end, start to collect names and emails on your website. Trust is a very precious thing so make sure that you reassure people that you value their trust and will not sell or lose their email or spam them.

Very importantly – don’t use your normal email programme to send out emails or manage your list. It looks unprofessional and is likely to end in a junk mail folder. The professional services below ensure that their emails are designed to get through the spam filters. You also can’t measure how many people open your mails when you use Outlook so have no idea if anyone is actually reading them and how to improve.

Ok Mrs Smartarse. So what DO I use instead of Outlook?

There are specialist online services which you can use to manage your list and send out emails.

MailChimp offers a great FREE package which is ideal for cutting your teeth. They have loads of nice features and you can have up to 1000 subscribers on the free account. They do seem to have more problems with deliver-ability though but it is a good place to start.

Aweber
I use Aweber to send out all my emails and manage my list and it works great. It has a high deliverability rate, great templates, stats and features. It does cost $20 a month though but you can use it on multiple sites and send as many emails as you like for that fee.

Don’t be a V14gr4 Gnome

All this could start to sound a bit mercenary and it’s true that the mailing list is open to abuse by ice hearted internet marketers who use peoples emails to bombard them with ads for v14gr4 or promises of a larger willy. However, like anything in life, it’s what you do with it that counts. Always remember that your mailing list is about people, not just numbers.

Take time to connect and build relationships with the people who like your work. Don’t treat them as a commodity. Get to really know them. Grow your connections with your people and you,  your work and your audience can grow together.

How do you manage your artists mailing list? Tell us below.

You may also like

Illustrator Lisa Stubbs shares her online world

Lisa Stubbs is a freelance illustrator, artist and printmaker from Yorkshire England.

Her work is inspired by a wide variety of lovelyness ranging though Japanese graphics, vintage packaging and the creativity of her children and includes screenprinting, stitch and textiles. She writes an eclectic & inspirational blog at ‘LilSonnySky and her work can be found on both Etsy.com & Folksy.com

In this interview, Lisa shares her experiences about marketing her work, the business of art, and success selling art online. She also shares her inspirations and processes.

Your work

Lisa. How would you describe your art
I’d describe my work as narrative, characterful, honest and with a sence of humour, I want people to connect and relate to my artwork I want it to make the onlooker smile.

Please explain a little about your creative process.
For my own personal work I carry a sketch book and camera around with me, if anything inspires me I jot it down or snap it! Then later I will work further on the sketch and decide what medium to create the final artwork in, which at the moment is mainly as a screen print or a fabric collage. I have three children who are a constant inspiration to me with their energy and fresh imaginative way of looking at the things, and along with their picture book collection and their own art, this fuels ideas for my sketch book too.

What is your workspace like?
Do you have a dedicated space to create? I have a studio next to my kitchen which is open plan ( you can see an image it of it here) Where I do most of my work, my screen printing is done at the West Yorkshire Print workshop where I learnt how to screen print.

Your Online World

fossil hunting in red hatYour blog www.LilSonnySky.Blogspot.com is packed full of fascinating and exciting work, inspiration and fun. It’s created on the Blogger platform. Would you recommend Blogger to artists starting to set up a blog or would you do anything differently if you were setting it up now?
The Blogger platform is perfect for me as it’s easy to use. I’m no whiz when it comes to computers and blogging along with opening Etsy & Folksy shops has been a huge learning curve, which I’ve really enjoyed! Because I don’t have a massive range of computer skills, Blogger has been simple and easy to use and perfect for my needs.

What did you find the most difficult or challenging part of setting up your blog?
The courage to do it!! I knew the technical side would be a challenge but I could learn that side of things and overcome any difficulties by ‘help’ links and trial and error. But the actual ‘ does anyone want to read about my work and inspiration?’ bit and finding an online voice that represented me was the hardest bit! I’m so glad I did, it’s been a massively positive learning experience and have met some wonderful ‘blogging’ friends along the way!

How useful do you find your blog in terms of promoting and selling your work?
Very useful, it’s been an online shop window for me and an open studio for people to see how my work is created and what inspires me, which I think gives my work a visual history of hows it’s been created before going onto my shops.

How much do you find your online presence crosses over into the real world?
Do you find contacts and promotions that you make online help your work offline too? Yes, I think the links and contacts I’ve made through people seeing my work on my blog and Etsy shop have been wonderful, and I have received many commercial briefs because of this. My Etsy shop and my Flickr account have been almost like an online portfolio and a way to show case my work.

Out of all the things you do online to promote your work, which has been the most useful or worthwhile?
That’s difficult to say as they’re all linked, I’d say my blog as a platform leading to other links, but my Etsy shop has been wonderful at attracting interest abroad, people come to look at the blog who have bought items from the shop first. So I’d say my blog and Etsy shop.

Approximately how long do you spend each day or week, working to promote your work on the web?
I’d say an hour to maybe 2 hours a day, it depends on how much work I have to do.

You have shops on both etsy and folksy. Do these work well for you?
They don’t do too bad really, considering this is all my own personal work and not my commercial work so I don’t put my full time and energy into it. I work as a freelance illustrator so my Etsy, Folksy, Flickr and blog are all side lines if you like, but they have helped and supported my commercial work enormously. Not just as a brief free zone to experiment and try out my own ideas but also as a shop window for potential clients.

Roughly what percentage of your total sales comes through Folksy and Etsy?
For me it’s not a massive amount but it’s growing. That’s due to time and my work priority’s. I think to be really successful on these sites you need to spend a considerable amount of time networking, joining chat rooms, subscribing to news letters, getting involved in Etsy promotions, Etsy Treasury’s and online communities, generally being involved with every aspect of it to get the word around about your work. This takes time which I haven’t got as my commercial work takes priority, but I’m very proud of ‘Lil Sonny Sky’ and if I can do this just with a small amount of time, just think of what you could achieve if you gave it your full attention!

How do you get people to visit your shops on these sites? What promotion do you do to let people know about them?
I have links on my blog and links in posts. I also leave comments on other blogs and I’ve got involved with online competitions and projects, ( here and here) Offline I have exhibited at local Art fairs which have info of my shops and blog,

Your Arty Business

Japanese spring girlWhich marketing strategies have been most helpful in advancing your career and selling your work?
Investing time to learn new ways of working and experiment, this has been the best way I’ve advanced my career – not really a marketing strategy I know but by doing this everything else has just naturally followed on. The contacts I’ve made and the work I’ve sold has all been through constantly pushing myself work wise to better myself as an artist and reinvent ways of creating my ideas. My Etsy shop has been an out let for this and it’s this work that has got me noticed more than ever and got me more work. So I’d say experimenting, being open minded and inventive has been my best marketing strategy!

In a normal day, how much time do you spend on creating and how much on business related stuff?
I’ll spend the first hour of the day online, then stop and do design work making use of the day light and then on an evening spend time at my mac doing the online stuff or keeping up with the books! this is tricky with a young family so the creative time has to take priority as I can’t do this with the children around. This balance seems to be working ….. at the mo!

Can you offer any advice to someone who is just starting out down the road of self employment as an artist?
Just work really hard! invest the time you need to get organised and target who you want to notice your work. Have a clear idea or goal and then list what you need to do to achieve that goal, personally and commercially. Buy the Artists and Writers year book which should be your bible as it’s packed with loads of advice, case studies and contacts. Believe in yourself and your work otherwise nobody else will and don’t be afraid to seek advice and help, there are tonnes of resources out there, local free courses on book keeping, marketing, time management etc. Get involved with organisations like The Association of illustrators or local Art organisations, we have the Art house in Wakefield, or WYPW who have monthly news letters with lots of opportunity’s for artists! and be positive, don’t see problems as mistakes, they’re just lessons on your journey to achieving your goal!!

Do you make a living exclusively from your art and creativity or do you combine it with other work too?
I earn my living as a commercial freelance illustrator and I have just got an agent purely through my personal work online which is wonderful as it makes me nearer to my goal of becoming a children’s book illustrator.

Working for yourself

lisa stubbs - PiggybackWhat has been the biggest obstacle or difficulty you have faced whilst getting established as a self employed artist?
How did you overcome this difficulty? I started as a freelance illustrator 14 years ago which seems like a life time ago! I think for me I found juggling time difficult and being jack of all trades, understanding accounting, time management and computers and solving technical problems were all new skills I had to learn. The only way to over come this was to go on ‘new business’ courses. I went on lots which were free at the time and great as I met people in the same boat and learnt from their mistakes as well as my own. I could pick the brains of professionals in their field for free. Today I think local art associations will run similar workshops which will be better as they will be tailored to artists needs.

What is the best thing about working for yourself as a self employed artist?
Now I have a young family it’s been wonderful to be flexible time wise, I can work around my family, school runs and swimming lessons! Also just being able to get paid for something I absolutely love doing and being my own boss! I feel very lucky!

And the worst?
It’s a very solitary profession! The radio and the blogging community are my studio mates! but I get around this by going out to screen print, I also help out now and then at the school my children go to doing art classes which helps to brake up blocks of time spent on my own.

Do you have any advice for creative people who want to work for themselves or set up a business selling the products of their creativity?
The same as before really, work hard, seek advice and help, believe in your work and research your market and competition, write down your goal then list what you need to do to achieve it. And be positive! The person who doesn’t make mistakes is unlikely to make anything!

Your Inspiration

Finally, please share something that inspires you.
My children, picture books, song lyrics, Japanese graphics, fabric, tumblr, vintage packaging. I find inspiration in so many things the list is endless! it’s ever changing, but my children mainly and their art the confidence they have when drawing and their imagination is just magic!

Thank you Lisa for sharing your work and practise with us. Don’t forget to visit Lisa’s blog at ‘LilSonnySky

You may also like

There is ALWAYS a sodding cat hair!

I hate framing my work. I know it’s an essential part of being an artists and a skill I need to hone but boy does it suck. I would rather do anything, ANYTHING other than frame. Everything looks alluring, cleaning the loo, scraping those grim bits of food out of the crack in the table, going to a parents evening, anything. I have become just a little pathalogical about avoiding it. And because I hate it so much I always leave it till the last minute before an exhibition thus putting even more pressure on myself.

24 hours to go. There is finally no escape

It comes to the final day before the hand in deadline. Grumpy and stressed I have no alternative but to just get down to it and do it.

So I get all my equipment out and start to enforce “The Framing Zone”. This is an area in the tradition of a NASA “Clean Room”- allegedly free from all traces of jam, cat sick, dust bunnies, half eaten sweets, kid detritus, unidentified gooey things and the general mess of which my house seems to be primarily constructed. My long suffering husband and kids know that they enter “The Framing Zone” at their peril.

The crucial importance of wine in the framing process

The final part of preparation is to ensure I have a LARGE glass of wine for moral support.

And then it begins. I measure, mark, cut, tape, clean, screw and swear a lot. {This is why the kids need to be kept out of the area}.

Then finally, my framing completed I take the finished masterpiece out into the kitchen under the strong light. And you know what?

THERE IS ALWAYS A
SODDING CAT HAIR!

It drives me wild! No matter how careful and sterile I am and no matter how hard I check before finally screwing the back on the picture, a errant cat hair will always have sneaked under the glass and be compressed on a really obvious bit of the picture. This necessitates a return back to square one, taking the whole thing apart and trying to find the culprit {which often disappears as soon as the glass is moved due to some evil static power, only to reappear again when everything is put back together}

At this point I have twice managed to smash the glass on a frame as I fumble angrily to reassemble everything. Do you see why the wine is so important now?

Which brings me neatly to my “gigantic cat hair of life” theory

Seriously… The “gigantic cat hair of life” theory is really IMPORTANT for artists.

This theory states that whenever you are trying to achieve something, be it opening an exhibition, changing your career, selling your art, starting your creative business, however meticulously you plan, however careful you are there will always be one or two massive great “cat hairs” that turn up and complicate things, mess things up for a while and make things even harder than they need to be.

This will make you want to give up, shout and swear and chuck your work out of the window.

The key thing is not necessarily to avoid the cat hairs, as that is, as we know, impossible, there will always be one or two. The key is to deal with them well when they arrive. Don’t let them derail you or stop you from achieving your goal and getting where you want to be. Just remove them calmly by whatever means necessary, take a big swig of wine and carry on.

Creative survivors have “cat hair” removal down to a fine art

The people who do well with their creative careers and survive still get the cat hairs to deal with but they just pluck em off and carry on, dealing calmly with whatever adversity throws at them. The ones who sink let the first cat hair they find turn them into a nervous wreck and stop what they are doing, often justifying it with excuses about “not having the right hoover” or cat hair removal tool.

Just remember there will always be a sodding cat hair. That’s life. It’s how you deal with it that counts.

Have you had “cat hairs” to deal with in your creative career? How did you sort them out? Tell us in the comments.

You may also like

Rock your Online Art Business – Lessons From Gnarly Rock Gods

Now anyone who knows me can vouch for the fact that I’m pretty much OBSESSED with a certain rock band. Far more than is probably right or seemly for a middle aged woman with kids.

The band in question is New Model Army who are based in Bradford, 10 miles from where I live, and to be honest chances are you probably won’t have heard of them. Go and Google them right now {ok, well, maybe when you have finished reading this post}. You’ll be glad you did.

NMA have been a successful band in various incarnations, lead by the majestic Justin Sullivan for nearly 30 years {!}. They don’t have Lady Gaga sized commercial recognition {thankfully} but My God do they have a passionate following of dedicated fans! They sell out gigs all over the globe and have created a world which allows them to follow their artistic vision, get paid for it and continue doing it without compromise.

This constitutes pretty much the ideal artistic & creative business success in my book…

So I started to think that I should look into these CREATIVE BUSINESS HEROES in a bit more detail to bring all this condensed rock knowledge to those who haven’t heard of them as I think they are a pretty perfect example of a great creative business in action. What the hell have they been doing right all these years to make it so far? Which of their ideas and methods can we pinch and apply to our own artistic businesses because these guys must KNOW STUFF right?

So without further ado I present…

The Rock God guide to running an extraordinary creative business.

It turns out NMA {and original manager Joolz Denby} have known the most important thing all along… the key element that any artist needs to concentrate on with their business, both online and offline.

New Model Army understood the power of TRIBES right from the start.

Long before even the BIRTH of the internet. Long long before the wonderful Seth Godin articulated the concept in his must-read book Tribes – We Need You To Lead Us they understood what the bottom line was…

You can become successful through genuinely connecting with an interested and passionate group of people who share your ideas and values.

New Model Army and bands like them have always understood the power of the Tribe. With music, art and any kind of creativity it’s all about finding YOUR TRIBE, YOUR PEOPLE, the folks who LOVE what you do and can’t get enough of it. The guys who will queue round the block late into the dark rainy night to buy tickets for your latest gig. Who will trek half way across the world to see you play. The ones who will wait poised to buy your latest painting when you release it. These are the people who strongly identify with your work and artistic vision and resonate with it down through their very soul and into their boots. If you talk to someones soul they will walk to the ends of the earth for you.

These are the people you need to ATTRACT to YOUR creative business.

So, how do you do it? Before the invention of the internet, bands created mailing lists of fans and kept them up to date, with photocopied mailshots through the post, all with the aim of growing and keeping their Tribe together. Now email makes all that so much easier and cheaper and within the reach of any artist. You can keep finding your people, keep growing your email list, keep increasing the size of your Tribe.

  • Takeaway
    Reach out and start connecting with YOUR Tribe – If you don’t currently have a mailing list you need to start one right now. You don’t even need to have a website yet to do this. You are missing all these great people you meet both online and offline and will probably never see them again. Think where it could get you and your art in just 2 or 3 years time if you start collecting their details now and keeping in touch, let alone 30 years.

And there are other pearls of creative business wisdom to be gleaned from these guys.

Steer Your Own Ship. You might end up as a mangled corpse on the rocky shore of fate but at least you are in charge of the route…

NMA saw the way the internet was changing creative business, escaped from the clutches of the corporate record companies and set up their own, ensuring that they owned the copyright on all their material, allowing them to control their work and the way it was sold, packaged and distributed. No more being controlled by large scale corporate businesses who can only ever have their own interests at heart.

  • Takeaway
    Keeping control over your own work and creativity is essential for any artist and the only way to creative freedom. Make sure you maintain copyright on all your work and always work for yourself {or aim to get there}.

Wear bloody clogs if you want to. Sod the Jimmy Choos.

Never ones to follow fashion NMA were pilloried by the music press for their anti-fashion stance and love of bluff northern working class clog footwear but they ignored it and just kept on doing their own thing and creating work that they believed in. Those bands who were the hip flavour of the month fell by the wayside many years ago as their star fell out of fashion and NMA just kept on trucking for all these years.

  • Takeaway
    Always create work that you believe in, no matter what is “hip” and “cool” now. {Yeah – by using those words I’m demonstrating just how deeply uncool I am}. Trying to chase whats hot now turns you into an also ran along with zillions of identical others. Be yourself, stand out and forget what is flavour of the month. Original is far far better than “cool”.

Don’t stop moving forward or you become a dead shark

New Model Army don’t rely on their music back catalogue unlike most bands who have been around a while. They are constantly writing and releasing great new music which attracts new fans and keeps their creativity fresh.

  • Takeaway
    This is of prime importance for artists. Don’t stagnate, keep moving forward, keep trying new things and creating new work. Only by doing so can you keep your work fresh and keep your enjoyment of your creative process alive.

And the moral of the story is…

To achieve all this, COMMUNICATION is the key factor and of course THE INTERNET rides to the rescue. NMA may have started out with paper & post mailing lists in those dim and distant pre-internet days but now the web allows them to do all these things and communicate with their Tribe much more easily & cheaply.

Their website is the hub of the Tribe where a strong forum based community go to chat and keep in touch. The site keeps their people in touch with their tour dates, collects more names on their mailing list, sells their music & DVD’s [all of which they own copyright on of course] and their online shop sells a vast range of merchandise to a global audience.

Their website holds all these elements together and is THE HUB of COMMUNICATION.

  • Takeaway
    Any artist wanting to sell their art online needs their own HUB website as a focal point of their endeavors through which they can publicize their artwork and share their artistic vision with their own Tribe.

YOUR TRIBE is out there waiting for you to share your artistic vision… How are you going to communicate with them?


If you liked this post please get updates via my feed or check out the related posts below.

10 Crucial Reasons Why Every Artist Needs Their Own Hub Website

Simple tips to increase your mailing list signup at gallery exhibitions & craft fairs

And make sure you visit newmodelarmy.org to see all these ideas in action.

You may also like

Why redundancy might be the start of something beautiful

Now I want to say right from the start that I’m not making light of the horrible trauma of getting laid off. I’ve been there more than once and its not pleasant.

I know first hand the gut wrenching feeling of getting called into the bosses office at an odd time in the morning when you just know something is wrong because he won’t look you in the eye and all the things that you need to pay for, house, car, kids flash before your eyes and you think “What the hell am I going to do?” I’ve been in that position and it is truly horrible. Then you go home with your little box of stuff from your desk and cry into your wine and wonder why they didn’t like you enough to keep you on. It’s a stressful and confidence sapping experience.

But having said that, being made redundant CAN be one of the best things to ever happen to a creative person because it shakes you out of your comfort zone.

When you work in a nice place it can be like a comfy pair of slippers. You know what you need to do workwise. You go in, you get it done, you chat to your colleague about the last episode of Lost and flirt with the guy in the IT department and at the end of the month a nice secure dollop of money appears in your bank account. Excellent.

When you get bored around 3pm you will probably start to think about selling a bit of work on Etsy or how great it would be if you could make a living selling your paintings, but the comfort of your situation means you won’t do much about it, and its frighteningly easy to coast along like this for years. You don’t really need to try to do anything about your creative dream because nothing bad will happen if you don’t. That dollop of money will still appear and the bills will get paid. You are missing one of the major ingredients that can help you set up a successful creative business. Positive Fear.

Positive Fear comes when you step outside your comfort zone. Positive fear is not the energy sapping, panicky sweaty 3am kind of fear. It is the kind of fear that sharpens your brain and focusses your goals and makes you think “Right. I need to get this working or no one will be paying the mortgage. Lets do it!.” Fear is not your enemy. It can be your friend and an extremely useful motivator towards your creative goals.

Nothing of any great importance usually happens within your comfort zone. To achieve stuff you generally need to be outside it and sometimes your boss rudely shoving you out can be the first step on the path to great and exciting new things.

So if redundancy looms it might just be the time to become a full time artist, sell your crafts at fairs or on the internet, or work on developing your sculpture business. You have the time and the motivation and focus to make it work.

If you think there’s a good chance of redundancy looming on the horizon, start preparing now.

  • Start to formulate a plan for if it happens. Think about your options, what you love doing and if any of it would make a viable business.
  • Make stock. Start to prepare by getting a body of work together ready for sale.
  • Start researching into where you could sell your work. Could you sell at local craft fairs? Through shops, on the internet. Do you need to start setting up a website now?
  • Start networking and meeting people that might be able to help you and your creative business. Use online social networking as well as making contacts in your creative community.
  • Start creating a name and brand for your business
  • On the more mundane side, check all your financial out goings and see what you could downscale for now. If you can get by on a little less for a few months it will take the pressure off as your business may take a while to start generating money.
    Martin Lews, Money saving expert has a great online budget calculator here

If you have just been made redundant.

  • Remember that it’s not personal, it’s just economics Don’t let it upset you or knock your confidence.
  • Take a day off to let yourself recover and watch some rubbish daytime TV.
  • Then pick yourself up and focus on what you really want to do with your life from now on. Do you want another job or do you want to do something different?
  • Check if you have redundancy cover included in any of your insurance policies [say to cover your mortgage]
  • Find out what grants or training might be available to you. You should be eligible for help and advice which will make the journey of setting up on your own a lot smoother.
    In the UK, Business link have a great selection of useful information about starting up in business here
  • Take stock of your creative talents and what you love doing.
  • Start planning your creative dream business

So when the boss calls you in to the office at that odd time of the morning its not the end, its the beginning of something new and exciting. Embrace the fear and jump. You might look back in 5 years and realise that this was a wonderful pivotal moment in your life.

Ps I was last made redundant in the Dot Com crash in 2001, have worked for myself ever since and would never ever go back. Plus I’m still friends with my old boss too. Result

You may also like