Wednesday, February 04, 2015

jump start a creative career

With the new year in full swing I am sure there are a lot of you out there setting goals and hoping to pursue your creative dreams. Today I have put together a post for those of you looking to get focussed and jump start a creative career.

                                     creative jump start from Alisa Burke on Vimeo.

We are living in a time where we are bombarded with so much information. Through social media we are able to look into other people's lives, we face advertising and all kinds of messages about the people we should be and the life we should be living and it can be challenging to stay true to yourself or even know who you are and what you stand for. When you are growing a creative business, it can be even more challenging to know what makes you and your business unique. I think the best place to start is to quiet all the noise out there, STOP looking at what everyone else is doing and get back to the basics of your life and the things that define you. Before you can set out on a path towards a creative career you MUST take time to really identify what makes you unique, what kind of goals you have and what direction feels right for your life.
TIP: Keep in mind that defining who you are and setting creative goals for your career may take weeks, months even years of trial and error. But taking the time to define who you are will keep you authentic and provide a clear direction for your creative goals.

Once you have a good idea of who you are and what you want, I think it is important to begin putting yourself out there. This could mean anything from showing your art, selling your art, taking a class, looking for ways to be creative, connecting with others, starting a website or blog, growing a business, etc. One of the most important things in my journey as an artist has been putting myself out there and trying different things. While I had lots of dead ends, failure and rejection I was able to really learn, grow and evolve as an artist.

TIP: It can be really scary to put yourself out there as an artist because the creative process often feels so sacred (which makes rejection and failure feel really intense) but taking chances and trying different different things will help you become better at your craft.

Selling goods or handmade products (or art) is a really accessible and easy way to put yourself out there.This is something that I did for years on the side. After spending 8 hours at my day job I would spend weekends and evenings creating stock and large quantities of handmade goods or art to sell. While it was hard juggling a day job with my creative endeavors, this process really enabled me to put my art out there with a safety net (my job), that enabled me to take risks and even fail.

Good to sell can really vary depending on your strengths, schedule and needs:

Hard Goods: From your art to handmade creations, hard goods or your actual handmade products are what a lot of artists and crafters want to sell. There is nothing better than making art and then putting it out there for others!

E-Goods: E-goods are another option- anything from digital downloads, patterns, digital kits, online classes and DIY tutorials can all be sold. Typically this route can take a lot of time to set up and keep fresh but in the long term it can be rewarding because you are don't have to work like crazy to make tons of products.

Knowledge or Services: Your knowledge or sharing something that you are good at is another option for selling. From teaching classes to writing articles and books to consulting- your strengths and experience can be a great way to offer something unique for sale!

TIP: Unless you get lucky, it can take a lot of time to actually sell enough products to make a decent paycheck. Don't give up if things are going slow. Instead hang in there and try making little changes to the way you sell and market your goods.

There are all kinds of places to sell art or handmade creations it is just a matter of finding what works best for you. Below I have included all the different places I have utilized over the years. 

Craft Shows: Craft shows can be a tricky venue to show and sell your work but is a great way to gain experience putting yourself and your work out there. Typically you need to apply or jury into a show, there may be a fee associated and you typically need a booth for your work. A great resource for finding all kinds of craft shows is The Crafts Fair Online Directory

Online Shop: These days selling your work online is really accessible. With sites like EtsyBig CartelStorenvy and easy to access resources for building your own store (I use Shopify), getting your work online is one of the easiest way to begin selling your art immediately!

Directly From Your Website or Blog: While an online shop is the typically the way to sell, you can start small by offering things for sale on your blog or website. With resources like paypal (or online payment applications) you can add simple shopping options to art that you want to to sell. If you are starting out and want to test the market, this is a simple way to get started.

Galleries: Getting your work in a gallery can be challenging, but it is a great way to showcase your art and build your creative resume. Often you will need to send a copy of your portfolio or resume to begin the process.

Handmade Boutiques: Handmade or smaller boutiques are a great alternative to galleries. They are a little easier to gain access to and often will be interested in a variety of handmade products, accessories and art. Approaching a boutique is as simple as walking in with your portfolio or samples and asking to speak to the manager. If in person feels too scary you can always send email inquiries.

Consignment: Consigning your work to smaller independently owned stores is not a big money maker but can promote your work and provide some great experience selling in a retail setting. When you consign you split the cost of your work with the store typically 60/40. While you can loose or not make money consigning it can be a great way to try out a retail setting.

Wholesale: Selling your work wholesale is another option but is typically a better fit for those artists who are producing larger quantities of handmade goods. From selling to boutiques, stores and galleries, wholesale accounts can provide you with more steady work selling your goods, they can supplement your income and can help get your work out there. There are also a variety of wholesale trade shows where you can exhibit your work (typically an investment to apply) and attract new wholesale relationships. In the past I have really loved using the wholesale, a resource that connects artists with buyers.

TIP: It might take some time and trial an error to find the right place to sell your art. Don't give up. If something doesn't work- give it some time and be willing to try another opportunity. Often it takes a lot of testing the waters to find the right fit.

While working as a freelancer still means you work for yourself- it is common to build relationships and work with agencies or companies that use your services. Anything from graphic design, illustration, photography and even creative consulting can all be things offered in a freelance capacity. Thanks to the internet, working as a creative freelancer has become more accessible because it is easier to connect with opportunities.

Licensing your work is another avenue to make an income from your art. From home decor to art to accessories, there are all kinds of opportunities to get your art on a variety of products. It can be a tricky to begin the process of licensing- you typically need a good body of work and lots of education and understanding of the industry. Not every licensing opportunity will be the right fit for your work but there is a lot potential to grow and expand your art business. There are some great resources out there for artists looking to learn about licensing- I really like Maria Brophy and Tara Reed for good clear information about the industry.

Not ready to jump into selling your art or handmade goods or ready to be a creative entrepreneur? There are still all kinds of ways to get your "creative fix" while making money, learning the ropes or even finding where you fit in. I spent a HUGE part of my creative journey working for other people and trying A LOT of different things. For many years my goal was to find a job that had creative elements where I could use my strengths and skills. From working at galleries, a frame shop, interior design, event planning, graphic design, creative programming for college students and marketing- I tried a lot of different jobs hoping something would fit for good. Many of these different jobs were perfect for the different stages in my life. While I spent many days in my cubicle day dreaming about making art full time, I was still able to learn new skills, take home a paycheck and have a safety net that enabled me to take risks with my art. 

Below is a list of some different paths and ideas that might look a little different from the like of a self employed artist but they are still creative nonetheless!

Galleries and Boutiques: A gallery or even a specialty boutique where handmade items are sold is a great place to be surrounded by creativity. It is also a wonderful way to learn the in's and out's of selling art. Some of the greatest lessons I have learned about art were during the days when I worked in a gallery. From understanding the public and what they liked to working with artists, putting on creative events, planning shows, handling and archiving artwork and networking with a variety of creative individuals were all things that I discovered on the job. These types of jobs (or even volunteer opportunities) provided me with a valuable education and lessons that I still reference today for my own business.

Retail: Along the same lines of working in a gallery, finding a retail opportunity that has merchandise that inspires you is something that can also provide a creative atmosphere. Flower shops, art supply stores, clothing stores, even unique cafes and restaurants are all places that can be creative and inspiring places to work while you pursue your art on the side.

Event Planning: I spent a handful of years working in an event planning position. From planning educational lectures to organizing fundraising events to hosting workshops for college students, I was able to get my "creative fix" while working on events. While I was able to get creative, I will say that working in event planning was really stressful for me and I often found myself worried and over worked. But with that said, I learned a lot of valuable skills that I have used in planning and organizing my own retreats and events.

Marketing: Working in marketing was where I really was able to learn and experience lots of creativity in a 9-5 job. From photography, graphic design, creative brainstorming, learning to work with clients and collaborating with a team all become part of my everyday tasks. Marketing can be a very inspiring and creative atmosphere to work in. 

This information is really just touching the surface of all the different things that you can do to jump start a creative career. I hope some of it is a little bit of encouragement and hope that there are all kinds of options out there if you are craving something more creative!

Have your own advice, tips or things that have worked for you? Feel free to leave comment


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