Lessons Learned in my First Year as an Art Business Owner

Published On: March 15th, 2022|Categories: People and Places|Tags: , , , , |

I’ve been an artist for as long as I can remember, but up until recently, I never took myself very seriously as a creative professional. This all changed in 2021, when I finally registered my business and set forth on a journey I’d daydreamed of for years: I became an art business owner.

Here are some of the questions I had and lessons I learned in my first year on this path.

Where do I start? Ignite your own fire.

Just start. Whatever you wish to see more of in the world, take it as a sign and create it yourself. You’ll also need to open your mind up to possibilities and opportunities you don’t even know exist yet. Look into what others have created, paths they’ve taken and lives they’ve lived—even if they seem vastly different from what you’ve envisioned for yourself. Become a student and take notes (no, really, an oversized catchall sketchbook does wonders), observe as much as possible and remember to experiment often.

What makes me so special? Find your unfair advantages.

Everyone has their own “unfair advantages”. They can be a perspective, resource, ability, background, stage of life—anything that makes your experience uniquely your own. Leverage yours to define your practice and help it grow. Also, as an exercise in gratitude, remind yourself of these advantages often. For example, some of the unfair advantages I leveraged in 2021 included my interior design background, moving back home, a low-cost pandemic lifestyle and being in-between jobs (hello, timing!). What can you work in your favour right now?

Am I working too hard? Embrace the 80/20 principle.

Are you working for the sake of working? Putting in long hours does not automatically equal results. The Pareto principle is an amazing study of how roughly 20 percent of efforts lead to 80 percent of results. Working to build a business is an arduous process as it is, but burning the candle on both ends is neither productive nor fun. Effective prioritization, boundaries and sessions of focused work are. Always ask yourself, is there an easy and fun way to do this? Remember that this your life and you want to enjoy it as you go.

Am I remembering to rest? Watch out for burnout.

Before you are a business owner, you are an artist and human needing time to play, explore and rest. Watch out for the trap of working in burnout cycles (periods of intense work followed by intense lows). Schedule breaks to be off-screen, offline and explore things unrelated to your business and art. Also, remember that you don’t have to monetize all of your hobbies and that you can make, and keep, some art just for yourself.

Is there space for me at the table? Adopt an abundance mindset.

Contrary to what you may feel at times, everything has not already been done. That’s impossible! Don’t be afraid to take up space. You bring your own groove to the table and the table needs you.

How do I know if I’m getting anywhere? Growing slow, steady and with intention is the best path to long-term success.

One of the greatest things I’ve done for myself is to write down accomplishments as they happen, so every month and year, I have a whole list to celebrate. We all tend to forget the nitty gritty hard work we put in as time passes on, so these tangible lists serve as excellent reminders of how far we’ve actually come. Remember you once dreamed of being where you are now.

Am I worthy? Am I as good as the others? Trade comparison for inspiration.

Curb imposter syndrome by realizing you really do miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. So get off the sidelines and have faith that you’ll learn as you do. It’s also worth remembering that no one has everything figured out anyways! And why leave room for comparison when you can channel it into inspiration and admiration instead?

How do I stay inspired? Surround yourself with adventure.

Take yourself out of your comfort zone often. Apply to things you may not feel ready for, sign up for interesting events, and get out to volunteer and network. Do more of what scares you in a good way! And realize that you haven’t even met some of the people or had some of the ideas that will change your life.

The first year in business is always a tough one, as it can be full of doubts, long hours and achingly slow results. But as long as you continue along your journey with strong intentions, compassion and an open mind, you’ll find yourself on the other end, glad you started.

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    About the Author: Sabbie Narwal

    Illustrator, designer, small business owner behind The Paper Narwhal. Specializing in cosy, detailed interior illustrations, stationery, commissions and surface pattern design.

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