This week is a special week for my little business.
It marks the 5th anniversary of me posting my very first blog post, which means it marks 5 years since the official launch date of Artwork By Angie.
In the beginning, Artwork By Angie was the name I hid behind, not fully confident to step forward in my own right as an illustrator. As a name for my website and online shops, I’m still OK with the Artwork By Angie name, it describes what I do and what I’m essentially about i.e. creating artwork, specifically for print, mostly digital artwork. Although a couple of years ago I finally began to feel comfortable saying ‘I am an illustrator and designer’ and actually believing it myself. So slowly but surely I’ve been happily using my full name for a little while now - which to me, is a big indicator of how much I have gained and grown since starting this blog.
The use of my full name may seem a small thing to many people, but to me, thinking back to where I was 5 years ago, I would not have felt comfortable with it at all. At that time I was being brave and ‘having a go’ just starting a blog and a website. It all took a huge leap of faith for which I had set a deadline in my head of about 12 months. If no green shoots had appeared by the end of 12 months, I was prepared to go back to the world of employment. I couldn’t really see beyond the end of each week and each new blog post. Back then it was a case of building up my portfolio, so really I was working from one ‘Illustration Friday’ submission on my blog to the next to gain some new work in that way....
The turning point came with the launch of my facebook page and Folksy shop a few months later. Slowly but surely, it all gathered momentum and I have not looked back since. It’s been an amazing journey so far – with highs and lows and opportunities to work on some amazing things with some wonderful people, both globally and locally. I’ve made true friends and genuinely feel part of a great, wide community of creative souls – all of which make me feel very excited to set to work every day.
To celebrate my 5th year, I’d like to share 5 key things I’ve learnt along the way that are serving me well now. These are mostly stuff I wish I’d known from the start. I hope that these 5 things may help others achieve their dreams too:
1. Value Your Time – you ARE worth it, regardless of how much of an ‘imposter’ you may feel. Your time is very precious and finite! If you are not covering it well in your prices, or are missing out on important moments in your family and friends lives because you are struggling to make things work/or are running out of time to do things, then you need to stop and re-evaluate everything. Your business needs to serve you...
Set business hours, take breaks, work out your budget and cover it with your pricing. Be brave and say NO to things that don’t serve you well – they could be the things that bring you crashing down....and I know this, because I’ve been there and turned it around...and that is why I made this my number 1 tip!
2. The Price Needs to be Right – it’s not just your time that you need to cover. In the beginning you may not realise how much your business is a hungry beast which has lots of costs in it’s day-to-day running. The more you grow, the more those costs grow with you. Be honest with yourself about those costs, look at everything, all the fees, postage, printer ink (over a year printer ink is an absolute shocker!!). When pricing your products and services, make an allowance for all of that. Shop around, get the best deal, don’t be too seduced into purchasing things your business doesn’t really need. At the same time, don’t be afraid to make wise investments that serve you well in the long run (eg. the right piece of kit, or an accountant to look over your books and free you up from stress, or a decent camera / photographer to shoot some press worthy images). Creative businesses are still businesses and need to think profitably if they want to stay trading – I’m just saying, keep a close eye on the figures.
3. Your Customers are Everything – always place them at the heart of what you do and create. Get to know them well, listen to their feedback and create with them in mind. I’ve often found those who are attracted to my work, tend to be very like minded, which is a very beautiful & exciting thing! Some of my favourite designs have come about because of something a customer has fed back to me and has inspired me. Which is why I try and give something back for such loyalty, by ensuring subscribers to my newsletter frequently receive exclusive offers ...and I will be sending out another newsletter offer later this week.
4. Don’t be shy, be a social butterfly...
Social media works, so get your work out there to be seen, build your network and ensure you spread yourself around a bit so you don’t depend on one app....
BUT, have a PLAN, don’t SPAM!
Think quality over quantity if you want to convert 'likes' into sales – as that’s what seems to work best for me. By getting to know my followers, listening to their comments and feedback and using my site stats, I’ve been able to tailor things to try and deliver what they want, in a way they want to see it. In return I’ve noticed a steady flow of orders from returning customers, which fills me with joy as that must mean I’ve finally found my tribe!
In my experience, ‘like ladders’ and ‘share for share’ strategies really are a complete and total waste of time. I did a little bit of this very early on when I began my facebook page. It got me a tiny bit of interest but not enough to justify the time and energy spent on it. If having lots of likes is that important to you, you may as well open your wallet and buy a pile of equally disinterested ‘likes’ from any company you find on Google and then go and put the kettle on and do something more worthwhile with your day!
Better still, save yourself the money and time and keep it real, as that will help you find your people and in turn they will help you grow your business.
Also, there’s a big wide world out there, it’s important to get out and about. Try and take part in events and visit fairs to meet up with people. Or get involved locally, work with local businesses, collaborate with others and generally build a support network with other business owners –my goodness, you’ll need it and so will they!
5. Love what you do!
If you don’t wake up feeling the love and passion for what you’re doing, then surely you are doing the wrong thing. We mustn’t let fear become an obstacle, because without wanting to sound bleak, the harsh truth is, we are all heading to the same destination!... and as one of my favourite songs says ‘Enjoy yourself whilst you’re still in the pink!’
So with that in mind, if you have a dream - chase it, you’ll find a way to make it work. If your dream no longer serves you - change it, search your soul for what it is that makes your heart sing and make that something you do for at least for a few moments every day.
I certainly don’t have all the answers - I only have my own experiences.
I am happy to share some of what those experiences have taught me, in the hope it will resonate and help other creative people move onwards and upwards. The world is a far richer place when creative people are found creating and loving what they create!
Finally, I’d like to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who has followed me on this 5 year journey so far. Especially to those of you who have ordered and commissioned, designs, prints, cards, wrap and everything else from me, I am so very grateful to you all as you are helping me live my dream!...
To properly celebrate my 5th anniversary, I will be launching a giveaway later this week (I just need to decide what I am 'giving away'), so please keep an eye out for that!
With very best wishes