Taking the first steps to starting your own business can be extremely daunting and it can be difficult knowing exactly where to start.
This is why it's handy for those of us who have already started our businesses to give our fellow creatives a helping hand in the right direction.
And so, I've decided to dedicate this post to sharing a few tips I've gained from looking back on when I first started.
Create What You Love
It's easy to listen to friends and family suggestions on what you should paint, and what type of art sells, however, you should just simply create what you want to create, regardless of if it's something you think will sell or not. If you start creating things you aren't passionate about, then you will start to resent working on your business. If you do something you're passionate about, growing your business will be a piece of cake. You may even find it grows quicker as you'll actually look forward to working on it.
In short, don't give into peer pressure and create what you love.
Money can be tight when starting a new business, so offering commissions can be a good way to start growing a pot that can be used to develop other parts of your business. When you're just starting out, you will have to grow an interested audience from scratch, and this can be difficult when selling your own artwork alone. If you offer to create artwork for other people who like your style, you will probably find more success as there are lots of customers out there looking for their own bespoke, commissioned artwork. By doing commissions you will not only add to your money pot, but will also start to grow a client base who will be interested in your other artworks. For example, I started painting a my own animal prints and tried to sell them online, however, because my store wasn't very well established, I wasn't gaining much traffic. By offering pet portraits, I was offering a service people were actively looking for and managed to slowly grow my client base.
Use Free Social Media
One of the first steps I took to starting my business was setting up an Instagram account to share what I was up to. Having a social media account is a great way to start showing people what you can do and growing an interested audience. Setting up accounts on at least two platforms you are comfortable using will allow you to reach and grow a decent following. Don't over think what you share, you don't have to have perfectly edited videos and images, share the all the ins and outs of your business and you will be pleasantly surprised by how many people are interested to see how you work. When you get more established, you may be interested in looking into paid adds, however, using all the free tools that are available to you can work just as well.
P.s - make sure you use hashtags and tag relevant pages in your posts to gain more visibility! ;)
Get On A Popular Selling Platform
I've heard a few other small businesses bash online selling platforms such as Shopify and Etsy, however, I personally believe they are the best way to sell your wares when you are first starting out. They may take a small percentage of your sales, however, they are providing you a virtual store front that is placed infront of millions of shoppers who are actively looking for unique items. If you only set up your own website, you have to find creative ways of driving shoppers to your store and generating this traffic will be a slow process. However, on a large selling platform, such as Etsy, the traffic is already there!
Good Product Photography Is Key
When selling your items online, you want to make sure your photography is on point as its only via images that your potential customers can see your work. If you take images in bad lighting, with a background containing a pile of clothes on your bedroom floor, no one is going to want to buy your product. The product itself may be fantastic but the poor setting will make your store feel unproffessional. You want to take photos during the day, in good lighting with a clean backdrop and props that set off your product. You don't need a fancy camera or expensive background to do this. I take all my photos on my Iphone, in my bedroom on a piece of cardboard decorated in a £5 roll of wallpaper from Amazon. I edit the photos slightly using photoshop, however the editing software on your phone also works just as well!
Don't Undersell Yourself
When your first starting out, it's easy to price yourself too low, thinking more people will want to buy from you because your work is cheap. However, this can have the opposite effect. Unitentionally, you can give people the idea that your work is slapdash or of poor quality. You also don't want to initially price yourself too high and be in a position where no one is buying from you and you then have to backtrack and bring your prices down. It can be difficult to find that medium ground between the two. The best way to get an idea of what you should be charging is by looking at other small businesses who are selling similar things to you. For example, when I was trying to figure out how much I should be charging for my pet portraits, I scoured the websites of other artists who also commissioned pet portraits and slowly began to get an understanding of how they were pricing their work. As these artists were well established, I looked at my own work and set my prices slightly lower, but still decent enough so I wasn't giving my work away for free. As time went on and I got more portraits under my belt and more experience working with clients, I slowly started raising my prices.
Frustratingly, growing something from scratch can take a long time and it can be easy to get disheartened when we don't get sales instantly. I often fell victim to comparing my business to other already well established art businesses online and would often tell myself my work wasn't good enough and that was why I wasn't making any sales. Little did I know at the time this was just because my audience hadn't found me yet and it would take time for my work to be discovered. Luckily, I enjoyed what I was creating and have kept growing my business bit by bit to the point where I've expanded my art into product ranges and I'm regularly generating sales. In short, it doesn't happen overnight, but being patient and dedicated will eventually paying off.