One of the questions that I get all the time from well-meaning family, friends, and clients, is ‘what do you do all day’? Most people have no idea what it looks like to be a full-time professional artist (I didn’t when I decided to be one either), so today I thought I’d give you a glimpse into my fine art small business…it won’t look like anyone else’s but it will give you a pretty good idea of what it takes to run a creative small business.
My day-to-day looks very different depending on the time of the year, when my next art festival is, and if I will be traveling in the near future. During my ‘off season’, November through March, I spend most of my time creating new artwork and completing commissioned custom artwork. This is when I can look at the ‘big picture’ and plan my schedule for the coming year and decide on my next big projects. During the busy show season, however, my daily tasks range from creating new work to reconciling accounting spreadsheets to managing social media and updating my website to shipping artwork across the country. My spreadsheets are many (and color-coded), my to-do lists long, and my tasks focused on what needs to be done NOW.
As a small business owner, I wear every hat imaginable. I am artist and photographer, accountant, marketing, customer service, manufacturing and production, shipping and receiving, event planner and event staff, clean-up crew, travel agent, office manager, purchasing, photo editor, and many other things.
What does that mean in one single day though? One day, I may start by answering emails and scheduling social media posts, then work on a new scratchboard piece for several hours before moving on to new marketing material designs or updating my website, and I may end the day by printing, cutting, signing, and packaging my reproduction prints. The next day, I may be printing and laminating price tags for each new piece of artwork, inputting sales and expense receipts into my accounting software and various spreadsheets, attending a meeting with a potential commission or photography client, working on a new piece of art and then loading my car with, what is essentially, my entire business to travel to an art festival the next morning.
Yes, some days I spend eight hours working on my scratchboard work, but there are some days I don’t touch a piece of artwork at all. At the height of my art festival season last summer, I didn’t work on a single scratchboard for an entire month because there were so many other tasks that needed to be done.
There are many perks and several drawbacks of being self-employed and working from home. I LOVE what I do and I am truly fortunate to be able to make a living doing something I am passionate about and thoroughly enjoy. I make my own schedule and am not bound by approval of a supervisor for time off. I work more now than I did in any of my “normal” nine to five, 40-hour a week jobs, which means I struggle and struggle hard with a healthy work-life balance. My saving grace is my ‘work hard, play hard’ approach to scheduling my time. When I’m home and it’s time to work, I WORK. There are spans of time that I work 7 days a week and over 10 hour days…for example, this weekend starts a run where I will attend three two-day art festivals three weekends in a row in Illinois, with an exhibition opening thrown in for good measure in Central Wisconsin, and will work every day in between to keep on top of everything. And then, when it’s time to play, I PLAY. I may take several weeks off throughout the year to travel to new national parks, take a backpacking trip, visit family, or adventure in the wilderness. My flexible schedule allows me to nurture that other passion in my life and challenge myself in new ways, while recharging for when I return to work.
Being an entrepreneur is certainly not easy, but it is rewarding and well worth all the hard work to be able to call something my own. My business lives and dies with me, so you better believe that I’m going to put all the literal blood, sweat, and tears into it. All the stresses and uncertainty aside, diving headfirst into my business and trusting myself to make it come alive was the best career decision I’ve ever made. If you dread Mondays and live for the weekend like I did with all my other jobs, start looking for one that allows you to pursue your passions and love every minute of life…it’s too short and you deserve to do what makes you feel alive!
Find your joy! - Melissa