Do you ever feel like people are going to call you out for not being an expert or a "real [insert your chosen title here]"?
Do you feel like you don't truly belong within your industry or fit into the mold like everyone else?
Imposter syndrome is SO REAL and more common than you'd think - especially for women. I deal with imposter syndrome all the time as a professional artist and now artist coach with no degree or professional training in the fine arts, business, or coaching.
I have worked to hone my skills as an artist through many years of practice, researched and studied to figure out how to run a business by learning from experts and investing in online education, and am using the knowledge that I've gained from my own experiences to help other artists build businesses of their own. I'm leaning on my talents and natural abilities to create a business for myself and help others do the same. BUT the imposter syndrome still takes over from time to time.
I find it very helpful to put my journey into perspective - to focus on how far I've come, the accomplishments I've made, and to find the social proof that I do belong. I encourage you to do the same if you're wrestling with imposter syndrome.
What steps have you taken to improve your skills?
How do your sales today compare to when you started?
Have you won awards or been published?
Have you been accepted into juried shows or exhibitions?
How do you feel about your work today compared to when you started?
Are you working with galleries or local establishments?
Are you doing things [within your business] that you enjoy?
Here's what it looks like for me...
The Artwork - I revisit my early work to remind myself just how far I've come with my skills as a scratchboard artist. I look at two different pieces with the same species, so I can compare similar textures and techniques. I find it very helpful to highlight the progress I've made in my artistic skills because 'I didn't go to art school and do I really know what I'm doing?' Yes I do - I've proven over 8 years that I am a capable and skilled scratchboard artist who continues to grow and develop.
My Studio Space - We always need more time or space to feel like a 'real artist', but you can be an artist anywhere, if you're willing to get creative and make the most of the space you have. I've worked at dining room tables and on living room floors. I started my business in a spare bedroom at my parents house. I've set up office and studio space in the living room of my one bedroom apartment. I've had temporary studio spaces in spare rooms.
And NOW (after 8 years) I have my very own studio space with an elaborate, decorative wall and built in shelves. It's small and I still have most of my storage in another room of the house, but my work space is my own and I have been able to personalize it and make the room work for me!
The Revenue Streams - Being a 'real artist' also doesn't mean that 100% of your income needs to come from selling your art. That may be your goal, but there are many ways to make that happen along the way.
> I worked full-time for four years, making art in my spare time.
> Even after I went full-time in my own business, I worked as a wedding and portrait photographer for three years and that supported my art making.
> In my early years as a creative entrepreneur, I did graphite human portrait commissions and other drawing projects.
> As my business income has stabilized, I've been able to say no to those other projects that I no longer enjoy and have been able to focus solely on my scratchboard work.
> I still offer custom pet portrait and wildlife commissions, reproductions, and small ornaments to supplement the sale of my original work.
> I created Color-Coded Creatives to help other artists figure out how to build their businesses, but also to create another revenue stream in my business (diversifying is key to longevity and stability) - I will be launching my artists helping artists membership site in summer 2021. (Join the waitlist here.)
My Exhibition Opportunities - Another way I combat imposter syndrome is to look at the quality of the juried festivals and gallery shows that I'm participating in now compared to four years ago. This is part of the social proof I talked about earlier - I must be a 'real artist' if all these other real artists have picked my work to be included in shows, exhibitions, and festivals alongside their own.
Most importantly, I still LOVE the work that I'm doing and the business that I'm building. I enjoy sitting down to work on a new scratchboard piece and get excited about new ideas. I feel more fulfilled in my job than I ever did working elsewhere and I'm never bored! My career as an artist has allowed me to create a life focused on family, adventure, and my passions.
Remember to focus on how far you've come and what you've accomplished so far - there will always be more to do and bigger things to achieve, so don't focus on what you need to do next. You do belong and you're definitely not alone! Create a community within your industry and become part of the conversation - that will help you feel less like an imposter!
Find your joy!
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