Last week, I answered the first 10 of your life and business questions and now I’m back for the second installment. Enjoy!
1. If you want a life in the arts, what do you need to do and what kind of commitments should you be ready to make? —Asuka
If you’re not independently wealthy or keeping your creative outlet as a side project and want this to be your full-time gig, expect to work very, very hard. Competition is stiff but if you if you’re kind to people, dedicated to your craft and stay focused, you’ll find a way to make it happen. I’ve always felt that anything is possible and that mindset has been key to pulling me through slumps. If you’re serious about giving this path your all, expect to give up plenty of nights out with friends as well as weekends in the beginning. Don’t let bright and shiny Instagram accounts convince you that a life in the arts is effortless and overflowing with beautiful inspiration — these moments do exist but the daily grind is pretty unglamorous.
2. Do you feel bad when you are not able to get to every question, tweet, or request? —Rayna
There’s probably a balancing act going on for most of us. I always try to get to my paying clients first (because without them, I can’t eat or pay my mortgage) but once they’re taken care of, I think it’s important to take the time to interact with my audience as much as I can. Some days, I’ll have time to answer blog comments, tweets and so on…and other days, I just don’t. I do think it’s important to let your audience know you care, do your best and try to answer questions as often as possible (like now!)
3. Up until recently, my art has been a side project — it paid for itself. Now, it’s doing well and it may be able to pay for me, too. How does one set aside their own pay? How do you know whether profit should go to you or to creating more? —Gabriela
Great question! When I launched Branch, I quit all outside work cold turkey. There was no backup plan. Because of this, I lived off my personal savings for six months while I built my business accounts to a comfortable level and worked out of my house for the first year to save money.
My suggestion would be to go to your local bank and set up a set of business accounts separate from your personal ones. Get a debit card and checkbook for these accounts. Next, if you’re your only employee, set up a pay schedule that’s consistent. If you plan on buying property in the next few years, I’d recommend taking this a step further and paying your accountant to run payroll for you and cut you an actual check — this demonstrates that you’re stable and it will be much easier to get a loan.
My general rule when it comes to business and investing in your work is to never fork over more than you’re comfortable with. There’s nothing more stressful than getting yourself in a bind — it kills the creative flow instantly!
4. I’m graduating in June, and I don’t know if I should focus just on web design/development, or take some time to explore graphic design as a whole first. —Carrie
In the beginning, I’d keep an open mind because it will allow you to have more opportunities. Even if you take a job at a firm advertised as one thing, your skills and drive could easily transform it into something else. Once you have some experience under your belt and have decided what you love (and what you hate!), then it’s time to specialize.
5. What do you think about mailing lists for blogs that don’t sell classes or products? Are they better than social media to engage your readers? —Emma
My take is that mailing lists need to serve some sort of purpose and not just rehash your blog content. Mailing lists are fantastic if they have a focus — for instance, we have one for Blogcademy that shares upcoming dates, product launches and discounts. A good rule of thumb is to set up a mailing list long before you even need to potentially use it — there’s no harm in collecting email addresses so when you’re eventually ready, you already have an established audience ready to go.
6. How many pairs of shoes do you own? —Steff
The short answer: too many.
The longer answer: enough to fill a dedicated shoe closet. I worked in shoe stores for five years while I was in college and that time gave me a whole new appreciation for unique, quality footwear. I view each pair as a wearable piece of art!
7. You have been blogging since before blogging was even well known. Did blogging or the content you wrote about ever interfere with jobs you held? Have you ever been in a position where you felt like you had to edit yourself because of employment? — Scarlett Ballantyne
Having a blog back in 2001 was a double-edged sword and I definitely felt like I was living a double life. I worked some really mainstream jobs where people definitely wouldn’t have understood my creative expression (if you can call it that!) and I never wanted my blogging to interfere with my professional life. Because of that, I kept it under wraps.
This worked for the first few years but then, people started discovering who I was. I had one particular interview in 2009 at an ad agency where they asked me point blank if blogging would interfere with my job. My response was quick: “I’ve been blogging since 2001 and I’ve never had a problem — I get up at 6 am, push my new post live and then come to work.” I didn’t get hired.
Three years later, I had an interview at the same exact place and the owner hired me on the spot, partially based on the work he’d seen on my blog. Times have definitely changed! These days, blogs are amazing calling cards and can open a lot of doors — if you’re open to being who you are and sharing I strongly believe the good far outweighs the bad.
8. What blogs do you follow? —Kristen Ellis Williams
I follow around 100 blogs in Feedly but the ones that immediately come to mind are Breanna Rose, Cocorrina, Sea Of Shoes, Gala Darling, Door Sixteen, And Kathleen, the greenroom section of Rock n Roll Bride (full of great business advice!) and Garance Doré.
9. As an owner of creative businesses, how much of the non-creative work (management, accounts, operations, client servicing, etc.) do you handle yourself and how much do you delegate to others? How do you manage your personal bandwidth so that you can maximize the time you have to do the creative bit? —Sankhalina Nath
In the beginning, as a small business owner, chances are that you have to do everything yourself. I’m now at the point where I’ve been handing off more and more tasks. In the past year, I’ve handed off bookkeeping, errand running and web development. I basically gave up everything I’m not great at to focus on what I still love the most: the creative exploration and design.
My advice would be to do everything yourself at least once so you truly understand how your business runs before asking someone else to do it — that way, you’ll be more compassionate when something goes wrong!
10. If you could jump back in time to when you were just starting out as a freelancer (but knowing what you know now), what would you do differently to get started and established? —Sarah
I’d make sure I had clear processes in place. In the beginning, I had no idea what I was doing and I wasn’t good about setting expectations. There’s nothing worse than over promising and under delivering! When I started Branch, the first thing I did was put together a media kit laying out our packages and processes. Thee next thing I did was design a series of informational sheets that explains each step of our process in great detail.
Think of your business from your client’s perspective — this is probably their first time working with a creative like you and you can’t expect them to know everything. Keeping them in the know will make your life a whole lot easier!
Thanks for your awesome questions! This has been a fun little experiment — let’s do it again soon!
Photos: Chellise Michael Photography.