I apologize for disappearing for over a month, and what a crazy month it was!
My November Kickstarter project, to fund a Limited Edition printing of calendars, was a success! We reached our stretch goal of $1,200 in the final 24 hours, and everyone who pledged $10 or more received an extra calendar. :)
The calendars themselves were beautifully printed, and my customers’ reactions have been very encouraging.
I ordered 100 calendars, signing and numbering each one by hand when they arrived on the 11th of December.
I have 12 calendars left (as I type this), and they are listed here in my Etsy shop.
I completed several paintings in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and I have several more on my plate right now (including a commission due near the end of January). This month is shaping up to be busier than I anticipated, which is a promising sign, as last January was very slow!
My final portrait in 2014 ~ a commissioned painting, titled “Literary Scout”, as Scout is the name of the cat.
When I left the security of my full-time job, back in August 2013, it wasn’t done on a flight of fancy.
My husband and I had thoroughly discussed how my loss of steady income might affect us; we tried to budget around the unknown factors, and while he assured me that he could juggle the important stuff himself (like our mortgage and utilities), it fell upon me to prove that I could contribute by covering our other miscellaneous needs: groceries, gas, surprise car repairs, vet expenses, splurges at the plant nursery, and the list keeps growing!
My sales record for 2012/2013 painted a picture of what we might expect, but we also relied on faith:
Faith in me ~ in my abilities to create more art and find new ways to market it.
Faith in my customers ~ in their loyalty and continued support.
And faith in a higher power to give us strength and persistence for when everything else seemed to fail.
There were months when my artwork sales brought very little to the table. There were a couple of months when I barely covered the expenses necessary to keep my business going.
And there were months where I was literally humbled into silence by the generosity of my fans and customers, where all I could manage to say was “Thank you!” over and over again.
For the past four years, I have sold enough to cover all my operating expenses and earn a little bit for myself, but it wasn’t enough to pay myself an actual wage. Not even close.
In July of 2011, I made a whopping $18 for the entire month! Needless to say, we didn’t celebrate with a steak dinner after that sale. ;)
Back then, I had a day job which brought regular income into our family, so that my meager sales of artwork and prints on Etsy could be reinvested. In 2012, I began selling in person at shows, and needed to purchase a tent, displays, tables, and of course, pay the entrance fees… ranging anywhere from $75-$300… in addition to my regular expenses, which included paper/ink, web hosting, listing fees from Etsy, eBay, etc.
My sales increased, as did my expenses, but I began to see the potential of what my business could become with enough hard work. I gained confidence going into 2013, enough that I was willing to take that BIG leap into self-employment in late August of that year.
Last January, after four months of winging it full-time, I made my first real sales forecast for 2014.
I set a goal for myself to reach by the end of the year, a reasonable figure, but one that required diligence and a plan. I broke it down into smaller monthly goals, and tracked every incoming sale and out-going expense faithfully each week.
**I had been keeping records in prior years, too, a bit haphazardly: stuffing all my receipts in a folder, and counting up my Etsy sales each month… but I had never put forth a specific end goal.
This year was different. I needed to prove to my family, my doubting friends and former co-workers, and most importantly ~ to myself ~ that I could make this work.
I am happy to say that I surpassed my goal. I am grateful, incredibly so, to my customers and fans who stepped up and proved themselves to be amazing supporters. Who would have guessed we would raise $1,200 with only 24 people pledging?! The Kickstarter campaign certainly renewed my faith, but even without it, I made over 100% of November’s sales goal through Etsy/eBay/Market sales alone. :)
I will never preside over a corporate business meeting, with guys in suits slapping each other on the backs, planning how to invest their millions, and which companies to buy out. Because my life and career isn’t really about money at all. Money is simply the means to an end, and until this year, I tried to avoid seeing myself as an artist AND a business person.
Heck, I had a hard enough time calling myself an artist, period.
My career is really about passion, and living a life that fulfills me, creatively and spiritually. Like most people who venture into self-employment, the regular world of working retail was a nightmare. I’ve watched it drain people that I care about of their essence, and compassion, and slowly break their spirits.
Creating art was my sanctuary, and selling art gave me back my dignity ~ being acknowledged as a creator and seeing my creations being valued by other people. Being an artist felt real and purposeful, a true “calling”, and my day job felt false and wasteful.
When my employer tried to take back control, forcing me to choose where to focus my energy, I decided pursuing my own career was more meaningful than continuing to be a slave for a giant corporation that didn’t care about me or my family. It felt like an easy decision. In truth, it was anything but easy, and I’ve had many restless nights since, as we try to make up the loss of income. Relying on myself was not something I would have considered in 2011, or even 2012. But in 2013, it felt like the right time.
2014 was an eye-opening experience for me, a blessing often in disguise. It has taught me that the road ahead is very, very long. Although I’ve come farther than I expected in a few short years, this is only the first rest-stop on my journey. There is still so much to do.
But I have a plan, and I have faith, and I have you. :)
Happy 2015, everybody! May your dreams come true, and your journey be long and prosperous!