I heard a very talented artist say, “I could be making a lot more money from my paintings if I just took the photos and put things online, but I don’t because it’s too overwhelming” and it got me thinking.
Yes, the idea of getting a big collection of art online with all that entails is overwhelming. Goodness knows I’ve found this website and my social media pages often overwhelming. I still have faith that I can get my online income to match (replace maybe one day?) my markets and fairs income.
Often I want to clone myself, just have a few versions that aren’t at the same level of maintenance as me, but totally capable of making designs, writing stories, updating the website, taking photos and editing them, figuring out how to make social media work and maintaining it, and cleaning the house would be great too. Then I can do everything else like design new ranges and test them, paint more, garden more, exercise more, see friends and family more. But instead I’m doing the best I can with what I have.
How can artists make money from their work without feeling overwhelmed?
So I’ve been turning around this idea of how artists and makers can make a living from their work without feeling overwhelmed. When I was chatting with an artist friend who runs three successful creative businesses I wasn’t surprised to hear her talk of feeling drained, empty, exhausted and struggling to see where the money was, let alone the new ideas.
As we talked I could hear feelings that I’d shared and I understood that it would take a series of things for her to come out from underneath all that pressure. She was missing out on designing and creating new products (and their income) because of where she was at.
I love what she does and spending time with her, talking on all sorts of things creative and being understood. The challenge is having enough time to share together. So I offered to come stay for a couple of days with her and work on a specific product design project together. While it will be mainly her doing the creating and I’ll be more of a sounding board and Girl Friday, the key will be in working together instead of feeling isolated and overwhelmed.
Supporting Each Other
Spending two or three days working and playing in her business will be great for me too, it will open new paths for thoughts and designs for my own work. I will get out of my isolating space as well and be doing something good for another. I can only see win/win/win in this for all involved.
The only time in her business for this sort of activity is winter and that’s my quiet time too. She’s concerned that I’ll be visiting Tasmania in winter and I’m thinking what a great opportunity to experience the place in a different season, and anyway, her house is warm and I have jumpers!
While there is a chunk of altruism in my offer, it isn’t all a one way experience. She has a great creative business mind and I always come away from our conversations sparked up with ideas. If I plan time after the visit for these ideas to be worked on I too will have a long enough lead time for design and making new ranges in time for my new Christmas ranges.
The key to this working for both of us will be in the planning. By being a bit organised with time and projects we can get a long done in a short time frame – concentrated business cooking! If we go by the seat of our pants we’ll probably waste a heap of the opportunities and feel even more depleted. That would suck.
The good thing is I enjoy thinking things through and making some notes about them, putting some reminders with key ideas in my phone to keep me on track.
The best thing is she has accepted the idea, my offer of help that will look after both of us when we need it most.
I’ve come to realise that if we help each other more then we all benefit – whether that’s with our creative businesses or getting the kids to sport on the weekends – and as women we’re great at helping each other.
Wouldn’t it be great if someone offer the overwhelmed artist to help get the photos done and the basics of a plan for getting them online? To work with her in a way that supports her and let’s her sell more work.
We all have skills that can help others. If you’re super good at Facebook and know your favourite quilter is struggling with understanding the regularly changing logic of it, then offer to help her understand it better and how to make it easier for her. It’s not about swooping in and making big changes, it’s about support and empowerment, helping with how it’s needed by them.
5 Ways to Help Your Friend with Her Business
Feeling isolated in your creative business is really normal and having some help can make the world of difference. Here are five ideas for helping each other:
1. listen to what she is saying is overwhelming her.
2. offer to share some time with her when it works for both of you to help knock something on the head that will make a difference in her life.
3. have a bit of structure to the time and the outcomes – remember to keep this simple.
4. look for ways to make the timing work for both of you, it might mean planning something months out, it could be a regular Skype date for a few weeks or taking the kids after school one day a week for a month so she can knock something on the head.
5. form your own master group where you mutually support, listen and encourage each other with trust and confidentiality.
5 Things to Help an Arty Friend With
1. receipts and book keeping is often really overwhelming for many small business owners so how about offering to tidy up the office space and get those pesky loose receipts sorted? (Why is it always easier to do someone else’s paperwork than your own??)
2. help out before a big show or after a family focused period with a regular routine like putting their art cards into plastic sleeves – this can be done after dinner when you’re watching TV and you’re having a natter.
3. their work space has become chaotic because life got a bit chaotic for a while with family and everything else and you like to tidy and sort – let her know that gives you satisfaction and you’re making a sisterly offer to help out with out any sort of judgement.
4. work together on some research she finds overwhelming and do it together to take the scary start away.
5. if she is clearing a room to create more work space help her out, maybe it’s selling things on gumtree or at a garage sale, maybe it’s packing stuff away or taking it to Vinnies, maybe it’s moving into the studio that’s just been finished in the backyard and it needs painting – that would be fun! But turn up and help out in a way that works for her.
Helping a Friend
Wouldn’t it be good to help out a friend so she could make more money from her creativity and have more financial security? It doesn’t have to be the big save, it’s about friendship and support, practical encouragement and enabling.
Remember the key is always offering with openness and kindness, never with “I know best” or “I’m rescuing you” – because if that’s your intention you’re not needed, no matter how good a job you’ll do. Friendship is about things other than that.
The best offer is one where you both benefit for doing something together.
And if you’re the one feeling overwhelmed, then ask for some help from a friend – offer to trade even – help me for two days and I’ll help you for two days, whatever combination works for you both. It feels some much better to get beyond feeling overwhelmed and to knock some key projects on the head!
My friend will still be able to run a successful business without my help. But hopefully with a couple of days visit we’ll get some new products ready for next Christmas and she’ll make more people happy with her fabulous designs!