On Knowing Your Value
A big part of making the step into self-employment and starting your own business in general is knowing what you’re worth. All too often I see artists and aspiring creatives pricing their work and their skills for much less than they are worth. Pricing your work and figuring out what to charge for a certain project can be one of the most difficult aspects of the self employed artist. Underpricing your work is not only harmful to yourself, but it also negatively affects the market because it lowers the value of the work around you. If you keep your pricing at a healthy rate with maybe just a slight competitive edge, it raises the value of the artist’s community as a whole.
Tips for pricing and knowing the value of your work:
- Account for cost of materials as well as overhead. Know how much your supplies cost, what your overhead is such as rent, utilities, the gas it takes to get to the post office, how much it will cost to ship, and how much the packaging and shipping materials cost per item.
- Be realistic about how long it took you to make something and charge for your time to be a liveable wage. This includes brainstorming the idea as well as the actual production time. Don’t discount your time because you love to do something. If you are an artist, the community as a whole needs you to be an important component to our modern day culture, don’t act like what you do isn’t important to society because art is a huge part of innovation and helping people to think outside the box, and therefore create change and progress in all aspects of our society.
- Know your value at wholesale and retail prices. If you are selling a product or small runs or artwork, you want to be able to approach small businesses and boutiques that will want to sell your items at higher prices than what they bought them for. The general rule is that wholesale is half of retail, so take your numbers from the previous two tips, and that is your wholesale price, multiply that by two, and that is your retail price. Don’t sell yourself short.
This topic can go on and on, but these are the basics, and remember, it’s not about being greedy or finding fame, it’s about being able to create change in your community by offering creative and innovative services. It’s important to build growth in your own community so that it can have living and working artists that contribute to society as a whole. So on that note, let’s make 2014 and the coming years the New Renaissance! Keep working, growing, becoming inspired, and finding new solutions to our communities’ issues.
It is very easy in this day of booming technology to get distracted while we are trying to create or when we are supposed to be working in our studio or on our creative business ventures. I found a few tips that help me keep my projects on track and my mind on the tasks at hand.
I like to turn off my WiFi connection when I’m recording new music because not only does it boost my processing speed, but also every time I try to click on that little Internet Icon, it prevents me from getting lost in the vastness of the world wide web. It also gives me a little visual cue of “oh right, I turned that off for a reason, I’m supposed to be working on this other thing right now.”
Those who know me know I can seem a little spacey at times. I’m a dreamer, I day dream a lot through out the day and I’m sure while it has helped me immensely with developing new ideas, it’s important to be aware of where your mind is and be able to snap back to reality and the project in front of you in an instant. Maintaining focus and a mindfulness for the present moment is like training your brain as if it were a muscle. This is a difficult skill to learn, but gets easier over time the more you practice at it. The trick is to develop a self awareness that allows you to notice when you are drifting off into dreamland. Once you are able to recognize when you aren’t staying in the moment, it’s possible to re-direct your thinking back to your productivity.
Know when it is not the right time. If you are just not in the right zone or frame of mind, chances are the things you create won’t turn out to reflect your vision. Sometimes you can jog this by taking a walk or stretching for a bit, but by all means take a night off and use it for something else like brain storming or meeting up with your friends or colleagues to discuss your next projects. There is a healthy balance in pushing yourself and your creations, and maintaining a lifestyle that allows you to stay uplifted and take time to enjoy the finer things in life – such as friendships, long walks with your dog, thrift shopping & perfume sample collecting. ; )
After a while when we’ve been living the same lives day after day, hoping for the next opportunity to arise, our lives can start to feel a bit like that movie Groundhog Day. This can make one feel stagnant and like they’re just not getting anywhere with their goals. The problem is that this is the point where many people simply give up. “Well I’ve plateaued, maybe this isn’t my thing.” In reality, this is the time to push forward even harder and keep persevering. This is the time to put pen to paper and brainstorm the next steps.
- Ask yourself these questions.
Where can I expand? What skills can I improve? Is there something I can turn this into that may not be expected? Where are my connections? Is there an area I have not yet tapped into yet? Sometimes a little brain storming about our ideas and goals can be the jump start we need to inspire and motivate ourselves again to make the next step. So what’s your next step?
- Realize that just having goals is not the point.
Only having an idea of what your goals are keeps you at a distance from them in a way. Truly reaching your goals just means living out your vision on a daily basis and taking the steps necessary to making them solid. Instead of thinking about them as “goals” as a final destination, think about it as an ongoing evolving process that is malleable and can change at any time. If you have an idea, just go for it, do what you can today to make it real.
Writing prompts: What is your process? How do you feel like you’ve evolved your business idea or project since you started it? How do you feel like you can improve upon your process?
Content can mean numerous different things, whether it’s articles on your blog, inventory to showcase in your online store, art or design pieces in your portfolio, content is basically *the* most important thing to function as a business. It is extremely important to already have quality content or inventory to back up what you will be describing yourself as to people. Creating quality content is probably the most time consuming step, but it is also one of the most enjoyable.
The difference of whether you have a hobby or have a profession is completely up to you. There is often a long period of time from starting your venture and when you actually start making money off of it. If it’s something you love to do you’ll probably be doing it whether or not you make money off of it. Go for things you are passionate about, and then when you have some content built up, start functioning as though you are already a successful venture. Get business cards, have a graphic designer make a logo for you, print out postcards and start distributing them around your community. Develop a presence in social media and in your community to let people know what you are up to!
“Creative work” has always seemed like an oxymoron to me. There is a fine line between solely going with the flow, and trying to wrangle out creative ideas on a regimented schedule. Making visual art or music has to come naturally to me, or it seems too forced and we can often tell when ideas don’t arrive organically. Something that helps me pump out creative work on a regular basis is making sure the conditions of my environment are conductive for creative thought.
Five Tips on How to Do it::
It’s not necessary to have a big mess in order to be a creative type, often times our mess works against us and our flow. Having supplies stocked, tools where you can find them, and a dedicated space or surface to create your art helps you go right into your flow without having to look through everything every time you need to find something.
- Make it inviting / inspiring
Make your creative space a place you want to be in. I personally love multicolored changing lights to put me in the zone, and a bulletin board on the wall for snippits of favorite images or sketches of upcoming series. Decorate your walls with art by your favorite artists or designers, or with art you make yourself. Having visual cues around you to remind you of your vision and goals will help create an inspiring atmosphere.
This seems like it shouldn’t need to be said, right? But you’d be surprised how many aspiring creative people, myself included, that take this area of life for granted. All that stuff you need to do for regular life maintenance, really needs to get done. This includes household chores, eating well, exercising, drinking water, and getting enough sleep, also throw in some relaxation time and bubble baths or meditation. Keeping all of the basics in check will help you create an environment conductive to productivity and keeping your mind clear and ready to create!
- Dedicate Yourself and Your Time
Have set blocks of time that you can dedicate yourself to achieving your goals. Do whatever it takes to follow through. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you if necessary. I like to have ongoing lists of the next small steps I need to take to get achieve my goals, that way when I am getting back to my creative zone, I know exactly what needs to be done and very little time is spent wondering what to do next.
- Perfection is Not the Goal
Perfectionism is a great way to never finish anything. Aim for your “personal best” instead. I like to make something as best that I possibly can, but at some point you just have to stop and the piece has to be completed. Knowing when something is “done” can be one of the hardest things to learn, but if you know that you’ve given it your best there isn’t anything else you can do. Plus, your “best” will become better with time and practice.
Stuck at a desk all day, no window, tiny cubicle, I know firsthand as a creative person with ideas of entrepreneurship how excruciating it can be. There are the projects at home waiting for me, the blocks of wood to carve, the prints to produce, the music to record, the album art to make, the freelance logo design to complete, the list goes on and on…how will I make it through the day? Well, this is when patience becomes one of your most useful tools and also keeping in mind that your job can be your greatest asset to help get your start up off the ground.
Let’s face it, it takes money to make money, having a full time job for a while and saving whatever you can to put towards your business idea can be your greatest asset. Just because you have a great idea and a business plan that you know can work doesn’t mean you should quit your job immediately. Have a plan, know where you’re going, know your numbers. How much will you need to save up in order to keep your business running for three to six months, for a year? In the meantime, read the below tips to help put your best foot forward on your entrepreneurial journey.
Three Main Tips::
Use any spare moments that you may have at your workplace to write down things that need to get done, and what evenings or weekends you think you will be able to achieve which project. As someone with multiple projects going on at any given moment in time, it’s important for me to really plan out what I’m doing each day and knowing what direction I’m heading in. Jotting down ideas when I get them or remember that there’s something I need to do, keeps my mind clear of them while I’m working, which then allows me to focus and give my full attention to my day job.
Take time during the day to stretch and clear your mind. It can be stressful holding down a full time job while having creative projects in the back of your mind, but taking a few moments to yourself to take a quick walk or get some fresh air will help keep you centered and your mind focused on the task at hand.
Even if you’ve planned to do something for a certain project, there may be times when other projects have a more time sensitive task that needs to get done that requires you to put off other things for a little while to focus on just that. Being able to redirect focus consistently without turning to procrastination is an important skill to develop. In other words, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The skill that you were working on yesterday may not be the service that a client is requesting tomorrow. Staying polished and informed in all of your skillsets (and you should have more than one) will be the most beneficial to your personal success.
Sometimes we find ourselves in an unexpected place, a gap almost between where we were and where we are going, thus giving us plentiful time spent alone to do what we wish with. The initial urge may be to panic, but this automatic thinking which can be quite negative and hold us back from what we truly want to be doing. If you moved to a new town or city you may know exactly the feeling, or perhaps you’ve graduated college and everyone seems to be going their separate ways. Don’t fret, this is actually a beautifully magical time in life where all opportunities are open to you. This is the perfect time for your creative work to blossom, that start up to unfold, those merely abstract ideas to become concrete.
- Use time alone to create.
Finding your creative self is a process, and it takes hours and hours of real work and effort and often times these hours are spent diligently working in the solitude of our own homes. Any creative person will probably tell you that their most influential work was created while buried in the depths of their own minds.
- This doesn’t mean to become a hermit.
It’s important to step outside of one’s comfort zone every once in a while. Don’t become so comfortable in solitude that you don’t feel the need to socialize or get out of the house every once in a while. Solitude is great for the content producing portion of your creative endeavors, but go out and talk about the work that you’re doing every once in a while so people still know you exist. ; )
Being comfortable with being alone is important to your well being. Use solitude as a tool and you will become your own best friend and truly understand yourself. Take time to journal, meditate, exercise (I like yoga and jogging), take care of your surroundings and fuel yourself with the best foods, some of the healthiest foods and ways to cook can also be the cheapest. Having solitude is a great time to experience peacefulness through reading or other joys, and start doing and learning more about things you are passionate about.
- Greet the world again with a new mindset.
After you have spent plentiful time to yourself embracing all that solitude has to offer, you will probably start meeting new people again eventually whatever your situation. This gives you the perfect opportunity to greet the world with a new mindset and new approach to living life with a more informed point of view and developed sense of self, and that is definitely something to celebrate!
Project:: Art Loft Build Out
I’ve been lucky enough to find a great space here in Sheboygan to use as my make shift studio for a while (plus rent is way cheaper than in MKE which is a huge plus for now), a one bedroom with upstairs open loft area which I knew would be converted into my all purpose art room. I’ve been affectionately referring to it as “the Art Loft,” and have been slowly building it to fit my needs.. though I’m still using folding portable tables I have a huge corner desk to lay out my work and set my monitors for music production, and have converted an area into a dance/yoga/rehearsal space with portable hardwood squares and a few mirrors to accent the space. Plus it’s always good to check your form every once in a while especially for exercises like yoga and ballet. I trained pretty heavily in dance throughout my school years so I knew that laying down a hard floor surface eventually in my 100% carpeted apartment was a huge must for me. I eventually purchased a portable barre and color changing lights to complete the space, and I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out!
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This is a space dedicated to my arts and crafts, music projects and events, as well as advice on how to thrive in your creative business ventures. Check back here for the latest releases by yours truly or my colleagues based out of the Milwaukee arts and music scene, or to get a glimpse behind the scenes of my creative process.