The Biggest Lessons I Learned During My First Year of Business
I started painting with alcohol ink in 2019 and immediately fell in love. I was painting like crazy and buying supplies but then I started to wonder, "What am I going to do with all this art? I can't keep it all". I honestly had no intention of selling anything when I started, but I enjoyed it so much I just wanted to keep making things ( and really - how many painted coffee mugs do we need?). So, in March of 2021 I took the plunge and created a web shop to sell my art.
To be quite honest, I had no idea if I would sell anything, so I choose the most cost effective (but not the most versatile) platform. And people actually bought my art. It was pretty exciting! But I realized if I wanted to sell more art, I would need to put some effort in to marketing. I started posting on Instagram and Facebook and then I added a blog and a newsletter. But it was really hard to keep on top of everything , especially when I have a full time job, 2 kids, and a husband that farms. I started feeling really stressed out that I couldn't post X times a day on Instagram, create stories and reels, keep track of algorithms, post on Facebook, create and promote one new blog post a week, and write a newsletter on top of that. And then don't even get me started on SEO. It was just so overwhelming that it was taking the joy out of creating art. At some point I had to step back and say "Woah! You started this because you love painting and wanted to share your art with people. But if it's causing you this much stress is it worth it?" So I decided to do things my way. I post things on Instagram because I want to, not because I have to. I write blog posts when I have something to say, not on a schedule and not on topics that I came up with after hours of keyword research. I'm probably guilty of several "Common Business Blogging Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs!" But you know what? I'm ok with that. I'm not trying to be the worlds best blogger or most popular Instagrammer.
The other challenge I have run into is keeping my website updated. After months of using ECWID for my store (it's great for a starter site if you don't really know what you're doing) I decided to create my own site and move everything over to Wix. That was a LOT of work. I knew nothing about creating a website, alt descriptions, site SEO, etc. Eventually I got the work done and in September I opened my new store. Unfortunately I didn't want to wait forever to open so I didn't have time to get all my previous listings transferred over, and I still haven't.
The thing is, I love creating art but I don't love all the steps it takes to get that art up on my website and promote it. I can easily create multiple paintings in a few hours, but the process list them on my site takes days to weeks. I have to scan them, edit the scans (if I'm planning to sell a digital copy), photograph them, create mockups, protect them with up to 12 layers of varnish (waiting between coats), upload the photos to the site, create descriptions, decide on pricing and much more. Needless to say, there are times when I've generated a backlog of paintings that need to be listed. Slowly but surely I'm working through it and trying to keep my site updated regularly.
All in all, it's been a great year and a HUGE learning experience. I still have a ton to learn but I would say my biggest lessons from the past year have been:
I have a tendency to not do things until I'm absolutely sure they will be perfect. If I had waited there's a good chance I wouldn't have a website right now. Sometimes you just have to do it. Don't keep putting things off for the ideal time. (In which case this blog post would still be sitting in my drafts while I made sure I had the correct headings, keywords, images, formatting...)
It's ok to do things my own way. It's ok to ignore the advice that says I need to post 500 times a day on Instagram and sacrifice my firstborn to the gods of SEO. I'm doing this for enjoyment - not to add another stressor to my life.