Things I Did Right When Starting My Art Business
Investing in myself and my knowledge and my skill set is more valuable than investing in a fancy website design or a perfectly branded postcard.
You're listening to Unfold with Kellee Wynne this is an unpolished, imperfect and totally honest podcast, and I'm talking to all artists, creatives, visionaries, and changemakers, who want to live a life by design and not by default. If you're ready to have thought provoking eye opening and heart centred conversations, that explore the stories that made us who we are, and break through the boundaries of expectations than you are in the right place.
Hello, hello, everybody, welcome back to Unfold with Kellee Wynne we are going to pick up right where we left off last week. And if you recall, I told you all the things that went wrong when starting my business. And this week, we're gonna flip the script, and we're going to talk about all the things that went right. So if you haven't heard yet, this whole series I'm working on this summer is all about artists in business. And when I say business, I mean any kind of business. What is it that you do? Do you sell your art? Do you make illustrations and design? Are you a weaver? Do you create textiles? Are you a surface pattern designer? Are you a coach? Do you create art courses? Do you host community events do you do big fabulous retreats and far off lands, it doesn't really matter. We're artists, we're creatives, and we're creating a business. And that's what I want to talk about here. Because I've tried so many things. And some have worked, and some have not. So if you want to listen to all the things that didn't work, so well listen to last week's episode. And if you want to hear all the things that did work well, and advice that might help propel you along on your path, then tune in because we're gonna get started, all right?
Let's start with number one for me today is I joined community, like all kinds of community when I knew it was time to launch forward with my art career, I sought out local art organisations and for me here in Maryland, that's the Maryland Federation of art. And it made a huge difference for me for opportunity for people that I was able to meet. I also sought it out online, that was a time you know, 2010 to 2014, where online Facebook groups were really the most important way that we could create online community. And not only did I join Facebook groups, but I even started one of my own. And through that experience, I knew that I had a lot of resources at my fingertips of other artists that I can ask questions, mentors that I could find along the way and in person, I was able to find new opportunities where a new art show might be or, for example, how to use a certain art supply or what you need to do to submit for a juried online show. These were things that I learned through joining community this is how doors open for me was by participating by showing up by not just making art in the dark at at home alone and feeling like this was just me and a solo show. The truth was I knew that I needed to surround myself with like minded people. And from there I met more people and I had more opportunities and I had more art shows that I got to join and friends that I could make I really feel like one of the most important things you can do as an artist is surround yourself with other artists. You know, let's be honest, the kids don't get it our parents don't get it rarely do our spouses get it our current friends who are not artists, they don't really get it either. A lot of people are like when are you going to get a real job right? So being able to be around other people who know that the ups and downs and the struggles of being an artist and and no one there's an opportunity a chance for collaboration. I really encourage you to seek it out it's it's super easy to do a search for your area for art organisations just use our little Google friend of yours and seriously go online and see what opportunities these coops and these Federation's and organisations usually there's no like requirement of having had previous experience you don't have to usually you don't have to have like an art degree or be a professional artists you may just be an emerging artists and you're just coming into it and the opportunities abound.
For example, with the Maryland Federation of art through them I was able to have my first artwork juried into a show and then I qualified for a little mini show of 10 pieces hanging on the wall along with other artists, I had opportunities to show in some of their off site locations like at the hospice or at the restaurant or whatnot, festivals and fairs came up and I met people who also knew other galleries and opportunities where I could show my work. And so because of being part of Maryland Federation of art, I understood better what it took to present my work and how to talk about my work, and just things that you wouldn't get just from trying to learn it online. Now, of course, the whole online world was something that they really didn't know much about. So finding myself, community and friends online of other artists who were photographing and building a website and putting it on Squarespace or wherever it was that they were putting their artwork at the time, I was learning a lot through my online friends and community as well. So that was, you know, a decade ago.
But now what would I say, there are some amazing memberships, you can join, where there are groups of artists that are either just learning how to make art or learning how to sell their artwork, there are really great opportunities of non artists to where you can learn from how to build a business, people who are doing it online, understand what it takes to do it online, it's kind of a whole new frontier for us. And so I say find your community, I've found community through Instagram, and over the last several years, I feel like it's been my primary source of finding art friends and finding opportunities. And I really, I, as much as Instagram has been a thorn in my side at times, I can't deny the fact that because of it, I've met people in person, even and online, but I wouldn't have had an opportunity to meet before and even just jumping on Zoom calls with other artists that are really amazing and really supportive and creating deep connections that way. So find your circle, find your group, find your community, wherever you can find it, but do it also in person as well as online, because this is a chance for us to really build all the skills that we need to be artists, to be artists in business.
Okay, so along that same line of seeking out community, I also sought out experts of all kinds and I feel like those with more experience really taught me a lot about what I needed to know. Everything from how to be professional in the gallery setting, to how to run a business online, how to hire someone, how to launch a programme, how to do marketing, right how to build my email list, every single one of those things. I feel like it was because I sought out an expert, whether it was an expert that taught me one on one, somebody who I paid somebody who was a friend, or a programme that I purchased in order to grow my skills, my knowledge and my experience. And I have to say as much as it sounds like it's the same old thing, go and buy more courses go and do more things I really don't mean like, inundate yourself with too much. However, it's investing in myself. And my knowledge and my skill set is more valuable than investing in a fancy website design or a perfectly branded postcard or whatever it is that we also spend money that we don't really need to do. Our knowledge, those skills to take with us as we move forward in our business that we're creating. That's invaluable, because if everything else fell to the wayside, we have that, right there, that knowledge and skills that we've built through learning and through doing, make all the difference in the world. So having hired coaches and having paid for really good programmes to learn copywriting how to do funnels, YouTube series, social media, all the things that I've spent my energy, time and learning over the last probably, I would say I started my online learning and maybe 2016/ 2017 has made a huge difference in what I'm capable of doing and the amount of knowledge and way that I've grown, it's unbelievable, but really also just the support from somebody who's more knowledgeable that can give you advice to help you when you get stuck.
Right now I have invested probably the biggest chunk of my businesses investment goes to my learning and my coaching programme that I'm a part of, that I gain knowledge and support from and, and I think that that's one of the reasons why I keep propelling forward year after year. I don't regret that I feel like that is one of the best things that I could have ever done for myself. And I highly encourage that you at each level that you're at find the right kind of expert that can help move you along. Whether it's a small group programme, or it's an online course, whichever way it is that you need to be able to take your knowledge to the next level, highly encourage it and have no doubt that it will help you get to where you need to go faster.
All right, one of the other things that I've done right over the years is consistency, showing up online, whether that was starting a blog way back in the day, and writing consistently for the blog, and posting it on my Facebook page, or switching over to Instagram and showing up on Instagram non stop for the last eight years. Honestly, I don't know that I've taken much of a break. That's good. And that's bad. Yes, we all need breaks and boundaries. And I've been working that into my schedule a lot more now that I have confidence that even without Instagram, things can still progress. I never just disappeared, I showed up over and over again. I showed up with my voice. And myself, my whole being my artwork, The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly, I shared my insides and out. And I feel like that consistency on social media has made a huge impact on the growth of my business. And so for those of you I've had the comments, like what does it take to market my business, and I'll look at their Instagram account, and they've posted twice in the entire month. And I'm like, Well, let's start there.
Let's start with consistency. Showing up even if you're posting, and you're not quite sure what to post about. Even if you're really not fully developed in your voice, your style, your direction you want to go just showing up as yourself, you are the brand you are the business, you are the art. And so when you show up consistently, even if you're not sure where the direction that it's going, you're creating those connections that community I was talking about, you may be creating customers or fans, you may be creating really the network that you're going to need in order to build the business that you desire. It's really something that you can't underestimate the power of that consistency. So maybe Instagram isn't working for you, or we remember the days of Flickr and then suddenly it was Instagram. And then it was Snapchat, and then it was back to Instagram. And then they decided that they were going to do Clubhouse. And that was really hot for all of about four months. And then it was over again. And and somewhere along the line Tik Tok came in like the sleeping giant that it was and took over all of our lives. Well, I don't know, maybe you're not on Tik Tok yet, and I'm just dabbling over there. But it's picking something that works for you. Whether it's YouTube, or it's Instagram, or it's writing a blog post, whatever it is, it's consistently showing up in the place that is right for you. And doing it over and over again until like clarity happens, and your voice shines through and your brand becomes established.
And if there's a time to pivot, and to show up somewhere else, you do that. But you don't have to be in all the places all the time, I've tried many different formats of showing up online. And any one of them can be hugely successful, if you just show up. And that's really the the crux of it is you need to show up for your business for yourself and for your artwork. And so wherever it is that you're choosing to be, and for me, that's been Instagram for the last eight years, and I am gonna branch out.
But wherever you choose to be do it show up, show up several times a week, post what you need to post, communicate with the people you want to communicate, give, give, give, and that's the key, you just show up and you give you don't ask. You don't have to ask for anything. You just show up and you give you give the beauty of your art, the beauty of your heart, the beauty of the path that you're on. And that in and of itself will propel you in the direction you need to go to build your business because that has made all the difference in the world for me.
And now I really want to dive into one of the most key things that have made a difference in how I set my business apart from everybody else. And that's innovative marketing. I guess you could say that I love marketing. I know some people think that's a dirty word marketing /sales. Bhoo, branding. No, but guess what? to me it's serving it's showing up and being able to offer something that somebody else really needs or wants. I have no intention of showing up and using dirty marketing techniques or tricks. I just like to be innovative. I like ways in which I can connect deeper and have more fun and be playful.
So for me, marketing has just turned into a big game to play a big fun way of connecting one of the very first things I did bid for an innovative marketing idea was a very first art show that I had where I had about 10 pieces hanging in the Maryland Federation of art for the Milan show. And this was in probably like February or March of 2013. Well, I know I said, you don't need to print up postcards and business cards and all of that. But I printed up a few for just the show. And I didn't just hand them out to the people I knew, I actually went to galleries and invited the gallery owners to my show, this was pretty ballsy of me at the time, I was like, I have nothing to lose. And I want to grow this business. I knew without a doubt that I was just raring and ready to go, and to go full force. And because I did that, I had several gallery owners show up to my first art show my first real art show. And from that I built relationships with them. Some that didn't turn out that I was going to end up showing in their gallery, but one in particular is how I ended up curating shows for her gallery for the next several years. And it was because I took that risk and was willing to meet the people who would make a difference to the long term growth of my business, then I was, you know, that innovation that like, wild idea was propelling me forward to the next thing. And I have to tell you about that very first art show that I curated for Western Atlas artworks, it was called On the Map. So in and of itself, that was an unusual idea, because what we did was more than just put some artwork in the gallery, we had a theme, and it was the first time that the gallery had really done such a detailed theme on the map was meant to be about travel, where on the map is your artwork representing. And so I was able to choose, I think we ended up with about 12 artists in the gallery. And I had a big map framed and put up on a cork board. And everyone who came to the show was able to pin the places that they had been in the world. And each of the artworks have a location and a description. We had all kinds of really fun ways in which we became very interactive, you know, again, I took that postcard idea and start passing postcards out to shops downtown and ask them to hand it out to their customers, I just passed out postcards, I started learning how to use Facebook ads and events. And it turned out to be a huge success. Again, we had a great turnout sold a lot of artwork, because it was different from what people were used to seeing for an art gallery show it turned out to be a lot of fun.
So again, innovative ideas, innovative marketing, innovative ways to present the work that you do that's not quite like what everybody else is doing. It's essential. This is how you stand out from all of the others who are out there, the noise is a lot. But if you can show up with a different story to tell a different way to present, it really does make a difference. I want to tell you about what I've done more recently, maybe in the last few years for creating that buzz for doing innovative marketing for showing up differently. And how I consistently do my best to evolve my ideas. There's a total evolution in how I market now from the very first years that I was in business and and now it's all most all online, isn't it? One of the things that I did, I think it was 2017 was this wild collaboration I did with a bunch of other artists, I don't remember exactly how many we had over 20. And it was called the Queen of Hearts project. And each one of them did artwork on a Queen of Hearts card and designed it and then we created postcards from it. And the whole project was done simply so that we could raise money for charity and the donations all ended up going to a an organisation that was to help support women who had been through domestic violence. And how cool is that I was able to collaborate with a couple dozen other artists to bring this whole idea together. In the end, we raised about $1,000 to donate. And in that process, we were also sharing each other's account and supporting each other and bringing attention to each other's businesses and and so it's in collaboration and in though that way of coming thinking outside of the box, that we were able to support each other and grow our Instagram accounts, along the same lines of collaboration and community. I also did something that many of you probably still remember and that's Colour Crush Creative.
Yes, back in 2017, while my head was filled with ideas, I started Colour Crush Creative. I know exactly the date, April 19, 2017. Because I was asked in one of the Facebook communities, how to come up with new colour ideas when your artwork feels stale, and you keep using the same palette over and over again. And I said, just give me a minute, I'll be back in a couple of hours, I have an idea. And the whole thing was born just like that. And I put together its own Instagram account, an email, sign up whole description about it. And the plan was very simple, I would create a colour palette. And I would release it to my email list on Friday afternoon. And everyone would create artwork using those colours. And on Monday, I would start sharing it publicly on the Instagram feed, Colour Crush Creative, you can still go back to Colour Crush Creative and see the past and all of the posts all of the different palettes that I did, and I would share them, and I would share them every week there was a new palette every week I would share everybody's art. And then I'd put out a newsletter with complete information about supplies, art ideas, colour theory. And I did that for a whole year. And I would have to say that this was probably the biggest catalyst to me building my online business. Yes, a whole year. So where I have been inconsistent in a lot of things, there have been some things that I have been completely consistent with. And again, it comes back to showing up online showing up as myself with my ideas and showing up over and over again and, and helping support others and community. There was nothing I was asking from anybody other than get on my email list. And you'll get this wonderful colour in your inbox. And you'll learn about colour and you'll have some fun and you'll meet more people and we'll make some art. Nothing I wasn't selling a single thing that entire year. So it just goes to show sometimes that long road that long game is so worthwhile, you come up with an innovative way to market an idea to show up online to create community to create goodness for others. And it comes back tenfold because after a year of doing that, when I did go to launch true colours, my first online programme my membership, it was a huge success. And suddenly I was in business and I was no longer a starving artist.
Yeah, it took me years to get there. There's no doubt about it. This wasn't an overnight success story. Have you seen that path? Art shows some successful some not successful, New York curating, working with designers all the things that I've tried to do all the ways that I've shown up over and over and over again, whether it's blogging or Facebook groups that I've created, it literally took from 2012 to 2018. From the first time I sold my very first painting, till the time I opened up the doors for true colours was that was how long it took before I was actually thriving and making money as an artist, I do hope to shorten the time period for you. So that it doesn't take you quite so long. But there were a lot of things that I needed to figure out. But the things that I was doing right, I still continue to do right today, whether it's showing up on regularly on Instagram with live video and chats, or it's hosting things like the Virtual Art Summit.
When I stumble on something that is so good that I know without a doubt that I can keep moving forward, I stick with it. And really the things that are the best. The innovative marketing ideas are really all about creating community. They're really all about connections with other people, because what is marketing, but communication. Really, that's what it comes down to when you can connect like that, when you can bring your ideas into the world and inspire others and hopefully get them motivated. You know, whether it's because they're now suddenly so enamoured with your artwork, or they can't wait to take your next art course, or they want to learn how to do Instagram from you or Tik Tok from you or you've created an amazing programme locally to bring all of the schoolchildren in after school to make art with you whatever wild crazy idea you have, which is not crazy, by the way, whatever wild, abundant, amazing idea that you have.
You can go forward with that by just showing up and communicating by just showing up with your wild ideas, and putting them out in the world, thinking a little bit outside of the box, I'm all about thinking about outside of the box. And you will see as well, things start to shift and change for you. But one thing that's made the biggest impact, the reason I'm here still to this day, despite all the ups and downs, despite all of the times where I have miserably failed or desperately wanted to quit, it's the fact that I didn't give up, I'm still here, I'm still moving forward, no matter what goes wrong, or right along the way, no matter how many art shows I had were nothing sold, or art courses that didn't do as well as I expected. Were expectations that have fallen to pieces along the way. I know that I've put a lot of hopes and dreams into where I can go. And I still have big vision for where I want to take my business. Take Kellee Wynne Studios and the entire art Brand Catalyst into the future. But it's the fact that I didn't quit that I kept showing up for myself over and over again. That is the reason why I've succeeded.
My father imparted on me some really good wisdom, mind you, my father is an artist as well. But I remember in the first five years, that I was just thinking how hard it wasn't how it would be nearly impossible to get this going. And he's the one who said that's what would set me apart from everybody else. Because if it was easy, everyone would do it. But for those who stick through that first five years, the ups and downs and the challenges that it is, and you come out the other side stronger, braver smarter, you're the one who's going to succeed when everybody else quits. And so I want to encourage you not to give up on your dreams to live life by design, not by default, to believe in yourself, and that it is possible. If you put your heart and soul at the forefront of every decision that you make, and you do it with integrity and honesty. And with just a little bit more self love and compassion to move yourself forward in this great big journey that you're on.
I have no doubt that there's enough for all of us. Okay, I think I've rambled long enough now and I'm ready to turn it over to you. What are you going to do now? What are you ready to commit to now? Are you ready to take the next step? Are you going to show up consistently online? Are you going to find yourself the right community? Are you going to take a risk? That's what I'm really hoping that this will motivate you to do. So you can see that it's an up and down path. It's a rocky road, but you just keep going down and everything ends up looking quite beautiful on the other side. And I want you to come on this journey with me.
All right, thank you so much, everybody for listening to Unfold with Kellee Wynne please share this podcast episode, share it on Instagram and tag me at Kellee Wynne Studios. And don't forget to go and download 100 ways to make money as an artist without selling your art. You can go to Kelleewynnestudios.com/100 And that PDF is yours and it might spark an idea that it'll just take you in the right direction from here on out. All right. See you again next week. Bye.
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