From Cory: we run a private community for our course students, and Anita shared this a few weeks ago. We asked her if we could share because its a great example of what building an art business actually looks like. We’ve published it here with some light formatting and editing.
“I had a bit of a revelation this week. I had to do my annual accounts, as a government incentive business advisor was coming today. For the first time ever, despite how many nebulous, creative and simply outrageous expenses I put down against the business as tax deductible ‘items and activities associated with research and materials for creating art’… I actually came up with a profit. And believe me… I’ve gotten away with some humdingers. The advisor did some fancy-pantsy program generated projection based on current activity, and decided that within the next 2 years, if I keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll be making the kind of money I’ve only dreamed of.
So, I’m saying this not to brag but to give hope. One year, that’s 12 months, that’s only 365 days, can turn an art business around into a living.
I did all the TAA courses.
I slowly applied and did all the things suggested with no budget, just work.
I did some more work.
I didn’t watch TV or have a social life for myself.
I did some more work.
I learned that I can drink tea and eat lunch while working.
I streamlined what I was doing to eliminate wasted time.
I worked a bit harder.
I annoyed my son and my mother and became very unpopular by insisting they make their own tea, snacks, jelly, etc, and anything else that doesn’t absolutely, essentially require me. I made them look up for themselves on Google answers to all the questions they bombarded me with every 5 minutes and just accepted that if I’m to single-handedly support this family financially from my art, then they just have to give me the space to do it.
I behaved like a complete loon. I found ways of starting random conversations with complete strangers in parks, gardens, shop queues, etc. I managed to divert conversation to the fact that I paint. People find artists fascinating and hey, there always just happened to be a few business cards in my pocket and art on my phone (YES, I did actually sell something a few months later to a lady I’d gotten nattering to in a supermarket queue). My excuse when feeling shy or not confident? “I’M AN ARTIST, I’M ALLOWED TO BE ECCENTRIC! ITS EXPECTED OF US!”
I realized that researching 3 ways of doing something was quite enough… then just pick one and get on with it. It can always be changed further down the line. Just live with it. Any more than 3, and it becomes an excuse not to get on with stuff and commit.
If I asked for advice from the TAA community or from someone, I learned to take the advice and either use it, or don’t ask the question again. Or realize that what I wanted to do in the first place was fine.
None, nada, zilch, literally. I borrowed money to do TAA. (note from Cory: we would never recommend that someone put themselves in debt to take our courses. We debated taking this out, but decided it would change Anita’s intent.)
I just did what I could myself. I went without stuff and just worked. I borrowed every penny for every course, exhibition, idea. I paid it back from sales from that investment.
When I ran out of money to feed my family, I stuck all my leftover prints and little pictures in the car and schlepped around shops and restaurants until I persuaded people to buy them.
DEMOGRAPHIC & CLIENTS
I went for the obvious, then the un-obvious, the downright ridiculous. I then refined it, then tried some wacky new things and found my audience through trial and error, ten squillion comments, engagements and shmoozing with complete strangers on Facebook, Insta, etc. I was constantly pushing the boundaries and trying new things without giving up.
If I was feeling despondent or upset that things were not happening, I looked at everything I’d done, realized I was doing my best and accepted that that was all I could do. I saw that each day I had taken a step forward and that steps turn into miles.
I kept believing I could do it!
When I started to feel that the ‘work-work’ was demoralizing me, I did the fun work, the painting, and recorded it. I used it as work in progress for social media, etc.
Every few months I’d feel like my head was going to explode, so I’d get in the car and run away for a few hours and find a garden or beach to chill out in (usually sketching or taking photos to use for marketing).
I’d come back and start at it again.
I kept looking at what I had achieved, not at what I hadn’t!
Then I ramped it up and did some more work!
Hey, you know, before you say I CAN’T DO THAT, I just want you to know…
I am very conscious that I’m not writing enough blog posts.
I haven’t finished calling my whole PR list.
I haven’t perfected my website, I haven’t called enough influencers… lots of havent’s.
I haven’t done a thousand and one things I should be doing more of!
BUT THAT’S OK- I’M JUST DOING MY BEST!
I don’t whine or give myself a hard time. I just get on and do what I can, say a few prayers, and believe it will happen if I keep at it.
Anyone can do it!
Oh, and just as you think ‘Oh, she’s probably got all the time in the world,” I’m going to tell you something. NOT to say poor me, but to say IT DOESN’T MATTER, YOU CAN STILL DO IT.
I am a lone parent and support my child with learning difficulties and my elderly mother and the house. I homeschool my kid, and well. I have two very debilitating major health issues which give 24/7 pain. I just get on with it and don’t whine. My house is clean and tidy (most of the time).
I’m doing this with no other financial support and no help except the amazing support of the TAA community.
I AM NOT SUPERWOMAN… I’m an overweight 50 something artist with a determination do what I love most..paint! I just get on and do stuff.
So..if I can..YOU CAN!
Anita Nowinska is a painter based in the UK. You can see her work at Nowinska.co.uk.