35+ Tips for Independent Artists and Small Business Owners
While there is never going to be a one size fits all handbook for navigating the world of independent artistry and small business, I put together some of the lessons from my most notable experiences over the past few years in the hopes that it will provide guidance and reassurance to the person who needs to hear it.
As you take in this list, keep in mind that these are simply things that have worked for me, and depending on your situation, you should experiment with, use, and discard each individual tip at your own discretion. Your experience may not look exactly the same as mine and no one is wrong for that.
- Recreating what others have made or simulating their style is fine for practice and experimentation, but to truly succeed, you have the best chances by creating something that stands out and comes from your very own creative vision.
- Sculpting your creative vision is something you’ve already spent your lifetime doing, it just takes time and patience to carve away the excess and see what is truly there - the only way to understand your creative vision is to make an absolute crap ton until you know what you like and don’t like.
- Having a space you feel comfortable and safe in is crucial to unlocking a freely flowing imagination.
- Trust yourself and the goal you’ve set, even if the people around you can’t yet see your vision.
- Pleasing everyone is impossible. That’s okay.
- Getting everyone to understand you is impossible. That’s okay!
Everyone on the Internet has an opinion, especially those in the peanut gallery. That’s okay!!!
- Other people’s opinions are only as meaningful as you make them.
- Some people are just mean and hateful, but most oftentimes their rude comments are merely a mirror to their internalized shame.
Once you get over the fact that people online have opinions, it may occur to you that you know or have known in real life will also have opinions about what you do. Literally who cares.
- If you have a lot of capital available to you for investing in your business, budget and spend wisely.
- It’s worth it to dedicate a large chunk of money and effort to your media setup, including backdrop, props, and lighting. How you communicate your work through photo and video seriously matters.
- Check your supply drawers before you order more.
- Sometimes it’s better to buy a little more than you think you’ll need rather than not enough and have to buy more later.
- Sometimes it’s better to buy exactly what you’ll need per project rather than buy a bunch of materials that you think are pretty but don’t know how you’ll use yet.
- Admire and be inspired by other creatives, but don’t put them on a pedestal - they can only look down upon you from there.
- Jewelry pieces will look different on a necklace bust/dress form/on a person/held in your hands, so make sure you see how it looks in all forms.
- Everyone - seriously, everyone - will want you to bring their idea to life. Take their suggestions as you feel inspired to do so but create for yourself above all. You are not selfish for wanting to fulfill your own creative visions.
- Take payment for customs up front, or at the very least include some kind of deposit or down payment.
- Make your business work for you - instead of trying to adapt yourself to work and organize the way that others have told you is right, work the way that feels right for you and meshes with your lifestyle the best.
- Make your custom orders work for you - you aren’t wrong to deny requests that you don’t feel creatively inspired to pursue, and you also aren’t wrong to pursue requests that will allow you to further your desires either by adding a specific material to your supply drawers or taking on a project that will challenge or advance your skills.
- Sometimes you’ll want to work so hard you don’t think about anything else and burn yourself out. Sometimes you’ll feel burnt out and not want to work at all. Sometimes you’ll find a desire to create a balance. Don’t overthink these phases, don’t overpathologize them, just experience them and experiment until you find a sustainable system that works for you.
- Instagram and tiktok trend fomo will chew you up and spit you out over and over again - see next 3 rules
- Participating in trends is fine, but be aware that the type of content you put out will attract the corresponding audience.
- Social media should never be the priority. Your love of creation should be the priority while you let the rest come naturally.
- Social media is often a game of luck, so don’t get hung up on it if what you feel is your most amazing creation doesn’t get the air time you think it deserves.
- Give yourself a longer timeline than expected for custom orders, especially initially - so if you take longer than expected you have wiggle room, but if you are quick with it you get to surprise the client.
- Don’t be afraid to niche yourself down, but also don’t be afraid to explore outside of your niche.
- Feel free to look at others prices to get a reference, but your pricing should consider your supply costs, business costs, and living costs first and foremost. You can price your items as affordably as you’d like, but remember that if you can’t keep supporting yourself with your income then you won’t be able to continue in the long run.
- If it’s selling out every time, you can raise the price. You are not greedy or selfish for seeing immense value in your time and energy and pricing accordingly, especially if there is consumer demand for it.
- If it doesn’t sell out after a while, there’s no shame to be had in either remaking the piece to improve it or just lowering the price.
- Push yourself as you go to either experiment with new techniques or improve the techniques that you employ.
- Mistakes are inevitable. Welcome them and learn from them.
- Many if not most who begin a small business, especially a small jewelry business, fail. If at all possible and feasible for you, dedicate your whole soul to making what you love and giving your brand the face that you think communicates your vision the best. There is never a guarantee that you will succeed, but the more of yourself that you dedicate to it the better your chances, especially when you put yourself first in your mind and keep in mind the tips on this list.
Sometimes in your journey you will realize what you’re pursuing doesn’t call to you like you thought it would, or you find something else that calls to you more. If you decide at any point, that jewelry making or having a small business is simply not your passion, and you have the option to switch gears, there is never ever a single drop of shame to be had in throwing in the towel to pursue something else that calls to you.
Remember that above all else, your happiness and comfort should remain the priority. Fame is fleeting, and at the end of the day you are the one who has to live with yourself and your decisions. Use your business to create the life you want for yourself, considering what you will want your life to be like in 5 years, in 10 years, 20 years, all the way through to your old age, keeping in mind the changing nature of human desires and goals. When you position happiness and comfort as your priority you will set yourself up for a lifetime of satisfaction.
Thank you for reading, and I wish you the best on your small business journey. With love, Victoria <3