Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Artwork Published in Right Brain Business Plan Book

I’m a little late in sharing the good news, but better late than never. Besides, its a good reason to celebrate again.

Last year, I participated in Jennifer Lee’s wonderful online class The Right Brain Business Plan E-Course. This was the first business plan course that I took that actually clicked. Why? Because it paired my creative side with my planning & organizational skills. It made crafting a business plan fun.

If you’re a creative entrepreneur like me, I bet you go running for the hills when you hear the words business plan. Yet, you know that having a plan is essential to your success.

This year Jenn has put all this wonderful information into a book aptly titled The Right Brain Business Plan: A Creative, Visual Map for Success The book was released in February through New World Library

I’m thrilled to share that I’m one of the 22 featured entrepreneurs in the book and my Right-Brain Business Plan made it in!

Through Jenn’s online class, and now her book, I was able to develop a vision for my business based on values that are important to me. Those values became the basis for my business plan. With Jenn’s guidance, I was able to identify and understand my perfect customers, make the leap into teaching, write financial goals in terms that made sense to me, and develop a sense of who my creative cohorts are.

You can read more about my business plan in this post on Jenn’s site: Spotlight on Amy A. Crawley

The other wonderful aspect of Jenn’s approach to writing a business plan is that I can pick up where I left off. When health issues became my primary focus late last year, I had to put my plan aside. Now that I’m feeling better, it’s time to revisit my plan, update it, and rework some goals. Having flexibility in your business plan is essential. It shouldn’t be a linear, static document.

So, what are you waiting for? The Right-Brain Business Plan has already been a #1 bestseller the Amazon Small Business Plans category. I highly recommend this book!


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It’s a Value Thing

Last month I started the Right Brain Business Plan E-course with Jennifer Lee. The online class has 23 creative souls supporting each other and cheering each other on as we work toward the creation of our business plans. We are supported and encouraged by Jenn each day through our periods of overwhelm, frustration, fear of the unknown, and battles with the negative inner voice. (Suggestion: tell your negative inner voice to go re-arrange the sock drawer. It seems to keep it pleasantly happy and out of your head.)

This is Week 3 of the class and I’m still working my way through part B of Week 2’s assignment. The beauty of online classes is that you can, more or less, work at your own pace. The frustration of an online class is that you might feel your pace is too slow. So while I’m playing catch-up on my homework assignments, I wanted to catch-up on blogging about the class.

Return to Week One

Way back in Week 1 we were asked to reflect on our values and the values of our business. This was a completely new concept to me. Not so much the personal values, but to actually think about the values I’d want for my business. I swear I’ve never seen this component mentioned in the traditional left-brain approach to writing a business plan. Curious.

I never gave this value thing a thought when I started my art business. Well, except for the “make money” value. Really. When I was put in this unplanned position (being asked to sell my art) what do you think the first thing was that came to mind?

Someone wants to pay me for my art = MONEY

And for a couple of years that really was the base goal: Make money. Make money to buy supplies. Make money to pay your bills.

There is certainly nothing wrong with making money. It feels good. Yet when the pressure (self or externally imposed) to make money is your main focus, the desire to keep doing that is going to result in a slow fizzle toward boredom, frustration, and asking “Is this all there is?” At least it did in my situation.

The Value Thing

Now that I am working on a business plan that focuses on expanding my business, I relish the thought of considering what I value in a business and how that influences my future business. After working through Jenn’s visualization exercise a couple of times and thinking about the questions posed during Week 1, here are the values that I find important:

  • Creativity & original thinking; originality, thinking out of the box
  • Acknowledgment & recognition; saying ‘thank you’
  • Independence
  • Community, networking, friendship, collaboration, teamwork
  • Communication, openness, being true to your word, being able to admit mistakes
  • Teaching, learning,growth, discovery, service
  • Empathy, encouragement, respect
  • Connection
  • Authentic
  • Spirituality
  • Adventure, exploring new frontiers
  • Leading, leadership, mentoring
  • Being open-minded and flexible
  • Sharing, helping, inspiring
  • Trust, support, secure environment
  • Happiness, laughter, fun
  • Contributing
  • Making meaning

I mentioned in a previous post a statement from the Week 1 exercise that caused an ‘a-ha’ moment for me. It bears repeating here:

As a right brain entrepreneur, if your values are not reflected in your work, your work will lack meaning. Are you being authentic in your business? If you’re compromising your values in your work, you’ll feel resentful, upset, burnt out and frustrated. When you’re aligned with your values, you’ll feel fulfilled and energized and that is what people will resonate with most.

What values are important to you? How do you bring those values to your business?

Next: Having Visions


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Tuesday’s Business-Assessing Sales Opportunities

As you put together your business plan, you need to consider where you’re going to sell your work. What venues or markets you’ll target. Heck, even without a business plan, I’m sure this is something you’ll consider as you decide to sell your work.

When determining where to show and sell your work, you need to think about your long term goals. However, I think it is pretty common for many of us when we start selling our work to try lots of different venues, especially when it comes to shows. This is what I did and I wasn’t thinking about a long term goal when I did it. Call it testing the waters. I needed to get a few shows (for better or worse) under my belt in order to determine what worked and what didn’t; what sold and what didn’t and what shows I might do again and which ones I wouldn’t consider in the future.

Assuming you are selling your work, start by listing those places where you sell your work. Now ask yourself where you are making sales. Take it a step further and assess what sells best in these venues. Would you like to continue selling at this venue? Look back at that customer base you’re targeting and those you’d like to target. Do these venues fit into that target market?

Now this is where the long term goal comes into play. When you assess the venues where you sell, you need to determine if you’ve outgrown a place, especially if it isn’t doing well for you. Continuing to show or sell in venues that you’ve outgrown saps your energy and dampens your spirits. Making that decision isn’t always easy but it is part of business. So assuming one of your long term goals is to generate an income, you need to assess selling opportunities on a regular basis.

Is a particular venue good for me?

When choosing a venue for potential selling opportunities, there are several aspects to consider:

Foot traffic: Whether a retail store front or an art/craft show, you want to assess the foot traffic. For the store front, consider their location. Are they on a main street or off the beaten path? If off the beaten path, how do they draw people into the store? With shows, foot traffic can be highly variable but the promoter should be able to give you an attendance figure based on previous shows. Parking may also be a consideration in both cases.

Surrounding businesses: Is the retail store surrounded by other stores, which in turn helps to generate foot traffic. Are there other galleries in proximity to the store which potentially increases competition? (Remember, competition is not necessarily a bad thing.)

Physical space: This includes security, insurance, and appearance of the store. Is care taken when displaying the art work? Are precious works displayed in cases? Is the store neat, clean, well-lit, etc.

Fees: Does the store sell on consignment or wholesale? How are special orders or commissions handled? Are you renting space within the store to display your work?

Advertising: How does the store promote itself? Do they run ads in the local paper and/or online? Do they have a customer mailing list? Do they host artist events or participate in gallery walks?

Online Sales Venues

Other than participating in Wholesalecrafts.com, I have no experience selling on other popular online sites such as Etsy or Trunkt. And I do not sell my work through my web site (e.g. no shopping cart.) However, if these are venues you’d like to pursue, I imagine several of the same considerations can be applied.

I do believe that artists today have many more opportunities to consider when selling their art. It is up to us to think out of the box and to pursue non-traditional venues.


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Tuesday’s Business-Know Your Customers/Collectors

Thus far in our discussion on writing a business plan, we’ve talked about several components: writing goals, defining your art, and knowing who your competition is. This week the focus is on describing and knowing who your customers and collectors are.

As you put together your business plan, you need to think about who is buying your art and who will buy your art. Knowing who your customers and collectors are currently and who you’d like as future customers and collectors also helps you define your goals and refine your marketing.

Why am I writing this as customer/collector? Because in the ideal situation all artists hope to have collectors; those people who buy our art, who keep buying from us, and start a collection of our work. When you start to think of the person buying your art as a collector, the mood changes. It feels more professional.

Demographics

The easiest way to describe your customers and collectors is with demographics. This includes sex (M/F), age, income, education level, and occupation. In addition to these standard demographics, you can expand further to include where your customers/collectors live (urban, suburban, rural) and how they pay for their purchases (cash, check, credit card, installments). You may even begin to think about the type of home they live in and the cars they drive.

Here is an example of how I’ve defined my customers in the recent past:

Urban and suburban women in their late 20’s to early 70’s who are predominantly college educated in professional careers that pay for their purchases with credit cards, cash, and occasionally by check.

If you aren’t sure who your customers/collectors are, write down who your ideal customer/collector would be. And if you already have an idea of who is buying your art and if you’d like to focus on another market, write down who those people would be too. In both cases you’ll develop a better idea of your customer/collector and can begin to think about how to find them and how to market to them.

Another aspect to consider when defining your customer/collector is why these people buy from you. Is it for personal or sentimental reasons? Does your art work fill a blank spot in their home? Are you providing a piece of art that happens to be in the right color? Is your work a functional object?

And if you have repeat customers/collectors, can you determine how often they buy from you? Some people talk about the 80/20 rule. This theory says 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers. If this is true, are you keeping in touch with your current customers?

Which leads us to…

Keeping Track of Customers/Collectors

How many of you have a customer mailing list? When you sell at an art/craft show, do you have a clipboard, notebook, or journal to collect contact information on your customers? If so, is it out and visible to people as they enter your booth?

I know that we all feel like we get too much information already via snail mail and email. However, when you start selling a product, you need to start building a mailing list in order to, hopefully, grow your business.

When someone expresses interest in your work and doesn’t make a purchase, encourage them to leave their contact information so you can update them on future shows and/or new art work. They may make a purchase in the future. They may share information on your art with a friend or family member who in turn may make a purchase. Without their contact information, a potential opportunity is lost.

In the last few years, my mailing list has grown to almost 300 customers/collectors. This list includes friends, neighbors, people in different organizations I belong to, former co-workers, Eric’s co-workers, and many people I meet at art/craft shows.

If you haven’t started a customer mailing list and you’re saying to yourself “I don’t know who to put on my list” think about people you know who have expressed an interest in your work or who have made casual purchases. Start with your neighbors or co-workers. I bet you can easily come up with 5-10 people to start your list.

Niche Markets

One last area to consider when it comes to customers/collectors is the niche market. A niche market is a specialized market. Does the art you make fit into a niche market? Do you specialize in specific theme(s) with your art? Look at your art and think about whether you could create for a niche market. When your work fits a niche market, you have a better idea of who to target with your marketing. You have an easier time finding an audience because it is “built in.”

Next week: Sales Opportunities


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Tuesday’s Business: Know the Competition

Sometimes, when we enter into a small art business, we think “Hey, I’ve got this great idea.” We create our art, put together a dazzling display, take it to a show, and then, lo and behold, you find someone two booths down is doing the same thing as you!

Maybe the material is different or the colors, and their prices may be lower or higher. Yet similarities exist between your work and theirs.

Say “hello” to your competition.

Unless you work in a vacuum and never take your art outside your home, chances are someone out there is making the same or something similar to the art you make. It happens. We take influences from a variety of resources. Some say there is no such thing as a truly original idea, just a different way to present it. And when you enter into a small business (or any business for that matter) you need to determine who your competition is and how you can “stay on top of the game.”

Find and Define the Competition

In order to find the competition, think about the venues where you sell (or want to sell) your work: retail shows, art galleries and consignment stores, Etsy, Wholesalecrafts.com, area guilds. When you visit these venues, whose work most closely resembles your work? How is it similar? Think about the physical aspects and pricing. How is it different?

Write it all down. I created a chart in my notebook to use when I check out other artists on Wholesalecrafts.com who also make wine bottle stoppers or business card cases.

Now take it a little further.

Ask yourself what does your competition do better than you. Again, consider their technique, price, and quality. Other areas to consider are their marketing, packaging, and display. You may not be able to answer all these aspects; though at a show you could certainly ask the other artist about their display or packaging or even marketing and in art galleries and stores you can get an idea of how the other artist handles the packaging of his/her work.

This is a good time to really think about and analyze your work as a whole, from the product to the packaging to how you market it.

Finding Opportunities

Once you’ve looked at all these aspects, try to determine what opportunities your competition leaves open for you. Are there other venues to consider? Is there a different market to target? Do they only sell in a certain geographic area, or only use certain colors?

I understand some of this may seem speculative. In essence you are doing a bit of research and sometimes in research you have to make hypotheses. At the same time, this type of research may also trigger an a-ha moment for you which will lead you down a path you had not considered before. And it will also give you the opportunity to think about how to make your art even better.

The intent here is to differentiate yourself from your competition. When you understand who your competition is, you can begin to develop ways to distinguish yourself from them.

Next Week: Know your customers/collectors


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Tuesday’s Business: Define Your Art

Last week we discussed writing goals as part of your business or dream into action plan. This week the focus is on defining your art.

As artists we often find ourselves working in many mediums; we like a little collage, we like wire, we like fabric and fiber, beads, paints, etc, etc. Bruce Baker has a great term for this: “Multiple Artist Disease” (MAD). However, when it comes to defining yourself and your art for the purposes of a business plan, all these multiple interests can make it confusing…for you and your customers. Defining your art requires focus.

Two things prompted me to start writing my business plan. The realization that I had to distinguish between my two lines of art and conversations with a friend who is also trying to find the next direction to take in her business. I had a few “a-ha” moments for myself during that conversation.

What does it mean to define your art? It means you are using words to stand in for your art when a visual isn’t readily available. Words help reach people (your potential customers and collectors). Words also help you to define yourself before someone else does.

When you define your art, you (hopefully) convey a clear, consistent message that makes marketing much easier. It can also help you focus on your target market. And if you haven’t determined who your target market is, defining your art may help you to realize who you need to target.

We’ve all been in situations where someone asks “What do you do?” Sometimes you can get away with saying “I make art.” Sometimes the listener will ask additional questions; sometimes they don’t. Perhaps you say “I throw pots” which may result in allegedly funny retorts. Then you find you have to explain and clarify what you meant.

So you can see why you need to be clear in your message.

The easiest way to begin to define your art is to take out a piece of paper or open a blank Word document and start writing all the words, phrases, and terms that come to mind when you think about your art. Here are some additional prompts:

Describe the size, subject matter, color, materials or medium, and inspiration used to create your art.

Think about the price range for your art.

What new bodies of work have you created? How about new products or services?

Do you know what sells best and why?

Now look at all the words and phrases and begin to craft a definition of your art.

Here is my first attempt from two years ago at defining my art:

I create small to medium scale mixed media home decor items with Asian and Celtic elements that sell for $20.00 to $150.00.

I guess that wasn’t a bad attempt. However, I was not very descriptive about the exact “home decor” items. And therein lies a bit of a catch. Do you leave your description a little vague so as to prompt (possibly) additional questions by the listener? This may not be a negative if you are speaking to someone; yet if it is going into a business plan, you may want to be more specific to give yourself a solid foundation from which to work.

Here is my current definition of my art:

Moonroom Crafts creates functional and fine mixed media art inspired by the world, ranging in size from 2″ to 2 feet that sells for $20.00 to $600.00.

It is still a little vague and I’m still working on separating Moonroom Crafts (functional art) from Amy A. Crawley (fine art). How does this sound:

Moonroom Crafts creates wine bottle stoppers, business card cases and perfume pens that sell for $20.00 to $35.00.

Inspired by world cultures, Amy A. Crawley creates spirit messengers and icons, in sizes from 2″ to 2 feet, that sell for $20.00 to $600.00.

Okay, I’m starting to like that. These definitions may change, expand, or contract over time but I’m pretty comfortable with these two statements.

Now you give it a try. How do you define your art?

Next Week: Know thy competition.


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Tuesday’s Business: Writing Goals

Last week I introduced what I intend to be a weekly post on different aspects of running a small business. Because I am currently in the process of writing a business plan, I thought that might be a natural place to start.

I am using the weekly topics presented in Alyson Stanfield’s Art Salon program as my reference point for writing my business plan. Essentially, if you follow through with Alyson’s program, you will have the makings of a business plan at the end of 8 weeks.

So where to begin?

We all have goals; sometimes we write them down, sometimes we keep them stored in our brains and sometimes we share them with our friends and family. In the last two years, I’ve learned that keeping my goals in my head is fine and dandy…but that doesn’t mean I’ll act on them. Sharing them with friends is great because sometimes they keep me on track by asking me how its going with that task I wanted to tackle.

Writing down goals, however, puts them front and center. When you write down a goal, you see it right in front of you in black (or blue) and white. When you write down your big, hairy, audacious goal, it stares you in the face and you may start thinking about how you’re going to accomplish it.

So what is a goal? It is a task you hope to accomplish that is measurable. And how do you make it measurable? By writing down all the little steps that you have to take in order to accomplish it.

And a big part of the business plan is all about writing goals.

Let’s start with sales goals. We all hope to make money at what we do. And we may even have a grand number amount that we’d like to achieve financially someday. But how are you going to get there?

If you’re currently selling your art, start with the income or revenue you generated last year. If you sell in multiple venues (consignment, wholesale, retail shows, studio sales, etc) you may want to take your total revenue from last year and break it down by venue. This will give you a good idea of which venue generates the most revenue for you.

If you aren’t selling your work yet but hope to do so soon, think about how much revenue you’d like to attain and what venues you need to pursue. Be realistic. A million dollars in revenue is wonderful…it just may not happen in your first year.

Next, think about the amount of revenue growth you’d like to generate for your business. This is typically done for a five year period. (And making these projections is hard for someone like me who doesn’t tend to think that far in the future.) When you make your projections, you build cumulatively off each year.

Example:

Let’s say you made $10,000 in 2007. You’d like your business to grow by 10% each year for the next five years. Your projections would look like this:

2008: $11,000
2009: $12,100
2010: $13,310
2011: $14,641
2012: $16,105.10

If you sell your work in different venues, you may want to make projections about the percentage of sales each venue will generate. Example: 25% consignment, 25% retail shows, and 50% wholesale. Again, make your projections over a five year period. You’ll begin to see which venues are more heavily weighted; which ones you might want to focus your energy.

Now here is the caveat when making these revenue projections. Can you make enough work to generate those sales? In other words, how many earrings, necklaces, bottle stoppers, card cases, paintings, bookmarks, or whatever your product is, can you make per day, week, or month?

Yes, this may mean production work. Yes, this may mean you work 7 days a week or perhaps you hire an assistant. Yes, this is a business.

As daunting as it appears, if you think about how much work you can realistically produce, you’ll have a better idea of how much revenue you can potentially generate. That yearly sales number is your big, hairy goal. You make it measurable by determining how many pieces you can sell in order to get there.

Now are these numbers written in stone? Not necessarily. Things happen; the economy swings, you get sick, a supplier goes out of business, or one of your gallery customers closes their doors. But these numbers give you something to work toward and you make adjustments along the way.

Next week: defining yourself and your art.

Book recommendations: Leah recommended the following books to help you with your business:

Craft, Inc

Right Brain Business Plan


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Tuesday’s Business

With a second year of blogging now underway, I decided to start a weekly post about business. Specifically, running a small business as a self-employed artist. Perhaps I’ll share some information that is new to you, perhaps I’ll put a different spin on information that may be familiar to you. Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy reading about the business aspect of a self-employed artist.

If you’re thinking of pursuing your art as a business, I hope what I share won’t keep you from pursuing that dream. I remember a friend once telling me not to let my hobby become a business. Why? Because then you take all the fun out of it. I don’t agree with that statement in its entirety. Yes, turning your art into a business can be a challenge but if you love what you do then you can still have fun while doing it.

These next few posts will be a series on writing a business plan. Or, as I’m starting to call it, the putting your DREAM INTO ACTION (DIA) plan. That doesn’t sound quite as intimidating as BUSINESS PLAN.

So why write a business plan? Well, I’ve asked myself that question for several years. I’ve run my business for almost five years without one. And I’ve found that this is fairly common for most artists. We want to create our art and not deal with the marketing, the planning, the goal setting. Because once you start doing that…well then it becomes a business.

Well, if you’re selling your art, you’re running a business on some level.

I admit that business plans can be intimidating buggers; especially when you see one in its finished form with its executive summary, market analysis, mission statement, strategies, financial plan, and benchmarks. But presentation is all about semantics.

Think about your business plan or your DIA plan as a series of goals, both long term and short term. Think about it in terms of your market; where do you want to sell your art and who are you selling to? Think of it in terms of your competition; who is your competition and how do you compare to them? Think of it in terms of finances; how much money do you want to make over a set period of time and how are you going to do it?

These are the topics or sections that I’ll share with you over the next few weeks. As I work on my DIA plan, I’ll share it with you.

Here are some resources that are helping me get started:

The Small Business Administration

A sample business plan for a decorative pottery business

Alyson Stanfield’s Art Biz Coach and Art Marketing Connection (also known as Art Salon)