Musings from the Moonroom

Thoughts on Art, Inspiration, Creativity and Spirit


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Tuesday’s Business-Fear

I’ve been thinking a bit about fear lately and not because we are in the throes of election season.  No this is internal fear.  The fear that keeps you from moving forward, from initiating a new project or following through on an idea.

I’ve been thinking about where this thought comes from and if it is really fear or lack of motivation or lack of passion or disinterest or overwhelm or a combination of all the above.

Whatever it may be, it really stinks when it affects your business.

From a revenue standpoint this year has not been as fruitful as last year.  Sales are off to a certain extent in both the consignment and wholesale arenas.  My spring retail show was a bright spot in that sales exceeded last year during the same time frame.  I have a couple more shows on the horizon this fall; small shows that I’m approaching without expectations.  But with little on the horizon, motivation has been difficult and goal setting feels empty.

One thing that I have learned is that I need structure to keep myself going.  Setting a daily schedule gives me some level of focus and keeps my mind, to a certain extent, off the fear concept.  I keep plugging along, making my wine bottle stoppers, business card cases, and perfume pens.  I tell myself how prepared I’ll be when a new wholesale order arrives or the consignment gallery inventory dwindles.

I’ve also been thinking about where the origins of this fear comes from.  Not so much in the present but from the past.  Did someone say something in passing in my childhood that lingers in the recesses of my mind?  Is it from a more recent adulthood experience that lurks around the corner looking for an opening in my psyche?

Or, as Yoda would say, am I doing too much thinking and not enough doing?

I think we all go through periods like this.  You wonder where the customers are.  You wonder if you made the wrong decision by pursuing this small business, in art no less.  And then you wonder what else you would do with yourself.

Sometime we are our own worst critics, our own worst enemies.  We put extrordinary pressure on ourselves.  One of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is to just let life be.  To wrestle away control and utter the words “It will be okay.”


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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: 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