You and I Have a Lot in Common

At least I think we do.

We Go It Alone

We are probably both solopreneurs – meaning we run our business without additional employees.

Alyson Stanfield in Judith Barath's Studio
My visit to Judith Barath's studio – surrounded by her paintings. Image ©Judith Barath.

As solopreneurs, we alone are responsible for our failures and successes. We often have to figure stuff out on our own or are too stubborn to ask for help.
I hope you're not opposed to asking for help. We have so much to learn from others who have been successful in their businesses, which is one reason why I formed the Artist Conspiracy and is the impetus behind my new artist success programs for 2013.
Just remember to take advice from people who are successful. I may not be a practicing artist, but almost all of my marketing and business development teaching comes from seeing positive results in my own business.

We Work Too Hard

We both struggle with time and balance. Every business owner I know works way too much, but the payoff of being self-employed makes it bearable.
What I hope is that you begin to work smarter, not harder. Your flame will eventually burn out if you continue adding to your workload without finding ways to be more efficient.
Get help! Start keeping a list of everything you do that someone else could do: bookkeeping, housekeeping, website updates, workshop scheduling, . . . What is it for you?

We Want People to Like Us

We're both afraid of bugging people with our marketing. I believe with all of my heart that the more I tell people about what I have to offer, the more people I will help and the better I will become at what I do. Expanded success follows.
I believe that the more you share your art with people, the more fans you will make, the more art you will sell, and the more money you will make.
If people are bugged by your messages, look at what you're sending. “Buy my art, buy my art” is probably annoying. But talking about your work in a meaningful way – a way that fosters connections – is authentic.

We Doubt Our Talents and Abilities

I may look like I have it all together, but I'm full of self-doubt.
Will people benefit from my advice? What if I am way off-base? What will Sally think about the consultation we had? What if I don't live up to Jim's expectations when he meets me in person?
What if people read this blog post and say, “Aw, c'mon, Alyson! We're nothing alike!” ??? I guess I can only hope that they'll return on Monday for the next post because I can't be brilliant all of the time.

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57 thoughts on “You and I Have a Lot in Common”

  1. Yes, Alyson. Thanks to you, I do have running lists of things others can do for me- just checking one of them this morning! Because of these lists, magical people have showed up wanting to help at no cost to me! They help me because they like my work and/or want to learn.
    Of course I am constantly looking at “what’s the next level” (of EVERYTHING!) but in this moment: getting more help. I am wondering about an intern. I have had interns who have approached me, however I don’t know how to find them. Thinking… next summer also I know some colleges are starting “JanTerm” a short term set up for interns and other small learning experiences. Do you know of resources for art interns?

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Susan: I love that you’re keeping that list we talked about.
      Since you’re a member of the Artist Conspiracy, I’ll email you and tell you about a resource available in the AC members’ library.

  2. Warning: unrelated to this post question…..
    Reading your show display posts, I can’t find the answer for the best way to display vases & poems. Each vase has it’s own poem. There are 100 vase/poem pairs. OMG am I CRAZY? No need to answer that.
    My big fantasy is to display them something like this: (without the beautiful paint on the walls) I LOVE Julia Galloway and her work!
    I was planing to:
    #1. post the poems next to the vases
    #2. have several collated copies of the poems for people to hold and take around.
    After reading your labeling posts I am wondering if POEMS + LABELS will be too confusing.
    Should I scrap the idea of having the poems on the wall and have only hand held copies?

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      How long are the poems?
      You might consider laminating them for re-use. Or making small booklets for in-gallery use.
      If they’re long, hand-held works best. If they’re short, put them on the wall.

    2. Thanks! They’re short. And Yay! I’d rather have them next to the pots so they can be joined in Holy Matrimony.

  3. Love this post and yes I think we are all alike and that’s why we can connect in such a real authentic way. I connected especially when you wrote about your self doubt. I think most of us have that underlying doubt “Are we good enough?”. I know I do and so many doubts can surface in all areas, my art, my body or just about anything! I have learnt to be very gentle with myself and just to trust knowing that I am perfect in my imperfections and doing my best is good enough, in fact it is brilliant. I think we tend to have higher expectations and can be harder on ourselves than anyone else would be so give yourself a break and just love yourself so tenderly – that’s what I do and it helps so much.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Vanessa: It’s something we need to be reminded of constantly, isn’t it? To be easy on ourselves. But also to have faith that we can muddle through it all.

  4. Thank you Alyson — you hit “the nail right on the head” — as they say —
    I was just thinking this morning as I waited for the dawn –that I work too hard —
    and that for as hard as I work, I need to see more $$$ flowing my way — and yes, I feel that I am bugging people when I market, so you keep reframing that for me — so I appreciate it immensely!!!! Thank you for your vulnerability and your “pulse” on the art world.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      I’m glad this spoke to you, Brenna.
      As for working too hard, it might be time to reevaluate and start working smarter. What are you doing that hasn’t paid off for you? (e.g. Twitter? membership organization?) What are you doing inconsistently that needs to be improved? What are you doing that someone else should be doing?

  5. You’re right. We are alike on many basic levels.
    But here’s the rub . . . when I start feeling like I’m connected to other artists on these levels I get the urge to work on a team, or a collaboration, or in a group. And then I’m vastly unhappy with the result. I like the “idea” of being connected to, and belonging in, a group MUCH more than the reality of it.
    While we may be alike on basic levels such as these, I don’t think we’re wired to work in “packs” – I know from experience that “I” am not wired that way. I think there’s a good reason we are solo artists and from experience I can say I do my best work when there’s no one else to consider.
    That said, don’t think your excellent advice falls on deaf ears. Your blog and website is among the very few I visit and cogitate about on a regular basis. Your advice has given me the kick in the pants I’ve needed on several occasions. You’re doing a great job.

    1. Pat: It’s interesting that this is where your thinking goes because I’m not at all suggesting you work in packs or collaborate. What I do encourage is that you get help in the areas of your business that are not your strengths.

    2. I am lucky enough to have a husband and non-artist friends to fill the niche I need when looking at areas that need improvement. I also enjoy good relationships with my gallery owners who aren’t afraid to tell me what would work better in any given situation.
      I think it’s an old desire to “belong” to a community of some sort which I have yet to overcome. I am reminded of “herding cats” being quite similar to “herding artists.”

  6. Alyson-
    I agree! And especially in terms of strategizing multiple streams of income.
    One of my strategies is to re-purpose my photography images into other paper products.
    HERE is my question for you and others who’d like to chirp in:
    Could you please provide suggestions for Quality book publishers (probably POD since this is my first book publishing endeavor) that I can begin researching for a journal / inspirational book that I want to have printed to sell direct to attendees at various events? (I’ll also make the book available for purchase as a paperback on my web site, etc.)
    Because the journal will include several (maybe up to 60) different, smaller sized (but not postage stamp) full-color photo images for a 120 page paperback, I imagine the printing costs on quality paper for a quality bound book will be expensive.
    I need to compile figures for a budget for the above project. Obviously, I want a quality item to sell at high-calibre events. (Meaning good paper and photo images that are clear and rich and top-notch!)
    Once I have an idea of the production costs (including help with cover design) I can drop in a suggested selling price for the finished product.
    Any ideas, anyone?
    Big Thanks!
    Phyllis Walker

    1. Phyllis: It does sound expensive! I don’t have experience with POD, so I’ll leave it to others to chime in here.

    2. I’ve had great results from for small, medium and even large (soft cover or hard) books of my images…they routinely run specials too so be sure to check for those before you order. If you sign up for their service the email the specials to you. Good luck!

    3. Lynn-
      Thank you! I did check them out; however my out-of-pocket costs to publish a book with color pages would run around $60 a book for one soft-cover, 6″x9″ book. I’d have to charge those who attend my speaking engagements $120 per book in order to realize a profit! For this reason, I wouldn’t select their services for color publishing; however, it looks like their services for other print products fall within the “reasonable” range!
      I so appreciate your taking the time to respond amidst your own hectic schedule!
      (Alyson Stanfield and her “folks” are among the best!)

    4. Alyson Stanfield

      Phyllis: I have my books printed in large quantities (1-3,000) at in Canada. I do not know how they would be for color printing, though I have seen some beautiful art publications they have done.
      See if you can find an independent publishers association in your area. They would be MOST helpful for you.

    5. Alyson-
      EXCELLENT Idea re an independent publishers association in my area. My “local money” going into their “local pockets” would help the economy here. I’ll also check out your Canada publisher. (And congratulations on your strong biz success: Your models have been sound and I’ve joyfully watched you grow and Grow and GROW over the years! You remain the authority whose integrity and expertise I rely on in the Art Biz World!

    6. Alyson Stanfield

      Phyllis: The association won’t print the book for you, but, instead, might be able to help you find a printer. That’s how I found Friesens.
      Thank you for your most kind words.

    7. I used when I published my book and it’s POD. I downloaded their software to assist in page layout formatting and all, but I did the actual design and layout. I enjoyed the control of self-publishing, and Blurb can give you good quotes for various sizes, papers, etc.
      I also heard good things about Amazon’s self-publishing services.
      And don’t forget you’ll have to register your ISBN number if you want to sell in bookstores! That barcode is how all retailers keep track of your book.

    8. Thanks, Nate!
      As with most self-publishing services, Blurb’s up-front printing costs would be prohibitive since I’d have to retail my book at twice their cost in order to generate profits. No one would purchase from me at twice that amount!
      I really do appreciate the time you’ve taken to share this info with me.
      Wishing you a stellar 4th Quarter in book sales!

    9. Alyson Stanfield

      I, too, have heard good things about Amazon’s printing services, but POD with anyone is going to be cost-prohibitive for you.

  7. Alyson,
    I totally hear you and always appreciate how you model good business practice along with share valuable content. I am doubly self employed as an artist and a coach and sometimes feel the marketing pressure coming from both sides at once. But you always provide sound advice. Thank you. ~ Brittany Faulkner

  8. We want to see more pix of Alyson in people’s studiios! — but with better close-ups of the art. This could evolve into a kind of Cindy Sherman thing.

    1. Arthur: Click on the photo and it will take you to images of Judith’s work. Hard to get a shot of the studio AND close-ups of the art.
      I love visiting studios and don’t get too many invitations to do so – other than open studio events where the crowds are.

  9. Yes, we are a lot alike. Running your own business, especially online, is indeed a lonely road. It’s tough bouncing ideas and problems off of people when you’re working out of a coffee shop or library. That’s why finding like-minded people to network with is crucial. It’s so comforting to hear that problems I come across are not mine alone.

  10. Yes we do! your blog is so inspiring thanks for sharing this post, it’s good to know we are all going through the same things, working alone can sometimes seem like I am the only one going through these things, but reading your blog always reassures me that I’m not! C

  11. Yes, we have a lot in common. Self-doubt creeps in when my sales dip a bit and I really don’t want to say “buy my art”. I am constantly challenged to find a way to keep social media conversational and not like I am saying “buy my art” using different words. I am terrible at Twitter but FB and my are easier and I am not overwhelmed by them.
    Now if I can just convince my husband to handle my bookkeeping….

  12. Your blog is so inspirational and also very practical. I am taking a first step to help other artists now, thanks to your blog!

  13. I don’t know if you know this or not, but the first time I heard you speak in person was at the Pastel Society of Colordo meeting. (I had been reading stuff from your newsletter before that.) You spoke of how much time it takes to do the business end of your art. I was so relieved to find out there wasn’t something wrong with me because I was spending half my time painting instead of 40 hours a week. You have since taught me so much more and I truly think I believe it all is because you are so transparent and you ARE like me! You have been like the sails that the wind blows against to keep me on track and keep me going in the right direction.

  14. Alyson, it is because “we are alike” that you are so successful at helping artists come out of the studio and get into good marketing practices.
    My list of tasks I would love to have help with presently includes housework, home repair, product photography, social networking (especially if it’s twitter), PR, bookkeeping, sales. I suppose I could be more specific but this is a start, anyway.

  15. Great post, Alyson! It resonated on so many levels for me. That doubt piece is always going on in my head for sure. And I don’t want to impose on people with marketing. Can totally relate.

  16. Yes, Alyson, you are right and brilliant on so many levels and yes,we are a lot alike as are so many entrepreneurs and self employed no matter what their business is. My husband is also self employed and we have always worked together very hard. There is no better life for us than being our own bosses and following our passions while making our living, doing what we are driven to do.Somehow the hard work drives us to work even harder, knowing we can play when we want to, without asking anyone else’s permission. The roller coaster ride is what I often refer this way of life to, up and down, thrills, shrieks of joy interspersed with fear, then back to thrills, up and down, round and round. I have found that being part of a closed, private group with other artists to be a huge help with so many issues and it helps me to not feel so alone on this path. There is so much unselfish sharing in this closed group of information on any and every aspect of art whether it’s making it, selling it, marketing, etc. as well as personal interactions where you can vent, laugh, cry, comfort and commisurate with each other. Connecting with other like-minded individuals is something I recommend very highly.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Interesting, Marishka, that you are driven even more because of owning your own biz. I think that’s very true in my case as well.

  17. this post resonates with me too ! I like that you want reach out and want to make that difference to me – to us, artists and use your own experiences to share as examples.
    Being able to ask for help and learning from successful people is a great perspective . Thanks for this.

  18. Alyson, Great post. I can relate. With three commisions and a solo show to paint for next summer, I fell I need a studio assistant to help out with general office work, some bookkeeping, etc.. What do you think of virtual assistants or independent contractors who do this sort of work? Thanks!

  19. Alyson, I appreciate so much your insight into what it feels like to be an artist trying to make it in the world. It can be a very lonely venture and the perceived challenges you talk about can be daunting. Thank you so much for letting us all know that we aren’t alone in our quest for artistic success and for supporting us in our journey!

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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

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