Today I’m delighted to have Amy Crook, an artist, designer and Starship Captain, sharing what a life (and business) as an artist r is really like. You can find her work here and here.
You’re a full-time artist, which sounds like you get to spend all day doodling and playing with art supplies, but what’s a typical work day actually like for you?
I'm a chronic insomniac and not a morning person at all, so the first two hours usually involve reading email, getting caught up on the internet, and blinking sleepily a lot. Then once I'm more or less conscious, fed and showered, I take a giant mug of tea and either do some kind of small biz development (like Starship chats on Wednesdays!) or move over to my art table. There I've got some lists of things I want to draw/paint, plus I have easy access to a lot of my everyday art supplies so I can just noodle around and create things. Since I post art every day, this is an important part of my day, plus this is when I draw up designs for new Etsy cards, and work on client commissions. Plus, it's fun!
Once my energy starts to flag, I'll move back over to my comfy chair and do client work, emails, art posts, Photoshop, and all the other work that needs to be done at the computer instead of on paper. I take frequent breaks to get water, eat little snacks, play with the cats and noodle around on the internet, which helps keep my stress levels down, but when it's time to buckle down and work I get done what needs to be done.
I usually get up around 10am and try to stop working by 10pm, but I take tons of breaks in the middle so that it works out to 8 hours of work, more or less. It's funny that I spend a lot more of my time these days working than I used to, but I'm much happier because I love the work I'm doing. My days off happen when I need one rather than on a fixed schedule, so sometimes I just don't do anything work-related on a Thursday, for instance, and instead spend the day watching movies, reading books, or playing iPhone games.
There are so many ways to be a full-time artist and I know you've tried a lot of them. How are you combining the options now? What has changed through the years?
For a long time I just did graphic design with the occasional bit of illustration work. These days, I have my direct sales of original art to patrons, my Etsy shop that sells cards and a few prints, commission work for both fine art and illustration clients, and I still have a small stable of design clients that benefit from my years of experience.
What’s the next destination you’re working towards?
I'm working to skew things away from design and more toward art, and increasing my overall income while still remembering to stop working once in a while. There's a lot of smaller destinations hiding in that big end, like another coloring book, more non-holiday cards, increasing my visibility as an illustrator and artist, and finding more art patrons. For Q1 I've been focusing on really getting my website in line (I'm taking a class, that's another of my business development things!), and then Q2 is going to be about building my email list.
What new thing are you exploring?
I'm working on exploring more interesting watercolor techniques for my fine art, and also more ways to bring the things I love into my work. In my Etsy shop, I'm making more cards that are adorable but not holiday-related, so birthday cards and apology cards and prints of different things. I've got a tendency to do everything really slowly, one step at a time, so I'm being really patient with the slow shift, though some days it feels like watching tectonic plates move!
What’s your definition of success for your business?
For me, success is being able to live decently well and not feel stressed either by the work or by working too much. Since I've been freelance since 1998, I'm very keen on paying the bills, but I try not to let that get in the way of doing projects and art just for the fun of it — or just having fun, period.
I've got hard numbers, of course! For instance, this year one of my number goals is to increase Etsy sales by 200% overall. I'm working to keep up a steady stream of new products, which conveniently gives me art to post on my blog and originals to sell to patrons, so it fits into several of my other goals as well.
What’s a recent lesson that you’re now applying?
Right now I'm trying to find the place where what sells meets what I love, and work there. It's a moving target, of course, but it keeps my enthusiasm up both because I'm making art I adore, and because I see money coming in, which is the best form of feedback. No matter how many people tell me they love X, if all they buy is Y then that's a much clearer path to success. But if I hated making Y then there's always Z to try next, as long as some things are paying off well enough to keep the lights on.