For once I don't mean transparency as it relates to watercolor pigments.
This is my brutally honest record of how things are going for me with my art business so far, about 3 months in, both for myself and for other people looking at trying to make a business from their art. Even if someday I become "successful" (right now I'm not even sure what that would look like), I don't want to forget what a struggle it was at first. And it was--is!--a struggle.
I am extremely privileged to be able to do this. I can afford it. I am a white, middle class, college educated, straight white woman. I have a ton of systemic privilege. I am married, but have no kids, and both of us have steady jobs with no fear of losing them even during this incredible time of upheaval and uncertainty. I work full time remote with a software company, so my income alone puts us in the 90th percentile for the US. Often I lose sight of how lucky we are because I am always striving for more--that ever receding goal of perfection--in my work and art and life.
I started trying to sell watercolor cards on Facebook in 2018. I am terrible at promoting myself and my art, and I made only a couple sales to family. I currently have 85 followers on Instagram, which I've been on since April 2019. I launched my website on April 10, 2020. I have sold 2 pieces of art on my site so far, to my mother and grandmother. I don't tell you all this so that you'll feel sorry for me. I mean, sure, I hoped my art would be more popular than it is, but as mentioned above, I don't need it to be. I am fine financially without it. It is actively costing me money right now, between supplies and website fees and such. I'm trying to keep things lean, and I have very generous family members who have gifted me much of my supplies, so even there I'm doing better than many.
So far, I saw the best sales and response at the Pop Up event in the River Market, so I know it's not entirely hopeless. But it feels risky to have my success hinging on in-person events (even though I knew I'd be better at that than online) when we have an out of control pandemic in the US.
My big struggles right now are with feeling like it's hopeless, and overwhelm. The internet is SO VERY FULL of content, it feels impossible to cut through the noise. How can I compete with people who have been doing this for a decade? They already have well established YouTube channels and social media followers. I can't help but compare myself to the other artists online, who all seem so much more effortlessly successful than I.
It seems like there are so very many options I could possibly try. I feel overwhelmed by choice sometimes and like I jump between things every week. I don't feel consistent because it seems like nothing moves the needle. So I am constantly trying different things, and probably splitting my effectiveness that way. Should I focus on blogging? Social media? YouTube tutorials? Should I post more in the Facebook art groups? Should I join watercolor societies? Should I try to get into galleries or apply for competitions? Maybe I should try Pinterest or TikTok for the first time ever. Would I do better on Etsy instead of hosting my own store? These are the thoughts that I agonize over daily.
I am terrified of failing. I was high achieving in school and was not taught how to handle failure as a child/teenager/young adult. I am terrified of putting my foot in my mouth online and it being immortalized for all to see forever and ever. I am often paralyzed by fear and self doubt. I am impatient and demanding and a hypocrite. But I am also trying. I am trying to learn and be better. I am getting up early 5 days a week and working on my business, before I go into the office to work for someone else. I keep moving, one hour, one day at a time.