Every month I talk to my friend Judith. She didn’t start out as friend, but by now we have both vented, cried, laughed, talked politics and replied to messages later in the evening than would usually be considered polite. I feel she knows me and trust she has my best interests at heart and always speaks plain truth. What more could you want in a friend?

She is also a business coach. Terrible expression and something I had no need of back in 2014 when I didn’t even have a business! But something made me realise it would feel good to have this woman on my side. She didn’t seem to fit the norm and I didn’t want a formula to follow.

Recently Judith has pulled all her wisdom (actually it probably doesn’t even touch the sides!) together in a book which answers 52 questions about creating “Your Biz Your Way” and I have been invited to take part in a blogfest to celebrate the book – and hopefully introduce it to new readers (that’s you!)

My biggest driver was that I didn’t want to go back to ‘work’ and be at someone else’s beck and call. I wanted to work totally on my own terms, even if that was an area which might take me the rest of my life to master – if mastery is what we are looking for? Our early conversations were more “life coach” and gave me the courage to follow what I really wanted to do; which was to make art my business, not just a hobby.

How do you run Your Business Your Way?

Finding my confidence has come through a series of small decisions. Very often these have been against the accepted wisdom of the proper way to do things; proper artists only show their work in galleries and don’t sell directly to the public; proper artists keep a sense of mystery and don’t give away their processes.

Reading ‘Your Biz Your Way’ on holiday in Costa Rica!

I went against both these – being open and approachable feels good to me and I know my buyers appreciate being able to speak with me first or meet me when I take work to their home.

Early advice seemed to be that I should offer art workshops to supplement painting sales but I felt time squashed already and I didn’t want to get sucked into a side-line teaching others which would also need to be promoted. Doing it My Way and concentrating just on my own work felt selfish at first. So much business advice is about creating something to serve others; working out what people need and then supplying it for them. But you simply can’t approach making art that way – it has to come from you.

Social Media My Way?

I’ve learnt that being open and honest about what I’m learning and when I’m stuck really helps.  It’s so much easier to just be yourself! I started sharing my work on Instagram because I kept running out of space for photos on my phone and it has become the most supportive place, both for me and for others.

I don’t schedule or plan much beyond the next post. I show something when it feels like I have something to say, I spend far too much time there – it’s not about marketing efficiency but being part of a creative community and has brought me in touch with so many inspiring people.

I accept that ALL of it is a work in progress; the website, branding (what branding?), how I write my newsletters. Newsletters are a great lesson in letting things not be perfect – once it’s sent you can’t change it. Yes, some have gone out with wrong links, or typos. I’m human.

It’s OK to ignore standard advice if it doesn’t feel right…

I still don’t have an opt-in freebie, or ‘lead magnet’. Apparently I should do. Do you want one? If I had one apparently more people would sign up, but I figure if you really like my work and want to see more that will be enough incentive… Or would having a PDF of 5 Art Secrets to Improve Your Home be something you’d like?!

Accept my own body clock and routine

It’s taken me a while to figure out a seasonal rhythm which suits me. I’m not an early starter but I know now how to make the most of my time and when to prioritize and when it’s OK to let things drop. I am away from the studio during the holidays, then I can recharge with sketchbook work or take more time to read or review where I am, or figure out the next bit of tech perhaps.

My Way has definitely changed over the past few years. I used to need to know all the answers in advance – to know what pieces to put in place. I still debate with myself but now I’m more likely to listen to my instincts, make a decision and figure it out along the way. I had been debating the pros and cons of opening a Facebook group for a while, and one Saturday morning it just felt right. Now that’s the way to do business – in bed, Saturday morning, cup of tea in hand! Art Explorers now has over 500 members in just a few weeks. When it’s right, it seems to just work.

The book is the best guide I have found to trusting yourself based on Judith’s years of helping small business owners.

Your Biz or Your Life? You don’t have to choose

Working with her has also taught me more than I care to acknowledge about general life skills. I think I am a better parent now. I am more forgiving of myself; I no longer see time to rest as a weakness. Decisions are easier; if a question arises I take time to sit with myself and the answer becomes clear. I am happier. 

Treat yourself!

You can get the book here on Kindle, digital or in a proper paper copy. It’s beautifully laid out, packed full of links, space for notes and easy to read in short chunks. But it’s a proper 192 pages of wisdom!