My heart was in my mouth…
I’d just set up the first auction of a piece of my work on my web site.
My mouse pointer was hovering over the “publish” button, but I just couldn’t seem to bring myself to click it.
Who do you think you are?
The closer I got to persuading myself to click, the louder the doubting voices in my head became.
“Why would anyone want to buy my work anyway?”
“I’ve probably missed some important setting in the software and the thing won’t work. I should check over it again.”
“The painting won’t sell anyway, it’s just not good enough.”
“I’m just not ready for this. I’m just not ready.”
Then I clicked the button.
You will never be ready
This is perhaps the first and most important thing to understand about any new venture. It’s doubly true for us, as artists, putting our work out there online.
You will never feel ready.
The painting I was about to auction was a small one of two lemons on a cloth, this painting:
This was a painting that I’d laboured over for some time. Objectively, I knew it was one of the better paintings I’d done at the time, but that didn’t stop me thinking it just wasn’t good enough.
Surely no-one would buy it.
But someone did
In fact, four people bid on it and it went for more than twice the reserve I’d set.
Even though I can laugh a little now at how nervous I was about trying to sell my first painting on my site, I still have some of that fear and uncertainty every time I put a new one up.
It really is hard putting your most important work out there in front of people.
Because if you’re an artist, it’s not just your work, it’s yourself you’re putting up there.
A more meaningful life
But it’s worth it.
It’s worth it because whether you’re looking to make a side income from your paintings or from teaching, or whether you want to turn full time, it’s the most meaningful kind of life you can live.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I do know what got me to the point where I could start to take making a full time living from painting and teaching online seriously.
It wasn’t anything to do with the work itself or feeling ready (although obviously, you do need to be producing a certain standard of work in order to sell it).
No, it really came down to just one thing.
Connecting with people.
I don’t mean just having lots of facebook followers or youtube subscribers. That’s not connecting, it’s just numbers.
I mean real, meaningful connections.
Because when people know you, when you’ve shared something of yourself, something that matters, and you’ve helped in some way, you develop enough trust to move beyond just the follower counts and likes into something much more meaningful.
It’s true of course that you do have to reach a good number of people in order to seriously consider going full time. And that’s why it takes time to get there.
It’s not going to happen overnight.
How to grow
But that doesn’t mean you have to be producing amazing work and have a flash website before you can start.
In fact, I think you should start now. Because you never will feel ready.
Here’s how that worked out for me:
Before I could really paint well and was at the very beginning of my learning journey, I shared what I could.
I started this site in 2006. All I did was post what I was doing. From the beginning, I made myself publish everything. My doubts, my fears, my frustrations, my failures and my successes.
What happened, and what really surprised me, was that other people connected with what I was sharing.
Although it wasn’t planned when I started out, I realise now that actually, that’s the best way to be if you want to build meaningful connections with people, online or otherwise.
It took me a long time to build enough connections to be able to start to make a living. Looking back now, with the lessons I’ve learned, I could certainly have done it more quickly.
So although you may not be ready to start selling your work yet, or to build a course yet, you are certainly ready to start sharing something meaningful.
There is no “5 step plan”
If you saw the title of this post and we’re expecting a list of steps you can follow, I’m sorry. I don’t have that for you. Because I don’t think it exists.
There is no template for success. You need to write your own script for this, because no-one else is quite like you.
What I do have to share is an approach, a way to gradually build an art business online which has worked well for me and I think could very well work for you too.
At the heart of it is real, meaningful connections. The threads that join one person to another.
It may seem like an impossible dream that you’d be able to make an income from your work online. It did to me. And I’m still surprised that it works at all, but it does.
There is tech to learn. It’s not for the faint of heart, because there is a lot to do and a fair amount of commitment required. You need to get comfortable with sharing not just your work, but how you make it and what you go through to create it.
How much time and commitment you’ll need to put in will depend on how far you want to go.
There is a real opportunity now for artists to make an independent living that has never existed before.
So later this month I’m going to be opening up a new membership program I’ve been putting together called Threads.
There are two parts to it:
- First, regular teaching to help you develop your painting skills.
- Second, in depth live webinars on all aspects of how to grow and run an independent business online, doing what you love.
In return for an affordable monthly subscription fee, I’ll be doing at least two private live streams a month, just for subscribers – one on painting and developing skills and one on an aspect of building an independent art business online.
Because the teaching will all be live (if you’ve seen my live streams on facebook you know what to expect) I’ll be able to make sure what I’m giving you is relevant, and you’ll have a say in what I cover.
I’m going to take you right from the most basic aspects of getting a web site set up to how to grow an audience for what you have through connecting with people – openly, honestly and in a meaningful way.
Basically, the stuff I do. All of it.
Find out more here
If this sounds like something you’d be interested in supporting and getting involved in, just enter your email address below.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing more details of how it will work, and demonstrating the live workshops and webinars that I’ll be doing as the core of the program.
Here’s what the opportunity is:
To be completely independent.
To do what you love.
To make a meaningful difference to peoples’ lives.
To have a more meaningful life for yourself.
to let you know what’s happening and get your feedback.
(by the way if you’re one of the 140 or so people who’ve already signed up to hear more, you don’t need to sign up again don’t worry!)
I’ve called this new program Threads because it represents the connections we make with each other.
But it also represents the threads that run through our individual lives. What drives us to draw and paint. And the importance of holding on to that thread and following it.
This poem by William Stafford is a personal favourite, the name came from here:
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.
I see this thread as what drives us to draw, to paint, to create. I’ve let go of my own thread in the past and have suffered because of it. Now I’m following it as if my life depended on it – because it does.
Threads is more than a teaching program. It’s a network, built by connecting our individual threads into a larger whole.
This is the dream I have for it, and the dream I have for you.
Don’t ever let go of your thread.
Best wishes and thanks for reading,