Starting out — whether you’re an artist, writer, or any creator — having the right niche is the most important thing to think about. Once you find your niche everything will begin to fall into place and you’ll have a reference point for consistent decision making for your art business.
Picking a niche is no small task. If you pick the wrong one, no matter how hard you work in the future it isn’t likely you’ll be successful.
Finding a niche is easier said than done. I’m going to give you some tips on where to look for your niche interests and talents, as well as some journalling (or deep thinking) prompts to help you get in the right mindset.
Choosing the wrong niche in the beginning can kill your project before you even start.
The easiest place to start looking is your social media accounts.
- Look at your mutuals and favourites on social media; they can often help narrow down your field of expertise.
- Look at who is commenting on your stuff; they’re your quality, engaged audience you want to keep around.
- Create similar, but interesting content to get people to scroll, click through, or read longer.
- Look at social media selling platforms (like facebook marketplace, fivver, and kijiji) to start looking for what other people are looking for if you can’t define your own work.
Look especially at your mutuals, most popular posts, favourite brands/artists, and general popularity of what you have done in the past. This can help narrow down your interests and even your style if that’s something you’re struggling with.
Don’t forget about your comments sections! Every platform has a place for people to leave comments. Read every one and actually listen to them. Try to respond to them all in quality. These are your most engaged audience and they’re actively looking at your stuff and want to support you!
Where is the need for you?
What do people come to you for? What do they need your advice on? This indicates what people think you’re knowledgable in; odds are you’ve given them helpful advice in the past and you may actually know what you’re talking about.
What do you offer that every other artist can’t?
This could be something as simple as your style, something that makes you memorable, or something that helps people: combining these would be ideal.
Look at your favourite reading materials and genres of writing and dig deeper into your interests:
- If all you read are life-hacks on Pinterest, odds are you have an interest in creative problem solving and enrichment.
- If you scroll through facebook fuming about the fake news, then maybe you’re passionate about social commentary.
The beauty of the Internet is there’s a niche market for everything, and if you can focus on it, you can build a sustainable and viable business of it.Michelle Phan, pioneering Beauty YouTuber and Makeup Entrepreneur
Answer the Three W’s
Who are you?
What are you trying to accomplish?
Why do you want this?
If you can’t answer these questions, you’ll need to put some more effort into finding what people need that you can offer. Remember, who is paying you is who comes first. Think of how you can best help or satisfy those people that support you most without losing your integrity.
I hope all of this was enough to set you on the right path to finding your specialty. Confused about what I wanted for so long, I had never found my specialty.
I didn’t figure out my niche and my work suffered for it, for much longer than I would like to admit. I didn’t think I needed one and it was leading to a string of disappointing work.
If you can relate, go read about my creative journey and how I got here. I talk about where I’m coming from and why I’m here for you. I also want to hear how opening your Etsy shop has been going in the comments!
Until next time,
-Joey @ The A/J
Save yourself stress and money by following the right work map
What is a workflow?
The best way for me to describe a workflow, work map as you may have heard before, would be: it’s a checklist of everything you do. To elaborate, a workflow is the order of steps your work passes through from start to finish. It’s the method you set up for getting your stuff done.
You probably already have workflows you follow in your life. Your morning/night time routines, the recipes you know off by heart, and how you shop at the supermarket are all routine things we do all the time, without even thinking about the plan.
Why you need to develop a workflow
Simply put, when everything is laid out in front of you, you can’t miss anything. You don’t need to waste time thinking about the next step, saving you a lot of time and energy in the long-run.
I have established workflows for my professional life I tweak every so often. In a business setting, it allows others to complete a task in the same way at the same quality because everything they need to know is laid out in a specific order.
How to create a workflow
You need to start by sitting down and visualizing the task at hand. Think carefully through each step you take in your process and write all of it down. You especially want to include steps your usually forget or cut around.
I wanted to show you one of my processes as an example, hopefully as a blueprint to help you along.
What my shipping process looks like:
- Review order in Etsy app and put aside stock.
- Pin buttons and enamel pins to backing/business cards. I do this because A. It looks nice, and B. it keeps the pins from clumping together in the envelope, which makes shipping more difficult and expensive. I combined my backing cards and business cards to reduce waste in my packaging and to cut printing costs.
- Pull out shipping supplies. All I have for my packages is paper envelopes, custom (paper) return labels, and promotional materials I already have made for live events. I have tissue paper and twine for gift wrapping. I used to use hot pink bubble mailers, but since Canada stopped recycling opaque plastics I switched to paper manilla envelopes and decorate them with washi tape.
- Stuff orders; I always add a thank you note to my orders as well as a sticker (if I have extras on hand). Don’t try to make it too complicated. With a bit of washi tape you can easily individualize boring envelopes while keeping it eco-friendly.
- Write out addresses on labels, not envelopes. It’s so much easier for me to write out address labels rather than the envelopes themselves because I often have shaky hands. The higher contrast also makes it much easier for the postal service to read and you don’t have to recycle the entire envelope if you make a mistake! You could print them as well, but unless you’re shipping out three dozen orders at a time it wouldn’t be worth the hassle. I also consider the cost of ink and power for something I can easily write by hand.
- Apply address labels before closing the envelopes. I always double check my package contents before sealing them; I would sometimes mix up orders with the same contents, so I had to stop writing names in my letters. I also discontinued using names because many of my customers haven’t given me their preferred name. I would take this into consideration if you’re appealing to an LGBTQ+ market.
- Fill out customs forms and save them to Notes app. If you can’t do this you can print them, but again I consider the resources for something that takes me 30 seconds on my phone.
- Deliver packages to post office and mark complete in Etsy app. I mark my orders as sent before even leaving the post office parking lot. You don’t want overdue packages in your shop manager; they reflect poorly on your shop’s overall standing.
- Follow up on your orders! Use those comments, reviews, and photos (with permission) to your social media. You want people to know that you’re great at what you do and this is factual proof!
I have been using Etsy as the marketplace to sell my handcrafted goods and artwork since October 2016. In the beginning, I was running everything from my phone and this was actually helping me make more money! The Etsy app is the perfect example of a workflow as it takes you through the process of posting a new listing.
Read more about running and Etsy shop and how I increased my shop performance!
Creating workflows drastically reduced my administrative work time and further freed me from my desk. I know adapting this workflow will benefit your small business practice and make you feel like the badass boss you are!
-Joey @ The A/J
In my previous post: How To Use Your Doubts And Fears To Build Your Business, I brought up something that makes us all a little uncomfortable: our biggest doubts and fears.
More specifically, insecurities that have you stuck in your situation, or are hurting your ability to set effective goals for yourself.
I covered how improving your mindset will improve your productivity;
How to build the confidence to believe in your business, and the questions you need to ask to get better at what you do.
I introduced the idea that quality thought creates quality work.
Pretty deep stuff, but it’s just another way of saying that your thoughts combined with a healthy growth mindset can shape and improve your output.
Last time we also began to address our jealousy and insecurities. If you made the time for some deep thought on the topic, I’m glad you’re back. If not, you can still follow along!
Now thinking back on it (or if you’re anything like me you wrote it down and you’re looking at it right now), what were you thinking about?
What stood out to you the most, or what struck a chord for you? Use these to get back into a deep thinking state. I highly suggest recording your thinking process to refer to as your company grows.
In other words, what pissed you off the most? If the jealous feelings you were having before are more complex, odds are they’re not vain, and valid. The causes or solutions just might be too hard to see at first glance.
It must be 2005, because you may now pull out your burn book. You’re going to write why you hate that witch so much. Everything, don’t hold back.
Now that you’re left with some unbiased observations of your insecurities, you can now use this new information for good!
You’ve boiled this list down to the point where you can now clearly see your doubts and fears laid in-front of you. It’s daunting.
If you’re not a chaotic personality like me, I’m sure this can even be a bit scary. Our primitive monkey brains are programmed to do the easiest thing every time. To avoid confrontation and change, but that gets you nowhere really fast.
Using your simplified list of descriptive words, expand upon those words and state the real problem. Then you can create constructive solutions on how to tackle your problem.
An example would be if you’re jealous of how someone is better at you than something, you’re probably just not confident in your ability. A constructive alternative though would be that your skills maybe aren’t up to snuff. A constructive solution would be to enrol in a class or workshop to improve your abilities and confidence in what you’re doing.
For instance, when I’m having trouble getting started on a painting, I watch someone else paint for a while because it inspires elements of new ideas for me. If I’m feeling bad about my drawing abilities, I’ll visit the @IARTHAMONT private studio for Monday night life-drawing and get more practice in.
Reinforcing your knowledge can be the confidence-builder you need to keep moving forward, whether in your career or life or personal life.
I’ve done many revisions of my list and so you will need as well, as nothing in life is static. Skills grow while not being measured, there’s a human need for gradual change, and our values and emotions evolve with age.
This entire exercise was a big one in helping me start out when I decided to “make things work for me“ almost 4 years ago. It clearly helped.
You’re never too young to plan, or too old to dream.
But more specifically, this kind of thinking helped me first start to envision where I wanted to go in life and what I needed out of it, at 20 years old. I only mention my age because you’re never too young to plan, or too old to dream.
The points I listed in my own exercise also led me to look toward more positive role models in what I refer to broadly as my field in “content creation”. Whenever I have self-doubt or feel like my work is going nowhere I will put on one of their videos/podcasts/songs and remember why I started “making things work for me” in the first place.
You may not think spending the time with your thoughts helpful, but I hope after this two part series I have convinced you otherwise. What I call, deep thought or deep thinking, is such a useful tool that we should be making more time for and I will be mentioning continually going forward.
I think you can do it. If you apply what you’ve read today, you #canhaveitall just like every social media influencer you admire, youtuber you respect, or even another artist you envy.
Having your cake and eating it too may sound too good to be true, but I’ve been eating my cake for over a year. And that’s why I believe in you, because I’m doing it to!
Out of fear of not sounding gimmicky enough, just do it!
Joey @ The A/J
Have you ever wanted to start over? Hit the reset button on your life? Quit what you’re doing and go for your dream?
I must admit, it can be a huge privilege to do so. My true obligations are to keep my home running like a well-oiled machine, care for family, and to upkeep a part-time income. But that being said, I’m still keeping up a regular income with my business.
Or you might even be in the situation where — as most people I know — you have a stable job that you don’t have an intention on leaving. You’re satisfied with where you’re at right now, even content. But, haven’t you had the urge to do more?
What if there was something you’ve always wanted to dabble with, or even profit from? And what’s the harm in making an enjoyable part-time income on top of a job you already enjoy?
A huge part is of getting comfortable with your fears is mindset.
- “I don’t have enough.”
- “I’m not good enough.”
- “That’s not for me.”
- “I’m no good at that!”
These are not what productive and successful creative minds think. These are limiting doubts, and we don’t have time for these!
I have enough. I am enough.Your new mantra
This is my biggest mantra I pass onto you, young grasshopper. Because once you are enough, you will be able to accomplish things you once thought you never could.
But, this all does not come by just believing in yourself. You can do as many self-love rituals and as much bullet journaling as you want, but if you never ask yourself the right questions you will not find the answers you need.
The human brain needs specific, measurable goals. An abstract concept such as mindfulness and dreaming are far less likely to have the same, lasting result. I have some better alternatives to get you in the right mindset to figure out where to go.
Can you tell me why don’t you believe in yourself? Are you simply lacking the skills you need to succeed?
Look at what relevant skills you are lacking, by locating where your insecurities stem from. This means look at those around you. The best way to see your own insecurities is to notice what you’re jealous of. If you’re jealous of someone, pinpoint why. This was a huge eye-opener for me.
This change in perspective helped me realize: how much I want to help others in their creative careers; that I needed to start my (third, cough) blog, that I’m Transgender…
So, what makes you jealous, and why? It’s quite transformative thinking,(pun intended) and can help open your eyes to what you feel you’re lacking in your life and in your self.
That being said, some of these enviable attributes are healthy to indulge, but some are toxic. Looks, money, and fame are not qualities to be jealous over — they’re unproductive time-sucks and career-enders.
Instead, focus on a person’s credibility, influence in their field, the success of their online store, skills acquired through hundreds or thousands of hours of practice, or having the dedication to devote that amount of practice to something. Look for qualities in their work and practice as well as their lifestyle choices.
Some constructive questions to ask yourself are:
- How did you meet/hear of them?
- What do they do in their career, or lifestyle?
- How much more skilled are they than you?
- What are they known for?
- What qualities make you the most jealous, and are they vain/shallow?
You might posses a few of these qualities and you just can’t see it. You should ask some friends words they would use to describe you. Some things I have learned from others is that I’m brave, giving, loyal, strong, and confident; some of these things I would have never called myself.
You may find you have some baggage and honestly, you need to let that lie or deal with that shit later because we have bigger fish to fry today. I’m a big believer in “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Today we’re only talking about how to get up off your ass and take control of your thoughts and feelings, not a therapy session!
An amazing concept I’ve come across this year is;
Pretty deep stuff, but basically it’s saying that quality thoughts create quality work. Your thoughts combined with a healthy growth mindset can shape and improve your output, which in this case would be whatever you’re trying to sell!
This has probably been a lot to take in. Having conversations with people like this in person, I find many get overwhelmed with being confronted by their insecurities. We so naturally hide from them, so don’t feel bad if this is you.
I really want to help you get more confident in yourself and about your work!
That is why this is only Part 1 of 2 articles! After writing and formatting this piece I found it to be too much to digest at once, so I want to give you some time to think about everything we talked about here. I also want to hear how opening your Etsy shop has been going.
Speaking of, do you want to know how I increased my Etsy sales after freeing myself from my desk? I know my Etsy shop workflow will benefit your small business practice and make you feel like the badass boss you are!
Until next time,
Joey @ The A/J
If you are:
- Someone who has ever wanted to run a side hustle
- A creator with too much physical merchandise
- An artist with an overflowing archive
- A crocheter or any other talented crafter with more creations than you can give away
My point is, if you make anything, one of my favourite ways for you to make an easy income is Etsy. I want to be transparent that this is not a sponsored post, I’m just a long-time user of their platform.
I use Etsy as my online business platform for the following reasons;
- I found it the easiest to navigate; vs. Shopify, Ebay, Depop, or even Squarespace.
- Everything is there if you need it, you just have to look for it. The Etsy Seller Handbook is a good place to start.
- I didn’t have reliable access to a computer until 2018. For 2 years I used my iPad to run my business, and website designers do not take kindly to them.
- I find the fees reasonable for the service and customizability, as well as the legal protections your business receives as a seller. My shop was paying for itself within my first financial quarter.
I have been using Etsy as the marketplace to sell my handcrafted goods and artwork since October 2016. In the beginning, I didn’t have many resources at my disposal. At the time I was running the shop and making all of my work from my iPad and a $70 printer…
My problems at the time were access to poor-quality cameras, rudimentary editing software, and having slower order turn-around times as a result. It would sometimes take me up to 5 business days to ship something out because using these poor quality tools took so long!
After switching to operating from my phone I was able to cut that time down to 1-2 business days, which is a huge advantage in regard to Etsy’s internal SEO.
The increase in quality lead to more sales, which I was able to use to buy a laser-printer for all my business printing needs!
Creating a listing using the Sell on Etsy mobile app is a breeze.
Esty’s app guides you through the first couple of tedious steps and then easily lays out all the other information your listing needs. You should be filling in as much as possible while also using all 13 hashtags.
You must use the right hashtags. They should be more than one-word searches and not sweeping, broad categories. They should be as relevant and descriptive as possible.
Try also using synonyms; buttons are to pins as paintings are to artwork. I use tags such as; punk patches, trans pride pins, pronoun enamel pins, etc. These are extremely specific to my niche market and relevant to my products.
I do all of my photography and editing on my phone.
I use my iPhone 8 Plus to take all my photos. I only mention this because of the high quality camera with stabilization, so I don’t ever have to worry about my shaky artist hands. I’m sure many phones have this now, but I love the portrait function for taking photos of my apparel outdoors.
After editing, they’re ready for uploading. I write up my item descriptions in either the Apple Pages or Notes app. Pages is great because it can give you a word count; you should be writing at least 250-500 words, this will additionally aid Etsy’s internal SEO.
Sales are clear and easy to manage.
After the listing is all set up, it’s time to address sales. When you make a sale, it will create an order for you in it’s own tab. Using the app I check the order contents and shipping info. This way I can pack my orders, still without touching another device.
I write my shipping labels by hand. I have pre-printed business cards, return labels, and flyers to stuff in my orders. That way I don’t need to print things more often than once or twice a month. Since I designed these assets in Adobe Draw on my iPad, I can access all of my printing assets through Creative Cloud and print them from my phone! Thought there was a loophole, huh?
I have found the one thing the app is missing is you cannot mark multiple orders as shipped at the same time. You have to mark each listing as completed separately, but if you’re not shipping more than 5 orders per day it’s not a big deal.
I fill out my international customs forms from my phone, send the barcodes to my email, and save them as pictures to a new note on my phone.
All I have to do is present the barcodes at the post office counter and pay with tap using, you guessed it, my iPhone! I guess you could use your wallet for this step, but it’s not as futuristic and cool.
And that’s how I increased my Etsy sales by reducing my administrative work and freeing me from my desk. I know adapting this workflow will benefit your small business practice and make you feel like the badass boss you are!
I would love it if you let me know what your trends look like after fully filling out your listings, or if you have tips to share about your Etsy shop practices. Stay tuned for the next Artist Journal by following on Facebook or Instagram!
Until next time,
Joey @ The A/J