Questions To Ask Yourself When Trying To Nail Down Your Niche + Why You Need To Envision Your Success

Do you ever feel lost in what you’re doing?

Do you have trouble remembering the bigger picture?

As artists and creative people, it can be easy to forget why we began creating in the first place.

It can so easily feel like you’re talking into the vacuum of space, posting all your hard work into a black hole.

So how you do get noticed?

You need “a thing”, or a niche.

Something important to us as human beings is being good at something. We all like to feel like we have ‘our thing’. Not only does defining your niche make you more memorable as a creator, but it also makes your work feel more filling—your heart has to be in it for it to work.

For us to have ‘our thing’ we kind of have to make it up on our own. 

Whether that’s your middle school awards or that class in college that totally changed your life, you’ve found your thing.

When trying to compete in the rat-race of social media popularity, gaining commissions, and finding new clients—we often lose sight of ‘our thing’, and which work made us happy to begin with.

You work hard, but you don’t know where you want to go with your art or business.

Whenever I’m feeling this way (because we all do from time to time), I always go through the same exercise that I’m going to share with you right now!

  • What do you do and why? 
  • How do you do it? 
  • What’s your method and why do you do it that way? 

That’s it? Almost.

Envisioning your future can be the simplest exercise for self-discovery.

The importance of having a vision of your future:

  1. To keep you focused on a plan
  2. To keep you motivated towards your goals
  3. To master your skillset—narrowing down to one niche to build capitol to support your plan

What that might look like:

I wanted to share an expert of my Future Vision as an example of what measures you should focus on as a newbie, rather than looking at vanity metrics and low-ROI tasks.

So, here is part of my personal Future Vision from 2017—a pinnacle point in my life, when I was finishing school and planning to become self-employed:

At 28 I picture my life modern, but simple. With a dog and my own patch of grass, living in a smart home and tending a greenhouse. Where we live is only filled with what we need and love. I'm happy and healthy. 
My dreams of being a self-employed artist are a reality. I have a mildly successful blog I write and a podcast I do every month. I am finally thrilled to be living and have built better positive thinking techniques. I have healthy habits and meditate every day. I do yoga and jog to stay healthy and active. I eat the best foods for my body with lots of fresh greens and nuts. 
I feel great in the skin I'm in and only wear what is for me. I want to tread my own path in life and pursue my passions. I focus my energy on producing rather than consuming, being more conscious of whats going into my body, and making my body move more. To spend more time and effort on experiences than possessions- 
It has made me so humble and grateful to have kept this life.

14 Questions To Guide You Towards Your Niche + Vision

  1. What are my strengths? What am I good at?
  2. What do people come to me for advice or help with?
  3. What do I get excited or passionate about?
  4. Who are the most important people in my life and why?
  5. What do I need (to do) to feel my best?
  6. Where is the majority of my energy and attention been going lately?
  7. What lessons have I learned in the past 3 months? 6 months? Year?
  8. List my recent wins & failures.
  9. What would I do if I knew I could not fail?
  10. If I had all the money in the world, what would I do?
  11. How would I like to give back or help others?
  12. What drives me & what do I hunger for?
  13. What do I need more of in my life?
  14. What are my values & how do I live out those values in my own life?

I urge you to pull out your journal, day-planner, notes app, or whatever it is you use to record your ideas and get started on answering these questions! I promise you that this exercise will without a doubt help you refine your niche and overall vision for your life and art business.

If you need some extra reading, check out my other post on finding your niche, as well as advice on getting started as an online seller, and tips for marketing your creative business right now!

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

How You’re Using Your Day-Planner Wrong: Get Better At Working From Home (Part 2)

Do you struggle with time management?

If you often find yourself scrambling to get out the door in the morning, arriving late for almost everything, missing meals, forgetting important dates; you most likely are bad at time management.

Being bad at managing our time can not only hurt our productivity, but also our relationships and quality of life— it can even lead to us disappointing the people we care about most.

I don’t often miss my bus, but when I do it puts a damper on my day because the next one won’t come for 30 minutes, making me late.

What if this happened every day?

I would be miserable. I would dread catching the bus every day because I would always miss it. Rather than missing my bus, I just give myself way more time to catch it.

I don’t have a special routine. I don’t have to wake up at 5am (you can’t get me out of bed until at least 8am, if you’re lucky). 

So what’s my secret?

My day planner… That’s it!

Even though it’s one of the first things (and arguably the only things) we learn in elementary school, time management escapes us.

If you remember your school timetable—or maybe you still have one in the form of a calendar planner—it was or is the thing that rules your life. It tells you where to be and what you’re doing at every hour of the (school/work) day.


As adults of a planning-mindset, we usually adopt a day-planner to manage our lives.

But did you know you’re probably using it wrong?

What your daily planner IS NOT FOR:

  • To do lists of what to do each day—this isn’t useful because it doesn’t tell you WHEN and HOW LONG you’re doing those things on your list. 
  • Items without dedicated time intervals. If you don’t know how long something will take, set an amount of time (i.e. 2 hours) to work on it—try setting a timer and don’t break your concentration until it goes off.
  • Items that are not actionable: they have to be broken down into smaller tasks in order to be completed.

These things are what make us realize at the end of the day that we only got through half of what we planned to accomplish; we always plan too much in one day when we fall into these ‘productivity traps’.

Working At Home Like A Pro With The Help Of These Tips
The Importance Of Time-management Skills When Working From Home

‘Productivity traps’ are what make us feel busy all day, but leave us disappointed by what we finished (or didn’t) that day.

Things like chasing ‘vanity metrics’, we’re pouring our energy into things that don’t reward us the most when we don’t plan our days.


So what’s the big secret that’s transformed how I think about my time and productivity?

Two words my friend: time-blocking. Or is that two words? Whatever.

Learning about time-blocking is what started to totally change how I work. I never feel like I’m wasting my time. 

It’s given me the freedom as a freelancer to be more present; I don’t feel like I have to be glued to my phone because I know when I need to be… I scheduled it.


So how can you get better at time management right now?

If you haven’t already, you should really read my Part 1 of this post before going any further! If you haven’t done any time-tracking, time-blocking will be a failure.

Why?

Because you need to know what you do with your time first.

So go read that post right now if you need to learn what time-tracking is along with my tips and favourite apps to get started!

Now I’ve been raving for a while, but what’s the big deal?

You might be thinking “I’m self-employed and don’t need a schedule”, but that would be a huge mistake!

Our minds tend to segment things — to break them off into smaller chunks, so they’re easier for our brains to digest. This can naturally make it difficult to accurately track your time.

We sit down and draw for an hour, but it feels like it’s been minutes. Or, you’ll be at work for an hour and feel like you’ve been there all day. 

Our animal brains have no real concept of time.

That’s why I find time-blocking so important.


Time-blocking is the act of delegating set amounts of time for the tasks you need to complete, but in as much detail and specific as possible.

Whether, it’s my work life or the activities I do in my free time, I like to keep track of the time I’m doing anything because it forces me to be present.

Applying time-blocking to my entire life — rather than just my work life — is what really kicked my productivity into gear this year. Extending this philosophy past the common conception of a ‘work day’, I found is where I starting seeing the most returns.

I force myself to take a moment to asses (or reassess) what I’m doing, how long I’ve been doing it, and if it’s a thing I should be doing.

Spending 3 hours drafting a comic is great, but three hours of ‘drafting a comic’ with nothing to show but a queue of watched Youtube videos is not. 

How to increase engagement Live-streaming - Pin title card
Read about what live-streaming is and how it boosted my art at The Artist Journal.ca + download a FREE printable to get your goals ready for 2020!

Tracking your time alongside time-blocking will force to be in the present moment and will hold you accountable for how you use your time.

See how it all comes together?

I know this sounds totally neurotic and overkill, but I wouldn’t talk about it so much if it didn’t totally change my workflow.

Tracking all of my time has shown me a lot about how I work. It’s shown me:

  • What hours are my most productive
  • How long the regular tasks I do take
  • How much time I’m making for family and friends
  • What foods I like to eat and when

I’ve even figured out the best times of day to work on different projects.

I wouldn’t talk about it this much if it were no big deal.

I really want you try this too!

So, I’m going to break down how I effectively use my day planner so you can get better at time-management and get more time out of your day with time-blocking!

First off, I use colours to segment my day into the blocks I want. This is what my planner looks like before I even write in it:

I’ve been doing this for a while, so I know when I’m most productive and when I need to take breaks. I use the different colours to show that here! 

Having these blocks determined already really helps later in the week when I’m trying to remember when is the best times to pencil in clients, collaborate with others, and carve out time for intense ‘deep-work’ sessions.

When you time-block your entire day, make it look like a school time table, with clear hour blocks of time to write in. The acceptation here is it begins when you wake up, and stops when you go to sleep. This can even be done on plain notebook paper.

Things to include when doing this (including how long it takes to do it):

  • Wake up, get clean and dressed 
  • Make and eat Breakfast
  • Commute
  • Buying Groceries on your way home
  • Walking the dog after dinner
  • Binging YouTube tutorials, all of it

Everything you do doesn’t need to be productive, it shouldn’t be; it should just be what you want to accomplish. 

Whether you want to bake yourself cake and eat the whole thing, or go to the movies with an old friend — your time should be spent on things you’ve set out to do and not letting yourself go idle, losing hours to Netflix.

This is about what my day planner looks like after filling it out:

I give myself extra cushions of time to be sure I’m not late for things while still having time for regular tasks. When I have extra time I usually have a book on hand or an article I wanted to read online.

I leave some of my regular tasks out because I have notification reminders for them on my phone, or they’re already a part of my natural routine; things like watering my plants, doing dishes while I start dinner, and other household chores that take less than 30 minutes.

I suggest only planning 2-3 days in advance in this sort of detail, unless you have a regular job where you work a set amount of hours at the same time every day.

Now that I’m better at journalling and planning my days, I find myself planning in detail 4-5 days in advance. Any more than that is overwhelming for me — my queue can’t get too long or I get very stressed out.

I’m sure you can relate to that feeling of overwhelm, having so many things to do you can’t remember them all. That’s why writing it out is great.

You're Working From Home Totally Wrong
Quick Tips And What You Should Know About Working From Home

I do a brain dump at the end of every week of things I didn’t get done and things I need to finish the next week. I also think about new tasks I want to accomplish for the next week. 

I do this by referencing actionable items in my ‘brain dump’, allowing me to let go of my mental to-do list.

This allows me to concentrate on the task at hand, because I intentionally planned time to do it. Whether that’s enjoying playing video games or writing for my blog until my iPad dies, I no longer feel any guilt or weight on my shoulders because I know I’m doing what I set out to.


Planning my days this way has totally changed how I work and how I accomplish more of the things I want to do, faster.

I’m hoping this in-depth walk-through of my day planner has convinced you the impact of time-blocking to improve your productivity and quality of work, and life.

If you found this article helpful I would love to hear what you have to say in the comments! This is a much longer piece than I usually write and I would love to know what you think, or what you would like to see more of in the future.

Until next time,

-J

Joey Dean is an illustrator and artist lifestyle blogger.

Since starting his online art-based business in 2016, Joey has been writing educational articles to help other artists learn essential solo-preneur skills like time management and productivity and is best known for his ability to translate left-brained concepts for right-brained people.

Share his passion for comics and creative lifestyle on his blog, The Artist Journal, and catch him at @joeytoadstool across the universe.

Journalling Ideas To Guide You Through 2020 + A Free Journal Prompt List

One of my favourite things to do at the end of each year is to reflect on the previous 12 months and make “goals that build” for the next year — relevant goals that align to an overall vision.

This time of year really forces me to reflect on the past year and determine how close I am to my future vision as the previous one. Here’s a bit more on developing your future vision.

Set effective goals for the new year - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

*Disclaimer: This blog post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission to fund my coffee drinking habit if you use these links to make a purchase. You will not be charged extra, and you’ll keep me supplied in caffeine. It’s a win for everyone, really.

I don’t ordinarily journal my thoughts — especially if I’m trying to solve a problem — because I’m often frustrated by the delay from my brain to my shaky hands. I usually finish a multiple-sentence thought in less time than it takes me to write about 12 words by hand.

This time of year is when I make an exception to that rule, and actually find myself valuing what I’m frantically jotting down. What I’m writing is the type of thing I will look back on in the new year, when putting together my next goals that build — a topic I would love to cover more another time!

I’ll be referring to my goals every month when I plan out my milestones for the upcoming weeks, and again at the end of the next year! Because of this, I keep them as neat as possible.

I generally tend to use the iOS Notes.app for my basic drafts and brainstorming; but since I’m routinely adding, editing, revising, and referring to these reflective journal entries, I keep them all in one place: Notability. This app on my iPad Pro is essential, especially with the apple pencil. I’ve been using it since I got my iPad over 3 years ago and it’s gotten me through college lectures, work seminars, and years of project planning.

How I set new year goals - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

The types of things I find myself reflecting on are always: work, finances, hobbies, and home. 

I worked hard this year, really hard. Constantly strung-out, flaking on plans, and sleeping for 12 hours every day kind-of-tired. I don’t regret any of it, though. I feel better than ever: I feel alive. I’ve also learned how to push my limits, set boundaries, and treat myself with compassion.

One of my goals for this year is to be more composed and diligent, and have been embodying that over the past few weeks. I’ve already crushed a couple milestones before the year even started! Talk about the power of intention…

Think about what kind of wins you want to make this year.

What have you accomplished this year that you would like to bring with you into 2020?

Journalling our best year yet for artist New Years' goal setting - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

Obviously work and finances are deeply co-related, but when you have more than one source of income, things get complicated. Between licensing more of my artwork, finding distributors to work with in 2020, and selling my painting archives; I already have a slew of financial goals I want to meet this year with some new side-hustles planned as well! 

To accomplish my financial goals I’ve been working through the “Master Your Money” bundle by Ultimate bundles and boy, it’s a treat! Even if there wasn’t over a dozen video lessons, the workbooks, ebooks, and printable materials provided are more than worth it!

I’ve already gotten a leg-up on meal-planning (my ultimate weakness) and keeping better track of my monthly purchases; now would be a great time of year to get started mastering your money and a great way to start off a new decade right! (If you purchase your bundle through my link, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you!*)

 I’ve improved my confidence so much this year, in a way I would have never expected!

How?

By learning how to cook.

Not just food, either. I have some favourite recipes to share to make your household more self-sustainable. And because making things yourself is Punk AF.

I’ve not only perfected by bread-making skills, but learned a ton of bulk-cooking recipes (thanks to Cheap Lazy Vegan), and make ALL of my own household cleaners. I even DIY some of my own skincare products now and my skin looks better than ever! All of these recipes I use can also be found on my Pinterest boards, where I’m constantly active!

I would love to share some of my tips and recipes for saving over $50 a month in your home! If this is something you would be interested, please let me know in the comments or via email! I’d love to cover things such as the many money-saving uses of Castile soap, as well as safe and practical uses for essential oils in your home.

free journal prompts for dominating your New Years' resolutions - Pinterest Graphic
Download your 6 free journal prompts printable for dominating your New Years’ resolutions at TheArtistJournal.ca

I wanted to leave you with some of my favourite journal prompts to get you thinking about how you want 2020 to look for you:

  • Write down 10 things you need more of in your life — pick three to focus on for the next three months.
  • Write down three actions you can take to embody these things throughout the new year.
  • List 5 things you can do to make yourself happy — right now.
  • Make a list of 25 things you’re grateful for from the past year.
  • List 100 things — big or small — that you would like to accomplish in the 2020’s.
  • Envision and record your perfect day. Think about what it would contain and write it down in as much detail as possible.
  • Make a list of your passions. Next, make a list next to it (a table) and list your priorities: where your time goes. Are you satisfied with how they match up? Is there anything you want to change?

Tip: Keep a copy with your weekly planner to keep you on track throughout the year while planning your day-to-day. Download that freebie!

So what will you accomplish in the new decade?

Photo by Alex Nemo Hanse on Unsplash

Now that I’m 14 weeks post-surgery and have gotten the O-K from my surgeon, I plan on running again. Between chronic illness and gender dysphoria, it’s something I haven’t been able to do for myself in years. Once it’s above 40 degrees Fahrenheit I can hit the trail behind my house with my new trainers!

Leave me a comment responding to one of these prompts, or what you want to accomplish by the end of 2020! In the meantime, also check out my latest piece on making a bigger impact with your art in 2020!

Until next time,

-J

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How To Find Your Art Niche And Why You Need One To Rock Your Business This Year

Why You Need The Right Niche Pinterest Title Card
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 mindsetFinding 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. @ The Artist Journal (DOT) CA

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.
Easy Ways To Find Your Niche Pinterest Title Card

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.

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

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.

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Read more at The Artist Journal .CA

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,

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The Artist Journal initials blog logo

-Joey @ The A/J

Use Your Doubts And Fears To Find Future Success: 2 of 2 articles

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!

Coffee mug reading "hustle" sitting on a desk with an iPad and Apple Pencil.
Build your confidence as a new entrepreneur by asking all the right questions.

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.

Photo by Štefan Štefančík on Unsplash

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

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