Contracting to Expand

Before a woman gives birth she has contractions. Before she can be how she needs to be to give birth there is pain. And then there is expansion and the baby is born. And there is light and love and the pain is no longer the focus.

And when we're going through a period of contraction in our life, it can seem painful and prolonged and like it came out of nowhere. But what I'm coming to learn is that it means you are actually preparing to birth something new, to change on a physical, spiritual, mental, emotional level. But it's tough when you don't know what is on the other side of this pain, of this temporary darkness, of this internal struggle. 

Right now I'm in a period of contraction. I'm going inward, and it's not a comfortable feeling. I want to continue on my way, the way I had been- but there is a strong pull saying NO. No to pushing hard, it's not that time, no to putting yourself too far out there, no to overworking, no to stress, no to busy, no to everything I've been holding onto so tightly that I've stunted my own growth. 

What can we do while we go through this tunnel? If I could fly to Bali and relax by the beach, meditate, read for days and not deal with anything I would. (And drink out of coconuts, I love that.) But most of us still have responsibilities and things we can't just put on hold. 

So try this: Remove the excess in your life and allow space for this experience. Take a break from social media, say no to dealing with people who drain you, do only the necessary work, listen to your body and allow yourself the time to just BE. That might mean crying, that might be watching movie after movie, that might mean taking a walk every day when you normally run. Just give yourself the space to choose in the moment what feels best. 

All you need to do is be you. Focus on finding joy. Focus on what brings you to life. Find the fun. Release the guilt of not doing more right now. Be okay with feeling like a hot mess crazy person for a bit. And keep looking forward to that moment when you see the opening, the expansion, the light at the end of the tunnel zooming towards you, and get excited for your next chapter. 

Are Distractions Taking Over Your Life?

Focus, focus...Ok why am I lying on the ground again?!

Focus, focus...Ok why am I lying on the ground again?!

Right now I am writing this blog even though I decided I was going to do yoga and meditate. Why? Because 1. I haven't written a post in months (better start again RIGHT NOW!) and 2. Distractions are easier to focus on than the stuff we have to do and even the stuff we actually say are our priorities. It's not necessarily more fun/fulfilling but it is EASIER, most likely because it's right in front of us (hello phone!) or it's been brought to us by someone else, therefore we don't really need to do anything or take action. (For instance my laptop was next to me and my yoga mat is at least 4 ft. away, hence why I'm here not there.) 

If you made a list of the top 5 things in your life you'd like to focus on and do every day or every week, it would look really simple. Nice and easy, just 5 things that are truly important and meaningful to you. Ahhh, what a beautiful life that would be!

Then cue the distractions. Unfortunately, we are so bombarded these days with not only the stuff we have to do, but all the stuff everyone else is doing. And we just want to eat up all those Instagram posts and click all the article links on Facebook! Honestly, if you think about how much of your day is spent on distractions or things that aren't on your Top 5 Important Stuff list, or even necessary to you getting through and having a good day, it's nuts! At least it is for me, but I'm going to hope you're in the same boat so I don't feel bad about it. 

And the thing is- I get a lot done. Like every day I cross lots of stuff off my to-do list. I can tell you 20 things I accomplished this week. But if I really thought about it I can list way more that I did/listened it/watched/engaged with/stressed over/handled that weren't a priority, or even my responsibility. (I literally just checked my Facebook notification on my computer then looked at my phone and opened Facebook AH!). So distractions are everywhere.  

The other thing about distractions is they keep us away from our emotions. Have you ever gotten so caught up in being busy and just DOING things to avoid really being in touch with and identifying your emotions? It's common and again, easy to do. If you're feeling out of sorts, or just haven't taken time to have a quiet moment to check in with yourself, take it now. What are you ignoring while you're busy playing with the distractions in your life? Are they taking something away from you, like feeling freedom and joy? Maybe you're due for a good cry, let yourself have that, be completely indulgent in taking time to be with yourself. Feel all the feelings. 

So how do you combat distractions from taking over your life? I don't have the answer to this one but I'm really curious how my days and weeks would not just look but FEEL if I consistently denied engaging with distractions. Now I just have to stop writing this blog and get back to what I planned on doing today so I can try that out! 

Tell me how you keep focused on the important stuff and avoid distractions overrunning your life!

Fighting Fear, Finding Lightness

Stress is a pretty constant companion on some level to anyone working a job or running a business. (Or living a life- right?)

And fear is basically a conjoined twin if you're an entrepreneur. So how do people accomplish all these amazing feats all the time when they're accompanied by stress and fear?? How do they even take the first baby step to their big dream?

In my online course (Financial Love for Artists) I work with emerging artists and we take a mindful and loving approach to doing things like opening a business bank account, setting up a pricing structure, and figuring out what the heck they need to do for taxes. And on paper(err...website page) that seems pretty straight forward. And even if you're not an artist there's probably something that's been sitting on your to-do list for many months. So why do so many of us get stuck taking these steps?

Well, we're hanging out with fear and stress. We're buds. BFFs. And we're scared of the "what ifs". What IF my art doesn't sell and I have no money to put in that bank account? What IF nobody wants to hire me for photography? What IF I'm a big freakin' loser and don't make this happen and there is somebody (or many people) waiting to tell me "I told you so" at the end of it? 

It's scary! 

And then again, it's simple. Fear is heavy. It pulls us down, envelopes us and tells us it will keep us safe. Don't make a move, don't take a risk, don't do that thing you really need and WANT to do because WHAT IF?! Better not.

What the brave ones realize, is there is a lightness that comes after pushing past that fear. Once you're on the other side of it you see it wasn't actually that big and scary, but it sure was HEAVY. And that's how people take risks, accomplish things and move up over and over again. They know to reach their goals and get their dreams out of the clouds and into their homes, they must continuously take on fear and pull themselves UP into the light. And it feels good.

Elizabeth Gilbert has a great chapter on dealing with fear and creativity in her book Big Magic.

"It isn't always comfortable or easy- carrying your fear around with you on your great and ambitious road trip, I mean- but it's always worth it, because if you can't learn to travel comfortably alongside your fear, then you'll never be able to go anywhere interesting or do anything interesting." 

It's true, and you don't want to be the most boring person ever, right?! So no, you don't have to try to banish all fears, or pretend you're a total enlightened psycho and have no fears. You just have to know that on the other side of the fear is a lovely clarity and lightness. The lightness comes from not only doing something you didn't think might be possible for you(big pat on the back), but you are continuing on YOUR path. It's not a perfect path. Scooting up, over, and around one fear doesn't mean more won't pop up. It doesn't mean you won't make mistakes. But it does mean you're pursuing what you want. You're taking action. You're BEING who you're meant to be. And that feeling is completely light.  

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

The Power of Positivity

If you’re like most people you complain. Maybe it’s every day, maybe it’s just in your head, maybe it’s less than others. I’m a complainer. I think it’s in my DNA. Well, really I think I’m just making observations and letting my boyfriend know EXACTLY how hungry I am- but he qualifies it as complaining. And I know I’m not alone.

I’ve realized that it’s common practice these days to use complaining and negative experiences to bond. It makes sense- you meet up with someone and you’re both like “YES PARKING SUCKS TODAY!” or at a networking event you bond over how much you actually hate most networking events. It’s sometimes easier even then bonding over things you love or stuff you’re really excited about.

Over the last year I’ve become part of a group of women who are AMAZING. Like seriously kicking ass running multiple businesses, traveling, expanding their personal lives, supporting others, and greatly enhancing my life. What I’ve realized is that although we all go through ups and downs and have dealt with heartbreaks and business fails and everything in between- when we get together we don’t complain. I don’t think I’ve heard any one of 12 or so women be negative or complain or harp on something for more than 30 seconds, maybe a minute. It is truly miraculous in a time when people LOVE to use their negative experiences to bond. (Hello extensive Yelp review writers!)

And this is a powerful realization because it’s not that we’re being fake with each other- but quite the opposite. We want to be our best selves, in life and for each other, and we know being negative doesn’t actually HELP anyone. Including yourself. So even though I was down the other night, we got together and instead of talking it out we had fun and talked about the things we’re working on that light us UP and get our creative juices flowing. We laugh, we smile, we support each other.  We bring a positive attitude and it makes a difference.

Now I’m not saying don’t FEEL negative emotions. Definitely allow yourself to be mad/sad/frustrated/annoyed. But there is some science to the “fake it 'til you make it” theory at least for happiness. (Check out science behind smiling.) And here’s an interesting thought: If you put on your best attitude for others, can do you that for yourself when you’re not in public? Again, not saying to ignore your feelings. But if you had a real shitty day, does complaining about it make it better? No. So what if instead you did things that would turn your mood around. What if you did something nice for yourself? What if you didn’t burden someone else with stuff that in the big picture doesn’t even matter?

If you’re familiar with mindset work it goes something like this: observe your thoughts, take your negative thought patterns and flip them into something positive. Rinse and repeat until eventually you’re able to let go of negative thoughts quicker, turn a situation around and generally be a more positive, peaceful person. It's something I've been working on for a year and I can say truly has made a difference in my world. 

I also realized that after spending time with these women I’m ALWAYS energized. There are some friends who you hang out with and by the end you’re ready to leave because you’re totally drained. But that is just never the case with my beautiful group, and it’s amazing!

So I challenge you to notice: are you complaining so someone else will try to cheer you up? Are you able to just BE, whether it’s sad or mad and not unleash it on someone else? Can you be the best version of yourself while you're in a negative space? What if you flipped your internal dialogue to positive? What if you projected positivity? It’s better on this side friends. Try it out!

Let me what you think in the comments! 

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

 

Insurance for Artists- What It Is & Why You Need It!

A few months ago I was lucky to meet a woman who owns an insurance agency that specializes in working with artists. I had to admit I did not have insurance for my art business and really didn't know what it could do for me. And of course- what it cost! Being a solopreneur (or any entrepreneur, right?) you are always keeping your income & outcome in mind, and deciding what you NEED to spend money on and what can be passed up. Turns out insurance is not something to pass on for many reasons! 

So I decided to interview the lovely people at Michals Insurance based in Watertown, MA and find out what art insurance was and how my fellow creatives might benefit! Michals does personal, business and fine art insurance and serves a wide range of clients around the USA. For this interview I spoke with Vice President of the company, Susan Michals. 

RWC: What is insurance and why is it important for creative business owners and individuals? 

Michals: Insurance is protection. We sell protection, and the most important thing is to make sure our customers understand what they're purchasing. One of the things is to make sure your business is protected, and make sure your equipment is insured. To have professional liability is important, to make sure you have all the right documents in place incase something doesn't work out. If a client gets angry and decides to send a letter from a lawyer, if you get sued, there's protection put in place for you and we help navigate that. 

RWC: So who do you work with and when should artists look into getting insured?

Michals: We work with galleries, museums, book dealers and individual artists. If they are doing anything and making money, yes look into insurance. Once you become an entity, you can be a sole proprietor, but do something to separate yourself from your business so you're protected. 

RWC: What about new business owners & artists who are weary about investing money into something they aren't sure they need? There's so many expenses running your own business and not knowing how much insurance costs could prevent people from even looking into it.

Michals: I think it's something that should be built into your start up costs. I can't say what the cost would be, because it's based on individual factors. So we would need to have a conversation to figure that out. 

When we put programs together, everything is individually tailored. No two cases are the same because everyone is different- down to what's on your schedule, what equipment you use, it all varies. We get to know what the person does, how much money they make, and we want to make sure we provide a service of education so everyone knows what they're getting.

It depends who you're photographing, what locations you're going to, do you need certificates before being allowed to work in certain places? We figure all that out based on individual needs.

RWC: Good to know! And if artists were looking for insurance what would they look for in an insurance agency? 

Michals: Fine art insurance is a niche, and that comes into play for clients who have inventory. Michals can cover insurance for every aspect of your business, but other general insurance companies can help cover artists as well. For fine art inventory we have specific questions and precautions we know to take because we specialize in it. 

RWC: What about digital artists and digital inventory?

Michals: You have to look at the most valuable thing in the production line and what happens when that gets damaged or lost? So if you're working in digital formats your laptop and external hard drives are where your work is stored and needs to be protected. If your physical stuff is stolen/damaged from an insurance point you'd be covered for those objects. But if your work isn't backed up in multiple places that can't be replaced obviously. 

And if your equipment or whatever you use to make money is lost and you're unable to work because of it, you can be reimbursed for the income you would have normally made in that timeframe. It's built into the coverage. And if you miss weeks of work and lose that income, it's important to know you can submit documents on that and be reimbursed based on your income history.

RWC: Wow I didn't know that! I bet a lot of people don't know that.

Michals: Yeah most people don't realize how much coverage and protection they really have access to. 

And if you're involving other people in your business it's helpful to know what you need. If you hire someone for one day as an assistant you technically should have workers' compensation. Or if you hire someone to transfer your art or help set up an art show- and they get hurt while doing so, workers' compensation comes into play. You can carry the smallest amount of workers' comp, but then if something happens you know you're covered.  

RWC: So people can use insurance not just to protect art and equipment but their businesses and anyone involved in the process. 

Michals: Yes and it's all adjustable, so if things change people can just call and update us. It's important we know what is in your inventory, what's been sold, what new camera you got etc. It's just about communicating and keeping us updated so we can protect what you really have. 

RWC: That's so interesting, you are dealing with so many different situations all the time! 

Michals: Yes, and we make sure to check in with clients and if their renewal is coming up we talk and get everything up to date! Insurance is key to what artists are doing when they go out in the world and do work, and involve anyone in their business. And it's really serious and important to understand what you're buying, so talk with someone who can explain in layman's terms what insurance can do for you. 

RWC: Right and it's something you may not think about, but when you really need it and don't have it, it becomes a very stressful situation. 

Michals: Exactly. The best scenario is you have insurance and never have to use it. It's peace of mind. Anything can happen, but we don't want people to run around worrying about it, let us worry about it. 

Thank you so much Susan! This was so informative and I hope other artists will feel more knowledgable now about their options & need for insurance. To find out more about Michals Insurance and how they can protect your business, check out their website. 

Let us know if you have insurance or if you're going to go get some after reading this! Comment below with your thoughts. 

Wishing everyone a SAFE and creative week! 

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

The Best Thing To Do For Yourself- Ask For Help

If you're like me (and a lot of other people!) you may find yourself wanting to learn/do/improve your life & business on your own. It took me a long time to really admit I needed more than myself to create the career I desired. And since I decided to let others help me on my journey my life has improved drastically. Not just in business but in my personal life as well!

If you're at a point where you're frustrated, unenthused or even ashamed of your creative career thus far, then take a deep look at where you've been denying yourself help. Maybe you need a total overhaul or maybe it's as simple as putting in the time to ask someone about your marketing, your pricing or your customer etiquette. 

Once I dove into my own mission of finding mentors, guides and creative business buddies I've expanded not only my knowledge but my network. I've gained friends in the process who inspire and support my big creative dreams. And I've learned from others who've created businesses I admire and gotten an inside look at what it will take to get mine to my ideal level. 

And the most important part of what I learned when I asked for help- is that the most successful people get a lot of help!! High-achieving and inspirational people are able to be that way because of the help they've received, and continue to receive. It's not only opened my eyes to the positive force of a community you trust but also that no one is a "one woman show" in reality. 

So I challenge you to ask for help, and lots of it! Let go of the idea you can and should be able to do everything on your own. You and whoever you work with will be SO much better off when you go beyond yourself and let others in to help. 

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

What I Learned in 2 Minutes With a Gallery Owner

Recently I was in Martha's Vineyard photographing a four day event. Between working I explored the little town I was in and checked out a few of the galleries they had there. One day I found myself alone in a gallery and when I introduced myself to the woman sitting at the desk I found out she was the owner. I have to say I don't end up in many galleries these days and I knew I had to take the opportunity to ask some questions. 

I told her about Real World Creatives and our mission and asked if she had any insights for artists looking to work with galleries. Here's what I learned from our conversation:

1. Make sure you're appropriate. When reaching out to galleries make sure you've done the research on the gallery and know that it's an appropriate place for your work. This means finding out whether they represent local, regional, international artists or a mix. And, are the artists emerging, established or historical? If they are accepting submissions be certain you've provided all the information they request or may need to know to understand your work. 

2. Document your work and shows/exhibitions. Whatever shows or exhibitions you've participated in before you should have documentation for- photos as well as information on what other artists were showing with you. It helps galleries visual how your work is displayed and what might go with it in a gallery space. If you haven't been in shows I suggest having your website include sample images of how your work would look in a room/hall/environment that you envision it being shown in. (That may or may not require some photoshopping!)

3. Reach out, don't wait to be found. While gallery owners are always on the look out for talent they will also get tips from different galleries, artists and others in the industry. Reach out and start making connections with those in your area. Go online and find the social media and networking groups gallery folk use and start engaging. A friendly acquaintance that knows of your work could be the missing link to getting in with a gallery! 

I'd love to know who of the RWC tribe has been in galleries or would like to be? Comment below. If you have more questions, as always let me know so we can get you some answers! 

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

Ask an Artist: Interview with Painter Megan Carty

So happy I got connected with our guest today, because her work is gorgeous and she's just as fantastic! Here she brings you real world artist advice from her creative space in Massachusetts.

 

RWC: What is your current position/job title? 

MC: Fine Artist/Painter of COLOR! (And full-time Mom of 3 little kiddos.)

RWC: Love that! How long have you been in that role? And what did you do before?

MC: I’ve been focused on painting as my business for 10 months now (despite it being a hobby for over 26 years). Before this, I was a graphic designer in the retail field creating store signage, packaging, and other print materials. For a short while I saw success as a wedding invitation and stationery designer and even did my own letterpress printing. Once I had children I had to simplify!

RWC: Where do you live?

MC: I live in the cozy countryside of Pepperell, Massachusetts!

RWC: What gets you excited about what you do?

MC: I love to express my vision in color. I try to make what I would want on my own wall and I try my hardest to spread happiness or soothing comfort through my paintings. It’s exciting to serve others in this way, and know that I’m contributing to the world in my own small way.

RWC: Right, we're always our own first client! Did you go to school for an art degree? If so where?

 MC: I got a BFA in Advertising Design from Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts: School of Art and Design in the year 2000. Almost all of my courses were art or design focused. I gravitated to any elective that involved drawing or painting!

RWC: Did you find it easy to transition from school to the “real world”? 

MC: At first I found it easy. But I quickly learned that what I was passionate about or believed to be true were not necessarily what the paying clients were interested in. I spent a great deal of time creating things for others- much like a robot. I felt creatively dry and derailed. It was a humbling time as I learned to focus on learning about business and the realities of being a designer.

RWC: How long did it take you to find your niche/soul purpose/medium of choice?

MC: It was about 15 years after graduation when I decided to stop feeling fearful of following my ultimate dream of being a full-time painter. I’d always wanted to be an artist but had a misguided belief that it would be impossible and unrealistic. I’ve learned a lot about positive mindset in my years and I can make anything I want come to fruition if I plan for it and put goals around it. With the internet, I am able to reach a global audience in need of art! There’s no excuse!

RWC: So true. Mindset is so key to success. How much did you charge for your first client/commission?

MC: My first big painting commission was $900. The client had a specific size and color scheme in mind and I created an abstract piece based on her vision. She was happy, I was happy and it was an overall win!

RWC: Did you ever do work for free, and do you think it's necessary? 

MC: Never do work for free! First of all, it is unethical. For people to value the arts, they must respect the time, education, sweat and expertise that goes into the final product. When you give it away for free, it ruins this understanding. Also, working for free (or for very little) undermines all the other artists of the world trying to make a good living. We aren’t just supposed to SURVIVE, we are supposed to THRIVE. We must always value our time, our talents, our education, and our expertise. Besides, when the plumber comes over to fix my pipes, I don’t expect him to do it for free. Nor do I ask! And I certainly wouldn’t walk into a restaurant and demand my meal be the priciest on the menu and I expect it to be FREE. Bottom line: Don’t devalue your business!

RWC: Do you have advice for art students? 

MC: My advice for art students is to really explore deep down what it is you most would love to be creating in an ideal world. Remove the fear or doubt. Take that answer and run with it. Find experts in that field and see how they’ve built success for themselves. Really take time to learn from the ground up. And stand firm in your belief that YOU can do it too. There is enough success to go around and there is something for EVERYONE.

RWC: YES! I love to say there is room for every artist to be successful. What resources were/are helpful to you as a creative? 

MC: I’m obsessed with podcasts. They are free and I learn a lot about marketing and business from them. I also love online classes at places like CreativeLive. I’m always learning new things and am so grateful that I can!

RWC: Huge CreativeLive fan. How do you define and acknowledge your success? 

MC: Success, for me, is about having the freedom in my day to do what I most like to do. Sometimes I want to spend extra time with my family. Other times, I want to paint all day. I try to set my goals so that I have this freedom and still accomplish all I need. I also see success as making a good income from my art; it is a business and I want it to thrive and bring in an abundance of wealth! I’m not ashamed to put that out there because it is true and we all deserve to prosper! Each little thing that goes well in my business is cause for a mini celebration and I make sure to give thanks for any good press or kudos that come my way. You have to celebrate every little win and keep it fun!

RWC: What do you wish you’d learned sooner about living a creative and happy life?

MC: I wish I’d just gone for it sooner! I was so filled with self-doubt and fear. As I’ve gotten older, I’m less concerned with what others think…this has played a role in my newfound bravery to just throw my hat in the ring. Life is too short to sit around wondering what could have been. Over time, you start to see other artists having maddening amounts of success and you think “Well, if THEY can do it, why can’t I?” Don’t wait for everything to be perfect, just show up and share your gifts. That’s why you have them!

RWC: If there’s one or two things you think are necessary to spend money on to help/achieve a successful creative path what are they? 

MC: I would spend money on classes on marketing/public relations…there are lots of online courses where you can learn at your own pace so you can be prepared to run your own art business. Never be afraid to spend money on bettering yourself for your career. It all comes back to you in the value of your art. Don’t be cheap with yourself or that’s all you’ll get back!

RWC: Do you have coaches/mentors that you look to as well? And would you recommend others to do so?

 MC: I currently am working with a business coach and am thrilled with the results! It is helpful for someone else who is objective to look at my business and show me where I could be more brave, or to ask me the big questions that help get me “unstuck.” I now realize I can go after anything I want if I simply believe I can and make a plan for it. I highly recommend using a coach! I’ve had so many “a-ha” moments since I’ve started and it’s been invaluable!

RWC: How often do you set and/or reassess goals- both personal and business wise? 

MC: I set goals each week and these support the goals I have for each month…for each quarter…and for the year. I reassess at the end of each month to see what progress I’m making, what is working versus what is not, and to figure out what my next goals need to be. I love this because I feel like I always know what general direction I’m going. My goals are like my North Star.

RWC: Can you tell us about any challenges of having an art business? 

MC: The challenges are being your own boss and holding yourself accountable to reach your goals and maintain momentum. Selling art is not for the meek! It is a long-game—a marathon— and you have to have the passion and patience to lay down a good business foundation brick-by-brick. It takes a lot of tenacity and faith.

RWC: Wise words. What is the best thing about being a creative professional? 

MC: I love having the freedom to make my own schedule! I also love knowing my work is making someone else’s day a bit brighter. I get to do what brings my heart and soul such deep joy and share it with others. I also like that I am in control of my own success.

RWC: Any other tips, tricks, or words of advice you'd like to share? 

MC: You’ve gotta believe in what you do. Stand behind it, own it, and nurture it. Nobody else is going to do that for you. If you are unsure of your purpose with your work, then take serious time to ask why you make what you do? Why do you want to be an artist? What is special about what you do? This gives you the foundation for your mission and is the foundation for everything you will build. Without a “why” then you have no idea who you are serving with your work and you won’t know who you are marketing to. Really explore what it is you love to create and figure out the “why” and you won’t go wrong! 

Thank you so much for your insight Megan!! To check out her work and purchase some paintings to make you & your walls happy head to her website: www.megancartyart.com

If you are a thriving visual artist and want to help others by sharing your path to creative success- reach out! We'd love to have you. 

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

How & Why You Should Network in College

I've had some discussions lately about networking and thought I'd share insights for those of you questioning how & why you can start networking while in school.

Myth: You have to have a job/business/biz cards to network.

Fact: The point of networking is to make connections & relationships, not just to tell people about your work. If you're looking for a job networking in different groups (can be in person&online) is a great way to get leads. If you don't have a business or job and you're trying to figure out what you want to do networking can also benefit you as you can meet a range of people and connect with those in your industry of choice to ask questions! Also, if you don't have business cards it's cool, just make sure to get the other person's and then FOLLOW UP! (Template for follow up emails here.)

Myth: People are going to judge you for being a student. 

Fact: Most decent humans out there will be happy to give you advice, and will be impressed you're taking the initiative to join professional groups while in school. Age does not determine your capacity to have engaging interactions. Be pleasant, ask questions and don't be shy about saying you're a student and working to figure out what path you may want to take after school. 

Myth: Every adult is comfortable networking.

Fact: Almost no one is naturally comfortable or even enthused about traditional networking events! It's hard to go out on a Wednesday night and meet strangers no matter what your age is. It's about making it a habit and committing to attend and getting something out of it. So don't worry about feeling awkward and walking up to a stranger to chat- everyone feels awkward! 

Myth: If I am not a professional I will have nothing to talk about.

Fact: Professionals aren't unemotional robots, they have lives and feelings too! Don't feel like you only have to talk business. One of my favorite things to ask to break the ice is "Do you have any travel plans coming up?" This gets people comfortable and excited to talk about their vacation or next trip. Asking some more personal questions like this will give you an easier time when you realize you can just have a conversation. 

So yes, start networking in college. It may take a while to find the groups that you enjoy but they're out there! These days there are so many choices for HOW you can interact and create connections, so don't assume it's just guys in suits at happy hour that are able to network. Check out MeetUp.com for endless groups, and search Facebook for online communities of every breed that will support your career interests.

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

P.s. If you want to get event photography experience volunteer to shoot networking events-you get free entry, a chance to mingle & build a portfolio!  

Ask an Artist: Interview with Photographer Kate Lemmon

Woot woot! This is our first interview in a series I'm calling "Ask an Artist". I got to meet Kate in person (we both live in Boston) and she's such a talented, delightful person. So excited for you guys to meet her and hear some real world advice!


RWC: What’s your creative title? And how long have you been in this role?

KL: Owner/Photographer at Kate Lemmon Photography. I officially opened business in 2008 while in high school, but I’ve been full time since 2014.

RWCWhat’s your art education background?

KL: I studied 6 years of conservatory (to be a classical flutist) and then went right into doing photography full time. I'm a mostly self-taught photographer though. I went to a communications magnet high school and my senior year I took a mentorship with a photographer. I actually had to reach out 3 times before she answered but she agreed to meet with me on a weekly basis. And she showed me how to set things up legally, and how to organize and really got me thinking about marketing and getting clients. It was such a huge gift to have her insight.

RWC: What makes you excited about your work?

KL: I love helping people see what’s beautiful in their lives. As a portrait photographer my goal is to bring out the best side of people in every session. For engagement sessions having people see what their love actually looks like is really special.  That's why I first got into photography- the idea of creating family history. I love that my work has meaning in people’s lives, and will for generations to come.

RWC: How did you decide what you wanted to do?

KL: When there’s so many people telling you what path they think you should be on it can be really hard to figure out what YOU want. A lot of people wanted me to be a classical musician and it took a lot of courage to say no, that’s not actually what I want. But I’m so grateful that I did!

RWC: What's the best part of working in a creative field? 

KL: My favorite part of this job is that I get to set my own lifestyle. I can set my agenda on a day-to-day basis and have days that vary. If I’m really excited about a project I can just focus on that. Some people think paying self-employment tax is outrageous, but I look at it like I pay to have the lifestyle that I want and it’s the best.

RWC: How do you keep your creative juices flowing? 

KL: This past year I did 140 shoots, so I’m constantly behind my camera, and I can see that I improve with each shoot. I make little tweaks and learn along the way. It’s great to do a year in review, and I can see all the work I’ve done and people I’ve met, which makes me happy. Sometimes we forget that we did really awesome stuff because we’re so busy!  

RWC: How much did you charge for your first client?

KL: Great question! In high school I started doing class photos for my friends and I charged $50/shoot.

RWC: What are your thoughts on doing work for free?

KL: Something that I learned from my mentor was to never charge $0. So because of that from the start people respected what I was doing. A couple times of year I donate time for a session and it’s given through school auctions. I’ve found that people who are actual friends want to pay me, and support what I’m doing. And people who kept asking for discounts are not real friends, and don’t respect my business.

The key is if you’re going to do something for free make sure that it’s for someone who you’d want to work for in the future and that it makes sense for your own marketing purposes.

RWC: What are the challenges of owning an art business?

KL: The biggest challenge for me is setting boundaries. Going home and trying to turn off work was tough, so I now actually leave my computer at the office so I can go home and have family time. When you’re an entrepreneur your to-do list is never ending so you have to find a balance that works for you.

RWC: Any advice for students?

KL: Get your financial act together as soon as possible! Even the most enjoyable art won’t be enjoyable at all if you’re struggling to make a living. If you can’t pay your bills then you won’t have time to make your art in the first place. The more quickly you can eliminate the stress financially, the more you’re going to enjoy creating and working. Having a financial buffer in place was the best thing I did my first year full time, so that if anything came up or I got sick I wouldn’t be stressed.

RWC: What resources have been beneficial for you?

The book I Will Teach You to Be Rich- by Ramit Sethi. I love that book so much I bought copies for my friends! After reading it I put together my whole financial plan. Also YouNeedaBudget.com - is a software and methodology to personal finance and budgeting. You can sign up and they have a ton of educational resources, and I use it on a weekly basis.

Finding a community of people that do what you do is also so important. Online communities are great, because even if you can’t meet in person you can log-in whenever and get support. I talk to photographers in online forums on a daily basis, and we support and help each other.  The key thing is you’re not alone in doing what you’re doing! 

RWC: What about equipment? What's a good place to start for photographers?

KL: Don’t spend too much money on equipment before you understand composition and lighting. I’m grateful I didn’t have top of the line equipment when I started because shooting with a mid-level camera forced me to find and work with the light more because my camera would just not shoot well in low light! 

RWC: How do you set goals?

KL: It’s really interesting what you realize about your business when you take 20 mins to seriously think about it! This year I wrote down all my small and large goals and next week I’m going to put my goals into my calendar so that by the end of the year everything is done. I put everything down and schedule it out day by day, week by week and sometimes minute by minute for the crazy days!

RWC: How do you define & acknowledge your success?

KL: Success for me is making my clients happy because nothing makes me more fulfilled than hearing I’ve made a difference for them. Success is knowing I get to do what I love on a daily basis. I’m a huge fan of setting goals and checking them off so if all my boxes are checked off at the end of the day I’m happy!

RWC: What do you wish you’d learned sooner about living a creative & happy life?

KL: A friend of mine shared an article that totally shaped the way I view being a creative person. I used to feel a lot of pressure to be happy all the time, and it’s stupid because everyone has their ups and downs and you know that, but you feel like you should always be striving to be happy. But the article talked about how creative people have higher ups and lower downs than most people which is normal and that’s why you’re creative- you’re able to experience all facets of life and feel in a wider range of emotions. Seeing that I fit all those qualities they talked about took the pressure off for trying to feel happy all the time, and makes it easier to deal with when I do have a down day.

RWC: Any other words of advice for creative pros?

KL: There’s never going to be a day when everything is done, so just knowing and being comfortable with the idea that as creatives we’re constantly going to be striving to do better and move forward, is helpful.  


Thank you so much, Kate!!

To see her beautiful work click here.

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

The #Hustle is Real, the #Struggle is Not.

Hey friends. This idea right here- the hustle is real, the struggle is not- finally got through my head this year. I know it's a popular phrase (#thestruggleisreal) and you might be like uh yeah it is real, Sonya! Let's just look at it in relation to our creative work though, because we all know the struggle to not eat pizza every day is real. (Where my pizza lovers at?!) 

But here's the thing. Hustle is NOT the same as STRUGGLE. Oh...ok that makes sense because entrepreneurs and artists who are really hustling are busy doing AND making money, and people who are busy and NOT making money are just struggling. 

So how do you know if you're hustling in a positive, forward direction? You will be busy, you might even be a bit overwhelmed with your to-do list. But! You're working with people you want to work with, you're doing projects that get your brain and heart pumping, and you're working in areas that, while possibly challenging, are in your area of genius where you can SHINE. Are you tired, even stressed? Sure, it happens. But you're grateful for the work and so happy to be exhausted doing what you've chosen. 

4 Ways to Ensure You're Hustling Not Struggling:

  • Define your financial goals- monthly & yearly so you know exactly what you're working for and know how to price yourself accordingly. Nothing worse than being busy, exhausted and broke.
  • Are you doing work you're proud of and can stand behind? (I have definitely taken on photo projects I didn't really care about or believe in just to get the $ and it usually was not worth it!) Don't be scared to reach for, ask for and wait for the RIGHT projects. (But don't make the mistake of ONLY waiting!)
  • Are you doing self improvement along the way? If you're crazy busy but you're ignoring your health & spirit then you're not creating positive, sustainable momentum. (Even just a few times a day to say am I breathing? Drinking water? And take a stretch!)
  • Are you thinking about the big picture and strategically making everyday decisions based on moving toward that? It's SO easy to get bogged down in the tasks of our normal lives and get caught just winging it day-to-day. But you should have a big, dreamy vision that you're always keeping in mind even when taking small steps. 

So, tell me creative ones are you hustling or struggling? 

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

Don't Let "Scared" Hide Your Epic Gift

I just watched this video of an unknown (at the time, 2013) singer, AND HOLY- FRICKIN VOCAL CORDS OF A GODDESS- MOLY! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IChJ6eO3k48

I highly, highly recommend watching the whole video but if you want a summary- this beautiful soul tells the panel of talent judges she's come alone to perform incase she doesn't do well, and then won't have to let anybody down. And then she sings the most EPIC beautiful version of a song. Simon Cowell says her voice is "liquid gold" and we know he is the king of criticism. 

Mind blown. So how is it that she thought she might not absolutely kill it? I'm guessing along her journey someone told her eh, singing isn't a real career choice for you so don't pursue that. Maybe she's always been shy. Maybe no one took a moment to say YOU. ARE. AMAZING! 

We all have a unique voice, something worth sharing with the world. Even if you've been told your gift is not "a real job" or "too weird" or "no one will support you"- there is a whole world out there that begs to differ with those haters. DO NOT KEEP YOUR EPICNESS LOCKED UP!! Don't let the fear hold you back from unleashing what is yours to enjoy and share. I guarantee there will be people that support, love, and pay for your individual talents. Even if you start out alone, how quickly your tribe and fans can follow!

Be bold my friends. Sing your YOUR song. Paint YOUR painting. Cook YOUR dish. Dance YOUR routine. We'll be waiting.

Peace, love, & pixels,

Sonya & The rest of the world

Stop Trying, Start Working!

How & Why to Replace the Word Try

Do you ever hear (again and again) that you should eliminate the word try from your vocabulary? Trying to finish a project, trying to get a job, trying to make great art. Ever wonder what you're supposed to do instead of just continuously screeching,

"But I'm tryingggg!" 

Well I got an idea for ya. While I've been out networking, talking to strangers, proposing ideas and speaking about what it is I do

(freelanceandfineartphotographerandfounderofcareerresourcesplatformforemergingvisualartists - YEAH.) 

I realized that it doesn't sound super professional or confident to keep saying I'm "trying" to do all these things. Saying I'm trying doesn't relay how much effort and heart and hours I'm putting in, or all the connections I've made, or the progress that has been happening slowly but surely over many months. I'm happy to put in the sweat & tears, and somehow the word trying just sounds a little...whiny. I may not have checked off all my goals, or gotten the kind of recognition I'm hoping for yet, but it's definitely on the to-do list. 

So what are you left with to say when things are coming together, still in motion and maybe not quite where you want them to be?

I'm WORKING on finding a job I love.

I'm WORKING on my business plan.

I'm WORKING on being an epic boss lady, cardio-doing, recycling, creative QUEEN! (You too?!)

Working implies you are taking actions, moving forward, putting in time and strategically making your way.  I had a mini revelation when I realized that by describing not only what I do but what I'm working towards, I feel validated and professional in my efforts. It gives others the vibe that I'm confident, motivated, and dedicated to my goals. By using the word trying I felt limited, like I was saying I didn't have much direction or traction. And sometimes I don't know what the next step should be, but I'm working on figuring it out!

So. What are YOU working on? State it, validate it, and WORK IT! 

 

Fear of the Follow Up

Alright, we need to talk. This is one of the most common mistakes I see people make. And not just artists, but it may impact us the most. So what is it?

The follow up!

We've all been in the situation where we've gone to a networking event and collected a bunch of cards, or a friend tells us about a job opportunity, or an ideal client compliments your Instagram post. And you know you should send an email, submit a resume, or give a response. But then those little "What If" gremlins creep in and you hesitate. You think you'll do it later, or that the other person was just being polite and doesn't really want to work with you. What if the opportunity is TOO good for you right now? Or you're not really ready to have your own art show because it's a lot of work and you're already busy. 

STOP THE MADNESS. Break it down. Following up with an opportunity or a potential connection is just a continuation, reminder or beginning of a conversation. Seriously, stop freaking out. It doesn't mean anything will happen.

But!

What if you send a charming little email and the person on the other end reads it and realizes you're the perfect person to do __. Or that they lost your card and forgot your name and are now thrilled you've reached out because they have a client for you. Don't assume people will remember you, but do assume they'll appreciate you reminding them because you're an awesome person to know. And oh yeah they want to buy your biggest painting. ;)

Great follow up example: Dear __, It was so great to meet you at the __ yesterday! I really enjoyed talking to you about _. I'm interested in working on __ kinds of projects with __ kinds of people/companies. I'd love to set up a time to talk further and learn more about you. (Or keep each other in mind for future opportunities.) Here's where you can find me(insert website/portfolio/linkedin). Great connecting with you!  Sincerely, __.

Feel free to use as you need! 

Also, my dear texting only millenials, if someone asks you to *GASP* call them...do that!! I get it, I am no fan of phone calls even with people I know. You should hear me leave voicemails, it's seriously an on-going work in progress. But it's an important skill to practice and I guarantee will benefit you in the work world. (Side note: when people don't end up paying you as promised best believe you will be jumping on the phone!!) 

I can tell you from personal real world experience that I've not only received compliments on my follow up etiquette, but have gotten multiple clients(sometimes months later!) by sending a simple email or giving someone a call.

So stop fearing the follow up and start connecting! 

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

Dressing for the (Art) Job

There is some major tension between the idea of being an "artist" and being a "business professional". But why? I'm going to take a stab at it. 

For some reason a big part of the tension I feel when trying to establish whether I'm "artist" or "professional" is the look. For example, when I go to meet a new client, or attend a networking event I'm constantly torn between dressing "professional" (or business-y if you will) and looking like an artist. I want people to know I run my art business with professionalism and business savvy that can actually help their businesses, and I want to look like I have a personal aesthetic and can provide creative services. I assume others struggle with this as well, yes?

It might sound silly thinking how I accessorize makes a difference, but we know how we look to others effects their impression of us. And I think there is a deep rooted feeling that those in suits and shiny heels with briefcases and desk jobs are the real business professionals. In fact, artists almost always have to be business professionals as well when they're negotiating their services and products.

Hold up!  Did you say products?

Yes. Art is a product. Selling it counts as doing business. Fine art is included. No that doesn't mean you're any less passionate, creative or artsy because you call your creative work a product and you want to sell it. A lot of it. Okay? 

When you're studying art you aren't taught things like finance, communications, management, or whatever you actually learn in business school. (Note to self: ask friends what the heck is taught in business school!) We art students get out into the world and have to quickly learn a whole slew of new things so we can start getting down to business. Ah! Yes, we start learning about pricing, profit, cost of materials, charging for our time, expenses, taxes, legal structures, percentages of sales, marketing, contracts, and the list goes on and on. 

And all that business stuff is a lot more enjoyable to learn when it directly benefits your art and creative lifestyle. And when you can do it in jeans. No suit or business degree required to officially be a creative business professional. Don't shy away from learning what you need to know to make your art career successful even when it appears to be boring, tedious, and uncreative. If you're the best artist AND business person you can be, you're ready for some magic. 

So don't be intimidated by the "look" of business. Dress appropriately for your job, and know your shit. That's being a professional. 

Find tips and tools for art&business on our Pinterest boards.

And some books of course :)

 Business and Legal Forms for Fine Artists

Getting Your Shit Together- The Ultimate Business Manual for Every Practicing Artist

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

2015 Gift Guide for Creatives

Hey creatives! Whether you're in the midst of Hannukah, gearing up for Christmas, office white elephant parties, or just thinking ahead for birthday gifts... here's a list for you!(Or rather your loved ones who generously gift you things you actually want!) What are your favorite creative gifts to give or receive? List them in the comments! 

1. For the instagram anywhere artist

2. To learn something new try a creative class.

3. To make sure you've got a built in craft project for each month try this starry calendar

4. For the phone photographer to get those crazy close ups! P.s. I want all the gifts on Photojojo!

5. For an instant whiff of inspiration hehehe.(Unicorn fans this is for you!)

6. To de-stress after holiday or finals madness, keep calm and color on

7. To keep track of your adventures and all they inspire.

8. From a pop culture phenom's perspective on creativity from my boy(I wish) Pharrell.

9. A DIY book from artists and designers all over the globe for you to enjoy at home.

10. And finally something for those ready to master their magic digital art skills

Hope your holidays are full of fun, love and non-itchy sweater parties. 

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

First Ever Super Awesome Virtual Summit!

I'M SO FREAKIN EXCITED!! This Friday-Nov.20th- I'm hosting our first RWC virtual summit- The Creative Success Summit for Emerging Visual Artists!!! You can sign up here!

I'm pumped not only because I have connected with and will be interviewing two truly accomplished, talented, and super nice art professionals- but because I get to engage with YOU- emerging artists who are looking for some guidance, inspiration, motivation, and reassurance that an awesome art career is waiting for you. (Check out the speakers here and here.)

I picked up a beautiful print recently that said, "It is real. It is possible. It is yours." And heck yeahhhh that is so true and relevant to what we're doing here. 

I started Real World Creatives because I felt there was a void in educating young artists on how to use their creative skills and talents to make a living in the real world. That includes fine art and commercial art and craft art and decorative arts. Everyone has a place, and it's about time we connected and supported emerging artists with a comprehensive set of tools, advice and inspiration for creating a sustainable living from art. 

It's hard to explain how much I love working on this business and being a source of real help and connection for artists. I hope you'll join me at the summit and continue engaging with RWC as you follow your creative path! If there is anything I can provide for you (sorry can't buy everyone puppies) please let me know at any time! 

Peace, love, and pixels,

Sonya 

Creative Confession

Dear Creatives, 

      This is my confession. I fell in love with photography in an old dark room in my high school. I wasn't very good at first, lots of film went to waste. I wasn't sure I would ever be "that" good at it. I mostly took walks around my neighborhood and shot patterns in nature, occasionally trying to incorporate a friend into awkward portraits. Soon it was time to apply to college, to pick a school, a major, a future. Well, photography I decided was what I'd pursue. What would I do with it? No idea. I didn't feel like I could commit to an art-only college; I wasn't "artsy" enough, creative enough, messy enough, or honestly really sure that I wouldn't need a back up field of choice.

And even after graduating with my bachelor's in art(major in photography with a minor in art management) working in photo production, art galleries and archives, freelancing and making a living from my photography... I sometimes still feel like I'm not "artsy" enough. Somedays my work is put to shame (in my mind) by iPhone photos on instagram. It can be a real bitch being a creative these days. But then I remember that my creative is just as meaningful as anyone else's. I love doing photography because I think in photographs and making images gives ME joy. And I get to share those little moments of happiness with clients, friends, and even some strangers on the internet. (I mean I'm not giving up my frenemy instagram.) So no I don't have jeans covered in paint, I like making to-do lists like it's my job, and I probably haven't spent my weekend in museums. But I create, and it's worthwhile, and it will continue to be for as long as I see it that way. 

So if you're not sure where your art will take you, or you're struggling to find your niche, stop looking outward. You decide what your best creative life looks like, and you have the power to shape it to suite your wildest desires. Even if that includes having a beige couch. Even if you can't remember what Monet painted. Even if your creative life looks nothing like the ones you see on the internet. And if you need a boost of inspiration, resources and tools make sure to sign up for the newsletter! Once you do you get your free guide to my Top 25 Websites for Creatives!

“To live a creative life, we must loose the fear of being wrong.” – Joseph Chilton Pearce

So go forth my creatives, there is no "wrong" in art!

Peace, love & pixels,

Sonya

The Timeline of Success

Hi my friends :) I was just doing some yoga to end my night- but got a kick of inspiration and so I'm back at the computer! Almost got away with unplugging, sigh. 

I want to talk about the timeline of success. There's a feeling, especially when you're starting out, that "success" is this magic finish line that you'll someday run through and everything will be capital G-R-E-A-T! The truth is, success is not an end point. There's no "I made it!" medal, no alternate reality where problems all vanish. Your vision of success will vary from other people's, but if it doesn't include on-going learning, improvement, and new goals then you're going to miss out. You'll miss out on finding your complete happiness and highest potential.  

Picturing "success" as an infinite road, and those never ending goals in mind, the question of "But when do I get to stop and celebrate?" may come up. This is up to you, this is your chance to REALLY enjoy the journey! Don't forget that every step is a lesson. And do remember to appreciate and acknowledge the big and small goals you hit along the way. If your whole life becomes the journey, without one final "success" point, suddenly there is a WHOLE lot of room to enjoy yourself. So don't rush, there is only more time to come, bringing more lessons and adventures. 

Make sure you're using the best resources and tools for your art career by signing up for our free bi-monthly newsletter. When you do you not only get access to our great community, but early access and info about all our events and a free guide to my Top 25 Websites for Creatives!

Wishing you never ending success,

Sonya

Keep Calm and Internship On

It is pretty much a given these days that you’ll end up in an internship or two while in school and even after you’ve graduated. Internships can provide eye-opening looks into the possible career of your future. But they can also be really boring, frustrating and not in your best interest. The key is to ask a lot of questions and do your research on all possible internships before you dive into one. I made the mistake a couple of times of not thoroughly finding out what I’d be doing or how it would really be an effective and positive experience for myself. No one wants their time wasted- and even as a student you have the right to use your own time wisely while working for others. One thing I didn’t realize as a student looking for internships, is that not only should I provide value to the employer BUT they should provide value to me. That is true whether you are working for free or payment of any kind.

Things to keep in mind when searching for internships:

1. What kind of business is it and who runs it? Is it a new start up/gallery/company still figuring out workspace and roles, or a well oiled machine with lots of rules set in place? What internet presence do they have and what do others say about them? Are you working with a boss one-on-one, or with other interns/assistants/employees?  I had experiences where I was mostly working alone but really enjoyed the work and had real responsibility, as well as times I was sitting next to the employer and barely learned a thing and was bored as hell. And had to walk her dog…love dogs, but not what I was looking for!

2How much time can you commit? Decide upfront how many hours/weeks/months you’ll be there. Even if things change it is helpful to have expectations voiced at the beginning. If receiving payment make sure you understand how and when you’ll be paid. Also, always ask if payment is available! It may not be, but sometimes even a small stipend is a great motivator and reward for work well done.

3Decide to learn as much as possible and make sure they know what you’re interested in learning. I know from running a business it is easy to forget what wasn’t always general knowledge or that explaining how systems came to be, can be really helpful to those not familiar with the business. Don’t be afraid to ask questions- but do take note of when the appropriate times are to do so. (Like not in front of clients.)

4Reach out to businesses or individuals you’d like to work with. THIS IS HUGE! Some of my best internships came from asking for the opportunity, not because there was any advertisement that they were hiring. Look in your area for places you admire and think you could learn from, let them know you’re interested and available.

Internships can be fantastic opportunities to see the inner workings of various jobs and companies.  They are also great for making connections in the “real world” and beginning to network with those you may one day work with. Always look for relationships that will be symbiotic, stand up for what’s right for you, and if on the off chance it all goes to shit- smile and walk away gracefully!

Peace, love & pixels- Sonya