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how I started my business – and quit my full-time job!

This was the topic that pushed me to start this blog, every now and again I post the “questions” button on my instagram stories allowing anyone to ask me questions about me, my work, life or anything they like really. It always leads to a few good conversations and mutual learning!

A vast majority of people voted for a post on starting your own business. Now, I wouldn’t say I am well versed or an expert at this, but I can share my own experiences and hopefully encourage you to take the leap just like I did.

My example will be illustration business based just FYI.

So… you’ve got your ‘thing’ down. You’re passionate and willing to work your butt off.

1. Make yourself ALL of the social media pages – get your business out there. Be seen, be heard.

I started my Instagram account (@verycherryamber) in 2012 , I would say that my Instagram page is my main source of commissions! I find it so easy to share my work as it’s a visual platform, write a relevant and hopefully engaging caption and then chat to followers.

My Facebook business page (Cherry Watson Illustration) has been up and running for the same amount of time, it doesn’t have the same vibe for me as Instagram, I’ve started to share just my final pieces and skip the progress pictures, that way if you follow both my Instagram and Facebook page, you aren’t being inundated with my same posts across both platforms.

I have a Twitter account but honestly I never understood Twitter – Instagram however does make it really easy to share your post and the caption to your Facebook page, Twitter and Tumblr accounts – and sharing is caring!

2. Now about starting/registering the ACTUAL business…

In the UK, to my knowledge as I am writing this, you don’t have to register as self employed until you earn over £1,000. You can register online via HMRC as a sole trader, they’ll send you a Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) number and this will allow you to complete the Self Assessment forms where you input your income and expenses and they tell you how much tax you need to pay.

I managed to fill in the forms last year myself – the website for HMRC is confusing and the forms take a bit of reading but it is doable. And if they really aren’t your thing – you can always pay an accountant to sort it all for you – you just need to keep good, concise records and receipts of your money.

3. Business cards!

Okay, so you’ve got your social media presence and you’re registered and ready to go! So now it’s time to get yourself some stationary. My business cards have been evolving alongside me and my style of work for the past 6 years, I’ll do a separate post on the evolution as honestly my first cards are a car crash you just have to see. I’ll summarise:

  • Have your business name/logo
  • Contact info
  • Depending on your business, have a relevant image or description – make it clear what it is you do
  • Make them easy to read – cursive/tiny fonts are nice but not your friend
  • You want to aim for something that a person WANTS to keep/look at, don’t get thrown straight in the bin.

4. Where is your business based?

When I first began drawing, I’d be sat hunched up on the corner of the sofa, pencils strewn about the place. When I started drawing daily, my lovely boyfriend made me a small desk for the corner of our front room and when my supplies outgrew the space we converted our spare room into a beautiful home studio. I know I’m very lucky for this to have been an option but I definitely would say having a dedicated space and one that works for your business/craft is so important. That’s not to say that carving out a space on your kitchen table every other day and getting stuff done isn’t just as important. Find where you work most consistently and what works for you, are you a night owl? Early riser? Do you prefer cosy, quiet spaces or the rustle bustle of a noisy coffee shop? Could you rent a space or convert your spare room? Wherever you are most comfortable and able to do your thing is what’s most important to your success.

5. Pricing.

This is an important one, guys. You’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed, so what should you charge for your work? I spent a lot of time researching other artists and monitoring reactions to people when I told them the costs for my portraits to begin with. It’s a difficult question and it comes down to a few things, are you happy to be paid X amount for your work? Does it cover your costs/materials/time? Is your target market willing to pay X amount? Never undervalue yourself or your talents, but remember also that your friends and family are going to support you and your endeavours – they are NOT an accurate depiction of the public opinion.

6. Sales.

You’ve got your price list ready and now its go time. I made a page on my website that makes the sales pitch easier for everyone involved, I really hate when I go to a website to buy something and I either can’t find the price or it has you putting in all your details to get sent an email that still tells you nothing. My commissions page has all the information a potential client would need, it goes through the whole process of commissioning a portrait of your pet and has a price table at the bottom with all the available sizes for 1/2 pets. You need to think about your currency, I used to advertise in £GBP, $USD and $AUS but have since edited my price table to list just £GBP for an number of reasons; firstly – it makes accounts easier! It also ensures that all my customers are getting charged the same amount for the same items and means I don’t have to keep editing my site to reflect the current exchange rate.

Every now and again I will include a “all commission info can be found on my website – link in bio!” into my latest Instagram posts caption, but mostly I generate sales through posting on Instagram and my Facebook business page and connecting with followers authenticly.

7. Start where you are, use what you’ve got and smash small goals.

Once you’ve got all the admin down and you’re producing work that people are engaging with and purchasing, its important to keep your focus and motivation. Set yourself weekly targets and keep on top of the admin.

Hopefully that covers a lot of the nitty gritty bits and pieces, but as always – feel free to send me any questions!