5 Unexpected Business Skills 2020 Taught Me
The pandemic reminded me that art is not a necessity. There were definitely times of intense doubt and anxiety. I know I wouldn’t have made it through 2020 had I not built relationships with trusted clients.
At the start of the year, the pandemic, which created an economic downturn, prompted the majority of my booked clients to cancel their custom art orders without any certainty that they would be able to reschedule or book again in the future. However, some of the clients who were forced to cancel actually rescheduled with me as soon as they were able. These were the clients I had spoken in detail with about the custom art they wanted to have created. Some of them were clients I had the pleasure of working with in the past. This reminded me the importance of building relationships, rooted in gratitude, with every chance I receive.
When I pinched a nerve in my neck that limited my ability to use my arm and hand to create, I had to cancel and reschedule existing client projects. As I began to notify my clients, I was quick to assume that they would cancel their project entirely. To my surprise, the majority of these wonderful people kept their deposit on file, and waited patiently for me to heal. This was a humbling experience. It showed me that I had built a valuable service with my art that was worth the wait, which in turn, gave me a great sense of contentment.
This is practical skill I learned early on in life. It is the only thing that I am good at “in business”. It is what gave me the confidence to be content in a year that had many unforeseen circumstances. Since I was a kid, I have built dreams (owning and restoring my Jeepster), set and accomplished goals, and made a lot of important decisions based around my ability to maintain a savings account. I read somewhere that as a business owner, it is important to have at least two to three months worth of life and business expenses set aside for emergency use and in 2020, that proved a useful bit of information!
3. Online Marketing
Right after I invested in a professionally-branded art show tent and large amount of art prints and inventory, all four of my yearly art shows were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Art shows are where I have the opportunity to meet new clients, network with other artists, and sell my art face-to-face. When the shutdown was in full effect, I quickly realized the importance of not only having an online store, but also an online presence in the form of videos and photos of me and my work. I was again reminded of the importance of online marketing when I was forced to rest for three months from my neck injury. This was right around the time I would have been preparing art for holiday show sales, seasonal commission gifts, and hand painted ornaments.
In 2020, I had to come up with a way to market my art. I needed to earn a living without actually going to shows or physically painting individual pieces of art due to my neck injury. I invited people online to join my e-mailing list. Podcasts about blogging, social media, and marketing tips were in my ear buds. In my Esty shop, I frequently updated the listings with coupons and holiday sales. I created online raffle drawings for original art I had made for canceled shows. I paid for social media advertisements. I started to regularly post blog updates about commission projects. Reluctantly, I got on Instagram Live more often. These small shifts to online marketing kept my business running during 2020. I’m still learning and adapting to this new way of business on a daily basis. Creativity is found in adversity!
It seems silly to say that a rest can be a skill. But for me, rest is one of the hardest skills I’ve had to learn (over and over). The down time created by the pandemic and my pinched nerve forced me to rest physically and mentally. I’m embarrassed to say that 2020 may have been the first time I rested both at the same time since I began my business in 2017. At first I was anxious and resentful with this imposed season of forced rest. But it did something for me that I hope to never forget. It gave me ability to clearly focus on what matters. I found myself spending guilt-free time with my family, investing time into working on my business as a whole, taking online classes to better my artistic skill, and creating paintings of my own. All of which reset my creativity and excitement in my career of serving people through art.
All of the topics I mention above boil down to contentment. The year 2020 taught me the skill of finding contentment regardless of my circumstances. This has started to closely correlate with my definition of what success means to me.
Miriam Webster defines contentment as freedom from worry or restlessness; A peaceful satisfaction.
Although it’s a daily battle, my contentment does not stem from my circumstances. Therefore, neither does my idea of success. I would rather gauge my success on something in my control. While fame, wealth, and respect are things for which I strive, I’ve learned that my contentment stems from the perspective I choose to have while working towards those things. This idea has given me the gift of being mindful of the present, even as a goal-orientated and driven person. It has taught me to enjoy life on a daily basis. Unlike monetary-based or notoriety-based success, contentment is not based on ever changing and uncontrolled things or people, rather, it is an inner peace knowing I’ve done my best with what I’ve been given, regardless of any good or bad circumstance. It’s trusting I am right where I am meant to be. This is my 2021 definition of success.
Cheers to a new year.
If you enjoyed this post you may find my “Start, Stop, Keep, Theory” for artist entrepreneurs interesting!