This subject has been coming up a lot lately in emails and interviews, so I thought I’d do a post on some of my thoughts here! I’ve been blogging and selling things online since I was 16 and then been a full-time working for myself for the past 4 months so here is some of my “wisdom”.
(An art journal I made for my first online class, Life Story. It goes on sale again next week!)
I think the most important advice is just to start. I feel like I have an advantage over other creative professionals my age because I’ve already gotten my foot into the door. I am by no means as established as I’d like to be, but I strongly believe that you are not going to graduate college and magically have an online presence, polished portfolio, and loyal clientele. This is your time to explore and evolve without the repercussions of not being able to afford rent the next month. You don’t need fancy equipment or even a extremely solid idea of what you want to be able to begin.
Stop wishing and start doing! Take advantage of everything you can. Take those art classes(HELLO free education!), read business books, steal your mom’s sewing machine. Take advantage of your high school. Does your high school have access to a studio with lighting equipment? Learn it. Does your college have an amazing art library? Shut down Tumblr and check out 5 books. Interesting looking girl in your science class you want to take photos of? Take the chance of being a creep and ask her. She’ll probably be flattered. Is your art teacher amazing? Stay after and ask their opinions about college or your personal, non-related art work. Is your teacher not amazing and your classwork lame? Take the lame assignments to the next level and be the best in the class. Bad at drawing? Start drawing.
Start a blogspot blog. Tinker around with ideas and try selling on Etsy. Get a part-time job and stay up one later at night working on your dreams. I’m not saying you must start a business now or start montezing things right now, just to start! See if you like freelancing, see if you like selling handmade, see if you like blogging, see if you whatever!
(A photo I took my Senior year of high school. One the first senior photo shoots I did. With a lense/camera borrowed from school!)
Be careful of what you put online. If you drink underage or do drugs, don’t put it on the internet. Untag yourself from those photos and don’t brag about your hangover on Tumblr. If you still want to(I get it, it’s memories of good times with your friends/youth), use an alias and don’t attach your real name to your less than professional confessions. You don’t have to be a perfect, moral angel, but do consider the repercussions. I’ve published things I’m not necessarily proud of and have gone back and deleted. But people can take screenshots or find things.
And for goodness sake, keep the passive aggressive drama away from your name. I have a private Tumblr for ranting and use another Tumblr for emo journaling and political rants that don’t belong here. Before I started talking about my blog to my blog or linking it to my Facebook, I was surprised to find random people who I had no idea who read my blog who read my blog. Teachers/professors, aunts and uncles, random people from high school may eventually find your blog. If you’re talking smack about someone, don’t think they won’t be able to find it.
Don’t be fake, of course. Authenticity is important, just keep the illegal stuff and the drama stuff away.
(Scrapbook pages I made for Hambly Screeprints when I was on their Design Team, age 16/17).
And always keep trying. When I was sixteen/seventeen I really hated taking photos of people. But, I started to take more and more and now people are my favorite thing to shoot. When I first started blogging, writing was super awkward for me. It took time to find a voice. I tried “inspiration blogging” and found that I hated it. You have to try things to get better at it and found out if you enjoy doing it. I have gotten so much better at Photoshop or at drawing or scrapbooking or whatever because I kept going. Don’t lose heart!
And some questions!
How do you juggle school and business?
I had it a little easier with juggling business and school because I was dual-enrolled and only at my high school all day every other day (my school was on a schedule similar to colleges, but I was doing schoolwork at home the other days), but I found the time. I don’t really ever watch TV and I didn’t have a job outside of working for myself. I did stress myself out a lot and online things took the back burner when I needed to study for tests or had other life things to tend to.
I was still able to blog, take photos, work on the Lovely brand things with Kip, and create an online class while at Pratt, but it was a good deal harder than high school because of the class/homework load. It was a combination of stress, days off, and a sort of lame social life. ;)
Would adults take you seriously?
I’m sure there were people who thought that, but I’ve never dealt with it firsthand. I’ve gotten more crap about what I’m going to do with a art degree than me being young and having a business. I think once people go and see what I’ve done, they see that I’m serious and good at it. I’ve been a less than fabulous “freelancer”(in regard to being as on top of things as I should have been) and I’ve been a really good one too. I’ve learned from my mistakes and seen that if I conduct myself in a professional way I’ll be treated in a professional way. You can only prove yourself by being professional and working hard.
Tangent alert! I’ve struggled with whether or not I do the things I do to prove people who have questioned me or of I do them because I want to or prove to myself. Proving yourself to other people is a mess because you’ll always be stacking your personal worth against what other people think. It’s empowering for about ten minutes when someone says you can’t do something and you’re all “well I’ll SHOW THEM”. But it’s an exhausting way to live. Just push the haters the back of your mind, follow your heart, and maybe feel a little smug when you prove them wrong. Just don’t make that the focus of your energy. It’ll exhaust you. (Trust me).
I was lucky to have supportive parents, but prove your parents wrong if they don’t support you.
What is the most difficult thing that you have to regularly deal with?
Absolutely 100% myself. I constantly struggle if I’m being too hard on myself or being too easy on myself. It’s a struggle for me to stay on top of everything and to be organized and all that. Balance is my personal demon. I’m working on having set hours of working, limiting distractions, prioritizing, and saying no to the things I just don’t have the mental energy to juggle. I think some people are better at this than others, but personally I’ve problems with this for years. Discipline isn’t easy.
When it comes to taxes/registration/other business stuff, did you need a lot of help?
Hmmm. I don’t necessarily know if I’m qualified to answer this because I don’t have a ton of experience yet. So far I’ve been able to figure out things without talking to an accountant. If things start getting bigger, I definitely will talk to one. When I made my business acount at my bank, my banker was really awesome about answering questions about registration/taxes. I also talked with other people from Idaho who own online businesses and was able to get my questions answered there. My advice is just to ask questions pertaining to your state, open a business bank account, and be careful about saving receipts, bookkeeping your Ins & Outs, and being aware of where your money is going. Do this sooner rather than later. Start treating your money as a business.
How do you stay motivated?
Honestly, it’s a struggle. This sounds bad, but money is a big motivator for me. I’ve always been independent with my money. I bought my own cellphone and have been paying the bill since I was 16 and have purchased my computer, camera equipment, everything myself. I’m moving to Portland in January and being able to afford doing that is motivating a lot of my work. I want independence. I want to feel like I can financially take care of myself without the help of my parents or a boyfriend/husband whatever. Also, I enjoy it. I don’t enjoy it all the time and I’m not going to lie and say I don’t freak out about everything at least once a week(not kidding). It’s a struggle, but one that is worth it to me.
Disclaimer: This is all my experience and won’t pertain to everyone. It also has a lot to do with my experiences photographing, blogging, scrapbooking in this little nook of the internet and obviously doesn’t apply to everything. Blah, blah, blah.
I hope that answered some questions! Feel free to ask more or lend your 2 cents! <3