Praise the Side-Project

Do you feel overwhelmed by creative business advice? I know I do.

Every day I discover a new podcast, a new blog or I read a new article about how to (insert miraculous growth guarantee here) and it sends me into this tailspin of time waste.

However I enjoy many of these podcasts and I’ve found them very valuable in some ways but what I still need to learn is how to take advice with a grain of salt.

Do you ever wonder how is it possible that some blogs that look terrible or that haven’t been updated in years seem to be super successful? Or maybe even a brick and mortar store that looks dingy and old, continues to strive while the hip establishment is trying extremely hard to no avail?

I wonder all the time and yet, I know the answer. The answer is the only consistent advice that floats across the marketing industry from the begining of time: solve a problem and know your customer.

Yet it is extremely difficult to do that. It requires a lot of time, a lot of trial and error and sometimes once you find the problem that needs solving and you find your client, it doesn’t correspond to what you set out to do in the first place.

When I started to draw and paint I thought it would be so easy to make a few prints, put them up for sale and someone would like them and purchase them.
(You, poor innocent thing)

Then I took the Design Garden Class and there I learned the full process of developing a product. Really, the process outlined in that class could serve you to develop any type of design product.
I understood that I had to focus on the customer first.

But, here comes the kicker: when you are artistic you tend to be a bit capricious and you want to do what you want to do, not what you should do to actually build a business.

Especially if you found creativity later in life. It’s different for a woman in her early 20’s, maybe working towards a degree in art, than a woman in her 40s who worked in many different fields BUT art.

Discovering art at this stage in life is like taking a child to Disneyland or something like that. You want to take it all in, you never want it to end, you feel time ticking twice as fast.

So what happens?

You put pressure on yourself, you lose the enjoyment. And I’ve written a number of posts about trying to enjoy the process, and yet, every two days I lose it, because I fall into the trap of thinking about business too much.

It’s not a business, it’s a side project.

This week I read two interesting posts in which the authors admit that the business advice they followed, including raising their rates, failed. They had to back-pedal into being realistic and keep the slow but steady pace of things.

The truth is, I do not have a business yet. And it’s OK. I don’t have a product that defines the business. This blog is called Je suis éclectique (I am eclectic). I gave the title with the clear purpose of allowing myself to shoot in many different directions. It’s basically my essence. Today I might paint a few geometric shapes, tomorrow I might want to paint a portrait or draw a clipart set and the next day I might make a bunch of monoprints.

I feel like the heart and the mind are usually at war. In this case, my mind typed the above paragraph but my heart says: aw! come on! we’ve wanted to have an online shop since the beginning of time! Do you remember Darla Records? Do you remember that first Café Press store you launched 10 years ago?

Now, this is the pendulum. In my last post I set some guidelines to help me tame the info overload I was experiencing. My strategy has been somewhat successful. But it doesn’t protect me fromt the “overachiever” discourse that populates my feeds.

I’m slowly moving away from the “miraculous” marketing advice blogs to the more practical or inspirational ones. Inspirational as in, show me the artist’s process.

There is no real how-to.

All the business rules apply and you can’t hide behind the “creative” label.

Today I launched two tiny products. (The advice would be, don’t call them tiny, make it a huge deal) but no, they are tiny.

The first one:

A wall decor printable inspired by the movie Singing in the Rain. Because I needed a pick-me up from time to time.

Sing! Wall art decor
Sing! Wall art decor

 

The second, a clip art set I made for my own pleasure: a 90s set. A trip down memory lane and an excuse to make a moodboard of 90s stuff.

90s clip art set
90s clip art set

As a side project, I send them off into the world knowing I really enjoyed making them.

The pressure of making something in the mindset of business is very tiresome If I do that, I tend to lift my expectations too much and this (like in love) is a recipe for serious let-downs.

But if you lower your expectations, there is nowhere else to go but up.

So, embrace the side projects just launch things. See what happens.

Comments 2

  1. Even with a busy freelance business, I am discovering the joy in having side projects. Not everything we do has to have a clear path to earning money. Doing stuff for fun is very liberating. Your projects look awesome!!

  2. Luisa Fernanda July 10, 2015

    Thank you Sue! It is a fight because there is so much noise about “monetizing” everything.. it kind of seeps into my subconscious…
    But definitely I try to fight it by making all sorts of art!

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