"Not Going to do That Again."
I have a running joke that my business plan is titled "Not Going to do That Again." After four years of owning a business (or it owning me) I've learned all the things I should not be doing. I like lists so here is my lady business owner experience to date.
1. There is no manual for this. In grad school they prepared us to teach college because that's how you paid the bills while making art. I wouldn't be able to make a living on selling cups. I never had access to business classes within the program. I didn't know about liability insurance, SEP IRAS and how to work Quick Books. Thanks grad school for the discipline you gave me and not much else...oh wait one other thing grad school gave me....which leads me to #2...
2. It's a boys club. I spent two years being marginalized for having a uterus. I once over heard my professor say to another female "You are pretty and you make pretty things." Never once would he say that or anything close to it when critiquing the male students. Grad school prepared me for a life of mansplainers in the business world.
3. You will have to explain yourself to people who think they know better when really you don't owe anyone an explanation at all. I'm constantly expected to explain myself. Even after four years I find people who expect me to prove my intelligence in art and business. My name is on the door. I'm not an idiot.
4. Everyone will tell you what you do wrong. Attention everyone! It's rude to constantly tell a business owner how you would do it better. If you think you can then please go try then give me a call in four years and we can really talk. I make mistakes. I leave rude notes when people damage studio equipment. I did not just wake up one morning and think to myself "I should start a business." This required research, math, business mentoring and RISK. No business owner has a linear path. We are all figuring it out. A little compassion please.
5. Other artists will compete, copy and then lie about it. It happens. It used to bug me. Then I realized they are regurgitating my old ideas while I'm coming up with new ones. I have the ideas. I make them work. Then I come up with more.
6. Your body and mind will suffer. This takes a toll. Ceramics is horrible on the body if you don't take care of yourself. Yoga, pilates, weights, acupuncture, cupping and sleep. All necessary requirements of the job. You mind will race at night filled with doubt, annoyance and panic. You have to learn to separate work from life. I'm still working on the balance. I just worked 18 days in a row. My personality can get ugly but I try my best.
7. Friends and family will support you but they will never truly grasp what you deal with daily, weekly and monthly. My friends know I drop off the earth in November and December. It's when my business makes 75% of its income. I therefore do 75% more work. Business owning is extremely solitary. And I say this as an only child who has social anxiety and has issues with crowds. Nothing has ever felt as lonely to me as running this business. You have to make decisions that may sever relationships and business connections. You have to check your email while you're out at dinner not because you are a workaholic but because your next meal depends on a client confirming an order. I'm a single woman with a business, house and dog. When I fuck up there is no net. I pick it back up and fix it.
8. It's really exciting when people you look up to consider you a peer. I have fangirl moments with artists and business owners who make 1-7 seem worth it.
9. The cult of busy. Yes, I'm busy. But please stop saying "wow you stay so busy." I have spurts. May was crazy. I had two panel talks, two festival shows and an art installation. I literally have nothing to do next week but make art and hang with my dog! It's cyclical. I take jobs as they come and sometimes that is all at once. Social media also makes it way worse. Just because I post a photo of a pot doesn't mean I'm at work. You have to market your business 24/7. I take a quick pause, post a photo and get back to life.
10. And finally people think you are accessible 24/7. I've had people get mad that I close on Memorial Day and July 4th weekend. I don't have a storefront for a reason. I have a life. Go have one too. You can make pots tomorrow.