Listen to the episode:
On this episode, I’m joined by fellow business strategist and courage coach, Shawn Fink, for a wide-ranging and empathetic conversation about the math you need to take control of your creative business. Shawn explains the importance of releasing your fears around business math, and having the courage to achieve your revenue goals. And I reveal how simple math can help you diagnose and close an income gap, design your business, and set yourself up for success. We know business math can be scary, especially for creatives, but we’ve got you covered.
More from the episode
- What’s your “enough” number, and why is knowing it essential to building sustainable creative business?
- How does scarcity contribute to cyclical burnout, and what can you do instead?
- Shawn breaks down her five keys to being courageous, and shares a weekly ritual you can use to establish agency over your numbers and finances.
- How understanding the value of what you do, and finding your “zone of genius”, can help you meet your income goals.
- We answer questions from the audience on budgeting, filing your taxes as a creative business owner, and inexpensive marketing tactics to build your audience.
About Shawn Fink
Shawn Fink is a Brave Business Coach for wholehearted entrepreneurs who are ready to upgrade your confidence, your cash and your commitments to doing good in this world. She works with CEOs and Founders by offering private, personalized business and visibility strategy, support and accountability and fierce courage coaching and capacity planning so you follow through on your Brave Yes Vision and Intentions.
Connect with Shawn
Click here to view the transcript!
Shawn Fink: Spending too much time doing many, many things dilutes your impact.
But finding alignment and choosing the offers that really speak to your personality, your zone of genius and your superpowers, as opposed to, well, I just have this hare brained idea or I wanna do what somebody else is doing.
Really start to figure out what is going to work for you. What is gonna be so easy and so effortless to deliver and to sell that it just, it just becomes a part of you
Jessica Abel: What does it really take to become successful as a writer or artist?
There are a lot of destructive myths out there about what a creative career is supposed to look like. We’re told we shouldn’t care about worldly success or money. We’re told that if we’re good enough, everything would magically fall into place. That’s a lie and it keeps us struggling, baffled, and hungry for any shred of information that might shed light on how to keep making the work we love. That’s why I get any two artists or writers or any creatives really together in a room. And it’s a foregone conclusion that the conversation will turn to money and the nitty gritty reality of being a professional, creative.
I’m cartoonist and creative business. Coach Jessica Abel.
In my own life. The studio visit back channel conversations with other artists where we share our insights and hacks anxieties and red flags have been critical to any success I’ve achieved.
And now. I’m bringing that conversation to you. This is the autonomous creative.
Jessica Abel: With this episode of the autonomous creative, we take a bit of a new direction. The creative business design lab is alive monthly conversation I lead with other creative business owners where we dig in and focus on a single topic, sharing strategy and talking through the problems that arise.
And the theme of this lab session is business math. And my guest is Shawn Fink. No, wait, don’t run away. I promise we take on this tricky subject with the needs of creatives in mind. Shawn is a business strategist and courage coach with a strong focus on supporting people to do the hard stuff that will make all the difference like math.
And we both come from creative backgrounds where we absorbed the idea that math belongs to the enemy camp. It’s scary. It’s overwhelming and paying too much attention to the numbers makes you akin to the man. At least that’s the story.
Together, we show you how to get past that mindset and how do you use the numbers to sort out some really difficult business decisions? And we’ll get to it right after this.
Jessica Abel: This episode of the Autonomous creative is brought To you by the Creative Engine. I talk to working creative people all the time, both on the show and in our membership, the Autonomous Creative Collective, and one of the biggest challenges they struggle with is procrastination.
To most people, it feels like it’s just a permanent character flaw. Like they were born that way and doomed to suffer, but that’s just absolutely untrue.
Art is hard. Yes. And we will all feel resistance to using that much cognitive energy on anything, but procrastination typically stems from specific root causes that are totally fixable.
If your creative work is essential to you and who you are and your life yet, you still struggle with procrastination. And it just feels like this is crazy.
I want to invite you to check out the free creative engine masterclass. This class will help you overcome your resistance and put your priorities first before you’re derailed by everything else.
The creative engine is a complete, simple, straightforward, and powerful framework that will help you pinpoint where your creative process breaks down and highlight exactly how to fix it.
In it, you’ll master the four essential phases of the creative process you need to produce awesome work reliably. And you’re probably skipping at least one. Possibly two.
You’ll learn how to predict and avoid the pitfalls that derail you time and time again.
And you’ll overcome self-sabotage take back control and keep moving even when things get really challenging.
This class is totally free and you will get immediate, deep clarity into what makes your creative life tick.
So stop procrastinating and start finishing your most important creative projects by harnessing the power of your own creative firstname.lastname@example.org slash engine. That’s J E S S I C a a B E l.com/engine.
Now let’s start the show.
Shawn Fink: Hello, I am Shawn Fink, as Jessica said. I am a business design strategist and courage coach. And the courage coach piece is really crucial because of the money aspect and it’s kind of where I think a lot of my passion for building courage, expanding people’s comfort zone really comes into play.
This is actually my second business. My first business was a really high profile brand and six figure membership site. That was lovely and amazing. And when I first started though, I was terrified of everything related to the money aspect. I just wanted to be a writer. I just wanted to be somebody who was healing people.
I didn’t actually know that business math was a thing. In fact, I’m an accidental entrepreneur. I went in with no plan. I just built something that people liked and it worked out. But when I was in high school, and this is where our conversation kind of began. I really thought I was bad at math. I thought, oh, I’m terrible at math.
You know, I remember my guidance counselor saying you’re not gonna go to college. You’re never gonna get in. Uh, which I did, by the way. But math was never my thing. It was never something that I thought I was good at or should be doing. And then here I am running a six figure business, pulling out my calculator, doing math almost every day.
But it’s different math and that’s why we wanted to kind of talk about business math. And so I’ll talk a little bit later about getting over that resistance and getting our heads out of the sand and, and what it takes.
Jessica Abel: Yeah. Great.
Yeah, I also was not a math person in school, although I wasn’t not a math– I didn’t have, like my mom was a freelance writer and was always just like, math is so hard and she sort of like got that in my head early. I didn’t believe that I couldn’t do math, but I also felt like this is, like I have a level, like I just kind of have a like basic kind of slot there.
And I actually been going through all of my archives of my business that I didn’t know was a business when I was in my early twenties of becoming a cartoonist and an illustrator in the nineties.
And because I’m gonna be donating all of these boxes of files and things about my illustration business, my comics business, all that other stuff from then to a, a library of like a special research library about comics. So I’m, I’m working on all that. So I’m like, deep in the nineties. Nineties Jessica.
And I just found this thing. So I found three notebooks. I’ll show ’em to you actually. Three plastic notebooks here. This is where I kept all of my invoicing, all of my consignment, all that other stuff. And in these notebooks I found a budget. I found a really sketchy sort of quick budget where I said, here’s how much I’m making cuz I, I worked at, uh, the School of the Art Institute in the administration office in Chicago.
I was like, here’s my salary, here’s my take home, here’s how much I pay on rent, here’s how much I pay on food. Whatever. Here’s what’s leftover. I was thinking about buying a building in 1995 at the age of 25. There’s like a hundred thousand dollars cuz you could do that in crappy neighborhoods in Chicago at the time. I had this little like sort of dream of doing that.
And I always kind of thought of myself as a money person and as a numbers person in a way. But what I’ve really discovered in the last few years is how my focus on just the budgeting, just the sort of surface, like the money comes in, the money goes out, make sure it’s all under control. There’s a lot of sort of like anxious being in control of things.
And what I was missing, which I’m gonna talk about today, is the underlying dynamics of how these numbers like become– where they come from. That, I did not understand at all, and that that was what stopped me for so many years from ever feeling successful.
Like in my entire author business like comics, illustration, author, that whole business, never supported me through 20 plus years of doing that, even though it brought in a lot of money, but it didn’t bring it in enough to support me ever because I didn’t understand this other stuff, this other level.
So we’re gonna talk about two kinds of business math today. Shawn’s gonna talk about the day-to-day, week-to-week, get the calculator out, figure the stuff out. And has an activity about that, which is great. And I’m gonna be talking about this sort of more foundational math that will help you design the business that you wanna have.
And we actually have some questions in the queue already, which we had before. Great. Thank you guys for pre-submitting questions. It’s awesome to be able to sort of think about what you’re thinking about. And some of them are about the day-to-day math, and some of them are about how do I make money, which is what I’m gonna try to talk about a little bit.
So yeah, I think really different business math stories. I’ve never found money scary, but this other level was just like, whoa, I had no idea that was there. I just didn’t even know.
Foundational Business Math – Jessica
Jessica Abel: So what I’m talking about is using math, well using some basic, very basic calculations. And we’re talking multiplication, division. We’re not talking about differential equations or something. There is business math that looks like that. We don’t need that. That’s not what we’re talking about. It’s really pretty straightforward.
But using that level of math combined with some basic just information about how customers behave and other things like that in order to design the outcomes that you want and make decisions about how you’re gonna move forward with your business. I know this is really abstract, I will get there.
The main thing I wanna say though is that this is more than just getting straight with the feds. It’s more than just getting paid. It’s about saying like, in a year, I want to be here so what can I do now in order to get there? Not just in terms of safety, but in terms of planning what activities you’re gonna do.
And that means marketing. That means how you’re gonna price your stuff. That means which things of all the things that you do, and we know you all do so many things, which of those things are the ones you wanna focus on?
Feeling like you need to produce more and more to meet your income goals
Jessica Abel: The question that comes up a lot from people in my community, when I’m talking to clients, and all this stuff is that… this is the, the sort of chain of thinking that I absolutely, like my entire career up until the last few years, used this approach to thinking.
It’s very natural to fall into this thing, which is basically like, I have a thing. I have a service I can offer. I have a product I can offer. I have like, I have a book. I have a painting. I have a, a podcast. I have whatever it is. I have a service offering, like a website designer, whatever. I can sell that. I know I can sell it because I’ve sold it once or twice. I know that that works, but that’s not enough income. So either I just need to sell lots more of that thing or what are other things I can sell?
And often people, and it’s partly just like the joy of creation, right? We’re like looking at all these things thinking, I could make this, I could make that, it’s so awesome. Like I could do all these different things and it’s really exciting. And I definitely do not wanna stomp on anybody’s excitement about stuff that you wanna create.
But we’ve all also gone through the process of deciding, okay, I am gonna do this other thing. Great, I’m moving forward with this other thing. But then all of a sudden your time is absolutely slammed and you don’t have time for the other thing that you were already doing, the thing that you’re trying to finish, or like your regular life stuff. You’re pulling all nighters. You’re like trying to cram this thing out.
It doesn’t hit the mark that you wanted to hit because you don’t have the time to put into it that you, you need to. Then it doesn’t sell at the level that you want it to sell at because you don’t have the time to put into actually communicating about that and marketing the thing and getting in front of the right people. And then you’re like, oh crap, I’m not making my numbers. What else can I sell? And the whole cycle goes over again.
How many people here can I identify with this? You can just raise your hands. I can see you. Yes, I see you up there. Yeah. Both hands up for me. Absolutely. I saw this as I was talking about doing my archives, like going through my archives. I saw it over and over again in my archives. Here’s another project, here’s another project, here’s another project. I thought, how did I do all this stuff in 1995?
There are not enough hours in the day and I do remember a lot of late nights trying to finish these things. And part of it was, Hey, I love making things, as I said. But part of it was, This is gonna be the thing. This is what’s gonna make it work. This is finally gonna be the thing. It hits and makes all the numbers make sense, right? And then I can finally relax and focus on the thing that I wanna be doing.
Again, hands up. How many people have thought that? Once I just finished this one thing, I can relax and I can finally really like ease into the thing that I wanna be doing.
Yeah, I see lots of yeses and lots of hands up. I’m speaking from hard experience folks. It is the most normal thing in the world because as a creative person, you’re like, I create. I make stuff. I make new offers. I work with new people in different ways. I have these cool ideas. I wanna execute on those things. And I absolutely think that’s wonderful.
But this kind of math that I’m gonna talk about is where you can make smart decisions about what really matters to you in this moment. So the thing that I wanna encourage everybody to do is to start by thinking about what do you need? The first thing I want everybody to think about when you’re making a decision about what projects go forward is what do you need?
And I mean financially, what do you need? Number one. And time wise, how much time do you have available? What resources you have to put in? Time, sometimes money if what you do cost money, but definitely time. How much? How much time do you have available? And on the, what do you need out of it? How much money do you need out of this? And how much potentially other things you need out of it.
Recognition, connection with peers. I know people who are like, say they’re extroverts and they’ve been going crazy in the pandemic and they need to be with people. Like there are other things you need other than just money. But I want the number one focus to be on time in and money out. Think about those things and write them down. If you don’t know right now, that’s fine. Do the work though.
Try to think about this and figure out what your numbers are if you don’t already know. What are the numbers you need to be hitting?
Your “enough number”
Jessica Abel: And when you’re thinking about your need, you’re thinking about what your “enough number” is, I call it. Like, what’s the number that’s enough for your life. Do not use the squeaking by number. Not allowed. The number that’s like, “Ooh, I could just barely make it at this.” No. Don’t use that number because stuff goes sideways. Things are late. You don’t sell as much as you think you’re gonna sell.
Whatever else it. You wanna go to Target and buy some fancy shampoo, whatever. There’s reasons why those enough numbers just don’t work. And if you make your business math calculations on the basis of enough and then enough is not really enough, or it’s based on assumptions that may not happen, you’re gonna be real sad. And in that situation of like, “What else can I make and how fast can I sell– ahh!”
Don’t do that. The enough number needs to be whatever you normally spend in a month plus 30%. Something like that, right? Start at that point if you don’t have a more specific way of figuring it out for yourself, just take an average of what you spend every month and add 30%.
In answer to a question we’re gonna have later on, I’m going to suggest an app called YNAB, which is Y N A B. “You need a budget” cuz you need a budget. I highly recommend it. I’ll give you an affiliate link for it if you wanna sign up for it. That will help you figure out your monthly numbers. That’s the thing that can really make the difference in terms of like really knowing where your money is and what’s happening with it without doing a lot of math.
Income Clarity Calulator – How much do you need to sell to hit your enough number?
Jessica Abel: Anyway, all that aside, start with what you need. Once you start with what you need, you work from that point into what it is that you’re going to be offering. And I have a calculator that will help you do this. Again, no math, just putting in a couple numbers. It does all the math for you.
There’s an opt-in and a blog post. I’ll give that link to you in a little bit so that you can get it for yourself if you don’t already have the Income Clarity Calculator. I’ve added, if you already have it, you should get it again, cause I’ve added in a page that has a time and money calculator side by side, so you can actually use it to figure out how much time things take.
But what you’re doing with this calculator is you’re putting in numbers saying, all right, let’s say I sell digital prints for $75. My profit on it is like, say $50 on a digital print. My enough number is, I don’t know, $3,000 a month because I have, you know, a day job, right? And I just, I need to bring in $3,000 a month from this business.
Do the simple math of figuring out how many prints do you need to actually sell in order to make $3,000. Anyone wanna get out the calculator and figure it out for me? Let’s see here. $3000 divided by 50. That’s your, your profit.
60 units. You have to sell 60 prints in a month in order to hit $3,000. That is like the most basic math I can possibly give you. But like, if you’ve never done that number and a lot of people haven’t, that’s going to be very eye-opening for you. So, 60 per month that comes out to about fifteen a week which means you need to be selling a bit more than two a day.
If your offer, your main offer is a $50, something you made $50 profit on, selling two a day on average is what you wanna be hitting. That’s a lot, right? What could make this business math easier? Anyone have an idea here? Shawn, you can give it to us. What would be the fastest way to make this business math easier?
Shawn Fink: Well, I would say you need to do a brave yes of raising your prices or
Jessica Abel: Bingo.
Shawn Fink: We could go on. I have a lot of ideas, but
Jessica Abel: Yeah, and I’d love your ideas. So like let’s start with that one and then gimme the rest of your ideas. But like, number one is make more money per purchase. So if the digital print is making you $50, is netting you $50, you need to be netting twice that, four times that, eight times that. You can’t sell a digital print for that amount of money.
What are you gonna do? That’s where the creativity comes in. That’s where you go like how can I design something about, like something that comes from my creative self, something that like really is my own creative work, that will hit a higher price point so I can sell fewer of them. Why is it a problem to sell two a day?
Because you have to put it in front of so many people in order for two people to buy per day. Right? That’s another piece of the, the business math. Business math of conversion. So if you have an email list, for example, the average conversion for selling something over email is 1-2% of your list.
Business math of conversion
Jessica Abel: So if you have to sell 60 in a month that’s 3000 people on your email list. And that means 3000 new people every month on your email list at least. Because you can’t like sell the, the same– it’s like the 2% of the 3000 will carry through. Now some people will buy that later on, two, three months down the line, whatever it is.
But you see that the massive scale of that, like that’s what I’m talking about in terms of understanding both. That’s a very simple like division problem. 60 divided by 0.02, you get 3000, right? That’s very simple math. But the piece that’s sort of missing is understanding that the number of people on your email list will relate directly to the number of sales that you’re able to make, especially of a low cost product like this.
There are other ways to do marketing that do not depend on massive scale, and what’s interesting about them is they typically are things at much higher price point. You don’t have to have a huge audience to sell things in the thousands. You have to have a huge audience to sell things in the tens. Weird, right? But totally true.
Anyway, I’m throwing a lot at you here, but I cover this in my blog post about business models for creatives, which I will give you a link to, to get into more detail. But Shawn, what would your other tips be for solving this particular business math problem?
Tips for solving the conversion math problem – Shawn Fink
Shawn Fink: well, I would need to know a lot more about the person’s interest, but my first thought is teaching classes or leading some kind of a workshop or series of workshops that would bring people in at a higher level. Or bundling if you have a certain series that you could bundle so that it’s a, it’s a high– but then you’re going for a different audience potentially. So yeah, those are my two things off of the top.
Jessica Abel: Yeah, and the first one, it’s interesting because what you’re doing there is you’re going from offering a product to offering a service. And the whole idea of offering a service is that as established creative people who have long histories of doing lots of cool stuff. You have things to offer as a service that can be worth a lot of money.
And this is something most creatives don’t believe, but it’s really true that like there’s tons in there that you can do, that you can offer to people for a lot more than you can offer like a one-off product. So one of the biggest keys to this is, well, the biggest key, the easiest lever to push is pricing.
The way to push pricing, often, is to, you either need to move into like a more luxury style product or a service of some kind. And the more, interestingly, the more different, weird kind of specialized the service is, the more you can charge for it. And in some ways, the easier it is to sell once you find the right people who are interested in that thing.
So that’s the sort of, it’s great to be a creative part because you have this cool history. You have all these things you’ve done before. Like seriously, I’ve done so much stuff. Like I looked through this and I’m just like, I helped run a comic-Con in 1996. I could be an event organizer. That’s a thing I could do. And I loved it. It was really fun.
Your creative life is a tool set for designing a solution to this particular business math problem, this equation. And that’s what I wanna leave you with here before we go on to Shawn’s part of the, the talk. And then we’ll move on to questions.
Again, I do have a tool, like I have the actual calculator. You can have it. So don’t, you know, don’t panic. You’re gonna be able to do these numbers for yourself. And I’ll give you that link. Actually, I’ll stick it in the, in the chat now as Shawn
Do that now. Yeah.
All right. Over to you.
Day to day business math – Shawn Fink
Shawn Fink: Oh my gosh, I love this conversation. I love going into the weeds about numbers and business and all of that, so thank you for this.
I always say that business is not for the faint at heart, and this conversation really, really drives that home.
60 prints in a month. Woo. Did anybody like feel that in their body? I don’t even do art, like I am the least artsy person that there is. I’m a writer, but just the idea of selling 60 prints in a month was a, like my whole body just responded to it. And a lot of my work is somatic. It’s like feeling our way through business. That weight is such an evidence that something is not in alignment, right? It’s like, not gonna work for me. Gotta raise the prices. Gotta come up with a different plan.
But let me just start out with saying I am 1000% a creative. I do everything in my life basically so that I can create. Everything.
AUDIO PULLED FROM VIDEO
Shawn Fink: And so a lot of times when we’re thinking about what is going to sell, it’s really easy to put the numbers on paper, which Jessica has really just laid out. What’s much harder is the actual implementation of making those sales happen. And when I first started my first business, this was actually 11 to 12 years ago now. I hated sales. I thought sales were the enemy. Sales was bad. I didn’t wanna ask people for money. I didn’t even really call myself a business owner at that point.
I was like a freelancer. I skipped the whole your, I’m starting a business and I just did it. And so I realized early on I needed to figure out how to like sales if I was gonna be a business owner. And so when we’re thinking about the numbers and meeting those numbers, whether it’s 60 prints or one coaching session that I, that you’re trying to sell, which I only do one-to-one coaching right now.
So whatever it is, there needs to be a conversation that has to happen. Many forms of that conversation can happen, but that is the courage part of going for the numbers, right? And so when we’re thinking about knowing the numbers, knowing what we need is one thing. It’s putting that action and that strategy into place is where for me, the biggest courage work has to happen. And that’s why I’m really passionate about the courage coaching part of my work.
So when you realize that you have this great offer, this great product, this great workshop, whatever it is, how you show up and make that happen, especially as creatives, because we’re not really in this to sell. We’re in this to make, to create, to do the healing part of the work that we do.
And I do think that when we’re thinking about chasing those numbers or getting those numbers, when we can reframe that as we actually have beautiful work to offer to the world. And that was actually the number one thing was doing that work that helped me start, start to not see it as sales. And I still don’t call it as sales.
I just really don’t even like the word, but it, it became a conversation. When I’m passing on my value or my work in a, that’s going to help someone. My work is more in like transformational work. So when you can look at what your work is providing to people, it makes it so much easier to ask for the sale and get over that sort of, that feeling of, I don’t really like selling. I don’t really wanna do that. I hear that all the time.
None of us really like it. Uh, but it is definitely a big part of the work that we have to do. And the business math part is just the support, right? It’s just, it’s the, it’s the goal. It’s what we have to work toward so that we can do the, the really important work, the bold work that, you know, the healing work that we might wanna do in the world.
In my work, I have identified sort of a path to being courageous enough to go after your, your big goals. And you know, if you’re raising your prices or if you are offering a new op product or a new service or you know, you’re putting up something new or you maybe you’re just taking on taking up space on the stage. I do a lot of speaking. That is big work. All of this is gonna be your visibility plan that is gonna help you really start to make those sales.
Five key to being courageous enough to achieve your revenue goals
Shawn Fink: I have noticed that there is a pattern of what is needed along the way and so I’m gonna kind of walk you through these. It’s believe to being courageous enough to achieve your revenue goals.
Uh, the first is my favorite, is clarity. I think the number one thing that people come to me for as they say I, I wanna make more money in my business, but I don’t know what to do. Like literally the first thing. So that clarity piece of knowing, okay, I want to sell this, you know, five workshop spaces is the beginning.
How am I going to sell those five things? What do I, what actions do I need to take? What are those tactics? What is the strategy in place? Those are the things you gotta get really key on because when you’re not clear, you tend to get to your desk or your artist studio or wherever you go to do your work, and you’re like, well, I don’t really know what to do.
And you just kind of stay in inaction. Well, inaction does not get us the revenue. It just doesn’t. So that clarity piece is huge. Knowing exactly what you need to do, what you need to do to go after those numbers that you’re trying to reach.
And I just wanna say that I had a client this week and we were kind of strategizing on a, a launch that she wants to do. And she goes, well, what do you think? Should it be like this or like this? And I’m like, well, we actually don’t know. Like we don’t know what’s gonna work. All we can do is try things. And she’s like, well, why am I paying you then? I was like, I’m like, because we’re gonna have a set of strategies to test, to try, to figure out. Some of those will work, many of them won’t. So we’re gonna, gonna use as much strategy as we can to figure this out.
And that’s really the key, like being really intentional about what you’re trying and using really good advice, not some of the bad advice that’s out there, and really starting to have that piece, that clarity.
The other piece that I love to work with my clients on, which is huge, is capacity.
When we are trying to sell our work, it does require a lot of us to create more work, to serve, to deliver, to market. Marketing alone these days can really create a lot of cycleout. And then of course, there’s the facing of rejection, facing of failure, needing to have resiliency, to get back up every single day, to have the energy, to get back at it, to do the thing that you love and to really be all in on it.
If you can invest in nothing else but your capacity so that you have the energy for your business that is, it’s just huge. It is really, really huge. I am super high maintenance because, I am protecting my energy. I am doing everything that I can so that I can be the best at what I do every single day. And if that’s all that I can do every day, then that’s it. So long as I can write every day, I’m happy. That’s really where my energy goes. And coach, those two things.
So the third key here is confidence. And this is again, where the courage piece comes in. The, your business math is about reaching the numbers and making, getting that revenue so that you can pay yourself a thriving wage so that you are not a starving artist, because that is not any way to run a business. It is not fun, it’s not fair, and you just end up resentful, uh, which is not, you’re not where you wanna be when you’re–who wants to create art from a resentful place, right? We wanna be, we wanna create from a place of abundance.
Confidence though, really comes in, in how you’re gonna show up, how you’re gonna really sell yourself. If you don’t believe in your work, why should I? That’s sort of what I always say to people. You’ve gotta really ha– work on that self-belief piece. And confidence helps everybody around you see that, oh, you know, this is actually worth my, my time and my energy. I should sign up for that or I should pay for that.
Confidence is a huge piece of it, and then on top of that, or with that is courage. Being willing to take the risks. You know, business is a lot of risk taking, it is a big game of, of adventure and trying things and being curious and failing and then pivoting and trying again, and tweaking. And that does take courage.
And that visibility piece, and I know for a lot of creatives and artists, the visibility is really hard. I don’t wanna be out there, I don’t wanna, I don’t wanna take up space, I just wanna do my thing. But really selling your work really requires visibility. People need to know that you exist. They need to know that you have, that you’re out there, that your work is there, that you have value to give. And so the more you can take up space, the more you can let people know that you exist and that your work exists, the more money you’re gonna make.
And the other piece of visibility is it helps to grow your authority so that people start to take you seriously. Uh, so that’s a really big part. You know, when you’re gonna hire a coach, you want this person to be somebody that you know, like, and trust and have had experience with, as opposed to a stranger.
So your visibility, especially if you’re doing a service, but not, not even just that. You will make more money the more people see you as, as an authority in your industry as an expert. Um, when you have that expertise to really show and, you know, so if Jessica wants to be an event organizer someday, she’s gonna need to start to build that as her authority and in that capacity.
I wouldn’t recommend that though. Don’t quit your day job.
The other, the last, well the second to last piece, cuz I’m gonna give you a bonus here today is consistency. To meet the numbers, to really make money in your business, you have got to be consistent. I think Jessica, you and I probably, I mean, we’ve been doing this a long time. We are, we are consistent. We are like every day showing up, doing the work.
If there is no plan B for you, and there’s no plan B for me, this is it. If this business has to work, then I need to be consistent. I need to show up. I need to get these speaking events so that I get before other people. I need to do my blogging. I need to do my marketing. I need to be doing all the work that I need to do. Every day, relentlessly.
Not hustle and grind. Rest is certainly a, a huge priority and something that I push, but consistently visible. Consistently selling. Consistently creating. And it goes back to the capacity piece. Having the energy and the capacity to be consistent. Really huge and, and huge part of make– reaching your numbers.
Finally the last piece is consciousness. And you know, I was debating on whether that’s the right word, but consciousness and paying attention to everything that’s going on in your business, especially around the numbers. But also paying attention to what’s working, what’s bringing in those numbers and what’s not working.
Those are the two really big pieces of being really attentive to the business that you have, rather than putting your head in the sand and just not knowing. Really being willing to check in on the numbers, your metrics, your bank account, what’s working and what’s not working.
And earlier this year I basically was operating at $0, not zero, but very, it felt zero. It was not zero, but it felt like $0 in my bank account cuz I did this, uh, I did a business pivot last year in 2021. The first several months didn’t work and I just plowed through my cash flow. And so I really started out this year in kind of in this really, like, I don’t know if this is gonna work.
Weekly financial wellbeing check-in
Shawn Fink: And so I started a weekly ritual that I wanna share with you called a weekly financial wellbeing check-in. And it’s called financial wellbeing because it’s not just about what’s in the bank account and the spreadsheet, it’s about how do you feel in your body and your wellbeing and finances. Because financial wellbeing has a lot to do with everything else in our life. If we cannot pay our mortgage or our rent, or if we don’t think we can afford clothes for our kids, or if we can’t pay for the school pictures, we’re not thriving. We’re not flourishing in the way that we should be in our businesses.
So the weekly check-in has three parts. The first part is setting up your environment. And this is a weekly check-in by the way that I, and I have a resource that I’ll share with you that walks you through the exact ritual that you can do. But I do mine on, I call it Financial Fridays. There’s a client of mine in this room that we just decided she’s gonna do Money, Money Mondays. Because it’s all about the timing for you, whatever works for you.
But you start with setting up your environment. I’m a very spiritual person, so I light candles and I will light incense and I’ll put on my diffuser and get my tea and I, you know, just setting up your environment so that you feel safe, you feel peaceful, you feel ready, you feel confident. And then you move into checking in with yourself.
Yourself is important because if you are tackling your finan– if you’re gonna go look at your business numbers and you’re not ready, that can be scary. I mean, like, going back to what I said, that this is not for the faint at heart. If you’ve not a bad month and you have bills, you’re not gonna feel real good going in and paying invoices.
So really doing that check-in piece and I give you some examples of how to do that in my free resource. And then the other piece is actually doing the financial tasks of your business. This can be anything from the annoying thing that you have to do where you go in and you tag in your bookkeeping system.
Jessica Abel: I love doing that.
Shawn Fink: Nobody likes to do that. You love it? Ok, ok, whatever. Okay. But you don’t love to do it if you’ve waited three months, Jessica. So we’re doing it every week so that it’s not becoming this big weight on our shoulders. We’re invoicing every week. And I have a client in here who knows that she, I’m talking to her. We are invoicing every week.
And this is really important cause the, if you have done work for somebody and you, they owe you money, you need to invoice them. Make this a part of your system. And again, in the resource I give you a bunch of other tasks that you can do, including money mindset journaling, which I think is a really important piece to getting over our fears around money.
Like you’ve gotta be able to tend to whatever those core wounds are, that are making you afraid to ask for the sale, or afraid to go for something bigger, or to raise your prices. So I will put that link in the chat so that you can, can do that.
Jessica Abel: I dropped it in for you.
Shawn Fink: Oh, excellent. You’re so great. So yeah, that, that really kinda sums it up. I, I know that was quick, but I wanna make sure we have time for Q&A and all of that. So I welcome any questions that, you know, will help you understand a little bit more.
Courage before confidence
Jessica Abel: That was great, Shawn. Thank you for all of that. I thought of a few things as you were speaking. One of our core sayings at Autonomous Creative is courage before confidence. That you have to take brave steps to make a thing, to trust that it’s gonna come out well, to talk to people about your work, to do all kinds of things, before you know it’s gonna work. You can’t know ahead of time. You have to just try it. And so I love that. That’s sort of like, those were your steps, right? It’s all, all in there.
Shawn Fink: Yeah. And I, I talk a lot about in, uh, my work around the brai– the yes brain. Saying yes before you are ready is really what business is about. It’s
Jessica Abel: Mm-hmm.
Shawn Fink: It’s just put it out there. Do the thing.
Jessica Abel: Yeah.
Shawn Fink: You don’t, you don’t, you might not be ready. It might not be ready, but put it out there anyway because that’s the only way you’re gonna know.
Sales as service
Jessica Abel: Yeah, yeah. And even if you know it’s not ready, it’s still fine. You’re still gonna survive this, and that’s gonna be an important step in moving forward. And the, the second piece that I wanted to sort of bring together here is another thing we talk about a lot in the Autonomous Creative Incubator, which is my business coaching program, is the idea of sales as service.
I don’t mind the word sales because it’s just a container for what I know that I’m doing, which is to bring just so much value into people’s lives. You know, that there’s so much that’s awesome about what I do. I believe in it. And so when I’m talking to people about it, I feel good about that because I am committed to never trying to manipulate or push or twist anybody into taking moves that they don’t wanna take and that are not right for them.
And with that as a baseline, I feel great about talking about how I can help you, how everything from my book can help you understand some concept of human nature, to my coaching program can help you build a solid business that will actually support you. I feel great about saying that.
And for those of you who are here, who are artists and you are making things for people, remember that– and, and I mean if you’re writing or visual art, any type of artist, right? That art in its nature is about communication. Art is about connecting your thoughts and your ideas to the outside world, to other people.
And so when you’re thinking like, I wanna connect that to sales, because the idea is that people can’t, I mean, there’s certainly ways to experience your work that do not cost money. But you also need to be paid in order to make the work, in order to have the time, in order to have energy, in order to be fed, so that you can make the work. And so those things all become an ecosystem.
The people you’re connecting, your ideas, you’re helping people, you’re having an impact by putting your workout into the world. And that’s what you need to bring into yourself and believe in order to have that yes brain.
Shawn Fink: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And I, I sit here in my office and I wish you could see that all the art that’s up on my wall that I surround myself with, and it was the artists and the healers that got me through these last couple of years in the pandemic.
We undervalue, as a collective, we undervalue art, but it is huge for people. And when you can remember that this is changing people, it’s saving lives in many ways, so raise those prices.
Jessica Abel: Have you ever gotten stuck wondering how the heck to streamline your website when you do so many disparate things? Have you struggled to put your work out there when you’re filled with self-doubt. Have you wanted to find higher paying clients, but have no idea how.
Those are a few of the challenges we’ve addressed in the creative business design lab, a free live monthly conversation where I bring a creative business owner on as a guest and we tackle one big sticky topic at a time.
Running a creative business is no joke. It’s complex. Issues crop up out of nowhere. And more often than not, we have no one to turn to, to ask for help. If you have a creative business at any stage of development from nascent to veteran you’ll get a ton out of these sessions. Bring your questions and let’s be lab partners.
Check out Jessica abel.com/c B D L that’s J E S S I C a a B E l.com/c B D L, to register for the next session of the creative business design lab.
Q: How do you budget when you don’t know your inome in any give month?
Jessica Abel: All right, let’s jump into Q&A cause we have some great questions here. Let’s start with a question from Paola, which is not knowing how much money you bring in makes it hard to have a monthly savings. How do you budget when you don’t know your income in any given month?
Very good question. Very relevant for lots of artists who are working right at the, right at that edge of enoughness, right? Or enough, enough income. My suggestion would be, YNAB. You need a budget. It’s like getting, basically what Yap does, and you can use other solutions for this as well, including non-digital ones, is the idea of envelope budgeting and taking the money that you have and putting it in a literal envelope or a virtual container, saying this is the money for this thing.
What YNAB does that I think is really great. And again, whether you or not you wanna use this app is not the point. It’s more about the mindset of this is it gets you to extend the life of your money so that your goal is to have enough money for at least 30 days out. So you have like one month of lead time on the money that you’re spending. And it has a little counter at the top, tells you how, what is the age of your money.
And it’s a little abstract how they come up with that number. But it, you wanna get it over 30 and ideally over like 120. You know, you wanna have that number be out in the future so that you have the security that you are good this month. You’re good. You got what you need.
And there’s also things in there about how to then attribute, like to, to set up budgets for future spending on things or current spending on things. So that if you, if you have fun money, you, you wanna be spending some money on yourself for fun or just get a manicure or buy some cute stuff or whatever it is. Go on a vacation that you don’t feel guilty about spending that money because you know you’re good.
You cover what you need to cover. You’ve intentionally set that apart. I, as I said, have been a money software user for like 30 years. I paid attention to the pennies because I had to, cuz everything was so tight in order to make, make it work, I had to know what was going on. But I did not gain transparency into what was happening in the future or thinking about budgeting until I switched over to using YNAB..
I don’t work for this company. I, I will give you an affiliate link because I have one, because I’m, I use it, but I am not paid by YNAB for this. I just really believe in what they do and the mission they have, which is to give people that kind of transparency into their money. So if you don’t wanna use that, look at what it does and try to replicate that somewhere else.
That idea of setting, like being very specific about what your monthly expenses are, making sure those things are taken care of, setting aside small amounts month after month to save up, and also to have a cushion so that you are eventually ahead of your expenses by days, and then months, and then much more than that.
Do you have anything to add to this?
Shawn Fink: No, I think you, I think you really covered that.
Jessica Abel: I just, I, I’m a, an evangelist. I teach this in my undergrad classes. This is the, the link that I have for that. I teach a YNAB to my undergrads and they’re just baffled by the whole thing. But I’m like, no, pay attention. This is really important. I’ve had a few, like returning undergrads who are like in their thirties and forties and they’re just like, oh my God, how did I not know about this earlier?
Q: When building an audience, what are the best numbers to track?
Jessica Abel: Okay. Question number two, from Sine. When building an audience, what are the best numbers to track? What do you think?
Shawn Fink: Well, if you are, I’m assuming this is an online audience because what else would you be building? So email subscribers would be the first place I would start.
I know you don’t do, you don’t do social media. Social media it can be a little bit of an indicator. It would not be my top choice. I think email subscri– subscriptions is really… and/or hits to your website would be another, you know, really trying to build, not necessarily an audience, but traffic to wherever you sell your offers. Those would be my top two.
Jessica Abel: Yeah. I definitely think you need to be tracking those numbers, but I also think if you’re trying to build your audience, what you want to do is you wanna see that change, those numbers change. And so what I would be looking for is not just how many subscribers do I have, that’s important obviously. But like, oh, I just did a week’s worth of reels on Instagram. I got a spike of subscribers. Okay, that worked. You know, so that you’re actually looking at change.
If you do a live event, you are either in person live or you’re online live, and you’re doing something, talking about your work, and you gain some subscribers during that week. If there’s any way to track it more directly, great. If not, just look at your numbers and go, oh, there’s a little peak there. That’s when I did whatever it is. And pay attention to what’s working so you can do more of it.
Also, pay attention to what has no effect whatsoever. If you are doing like daily or three times a week you’re doing Instagram posts, and nothing’s really happening. Try stopping for a few weeks, see if it changes. If nothing changes, why are you doing this on Instagram?
So pay attention to both what’s having an effect and try to test what you’re doing to see, is it having an effect? Is this worth my time? That’s what I would say is like using this as a sort of diagnostic, you really need to be asking specific questions in order to get answers.
Q: How do i arrive at a good mix of my services and produces, private sessions and group classes, speaking gigs and workshops to reach my income goal?
Jessica Abel: Okay. Dorothea asks, how do I arrive at a good mix of my services and products, private sessions and group classes, speaking gigs and workshops to reach my income goal? You do this all the time, Shawn. How do you approach this?
Shawn Fink: My very first response or thought was, that’s a lot.
Jessica Abel: Me too.
Shawn Fink: You’re doing a lot. You’re doing too much. You need to scale that back and really focus on raising those prices and getting something that’s really solid working, and then add in other things maybe as time goes on.
So I, I guess my real thought is you can’t, you’re not, you’re only human, so you can’t do all those things well. So pick two or three and really kind of focus and double down on those.
Jessica Abel: Yeah. Or less, you know, one or two. The fewer the better in some ways. And I think the question of looking at which to double down on, the income clarity calculator that is in that blog post that I shared will really help with that.
Because basically what you’re doing is you’re looking at time versus revenue for an individual offer. How much time does it take me to deliver this thing, to sell it? All of the admin that goes into it. What’s the time investment in this versus how much money do I make from it? And some of that stuff will become glaringly obvious when you lay it out carefully and kind of divide up.
And sometimes it’s hard to tell, how much time am I spending on this, cuz it’s all going into one bucket. But do the best you can to kind of sort that out and then you can sort of make decisions about what could I afford to drop? Or even just if you can’t make yourself drop it right away, you can just like not push it. And if somebody asks, you’re like, okay, I can do that, but you’re not trying to like actually actively develop that business. And it becomes easier then to like let that go after a while of just kind of not doing it actively.
Shawn Fink: And I think too, on top of that is sometimes the, the answer by the numbers might become the thing you don’t really want to be doing so then you’ve gotta really work with that thing that’s gonna make the numbers work for you, to be something that you really want to do.
So tweaking it cuz I know a lot of times what people will pay for is different than what they need. So, you know, and we wanna provide what people need, but that isn’t always what’s gonna actually bring in revenue.
So trying to figure out how to make that thing that’s gonna actually sell work well for you, I think is really important for those of us who aren’t in this, you know, to become millionaires, but really are trying to do good work in the world. So I’ll just throw that in there cuz sometimes if you end up that the numbers are like the thing you didn’t wanna do, like you’re like, shit, well that’s not what I, I wanna do this other thing.
There’s ways to figure out how to make it all align so that you’re still getting to do those things you really wanna do, but positioning them in a way so that people are actually gonna buy them.
Jessica Abel: Yeah. And I think looking too, like of the options that you have available, what’s the easiest? What’s the lowest hanging fruit? Like what’s the easiest thing to make work? There’s a Venn diagram between what you wanna do and what people are willing to pay for and how urgently do they wanna pay for it. Like how, how much do they want this thing? And the more you try to force that, the more sort of panicky everything feels.
Q: How does tax season work for creatives?
Jessica Abel: All right. We’ve got a bunch of questions, so let’s try to speed through these. Theresa asks, how does tax season work for creatives? First part of this is it depends on where you live. Not everybody here is American, so there are a lot of major differences in other countries in terms of how taxes work.
And so the one thing I would say is get help. Don’t try to figure this out on your own because when you’re running a business, there’s a lot of extra paperwork. I’ve lived in two tax, like paid taxes in two different countries, in France and in the US. Both make it very complicated to be a business owner in totally different ways.
So get help. Find professionals to help you with this. The second piece is the thing that Shawn referred to of categorizing your transactions throughout the year is going to make your tax season so much better because you’re gonna be able to identify what your business expenses are so that you can write them off much more easily.
The reason I love it is because I love things to be neat and tidy, and I see all things like falling into the little lines. I’m like, oh, now I know what everything is. Even if it’s painful, I still know everything is, and that is great.
Shawn Fink: I think that the weekly financial check-in, it was a game changer for me when tax season came up this year. And, and I had a really big tax year this year because I changed my bookkeeping company. I changed my payroll cuz I’m an S Corp. Everything was upside down, like everything and it was very stressful.
In fact, that’s, I think that’s actually when I started doing this weekly check-in. So, but the more you stay on top of it, the less impact you will feel when December, this January comes around or, or whenever you’re doing your stuff. So I really recommend working that in on a regular basis.
Jessica Abel: Right. And we are doing this conversation in December, so even if you’re watching this later on, this is the end of the year. If you’re listening to this right now and you’re like, oh crap , just take it bit by bit. Work through it. It’ll be fine. Take one month at a time, or one category at a time, or one account at a time and you will get there.
Mackenzie, in the chat points out, make sure to look for local resources. Last year I was able to get my taxes done for free. Income threshold is probably higher than you think. Yes. This is a thing that the IRS makes tax prep companies offer in the US for free for people up to a certain income threshold that’s pretty high. You can get free tax prep help. They don’t tell you this, but it is true. So if you’re in the US, see if you can get free help from one of the big, like one of the big tax prep companies. Not just an app, but like actual people help.
Q: How do get consistent with marketing on a very tight budget?
Jessica Abel: Okay. Valerie asks, how to get consistent with marketing on a very tight budget. We’re talking a time budget or a money budget is what I’m asking, because I don’t know why marketing has to cost a lot. I mean, doing advertising, sure.
Shawn Fink: Yeah. I don’t spend any money on advertising. Time. Sweat and tears.
Yeah. I think everything, you know, that’s the beauty of starting a business these days. You really… I mean, it’s harder. When I started my first business 11, 12 years ago, it was a lot easier to do marketing then. You know, over the last year I’ve been testing this market to see just how challenging it really is gonna be as I rebuild, um, my audience.
And it is tricky. It is a tough market, but because of all of these great resources, I mean, literally everywhere you turn, there’s another way to put your work out there. And it’s all mostly for free. I mean, I guess there’s costs to some of the tools. Um, you know, I do a lot of scheduling. I have scheduling tools, so I do pay for that for social media. And your email provider, you know, so there are costs, but they’re pretty nominal.
And I think, isn’t it, um, MailChimp still has like a free email list for a certain number. So there are definitely ways. I don’t do paid advertising at all, so for me, my budget for marketing is, I don’t know, it’s probably like a thousand dollars or less a year. I mean, it’s really, it’s pretty low.
Jessica Abel: Yeah, I mean, my marketing budget in terms of software is a lot higher, but I use a lot of automation software and you don’t have to. If you don’t have money to spend on marketing, that’s fine. Just find ways to do it that aren’t that. And if you are working, if you, and this is something that’s covered in this blog post that I’ve shared, if you’re working a business model that has low price point products, right?
We talked about the idea of the, the $50 print. Then you’re going to be doing a certain kind of marketing for that. You can do it for free, but it’s going to have to get out to large numbers of people. But as your price point goes up, you’re more likely to be working in what’s called relationship marketing, which is talking to people. Having conversations with people, getting in front of small groups of people.
And that’s true whether you’re a fine artist going to art events and talking to possible collectors. It’s true if you are a coach and you need to be doing, um, speaking events or getting in front of small groups of other entrepreneurs or whatever it is, right? So that whole range, that is basically free doing any of those things.
And so, but it’s all about time. And so what I would refer back to is our conversation about how do you decide what numbers you track in your marketing, what you wanna be doing, whether you’re spending money or time or both, is looking at what’s effective and doing more of that. If it’s effective, you’re making money. It’s paying for the marketing. Paying for the time, it’s paying for the money. If it’s not effective, stop doing it. Don’t do stuff just cuz people tell you you should do it.
Q: I just don’t know how anyone makes money. Are there business models, ratios, guildelines that can be copied?
Jessica Abel: Mackenzie asks, I fear I just don’t know how to make money or how anyone makes it. I look at successful businesses and I just can’t fathom how the money works out. And then there are all these huge businesses that apparently don’t even make a profit? Are there models, ratios, guidelines, et cetera that can be copied? Like a business can survive on X percent profit as a sole owner and you should aim for X. I think that would help make, help me make better pricing decisions.
All I can tell you Mackenzie is go read this blog article that I’m linking to. Get the Income Calculator, Income Clarity Calculator. That is the start, the baseline of where you can go.
There’s lots more you can get into, but that basic level of understanding how the number of people who see your offer is related to the number of people who buy your offer. The amount that you are charging for your offer is closely related to how much money you’re going to be making on the end.
All of the, the number of offers has a huge impact on the time you’re putting into it, and that is going to restrict your revenue because you’re not gonna have enough time, potentially, for all the things you’re trying to do. All of those things are kind of laid out in there. I recommend you go and check that out.
Shawn Fink: Yeah. And two, you know, Don’t get caught up in thinking about other people’s businesses. Everybody’s business is very unique and personal. It’s, it’s very personal. Uh, especially in the work that we do. If you, if you were trying to start up a tech company, they can operate without profit cuz they have, they had in the past tense, venture capitalist’s money.
So that’s why there’s layoffs and that’s why there’s less jobs. That money is now gone. So don’t mimic or think of that your business needs to even run like that cuz it’s completely different. You just need to create something that is very authentic to you. Look at what you’re selling and match the numbers to Jessica’s calculator and really start to build your business from the, from a really authentic place. Many people make lots of money on very, you know, unique models.
Jessica Abel: Totally agree with that. I absolutely agree. Combining that idea of like, you are doing you, it’s not like anybody else, combining that with, there’s like ways to sort out the decisions you need to make. That’s the power combo right there.
Shawn Fink: I just wanna say too, you know, real quick, every idea I’ve had as a business owner has been like this like crazy hare-brained idea. People thought I was nuts when I had my first business, like, and I kinda thought I was too, but I knew, I listened to myself. I think there’s something here and that’s the voice that you really have to keep listening to in, in business.
If you listen to everybody else they will talk you out of everything. So you really, if you know that you have something to offer, if you’re capable of it, then you need to keep that voice really like listen to it. And I just really believe in that. It might feel like it’s a wild, crazy idea and maybe it is, but the numbers, you can make them work if you work with the numbers enough.
Q: How to co me to decision on how you work out the best method of sales and marketing that work for your creative business?
Jessica Abel: Yes. Agreed. Two more quick questions. We have one from Sapna who says, tips on how to come to decision on how you work out the best method of sales and marketing that works for your creative business, what questions to ask. Working towards building a new business in the new year over the next few weeks. Time versus incoming salary for my current main job is something I am reviewing, trying to establish a ceramics business.
Sapna I think you told us you are currently an architect, correct? Yeah. I think that the methods of sales and marketing you’re going to want to rely on are going to depend on your positioning and your pricing.
Like you need to look at what it is that you’re offering, who the people are that you are gonna be speaking to, that are gonna be the customers and the clients that you’re gonna be there for your ceramics business. And then you need to figure out where they are. You know, where can you go talk to those people? Where can you get your work in front of those people?
Making sure that the amount, cuz ceramics is very, it’s resource intensive, it’s time intensive. So making sure that your pricing for your products is in line with the amount of time that you’re putting into them. And that may mean for something like ceramics especially that you’re doing a lot of bundle kind of things.
You know, if you’re doing tableware, something like that, you’re, you’re creating sets, you’re creating lines of things so that people are able to make larger purchases. Maybe work with restaurants and create work for them, something like that. So there’s ways to kind of, and you may be in a totally other area of ceramics. I have no idea.
But anyway, the point is looking for ways to find a pricing model that’s gonna work for you first. Then design the marketing that suits that. That is lined up with the positioning that you need in the market. Like it’s high end, right? It’s gonna be a high end thing. So you need to be doing marketing that fits that so that you, you’re messaging and people you’re talking to are understanding what kind of business you have from day one.
Shawn Fink: Yeah, I, I think ceramics is such an interesting model. It’s everywhere, but it is time– it is super time intensive to make, and running those numbers is gonna be really important.
But I, I would be more curious to know, you know, why you want to start a ceramics business and what does it doing for you as an architect because I think there’s probably a process there that could be a service or taught in some way that would even make that a little bit more profitable. I know a few people who are therapists who you do ceramics as a, as their, it’s their outlet.
Jessica Abel: But I mean, to be a professional artist who’s a ceramicist, I think is a totally like you can design a business. And this is something we do a lot in the Incubator. We focus on businesses that are built to be part-time, but full-time income so that you have part-time to focus on an art practice. So that you’re a writer, visual artist, showing in galleries, all this other stuff takes a lot of time, brings in very little money.
So design something you can do in two, two and a half days a week that will bring in a full-time salary, like the amount that you need based on another skillset or possibly a combined skillset.
I have a client named Samantha Clark, who’s a visual artist, really well known visual artist in Scotland, does gorgeous work, wants to be focusing on her gallery art practice, is also a writer, published writer.
So she started a coaching business that leverages her history as a memoir writer and as a visual artist to help people create their books or visual art projects, right? So there’s kind of, it’s a very open-ended coaching practice in that sense.
That’s designed to, for her to be able to do her client work on one day a week and she can do the marketing work she needs to do, that takes a little bit more time, but it’s like a day and a half, two days a week she’s doing this work. And she’s just starting, but it’s quickly getting to the point where it’s going to support her so that she can get, she can really focus on her gallery work.
So for people who are in a, especially a visual arts or like fiction writing field where it’s just really difficult to bring in a full-time living from the art itself.
A key factor here is designing your own day job, essentially using your own creative skillset, something that’s gonna feel great to you, that you’re gonna feel like you can go out boldly into the world and with courage sell this, this offer. And it feels really good to deliver, but in some ways it’s better if it’s not like your studio practice, because then you’re not confused. You know when you’re doing one thing and when you’re doing the other thing. There’s a, a clarity there.
But you can design a b, a job that’s flexible, that lets you take time off for when you have a show or you have whatever it is. That gives you, you know, you can do stuff at night or in the morning, or you can do it in the middle of the day or whatever it is.
That’s the value of heading into entrepreneurship as an artist consciously and making a decision, like, no, I’m not gonna try to leverage this because it, it is so much pressure on your art to try to bring all the money. And it really speaking from experience, again, it changes everything about your art practice when you know that’s also how you’re trying to make a living.
One last question. It’s not really a question from, but from Jill there’s a point that I think is worth bringing up. We’ve been talking about this idea of the enough number, like how much money do you need to be bringing in? And Jill says, depending on tax, but if I’m paying 30% in tax, I need to make 50% more than what I need to spend.
So if you, again, if you’re an entre– if you’re going from a day job model to an entrepreneurship model, yes. You have to figure in your taxes as part of your enough number. That’s a very, very important. She points out that in practice, it means that you’re not squeaking by number is probably twice as big as you think it is.
Especially if you have a day job and you’re switching from, like having your taxes taken out of your check to paying your own taxes, adding 25 or 30% into your expenses for every dollar that comes in, or every pound, rupee, euro, whatever, is crucial in terms of making sure that you’re safe and that you’re, you’re aiming for the right numbers.
All right. That was good, right? Like, we covered a lot of stuff. We’re a little late here. Thanks for coming to the Creative Business Design Lab and thank you Shawn for being here with us.
Shawn Fink: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure and it was just great to see everyone.
Jessica Abel: Thank you so much for joining us today for the Autonomous Creative.
Our show is produced by Matt Madden, our production coordinator is Lousine Boyakhandjyan, and our production assistant is Rhiannon Sunday. Music is by Matt Madden, and I’m your host, Jessica Abel.
You can find all our takeaways as well as any links and extras we mentioned today plus transcripts, in the show notes. Find everything you need at acpod.show.
If you enjoyed this episode, I hope you’ll subscribe. And it would help us immensely if you would take a second and pop over to apple podcasts and leave us a rating and review. It just takes a few seconds, but it’s actually a huge help to us and to our guests to get this podcast suggested to new listeners.
We appreciate your help so much. And we’ll see you next time on the Autonomous Creative.
Help us out by sharing this show with your friends!
Share this episode:
Don't just wait to get discovered
You've quietly invested years in the work that's most important to you.
Now find out how to get it into the hands of fans and paying customers—without selling out or setting yourself up for failure— with this free, on-demand masterclass.
If your best creative work is languishing unseen, you'll love finding out:
- How building an audience can stop feeling excruciating and start feeling aligned, awesome, and even (dare we say it?) fun
- Why you don't need to splash your whole life all over the internet to build an amazing fanbase
- How to control your own message and impact
- The one thing you need to do to make an impact on the world with your work
- AND MORE!
PLUS: Walk away with a brand new social media bio that will turn heads and make fans!