Photo by @amyfrancesphoto
In today’s competitive world, it can be hard to stand out. This is especially the case in the creative industry! With so many great ideas and talented creatives out there, standing out in the crowd can be a challenge. In order to get clients and meet your business goals, you have to brand yourself. But what exactly do we mean by this?
Branding yourself simply means the way in which you promote yourself. It’s how you communicate your value to the world and what sets you apart. This can be determined by asking yourself questions like, “Why should someone choose my service over someone else’s?” and “What’s unique about what I bring to the table?”
Creating a unique brand for yourself is easier said than done. It can be helpful to learn from someone who has done it for themselves, which is why we decided to sit down with Megan Elizabeth of Art by Megan! She’s an amazing NYC artist, and we love how she’s created a unique brand for herself and uses social media to showcase her amazing work. She’s an amazing example of what it looks like to turn your hobby to a successful biz! Read along to get to know Megan and learn her tips for branding yourself in the creative industry:
Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get to where you are today?
After teaching high school Spanish and Art in Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD for 9 years, I did a total pivot and became a professional artist when our family moved to NYC! It was definitely one of the most terrifying things (maybe the most?!) I have done, and I am 100% thankful, grateful, and in love with this “new” career. I can look back now and see that for much of my life, the road was leading me to this. But, at the time, it doesn’t always seem so clear.
Take us back to the moment you realized that creating art was what you were called to do.
I grew up painting, making art, making a mess, and day dreaming with my nose in a book or my head in the clouds. I never said to myself, “I am going to be an artist”, but I was always dreaming up an adventure. I’m a really curious person and I loved school, learning and absorbing information through travels and new experiences ever since I was a little girl. I had a small glimmer of my future one day as I painted a canvas on our kitchen table late at night after putting my little girl to bed and teaching high school students all day. I knew I was supposed to be exhausted, but for some reason, the painting just made sense. And I haven’t really stopped painting since 5 years ago when I fell in love with it all over again.
When did you decide to take your art from a hobby to a business? What steps did you take?
I decided to make the jump from full-time teacher to a full-time artist working from my home studio in our new apartment in NYC 2 years ago. I had begun working part-time as an artist and I just knew that I could do so much more if I decided to dedicate my whole heart and soul to grow my business. The steps I took were more of creating a mindset for growth and being confident in myself than anything else. I started by building my website, ordered business cards, attended my first conference, began networking, then painted and hired a professional photographer to help portray my work in a positive light. I took it very seriously and spent hundreds of hours a month to turn this dream into a reality. I am proud of myself, which sounds crazy, but I didn’t give up!
What are some roadblocks you’ve faced since becoming a full-time artist?
Being a full-time creative requires a lot of resilience, thick-skin, and persistence. I was VERY sensitive to online criticism at first, but I have learned to take unkind comments less seriously now. I had a hard time defining my target audience at first but realized over time that it sort of happens organically. I am impatient and often want to figure out the “answers” to my business quickly, but have come to learn that so much of what happens is surprising and unexpected. Running a business has taught me so much about life and myself!!
You have gained quite the following on Instagram. How would you say social media has shaped your career?
Being social has had a HUGE impact on my business both on social media and in person. I have gained followers in a really slow, organic way so that my audience is engaged and genuinely interested in my artwork, the parts of my life that I share, and my perspective on following my dream. I worked really hard to make my “brand voice” consistent with who I am as a person so that hopefully no one meets me in real life is confused or finds my brand to be inconsistent. I feel that it is really important for me to be accessible, personable, professional, and kind in business. I want to show the world that an artist is not motivated by money, but by inspiration. Also, I want to show that artists can be REAL PEOPLE with families, dogs, crazy bits of life and adventures. I want people to see that I am 100% in love with what I do and for that to be why they want to support my business, not just feel “sold to”!
What tips would you give to someone looking to use a social media channel like Instagram to gain exposure for their work and build their brand?
BE YOURSELF!! I am not a particularly glamorous or fabulous person, but I am the only one of me. All I can do is share what I know and hope that it creates a connection out there in the world with someone else. To connect with people online, the best advice I can give is to BE YOURSELF! Be comfortable with your voice, share what YOU love, be original (even if it is weird and quirky and silly, like me!).
Walk us through creating a piece of art from start to finish. What steps are involved?
I work in 2 ways, 1. on commissioned pieces for clients who are inspired by a specific place or color or memory and 2. on pieces that I paint for creative fun. For commissions, I have a questionnaire on my site that allows me to really connect with clients before starting their work and we have a phone date where I ask them more about their inspiration for the painting and what they love about art. (I LOVE these calls!) For the work I create for myself or for a show, like the one I am planning for October in NYC, I brainstorm topics that really speak to me and work from memory, my photos, and my thoughts. I am constantly adding to older works, improving them and painting new paintings simultaneously. I love watching a painting emerge, almost as if magically, from a canvas. It always happens when I least expect it and I love that mystery behind being a creative person.
Do you have any specific artists that you look to for inspiration? If so, who?
Age 5-12-year-old Megan would have said, Claude Monet because I love impressionism. Teenage Megan would have said, Georgia O’Keefe because I love her smooth lines and close-up florals. Adult Megan has a problem. I am inspired by almost everything I see! I love the colors of DeKooning, Matisse’s papercuts, the amazing subjects of Frida Kahlo, the unique perspectives of Basquiat and Kehinde Wiley, the chaos and confusion in Picasso’s work, the beauty and calm of Joaquin Sorrolla, one of my favorite Spanish painters. So, I guess I just love all art.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far as an entrepreneur?
I have learned SO much in the past 2 years. I think my biggest takeaway has been that life doesn’t EVER turn out as planned. If you can learn to dance when it’s difficult, to celebrate the tiny victories and to stop and see the fleeting moments, you are doing it right.
What goals do you have for the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Is it wrong that whenever I am asked this question, I always picture myself lounging on a beach somewhere amazing? I am serious! I even said it in a job interview once and the guy literally spit out his coffee. So, I guess, my answer is…on a beach somewhere amazing? xo
Special thanks to Megan for answering our questions! Be sure to head over to her site to check out her amazing work–she’ll be releasing 25 new paintings on October 15 at 8am!