The road to becoming an entrepreneur is often filled with ups and downs, and this is especially the case if you’re riding it solo. There are so many different aspects to starting and running a business, and when it all falls on your shoulders, it can be tricky to navigate.
There’s no better way to get advice than to talk to someone who’s been there, which is why we decided to reach out to abstract painter and illustrator Megan Elizabeth, founder of Art By Megan! Currently living in NYC, Megan has become known and loved for her amazing pieces of art and down-to-earth personality. Read along as she shares her tips on chasing your dreams and what it’s like to run a one-woman business!
A Behind-The-Scenes Look Into Art By Megan
Hi there! I’m Megan Elizabeth, the abstract painter and illustrator behind Art By Megan. I am based in Brooklyn, NYC but I am from just outside DC. I am inspired by oceans, nature and light, and I am always dreaming of my next beach adventure or traveling to a new city: you could say that I am travel and beach obsessed.
Three years ago, my family moved to NYC to start a new chapter and with it, I took a hobby of painting to a full-time career. Recently someone called me “an overnight success,” but I want to shed light on the fact that building a business as a solopreneurial mom and woman is no easy feat. if by “overnight” success, that person meant, “you must have literally worked overnight a lot,” then YES, I am an overnight success!
It’s important for us as women running small businesses to be honest about the blood, sweat and tears that go into building a business so that others who want to follow in our footsteps may do so and know that they’re going to have to fight HARD for what they dream of. However, I would also like to argue that fighting for what I dreamed of doing my entire life has been one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I am still in complete awe when I arrive each morning at my studio at Industry City in Brooklyn, NY.
What It’s Like To Start A Business From Scratch
When you convert to a small business from a hobby, it’s important to lay a strong foundation by using the tools you have available to you. I found that starting and establishing my LLC in NYC was a good place to start for both legal and financial reasons.
To get started determining how to form your LLC, head over to the state department website for your state and follow the steps. It can seem overwhelming, but it’s relatively simple once you digest the information.
The next step I took for Art By Megan was to work on creating and building my online presence. I chose to focus most on my Instagram account and building my Squarespace website. I cannot recommend Squarespace enough; it has given me the peace of mind to build a website that I am proud of, know how to manage and make changes to, and enjoy building in the process. There are many options out there and I found it was important for me to experiment with a few of the options until I found what felt best for my one-woman show and my budget.
For social media, I took great effort to build cohesive, beautiful content to share 1-3 times a day online and grew my following slowly and organically over time. I can’t make any recommendations regarding how to manage Instagram any longer, unfortunately, as it seems that we are all feeling some growing pains with the platform, but I can share that it’s best to share photos that are ‘re-postable,’ feature many creatives, are collaborative, and are positive, uplifting, and unique.
Finding a unique voice in a sea of others who may do work that is similar to yours is really imperative as you create and develop a social media vibe. I chose to take a angle that is much like my personality: honest, fun, a little ridiculous at times, and completely in love with what I do daily. I know that when someone meets me in real life, my online ‘persona’ will match my real life personality and I take great pride in knowing that.
"Finding a unique voice in a sea of others who may do work that is similar to yours is really imperative as you create and develop a social media vibe."
Understanding The Importance Of Your Brand
For me, having a brand that is fun, accessible and consistent with my real personality is SO important. I have found that by being a genuine and real person, I have found clients that are fun-loving, open to new ideas and are genuinely awesome people.
They say that your vibe attracts your people and I firmly believe this to be the case for me and my brand. I want people to love my work because they can tell that I am having the best time being an artist and that I totally love what I do each day!
Asking For Help From Friends And Experts
In the beginning, I operated my art business under the false pretense that I had to figure everything out for myself. It was really overwhelming and I soon learned that I have many friends who would not only love to help, but also whose skills are amazing in fields where I am not as proficient. I did research, reached out to others in my field that I admire, and asked for help with what I found most challenging. Components of my business like learning Pinterest, financial planning and budgeting, and writing contracts became the priorities as my business grew.
It’s worth mentioning in this ‘middle’ phase of growing a business, that it’s essential to not only ask for help but to also value the service of others. I choose to support many small businesses run by women, but Ii cannot discredit their work or time and must pay for their services. If we are going to be responsible for growing an amazing creative economy, we all have to value the experience, hard work, and expertise of our peers.
Making The Most Of Social Media
Social media has been a HUGE tool in helping to grow my business online. Through Facebook and Instagram, I have become friends with people all over the world who love art, I have made some wonderful artist friends who are my mentors and confidants when I have questions and problems, and I have networked with outstanding organizations supporting women entrepreneurs and creatives following their passions. Also, through social media I have created an online portfolio that offers a glimpse into the world of an artist that seems so elusive and mysterious to many. I love sharing mixing paint videos, behind-the-scenes photos and stories and peeks into my process and tools that I use to make my art.
However, as far as growing an audience, I can’t say (sadly!) that I have any techniques any longer. I have found that Instagram has really slowed down in recent months and my growth has plateaued, even though I continue to produce high-quality content that I hope is serving my audience. I would say that I will continue to share my life as an artist, my passion for what I do, and behind-the-scenes as social media evolves, no matter what.
I will also say that it’s important to place our energies into many facets of our growing businesses and not just entirely on social media. Now I am working hard on creating a successful email marketing list, updating my website to meet the needs of my clients and do many more in-person events and painting classes. I think as a society we crave human interaction and that’s not something we can always receive online.
Celebrating The Middle
I am currently a proud small business owner with 3 years of experience running my business full time under my belt and I am really trying my hardest to celebrate being in ‘the middle.’
I now know what works best for my business and have figured out some of the smaller components of how to run smoothly (such as blocking my time, streamlining my shipping, having dedicated admin and PR days, working with experts in fields that will benefits the long-term growth of my business, and helping others who are growing a business as well).
But, I also am aware of the fact that I have much more to learn to scale my business for the future. I would love an employee to help with my admin tasks, shipping and other tasks that i could delegate to another, so I am working hard to hopefully make that happen in the future. I continue to seek out new experiences and see how I can stretch myself and my business creatively, while cherishing some of the amazing relationships and partnerships I have been able to make over the past 3 years. I am working harder than ever to see how I can become financially successful over time, while still loving what I do.
If you are a woman starting a business and need a mentor or friend, please know that I am always willing to help out! My email address is email@example.com.
Special thanks to Megan for sharing her story with us!