Sleeping, eating, scrolling on TikTok, doing the odd Chloe Ting workout and eating some more.

I’m sure I’m not the only one whose life consisted of an endless cycle of these 5 activities during lockdown. The highlight of my day was seeing whether or not Flo fitted into her jeans. To cope with that overwhelming feeling of boredom, a lot of people started taking up new stay-at-home hobbies or going back to old forgotten ones. For me this was picking up painting again, something I hadn’t done in over a year, from my A-Level art days.

I decided to start a 50-day painting challenge to keep my mind from going mad, just sitting at home all day. I even set up an Instagram account to keep me accountable. At first, I was only getting around 30 likes on each picture, but I was happy as Larry, spending a couple of hours every day with a paintbrush in hand and a true crime podcast playing in the background.

Around a month later, when lockdown was still in full swing and seemed as if it would never end, I began getting more invested in my Instagram. I followed my favourite artists and started using stories, hashtags and IGTV. Before I knew it, I had grown to 2000 followers and was even getting enquires for commissioned paintings. Initially, the thought of other people paying for my art seemed crazy – I was far from a professional artist!

However, I made the decision to start accepting commissions in June and I was overwhelmed with the response I got! I ordered some hardback envelopes, some packaging materials and a lot more paint on eBay and got started. These are some of the very first commissions I did:

In those first few weeks of starting up I was lost in finding an appropriate amount to charge. So, I talked to a few other small art accounts and finally stumbled across this perfect formula:

(HOURLY RATE x COST PER PAINTING SIZE) + SUPPLIES & DELIVERY COST = PRICE

I’ve now had my business for 6 months and I’ve condensed everything I’ve learnt into 4 key points that anyone else looking to start their own business should know.

  1. Get yourself a logo and name straight away

Not only will this make your business seem more professional, but it will allow customers to spread word of mouth about it a lot more easily. Don’t let the thought of creating a logo being difficult, deter you! For a long time, I didn’t realise how easy it was. The app Canva is so user friendly and has hundreds of free templates you can use to create a unique logo.

  • Be consistent on social media

I’ve found Instagram and TikTok to be the best way of getting new customers, but you need to be consistent. Posting four or five times a week is a great way of gaining new followers and keeping your existing followers interested. If you’re stuck for content ideas, try posting about what you did that day, your packaging process or get inspiration from similar businesses. It’s so easy to be seen on TikTok and one of my videos got 970,000 views which gave me a huge increase in following! This is the video that got me started.

  • Don’t be shy to charge what you’re worth

At the end of the day, your business needs to be making you money. When you’re first starting out, I’d recommend keeping your prices low (still making sure you’re covering production costs) and then you can increase your price as you begin to get more customers. This pricing strategy is known as market penetration, and can help you get a foot in door when starting you’re business.

  • Keep track of EVERYTHING

Once you start taking orders and buying supplies it’s very easy to get lost in a sea of numbers, so I recommend setting up an excel spreadsheet for yourself. It’s such a handy software tool for making sure you’re not going over budget and it makes it very easy to see how much you’re earning. It also helps me to keep on track of orders and deadlines. If you’ve never used excel before, don’t be put off! Spend 10 minutes exploring the software and I’ll guarantee you’ll get the hang of all the basics. You can also take advantage of the hundreds of free YouTube videos explaining how to use it. I found this one particularly helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwbho0CgEAE

I hope you found this blog useful if you’re considering setting up your own business. It’s such a fun and exciting process and you’ll gain invaluable skills and experiences, so I highly recommend going for it!

Thanks for reading,

Ciara

Ciara McCabe is a second year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Instagram and Linkedin.

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