Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in digital arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Ashley Cassaday, a digital illustrator, educator, and designer based in Fort Worth, TX, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I'm a fantasy digital painter and illustrator! I am fond of painting fictional characters for stories, games, and publishing. Anything with faeries and magic is my subject matter, so if you're a fan of Dungeons & Dragons, Video Games, or anything nerdy, my work most likely falls in that market.
Tell us about yourself
My interest in art isn't too special compared to other artists. I grew up drawing and playing video games more so than anything else. When it was time to enter college, I delved into digital art. At the time, I wanted to work as a concept artist in an animation or gaming studio. As I got older, I realized that route wasn't really a fit for me and my workflow as an illustrator, so eventually, I ventured off into just wanting to do my own thing. Not only was creating what I wanted when I wanted very liberating, but I've also found enjoyment in going to shows to discover and connect with my audience.
Also, not only was creating art fun but thinking about new products or services I could sell or incorporate with my work keeps me motivated, as it allows me to think outside the box of ways my customers can enjoy my work other than just hanging a print on their wall. My brain is always coming up with new ideas, and it's cool to figure out that there are so many more opportunities and unconventional avenues to share my work.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
While monetary gains are always great, I would have to say that finally discovering what I love to create and sticking with it has manifested the biggest opportunities in the long run. I may only paint faeries and magical people, but the clients, partnerships, and events I have been able to be a part of wouldn't have happened if I didn't let go of my inhibitions and just followed what I love.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
All the red tape. Ironically sometimes it's nice to send out orders and respond to emails, but a lot of young artists don't realize that creating as a professional is only 40% of the job. The other 60% involves planning events, communicating with clients, editing videos, doing taxes, managing social media, etc. Breaking from the artist mindset into a business one, while it can be pretty daunting, is a must to succeed. The more you can embrace the non-art parts of running a creative business, the easier it gets, and the more you learn in the long run.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Number 1: Find your creative niche. I know this sounds so overused and cliché, but it really is important for one to hone in and find a market that really resonates with your passions and who you really are; that's how you can connect with your most authentic audience and truly enjoy whatever it is you may create or do.
Number 2: Make sure to acquire a good sense of grit. Growing a business doesn't happen overnight, and anyone who says you can is lying. While it can be so freeing doing your own thing, you will have highs and also run into pitfalls. So it's important to embrace any mistakes you may make, as they are key to helping you grow and understand your business in the long run.
Number 3: Be authentic to yourself!! I already mentioned it before, but I can't stress how important it is to be true to your calling. Following trends and getting ideas from others sometimes is helpful but not substantial for a long-term business. Figuring this out requires a great deal of honesty and self-reflection, but if you can be confident in yourself, make the right chess moves, and stay passionate about your calling, it all will fall into place, and eventually, magical things will happen.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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