Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in the fine arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Lauren Pearson, founder of By Lauren P, located in Toronto, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I started off creating custom water-colour paintings of people, and the business has evolved so much over the years! I now create larger scale paintings, digital illustrations of anything from dogs to people and homes (and virtually anything you can think of), and branding for large and smaller companies. Custom gifts are a huge part of the business, and I love capturing memorable moments or things in people's lives so they can hold on to them forever.
Another favourite component is live illustration because I get to work with so many incredible people and brands. A few recent events have been for Canada Goose for their anniversary and Mejuri for the holidays, where I hand-painted personalized cards for each guest.
The exciting part about illustration and graphic design is there is no limit to the work you can do. Clients come to me every day with unique ideas, like hand painting a Veuve Clicquot bottle to creating customized wedding cards, and there is nothing that makes me happier than bringing these concepts to life.
Tell us about yourself
One of my good friends got engaged around five years ago, and I created a custom-framed painting of her and her fiancé. It was opened at the engagement party, someone posted it on Instagram, and a few days later, I had my first commission from someone I didn't know! I will always remember the first sale because it quite literally changed my life. I was working in sales at a tech company, which made me realize that I could make a living doing something that I was passionate about.
I am motivated by creating high-quality products for my clients because I want everything I make to evoke an emotion. The business grew mainly by referrals, so creating something that someone can hold on to and talk about for years is so valuable and very special to me.
Since the design world is constantly changing, I am also motivated to learn new skills and expand my product range.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
The past few years have been filled with so many exciting projects that it would be hard to choose one! I would say that getting to work with some of my favourite brands like Saks Fifth Avenue, Holts, and Mejuri would be up there. Most recently, the 100-page book that I illustrated for a Montreal-based magazine is launching soon.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Definitely having boundaries and knowing when to stop working! This was never really talked about when I started out but is now a popular subject amongst entrepreneurs. Burnout can be so real, and I have pushed myself to the brink so many times while working on multiple big contracts at once and barely sleeping.
Having time to rest and think is as important as the work you are completing, and I have been honouring this more as I have grown the business.
I have found that creating office hours, only responding and working within those times (with exceptions, of course), and scheduling each project in my calendar/spreadsheet with specific deadlines has helped.
Another thing that I have noticed in successful artists compared to those that do not do well is that you need to keep working and honouring deadlines even when you are not feeling creative. You can not wait for the inspiration to come and have to work to keep the momentum going constantly. As an artist, it is difficult to feel creative 100% of the time, but it is our responsibility to maintain this level of professionalism when working with companies that are relying on us to meet their own deadlines.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
The number one tip is to make sure that you are absolutely obsessed with your business idea. You need this passion to get you through the really tough days (there will be many) and allow you to maintain the momentum to create longevity. Throughout the past few years, I have seen so many incredible businesses start and take off but also start and fail very quickly. The main difference is that the successful ones were so passionate and persistent with their strategy. The latter realized that they did not have enough love for theirs to work at it every day.
The second tip would be to push through your comfort level and get your brand out there! It is so easy to get in your head about what to put out, and it can really hold you back. It is best just to start and figure out what works through trial and error. There are going to be people that will judge you no matter what, and you can't appeal to everyone! Authenticity is so key to growing, and I believe that you will attract the clients you want by being yourself, showing the face behind your brand, and producing the best work that you can.
Finally, you need to have fun with your business and build your network. You will spend most of your waking hours running this thing, and getting to work with and meet amazing people is one of the best parts of being an entrepreneur. Reaching out to like-minded people for advice and building your community online will enhance your referral network.
I would also like to add that once you have an amazing product or service, being organized is the only way to create sustainability. The number of tasks and ideas can be so overwhelming, so it helps to have a detailed spreadsheet or online system to track your daily projects and deadlines. Everything from research time to posting on social media should be scheduled to keep yourself accountable and maintain momentum.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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