1: The copyright dilemma
I was stumped on this one for a while. I thought I would have to apply to get each one of my pieces protected under copyright law. Thanks to a few of my lawyer friends, I found out this is a large misconception that most of the public believes. All of my work is protected under copyright law because it is original artwork. I sign my work with the copyright symbol to remind the public it is copyright but all my work is protected by the copyright law automatically without writing the little c on my work.
2: Kinkos is good enough
Finding a printer was the hurdle that took me the longest to get over and I'm still not quite over it. I went to a handful of printers and called about ten others that I didn't visit. It is really challenging to find a place that is willing to take small orders for a budget friendly price. A lot of people I talked to told me Kinkos is a big "no, no" so I didn't keep it as an option. But, Kinkos printing is definitely good enough! Actually it was the best color copy I could get of my watercolor prints until I could get digital files of my work. The bottom line is printing is expensive and you will have to do many test prints before you get something you're satisfied with.
3: File for assumed name and LLC
I had never even heard of these terms when I was going through college since I wasn't a business major. The more I talked about my business, the more I found out how important this is. It is a very easy step to accomplish once you know about it. I used my lawyer friends for this step as well...I would suggest finding a lawyer friend if you're going to open a business. I just happen to know someone going to law school right now and he has been a huge help. All you have to do to file for assumed name is go to the Secretary of State website and claim your name, pay a small fee and get your name published in a local paper two consecutive weeks. I have yet to file for LLC but this makes your business a separate entity (important!).
4: Be inspired often
As an illustrator, I am constantly looking to be inspired. It is very easy to get in a rut and feel uninspired but I have found that if I have an easy way to keep inspiration handy, when I sit down to draw the ideas just flow. I have mentioned before the two platforms I gain most inspiration from are Instagram and Pinterest. I love Pinterest, but sometimes you can just get lost pinning things and then never look at them again. I have found that taking a screen shot of things I want to remember or draw works well for me. Being inspired in other ways is important too. Like going to new places, meeting people and trying something new.
5: Use your social media network
This was one of the most helpful tools for my business to get exposure. This is also where my degree came in handy! I majored in advertising so building a brand is what I went to school for and one of the things I learned a lot about was how to drive traffic through social media. I was hesitant to create a Facebook page but after some encouragement from my best friend I did it and it made all of the difference in the world. All of your social media should be connected so if you have a page that should automatically post to your twitter account and you should have your Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram accounts convey a consistent message going out to your followers. After I did this, I was able to reach out to people who I didn't know and reconnect with a lot of old friends (some of whom ended up commissioning pieces!).
6: Get yourself a Momager and a set of supporters
I have a momager. It's like a manager but she's also your mom! She has been absolutely amazing with the business side of things (not my specialty). I am more creative and I don't typically worry about the legal and finance side of the business but my mom is very good about it. We have been working together all summer long on certain parts of the business and I truly wouldn't have been able to do it without her love and help. I often send her on multiple trips to get pink tissue, pink ribbon or to the post office. There have been so many people who have shown me overwhelming amounts of support over the past three months encouraging me to get my shop going and I probably would've given up if it wasn't for everyone's kind words. One of the many things I have realized is that people are amazing and everyone wants to help. I love you people!!
7: Find a workspace that you enjoy being in
I'm very, very lucky to have an amazing work space that I love being in thanks to my amazing sister-in-law and brother. They have given me a space where I can be messy which actually encourages me to create. I don't like drawing in a neat and tidy space. I have a huge inspiration board that I often just stare at when I am drawing. It has some of my favorite images from magazines on it and some of my own work. This space is a place for me to escape and once I sit down I often lose myself there and it seems as though time does not exist.
8: Get yourself branded ASAP
This is something I waited to do because I wasn't sure if it was essential to my business that was just starting out. At the end of summer I decided it was time and it was actually one of my favorite parts of starting a business. Branding your own business is hard because you want it to reflect yourself and your work. I love pink so I wanted it all over my packaging and logo but I didn't want it to be too much. I decided to keep it simple and classy so I would like the designs for years to come. My designer Jenna Cossette is absolutely amazing and designed exactly what I had in mind for Queenikathleeni designs.
9: Talk about what you are doing with EVERYONE
This was one of the most challenging pieces to starting my business. I was very shy about talking to anyone about what I was doing, and I still am. I hate the question "what are you doing?" and that question happens all the time right after you graduate college. I actually had to practice my answers for this question so I would no longer answer "nothing" and start promoting my business. I had a few different phrases that were my go-to responses and once I had this down, I was able to network with a lot of people who helped me along the way.
10: Hire out what you don't know how to do
I'm a stubborn one so I wanted to do almost everything by myself. The two things I hired out was the photography for my Etsy shop and the design work. Let me tell you, it was more than worth it. I suggest hiring friends that have these skills to help you when you're just starting your business so it is cheaper and they will be more apt to work something out with you so you can continue to work with them as your business progresses.
*This advice is from my experience and I am unsure if I took all of the correct steps. In no way am I qualified to give advice on how to run a successful Etsy shop since mine has been open for 2 days.*
My Etsy shop is now open for business and I will be adding to it constantly. There are prints, notecards and greeting cards available right now. Check it out: etsy.com/shop/Queenikathleeni