What's the Best Investment For Your Creative Business? Advice from 5 Successful Artists & Designers

If you are (like me) still in the process of building your business, you know what it feels like to run out of something. Time, money, help from others... resources are limited, and you have to make tough choices every day about what you invest in. Do you spend the two hours you have free scheduling social media, or developing your craft? If you have a little extra money, what do you spend it on when there are so many things you still need to do?

Last month, I shared the first of a four-art blog series where I asked established artists & designers to share advice for those of us just starting out. Today is the second part, and it's a good one! Today, we're going to talk about what's the best investment to make when you are a beginning artist or entrepreneur. Below, you will find the sage advice of Stephanie Fehrenbach, Ingrid Sanchez (a.k.a Creative Ingrid), Ashley Rayne (a.k.a The Wild Hippies), Jessica Roux, and Monica Lee-Henell.

 
What's the best investment you can make in your creative business, when you're just starting out? We asked 5 artists & designers to share their wisdom! More at danielleandco.com.
 

You can check out their advice below, with a little description of each artist and links to their websites and Instagram. Let's get to it!


"What is one investment you recommend a beginning artist and entrepreneur make in their business?"

 
Stephanie Fehrenbach shares advice on investing in creative business, on danielleandco.com
Work by Stephanie Fehrenbach, shared on danielleandco.com as part of a blog series on advice for artists, designers & creative entrepreneurs.

Stephanie Fehrenbach

Stephanie is an Ontario based artist who works with oils, watercolors, and other mediums and who I've always especially admired for her floral paintings; they are just so vibrant and full of movement!

InstagramWebsite

Invest in your website for sure! Your website is a reflection of you and your art, so make it the best you can. You don’t need anything really fancy, just a clean layout that’s simple, easy to navigate and lets the art shine. I use Squarespace and I love it! You don’t need to hire a designer -  the templates are beautiful and super easy to use for a non-techy person like me!

Good supplies are definitely worth it, but that being said...start where you are! You don’t need everything to be perfect right out of the gate. You’ll gradually build up a set of good materials as you go and start selling more work. Don’t wait for perfection to get started. Buy the best you can afford and keep making your art.
Ingrid Sanchez shares advice on investing in creative business, on danielleandco.com
Work by Ingrid Sanchez, shared on danielleandco.com as part of a blog series on advice for artists, designers & creative entrepreneurs.

Ingrid Sanchez

Ingrid (or CreativeIngrid as you might recognize her) is a Mexican artist based in London, who creates a prolific amount of work that is so bold & vibrant. The process videos of her painting large florals & abstracts are so captivating, I always look forward to them!

InstagramWebsite

Seriously, the best investment is time. A lot of people ask me about the brand of my watercolours or the size of my brushes. That is not important, but practice is. Because I say a lot, “practice, practice”, people think I don’t want to share the “secret”, but this is the secret. It’s not free, practice requires time, a lot of it. It’s a huge investment because no one is paying you and sometimes it can feel like a waste of time, that is why patience has to be present.

I will say to the beginners to take different workshops with different artists in different styles. That will really enrich the practice. To the entrepreneurs, something similar - invest in knowledge, hire someone with experience to teach you how to do things, that will save you a lot of your precious time.
Ashley Rayne shares advice on investing in creative business, on danielleandco.com
Work by Ashley Rayne, shared on danielleandco.com as part of a blog series on advice for artists, designers & creative entrepreneurs.

Ashley Rayne

Ashley (better known as The Wild Hippies) is a hand-lettering artist who is all about the positive vibes! Her colorful, cheerful artwork is shared on Instagram & available on Etsy. Her sense of humor is what sets her apart from other artists online, for me!

InstagramShop

My advice to someone just starting out would be to take it slow. Do not go out and spend all your money on the newest tech, tools, or help. Make a list of everything you need, and a separate list of everything you want. Buy some entry level supplies until you are ready to upgrade. Buy only the essentials you do not already have. And take advantage of social media! Yeah, a website is great, but it can be expensive, and is a lot of work. Social media on the other hand is free and easy to set up.
Jessica Roux shares advice on investing in creative business, on danielleandco.com
Work by Jessica Roux, shared on danielleandco.com as part of a blog series on advice for artists, designers & creative entrepreneurs.

Jessica Roux

Jessica's work is subtle and lovely in a way that's hard to describe without having seen it first. With very consistent use of colors and technique, she focuses on nature in a unique way. What draws me in is how she illustrates animals with so much life and detail.

InstagramWebsite

Having a great computer setup is important to me - a big, color calibrated screen running Photoshop, Illustrator and Lightroom, a Wacom tablet, a high quality scanner, and a fine art printer are all great investments to make that will reward you for years to come. 
Monica Lee-Henell shares advice on investing in creative business, on danielleandco.com
Work by Monica Lee-Henell, shared on danielleandco.com as part of a blog series on advice for artists, designers & creative entrepreneurs.

Monica Lee-Henell

Monica's work feels ever-evolving, but always in a beautiful direction. I've followed along with Monica's work for years, and her vibrant, moody abstract and floral paintings always make me stop scrolling in Instagram just to admire them for a moment.

InstagramWebsite

Photoshop and a good understanding on how to use it. Whether you are taking your work online, creating your website or reproducing your work, good Photoshop skills are worth every penny.

The answers from each of these artists are different, and at first may seem contradictory. What I take away is the importance of picking something to focus on and invest in. As opposed to picking alllllll the things to invest in, and feeling overwhelmed and scattered. When you have limited resources, it's better to do 1-3 things really well than 4-15 things mediocre.

This is advice I'm taking with me into 2018! I spent 2017 trying out a lot of new things and experimenting. While I think full video tutorials are awesome and fun to make, I realized they doesn't play on my strengths and took a lot of time away from painting and blog writing. Those are the very things most crucial to my work! So, I'm letting the idea of weekly video tutorials go. Instead, I'm going to focus on quality blog content and building my online shop. This also keeps me from rushing out and getting expensive video equipment, and helps me to use what I already have.

Stephanie recommended using Squarespace as an affordable way to have an amazing-looking website without the cost of a designer. I absolutely agree; Squarespace is what I use too, and it is so clean and intuitive, I can't recommend it enough.

What's one investment you are making in your business? How have you narrowed down your focus, to be sure you're directing your resources where they are needed? Please share in the comments below!

- Dani

Has Your Art Been Stolen Online? 5 Ways To Protect Your Images

Putting your artwork and photographs out into the online world can be exciting and scary. You worked so hard to create those images, and want to be sure to get them in front of other artists, brands, and potential buyers - but you might wonder, what if something bad happens to them? While fear shouldn't ever stand in the way of you successfully building your business online, there are ways to protect your images so they aren't used by others in ways you aren't okay with.

 
Are your photographs and art images at risk of being stolen online? Check out these five strategies for protecting your images on danielleandco.com + a video tutorial on two ways to easily add a watermark to your photos!
 

To be fair, images aren't always stolen by a super shady person. For instance, someone writing a blog post about motherhood might want a great image of a mother and a baby playing with blocks together. So, they google "mother and baby playing with blocks", then click on google images and see a great, high-quality photo that is exactly what they were looking for! So, they just right-click, choose "save image" and add it right into their own blog post graphic, with their title and blog name right on top of it.

Ugh! Didn't they even care that someone else worked really hard to create that great photo, and isn't getting any credit? Honestly, it may have not even crossed their mind - some people think if an image is right there on Google, it must be okay to use, or that it's unlikely they would get caught.

(BTW, if you're looking for a way to find great photos without using another person's work without permission, may I suggest Unsplash? This isn't sponsored, they are just a great resource!)

There are ways to protect your images using both technical and strategic moves, so let's dive into 5 simple things you can do today, to protect your images before you upload that Etsy listing photo or awesome Instagram post!

5 WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR IMAGES FROM ONLINE THEFT


Clearly explain what you're okay with

A little clear communication can go a long way! It seems obvious but people often forget about simply stating your expectations. You can add a brief statement on your website or alongside your images, letting viewers know what you're comfortable with in terms of sharing your work. For instance, if you have a portfolio or gallery page you can add a sentence at the top stating how much you hope the viewer enjoys your work, to let you know if they have any questions, and to please not share your images without your written permission.

There is also the matter of commercial use vs. personal use. If you're selling your work online, you want to be really clear about this in your listing language. Let's say you're selling a digital download of a repeating pattern you created. First, you'll need to decide exactly what you're selling - and it's not just the PDF file. Is the buyer purchasing the rights to use this image only for personal use (such as to print out and hang on a wall in their home), or limited commercial use (such as a header image on their website) or for commercial use (such as printing the image on throw pillows and then selling them, without your name anywhere on that pillow).

This is really a personal choice, and you'll need to decide what you're okay with. My suggestion is that if you choose to sell your products for personal use only, you offer another way for others to collaborate with you. For instance, you could offer an extended commercial license where they could pay an additional amount of money to use your design on items for resale, or you could encourage them to contact you to discuss options for working together. Here is some sample language you can use (feel free to copy & paste the paragraph and/or edit it into your own listings!):

You are purchasing a digital file that you download and print out yourself. No physical item is shipped. You cannot alter/resell/share, or claim it as your own. You can use this artwork for personal use only. You cannot use it for commercial purposes. Since this listing is delivered via instant download, no refund can be issued. All sales are final.

If you would like to use this artwork for commercial use (such as a logo, branding, or printing on an item for resale) please contact me and I will provide options. I would love to work with you!

Have a visible copyright notice

You don't technically need to provide a written copyright notice with your work. When you create an image or artwork, it automatically is copyrighted to it's creator. However, it's a great reminder to others and helps clearly communicate your intentions about use of your work. It's a quick, simple thing to add if you haven't already - mine is right in the footer of my website, and at the bottom of every sales listing I create.

You may also want to consider adding a free DMCA button to your website. You can find more information on the DMCA website, but essentially they provide free assistance in the form of buttons and "take-down notices" to help you protect your work online. I've never had to utilize their services, but I've heard they are a great resource!

Watermark Your Images

This is an important one! You don't need to watermark every single image you put on the internet (for instance, I've never watermarked an Instagram post - that would feel weird), but anytime you are uploading a full-size, clear image of your work you need to make sure you get a watermark on it first.

A watermark is simply a semitransparent layer of text or image that you save on top of your image, that would make it difficult for anyone to save and use it. It is a great deterrent, and something you can easily do while you're already editing your images - it only adds about 30 seconds of work, once you have a method down!

Are your photographs and art images at risk of being stolen online? Check out these five strategies for protecting your images on danielleandco.com + a video tutorial on two ways to easily add a watermark to your photos!
Are your photographs and art images at risk of being stolen online? Check out these five strategies for protecting your images on danielleandco.com + a video tutorial on two ways to easily add a watermark to your photos!

Above, I used a simple text layer to add my website name on top of the images. My goal is to watermark it enough to make it difficult to save and edit the image without permission, but not so intrusive that a potential buyer can't view the details.

For a brief tutorial of two ways I add watermarks to images in Photoshop CC (but can be done in all sorts of photo editing software!) check out my YouTube video below. Consider subscribing to my YouTube channel to stay caught up on future videos, too!

 

If you use Squarespace as your web host, you can also watermark text on top of an image right in Squarespace, using the built-in Adobe Creative Cloud Image Editor.

Reduce your image sizes

The higher-quality and larger the image size, the easier it is for others to print it, enlarge it, and use it in all sorts of ways. While you need to keep a high-quality version of the image for yourself to order prints of your work or sell it as a download, the images you upload to social media or online shops can be much smaller.

A 500kb image that is 1500 pixels wide will still look great as a listing image, on Instagram, etc. but won't be very useful for someone to save and re-use. That is the size Squarespace recommends using for images you upload to the web, and it has always worked for me! If you use the max file size (for many web hosts and online shops that is 20MB), it not only makes it easier for others to steal your images, but might also slow down your website load time. Smaller image sizes is a win-win!

If you're looking for a way to reduce the size of your images without sacrificing quality, I've heard great things about JPEGmini.

Use styled photos and mock-ups

Another strategy that pays off in multiple ways is using styled photos and mock-ups to showcase your work. When your image is used as a part of a larger image, it's going to be challenging for another person to save it and crop out that section, and have it be of a high-enough quality to do anything with. The big bonus is, it also looks great for your viewers! Etsy and other online sellers recommend sharing photos of your products in a variety of ways, including close-ups and mock-ups. It helps potential viewers envision how the work might look framed, above a sofa, as part of a table-scape, etc.

 
 

You can use props and backgrounds to add a sense of warmth to your work, and make it really stand out! Above, you can see examples of where I have styled images to use on social media, as well as used mock-up frames against wood backgrounds for listing images of my work. I have a whole blog post on how to style flatlay images of your artwork, so check that out for more ideas!

Having others use your image is not always a bad thing!

When someone takes an image from your website or social media and uses it without your permission, it can instinctively feel icky. However, there are circumstances where it can actually be beneficial and positive. For instance, a blog using an image of your work in a post such as a "round-up", crediting you, and linking to your website or shop can be awesome! You may not know in advance they are going to do this, and it can be a surprise to stumble on, but if you're being appropriately credited and linked to it can mean your work reaching a whole new audience. It's also super flattering to know your work was appreciated.


Well, that's a wrap!

You might notice that I left out "disable right-clicking" as a strategy, and if you've read other tutorials online you might wonder why. I honestly don't think it is very effective or worth the effort, at this point. Technology has advanced enough that it is so easy for someone to screenshot your image, and anything you do to prevent it can be undone within the viewer's browser. I'd rather spend my time on more effective methods such as adding a watermark.

Overall, don't stress too much about it! The more time you spend worrying your images have been stolen, or searching frantically online to see if anyone else is using them, the less time you're spending on producing more amazing work and content. Take a deep breath, take reasonable precautions, and then turn your focus back on what matters.

Curious what to do after you discover your image has been taken and used without your permission? Check out this post from the Spruce, which I think is really helpful.

Are you utilizing these strategies to protect your images online? Do you have other tips to add? Please chime in, in the comments!

- Dani

Are your photographs and art images at risk of being stolen online? Check out these five strategies for protecting your images on danielleandco.com + a video tutorial on two ways to easily add a watermark to your photos!
 

 

 

How To Set The Mood for Creativity: 5 Artists & Designers Share Their Wisdom

I love (love!) getting a sneak peek into other people's business. It feels a little voyeuristic, but I want to see it all; their studio or work space, the supplies they love to use, the mistakes they make, their habits - all of it. It's not just to be nosy; I also gain a lot from the wisdom and experiences of other artists! Particularly, those who are more established, or who might have reached a level with their work that I'm aspiring to.  Also, I'm a little nosy.

If I gain so much from this, I'm guessing you might too. So, I wrote down a list of four things I wish I could ask the artists I really admire... and then I just went ahead and asked them! Never hurts to ask, right? I was really excited when five amazing artists who I have followed along with for years in some cases responded! They include Stephanie Fehrenbach, Ingrid Sanchez (a.k.a Creative Ingrid), Ashley Rayne (a.k.a The Wild Hippies), Jessica Roux, and Monica Lee-Henell.

Not only are these five artists really talented; they are also really different from each other. With the unique perspectives they offer, I think this four-part blog post series is going to have something to inspire anyone - so please keep checking back for more!

 

 
How do you set the mood for creativity? We asked 5 artists & designers to share their wisdom, and how they create a space ideal for fine art inspiration, freelance illustration work, and productivity. From small things like a hot cup of coffee, to bigger things like establishing a routine, get inspired by these accomplished artists. More at danielleandco.com.
 

Guys, they put so much thought into their answers and I know you're going to enjoy reading them as much as I have. I've taken those four questions and turned them into four separate blog posts, so we can really get in-depth with each one; today, we're asking how they set the mood for creativity.

You can check out each of the answers below, with a little description of the artist and links to their websites and Instagram. Enough from me though, let's hear from them!


"What do you do to set the mood for creativity?"

 
Stephanie Fehrenbach shares how she sets the mood for creativity on danielleandco.com
Work by Stephanie Fehrenbach, shared on danielleandco.com as part of the How Do You Set the Mood for Creativity blog post.

Stephanie Fehrenbach

Stephanie is an Ontario based artist who works with oils, watercolors, and other mediums and who I've always especially admired for her floral paintings; they are just so vibrant and full of movement!

InstagramWebsite

I find having my space set up and ready to go helps so much. So I’m not spending too much time cleaning or getting organized before actually getting down to work. Music is a must for sure! I find now, especially as a busy new mom, I can’t wait for inspiration to strike. I just have to take the time to work whenever I can. I think that’s the secret to creative living. Don’t wait for it. Just show up and make something, and keep doing that as often as you can. You’ll have good days and bad days, but I find actually making work is what inspires me most and gives me new ideas.
Ingrid Sanchez shares how she sets the mood for creativity on danielleandco.com
Work by Ingrid Sanchez, shared on danielleandco.com as part of the How Do You Set the Mood for Creativity blog post.

Ingrid Sanchez

Ingrid (or CreativeIngrid as you might recognize her) is a Mexican artist based in London, who creates a prolific amount of work that is so bold & vibrant. The process videos of her painting large florals & abstracts are so captivating, I always look forward to them!

InstagramWebsite

My working space is sacred, it has to be clean and organized. Before I start painting I smudge the space with palo santo, sweet grass or any herb I’ve collected in my trips, and meditate. It doesn’t has to be very intense, I am happy with a quick one just to open myself and the space for creation.

After this I am ready to go. I like working in silence during the mornings, but after lunch I usually play some music or listen to a podcast, my favorite:  ‘Art for your ear’ with The Jealous Curator.
Ashley Rayne shares how she sets the mood for creativity on danielleandco.com
Work by Ashley Rayne, shared on danielleandco.com as part of the How Do You Set the Mood for Creativity blog post.

Ashley Rayne

Ashley (better known as The Wild Hippies) is a hand-lettering artist who is all about the positive vibes! Her colorful, cheerful artwork is shared on Instagram & available on Etsy. Her sense of humor is what sets her apart from other artists online, for me!

InstagramShop

Working from a home office has its benefits (it is oh so convenient for parents with little ones at home), but it also has some major challenges. It can be a real struggle to get yourself into the working mindset, or getting yourself out of it when your family needs your attention. It isn’t as easy as driving to work, powering through the day, and then shutting down when you come back home. Working from home means you need to stay motivated and driven. It is much easier to just lay in bed for an extra 10 minutes (or an hour) in the morning. Much easier to take an extra long lunch break. Much easier to be distracted.

Keeping motivated is crucial to your productivity. I have a few small rituals that I do to get my mind and mood in the right place. First thing I do in the morning is make sure the house is tidy and clean. I can not focus when my mind is distracted by a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. Once the house is clean I make myself a big cup of tea - earl grey de la creme green tea is my go to - and head upstairs to my office. I will then sit at my desk and prioritize and expand on my daily task list (I make a quick list the night before that I work from). After writing out my schedule for the day, I light some sage and smudge (cleanse) my office and myself. Smudging really helps my mind relax and get focused. Finally, I turn on some noise - a pod cast if I am painting, my favourite playlist if I am doing some graphic design, or instrumental new age trance music if I am doing anything that involves reading and/or writing. All of this in combination get my creative juices flowing and makes for a very productive day!
Jessica Roux shares how she sets the mood for creativity on danielleandco.com
Work by Jessica Roux, shared on danielleandco.com as part of the How Do You Set the Mood for Creativity blog post.

Jessica Roux

Jessica's work is subtle and lovely in a way that's hard to describe without having seen it first. With very consistent use of colors and technique, she focuses on nature in a unique way. What draws me in is how she illustrates animals with so much life and detail.

InstagramWebsite

Every morning starts with walking my sweet pup, Molly. It’s wonderful to get to spend that time enjoying some fresh air and spending time with her, and it puts me in a good mood to get work done. I love listening to podcasts while I illustrate - I’m into science, design, true crime, and history mainly, but here’s a bunch of my favorites: Science Vs, Reply All, Ologies, Natch Beaut, Lore, Invisibilia, Every Little Thing, Criminal, Creative Pep Talk, 99% Invisible, and 2 Dope Queens. I listen to music when I run out of new podcast episodes. I love checking my Spotify for my Discover Weekly playlist, and they recently made me a “Your Time Capsule” playlist that literally sounds like they stole my middle school mixed CDs. It’s got some No Doubt, Pink, Green Day, Destiny’s Child, etc on it, and it’s perfect do get some serious drawing done.
Monica Lee-Henell shares how she sets the mood for creativity on danielleandco.com
Work by Monica Lee-Henell, shared on danielleandco.com as part of the How Do You Set the Mood for Creativity blog post.

Monica Lee-Henell

Monica's work feels ever-evolving, but always in a beautiful direction. I've followed along with Monica's work for years, and her vibrant, moody abstract and floral paintings always make me stop scrolling in Instagram just to admire them for a moment.

InstagramWebsite

I am a coffee drinker! Even if I’m not sipping something about having the smell and warmth in my hand sets the mood. I do listen to podcasts but am very careful to make sure they don’t set the wrong tone in my head, if that makes sense! So sometimes I just listen to romantic music. When I am really problem solving or need complete concentration, I need silence though!

I found it so fascinating that two different artists referenced smudging their spaces with sage or other herbs, to prepare it for painting. This has never occurred to me, but I'm intrigued and happy to experiment with it! Overall, what stands out to me is how we use rituals (even if it's just a cup of hot coffee or a walk outside) to get in the mindset for creating work. Creativity is all about having the space and ability come up with fresh work, and I loved reading about how others do it. Too often, I feel like I'm cramming work in between grocery shopping and soccer practices, and then feeling frustrated when it isn't coming to me naturally.

Also, those were some great podcast suggestions! I love listening to podcasts, and definitly added some new ones to my list.

How about you? What's one thing you do to set the mood for creativity before you work? This week, I challenge you to join me in being more intentional when creating a space and time for work. Find what works for you! Making sure you have a cup of tea to sip, trying to work a different and quieter time of day, putting on some great music or cleansing your work area - please let me know about it here or on Instagram!

- Dani