This post is part of our Best Next Step series, where you will hear from creative business owners like you, who are wondering what to focus on next. The background stories and questions are from all kinds of businesses in various stages of growth, and I share my ideas for how to proceed forward most efficiently and ambitiously. I hope you’ll enjoy these! Today we’re hearing from Laura Wooten Studio.
Laura Wooten Studio
Below are screenshots of Laura’s current website and her Etsy shop.
I create surface design and illustration for fabric, home decor, and paper products. My work has a hand-drawn style that retains the touch and texture of traditional media, while combining digital techniques. I love to draw from nature, landscapes, and gardens. I specialize in floral, food, and travel imagery.
I have been drawing and painting for over 20 years, but just in the last year have been trying to make a business from my creative work. I spent two years studying surface pattern design and worked very hard to develop a portfolio. I got a print studio agent last spring, and have just started to sell my work to the fabric and paper industries. While I plan to continue developing this side of my business with my agent, I would also like to diversify my income streams. I’d love to one day license a fabric collection, get freelance illustration work, and also sell some retail products (art prints, cards, tea towels?) through my own website. I have a neglected Etsy shop with old work that needs refreshing. Or maybe I want to abandon Etsy and have a shopping cart on my own site. My website is set up as a simple portfolio site, not a shop, so I would like to change that to better showcase design services and products. My target customer base is both wholesale manufacturers/art directors and maybe also retail customers if I can develop some products to sell directly to my tiny fan base!
I also have a separate website for my “fine art” which has all my old paintings from the last ten years. I am bothered by this brand confusion and wonder if I should integrate everything somehow, keep it separate, or even take down my old painting site and just work on my new surface design and illustration site.
Develop retail products for sale- art prints, cards, tea towels. Get a shopping cart on my website. Develop my illustration portfolio. Start a newsletter. Learn to use social media to develop a following. Identify my target customer base- both wholesale buyers, art directors, and retail customers. Learn how to get freelance illustration work. Develop licensing collections. I am doing a drawing-a-day on Instagram and thus have a large amount of source material that can be developed into illustrations, art prints or patterns. (I am on Day 95.) By Christmas of this year I want to have a group of 12 illustrations that can be sold as art prints and also serve as an illustration portfolio to attract freelance work.
I post to Twitter, FB, and Instagram, but would like to plan and coordinate more effective social media strategies. I attended Surtex last spring, where I was represented by my agent and this was a very valuable learning experience. I would love to learn how to get blog features and/or press. I am unclear about how to begin communicating more with my target audience and potential clients. I would like to learn how to grow my newsletter list and begin gradually building a following.
Thank you for the generous give-away contest and taking the time to read my story!
Laura Wooten Studio’s Best Next Step
Thank you for entering our Best Next Step giveaway – hooray, you’re a winner! My thoughts follow (read them with a grain of salt, since I only have a brief outline of your business and challenges right now).
Quit offering the things you don’t plan to do in the future
You mention your second site that has your fine art with your old paintings. It sounds to me like you’ve moved on from this, and it doesn’t factor into your plans for the future. If you don’t intend to have customers commission fine art or buy finished paintings from you, there is no reason to have this additional website. I know you want to honor your old work and show people the breadth of what you can do, but if you don’t want to do that any longer (at least not as a business), your instinct is right to drop it and quit confusing people. People who are interested in your pattern work are not going to care one way or another about your oil painting.
Approach selling from multiple angles
I also think it’s a great idea to not put all of your eggs in one basket. Develop products to sell with your patterns on them, for sure! Create a shop website that showcases your patterns, allows people to purchase products directly, and make it obvious that your work can be commissioned. Approach potential wholesale customers – being able to show them that your products are selling on your own website will reassure them about selling your products in their shops.
Start a newsletter
Start the newsletter right now! It is never too early to start a newsletter, and the earlier you set it up now, the more people you will have on it next year and the year after. This is one of those things that takes some momentum and some steady build up. Don’t just gather addresses and allow people to forget about you, though! Come up with some updates to send out on a regular schedule. They don’t have to be mindblowing, but they should offer something of interest. New patterns, updates on your progress developing your business, “best of” what you’re posting on Instagram, that kind of thing.
Prioritize your objectives
All of your objectives sound smart and worth doing. Remember there’s only one of you! Prioritize this list. Which things on the list will help other things on the list happen? Which will take time? Which will have the most immediate helpful effect? Plot out the steps you need to take to do each thing and chip away at them all regularly until you make it.
Good luck pursuing sales avenues and meeting your goals!
Thanks for giving me a chance to learn more about your work. I hope this all makes sense, and I encourage you to keep going on all of these steps to success. You sound like you have a reasonable and well thought-out list of goals, and I see no reason why you won’t reach them if you put in the work. Develop the products, and take your newsletter subscribers along for the ride, while continuing to work on licensing, manufacturing, and wholesale deals.
Keep in touch! I would love to hear how it all works out, and help out if I can.
Are you ready for the next step?
If you’d like the power and experience of the Aeolidia team behind you, please get in touch! We would love to untangle your business priorities and take a few tasks off your hands so you can do your work.