Creative Business Diary

My experience as a creative entrepreneur has been far from straightforward or linear. I've shared, sold, marketed, and licensed a variety of different kinds of work through a variety of different avenues, none of which began, progressed, grew or, in some cases, failed the way I thought they would. Having a creative business has been an adventure in adaptability, persistence, commitment, and plain old hard work. It hasn't always been fun or romantic, and despite what is an objectively impressive resume as far as a professional art career goes, there has been no "getting there" or "making it." This kind of work - and being an entrepreneur in general - is about continuing to create, evolve, work, invent, re-invent and then re-invent again.

But before I get into all of that, here's a quick rundown of the highlights of where my work has taken me since I started in 1995. Here's what I've done...

* Participated in community craft shows - some outdoor/weekend/holiday type events (think July 4th Art Fairs) and some juried, longer term co-op type boutiques.

* Built an independent greeting card and stationery business that carried tens of thousands of inventory items, managed more than fifty reps, and shipped up to twenty orders a day. This line was eventually taken over by Recycled Paper Greetings.

* Licensed my illustrations to an array of companies for everything from cards to journals to wall art to an entire line of gifts, furnishings, and other baubles for tween girls. I did this with Swirly and then, to a smaller extent, with my mixed media work.

* Worked with licensing agents - who negotiated contracts for me - and also negotiated many of my own agreements. Which ones were more successful? The ones I negotiated myself.

* Assembled a growing resume for of published writing - essays, feature articles and interviews -  a pursuit I began in earnest around 2008.

* Self-published a book.

* Secured a contract for another book with a publisher.

* Contributed to a variety of books written by other authors, and contributed to e-courses by other teachers.

* Taught classes and workshops, organized retreats and gatherings.

* Participated in the National Stationery Show with my own booth.

* Created a line of greeting cards after Swirly but before I began my mixed media work. How did that line do? It tanked!

* Managed multiple graphic design and website projects - many for my own work, some for other clients.

In between all of this I've been married twice, moved eleven times, traveled all over the world, and done about five billion loads of laundry. My experience as a creative entrepreneur isn't so much about a focused, myopic determination to Make It Big as it is about creating my own definition of success and incorporating all areas of my life into that equation - home, marriage, family, friends, health, etc.

I don't share this list to claim that I'm All That or that I have all the answers for whatever questions anyone might have as this category grows (particularly with the wealth of information and resources available at our fingertips these days.) What I can offer here has to do with longevity and experience, and that is why I wanted to offer an overview of some of the ways I've gotten my work out in the world. I began my work as a professional artist when the world wide web was still a vague idea in most people's minds, so my name and brand were built slowly (intentionally so), something I now consider to have been a great privilege. These days it is easy to feel like a failure if our "success" isn't instantly stratospheric. I'm monumentally grateful I was able to grow my business slowly, incrementally, without the additional pressure of things like Twitter updates.

If you have any specific questions you'd like me to address here in the Creative Business Diary, write to me at diary@swirlygirl.com.

Christine Mason Miller

Santa Barbara, CA

Writer * Artist * Storyteller * Guide