Annual Report: Year Four of Self-employment

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of me quitting my full-time advertising job. I know there is some stat about most small businesses not lasting more than five years…I’m saddling up because what a unique year five this promises to be.

You can read the long story about why I quit my job here.

After my first year of self-employment, I decided to report in to you guys about how it was going – after all, you’re the ones making it possible for me to be a working artist. The reporting helped keep me accountable in a way, and you guys seemed to like the inside scoop, so I have kept up the practice.

You can read my past year-end reports here:

Year 1

Year 2

Year 3

My husband has always been a huge asset to my business, and because he isn’t currently working, he is now playing even more of a role. It was his idea for me to teach painting classes online, he is “test-driving” all the classes, filming the classes and editing them. The opportunity for us to spend more time working together and to dream up ideas like this is a positive outcome of this global tragedy.

Even before coronavirus, we were trying to figure out how to shift my business so it doesn’t rely so heavily on me producing original paintings. You may or may not have noticed based on my posts/lack of posts on Instagram, but I have barely painted anything since November. Yes, we moved across the country, but it is also because I painted so much over the past few years that I hurt my shoulder and in January, had surgery. I am still recovering.

Year 4 of self-employment was incredible sales-wise – a 66% increase over year 3. But I grew up with a dad who was self-employed. I can’t tell you how many times he told me, “It doesn’t matter if you have a good year. You have to go out and get it again the next year. You never know where the next check is coming from.” His sentiment has never rung more true. I imagine this year will be difficult for my business, but I am excited about the challenge. And most of all, I am so grateful to have you cheering for me.

Here are some stats on year 4.

All numbers are April 2019-March 2020.

Business stats

  • Revenue growth: 66%. I only had 8% growth in year 3 over year 2, so this was huge. I worked hard and I learned a lot.
  • Percent of revenue from original paintings: 77%; this is the lowest it’s been, thanks mostly to increasing my print offerings and my marketing of them. Need to make this number much lower.
  • Paintings sold: 108
  • Collectors that bought more than one painting & repeat collectors from previous years: 24. I love this stat. In any business, repeat customers are such a compliment.
  • Shows and events: 7
  • Website visitor growth: 140%
  • Craft breweries that purchased my art for a pint glass: 1 – Central Standard Brewing in Wichita
  • New product categories: 2 – Business advice for artists and online painting classes
  • Third party print sites now carrying my work: 1 – Artfully Walls
  • Gallery shows that I dreamed up, funded and put on: 1, for my “Kansas by Air” collection
  • Intern/apprentice that I hired: 1, my sister, who spent two weeks with us in November, which was great

Life stats

If you read the long story of why I quit my job, you know that quality of life was a big reason. Success on all the business metrics is what enables all of the following, which are much more important.

  • Weekend trips to see far-flung friends: 5 – Hawaii, St. Louis, Ft. Lauderdale and DC, Taos, the “mountains” of Oklahoma
  • 40th birthday parties at which we were surprise guests: 1
  • Workouts with my husband: Most of our every-other-day-workouts. We use the Nike Training Club app, which we love. We have always used the free version, but right now, the premium one is free.
  • Days we got to spend getting reacquainted with our hometown before moving back: 10
  • Concerts – I love live music, especially at small-ish venues where I can dance: Tab Benoit, Marcus King Band, Raphael Saadiq, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Lake Street Dive, Chris Stapleton