Tips for aspiring artists & business owners!

Hello there. I have been collecting common business related questions for the past few months and I am excited to share some some of my own experiences with you! I wrote my first similar post a year and a half ago, right before my store opening was announced: “Things I Wish I Had Known” If you’ve never read that post, check it out because I won’t be repeating the same information. Also, here is another recent post called “Shop Talk“. This is a fun and exciting post for me! I prefer to imagine that I am writing it to my younger self… someone who has the potential to do exactly what they want, but hasn’t taken the leap into the unknown quite yet. enjoy…. 


Q: What would you consider the most important things to do when one is beginning something like your endeavor with Red Velvet Art? What lessons have you learned?

A: I think it’s very important to create ‘tests’ for every major project you are interested in pursuing, including opening a small business. Before I decided to invest in starting my own retail website I spent two years selling my own handmade goods on Etsy. This gave me the chance to not only learn how people would respond to my work, but also to make sure that I enjoyed this kind of work in the long term! It is as important to make sure that you are doing the right thing for you as it is to create a successful brand that people love! It’s important to remember that things will always be different when you are actually doing them everyday than they are in your ideal. Starting a smaller scale business as a side project is very very important step toward a career in art or online retail. 

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Q: Did you have a substantial amount of “start up” money when you began the RVA store?

A: Yes. It was a major undertaking. I invested all of my personal savings in this project and took out a small loan. This is another reason why I highly recommend starting an Etsy shop to aspiring artists, it is a great opportunity with a much smaller upfront investment. 

Q: How did you find your shop. Like did you just find it and decide you wanted to open a shop or did you decide you wanted to open a shop and then look for a space? How long did the whole process take. I so want to open my own little shop here in england! 

A: I never intended to open a local shop. When I found my loft with this amazing space underneath (which we chose for Jeremy’s studio) It just happened to have a cute room up front the perfect size for a little boutique. It was purely coincidence, but has turned out to be a huge learning experience and I’ve enjoyed having a retail space to decorate. 

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Q: I’d love to know about your schedule and how you fit everything in when you have so much to focus on… your website, the blogs, the shop, photography, painting, marketing, planning, accounts…as well as normal things like chores, seeing friends/boyfriend, etc. Do you have set times to do things? How did you become someone who thinks of an idea and gets on and does it?! I mean, how are you so productive??!

A: This is a huge challenge, but here’s what I do…. every day I have a ‘must do’ list. These are the things that are top priority like my online class and my blog. I also have things that I’d like to do.. things like vintage shopping or making projects for fun. I fit these in as often as possible, but not every single day. As far as family and my boyfriend are concerned, I almost never skip time with them. I have times to hang out with them set up and I look forward to them! They are a wonderful part of my life and always a top priority. My friends are very understanding and supportive. 

I simply don’t have high maintenance friends (I seriously can’t think of any). I’ve always believed in making time for the most important things in life. Life shouldn’t get in the way of your dreams. Sometimes sacrifices must be made to accomplish things, but those sacrifices don’t have to be important relationships! I am very thankful for my group of family and friends who love and support my art. 


Q: I think that a lot of times, artists tend to follow trends or make art similar to other artists. I am always inspired by your art though because it seems to be uniquely you. I guess this is kind of a multi-layer question: What things do you do when coming up with your own “trends”? What is the process of your creativity? How do you go about making it happen? 

A: I know exactly what you mean. I really believe that every artists that has ever lived is influenced by other artists. The most important key to having ‘your own style’ is to be influenced by a lot of different artists! I have tons of influences and I love the way I can see just a little bit of each of them in my work. I find it extremely unattractive when I can look at a persons art (or music ect…) and immediately see who they are ‘trying to be’. This is a common mistake for new artists and it’s totally forgivable (most people aren’t intending to ‘rip someone off’. They just haven’t exposed themselves to enough art and they are trying too hard to be like a certain artist). This is sad because it’s not only a little tacky, but it’s counterproductive to the creative process! Here are some tips for creating your own style that is distinct and special… Try everything in the beginning (experiment with every style and medium you see that attracts you) don’t get in a ‘rut’ when you are still learning, make a list of the things you love from each of your favorite artists, be a fan (find LOTS of artists that inspire you, not just one or two) and don’t start selling your work until you really feel like it is your work. 🙂 xo

Q: did the ONLINE following of your work “just happen” or was it something you conciously did to market your business (blog, twitter, facebook, etc)?

A: This is one of my most commonly asked questions, but it’s also difficult for me to answer because I believe that everyone’s path is very different. I’ve been blogging for about five years (I had another blog before this that has since been deleted) so I think it is a combination of time spent, connections made and being a little bit lucky. I spend a lot of time on my blog and for the past year or two I’ve posted almost every day, so I think that’s the biggest thing. After a certain amount of time people know that they can ‘trust’ my blog for what it is (daily cute posts, inspiration and lots of art/fashion/decor projects!). A lot of new bloggers quit or only post a few times per month. I think the most important tip I can share is to be consistent and true to your own style, even as it evolves! I feel very blessed to have amazing readers who have connected with my blog and work. Don’t worry about numbers, think about genuine connections! Focus on creating a blog that you would want to read. 🙂

Q: Also, is your painting style based on anyone or is it totally your own idea?

A: As I was saying in an answer above, I truly believe that every artist in the world is influenced by others! Inspiration is a great thing when used appropriately. I have tons of favorite artists and painters… a few (just off the top of my head) who I would call ‘influences’ are Mary Blair, Mark Ryden, Seonna Hong, Jim Houser, Gary Baseman and many more…. 

Influences_elsie I spent about two years developing my painting style before I started to feel like I really knew what I wanted to do. I think that a long period of experimenting and self teaching is a healthy and important stage for every artist. 

QI am a fashion design student and when I graduate I want to work on my Etsy full-time. When I can dedicate more money and time on it will I be able to support myself on just that?

A: It’s certainly possible. Any business venture involves a certain level of risk. If you want to be sure that you can and will be able to support yourself, don’t quit your day job until you are doing just that! Taking an art dream full-time prematurely can create a lot of undue pressure and stress. It’s best to take wise ‘steps’ while still being super ambitious and creating your own success! 

Q: What’s next for rva?

A: I don’t want to give anything away just yet. I’ll be making some announcements in the next few months. I can tell you that a lot of fun things are going on behind-the-scenes in preparation for our Spring Collection and some other changes that are pretty exciting… 🙂 We have really fun plans for the website this year, expanding in ways we weren’t able to last year. yay!

Photo 978 Thanks for reading!!! I really hope some of this info is helpful to aspiring artists & business people! XOXO. elsie 

  • this was fabulous. i’ve had a list of ideas in my head running for the past couple of years and just now learning to execute them visually–through embroidery & paints. it’s been a huge release to “upchuck” the things i desire to be good at but don’t free me when diving into them. like only a few creative processes were made for me.

    it was a good season to dabble in everything. but it’s an even better season to cultivate the gifts unique to me. my voice may sound like someone else’s but it’s mine and that’s okay.

    your blog is great. your diys are awesome. and your advice is cherished. thanks for the way you empower so many artists and crafters! what a gift you have!

  • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This was so great and very, very helpful…I appreciate you taking the time to do this <3


  • I’m glad you posted that, especially the part about rip off artists. I am inspired by a few artists, including you and the other RV girls. right now, I’m doing what you suggested- making lists, playing around with different stuff until I develop a style that is truly mine. right now, I think with some of my stuff, you can tell who has inspired me, but I’d never sell anything until I felt like it was my own and I always give credit on who inspired certain pieces of art. I’m getting better, and your post here really made me feel better about not quite being there yet. thank you!

  • brilliant.

    and incredibly encouraging.

    thanks for sharing all this insight, and i wish all the best for you and your ventures in the coming year, elsie! thanks for always being so cheerful and sweet, too.

  • Excellent advice. It is wonderful to hear your tips because besides being an artist, you also have to be a business woman and you are doing a fantastic job!

    I like how you worded the difference in being inspired by work and finding your own style. It is so true to embrace who you are as a person. I love my blog because I feel like it is my diary…a present to myself that is documenting what I love. If I didn’t like something, and posted it because I wanted to fit in with my audience, I would feel fake.

    You are a wonderful role model for aspiring business people/artists and I always wish you well.


  • I love this post!

    I think your honest look at being a working artist is more helpful to those of us starting out than blind optimism, so thank you!
    I can’t wait for the online class.

  • thanks so much for offering your own real advice elsie! its really sweet of you to be so helpful and honest! xo

  • This post has come with perfect timing… having been putting together ideas for my own retail space with a view to sell online first… great tips Elsie x

  • Thankyou so much for answering my question about time management and being productive! This is all useful stuff and I’ll go and re-read the other posts you linked to after this.

    I have an etsy shop set up and definately have my own style figured out. The productivity and consistancey is the part I struggle with the most! i do have 2 small kids, which I tend to forget when get disappointed in myself. I also set myself way too many goals and overwhelm myself – it’s like them more I have to do the lazier I feel! But I really really want this to be my career. I think I need to start with smaller, simpler goals and climb upwards as I go..

    Thanks again 😀

  • Thanks for this post, and the links to your previous posts! I’m looking forward to starting my business this year, and I know it’s going to be a long road ahead. I love hearing all trials and tribulations that end in a beautiful result.

    Can’t wait for Indie Business!

  • Thank you for this very interesting and pretty much inspiring post! i’m completly addicted to your blog and your art!
    Bons baisers de France!

  • This is a fabulous post Elsie thank you. You inspire me so much. Indie Business sounds right up my street. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for that 🙂 x

  • Great Q&A!!! You are truly inspiring! Even though our individual style’s are different, I love your blog because you’re an example of a twentysomething that’s following her dreams. All the best to you, Elsie! You deserve all your success and so much more!

  • thank you for posting this! i have been trying to sell my own handmades for the last 2 or so years but it is so hard to promote myself, network, and be consistent. this is just the advice i needed to push myself and to make it HAPPEN. i cannot wait to take that class!

  • What a great post! I love hearing how a fellow artist got to where she is. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

  • thank you for the advice! i stalk you silently because i am utter rubbish with my hands, but i just wanted to say thank you for always being an inspiration.

  • you know what miss elsie? you are kinda brilliant. and inspiring.
    being a dream catcher is hard enough, let alone making it successful and then having the kindness and talent to share tips and tricks…you’re amazing and i feel like to know you!

  • Seriously incredible & encouraging adivce. Thanks for being so nice & sharing your thoughts.

  • Awesome post, Elsie. Thank you for the advise and for sharing your expertise! Love your blog every day…no matter how nuts things are, I love checking in.

  • very helpful, Elsie! thanks a bunch 😉
    I’m helping my mom as she starts her own business, a little shop with pieces by several artists.

  • hi elsie!
    great advice, thanks! i really enjoy yout blog, especially the diys. thanks for being inspiring!


  • this is why i am regular reader. i love how you are so eager to share your wisdom from your experience and encourage others to be creative.

  • Great advice! I am really interested in your indie business workshop class. I am coming to Springfield in about 1 year and hopefully opening up an optical boutique (with lanes for eye exams in the back). I would love to have it be a place to house local artists as well. Just a dream now, but in 1.5 years I will be graduated from optometry school but very little business knowledge bc they focus on being a doctor, not a business owner which is 1/2 of it!!

  • great tips and advice elsie!

    your blog is at the top of my ‘daily fix’ list 😉

    i get so much inspiration here and your posts are just ‘so cute’!!!


  • Thank you for posting this. I am so inspired by how open you are, not just about the creative side of things, but also about the business side of things. I feel like in the age of people plagiarizing work left and right, many artists are afraid to share information. But you truly make RVA a collective. Thanks for that.

  • this is amazing, elsie. you’ve become my catalyst and motivation speaker. 😉

  • This is great advice! Anytime you offer it up Im like eating it up! I look up to you a WHOLE lot! You have accomplished so much and I just love how you are putting your creativeness out there for the whole world! Rock on girl..and THANK YOU really…thank you for being ELSIE!!!

  • Dude. This was perfect for me. As a semi-budding etsy-ian & blogger/tweeter – I need all the advice I can get! I am soaking it all up like a sponge. I feel like everything I have done creatively in my life is preparing me for my particular niche. I’m just going to do what I know & love & freaking go for it. I was up late last night sketching & am so excited about my new projects! Thank you so much for this invaluable insight!

  • i’m not an aspiring entrepeneur…or really anything of the sort, but i really enjoyed reading this. you are such an inspirational woman out there doing what you love, but maintaining a balance in your life of things that are truly important (family, friends, fun….). i really appreciate your insight and point of view. thanks for sharing.

  • Elsie, I gotta tell you, I have read all of your ‘startup’ blogs, and I GOTTA HAVE MORE!!! Reading these is making me thing I’m on the right track. Thank you SO VERY MUCH!!!

  • this post was both informative and inspiring — and resonated strongly with me as a new blogger aspiring to make my own mark in the design world. this blurb in particular:

    “I think the most important tip I can share is to be consistent and true to your own style, even as it evolves!”

    hits home because sometime it seems hard to decide what is blog-worthy, whether something is really exactly my style… it can be very restrictive to try to narrow my taste to fit a particular category or era in design. but your post reminds me that even if i like something just at that moment that it’s worth posting! my style is inevitably going to change and my blog should document that ongoing evolution. long story short thank you for this post and your words of wisdom, i know one blogger who really needed to hear them 🙂

  • Thank you for yet another informative post! I’d be interested in your indi business course; Etsy is one of my long range goals, but there’s so many questions (from taxes to how to go about making prints of your work). Someone should write an “Etsy For Dummies” book lol! Thanks again! =)

  • It was a good season to dabble in everything. but it’s an even better season to cultivate the gifts unique to me. my voice may sound like someone else’s but it’s mine and that’s okay. your blog is great. your diys are awesome. and your advice is cherished. thanks for the way you empower so many artists and crafters! what a gift you have!

  • I like The Hills very much.It’s a nice TV show.
    The Hills

  • Great advice! I admire your spirit- you are so willing to learn on the past, and so eager to share this information with others! you have a lovely business, and I love your website to. A whole lot of good luck and success to you!

  • this was very interesting blog, you share a good advice for those people who want to start a business like that. especially most of the business now is about art cause it very popular.
    but also, it depends on you if what business you like, if what is your profession. well, you did a good job,thanks for the tips.

  • Thanks for the tips, Elsie! You know, I’ve always been inspired by your blog. Aside from being so beautiful and nice to everyone, you also have cool business, which I love the most. Maybe some time, I’ll visit your shop. Thanks a lot!

  • One thing I’ve learned from a friend when it comes to business is taking risks. In business, we don’t always get the things we want, but it is best to try to make it work.

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