Expert Advice

Finding online business success as a fine artist

The term “starving artist” is quickly going extinct thanks to entrepreneurs like Kori Clark. Though she holds a degree in graphic design, she quickly realized that she missed the joy of using her talents to create art— away from the computer. Kori not only took a step back from creating digital art, but also from the stigma of what a business “should” look like. Instead, she defined her own version of happiness and designed a lifestyle that allows her to be an artist, while still serving her family as a wife and mom. There is so much wisdom to be found in this interview with one of my sweetest online business friends.

How this fine artist defined her own happiness and built her thriving online business // A interview with creative entrepreneur, Kori Clark from MichelleHickey.Design

Beginnings

What is your background in art + design? Are you formally educated or self-taught? 
I remember taking art classes as a child because I loved art so much, but when I got to college I started out with a totally different degree and was miserable. One day my dad asked why I wasn’t doing something with my love for art and I whined that I was scared of the “feast or famine… mostly famine” reputation of artists. He urged me to follow my passion and I changed my major to multimedia design, learning for the first time computer design. That ended up being my major and I graduated in graphic design.

What made you want to want to start your own business?
The birth of my baby girl was my driving force in starting a business. After she was born, my husband and I agreed that I would stay home with her for a year. After the first few weeks I was itching to design again and I began doing freelance. I quickly realized how much I loved the flexiblity of being able to work my own hours and be home with her, so I started working harder to continue working for myself. She turns 10 next week and even though it’s stressful at times, I have loved every minute of running my own business!

Did you have any hesitations or setbacks after your business launched? How did you find solutions and overcome them?
Oh my, yes! There are always things that come up in business and when you work for yourself you have to come up with the solutions!  For me, the biggest hurdle was actually when my business began growing faster than I could handle. It felt like life was spiraling out of control and I missed spending time with my family and friends. I had a friend do emails for me for a while and that was helpful, but when I tried to actually hire someone through an interview process I learned two very important things… one was that I don’t like to manage other people (except my kids obviously) and two… this wasn’t really the business I wanted.

It’s so easy to get caught up in what the rest of the world is doing and to try and follow the lead, but ultimately, it wasn’t what I envisioned for my business. I wanted a small home studio, not a warehouse. I wanted to do freelance design for various client, not manage employees. My work had to shift and I had to start saying “no” to the things that didn’t line up with the vision I had for my life and business.

Can you identify a moment on your journey that felt like a turning point in your business? How did it come to be? 
Yes! I actually worked as a graphic designer in the corporate world and did a lot of graphic illustration (i.e. using adobe illustrator to draw graphics and designs), but hand illustration and painting were always my first loves. There came a time in my business that I started to feel “stuck” at the computer and I didn’t have time to draw or paint anymore. It was then that I began doing hand illustration and watercolor work and before I knew it, that was the majority of my work! I still do graphic design jobs, but they are a smaller percentage of my overall work these days.

How this fine artist defined her own happiness and built her thriving online business // A interview with creative entrepreneur, Kori Clark from MichelleHickey.Design

Life as a fine artist in a digital age

I love that you offer everything from custom portraits to ready-made graphics. Do you have a product/service that’s a bestseller?
My best sellers are definitely custom portraits and watercolors! I have tried multiple times to offer ready made products, but I think my clients crave the special and unique artwork that they know is made just for them.

How do you use online platforms and social media to promote your work? 
I know that I am not as social media savvy as some of my friends, so instead of trying to have my art across every platform, I really just stick to a few, Instagram, Facebook, and occasionally Twitter or Pinterest. I make an effort to post to Instagram every day and Facebook a few times a week, but I usually stay offline on the weekends.

What is your process for converting your paintings into digital form?
I used to scan in everything and clean it up from there, but with the steady progress of photography I have began to actually get good clean photos in great lighting and then I use those to clean up in Photoshop. I have found that the end result is much better this way!

How this fine artist defined her own happiness and built her thriving online business // A interview with creative entrepreneur, Kori Clark from MichelleHickey.Design

Behind the scenes

What does your work day look like? Do you paint every single day? 
Typically I set aside 3 days a week to focus on my ongoing work projects from about 9am until about 2:30pm. On these days I usually start with a quick email check, then I hop off the computer and put away the phone so I am not distracted. I may be painting a big commision or doing a series of watercolor illustrations for an online article.

It’s always different! I make myself lunch mid day and use that time to do emails again, then it’s back to the projects at hand until I leave to pick up my kids from school. The other two days I use to excercise, run errands, work on the website, and do the “business stuff”. After my kids come home, I usually stay out of the studio until they go to bed so we can walk, cook dinner, do homework, and all of the other family activities we love. I free paint almost every night sitting with my husband, just as a way to practice and because it’s meditative for me.

Can you name a book, podcast, conference, or individual who has had a lasting positive impact on you and your business?
Goodness, there are so many things that have influenced my business, but I would have to say my husband has had the biggest positive influence on my business. I am the creative and he is very business minded, so he thinks of many things and ideas that I don’t. He is also my biggest supporter and the best sounding board!

How this fine artist defined her own happiness and built her thriving online business // A interview with creative entrepreneur, Kori Clark from MichelleHickey.Design

Hopes + dreams

What areas are you still working on becoming better at, as a business owner and a creative individual?
I am working to become better at marketing and “asking for it”. I love to put things out into the universe and then jut wait to see what happens instead of actively marketing or pursuing new jobs and clients. This is something I know I need to get better at and I am trying to work towards it!

What do you envision for the future of your business? Do you have any personal dreams that you still have your sights set on?
Honestly, I envision and hope for more of the same. I love what I am doing right now… I love my clients and I love the jobs I am working on. I would love to continue to have a steady stream of infographic style illustration work with a few big creative abstract watercolors mixed in. As far as personal dreams, I would love to see more of my illustrations used in more print work like magazine articles as well as online.

Anything exciting on the horizon? Tell us about what you’ve been up to lately and what we can look forward to:
I am excited to be working on some infographic illustrations for a few online articles, and I am also working on some new abstract watercolors for the shop! I will also be posting a lot of custom illustrations as the holiday season comes around!

How can we stay connected?

Website // Facebook // Instagram // Twitter // Pinterest // Email