Episode 86

Being Boss for Makers and Artists with Nicole Stevenson

August 23, 2016

Today’s episode is for makers and artists. We’re talking with illustrator, artist, writer, and co-founder of Dear Handmade Life, Nicole Stevenson. We dive into pricing your products, making money as an artist, and that when you go into a business as an artist or maker, you’re selling more than just your art.

Learn More about the Topics Discussed in this Episode
This Episode Brought to You By:
"You're going to spend your time running a business—you're not going to be painting all day."
- Nicole Stevenson

Discussed in this Episode

  • Nicole's entrepreneurial journey (3:06)
  • Pricing your products as an artist or maker (14:20)
  • Putting the burden of making money on your art (19:03)
  • How to "give it all away" as a maker / product-based business (23:42)
  • Selling a lifestyle/story/feeling vs. strictly selling a product (27:49)
  • The importance of artists and creative thinking (31:27)
  • Scaling as a maker (36:05)
  • How to hold yourself accountable to your art (43:34)


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Almanac Supply Co.


Emily Thompson 0:00
Hello and welcome to being boss episode number 86. This episode is brought to you by fresh books cloud accounting.

Being boss and work and life is being in it.

Kathleen Shannon 0:16
It's being who we are doing the work, breaking some rules. And even though we each have to do it on our own,

Emily Thompson 0:23
being boss is knowing we're in it together.

Kathleen Shannon 0:27
All right, makers and artists. This episode is for you. We've been wanting to talk to you all more about being boss and being a maker. So we're bringing on Nicole Stevenson to chat just about that. Nicole Stevenson is an illustrator and artist at Nicole Stevenson studio. She's a writer, teacher and creative business consultant, as well as the co founder of gear handmade life patchwork show and craftcation conference. Her path includes time as a street artist on the Venice Beach boardwalk costume designer, DIY workshop instructor, co founder of a nonprofit that produce art shows benefiting charities, owner and designer of random Nicole, an art inspired clothing line was carried at over 250 locations. and owner of craft workshop studio and retail store the craft kitchen. She has a Ba and Ma in creative writing and is currently working on a nonfiction book about her crafty adventures. We are so excited to talk about an art to talk with Nicole today. And we think that you guys are going to get a lot out of it. Whether or not you're a crafter or maker. This one is for you guys. Hey, guys, I want to take a second and pause here and talk about charging what you're worth. So you know that we work with fresh books, cloud accounting, and they sponsor this podcast and one of the things that they are all about is pricing your projects based on a value and not necessarily an hourly rate. One of the things that Nicole talks about in this week's episode is basically pricing yourself for what you're worth, but also really looking at the facts of how much it costs to make your art. So fresh books. Cloud accounting is really great for tracking your expenses and tracking your income. So you can really look at the facts about how much money you're spending on your business, and how much money is coming in. It's a really clear cut way to look at those numbers. But also, I really encourage you guys to take a look at what you're worth and what your art or your creative service should be valued at and charge accordingly. All right, you guys, you can try fresh books for free today by going to freshbooks comm slash being boss and enter being boss in the How did you hear about us section, I promise you will get paid more and paid faster once you start really keeping track. All right back to our episode. Nicole, we are so excited to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.

Nicole Stevenson 3:02
I'm super excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

Kathleen Shannon 3:06
Um, let's just dive in by talking about your creative entrepreneurial journey as an artist and a maker. Like tell us where you've been. And you can start as far back as you tell us about yourself.

Nicole Stevenson 3:20
So I was born at a hospital. No, I'm not going to start that far back. I will. I remember being a kid and just always making stuff. I don't know any other way to describe it, I didn't know how to make I didn't really know what making was. But when I was young, my mom was a single mother when I was young and we had a really old car that used to break down a lot and I remember being on the side of the road waiting for the tow truck truck driver to get there. And there was all these random things on the side of the road like a broken taillight and a piece of a tire and this weird round piece of metal with little holes in it. And I took all that stuff and kind of shoved it in my backpack secretly because my mom is I mean if I touched anything on the side of the road, I would have been in big trouble and antibacterial everything all over me but and shoving that stuff in my backpack and kind of holding it on my lap while we were driving with a tow truck truck driver who was you know, sweaty, big, big old dude and you know, getting back home and then getting the getting the glue gun and like gluing everything together and turning it into a pencil holder. You know, so I didn't know what I was doing. But I've always been doing doing stuff like that. You know, when I was finally able to like understand my sense of style, I was constantly redecorating my bedroom and I couldn't afford to buy my own things, you know at the fancy store. So I would go to the thrift store in high school and go buy things and bring them home and kind of staged these little areas in my in my bedroom that were you know around different different themes. So

Unknown Speaker 5:00
That was the younger

Kathleen Shannon 5:02
yesterday was creating installation art in your bedroom as a teenager

Nicole Stevenson 5:07
from the get go? Pretty much I mean, but I didn't really know that that was something installation art. Yeah. Nope.

Kathleen Shannon 5:15
Did you go to college or anything for art? Are you still like not even aware that you could kind of create a path out of this.

Nicole Stevenson 5:24
I went to college and I went to college for creative writing. And that was I always wanted to be a writer. That's what I was going to do. And this art thing was just something I did. I mean, even in high school, I had pieces in the art show. And, you know, it was always doing doing these things. But it was never a question in my mind that I was always going to be a writer, and I was gonna go to school, and I was gonna get my bachelor's degree, my master's degree. And then I was going to be a writing professor, you know, at a school that had Ivy and bricks and all those kinds of things. And that was just my dream since I was a kid. And this making stuff was just something I did. I don't know, I didn't really think it could be anything.

Kathleen Shannon 6:00
When did you depart from that dream? Like when did that that path take you to where you are now. Um,

Nicole Stevenson 6:08
I was in college, and I was getting my master's degree and I was doing my thesis, and my computer crashed, and I lost everything that I had written. And my friend, her name is Paige. And she. So Paige, and I were sitting there and Paige was a painter. So she was working on her paintings. I was working on my thesis, and we were, you know, just hanging out and I had started painting with Paige, you know, just I would go over to hang out in her apartment, and she'd be painting, so I would just paint too, you know, and then a few months later, I had 10 paintings. And she was like, why don't you do this group art show with me. So that was kind of already happening during that time, but I was still really focused on writing. And then my thesis disappeared. And I kind of lost my marbles. First kid. And I took off my pants. I was wearing a slip like a slip dress. This was the 90s and it was cool to wear like a slip like a vintage slip with pants underneath. So at least it was Yeah. Okay, so you're you're Nicole circa 90s. So yeah, I just like freaked out and ripped off my pants for some reason. And I threw them out the window. And I was living in San Francisco, in, you know, the third story of an apartment building with these big bay windows, and I threw my pants out the window and I was screaming, what am I doing with my life with all this stuff. And then my friend Paige tried to call me down. And I was like, Okay, I need to get my pants. And I looked out there and I didn't see my pants. But there was this like homeless guy walking down the street. And I was like, that guy stole my pants. So I go running downstairs and my slip, I'm chasing after this homeless guy screaming Give me back my pants, give me back my pants. And then Paige is looking out the window. And she's looking at you, Nicole there in the tree like thrown about they landed in the tree. So I stopped chasing the homeless man go back into my apartment. And I said, I don't want to do this anymore. Like I want to because she was talking about moving down to LA and doing art. And I said, I'm I'm ready. I don't want to do school anymore. I don't want to be a writer, I want to be an artist. And so we moved down to LA. And we moved into a one bedroom apartment with her sister and two other girls that were kind of creative types. And Paige and I shared the dining room. I mean, when I say dining room talking about like it was a 10 by six room. This was a one small one bedroom apartment in Hollywood. So we moved there and we started selling our artwork on the Venice Beach boardwalk, because you could sell it there without getting a permit or anything. So we didn't even have a bed, I slept on a beanbag in the tiny room, and we would trade off like who would get to sleep on the beanbag and who would sleep on the floor. My parents were livid, of course, because I went from, you know, a few months away from getting my master's degree and like living in a beautiful apartment in San Francisco to basically, you know, spending my time on Venice Beach, hanging out with these artists that were there that happened to be homeless, and like kind of learning from them.

Kathleen Shannon 9:23
So do you feel like running after the homeless man? foreshadowing

Nicole Stevenson 9:29
I never really thought of it that way. And I mean, to be honest with you this this story that I'm telling is kind of like the turning the turning point and it's a story that you know, I joke about with friends and like all my friends kind of know the story like tell the homeless man story. But I hadn't really thought about what a true turning point that that moment was and then being and then being on Venice Beach. Yeah. So yeah, homeless man situation kind of changed my life in a way So after that, I I stayed, I stayed on Venice Beach beach for a while. And in that one bedroom apartment sold my art sold tons of art figured out, like what I needed to do to sell my art, you know that I need to create small pieces, and they need to be, you know, $20 to $50. And, you know, because these are tourists and I just kind of, you know, had this like quick Business School into what I had to do. And then I realized, you know, people were looking at my stuff, and like, that's really cute, but I don't know where I'm going to put it or it doesn't match my couch. And I thought, Okay, I need to make something that people can wear. So I started doing t shirts, and pert, I started out with doing purses and painting on purses and doing those, and then I did t shirts. And then I ended up having a clothing line, kind of quick quickening this part, but I had a clothing line. I had, you know, reps all over the country and did trade shows and did that for about 10 years. And during that time, I realized that other people like me, these makers needed community and education. And I saw that need for that. And it was something that I needed. So it's kind of that old adage of, you know, you should make or create what you what you need and what you're missing. So that was kind of how that started. And my partner Delilah, and I who's also my aunt's, but we're the same age. So we're kind of more like sisters created our first event, which was patchwork show, which is a modern makers festival. And then in 2012, we created our conference craftcation conference, which is a business and makers conference. That's the long but as short as I could make it version of my creative journey. No, I

Emily Thompson 11:44
love that I feel like well and separate from homeless man and losing your pants. It's a it's a fairly like comment and not to say your stories and amazing and unique and awesome, but like it's a common path for for creatives to like to go at the thing they feel like they're supposed to, they're going to go to school and get their degrees and do all these things. And then like there's a moment where they realize that their art does their purpose, like they have to do this art. And then I love that you love it, you just like figure it out the business side of it by being in it. Because I feel like so many people are so many makers will put off that business part of it, because they don't know, but you learn by doing it. And so by being in it, you realize like, I don't know what products sold better. And you figure out how to supply the people with the things that they were wanting, as opposed to things that you wanted to create. So I think that's really huge. And I think that makers, makers need to be more okay. With that sort of windy, crazy path, then, then I feel like they probably are most the time.

Nicole Stevenson 12:55
I totally agree with what with what you said, I think it was hard for me because I was already pursuing something creative. So I was already pursuing writing. So I'm like, I'm already being a creative person. But to me being like a, I don't know, a super, you know, super Uber Creative Artists person like that was that to me was like going to, you know, being a banker or something that was the safe the safe route for me even though it was creative, but and what you said about learning as you as you're doing, I'm such a big believer in that. And I hear so many people just I you know, I need to wait for this. And I need to figure out how to do this. And how do I, you know, how am I going to do this. And I'm like, just, you know, if they're a maker, I'm like, make some stuff and go sell at it like a farmers market or a flea market, not like a large scale craft show where there's a jury and you know, it's really expensive, but just go sell some more small and get a feel for it. Because you're going to quickly realize that if you love painting and you want to make a living painting, the chances are, you're going to spend your time running a business, you know, you're not going to be painting all day. And I think that that's what people don't realize when they start their own businesses. They want to do, they love their craft, and they want to do that all the time. But at least in the beginning of your business, you're going to be doing everything, you know until you get to that point where you can hire other people to do that stuff for you.

Kathleen Shannon 14:20
So between a dear handmade life patchwork show and craftcation conference, you are working with a lot of other creatives and I bet a lot of them are maybe more at the beginning of their journey and they're trying to learn as much as possible. What are some things like what are maybe three common pitfalls or mistakes?

Unknown Speaker 14:41

Kathleen Shannon 14:43
like what what do you want to warn creators about or if you could just grab them by the shoulders and shake them and say just do this thing? What are some tips and advice that you would give people pitfalls or tips and advice.

Nicole Stevenson 14:56
The first thing that I thought of when you said that is price I would like to grab every maker by the shoulders and shake them, and tell them that they need to base their prices on facts and not on emotion or feelings. So that's a big one. And I think that's not just for makers, but it's for people and, you know, who provide a service, you know, like you guys, too. I mean, we, it's, we're, and we're scared to charge what we're worth. And then I just wrote an a blog post for our blog about pricing. And in the, in the post, I included a pricing formula that's like cost plus labor, you know, or cost is, you know, materials plus labor, and then you multiply that for your wholesale price. And it was shocking to me, when people were commenting on it and saying, Well, how should I, you know, how should I price my stuff, when other things that are in my industry are, are less you know, where to look at a lower price point, I'm like, the way you should price your stuff is with the pricing formula. Like it doesn't matter if other things are less like you have to find your your people. And if your prices really are too high, and you can't find people, then you have to look at your materials cost and your labor costs and see if you can lower them. Maybe there's another wholesaler that you can get your I don't know t shirts, or whatever you're using to create your product from that's less expensive. So I think pricing. I mean, do you guys hear? Do people come to you with that all the time, too,

Kathleen Shannon 16:23
totally. And I think that the makers that we are interacting with in our Facebook group, and in our clubhouse, I think that they have a really hard time figuring out how to make more money. And for me, I would say charge more is my best, best piece of advice. But if they do come against that, okay, but I'm knitting this thing. And other people who are knitting things like this are not charging that much. And I feel like there's such for me, because I'm not familiar with the industry of being a maker or an artist, it feels like unless you are a world renowned artists, there is a very low ceiling that is hard to break through whenever it comes to how much money you're making.

Nicole Stevenson 17:09
I definitely agree. And when you when you said that about charging more, there are really only two ways that you can make more money doing what you're doing, whether it's a service or or a product, you either have to charge more, or you need to get more customers. So getting more customers might allow you to hire that extra help, you know, maybe you need to pay yourself $30 an hour to knit a scarf, but maybe you can find somebody to knit it for you for $15 an hour, you know, but you, if you don't have the demand for that many scarves, you won't be able to pay them. So it's, it's it's tricky. And I don't think that people realize the time. And everything that goes into running a business before they start one, I think that they see images on you know, Instagram and social media and you know how adorable we all look at our headshots while we're sitting at our computers at our adorable offices. And they think, Oh, I want to do that, like, look at how fun everything is. And they don't see the reality behind it that, you know, we're up until one o'clock in the morning sometimes or, you know, I was just listening to a podcast the other day, and the host was like, I haven't taken a shower in three days, I had to make a choice between I have to shower every day. That's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. But she was saying I had to make a choice between cooking my kids breakfast, or taking a shower or not doing my business stuff. So I don't know where I'm not trying to discourage people. But I am definitely trying to say that working for yourself is not. It's not an easy thing. And it takes a certain kind of temperament. And the best way to find out if you have that temperament is to just start. You know, there really isn't. There's all the, you know, online classes and all the advice and all the everything in the world isn't going to tell you unless you're actually starting and doing it and taking those baby first steps.

Kathleen Shannon 19:02
So I feel a little bit like desperation and especially desperation from money can kill your creativity, whether you're a coach, or an artist or a maker or designer, whatever it is that you do, I believe desperation can kill creativity. I know that a lot of artists and makers and even Emily, you've talked about your own path of that desperation, really fueling you to make it do but I was recently reading Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic. Have you read that one yet? Nicole? Yes.

Unknown Speaker 19:34
I have no idea. What

Unknown Speaker 19:36
are your feelings on it?

Nicole Stevenson 19:38
I like it. I still have a bit to go. I started it and then I kind of went in this phase where I couldn't listen to any business podcasts or creative podcasts or read any books. Oh,

Kathleen Shannon 19:49
I totally go through cycles of that. I'm like, I'm just gonna read something for fun. So right after I read Big Magic, I started reading all of Chelsea handler's books about like her having one night stands and That's exactly what I needed to read in that moment. But what I really liked about Elizabeth Gilbert's point of view, and well, you know, it's debatable, obviously, but she has this point of view that your you should not put the burden on your art to pay the bills. So I don't know if you've gotten to that part, but how do you feel about that intersection of art and money? And, yes, should you put that burden on your art? And does turning your art into a business kill that, you know, instagrammable dream of making paintings all day?

Nicole Stevenson 20:35
I think it does. It definitely does, in a way. I, I, I learned that when I was in writing school, you know, once other people were reading my reading my writing it took, you know, after being in school for seven years writing and critiquing, I couldn't write without already hearing what my workshop group was going to be saying about my stuff. So I couldn't go back to that point where I was just kind of barfing out on the page, and then editing afterwards. And I definitely, once I started selling my paintings, and, you know, with my clothing line, I really felt it. Because I, you know, I started out, I had a rep with a showroom. So I made stuff. And then she would tell me, I had to do four lines, four to five lines a year. So that's every three months, you're creating a brand new line with, you know, all these new designs. And she would say, Okay, this did well, last season, you need to do a new version of this, this did well, last season, you need to do a new version of this. And this was probably 13 years ago. So at that time, I was doing stuff with like flowers, and owls and birds, and other people weren't really doing that yet. And in the beginning, people weren't buying it started to catch on, but it was just like, every season, I had to do a new scan our shirt, you know, and I'm just like, how many versions of ours can I do? So then when I would sit, sit down to think, Okay, what do I want? What do I want to make, I could always hear my rep, you know, coming back and saying, like, Listen, dude, they want owls. And so I kind of had this thing where I would, you know, 75% of my line would be the stuff that I knew was gonna sell. And then 25% of it would be the stuff that I really wanted to make. And sadly, but honestly, the 75% was the stuff that got a lot of orders. But I still had the freedom to create that other stuff. I mean, if you the second you share your art with the world, you're gonna, you're gonna hear feedback. I mean, especially now, because there's so many ways to share it. And guess what, not everybody's gonna like your stuff. That's just it, you know, if we all like the same things, this world would be so boring, none of us would want to live in it. You know, so just because one person doesn't like it doesn't, you know, it doesn't. It doesn't mean anything. But um, yeah, I, I was never at a point where I had, you know, a day job and, you know, did my creativity, you know, had to take that leap to do my creativity, it's always paid my bills, you know, I've been paying my bills with my creativity for, like, almost 20 years. So I never really went through went through that, but I definitely have been desperate. So I understand what you're talking about, about the desperation, killing creativity. But I also think it can breed creativity, it just depends on what kind of person you are like, if you're willing to make sacrifices and make another frickin owl shirt, you know, then great, then you can do what you want with the other part of your line.

Kathleen Shannon 23:38
Okay, I have a couple of other questions.

Unknown Speaker 23:41

Kathleen Shannon 23:42
So one question that we get a lot one of our philosophies that being boss is giving it all away. So we think that the more generous you can be with your knowledge and your ideas, the more you will be positioning yourself as an expert, and getting hired by clients who want to give you the cash, because you've proved to them, you know what you're talking about. Now, anytime a maker hears us talk about this, so whether it's a jeweler or an artist, they always ask us, how can I give it all away whenever I have products, so I'm curious if you have any ideas on that or on how you've been able to share your gifts of knowledge to position yourself or you know, maybe even positioning yourself as a trendsetter, or, you know, you're saying that you were kind of one of the first to do the owl bird. I mean, are you know, being a kind of ahead of those trends? And I think that ultimately what this question is asking is, how do you get more customers?

Nicole Stevenson 24:46
Okay, so when you're talking about giving it away? Yeah, I think for makers obviously, you don't want to give a bunch of your jewelry jewelry away or something like that away. I mean, I don't

Kathleen Shannon 24:56
think we would condone that. We're always talking about giving away your Have some knowledge, right, giving away the stuff that generously positions you as an expert is self serving in many ways.

Nicole Stevenson 25:08
Yeah, I think that for the maker community, people that make products, the best way to give it away and kind of give back is to be a mentor and be a part of your community. So and that's something that I've always done that's worked really well for me. When, you know, I, when I had my clothing line, I also opened up a brick and mortar store where we taught craft and DIY classes, and I always had an intern, and that intern, you know, the first thing that I would ask them in the interview was, what do you want to learn. And that was what their internship was all about was what they want was what they wanted to learn. So that was a way that I felt like I was giving back. I mean, I didn't ever use them, as, you know, just cheap labor, it was an opportunity for me to give back. But then also, you know, I did get things done. But a lot of the time, you know, you're spending so much time teaching somebody, it definitely would have been a better use of my time, you know, to hire someone. But that was really important to me. And then also, you know, if you're kind of starting, like early, early, starting out, you're not ready to be a mentor. I mean, God, there's always somebody that's less experienced, and then more experienced in you, even if you're just starting out. But really being a part of, of the community is soup is. I mean, I can't tell you how important that I think that is,

Kathleen Shannon 26:34
I think there's always this fear, whenever you start to give it away, that you are going to teach your competition how to do what you do. And so I love the idea that being a mentor, like, yeah, you might be teaching someone else your craft, but that there is enough room for all of us, right?

Nicole Stevenson 26:52
I, I'm such a huge believer in that, in fact, the intern that I was thinking of when I was talking about that she has her own business now. And she you know, she has her own business, selling cards and making prints and doing her art, and she's doing really well. And, you know, I mean, it's been probably 10 years since she was my intern. And every once in a while shows popped me a little note and say, I just want to tell you, thank you so much like you were a big part of of why of why I'm able to do this. Gosh, there was something I just kind of got on that train. What was the what was the last thing that you were talking about?

Unknown Speaker 27:28
It was?

Nicole Stevenson 27:30
I don't know, this is conversation. This is just this is just

Kathleen Shannon 27:36
Emily, what are you thinking?

Emily Thompson 27:38
Well, I'm thinking about a video about makers and giving it all away. And the idea something you said a minute ago about about setting yourself apart as like a trendsetter. And I think I think with makers, they can get really, really narrow with like, I make this thing My job is to like create this product and sell this product. And I think that makers have such a great opportunity to create like little mini lifestyle brands, where they can curate more content and a give all of that away, that will just position them as an expert in like whatever sort of lifestyle they're supporting with the product that they're creating. And that's always whenever I'm coaching with makers or whatever, that's always one of the things that I tried to at least present to them as an option for, you know, how is it that you're going to create content and share on social media more than just your product photos over and over again, and telling people to go by, it's about creating, it's about creating content, like a whole look and feel to a brand, that will that will give you so much more leverage in terms of like finding those customers and convincing them that whatever you're creating is for their lifestyle, if it's if it's right there in line with what it is that you're doing. I think that it's another fun little way to position yourself as a maker in a way that will make it easier for you to give it all away for free. you position yourself as an expert at like the lifestyle you're creating with your product and gaining more customers.

Nicole Stevenson 29:13
It's so what you just said is so important. And it's something that I last year at craftcation. We had a great a great branding workshop that I think blew a lot of people's minds because I mean still to this day, I'm sure I know. I know you guys know this, but people think that branding is like a logo and a font and some colors. And this workshop we had with this presenter Lila Barker was just mind blowing and she was you know, talking about its story. It's the story of this life. It's a story of your brand and you can see trying to think of there's a cheese a wood, wood carving artists, I don't know exactly what the technical term is, but her name is Aereo Lascaux.

Kathleen Shannon 29:56
I love her style. So much

Nicole Stevenson 29:59
okay. But I hope I was like, I think that this is how you say her name. But um, if you look at her Instagram, I mean, she's got it, she's got a great following, it's super engaged, and you look at it, and it's branded, I mean, she is, she's not selling a spoon, she's selling this lifestyle, where that you want to be in. So you need to get this spoon so that you can be in this life, you know, it becomes, it becomes a need, like I need, not a want. And that's, I mean, that's what good branding is all about. And I think, you know, beginning makers don't understand that. And, I mean, I do a very small amount of consulting and only for makers. And so it's a very hard thing to get that into somebody's head and to say, like, you have to curate this stuff, you have to curate your Instagram, no, it doesn't need to be fake feeling to you, it needs to feel authentic to you. And in fact, the more it, the more it reflects you, the stronger your brand is going to be, you know, you don't want it to look like such and such blog bloggers brand and, you know, trying to teach them how to, you know, always be thinking and coming up with content, when you're making stuff, take a picture of your thing, like always use the same filters that it is that and it's true, you don't want to be shouting at your customers, which is what you're doing when you're always putting up a product, hey, buy this, buy this, buy this buy this, you want to be conversing with them and telling them a story.

Kathleen Shannon 31:27
And I think in the same way makers need to understand why branding is important. I think that there needs to be a societal overhaul where the world needs to understand why art is important. And I think that makers and artists really need to embrace why art is important to society. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Nicole Stevenson 31:48
Look around wherever you are right now, like wherever you're listening from look around, and nothing would be where you're, you wouldn't have a house without without an artist you need, you need an architect, you need a creative mind, to come up with the idea of putting a handle on a door, you know, or building a computer, you know, or your phone that you're listening to, or I don't know, I'm sitting on a bed right now. And I'm looking at a very ugly bedspread at my mom's house. But I'm thinking somebody had to draw these flowers. You know, somebody came up with these colors in these flowers. It's everywhere. And the sad thing is the year I totally agree, society needs a definite overhaul. And I don't want to get into politics or schools. But I really wish that you know, the generation that's growing up now could be educated more in creative thinking, instead of just spitting back answers and memorizing things, because creative thinking is how we get everything. I mean, it's from, you know, building a house to a cure for disease, like it's all creative thinking, you know, and analyzing and figuring out so I agree 1,000,000,000% with you on that.

Emily Thompson 33:04
Yeah, well, and I think like I think it's partly society too. But I also think part of it's like artists owning it. Like, I feel like this has been a long term cycle of like, art being not diminished, because it's not all diminished. But it's been diminished enough that there's like this inherited view that your art isn't worthy of anything. And I feel and that's in the brain of the artists, not the people outside of it.

Kathleen Shannon 33:31
And I think that's a relatively new thing. Because whenever I was taking my art history classes in college, and I was an art major in college, and it the whole world used to revolve around artists, and that's how we got our history. And that's how stories were told. And I think it was very revered. I mean, in the Renaissance, obviously, and how do we bring that attitude back in? When was that last? And this is probably a much deeper conversation.

Nicole Stevenson 33:58
No, I mean, I, I totally agree, I feel I want you guys to do a whole episode on this. And I can't wait to listen to it. Um, I was thinking about one thing in relation to this as we were talking, and it's like, I think it's really, really interesting and important that Emily, you said that artists you know, need to kind of own up to and take take responsibility. I totally agree with that. And another kind of, I don't know, ish issue, I guess, that I see is that if you want to make a living off of your art, you're going to have to sacrifice I mean, not just, you know, time and time, family and business and money and all of that kind of stuff, but you're going to have to sacrifice some part of your art, like when I was talking about how I had to make an owl shirt. If you're selling it, you know, chances are you're going to have to be you know, prostitute you know yourself yourself a little a little bit for it, you know, you're gonna have to get out there and hustle, you're gonna have to maybe make something and that's in a popular you know, Pantone color for that year. You have to bend a little bit. And I see that a lot with makers who aren't willing to listen to, to criticism, you know, when they go to craft show and craft show again, and they're like, I don't know why, you know, nobody likes to sing well, I know you like if you, if you want to pay your rent, you might need to make a little more of this other thing, you know, there's always a sacrifice involved. So kind of letting go of that ego, and realizing that this is a it's art, but it's also a business. And if you don't want enough to sacrifice, maybe you would be better off having a job and then creating your art for fun. You know, I'm, I just started doing art and illustration, again, after many years. And, you know, I don't have to make my living off of it. Although it is like a part of my living and I have so much more freedom, you know, I can sit down in my sketchbook and do whatever not like last night, I made a really ugly pattern. And I was like, that's fine. I, you know, it's totally fine, because that isn't my bread and butter right now.

Kathleen Shannon 36:05
So I'm going to talk a little bit about scaling as a maker, and what that business model looks like. So you went from selling art on Venice Beach, to now you have makers festival, you have online workshops, you have craftcation, which is a business and makers conference. So it looks like you took that kind of give it all away mentor model and scaled that into an online platform and into a conference platform, is that how you make the bulk of your money now doing what you do, or tell us about like scaling, and how other makers might consider scaling their business.

Nicole Stevenson 36:46
I don't know how great my advice is gonna be on this, because it wasn't a conscious decision. For me. It was just I was doing my clothing. And then an opportunity came up for me to open a store, you know, where I was, I was doing craft shows, and I moved to an area where there were no craft shows. And my you know, and I was like, I know a lot of people here and I was like, I know a lot of people that make stuff. And so we we did a show, and then we did that it was like these people needed education, you know, what do we do to make something for them to have education, and then also find each other and have that community and that was where craftcation was born. And then, you know, the blog, and the podcast was kind of like, Hey, we want to be able to give back more for free. You know, so we're gonna do that. And, I mean, everything has just sort of happened. And that, that is where I mean, that is how I make my living is through our the events that we that we produce. And it has, it has been for a long time. But I mean, I will be honest, the, you know, I don't make a lot of money. And I have a very budget style lifestyle, which I'm happy with. I mean, I have everything, everything that I need for the most part. And that was a conscious choice for me to, you know, is, you know, I could raise the ticket prices of craftcation or, you know, raise up our booth fees, or try to get, you know, bigger sponsors that maybe don't align with our brand, but that have a bunch of money. But it's been a conscious decision that money just wasn't really my motivator. And I'm not saying that money isn't important. Because we all need it. And now that I've just turned 40 my opinion on this is changing a little bit. You know, where I'm realizing that I have to think more long term. But um, yeah. So

Emily Thompson 38:43
one thing I want to point out here, and I feel like again, going back to your path of like, just windy, twisty awesomeness, and you know where you are now, I feel like so many will just makers and creatives in general, go in, especially if you have like that entrepreneurial mindset where like, you need to go at this, you need to have a plan. Most of us don't like and I think it's just trusting the process that once you get in there and start getting your hands dirty, and you're learning thing after thing, like the opportunities will arise to move you forward every step of the way. And if you're trusting that process and open to those opportunities, and not being pigeon holed by, you know, airtight business plans, or whatever it may be, then I feel like you have the opportunity to sort of like live a fun, artistic like creative life that will lead you somewhere if you're doing good work.

Kathleen Shannon 39:39
Yeah, I wanted to mention that. I love what you say about money not necessarily being a motivating factor. And I feel like we are so surrounded in this online business world where everyone's touting the six figure ecourse and you know, it's just it's just getting to be a lot and the truth sooner we ask our listeners, what their money goals are, they simply just want to be able to pay the bills doing what they love. And oftentimes that that salary falls between 30,060 $1,000 a year, that's how much our listeners actually want to make doing what they love. And it is totally doable. And so I love that you actually point that out that money wasn't really the motivating factor, it's really just being able to live a creative life, or at least that's the assumption I'm making, is that it was a feat of life. Yeah, on your own terms, yes,

Nicole Stevenson 40:37
is to live a creative life on my own terms. And I mean, granted, I don't just sit around and, you know, get to chat with people on podcasts, and you know, design design, I don't know, stuff for a website, or whatever, all day. I mean, a lot of it is working on spreadsheets, and, you know, pitching things and doing things that aren't, aren't the most fun. But, I mean, the important thing to do is, you need to think about what success looks like to you. And if success to you looks like a lot of money, then you need to go after it. But I think oftentimes, we think that money is going to improve our lives a lot more than it does. You know, it's like, for me, I need to have you know, enough enough money for my bills, I know that I like to go out to dinner twice a month, you know, I know that I don't like to cut coupons at the grocery store, I know that I want to take one vacation a year. And if it's a kind of broke here, that vacation will be going to my parents house, you know, everything's free, you know, I it's fine. I don't, I don't have that kind of a lifestyle. But if you do have a lifestyle, the things that you if you want to go out to dinner every night and you want to buy, I don't know, I can't even think of like a fancy dessert like Louis Bhutan or something, purses or clothing or whatever that thing makes, then you should go after the money, and perhaps running your own businesses the way to it, and perhaps it isn't, you know, for me, I want to be able to, I don't know, go, like I said, go spend a week at my parents house and work from my parents house in their backyard, you know, I want to be able to work in my pajamas, some days and other days, not I want to take a morning off and instead work late. That that is what is important is important to me. So, you know, I feel like earlier I said you just need to start doing, you know, if you want to try something, and I still stand by that. But you also have to, you know, put a little bit of thought into it, you know, like think like, is this what I really want, and I definitely am not saying jump and then the net will appear because I definitely don't believe that. I think that, you know, we weave the net, through our connections and through, you know, our, our experiences, you know, it wasn't like I woke up one morning was like, I want to produce a conference, you know, with 60 presenters that last 40 years with hundreds of people, you know, in a place no, I had already kind of built built up to that, you know, my partner and I built craftcation on producing one day events, you know, and so we knew what it was like to run a staff at one day events and like everything was a building block for that net that we wove that, that we jumped into when we did craftcation. So I think it's we've the net, then jump.

Kathleen Shannon 43:22
Yes, that's a tweetable. Um, one kind of last question I really want to touch on and thank you so much for all your time is how can our listeners who are interested in making art keep themselves one accountable to maybe making art on the side? If it's kind of a passion project on the side? And how can they keep themselves accountable? And how can they really carve out that time to be creative?

Unknown Speaker 43:54

Nicole Stevenson 43:58
it depends on what your life is like, I don't have kids. But I think for people who have kids, it's different. But I do hear from people who have kids who are like, I made a commitment this month to wake up every morning at five o'clock in the morning, my kids wake up at seven and I have that two hours. You know, when I hear a lot from people who have kids who stay up very late. The bottom line is, is that there's only so many hours in a day. So you have to pick what you're going to do with those hours. And like I said, if it's, you know, that one creative person that was like, I'm not going to shower because I'd rather you know, I'd rather do this everything is a trade off. You're always kind of making making choices. And on like kind of in that realm of, you know, being accountable and finding time and stuff is you know, really thinking about what you say yes and no to and I'm a strong believer that there are only three answers to a question. Yes, no, or I don't have enough information. And if the answer is yes, then say yes. If it's no say no. And if it's I don't have enough information, you know, put it in your I don't have enough information folder in your inbox, or just reply back and say, You know what, I can't really make an informed decision on this on this right now. So, if you need to know, today, then, you know, my answer is no, for right now, you know, but we waste a lot of time, should I do this, should I not do this, just sit down and work out where you know, work out the facts and see how you feel. And then, as far as accountability, I'm a super organized person, and I'm very productive. So sometimes it's a little, it's a little hard for me to, you know, think about how to solve that problem, because I've never had to solve it for myself. But I will say that, you know, every week I have a list of things to do. And on the first day of the week, I spaced them out over different days. And I just do them, you know, I mean, I don't know, I feel like there's so so much talk around productivity and accountability and getting things done. And, to me, it's very simple. You just do the things that you're supposed to do when you're supposed to do them.

Kathleen Shannon 46:03

Unknown Speaker 46:05
So I mean, there's nothing hot, high five,

Unknown Speaker 46:08
right now,

Nicole Stevenson 46:08
there's no coach or consultant, or, you know, when I had come when I consult with clients, and they want to do stuff, and they don't do it, I'm like, okay, you know, like, I cannot sit by you and make you do things like that. That's the end of it. But it's also, you know, being organized and checking in with you're checking in with yourself, and, you know, looking, okay, what's working for my business? What isn't Okay, I need to get rid of this stuff. You know, what can I add on? There's, we all feel overwhelmed at times, but you have to take that time to step back and look at your business, which is hard when you're in the middle of it, and you're busy all the time, and kind of analyze and figure out what's working, or else you're just, you know, running on the wheel all the time.

Emily Thompson 47:02
Yeah. Agreed. Do the work?

Nicole Stevenson 47:06
Yes, do the work. Yes,

Kathleen Shannon 47:09
I will give was a little flick.

Nicole Stevenson 47:13
I will give one timesaver tip that helped, that has helped me a lot with productivity. And one is to have canned responses for emails. And the other is to have a contact form for your site instead of just your email address, which I always get really upset when I go to a website. And I'm trying to email somebody, and it's a contact form. But I also want away like, smart, very smart person. And then we like we have that and we have different choices. You know, like oh, I'm I want to be a vendor, I want to speak a craftcation. I want to do this. And it just cuts down on so many people sending random, random emails when they're not actually reading the information on your website. And then my third email tip is, if you read it, answer it. So yes, touch it once. Touch it once. Yeah, that's Yeah. And yeah, so those are my three little productivity tips for today.

Kathleen Shannon 48:08
I love it. Emily, do you have any final questions for Nicole?

Emily Thompson 48:12
I know, I'm just so glad we finally got like a maker focused episode going? Um, because no, this is just the beginning of the conversation, right? makers and artists make me happy. It made me happy. And I've seen the struggles. Like I started out my online career as a maker back in the day. I almost went to craftcation. A couple of years ago did i did

Kathleen Shannon 48:36
i Emily, where we like trying to plan something around it like one of our little workshops around actually going to craftcation and then doing our

Nicole Stevenson 48:46
workshop. They should come you guys just so you guys should come and speak. Email me we'd be there. Yeah, email me afterwards. Okay, we'll do

Emily Thompson 48:55
but it just it makes me really happy to have one of these being boss conversations and direct reference to makers because I know makers who who like have these physical products, there's even more of an emotional connection, because they spend so much time with their hands on these products. So you guys can be boss to same tips apply.

Kathleen Shannon 49:15
I know you know, what I've really learned from this conversation is I think that I had started to pigeonhole what we do, apart from what the makers do. And what I'm really learning is that it's all the same. We're all trying to make a business doing what we love. We all only have so many hours in the day to make whatever it is that we're making, whether that's a podcast, or consulting, or getting your hands dirty on a physical product. And there's so there's so much to learn from.

Nicole Stevenson 49:45
I think, you know, one of the things that I love about craftcation is that there are people from so many different genres, like we have people that are just podcasters we have coaches, consultants, we have people, people that are makers, we have people that are bloggers, we have people that are you know, just doing For their heart, for making for their hobby we have, I mean, there's so many different kinds of people, but the common thread is that they're all creatives. And when you're in a group of it happens to me all the time. They're like 10 random people, and you look around and you're like, Okay, not one of these people is, is in the same field, per se. But everybody the advice and the community that's built there, you hear things, suggestions about your business or perspective on your business, or on your art that you wouldn't hear from people that are in that or, you know, if you're a painter that are also painters, you know, but when you're a painter and like you have, let's say, a consultant come up, and you're kind of talking about your issues with your business. You get a whole different perspective, you know, that you don't get from somebody who that's so close to home, if that makes sense.

Emily Thompson 50:48
Yes, completely again, same.

Unknown Speaker 50:52

Nicole Stevenson 50:53
Yeah, same, same. That's another lesson. Same, same same.

Kathleen Shannon 50:57
Nicole, where can our listeners read more or learn more or hook into what you're all about and what you're doing, you can

Nicole Stevenson 51:05
find everything about craftcation and all of that on deer handmade life de AR, handmade, life calm. And then my art and illustration is at Nicole Stevenson studio and I co le and then Stevenson with a V studio calm.

Kathleen Shannon 51:23
And then you have a podcast to write what is that?

Nicole Stevenson 51:25
It's called dear handmade life. Yeah. And it's just drinks and discussions with creatives.

Emily Thompson 51:31
My favorite.

Kathleen Shannon 51:33
Emily and I went to the drunk webinar.

Emily Thompson 51:36
It took me three and a half hours and it ended with bacon, vagina emojis,

Nicole Stevenson 51:41
was it on purpose? Like you said, we're gonna get drunk for this webinar?

Kathleen Shannon 51:45
Yeah, but like, I really didn't think that we would actually get drunk.

Emily Thompson 51:48
But then we did. And we did, because it went on forever.

Kathleen Shannon 51:52
That was dangerous.

Nicole Stevenson 51:53
That sounds like something that Delilah, and I would do like sometimes.

Emily Thompson 51:57
It was probably one of my favorite things I've ever done for the sake of business. That's

Nicole Stevenson 52:02
awesome. You guys should definitely definitely come to craftcation I think you would just I would love right.

Emily Thompson 52:08
I haven't looked into it. Like, especially back when I was in the maker world. Like, love what you do. Love, like, all the things. So yeah, I'd totally be there. Okay,

Unknown Speaker 52:19
I'm super excited.

Unknown Speaker 52:20
It's it's spring, right? Yeah.

Nicole Stevenson 52:23
The next craftcation It's April 27 through 30th of 2017. And then tickets go on sale, October 13. And the first 50 people to register get $50 off.

Kathleen Shannon 52:34
So yeah, and it's in Ventura, California,

Nicole Stevenson 52:38
which is at the beach, which is nice. If you're not living in California, you get to hang out on the beach.

Kathleen Shannon 52:42
Where are the like, isn't there a gym on the beach? Isn't that like where Arnold Schwarzenegger used to work? That's Venice Beach.

Nicole Stevenson 52:50
That's where I used to hang out with the homeless art. Yeah, with the homeless artists.

Kathleen Shannon 52:55
Yeah, the meathead.

Nicole Stevenson 52:57
Yeah, I would like pump iron and paint. That was like my ideal.

Unknown Speaker 53:01
Yeah. That's my dream.

Kathleen Shannon 53:05
And such a meathead. I love lifting heavy weights. And I want to go home and paint.

Emily Thompson 53:09
But the soul of an artist, Soul of an artist. Um, thank you so much, Nicole, this has been fantastic.

Unknown Speaker 53:17
Thank you whole hour went by so

Emily Thompson 53:19
fast. A little blown away.

Nicole Stevenson 53:21
I feel pumped and excited for the rest of my day. Thanks, you guys.

Emily Thompson 53:25
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Kathleen Shannon 54:29
Thank you for listening to being boss. Please be sure to visit our website at being boss club where you can find Show Notes for this episode. Listen to past episodes and discover more of our content that will help you be boss in work and life. Did you like this episode, please share it with a friend and show some love by leaving a rating and review on iTunes. Do the

Emily Thompson 54:49
work. Be boss and we'll see you next week.