How to Outsmart Tea Pirates… and become a successful self-employed artist.

{How darn cute is she?? Megan with her self-published book – How to Outsmart Tea Pirates}

Today I have a story to share with you all. It’s the story of my friend Megan (she’s the gal who runs the *bespoke* blog for me!). We met online a few years back now, and became friends via twitter. 

As well as being one kick-ass VA, she’s also an amazing artist. And not only is she talented – she’s also savvy as all get-out when it comes to the business side of being a self-employed artist. She’s a gal who knows how to tell a story.

Today, she’s stopping by the blog to tell us a little about herself, her artistic and business journey, and how she’s come to self-publish her very own PRINT book – How to Outsmart Tea Pirates (and other useful sailing tips).

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Sure! I’m a pen and ink artist and writer who grew up in the frozen tundra of North Dakota. I have always been a bit ambitious and suffer from an overactive imagination. (My poor boyfriend has a set of rules he has to follow after the sun sets because I get scared easily.) I love antique cameras, chocolate, and cats.

{Meowby Dick}

Have you always been an artist?

Pretty much. My father was a painter so as soon as my parents saw I had talent, they signed me up for every art class available. I never intended to major in art in college (I wanted to be a writer) but it was the only way I could take the higher-up courses. So I brazenly told my parents I was going to double major in art and English.

When did you discover your current style and medium?

I first picked up the pen in high school but my style evolved in college as I was exposed to art history. The quirky style was definitely influenced by Edward Gorey (which my father read to me at night when my mother wasn’t paying attention) but it’s a bit less macabre.

How have you navigated the path from artist to businesswoman? And do you struggle with the business side of what you do?

In order to earn my 2 artsy fartsy degrees, my mother made me promise to start a business before I graduated. I held to that promise and basically had to teach myself all of my business skills. My mother is a business major and a financial guru so she’s a great help when I get into a tricky situation. I do struggle with the business side of things when it comes to pricing at a premium level and marketing effectively to new customers.

What has helped you the most in your journey to building a thriving business?

A sense of community! I quickly found Megan Auman and Tara Gentile and am now an avid reader of their blogs. I’m also following a lot of creative entrepreneurs on Twitter so whenever I have a question, I know I have a big audience to help me out! I think it’s important to connect with others because for most of us, our work is a solo activity. (I spend more time with the refrigerator – my studio is in the kitchen – than I do with my boyfriend.)

What made you decide to self-publish your book?

When I was in college, I contacted a ton of publishing companies and agents about picking up one of my novels. I could have wallpapered my walls with the rejection letters. I wasn’t exactly discouraged (because I knew my work was good enough and I knew that tons of icky stuff was being published all the time by ghost writers) but I knew I’d have to find a different way to beat the system.

So I self-published! I have complete control and it allows me to get my work out there. That’s not to say I’m not hoping it will be picked up by a publishing house in time though!

What advice would you give other artists who are struggling to make a go at being full-time self-employed?

I actually wrote a post about this for Design*Sponge! In essence, it takes ambition and professionalism to be part of the 10% – that magical percentage professors mention when you enter college that represents how many students will go on to make a living from their work.

What are your dreams for the future?

I have a lot! My boyfriend finishes up his graduate degree in photography next summer and I see us moving to Norway. I would love to see my work in a national gallery and my books in Barnes and Noble. And, above all, I would like to travel the world and create a book that illustrates that trip.

Find out more about Megan on her blog, and check out her book here. Make sure to follow her on twitter, too!


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