Ever dreamed of turning your passion into a job? More people than ever are taking the plunge, whether it's as a sideline or a full-time living. It'll involve some dedication, but with the right foundation, it's possible to make a career out of your art and crafts.
1. Draw up a budget
Launching a business can feel daunting. So start jotting down numbers first. How much do you need to cover bills, food, and rent? What can you trim?
Give yourself a "magic number". That's the figure you have to earn each month to keep yourself fed, clothed and housed. That will help you choose how much to work, and how much to charge.
2. Don't be scared to start slow - and develop your craft
If you're worried about taking the leap, why not challenge yourself to commit to your craft in your free time, and leave your job in six months if it develops well? Some also choose to keep some part-time work to prop up their creative income.
Also, don't be afraid to keep learning. Learn from your peers, test new approaches, and maybe even consider a distance learning course at the Open College of the Arts to develop your talents? They offer courses in painting, textiles, photography, drawing, illustration, textiles, creative writing and more!
3. Explore your niches
It may feel strange, but being specific about what you can do is often better than saying you can "do everything".
Be clear about what you can provide for someone, and they're more likely to contact you with requests. It also plants ideas in their heads if they like your work, but can't think of a reason or an excuse to hire you.
You may need to take unusual jobs or try something different while starting out. But identifying the niches that work for you can be the difference between accepting anything, and getting the commissions you love.
4. Get yourself online (and offline)
Set up a website, with legible font, attractive pictures, and clear examples of your work. Sign up to the social networks that your target audience loves. People will look you up online to check if you look trustworthy before getting in touch.
If your clients aren't online, try promoting in magazines, museums, or shopping centres. Test what brings in enquiries, and try different approaches.
5. Build your network
Networks are vital. These are the friends, contacts and colleagues who will give you a shot when you're starting out, or recommend you to someone who can.
Nurture these networks. And when you find your niche, seek out the groups that will be most valuable to you, and build new relationships.
6. Set your price - and value your time
So how much should you charge? It's not an easy question, and it may take time to get comfortable with a response.
So ask people. Find people in similar work, and discover how much they'd charge. Ask friends and colleagues. And don't afraid to make some decisions based on how much time, effort and materials you've put into your product or service. You've got to make a living. If you're spending four hours making individual birthday cards that you're selling for £3, you're going to be exhausted and poor.
And while free gigs might seem like "good exposure", don't make it a habit. You're an artist, and a professional, and your work has value. Don't sell yourself short.