JJ Jacobs made major career changes before she became a full-time artist. Here is her story.
How did you get started in your business?
I knew I was an artist from the time I could hold a crayon in my hand, and just assumed I’d be doing art for a living when I grew up. When it came time to go to college, my parents did not support my career choice and told me instead to major in something “that could pay the bills.” I chose real estate which offered a decent living but continued to create art in my spare time to feed my soul.
Over the years I would take art classes in college; workshops from artists whose work I admired; and made art on my own every opportunity I had. Art gave me the balance I needed from my linear, stress-filled job, and it helped me maintain my “center” while I continued to climb the corporate ladder.
In 2005, I was the VP of a commercial real estate development firm and in desperate need of a vacation. I had recently begun fusing glass and was selling it in some local galleries when I saw an on-line blurb about an “ABI Boot Camp for Artists.” Without thinking twice, I sent in my registration and booked a flight to Ashville, NC. From the minute I entered the auditorium filled with an air of creative energy and dozens artistic folks garbed in colorful clothes, I knew I was in for a life-changing experience. I had found my peeps!
What did you take away from the Arts Business Institute workshop that most inspired you?
Confidence and knowledge. Over the next few days at the conference, I listened quietly and absorbed the information being taught by art business leaders as they selflessly shared their tips on how they turned their hobbies into full-time successful businesses. Top gallery owners told us what to do and what NOT to do when submitting work to galleries; and marketing experts shared their ideas on getting exposure and publicity.
With the soaring “I can do it” high from the workshop, I knew I could pull this off. After the Boot Camp ended I went back to my hotel and outlined a business plan on how I would start selling more of my work and how I could ultimately do this on a full-time basis. I put together lists on what to sell; who my target buyers/reps were; and conservative financial projections.
After completing some of the handouts from the workshop, I quickly realized the profit margin with my fused glass line wouldn’t provide me with adequate income, and decided to see if I could sell my paintings too.
With the knowledge and confidence I took away from this conference, I was able to quickly outline a path that would slowly but ultimately lead me out of the corporate world and into the art world where I belonged. I officially started my full-time art career on 11-1-11 and haven’t regretted it for a nanosecond.
Since making a major career change, what do you find is your biggest challenge today?
I would have to say my biggest challenge is finding balance (again!). I am juggling marketing with getting ready for shows; keeping my on-line presence active and current; and finding time and inspiration to create new work. Being an artist is often lonely work, and it’s definitely not a 9-5 job. I often get up in the morning with a plan of what my day will look like but inspiration hits and I find myself covered in paint, working on a new series of paintings. So much for the “to-do” list!
Tell us about your newest business concept.
In my real estate days I worked with architects, interior designers and property managers on the finishes for my buildings, and would sometimes create the art for the project myself. I recently decided to blend my artistic skills with my real estate experience and started a new business called Original Art 4 Rent where we lease original art to display in buildings, offices and homes at an affordable monthly rate, and create buying programs for people wanting to slowly build their art portfolios.
I’m eternally grateful to my Arts Business Institute Artist Boot Camp teachers and highly recommend that any artist who is considering doing their art on a professional basis take the time to attend one of the workshops being offered by ABI. It is worth the investment and can change their life like it did mine!