Category Archives: Growth & Development

3 Free Resources to Empower and Motivate You!

Do you subscribe to any e-newsletters? I bet you do!

I’m on several lists myself – a lot of them for business. Tips on writing, some related to social media, and a bunch of emails from artists I like and admire.

And there are a few I get for motivation and encouragement. I love getting emails from these lovely humans because they help me feel grounded and gives me the courage to live life that I want.

Here are my 3 favorite e-newsletters (They’re all free!):

1. Monday Morning Motivation by Personal Pep Talk

Photo by Andrew Ochoa ©Personal Pep Talk

Stacy and I met in the Master Gardener’s volunteer training several years ago. She’s got such a positive energy, and her smile always puts me in a better mood. Her compassion for  other people and the whole world runs deep, and it shows through everything she does – a true hero in my book!

She’s a teacher by trade  and has started her business, Personal Pep Talk, with her husband Eric this August. I absolutely LOVE their Personal Pepe Talk card decks – I use mine every day to practice gratitude and give myself a little TLC ❤ And her art is so charming and sweet 🙂

In her weekly newsletter, Monday Morning Motivation, Stacy shares tips on how to live mindfully and her intention for the week. What a wonderful way to start your week, right?

You can get a weekly dose of positivity and mindfulness from Stacy here.

2. 100 Uplifting Days by Jessica Swift

© Jessica Swift

I admire Jessica Swift‘s work as a surface designer so much! Her work is so colorful and cheerful, I can’t help but smile when I see her creations 🙂

So when I discovered her email series, 100 Uplifting Days, I wasted no time. I immediately signed up and enjoyed every single email that came for the next 100 days!

Every day, I’d get an email from Jessica with her colorful art and encouraging messages in my inbox (see photos above). Oftentimes, her message was SO spot on for what I was feeling that day, it really lifted up my spirits.

I was sad when the 100 days were over (FYI, you could unsubscribe and re-subscribe to start a cycle  again :D), but Jessica’s been sending out extras occasionally, so I still get her beautiful reminders here and there.

The visual of her email is so yummy. It’s a treat for your eyes and your soul! You can sign up for her email here.

3. Marie Forleo‘s MF Insider E-newsletter

© Marie Forleo

For those of you who don’t know, Marie Forleo is a life coach and entrepreneur, and I’ve been a fan of Marie TV for a couple of years.

Her motivational messages and practical tips for following your passion have been instrumental in my own journey, and I appreciate her sense of humor (and entertaining visuals on the show) when I need a little laugh 🙂

Since I don’t have time or energy to keep track of all the shows and podcasts I love (which there are many!), I signed up for her email so whenever a new content is posted, I’ll be notified.

Even if I don’t have time to watch or read her content right away, I always skim the email to get the gist of it. To me, Marie is a super successful celebrity, but she’s not afraid to share her human side generously with her viewers. When she’s answering questions from her viewers, I often feel like she’s directly talking to me because she makes it so relatable.

If you want practical and entertaining tips for your life and business, you can subscribe to Marie Forleo’s newsletter here.

These women give and share what they know so freely. Their wisdom adds so much to my life, and I hope you’ll find them helpful, too!

(I’ve been inspired to create something similar for my email subscribers, too… Stay tuned for any updates!)

Now, tell me what your favorite e-newsletters are. Please share in the comment and tell me why 🙂

xo

Yuko Miki Honeyberry Studios Headshot

 

2016 In Review: 3 Questions to Ask Yourself

I love Marie Forleo and her work!

I enjoy her Marie TV episodes and weekly newsletter because I get so much encouragement and inspirations from her around being an entrepreneur while being true to yourself.

(Plus I really appreciate her sense of humor :D)

I got this episode of Marie TV in my inbox right before the holidays, and it made me pause.

In this episode of Marie TV, she shares 3 important questions to ask yourself before making your new year’s resolution for 2017.

I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution setter – I’m always working on some sort of goals, and goals change over time. So I don’t feel the need to make a resolution for the year, per se. But I found these questions insightful and thought you might benefit from it, too!

(I highly encourage you to watch the episode first if you want to do this exercise yourself. It’ll resonate more with you!)

OK, here are the 3 questions and my answers:

1. What’s one thing you did that you’re proud of?

I try to recognize small successes every day as it motivates me to keep moving forward – so when I think back on my accomplishments this past year, it’s hard to just choose one!

I had a successful holiday season, my business continues to grow, I made a total of 7 tutorial videos for Sakura of America, and started a daily painting challenge in November…

So, if I had to sum it up, I’m proud of doing something that scares me and pushing myself out of my comfort zone every day!

2. What’s one mistake you made and the lesson you learned?

Again, there are many to choose from… :D, but I’d have to say poor time management.

I know from experience everything takes longer than you think (like 3 x longer). I think I scheduled enough time to complete something but inevitably, it takes longer, or something else comes up that needs my attention so my original tasks get pushed back, which in turn, pushes everything else back.

This happens more often than I want to admit, and I always feel bad about myself when it happens. I get overly optimistic about how much I could get done and tend to pack too much into my day. And when it doesn’t happen, I end up stressing out about it 😦

I would’t feel too terrible if I make this mistake for a new task I’ve never done before, but I keep experiencing this cycle for things I’ve done many times before! (Like creating video tutorials.)

My logic is, well, I’ve done this before. –> I should be more efficient at this by now. –> It shouldn’t take too long. It kinda makes sense, but certain things can’t or shouldn’t be rushed, and I tend to take a long time to make a decision anyway.

So what I’m going to do differently would be to internalize the lesson and change my expectation around how much I can get done within a timeframe! And to identify where I can truly maximize the efficiency and create a process for it so I don’t waste time unnecessarily.

3. What’s one story you’re willing to let go of before the New Year?

This is the most powerful question for me, and my answer is: comparing myself with other artists on the internet and believing everyone else is doing better.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. Internet only shows a small part of our lives, and especially if you’re a working artist, you often only show the polished and highly curated works on social media and highlight our successes (heck, I do that!!).

We don’t share the crappy part of our life very often – maybe your relationships are falling apart, maybe your bank account is almost empty and you don’t know where the next check is coming from, or maybe you got nothing but rejection letters for the first 5 years of your career – and I’m not advocating for airing your dirty laundry on the internet for the sake of just venting. It’s often more appropriate to do so with your close friends and/or your therapist!

But it’s important to remember people’s lives are much more complex than what you see on the surface, and comparing yourself to the strangers on the internet is so damaging! And since when has that helped you reach your goals anyway??? 😀

I fall into this more often when I’m having self-doubt and feeling insecure about my work. And when I catch myself doing that, I try to be kind with myself and acknowledge that’s what’s happening. I try to give myself a moment to just feel those feelings and remind myself it’s ok to not be positive and happy all the time.

Here are a few things I do when I’m browsing the social media so I don’t fall into the comparison trap : 1) don’t pay attention to how many followers or “likes” other artists are getting, or for that matter, for myself, either. It’s a metric that’s good for something but doesn’t validate your worth as a person or an artist. 2) simply enjoy the beautiful work people put out and be curious about what makes their work so inspiring instead of wishing you could draw like them or your life would be so much better if your work looked more like your idol’s. Your creative life is most fulfilling when you stay true to your voice and create what makes you happy! Learn from others, sure, but keep being you 🙂 3) “like” their work and share encouraging comments with other artists! By lifting up others, my jealousy and insecurity usually go away.

And most importantly, I try to bring my focus on what progress I made to reach my goal today. If I did at least one thing to move my business forward, then I call it a success! It doesn’t matter what other people are doing or not doing. You’re the only one who lives 100% of your life, you know??

Hope these questions and answers inspired you! Share your answers in the comment! I’d love to know 🙂

xo Yuko

Yuko Miki Honeyberry Studios Headshot

30-minute daily painting challenge is ON!!

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The other day I posted this drawing on Instagram, and the cation read:

“Ok truth time – I haven’t drawn anything for 2 weeks. It’s a shame, I know. // I’ve been spending most of my time putting together my winter collection and other tasks, and you know how it goes. There is a lot of photoshopping, uploading, writing, posting, promoting, emailing, scheduling, packaging etc. etc. // Last night I finally doodled this while watching Netflix and it felt so nice. // I feel like I need to be intentionally creating work now more than ever. For myself and others who can use beauty and light in their lives.”

It was difficult to admit I hadn’t made any art (including doodling!) for two weeks!!! I mean, how can I call myself an artist If I don’t have a consistent creative practice? Isn’t the whole reason why I quit my day job to pursue my passion (=make art) full-time?

Right.

I get being an entrepreneurial artist means you need to have a strong business practice, and you don’t get to just make art all the time.

I’ve been focusing a lot on the business side of things because that’s where I had the least experience in, and I also enjoy the hustle of working on my business. But that doesn’t mean the only time I create art is when I’m designing new products or when “I have time” (well, look what that got me! Two weeks of not making art!!).

I had a wake-up call to me – in order for my business to grow, I need to nurture my creative practice more intentionally and put more time and energy into it. And business aside, I want to be a person who truly values creativity, and I want my action to align with my words. 

So, here is the deal. I decided to start a new 365 day painting challenge!

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My first painting was of our beautiful persimmons.

You may remember between April 2014 and April 2015, I did a daily drawing project called 365 Day Happiness is, where I made a drawing about happiness every day for 365 days.

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Happiness is Apple Cider. Isn’t that the truth?? Pen, watercolor, and colored pencil on paper, 2015.

That project helped me find and develop my own creative voice, and I became more confident as an artist. I also got many cool opportunities through the project, like being featured in one of Lisa Congdon‘s speeches and starting a partnership with Sakura of America.

This time around, I’m not gonna have a specific theme, but I’ll paint or draw something for 30 minutes every day (my big inspiration for this comes from August Wren, who is on her year 3 of daily painting!) and share it on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

I’m excited to practice painting with gouache (i.e. opaque watercolor) and other media, and limiting it to 30 minutes a day makes it less overwhelming. What scares me the most about putting a time limit is sharing work I don’t think are great 😀 You know, because when 30 minutes is over, it’s over. I’m not gonna try to make it “perfect” before sharing it with my audience. No matter how much I hate it, it’s going to be shared! And that makes me feel SO vulnerable!! EEEEEK!

But, my goal is about showing up every day and not about making a masterpiece every day. 

Like Jennifer from August Wren says, I’m not gonna apologize or make an excuse for work I don’t think are great. I’ll just paint every day, share, and move on.

Doing a daily project like this is a really good practice in letting go. And the thing is, number 1, people probably don’t think it sucks as much as you do, and number 2, nobody’s gonna remember your post 5 minutes after they see it 😀 They’re just not as emotionally attached to your creations as you are! So it’s OK 🙂

I want to do this for at least one year but potentially longer. I know once it becomes a habit, it’s just gonna be something you do every day, and you’ll start to miss it if you don’t do it. Painting every day is an awesome thing to do anyway even if I decide to switch my career at some point in the future!

When I had the inspiration to start another 365 day project, I thought about starting it on January 1st. But there is no real reason to wait, is there? I was afraid I’d lose a momentum or come up with excuses not to start if I waited.

So I just started my daily painting challenge 2 weeks ago! And here is a couple more 🙂

This painting is about how I'm becoming appreciative of my body the way it is now <3
This painting is about how I’m becoming more appreciative of my body the way it is now ❤
My mild kimchi :D
My mild kimchi 😀

You can follow along on any social media I listed earlier although Instagram (@honeyberrystudios) is probably my favorite. Use the hashtag #yukosdailypainting to view my paintings so far!

Hope you enjoy! And feel free to join me in the daily painting challenge. I can use a company in this journey 🙂

xo Yuko

Yuko Miki Honeyberry Studios Headshot

 

 

You’re making a difference even if you’re not making money.

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{First of all – THANK YOU for responding to my “What do you enjoy reading about the most on my blog?” survey! I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know how you feel. If you missed it, you can still share your thoughts with me here :)}

I recently posted this video on Instagram and it resonated with a lot of people.

You are making a difference even if you are not making $

I often get anxious when I’m doing things that are not actively paying the bills, like gardening, making food from scratch, and taking my mini sabbaticals every 7 weeks.

I could decide to let them go so I can spend more time on growing my creative business (and I almost did give up on gardening a couple of years ago). We only have 24 hours a day, and if we wanted to create time for something important, you just need to say no to other things.

But really, I often get my creative inspirations from doing things like gardening and cooking healthy meals from scratch.

Gardening gets me in touch with the seasons and nature. It also gets me outside of our house regularly. I’m a homebody and would stay home for as long as I care to admit if I let myself 😀

I also feel empowered knowing that we’re able to meet at least a tiny portion of our basic needs ourselves.

Eat a Rainbow Colorful Summer Vegetable Illustration by Honeyberry Studios
Eat a Rainbow, watercolors & pen on paper.

Making food from scratch might take longer and could actually be more expensive than buying prepared or processed food, but it also helps me feel good in my body and mind.

Cooking is a very hands-on creative activity with an immediate reward (well, most of the time anyway) and gives me a break from a lot of thinking and computer work, too.

This beet walnut hummus recipe is not only tasty and healthy, it's beautiful!
This beet walnut hummus recipe is not only tasty and healthy, but it’s beautiful!

I also feel annoyed by other household chores, like cleaning and grocery shopping, but if they don’t happen, my working environment wouldn’t feel as good and productive.

Yes, as a creative business owner, I need to be making money and maintain a strong focus to achieve that goal.

I constantly think about how to create a life where I still enjoy the craft and have a sustainable business doing what I love. I need my life to be meaningful and joyful so I can continue creating work that brings others joy ❤

These other things, though they don’t seem to be directly helping me bring in the big paycheck, are part of what keeps my creative reservoir filled. And it’s my professional obligation as a working artist to do so.

If you ever felt guilty for taking the time out of your day to attend to “other” needs, think of how those activities are helping you to stay well-rounded so you can focus on your goals.

Remember, your creations have values. It makes people happy and feel warm and fuzzy. It makes them laugh out loud. It makes them think or cry. People are moved by what you create. It’s truly magical!

Keep putting yourself out there even if you don’t feel it’s making a difference today. Believe me, you’re making a difference by doing what you do!

xo Yuko

Yuko Miki Honeyberry Studios Headshot

I quit my day job one year ago!!

July 31st was my one year anniversary of quitting the regular day job! Whoa!

Happy first birthday to an-independent-artist/entrepreneur-me 🙂 I’m still here, alive and kickin’!

cupcake_watercolor and pen drawing

I honestly can’t believe it’s been a year, and I just feel so grateful and privileged to be able to pursue my passion every day.

When I left my day job, I gave up a steady paycheck and good benefits. And in return, I gained the freedom to create work from my passion and decide how I’m going to achieve my goals.

And, I love being my own boss. For the most part anyway.

But one of the hardest part of being my own boss is – well, not having a boss.

What does a boss do? They give you a guidance, direction, support and a feedback. Well, at least they should, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have bosses who did all those things 🙂

And it can be extremely difficult to do that for myself sometimes.

Especially when you work so hard and don’t see the results right away, not getting that constant validation and encouragement that your’e doing a good job can be tough.

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I’d imagine many entrepreneurs feel this way. Or if your’e a parent or a boss’s boss. It gets lonely up here!

You know another thing I miss about the day job? An annual performance review!

Is that weird? I always felt so refreshed after my review. It’s a wonderful opportunity to sit and reflect on all the things you’ve accomplished and set an intention for where you want to go next.

So I wanted to review my last 12 months and share with you what I’ve learned.

What I’m proud of:

  • Started taking mini sabbaticals every 7 week. I believe self-care is super important and wanted to put a regular self-care practice in place to prevent burn-out.
  • Did 5 art shows
  • Ran the Creative Coaching 4-week email course and a pilot program
  • Have been meeting with 2-3 accountability partners regularly to stay focused and motivated on my goals
  • Consistently writing & posting blogs and newsletters
  • Launched my first art collection, Eat a Rainbow, this summer
  • Started teaching Introduction to Block Printing workshops locally
  • My revenue grew almost 5x from the same time frame between 2014-2015
  • My work was featured in Seattle Magazine and Uppercase newsletter (and a couple more in the works! Yay!)
  • Created my first video tutorial and taught in an e-course, the Journey Within
  • Partnered with Sakura of America to produce 5 tutorial videos (launch dates TBD)
  • Participated in 10 arts & craft shows
  • Made 4 times more sales on my Etsy store alone
  • Grew my social media followers by 200%
  • Joined the gym and consistently working out
  • Went to a 10-day silent meditation retreat and continuing my daily meditation practice
  • Started selling my products at 5 retail store locations

What I could do more or better:

  • Create sustainable cashflow strategies & implement it!
  • Create a better, more streamlined system for marketing
  • Explore new social media platform (e.g. Snapchat etc.) so I can interact  with my followers more deeply
  • Continue prioritizing my health and wellness and take regular sabbaticals
  • Allow time for reflection and long-term strategies (every quarter or 6 months?) even if everyday busyness seems more urgent.
  • Narrow down my focus
  • Become more comfortable with taking a risk, don’t be afraid to make a mistake, and if I make a mistake, don’t dwell on the negatives. Learn the lessons, and move on!
  • Prepare better financially for slow times (e.g. In-person teaching is super slow during summer so maybe do more shows to create a better cash flow).
  • Expand my wholesale capacity and partner with more retail shops
  • Expand my teaching offerings both in-person & online

What I want to learn:

  • Research and learn more about product business/manufacturers/wholesale, to make my biz more profitable
  • Effective social media marketing strategies & apps
  • How to make better videos and shoot photos
  • Sewing and more fun creative projects for myself!

Next Step:

  • I’ve made an appointment with myself later this week to sit down and do a planning session for the next 6 months. I’m going to figure out timelines for my goals, break down my goals into baby steps, and make a plan of attack!

I was surprised that it didn’t take very much time to make a list of my accomplishments. It’s so nice to remind myself that I am moving forward even if the progress seems slow.

If you don’t have a boss to give you a performance review, I highly recommend you do this with yourself at least once a year. I bet you’ll feel inspired and motivated by how far you’ve come, too!

xo Yuko

Yuko Miki Honeyberry Studios Headshot

 

My typical day in the studio

Last month I participated in the Shoreline Arts Festival for the first time.

Shoreline is a city that’s located just north of Seattle. The Arts Festival is their long running annual summer event (it was their 26th annual festival!), and I had a great time! Everyone I interfaced with, staff, volunteers, and people in the community, were very welcoming and friendly. I got the vibe that the community supports arts of all sorts, and it was so nice!

Shoreline Arts Festival Honeyberry Studios booth
Me and my booth at the arts festival!

As part of their marketing for the event, the Shoreline-Lake Forest Park Arts Council wanted to feature participating artists, and I got the honor of being interviewed for their blog article.

Their questions were really great, and it made me reflect on my inspirations, routines, and creative process. I don’t normally take the time to think about those things every day and wanted to share them with you! (I modified the original interview for the blog.) Perhaps it’ll inspire you to reflect on these yourself… 🙂

Hope you enjoy!

-Describe a typical day in the studio. Do you have a routine? What do you listen to when you do your creative work?

I work out of our small apartment in Columbia City (a neighborhood in SE Seattle) and my studio is usually my dining table 🙂

I usually get up between 4:30 and 5am every morning and meditate for half an hour to an hour. I sit quietly and focus on my breathing. My mind tends to wander, thinking about my day and what I need to do. When I notice my mind going elsewhere, I try to bring my attention back to my breathing and how I’m feeling in my body. Often my mind keeps wandering the entire time I sit, but it still helps me to start my day with calm and quiet mind.

After my meditation, I go to my workout class at the gym in the neighborhood or do some writing on days I don’t have my workout class.

I tend to do more of a “brain” work in the morning, like writing, marketing, and doing the finances etc., as I don’t naturally enjoy those tasks, and it takes more focus, and mornings seem to work better.

I often work on my creative/art work in the afternoon. I like to switch things up from doing a lot of the computer work in the morning to doing work using my hands in the afternoon if I can. I often doodle or sketch ideas in my sketchbook for fun, and I get most ideas for my art products (i.e. greeting cards and art prints) from my personal drawings. It can happen anywhere – at my desk in the home office, my dining table, or on the couch 🙂

Although I occasionally do writing at coffee shops, I hardly ever do my art work outside the home. Creative work feels more vulnerable, and I prefer to do it alone in the comfort of my own space.

I also set aside a couple of hours in the afternoon every week to read articles or do some learning, like watching a webinar. These are “fun” things for me and kind of a reward after taking care of my “business-y” tasks!

I make a point of not checking my email and social media until after my morning routine of mediation, workout, some writing, and breakfast because as soon as I dive into my email and social media, my mind gets cluttered with information. I have all the browser tabs and notifications off during the day so I don’t get distracted. I do manage my email and social media throughout the day when I have a small window of time between my other tasks.

One of the perks of being an independent artist is you have a lot of flexibility! Since my husband is also self-employed, we often take a break during the day to run errands or do some work in the gardens. When I had a regular job in the office, I would come home exhausted and then worked on my art after dinner and weekends, so we didn’t get to spend a lot of quality time together. I really appreciate being able to be around him more 🙂

I work until 5:30-6pm or so and make dinner if it’s my turn to cook.

As far as what I listen to while I work, I either don’t listen to anything or play some easy music on Pandora (my favorite is Laid Back Beach Music station) while I write. When I do more visual work, I listen to a couple of podcasts related to business or storytelling podcasts, like This American Life and Moth Radio.

-What is your artistic medium of choice? Why?

My favorite artistic medium is pen and ink, markers, and watercolor. I use Sakura Pigma Micron pens and Koi Coloring Brush pens a lot for my drawings. The Micron pens work so smoothly and consistently. Their Koi Brush Pens come in a wide range of beautiful colors, and I enjoy layering the colors to create subtle hues. They’re portable and easy to use when you’re on the go as well! Perfect to take with you when you’re out and about and do a little sketch.

I’ve always enjoyed painting with watercolors, too. I love how they create softness and radiant light on paper.

I also block print on fabric and paper. I love the whole process of drawing, carving, and printing. It’s very tactile, and I find the block printing process to be meditative.

-Who or what inspires your work?

I often find my inspirations from nature, animals, and food. I love to eat!! 🙂 I notice little things when I walk around the neighborhood, like leaves on the ground or beautiful flowers in my neighbors’ gardens. We also grow some veggies at our apartment and a community garden, and it helps me stay connected with the soil and seasonal changes.

When I notice small everyday things that make me happy – like blueberries in our container garden glistening with morning dew or my cat happily napping in his favorite chair in the sunshine – I try to remember that feeling and express the joy in my artwork.

-What do you consider your biggest artistic achievement or accomplishment?

I’m a self-taught artist and began my practice in my early 30s. I was drawing and painting for several years as a hobby but never thought I could be a “real” artist. But last summer, I took a leap of faith and quit my day job to pursue my passion full-time!

It’s definitely not easy to make a living from your passion – I’ve experienced many ups and downs in the last year! But I feel so privileged to be able to follow my passion. I’m learning something new every day, and growing my creative business has been so rewarding.

-If you could only use one color for the rest of your artistic career, which would you choose and why?

Wow, what a great question! I would say black (though it’s not really a color…) if I had to choose one.

I love to create simple pen and ink line drawings and have phases every now and then where I create art with just black pen or sumi ink on white paper. No colors added. I enjoy the clean lines and how expressive simple black and white line drawings could be!

-What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten about being an artist?

A few years ago, I was studying Graphic Design at Bellevue College. At the time, I didn’t believe I could be a working artist and wanted a more practical “job” skills that were also creative.

While I liked learning designs, I also had this nagging feeling that it wasn’t something I loved. 

On the last day of my portfolio review class, my instructor noticed how much I incorporated my drawings and illustrations in my portfolio pieces. She said I wasn’t a bad designer, but I should follow my heart and pursue art if that’s what I really wanted to do.

It’s kind of silly, but that one comment she made gave me a permission to follow my heart. It finally clicked for me that what I wanted to do was to make art, and that it was OK to do so wholeheartedly.

 

3 advices my business mentor gave me so I won’t go out of business

banana-split_watercolor illustration

I met with a SCORE mentor the other day and got a few helpful business advice. (And no, it has nothing to do with banana split… :D)

SCORE (https://www.score.org) is a non-profit association that provides free or low-cost resources for small business owners, including free one-on-one mentorship from an experienced business owner.

I’ve known about them for many years but never used their services before. I just recently decided to take advantage of their offerings after reading a very informative newsletter from Meighan O’Toole and her positive experience working with the SCORE mentors.

I’ve been feeling a bit lost in my creative business lately and thought talking with an objective business mentor would be a good thing!

So I contacted them through their website and made an appointment to meet with a volunteer business mentor, Bernard, at their downtown Seattle office.

Bernard has been a mentor for 13 years and has built a very successful real estate business. I was a little surprised to be matched up with someone whose experience is in a totally different area. But he’s helped his wife grow her art business and has lots of artists in his family, so he was familiar with many of the struggles I’ve been experiencing as a new-ish creative business owner.

You might remember in January I spoke with a business coach and decided to focus on increasing the sales of my art products this year. (I talked about my process in this post if you’re interested.)

Though I still prefer making and selling art to be my main income source, I quickly realized running a product-based business is very expensive!

It requires certain up-front cost to have an inventory of products to sell, and it could take a long time before you actually start making a profit.

My sales have been increasing gradually over the last year (yay!), but I’ve been constantly running out of money to restock my products on the shelf (boo!)

It feels like I have an expensive hobby rather than a thriving and profitable business. Yikes. 

I knew I needed to shift my focus and try to meet my short-term financial goals so I’m not actively going out of business!!

I shared my thoughts and feelings with Bernard, and he validated what I was going through. And that validation right there helped ease my anxiety quite a bit. I tend to think and analyze things very deeply in my head, and it gets overwhelming! Even one small external validation helped take the pressure off my overworked brain and offered me a sense of clarity.

After hearing my pain points, he gave me 3 pieces of advice:

Advice #1. Expand teaching to increase the cash flow.

Doing more client work is one option to fix the cash flow problem. You do the work, get paid, and move on, right? It’s a lot more straightforward than building a successful product-based business for sure…

But I hate client work.

OK, hate is a strong word… it’s just not my favorite. I talked about my high sensitivity and the struggles I have with conflict and rejection in this post, but making art that needs to align with someone else’s vision is very stressful for me.

I love working on a commission where the client trusts my process 100% and gives me a total creative freedom. It happens, but it can be a lot of work to build that kind of relationship with a client, and I sometimes wonder if it’s worth all the stress…

Teaching can also be a good source of income for an artist. 

And teaching is definitely a better fit for me. It gives me an outlet for creativity and also satisfies my need to help people 🙂 As an independent teacher, I have a lot of freedom to decide what/when/how to teach, and I can experiment to improve my students’ learning experience as I see fit.

[My Follow-up Action] I’ve reached out to a few more art schools and art supply stores to inquire about teaching opportunities. My block printing workshop has been my bread and butter lately, and I have more ideas of what I could be teaching in the future. Helping people realize their creative potential is so rewarding!

Advice #2. Have my greeting cards and art prints available at more retail shops. 

Bernard suggested I identify retailers who serve my target audience and pitch them my products to provide more buying opportunities to my potential customers. It turns out his wife is a jewelry maker, and he’s done in-person marketing and promotion going to galleries and shops door to door to sell her work.

Making cold calls/visits give me an anxiety – you know, I’m an introvert and am NOT comfortable with that kind of marketing! 

I’d toyed with the idea of wholesaling my goods before but never took any action to move it forward. I just didn’t feel ready. I felt overwhelmed thinking up all the “what-ifs” – what if a major retailer wants to order thousands of my cards?? I can’t afford to fill that big of an order! And what if nobody wants to sell my products?? Sad face… 😦

While it’s fine to be cautious, I realized neither scenario was likely… 😀 I realized I had to start somewhere. I can start small, which has been my motto since I started my art business.

[My Follow-up Action] I’ve made contact with 5 retailers (galleries, gift shops, art museum etc.), introduced myself, and dropped off samples or emailed them my product info. And I already got 2 wholesale and 1 consignment accounts that want to carry my cards and prints! YAY!

It felt awkward to walk in to someone’s space and pitch my work at first, but really, you’re just asking a question. AND if your products are a good match, you’re actually helping to make their customers happy, which is what the retailers want! So it’s a win-win 🙂

I reached out to retailers that I’ve been admiring a lot – they carry beautifully designed, unique, and high quality products for home and gifts. And when they tell me they like what I create and want to carry them, I feel like I’m walking in the clouds 🙂 Such a nice validation and a confidence booster!

Advice #3. Lower the cost of production to increase the profit margin.

This is like  – duh, but something I’ve been putting off tackling because it’s overwhelming to think about.

Since I don’t have a ton of cash to invest in up front, I end up just ordering small quantities of my products from the printers and keep ordering more as I sell more. I also want my products to be high quality, so the cost of production tends to be higher. Naturally, my profit margins are pretty slim especially when I do wholesale or consignment where I usually get 50% of the retail price.

I don’t want to compromise the quality of my products and can’t afford to have a huge inventory right now.

If I could order my products in thousands at a time, it will save on the cost per unit… It’s a conundrum, and I don’t know what to do about at it… :p

[My Follow-Up Action] Well, I haven’t really done anything with this except to casually think about it and then forget about it… I know it’s important for me to figure out the solution, though. If I keep doing what I’m doing, I won’t be able to effectively scale up, or worse, I’ll definitely drive myself out of business!!

I need to sit down and do more research on manufacturers and some serious number crunching. Two things I’m not excited about…but it’s not an option if I want my business to thrive! And if I work on my advice #1 to increase my cash flow, it will naturally help.

Our meeting was short and sweet but very helpful. I left their office feeling motivated and energized! 

Support from family and friends are great – I couldn’t do this without them! No doubt.

But often when I get an unsolicited advice from people I know, I get annoyed and defensive. It’s not that their advice isn’t helpful – it’s more that I’m not ready to hear it. I get vulnerable and insecure. My focus isn’t on what they’re saying or how valid they are. I instead start wondering why they’re giving me the advice when I’m not asking for it. Uh oh, do they think I’m doing a bad job?? Do I need saving??

That’s why I find it so valuable to get an advice from someone who is not emotionally invested in your success.

First of all, I’m less defensive and more willing to listen when I’m actually seeking for an advice. And it’s easier for me to not react emotionally to their feedback when there is a clear expectation of our roles (i.e. a mentor and a mentee). I can accept their input as an objective observation and nothing more. It’s very refreshing!

SCORE has 320+ chapters throughout the US, and you can find your nearest SCORE location here. You can meet with your mentor multiple times, and if your first mentor is not a good fit, you could request to meet with someone else too. They’re there to help!

I’d definitely go back and use their services in the future when I’m faced with new challenges or need a sounding board outside of my regular circle of people again.

Here is to our growth!!

xo Yuko

Yuko Miki Honeyberry Studios Headshot

 

 

How to deal with criticism when you’re a Highly Sensitive Person

 

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Hi, my name is Yuko. I’m a Highly Sensitive Person.

Did you know that it’s a thing? I mean Highly Sensitive Person with capital letters was a thing??

I only learned about HSPs recently when my good friend sent me a link to The Highly Sensitive Person Podcast several months ago. I didn’t have to listen to any of the episodes to know it was for me – with titles like, Decision-Free LivingScary Movies? NOPE, and Anticipatory Grief, I knew it was talking about me.

According to Dr. Elaine Aron, some of us (about 15-20% of the population) have a brain that’s wired a little differently: HSPs are more aware of subtle changes in our environments and reflect on the information a little more deeply than others.

It’s an innate trait for many people and goes beyond the stereotypical definition of “being sensitive” e.g. crying at the Super Bowl’s puppy commercial or being hurt easily etc.

Kelly O’Laughlin, the host of the podcast I mentioned earlier, pretty much sums up my experience on her website:

“We think about things deeply. We analyze information and don’t like making wrong decisions—in fact, we can have a hard time making decisions. We become overwhelmed easily by all the stimulation and information around us. We are incessantly bothered when our physical environment is uncomfortable. We are empathetic to the feelings of others. We are startled by noises easily. We are strongly affected by violence, horror, and abuse, in movies, TV, and in the news and this causes us to sometimes avoid it. We are often affected strongly by caffeine. We can be moved deeply by music, art, and nature.”

(I’m definitely not an expert on HSPs, so if you want to learn more, you can check out the research here. You can also take a self-test here if you suspect you might be an HSP.)

I appreciate many aspects of being a Highly Sensitive Person.

First of all, I’m easily inspired and deeply moved by small things in life. I believe this helps with my creativity.

Every time I catch a whiff of peonies on my kitchen counter, my heart sings. When I see a big smile on my block printing students’ faces after they printed their very first design on a fabric, it makes me want to cry. When I hug my cat and bury my nose in the fur on top of his head and smell the sunshine, I’m filled with happiness and joy (I know you totally smell your kitty, too!!)

I suspect many artists and makers are somewhat on the spectrum of being highly sensitive. After all, first step of creating a great work is to open up your heart and feel the feelings, you know?

It also makes being an artist more challenging.

Probably my #1 obstacle is my anxiety around being criticized.

I know all artists struggle with this somewhat whether you’re highly sensitive or not. When you pour your heart and soul into what you make, putting yourself out there and not being fully appreciated can feel extremely vulnerable.

My fear of being criticized has made me shy away from taking on more commissioned art/illustration work. It’s not that I don’t appreciate objective constructive feedback to improve my work – it’s the anticipation of getting criticized and receiving more subjective, unhelpful feedback that I get worked up about.

In order to mitigate this, I try to have a thorough conversation with my potential clients about my creative process and what type of inputs are helpful (objective vs. subjective) for me to do the best work before I taken them on as a client… And only when we agree on the process, we move forward with the project.

But still, when I hit “send” to deliver my work to the client, I get pretty stressed out.

Even though I know I did a good job, I hear a little voice telling me maybe it wasn’t good enough or I wasn’t quite diligent enough to hit 100% mark for the project. And so when the client tries to push my boundaries and get me to be more “flexible” with my creative process, I become pretty overwhelmed.

When this happens, I take a deep breath.

I don’t always open emails from clients right away when I sense there might be some bad news… I need to mentally prepare myself for that 😀 I might skim the email first just so I’m not missing any urgent issues, or maybe they’re totally happy with it (gasp!). And then if they are asking me to change something (“We love this! But… “) I walk away and think about it for a little bit before responding.

I take some time to feel whatever feelings that come up and be a non-judgemental observer of the reactions I’m having.

And then once I do a self-therapy/meditation to soothe my anxiety, I read the email again and analyze the list of things my client has sent me.

Once I have the mental cushion, I can be more objective and handle the criticism more calmly and less emotionally.

I re-read the proposal and contract to see if I missed anything or if I misinterpreted the goals for the project. If their feedback is not clear or sounds subjective, I’ll ask more clarifying questions. I include my creative process document with the final deliverables usually but might offer some extra explanations to clarify my decision making process if needed.

I realize 99% of the problems occur because of unclear communications. 

If I overlooked something we agreed on or either didn’t do a good job of understanding the scope of the project throughly or didn’t help the client understand the process clearly in the beginning, I take full responsibilities for that. And I do my best to fix the problems.

But if that’s not the case, and I’m fully confident that what I produced would meet their objectives, I let them know I’m not able to respond to their requests.

Saying no to a client is difficult, but I’m grateful that most of my clients are really awesome and respectful so they understand. If I chose to accommodate every little subjective/arbitrary request they have, my passion would definitely die and I’d be super burnt out in no time!!

I’ve had to grow a thicker skin in order to pursue my passion publicly and professionally, and it’s definitely a work in progress!

Understanding my high sensitivity allows me to be more compassionate towards myself. And knowing what triggers my emotional response helps me to identify and develop new skills so I can grow as a person and be a happy creative professional long-term.

If you’re a highly sensitive artist and have challenges because of that, know you’re not alone in the struggles ❤

xo Yuko

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From the sketchbook: flowers, kitties & house plants!

Hello, hello!

I haven’t shared my drawings from the sketchbook for a while, so I want to do that today. (By the way, I share my drawings often on Instagram if you want to see my artwork more regularly :))

But I have to confess first. I haven’t been making a lot of art for fun lately… 😦

I had a client commission work that took a lot of my time and energy before I left for my 10-day silent meditation retreat, and before that all I did was marketing and promotion for my business!!

I know they’re all necessary and important to grow my business. And I’m learning that things come in waves and phases, so some days I do more marketing and other days I do more creative things.

I get hard on myself when I spend more time on business-y stuff and don’t make time for personal creative work regularly.

It makes me question, “What am I doing?? Why am I not making art all the time??” But that’s just how it is sometimes especially when you’re at the beginning stage of building a business, running the show by yourself. I try to be more patient with myself and try to enjoy the learning process of making my dream come true.

Anyway, I did manage to create some fun drawings and hope you enjoy them!

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Peonies from the farmer’s market ❤ Watercolor & Pigma Micron pen.
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Calathea house plant drawing, Pigma Micron pen & Sakura Koi brush pens.
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Heart Leaf Philodendron house plant drawing, Pigma Micron pen & Sakura Koi brush pens
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Pink & purple poppies, Sakura Koi brush pens & Gellyroll pens.
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Cat faces! Pigma Professional brush pens.

By the way, out of the cat face doodles came the cat dad Father’s Day card below 🙂

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Cat dad card ❤

Along with the lack of personal creative time and energy, I was feeling kind of discouraged about my creative business – wondering if I was cut out for it and if I would see any success – making a living doing what you love is really hard!!

I <3 Lisa.
I ❤ Lisa.

And then I went to see Lisa Congdon at her Joy of Swimming book reading in Seattle at the end of May and was totally inspired by her talk ❤ I came home with renewed energy and more confidence to keep working towards my big goal. So I doodled this the next day.

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I can do this. Pigma Micron pen & Sakura Koi brush pen.

Have a wonderful week, my friend!!!

xo Yuko

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Giving yourself permission to slow down without feeling guilty

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I take sabbatical week off every 7 weeks.

It’s a time when I intentionally slow down and focus on things I don’t get to normally. I might work on fun creative projects for myself or reflect on my business goals and processes during my mini sabbaticals.

You can see a couple of my past sabbatical report backs here and here by the way.

What’s great about taking a regular time-off is I can schedule work in advance around it, and it motivates me to hustle and stay productive when I’m “on.”

Because I work very hard on weeks between my mini sabbaticals, I usually enjoy my time off relatively guilt-free.

By the time my 7th week rolls around, I’m SO ready. I can definitely feel the burn and feel my time off is well deserved.

But what about the time when I’m forced to slow down outside of my scheduled time off?

Life happens. You try your best to “schedule” things and stick to them, but it doesn’t always happen according to your plan.

I had to face this during February and March of this year when I suffered a stomach ulcer. And it really forced me to slow down and take care of myself

It didn’t come easy. I felt so guilty slowing down even though I was in a lot of pain.

Before I knew I had an ulcer, I just thought I had an upset stomach for some reason. I’d been on a Candida diet for several weeks prior and just started adding some foods back in my diet again. So I thought it was a natural reaction to the diet change and tried to “wait and see” if it got better on its own.

Weeks passed by, and it got worse.

I couldn’t eat very much and was feeling weak. I was depressed because I couldn’t eat (and you know how much I LOVE to eat!) and was afraid to eat because the pain would come after eating. I wasn’t sleeping well due to the pain or the fear of pain.

I was stressed out and scared. Desperate for information, I looked it up on the internet, and it tells you all kinds of potential causes for your symptoms, including cancer…(which I believed wasn’t the case based on other symptoms but still scary.)

Our insurance coverage (we’re on Obama care) is less than awesome, so the potential medical cost would stress me out, too.

I felt bad and guilty laying around on the couch during the work hours.

I thought, my eyes and hands still work, so I should be able to do work.

If I “took it slow” outside of my scheduled time off, I won’t be able to achieve my goals, will I? Nobody else can do what I do for me. And, I don’t have a paid sick leave any more!!

I’d press on even if I was in a lot of pain. I’d try to stick to my regular routine as much as possible.

I didn’t want to admit to myself that I needed to course correct because I didn’t think I could afford to.

Eventually, I saw my naturopath and got the diagnosis. She put me on a treatment plan, and I gradually started feeling better.

Putting a name to what I was experiencing helped shift my mindset. It gave me a permission to focus on healing.

When I thought I was just having a random stomachache, I was so annoyed and tried to ignore it.

But as soon as I learned the official diagnosis, it suddenly made it OK for me to focus on feeling better. It made my experience somehow more real and serious.

Like, finally I had a legitimate reason to slow down.

It’s weird I needed someone with an authority to tell me what I was experiencing was a real thing, and  that I didn’t need to feel guilty about slowing down. But apparently, I did.

My work and goals were important, but it wasn’t worth sacrificing my health for.

I needed to prioritize getting better, and everything else needed to take a back seat.

So whenever  the pain would come on, I didn’t even bother to get any work done. I simply stopped resisting. I just laid on the couch and did things to help ease the pain (heat pad, massage, tea etc.) for as long as I needed.

I also learned to use the time between my bouts of stomach pain to focus on my work. I had a shorter amount of time to work, so it naturally helped me to stay motivated and productive.

Fortunately, I responded to the treatment really well and have been feeling well since April! Thank goodness for that!

Nothing makes me more grateful for my health than having been ill.

You can schedule your sabbaticals, but you can’t schedule when you get sick.

When you get sick and your body is screaming for help, don’t resist it. Give yourself permission to tend to your needs. If you have a hard time doing that, like I do, let someone else tell you it’s OK.

And when you slow down to take care of yourself, stop feeling guilty about it. Guilt does not serve anyone, and it certainly doesn’t help you heal faster 🙂

xo Yuko

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