Calling all artists and creatives who are falling asleep at the metaphorical wheel as the days pass by, and you’re not creating.
If you’ve ever wanted to have a successful career creating that at which you’re gifted, I invite you to take a cue from London-based Sophie Tea, Founder of Sophie Tea Art, who, at just 26 years old, is selling more than millions of dollars worth of her art.
Her works aims to change how first-time buyers access art, while also changing the perceptions that a career as an artist is not a viable path.
“I set up an Instagram account and have been making it up as I go along ever since,” she admits. “For the first eighteen months, I lived in a damp room that was so small I couldn’t stretch my arms out in it. I would prioritize buying paint over food. I knew it was only temporary and I’ve enjoyed the graft to get to where I am today.”
Darrah Brustein: When did you begin making art?
Sophie Tea: I began in Jaipur, India in August 2016. I had just graduated from Business School and was due to start a job as a consultant. I painted on a hostel wall in exchange for free accommodation and it was from that moment I knew that I had to pursue a creative career.
Brustein: Did you ever worry that you couldn’t make a living as an artist?
Tea: No. You need very little money to stay alive. I was aware that I wouldn’t make a good living for a long time, but I was highly motivated to get myself out of that situation.
Brustein: Was there anyone in your life who told you to ‘get a real job’? If so, how did you respond?
Tea: Never explicitly, but I have felt negative energy from others when describing what I do. I always respond by asking them to follow me on Instagram. I know that before long, they will realize the graft, strategy, branding and risk involved, shifting their perception of being an artist not being a ‘real job’.
Brustein: Are you developing relationships with your audience in any arenas outside of Instagram, anticipating that that platform won’t be relevant forever?
Tea: I hold solo exhibitions across the world every 8 weeks to ensure that I get the opportunity to meet my customers and build offline relationships with them.
Brustein: When did you sell your first piece and what did that feel like?
Tea: I sold my first piece to a family friend shortly after I arrived back from India. I felt bad charging someone for something I enjoyed doing so much. I knew quickly that to keep doing what I loved I needed to think of my artistic career as though I was setting up a business.
Brustein: What advice do you have for other artists and creatives who want to make a living as a creator?
Tea: Just press go. So many people ask me for advice about how to start. That’s exactly it, just start. I always say: ‘One day or day one?’
Brustein: Please share with us about your collaborations with brands. How did those begin and how are they structured?
Tea: They begin by my finding a brand that aligns with where I want to be, and simply approaching them personally. My most notable ongoing collaboration is with WWF, they are such a positive force. We are currently in plans to support a 1,000 person Sophie Tea Art Gala held in London where my originals will be auctioned for WWF.
Brustein: Unlike other artists, you have a 12-month payment plan option, and send the art immediately. What percent of your customers take you up on that and how many default?
Tea: 80% use my payment plan option. Less than 1% default. I pride myself on operating on trust and 99% of the time I get it back.
Brustein: How did you begin to build your online following, and what do you feel is the reason people are so loyal and connected to you via that platform?
Tea: I built my online following by persistently sharing the highs and the lows of navigating the art world today. I think why my followers are so loyal is mostly due to my honesty. There isn’t much I hold back.
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This article was originally published on Forbes.