I'm no expert at running a small business, but what I can tell you is I run my ceramics as a business and not as a hobby. I take into account my time, the cost of supplies, electricity to run the kiln and heat the studio, shipping, taxes, and more. It's certainly not always fun or straightforward, but it is obviously important to running a business and making it successful.
While I do weekly bookkeeping, at the end of the year I sit down and look at how everything went. I ask myself what sold the most; where did I make most of my sales; what did I spend way too much on and were there any surprises I need to be mindful of going forward.
Taking a step back and looking at the big picture is very eye opening. Usually when asked questions about how my ceramics is doing, I answer from the heart and how I feel it's going, but when I sit down and look at the actual numbers, they don't always match up. This came up recently with a market I did. I felt like it wasn't going well, but when I did my bookkeeping, it turned out to be one of my better events. Being tired and overwhelmed can often cloud what's really going on, so it's good to take a step back and use analysis over emotions.
Markets are a great way to have one-on-one interactions with people curious about my work. And having my work in stores is another way for people to handle and see the pieces up close. It feels as if markets and stores are where I sell the most, but it actually turns out about 80% of my sales come from online social posts. I may not have a large following by some standard, but the people that do follow me, I have a connection with....dare I say I have "fans." Well, the feeling is mutual!
All of this is to say I am both an artist and a business owner and the two do not always agree or know what's going on with each other. I am serious about what I'm doing, and I want people interested in my work to feel connected to both the work and me. It takes practice and constant refinement, and I feel like I have found a balance that allows me to be authentic while also being a business owner. I'm not perfect, and I'm sure I'll make mistakes and occasionally come off as distant, but each year I make more notes, tweaks, and observations about what it means to be a working potter.
Now, can I leave the business tasks for a bit and get back to playing with clay?