Saturday, August 18, 2012

From Hobbyist to Professional

Taking my art from hobby to professional is probably one of the biggest challenges I have faced. After years of creating composite artwork for others at little or no charge one might think the transition would be easy. Let me tell you it is anything but easy. However I still believe it is well worth the challenge.

When developing Artistix Network LLC, there were a lot of decisions to make including the following very important decisions.

1. Our Mission statement: Our mission is to enable clients to preserve their cherished memories for future generations with high quality professional artwork that captures their style and emotions.
Which means:
A) We will not limit the photo's used to create a memory composite to photo's we take for the client or limit the number of photos that can be included in the artwork.
B) We will not use quick labs or only offer digital files and recommend the client print them at a quick lab.
C) We always consult with the client and allow them a wide range of design options.
D) We will make every effort to keep the cost of our services affordable to the general public.

2. The company will not incur any outside debt and will operate entirely on funds generated by sales or contributed by the founders.
    (This may not have been the wisest decision toward the success of the company as it has limited the company to a shoe string marketing budget primarily made up of word of mouth marketing.)

Deciding what services we wanted to provide and how we wanted to provide those services was probably the easiest part. Although, even that took may hours of planing. Add to that months of research on marketing, organizational, product and web development. Followed by months of putting everything into action and the whole process took almost two years before we even opened for business. Needless to say it is easy to get bogged down with all the 'business' aspects and loose sight of 'The Mission', you know that little reason why you ever decided to go professional in the first place.

Throughout the process there have been many times while working with marketing and business development professionals we were advised to do the following:
    1. Double our charges so that we were more in line with other photographic design agencies.
        Benefit: Increasing profit margin and potential of corporate clients with deep pockets.
        Disadvantage: Complete deviation from our mission.
    2. Limit the number of options available to clients.
        Benefit: Increasing profits by decreasing design time.
        Disadvantage: Hindering the clients ability to have created a piece that expresses their style and emotions.
    3. Limit the clients to using only photos we took.
        Benefit: Increasing profit by charging both for photography and design.
        Disadvantage: Hindering the client from having created a memory art piece that captures the moments they personally photograph.
    4. Limiting the number of photos included in each art piece.
        Benefit: Reducing production time thereby increasing profit margin.
        Disadvantage: Hindering the clients ability to have created a piece that expresses their style and emotions.
    5. Market to businesses and those within upper income brackets.
        Benefit: Increased profits
        Disadvantage: In direct opposition to our mission to provide professional corporate style design services to the average person.
    6. Market the digital design file as an affordable substitute to printed format, taking advantage of the clients desire for both connivence and savings.               
        Benefit: Increase sales
        Disadvantage: Potential to be in opposition to our mission to provide high quality artwork that will last for generations.

 We did decide to offer the option to purchase the digital file with full print release. But decided that when doing so we make sure our clients understand that quick lab prints deteriorate in as little as 15 years as compared to a life span of 75 to 100 years for a chemically processed photograph. We also let them know that they can contact us in the future to have their design sent to print at the professional lab we use for only slightly more than a quick lab will charge for the same size prints. In this way we are able to offer the savings and convenience while still remaining true to our mission.

As you can see by the above list, being committed to ones mission is not always the easiest or the most profitable. Which can result in the temptation to take the easy way and change your mission.

Of course that means that growing the business has been a very slow process. Taking almost two years before we actually started to break even.  Now in our third year although we are starting to make a profit it is still not what one would call profitable. Some might say we should give in to the all mighty dollar and make the changes to our mission statement and business strategy.

To me family memories are just too important, even if they aren't my families memories. So for me there is no option but to remain committed to our mission. Even if it means taking a second job while the business grows slowly. So far my partners agree with me, so instead of changing our mission we chose to keep our mission and add a gift division of the company that offers fun non-memory art gifts through a convenient online quick lab. In addition we continue to look for creative ways to market the business and other services that might fit in with our mission.

So what do you think, should a company change its' mission to compete with other companies that provide the same service but don't share the same mission? Have you gone from hobbyist to professional? If so what was your biggest challenge?

1 comment:

'Tsuki said...

I hope it will work for you : congrats, and good luck !