Owning a small art business is not easy. As many of you know, there are far too many factors outside your control, particularly when times are hard economically. However, there are also so many incredible highs. Being able to set out my day does wonders for my health, and I truly feel content doing this work.
For me, the highs make the lows more-than worth it!
In this article, I answer some of the questions my Beehive Subscribers have put to me about my work, and how I run my business. Enjoy! x
Whilst Khannah’s Honey Hues began in 2019, it was the natural progression of a hobby and having more paint than an artist would need in their lifetime. Little did I know that in less than two years I would be making this my full-time career, and expanding what I offer to books, brush towels, and other accessories.
Frankly, the move was terrifying. I was going from a steady position (albeit one that was highly stressful and had long hours), to a career where I was not in control of how much I could bring to the family; no matter how much paint I made, or how I marketed, I was not in control of if people would buy or not. Even now, a year after going full-time I am still somewhat a slave to that fear, but I am getting better at managing my expectations, and knowing when the natural lulls in the purchasing year are, so that I can compensate appropriately.
But… I wouldn’t change it for the world. Being able to make my own routine, structure my business, and grow something I am truly proud of has be so worth it and I have no regrets about it.
I was asked if I had to really plan for leaving my PhD to do this, and the answer is… yes and no? The decision to quit my PhD was entirely separate from the business but having Khannah’s Honey Hues was the safety net to allowing me to actually do this. Without the wonderful community that had been built up over the last few years, I would have been too afraid to think of my health first, and so likely would have snowballed.
My daily routine is largely dependent on three factors:
1. Time of the month
Essentially, if it is the beginning of an even month (February, April, June, August, October, or December), then at least a week will be spent packing up Beehive rewards. In the background I am always working on these, making the colours, procuring supplies, and building up a beautiful package, but the first week of these months means my life is consumed by it.
The rest of the two-month period is more balanced.
My energy profile is that of the ; the mornings are when I do my best work, and so I usually dedicate my early and mid-mornings to paint-making, aiming to get as much made as possible. The very first task of the day is topping-up pans that are in my dehydrator; every other day I will test to see if the pans have fully cured, and if so, add another small layer of paint. This can take anywhere from 30-60 minutes, and is perhaps the messiest part of my work.
After making the paint needed for that day, I work on the tasks that drain more of my energy; packing orders, responding to emails/DMs, and marketing. That’s not to say these tasks are bad – no, they merely take more energy for me to complete compared as an introvert.
In the early evenings, before making dinner, I will spend some time doing quieter tasks; writing email newsletters, brainstorming new products, and writing blog posts. As it is the latest work of the day, I often find that this is the easiest to miss out on, so over the next six months I really want to delve more into this – hence making this blog post to start!
2. Upcoming Releases
This dictates what paint I make, what I promote, and even how my studio gets set up ^^’
3. Energy Levels
The most important of the three, no question.
It is essential that I balance what I need to do with what I am physically capable of doing. Whether that is by batching tasks, taking time off to go on walks, read, or paint, when I hit a wall, or setting challenges to beat personal bests, I tailor each day to how I feel.
Planning Product Releases
How far in advance do you plan product releases?
Well, this depends (I’m sorry it’s not a more simple answer!). For a release of single watercolours, it is merely a few weeks, deciding what colours I feel like making/have been requested, and then going from there.
For palettes, for example the Notes on Nature palette, it can take three or four months – from initial concept, to whittling down colour choices, to actually making the paint, marketing and packing, and then finally despatching. In fact, Carrie and I have already decided on the theme for next years palette, a year in advance!
The biggest project I do each year, the Advent Calendar takes half a year to develop. In June and July I begin to concept the colours to make a harmonious palette, selling begins in August-early November, and despatch is in mid-November. But it doesn’t end there! In December I make various images for Instagram and other social media “unveiling” the colours, so everyone can join in the fun. It’s my favourite project of the year, but my goodness, it takes a lot of work!!
How do you come up with ideas for new palettes?
If I’m working with an artist to curate a palette, then it is a collaborative experience, where we talk to each other about the themes that we want to cover, the colours I have already offered, and any new colours they might want.
If I am curating a palette myself, I often look through pinterest, finding inspiration images for a theme. Don’t think this is about looking for swatch images! No, this can be as wide ranged from fantasy art to a close up of a tea cup! Anything that sparks joy based on the colours. Once this large-scale research is done, I narrow down to finding a cohesive set of colours that match the theme, but also work beautifully together.
Then… it’s just about making the paint, and praying to the mulling gods that my guesses of pigments work! You won’t believe the amount of times I end up completely off-shooting the mark and having to start over! ^^’
Do you ever have days where you just don't want to work? How do you keep up your enthusiasm?
Yes. Like any job, there are days when I don’t want to leave bed, or want to “clock off” early. However, as I am self-employed, I am also the boss that keeps me in check ><
How I try to manage this, is balance out the tasks I love with those that I find more energy-draining. I love making paint. It’s my favourite thing about the job (understandably), and so I will often use that as a reward for completing other tasks. For example, once this blog post is finished I get to open up a new pigment!!
Of course, the most important thing that I have to remember is that I should always be kind to myself. If I am tired, or my mood is not optimal, I am not afraid to take some time to myself and have a break, as I know that it will enable me to be more refreshed upon returning to the studio.
Do you have any worries about being self employed and how do you overcome that?
All the time! I worry that a palette won’t sell. I worry that the algorithm will drown out my posts. I worry that one day people’s dedication to my brand, and handmade watercolours will die out, and so I won’t be able to sustain this as a career.
There are no easy answers to any of this, unfortunately.
What I try to do is remind myself that worrying about anything outside of my control is unproductive. I take every day as they come, and do my best to not let it get to me. It’s still a work in progress haha
How many hours a day do you dedicate to the business
This widely changes on a day-to-day basis, and if I’m honest with you, I need to be more strict with my time, in terms of being more efficient with my time and working less. I usually spend the full 40-hour working week, and sometimes do business related things at the weekend too. I would certainly not recommend it ><
My ideal working day however would be to start early (around 7.30 am), work until 3 or 4 (with breaks for lunch of course!), and then spend the rest of the day on a walk, cooking, and relaxing before my husband gets home. I’m a natural early-bird and find that by the time it gets to 3pm, I am exhausted and so it’s not beneficial for myself or the business to push myself beyond that.
If you’ve got to the end, thank you so much for reading, and I’m happy to answer any more questions you have below!