STIR-IT-UP - Vol. 8
All My Hopes & Fears
It’s late. Late in the day. Late in the year. Late in my career. I’m even late with this article. It will be my last. It’s been fun but I’m sure you’re ready to hear from someone else. Given this is it, I guess I should say something profound. But as noted-it’s late. So these are the things I’m thinking about:
Home. What will it mean in the future? People 25-35 prefer urban living. Home ownership for them is down. Discretionary income which is less due to living in high cost areas, goes to experiences. How will this impact our profession? This generation is comfortable with diversity. My hope is when they do buy homes (albeit at an older age), this group will want unique spaces to call their own. Their environmental concerns present an opportunity for us to develop innovative products. We will be challenged to design interiors to meet a global ad mobile marketplace.
Work. In a competitive market, it’s hard to attract 20 somethings to a job with no guaranteed benefits. Maybe, instead, we should focus on cultivating the “seconds”?
What if the best employee is in your own family? My hope is we can help finishers with cost effective, inter-generational education and mentorship.
Overwhelmingly, we are a 2nd (or 3rd) career choice. This means our members tend to be older. Many have children (or grandchildren) and work around those schedules. As we age, we’re cutting back but still want to participate in this community. We’re also the profession of 2nd chances. A reprieve from boring jobs. A chance to be an entrepreneur. A viable way to earn a living with a flexible schedule. My hope is we embrace these demographics, understand their needs and focus our resources.
These are the challenges we face - the challenges for IDAL, too. I mull these things over but don’t have definitive answers to offer you. All I can say is to be prepared. Be realistic. But be optimistic. It’s late. But not too late.
Marketing with Linkedin
Wondering what people use LinkedIn for? Despite being one of the most popular social sites, most only have a passing knowledge of what it is and how they can use it. Recently, I had the opportunity to update my own LinkedIn profile and business page and my sister, who is a social media manager for the travel industry, recommended Margaret Martin, an expert career coach, author, and LinkedIn expert. Simply put, LinkedIn is a social networking site for professionals, one that provides new opportunities for growing a business by connecting with other professionals. I decided to chat with Margaret to see just how decorative painters and artists can use LinkedIn to their advantage.
Hi, Margaret! Thank you for e-chatting with me. Tell me, how could LinkedIn be used effectively for decorative artists who work directly with homeowners, interior designers, and/or hospitality/commercial properties?
Margaret: I really appreciate this opportunity to share. LinkedIn is a professional social media and my focus and that of most of my connections is to be of service to them – share your knowledge. For example, provide tips regularly that people can use to freshen up one of the rooms (bathroom, living room, etc.) and the same thing for any business – it might not be your original information, but an article from a website that can be of help. You can also join groups in LinkedIn, but plan to be active there too, at least once a month. Look for groups related to the decorative painting industry. This will help garner attention from others in your field, such as interior designers and possible commercial and hospitality clients.
LinkedIn is also about building professional relationships – when you connect with someone, perhaps give them a call or send an email to schedule a call to get to know them a little better, do a virtual coffee date using Zoom, Skype or Facetime. Focus on the quality of people not quantity.
I’ve met some interesting people; enjoyed learning their focus and how I might refer them business as well. I also recommend that you not accept every request you get – I usually get at least 2 – 5 requests a week, some I ignore and others I accept if they look like a good connection – you learn that by going to their profile. If it isn’t a complete profile with good information about them, you may not want to connect with them. Never connect with anyone who does not have a picture, unless you know them – then message them and tell them to get with it. But most of all, have fun with it!
Should I have both a profile page and a company page for my business?
Margaret: I think having a company page enhances your presence on LinkedIn – here are a couple of reasons why: 1) you will have your logo on your personal profile which will link to your page; 2) you can add an additional showcase page that will feature different aspects of your business; 3) and, you can also post in the newsfeed from your company page – it has a limited amount of characters, but still an effective way to drive people to you or your company page.
Do you think LinkedIn Groups are an effective marketing tool?
Margaret: Groups can be effective for you if you are active in them. The challenge for most people is which ones to join and how to be active. I suggest joining the ones that are industry specific, your college / school / training, and such – don’t join too many unless you can be a participant commenting in discussions where you can make a presence.
How would I approach a satisfied client for a recommendation or endorsement?
Margaret: Great question. First, your client has to be on LinkedIn and a connection of yours. Here’s what I did recently asking for a recommendation. I searched for the name of the connection – they were a client that I had provided a workshop about using LinkedIn for their business. I selected them and my current company, and LinkedIn will give you a default request. Do NOT ever use the default request. I then wrote an introduction line such as: Hi Susan, I hope things are going well for you, as I know you are busy with your family and business getting ready for the holidays. I have a request, would you write a recommendation for me based on the workshop I did for your office staff? I would greatly appreciate it.” Then I also added that I will write a recommendation for her as she had done some work for me earlier in the year. You might add, if they have any questions, please reach out via __ phone or __ email.
Sometimes people want you to basically write it for them and they can tweak it – you may want to include some sample verbiage in your request or ask them if they would like for you to send a sample of what you are looking for to them via email. Make it as easy for them as you can and you will have more success.
What are your Top 3 Tips for a service-based small business on LinkedIn?
Margaret: 1) Be active – daily if possible, no fewer than 2 times per week. That includes commenting on a post of your connection, sharing a post and why you like it.
2) Publish your blog articles on LinkedIn – it is so easy to do this! Be sure to add an “about me” at the bottom of the publication with a link to your website.
3) Make connections with people – be selective of those that LinkedIn suggests – and when you do make a connection request, personalize it as to why you want to connect – maybe even suggest a virtual coffee date using Zoom to get to know them and how you can be of help referring customers or something like that.
What I Learned from My Business Partner And What She Might be Able to Teach You, Too.
It always makes me laugh internally when I get that email from Cindy at IDAL letting me know it's time to put together another article for “Stir-It-Up.” I have only been doing decorative painting full-time for about five years, and it's bizarre that anyone would listen to anything I have to say.
So, for this article, I will share with you to some of the things I learned from the decorative artist who got me started, taught me pretty much everything I know about the business, and literally raised me.
She is my business partner, my mother, and my friend: Kathy Bailey.
1. It's Just Paint.
I know thirty times as much about decorative art today than when I started, but I still know nothing, and that's okay. When I first started out around 2003, it was helping my mother on my days off from my full-time job for extra spending money. While I had been active in what people would call “conventional” art most of my life, I had no idea what it took to be a decorative artist, and I don't need to tell you that the two are definitely NOT the same thing.
I started small, doing most of the grunt work, hefting scaffold or running to the van to fetch supplies while my mother did the real work. I watched and learned, asked a ton of questions, and she was a great teacher.
Eventually, I gained the confidence to actually participate and hold a paint brush, and she was kind enough to have the confidence in me to not stand over my shoulder and analyze every brush stroke.
And she always put me at ease with her favorite saying, and one that I constantly repeat now.
“It's just paint.”
90% of what we do is paint. And even when it's plaster, glaze, or any one of the hundreds of other products we use, it's still basically just paint. Screw-ups can always be fixed, and worst case scenario, you can always paint over it and start again.
So don't stress. Be confident in your abilities; don't be crippled with fear of doing something wrong. A tight, nervous decorative artist is going to put out tight, nervous-looking work. And you're going to be miserable doing it and have zero fun. So chill. It's just paint.
2. Be the Best You.
There is an old adage in sports that, no matter how great you are, there is always someone better than you. There's always someone who is putting in more work, someone who is stronger and faster than you.
Decorative art is no different. My mother is always showing me projects her friends have completed, and since she has been doing this for so long, she has a TON of talented friends. It's easy for me to get discouraged about my shortcomings when I see some of the work our colleagues are putting out there. I think about how I will never measure up, and wonder often if I should just hang it up and go in a different direction career-wise. Then I think of where I started and how much better I am today than back then...and daydream of what I could become in the next fifteen years if I keep at it.
Any time you get discouraged, I urge you to think about how much better you are at what you do today than you were last year, or when you first started out.
And stop worrying about measuring up to the artists around you.
My mother never gets competitive, or down on herself when she sees the spectacular things her friends are doing. She's just a fan of the success of others. We could all probably take a page out of that book.
3. Learn It All, But Admit When You Don't Know “It”.
And Then Pass "It" On.
The best thing about having my mother as a business partner is that, first and foremost, she is a tough, multi-talented artist, and when she isn't leaving her paint brushes and rollers uncovered and out to dry hard as bricks (sorry to call you out on that one, ma), she's generally pretty great to work with.
The most fortunate thing, though, is that our skill sets compliment each other. Faux wood-grain and marble finishes, matching existing patterns and repairing work that isn't even her own is what she does best. She has an incredible eye for color.
Because of my aforementioned “conventional” art background, murals are what I do best, and maybe even better than she does. But what I learned from my mother is that you can't just stick to what you know and never go outside your comfort zone. Learn how to do everything well, and you only increase your value to clients, decorators, and designers.
And when you don't know something, reach out and ask someone for help or advice, even if it is embarrassing or means showing vulnerability. But if you run into fellow artists who are reluctant to share information, keep putting yourself out there.
Eventually you'll run into someone like my mother, who will be happy to teach you everything she knows.
The Green Chair Project
On my drive home from the 2018 IDAL convention last week, I had the privilege of delivering several pieces of furniture and wall hangings to the Green Chair Project in Raleigh, NC. This furniture bank supplies home furnishings to deserving families in North Carolina. They work so support families renewing their lives after homelessness, crisis and disaster.
The Green Chair Project was chosen as the IDAL philanthropic project recipient this year. The beautiful furniture and accessories painted during the Designer Challenge that took place during the IDAL Convention expo were a perfect donation.
Michelle Byrd, the President of our Raleigh Chapter, Sharon Sink, my mom and volunteer extraordinaire and myself enjoyed a tour of the large facility and a wonderful explanation of their good work from Kristina Wager the Director of Development.
The displays of needed home furnishings, from dishes to cleaning supplies and bedding to entire room furniture packages was inspiring. Families welcomed in to shop for new home décor and necessities must feel so happy and special to be able to shop with such dignity.
Beautiful baskets containing one place setting of dishes along with coordinating dish towels, table cloths, napkins and other needed kitchen accessories, arranged to feel like shopping in a high end department store are chosen first. Once a family chooses their kitchen basket, the place settings and accessories are quickly loaded into a truck bound for their new home as the family moves on to select their dining set and family room furniture.
Art for the walls is selected, specialty appliances and remaining home necessities are chosen. Beautiful bedding sets arranged by size and color are the thrill of every child and they go home with a mattress and bedding, the goal of this amazing organization.
Please take a moment to like the Green Chair social media sites and locate a furniture bank in your area to donate your revamped pieces to or volunteer. IDAL is proud to play a small part in helping with the goal of furnishing lives with dignity.