What I Learned from Taking a Social Media Break This Week

This gorgeous color wheel study, provided by one of my meticulous students. Thanks susan Gottschalk!

This gorgeous color wheel study, provided by one of my meticulous students. Thanks susan Gottschalk!

Last weekend I had the honor of teaching a 3-day workshop for the first time at the Donna Downey Studios in North Carolina. It was a glorious occasion and I painted with some of the sweetest ladies I could have hoped for. Stepping away from the online side of things for the weekend and engaging with artists in person was a much-needed change of pace.

After reflecting on such an intense year, and recognizing that in a few short days I would be starting my 30 paintings in 30 days challenge, I decided to reign it in and cancel all work-related Instagram and Facebook activity for a week. Well, 4 days to be exact but that's basically a business week over here.

Here's what I learned:

  1.  Managing two Instagram accounts, a Facebook group of 1,900+ artists, and keeping up with my account here is a full time job. 
  2. I need to hire more help and fast. Having support staff to help manage the different facets of my art business and consulting is crucial for me to stay in shape.
  3. I was able to be way more productive in my business when I unplugged for a few days. 
  4. I was able to focus on self-care more easily. I caught up with a few healthcare visits, visited my grandma, and spent my 29th birthday at the mall like a normal person. (PS I treated myself to some Madewell jeans for the first time and I did not know a pair of jeans could make you so happy. They cost a pretty penny, but you will never want to put your toosh in another piece of denim again.)
  5. I got out of the addictive loop of likes and comments and also couldn't run to them when I needed a distraction.
  6.  My time felt like my own for the first time in a long time.
  7. It is slightly scary to think the online world has imploded and may build up your anxiety to check it even for a second 
  8. I have more self-control than I thought I did. And coming back to the "work" that is social media is hard. 
  9. Social media is still a vital part of my business and how I support myself, but it is not the only part.

Have you ever tAKEN a social media hiatus?

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I intend to schedule more of these throughout the rest of this year. I never realized how much time and energy I was expending. It's nice just to be able to tell people, email me at info@amirarahim.com if you need anything and walk away. 


#AMIRAPAINTS30DAYS

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Today marks the first day of my self-inflicted 30 paintings in 30 days challenge ๐Ÿ˜ and so you can expect me to make up for the absence this week with a months worth of original paintings from my studio to flood your screens.

If you'd like to get on my collector list for the 30 paintings and get special updates on new originals from my studio this month, sign up below:

After this I'll probably want a pina colada off the coast of Jamaica. Like for real ๐ŸŒด๐ŸŒด๐ŸŒด

7 Bad Habits Holding Back Your Instagram Growth

#1 You're still doing "Follow-for-follow"

Back in the day (okay really just a few years ago), it was very common to see people visiting each other's IG feeds and immediately commenting "Hey, follow for follow?". Meaning, they'd follow you if you follow them back. Even worse, sometimes, you'd follow someone only to realize weeks later that they've unfollowed you already and this was just a technique employed to grow their own numbers. This is not a winning strategy for growing your Instagram audience and will only stress you out. Instead, focus on building a long-lasting community of raving fans, aka "your tribe."

#2 You're posting too little

This probably could have been number 1, because it is the most common concern I hear from artists just starting to get serious about their social media. Many newcomers feel like they will turn people off if suddenly they ONLY share their creative pursuits or new venture. And even more so, many people fear that sharing 3-5 times per day is excessive. Yet, the reality is that we are being marketed to constantly and successful businesses understand that you must vie for your ideal market's attention. The best way to do this is to post frequently and consistently throughout the day to insure that at least one of your posts are seen that day.

#3 You're posting too much

Have you ever scrolled down your timeline only to see the same person sharing 3 or 4 photos within the span of a couple of minutes? It feels a bit spammy, right? It's like you haven't shared anything all week and you're trying to make up for it by flooding people's screens. I have certainly unfollowed accounts because of this and really advise against overwhelming people's feeds. It's much better to space out a few posts throughout the day since people check their phones multiple times of the day as well (as noted in the point prior).

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#4 You don't have a vision for your feed

Some feeds are like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get :P. Meaning it's all over the place and not in a good way! One minute there's a picture of a cat. The next day it's a weird mushroom you found in the woods during your morning stroll. And the next it's your latest outfit find from the mall. While it may be entertaining for the people closes to you, this isn't building a brand. Instagram is no longer a platform for personal blogging. If you run a personal blog, that is different. But for the rest of us, we can't be surprised when no one is pays attention to our art the one time we do share it. It's because they can't decide what's the most important thing on your feed and neither can you.

#5 You post selfies regularly

Everyone loves a good selfie. Indeed, Instagram is probably responsible for the creation of the term. If you treat your Instagram account like a personal blog, then selfies are more than okay. But for most of us, our audience and potential clientele would much rather see what you're working on than your face. Harsh, but true. But the beauty of this is that you can share quality photos even on days when you don't feel so glamorous because it's about your work!

#6 You don't take your photography seriously

Eventually, as you start to follow more and more successful accounts on Instagram you will develop a better eye for photography. You don't have to be a professional photographer, but some basic ideas on lighting, negative space, composition, and balance goes a long way. Interestingly enough, due to social media, we've become more selective in the quality of photo and video content we consume. So yes, the days of getting by with crappy photos on Instagram are over. If you haven't already, catch up!

#7 You rely on apps, comment pods, or paid shortcuts

This may be a bit controversial, so I will preface this by saying "to each his own." Whatever works for you at the end of the day, right? Paying for followers and other quick-fix apps is certainly a route that many people choose to take. If you've made the decision, however, to build an engaged and loyal community, then it's going to take a bit more strategy and patience.

Strategies on how to create viral content, engineer engagement, and create consistently high-quality content is exactly what I teach in my upcoming Instagram for Artists course.

5 Mistakes I Made in My Art Business + FREE Instagram Course!

I've been meaning to write this blog post for several weeks now. It started out as 10 mistakes because there have been many and I will undoubtedly make some more, but I couldn't arrive at an even 10. I just returned from a trip to Cuba as a celebration to myself for accomplishing something which I'll share later. It took soooo much effort for me to book this trip. I could think of every reason not to do it, but in the end, I knew I was resisting it because it felt "too good". I'll be getting into that later as well. As a full-time artist for 3 years now, I can share a lot of the ups and downs and lessons along the way. If they resonate with you, cool. If you'd like to add to this list, please share some in the comments. As awkward as it can get on social media, I still believe in the value of transparency and sharing your story. SO here's mine. Mistakes first

#1 Undercharging/undervaluing my work

This is a touchy one because, after all, what is the "value" of art in a monetary sense? There are so many factors that goes into pricing artwork. Experience. Status. Target audience. Market. Financial climate. Heck, even the artist's pulse (still alive?). And so, while there is no finite way to gauge what to charge, I made the mistake like so many artists starting out of charging way below what I really wanted for a given painting. The downside is that when you continue to sell yourself short, it becomes a habit and it can be harder down the road to raise your prices in time for your new mindset.

#2 Not celebrating the little wins

This one has probably been said a thousand times before. But I noticed something. Celebrating wins should start small because just like the point above, it becomes a habit. I remember the first time I actually let a positive email sink in. I was two years into my business, in the hustle and bustle of every day tasks, and like so many other fan emails, I was going to archive this one and keep it moving. But it hit me: this person took a moment out of their life to share how much my work meant to them. I was so focused on not letting the praise get to me, because I didn't feel like I deserved it, or that I had put in enough skin in the game so-to-speak. This is very self-sabotaging. When something less than ideal would show up in my inbox or messages, I would focus on it for days at a time. But a positive remark, an unexpected sale, or reaching a new milestone, I would quickly gloss over it and keep my "eyes on the prize." Except there was no prize in sight. This is it. This is the prize, every single day I get to do what I love, and it took me a few years to realize that.

#3 Neglecting to pay myself

A rookie mistake, no doubt, but one that many small business owners make in the beginning. I was paying everyone else but myself. It wasn't until I got a bookkeeper upon my return back to the USA in 2016 did I decide to get more intentional about my finances. Up until this point, any sales I made from my art circled right back into my business, expenses, more supplies, courses, etc. But I had no idea how much money I, the artist, was actually earning. I realized the need to separate myself from the art entity and the best way to do that is by paying myself a salary every few weeks. It's also pretty standard procedure for any business owner in the US. But again, rookie mistake (hire a bookkeeper). Now, it feels nice to actually pay myself and set money aside for me personally. I have a healthy balance and separation from my personal finances and my professional ones. I also feel rewarded for my hard work each time I send myself a salary.

#4 Comparing myself to other artists online

The internet makes it really easy to "measure" yourself up to someone else. The problem is, we're only seeing a snapshot of what people choose to share with us online. Very few people I followed online chose to be candid about the realities of running an art business. A closer look at private Facebook groups and comments reveal a completely different reality beyond the shiny photos. Panic attacks, insomnia, poor health, self-doubt, and a complete neglect of other interests outside of making money, just to name a few. The more I would look to other artists for validation and camaraderie, the more isolated I began to feel. Instead, I needed to focus on what was in front of me and what mattered most.

Today, I realize that I don't want a business like someone else's. I want a business that's uniquely mine and crafted from the heart. That means a lot of days of not knowing what the future holds, but I owe it to myself to embrace that unknown and enjoy the journey that is my own. 

#5 Not documenting my work 

I remember the first time I was approached by a licensing company. It was in 2014, I was one year into selling my artwork online, and I was completely unprepared. I was hiring a photographer to come and capture my work, but turns out, he was not a true professional and many of the images I had paid him for were useless to the licensing company. I had to scrounge around the city and collect back my work from collectors, luckily many of which were still in town, and re-shoot everything. It was a costly lesson, but a necessary one. Now, I have my work professionally photographed by a local photographer who specializes in documenting artwork. This is vital for the longevity and integrity of my business and helps protect my rights as an artist.

Can you think of any more mistakes to add?

Also, remember that win I mentioned earlier? I recently celebrated it and I'm happy to say that I paid off my student loans. When I graduated university years ago, I thought it would take me the next two decades to pay off my debt. I even derailed going to law school because I didn't want to add to the tab. I never imagined I'd be able to do it in 3 years and let alone from my art sales. It may not be that big of a deal to some people, but to me, as the first person in my family to attend college, I am so grateful. Thanks to the many collectors and patrons who have supported me these past few years, this dream has become a reality. No doubt, much of my traction has been because of social media. I've shared almost everyday online, particularly on Facebook and Instagram. 

Instagram got me my first licensing deal.

I sell paintings on Instagram every month.

I've built a community of fans on Instagram. 

This platform means a lot to me and so many other creatives, and it is here to stay. I'm obsessed with teaching people how to use the platform, and last year I decided to offer online trainings to other artists to use the platform more effectively. 

Now, we're launching a free 7-day program to inspire you to post more effectively. If you'd like to join the #insanelyinspiredinstagram tribe, please visit the course site below. 

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿ‘‰ Click here to enroll.

How an artist residency in Mexico moved me to tears (in a good way)

Hola!

Writing here from the beautiful mountainous town of Oaxaca after weeks of traveling through Mexico. It's been months since I've been back home and yet I can't figure out where the time went. I'm slowly but surely finding my groove here and learning more each day.

Traveling will do that to you. Art residencies will also do this.

My artist residency in Puebla lasted for 5 weeks and was honestly one of the most enriching experiences I've had as an artist in a while. It was my very first artist residency and I see why artists to do them. Not only did I have space and freedom to create lots of new work, but I was also challenged on an intellectual level that I haven't felt since college.

We were given weekly reading assignments that was the equivalent of college Sociology, Archaeology, and World History. Our readings were anything but light, and addressed head-on the topics of colonialism, oppression, representation of women and people of color in art, all the way up to genocide and even a new one that I learned: epistemicide (which is the killing of systems of knowledge). My days were like a mix of painting, eating drinking affogatos, and reading Audre Lorde essays. Yea, it was intense. I cried a lot, and the director of the program told me this was normal. That I should be unravelled. And you want to know the question he asked me that made the tears come streaming down: What are you passionate about?

What are you passionate about?

Years ago, I wanted to be a lawyer and defend the rights of marginalized people. I was and still am deeply disturbed by injustice. Today I am not a lawyer or an activist of any kind so clearly I get to cop out as an artist right? Well, no. 

This residency challenged me on such a profound level because it demonstrated so clearly that art is one of the most powerful tools of communication. That beyond the pretty images, beyond the beauty, I exercise a very real level of power every time I pick up my paint brush. Artists have the ability to make people feel but even more so we have the ability to make people think. Even in the most abstract ways of creation. And even more so, the residency reminded me that many of the works in museums (and out) helped define culture, the way we view women, the way we view the poor, the way we view Europe, the way we view Africa, and on and on. My goodness, I'm telling you, it was very moving.

Over the course of 5 weeks I was called to tap deeper into my calling and respond. It's a lifelong process of course. I know that in many ways I am just scratching the surface but somehow creating painting after painting gets me closer each day to that place of true mastery, vulnerability, and authenticity. 

After weeks of intense work and reflection, I took a week break with a group of women on a lovely retreat in San Miguel de Allende. It was a nice change of pace not only bonding with like-minded souls and lots of jacuzzi chats under the moonlight, but to switch to my other hat, getting clearer on my goals for Amira Rahim Art.

We stayed in a gorgeous mansion for the week, hosted by Desha Peacock of Sweet Spot Style.

We stayed in a gorgeous mansion for the week, hosted by Desha Peacock of Sweet Spot Style.

I am so fortunate to be able to send art all over the world, no matter where I'm living. I am able to send prints at a moments notice for art collectors on a budget, or mail one of my originals to clients as North as Canada and as far as Dubai. Now I feel like it is time to step into bigger shoes and build more of a community with other color lovers like myself. In other words, holding space.

There's something magical about when artists and creatives come together and I would love to host workshops more regularly to share the wealth of art. I have already tried my hand at this in Abu Dhabi when I lived there and online in my PassionColorJoy community. So I will be gearing up for more things like this in 2018.

In the meantime, I just found a new studio space right in the heart of Oaxaca and I'm ready to get busy! The best part is, they are interested in me teaching some art workshops here as well. Anyone up for a little Mexican painting getaway? Stay tuned...

In a few weeks, these walls will look completely different.

In a few weeks, these walls will look completely different.

So this long update is just to say that I am incredibly grateful to be deep into the heart of this artist thang. I hope you are (re)committing to your passions too whatever they are. You don't need to travel to do it. But you may need to cry some crummy tears and swing in a hammock after. :P

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:

I also wanted to note that the price of my prints are going up soon. Today only, grab them at the old rate while you can. It's not a sale price, but the price of my prints is about to go up due to increases in my costs to produce them. If you've been eyeing a certain print, such as this one, now is your chance to get it before the price increases. 

"All of Your Angels" Fine Art Print available still with 2016 pricing starting at $45.

 

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Stay inspired.