A Year Since Graduation
A year ago today, I graduated from Lancaster University with a degree in Fine Art. If I could’ve predicted back then where I would be in a years time, I think I would have surprised myself. See, I left university with no clue (and I literally mean no clue) about what I wanted to go on to do. And that was terrifying. But it’s now a year on, and I’m really happy with where I’ve ended up; here’s a little run down of the past year.
I remember the career talks we used to have every year at uni. They would always do this exercise where they would spilt the room into three; one side of the room was for people who were going to do a masters, one side was for those who were applying for a job or graduate scheme, and in the corner were those of us who didn’t know what we wanted to do. You can guess where I always stood...
I personally couldn’t afford to do a masters, and university had taken that much of a toll on me that I wasn’t sure I could survive another year. And after being diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression in my second year of university, I couldn’t imagine myself in a high-pressure graduate job where everyone fought for promotions and pay-rises. To be honest, I knew I wanted to be self-employed pretty early on at uni, but I just didn’t think I’d be successful. And I had no clue where to begin.
After I finished university, I took the month of July to relax and celebrate. I wanted to put off thinking about the next step for as long as possible. Eventually I sat down with my Dad and discussed my plan. He asked me “In an ideal world, what’s your dream job? Where would you love to be in 5 years?” and I knew it was working as an artist full-time, either working from home, or in a studio space. But I explained how worried I was about failing, or not earning enough money etc etc. Eventually after a long conversation, I decided that I would commit to my art for 2 years, and if after those two years it hasn’t gone anywhere, I would look for another job. And so it began...
I knew I had to get some sort of part-time job just to give my a little income to begin with. I had one awful waitressing job before quitting and finding a great barista job instead, which I still have today. Honestly it’s great because it gets me out of the house and I get to talk to people!
When it came to my artwork, there were a lot of ups and downs. I carried on painting after university, but I fizzled out after about 3 months (around the same time that I quit my waitressing job). Then one day I picked up my IPad and started drawing digital illustrations, similar to my painting style. Quite quickly I had a wide range of illustrations, and suddenly had an urge to make a calendar! I set up an Etsy shop and listed my 2020 calendar, and over the next couple of months I sold 25! Yes, they were mainly to people I already knew, but a sale is a sale and I was quickly coming up with my next idea.
Then I started drawing little floral designs, and I was picturing them as tattoos. After a few weeks I had ordered 50 temporary tattoo sheets with my designs, and at the time that seemed crazy and I thought it would take months to sell that many. But by some miracle (and winning with the instagram algorithm) I sold out within two weeks. Since then I’ve been making and selling products through both my Etsy shop, and my website. I’m still nowhere near being able to do this full-time, but my dream seems much more achievable. A lot of the great things that have happened this past year has felt like good luck and timing, but I’ve noticed a few things that have helped me to build an audience and increase sales.
- Instagram is AMAZING! Instagram has been the main source of sales for me. The key is to be active. Follow people, like and comment on posts you love, and you’ll start to form a little supportive community of people
- Always keep creating. Even if it sucks, you’ll eventually make something you love. When I got in a rut with painting, I started digital drawing which opened up a whole new door for me.
- Commit to it. Set yourself date in the future, and work your butt off until that date. It might be 2 years, it might be 5 years, but give your everything to get where you want to be.
I know I’m not a expert but I hope these tips will help anyone who’s struggling. If you’re like me, and you know what you want to do but you’re just scared to fail, honestly just go for it. I’m now in a place where I’m working part time as a barista and part time as an artist and designer, and I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time. I have to thank my parents and my boyfriend for pushing me to do what I love, but I’m also so proud of myself for fighting the anxious side of my brain and challenging myself everyday.