TRANSCRIPT Ep. 298: Zero-Cost Business?


Miriam Schulman: Building an art business takes time. To everyone trying to find their passion, you’re going to do shit for a while that you suck at, which you’ll hate until you get good at it. And then you’ll like it, and then you’ll have found it. Just takes a few years of sucking first.

Speaker 2: It’s the Inspiration Place podcast with artist Miriam Schulman. Welcome to the Inspiration Place Podcast, an art world insider podcast for artists by an artist where each week we go behind the scenes to uncover the perspiration and inspiration behind the art. And now your host, Miriam Schulman.

Miriam Schulman: Well, hey, my friend. Welcome to The Inspiration Place. This is Miriam Schulman, your curator of inspiration. You’re listening to episode number 298, and I am so grateful that you’re here. So, I’m recording this in the middle of February, right before Valentine’s Day. It’s a gorgeous day in New York City. I was walking along Riverside Park and there were daffodils blooming along the sidewalks, which I think it’s a bit early for that. I don’t remember even crocuses being out this early, and they usually come before daffodils. But don’t worry, my friends. Tomorrow there is a snowstorm coming to New York, and that will definitely kill those flowers. And we’ll be back to what my daughter used to call normal weather. She hated when the weather didn’t act the way it’s supposed to. So the weather is going to act the way it’s supposed to tomorrow here in New York, and there’s going to be snow, which I’m actually kind of looking forward to because we haven’t had much snow this winter. And I kind of agree with my daughter. I like when the weather behaves. It makes me really anxious when the weather doesn’t behave itself.

Alright, so today’s episode is actually inspired by the boot camp that I ran last month. And I’ve run this boot camp now. I think that was the fourth time I did it. And because I run them live and I always have a Q&A every day, and I take my questions live every single time we do a boot camp, it’s a completely different experience, both for me as well as the people who are participating. And I think I mentioned this on other episodes. I don’t have time to answer everybody’s questions, but I did notice there was a theme this time around to a lot of the questions, and I’ve heard these questions before come up, and these are the kinds of questions I was getting. How much do we need to put in financially? Do we need to pay for a website? Do you need a personal website, meaning one outside of Etsy or some other platform? Does it cost money to run an email list? Why can’t I just use Gmail?

So what I was hearing from all of these questions was: Can I make money without spending any money? In other words, can I have a business without any expenses? So we’re going to address that both from a practical perspective as well as a mindset perspective. And by the way, I was reading my reviews over on Audible the other day, and they’re mostly good, but on Audible as well as on Amazon, there were at least two people. Or maybe it was the same person who left two reviews. I’m not really sure. Who was very irritated by the fact that I laugh when I talk. So sorry. If you don’t like me, don’t listen to me. What can I say? Anyway, so I was laughing even more just thinking about that. People don’t like it when I laugh when I talk. So I just find it amusing. The whole world is funny to me. Okay. Moving on.

So we’re going to talk about this both from a practical perspective. In other words, what do you really need to spend money on to run your business? And we’re going to also address this from a mindset perspective. In other words, why you’re afraid to spend money on your business? So those are our themes for today. But before we get started, these words.

Alright, so the first thing I want to talk about is overcoming the fear of spending money. We’re going to talk about why you might be hesitating to invest in your business. We’re going to touch upon common fears, common misconceptions, as well as shift your mindset from seeing this as a risk to viewing it as a vote of confidence in your success.

So first of all, I’m just going to answer this in the nuts and bolts way because that’s the way I feel most comfortable talking about things, getting really practical. And that’s what people like about this podcast, about my programs, and about my book. I am very practical about things. So the first thing I just do want to address is really answer the question, what are the tools you need? So you really should have a website that is outside of Etsy. You can get started with just something like an Etsy or a Blue Thumb or something else like that. But really, you want your own website because once you start investing time and money into building your email list, which is the best way to stay in touch with prospects and customers, you don’t want to send them to Etsy because let’s just pretend you’re a… I don’t know, you’re a macrame artist and you send your customer to look at your macrame designs. Etsy is going to show them underneath the bottom. Here are five different macrame designs you can consider. So you’re basically… you’re basically sending your potential… if we’re going to use a dating analogy, you’re basically sending your potential date to look at, you know, to go on a date with you while you’re bringing all your pretty friends.

So here are, you know, here’s my pretty macrame, but here are all the other macrame that you can take a look at. So that’s why having your own website will result in more sales for you. More sales for you. Now a lot of artists, even artists who join my program, even artists who read my book and join my program, and even though I say this on every boot camp, pick Shopify or Squarespace for your website. Don’t overthink it. It doesn’t matter which one is better. They’re the same. It’s like buying a toaster. Both of them have e-commerce built in to make it easy for people to buy from you, which is the reason why you want this. You don’t want a website that doesn’t have a way for people to buy from you. You don’t want your website to say, contact me if you want to buy this. No, no, no. You want them to be able to click on a button and buy it immediately now. WordPress can be an option. I know some artists, they’re very upset with me because they spent a lot of money on a WordPress site, and they think all about those sunk costs that they spent on a WordPress site. But you need an e-commerce plugin. So by e-commerce, that means a shopping cart, a way for people to add things to a shopping cart and check out.

And if your fancy WordPress site does not have that. It’s not useful. You need to make it easy for people to buy from you. The reason why I don’t recommend WordPress is because you need that plugin, and that makes it harder for people to use and maintain. One of my most successful artists, actually two of them. I think both Cindy and Priya both use a WordPress with a plugin. But don’t forget, Priya was an engineer before she became an artist, so using something like Wix is not a big deal for her. But I’m going to assume that most artists don’t want to spend a lot of time on that. And listen, I was an engineer too, and I even was a computer programmer on Wall Street. And when I set up my website, I did not want to program it. The first website I bought a website builder for, it was this is long time ago because remember, I’ve been at this for 20 years. The first website I had was a CityMax website. I don’t even know if they’re in business anymore. They might be because I think my husband’s website might still be on CityMax anyway. And then it started to not be so useful to me. And once I wanted a podcast, it became very important for me to have a WordPress website. But just as an artist and when all I was doing was selling art, that was fine.

And it was fine for a very, very long time. And so what I ended up doing was making a WordPress website that supports my podcast, and then I actually have a Shopify website for my art, and it was between Shopify and Squarespace. They’re really the same. I don’t know why I chose Shopify. It really doesn’t matter. I have artist friends who use Squarespace, they’re happy with it. Just pick one. Pick one. Don’t spend time researching and procrastinatilearning. That is you procrastinating. You think you get more information. You’ll make a better decision. No, just pick one. It really doesn’t matter. I think they even cost the same.

Okay, so that’s number one. You need a website. Number two, yes, you need to pay for an email platform. You can’t use Gmail. You can’t take all the emails and put them in a BCC. You can’t use a spreadsheet and bulk mail them. And I know artists who say, “Oh, I do it and it works fine, and I just have a message on the bottom that says “If you want to stop receiving emails, just let me know.” No. First of all, that is the definition of spam. Spam isn’t when you sign up for somebody’s email, maybe it’s mine and I email you a bunch of times every week. That’s not what spam is, because you can click a button on the bottom of my email that says unsubscribe. Spam is when you send email to somebody, and there’s no way for them to get off of that ride.

And if you say, “Oh, well, they can just write me back.” No, that’s not the legal way. What it says in the law is there needs to be a clickable something, something for them to click and get off that ride. So if you don’t have that, that is spam. Also, you can’t just put like 20, 30, 40 email addresses into a BCC. Not that’s not legal. And Gmail will start blocking you. And so what will happen is that people who actually want to get your emails won’t, because Gmail is just pushing them into their spam folder. Okay. Email platforms also are like buying a toaster. Just pick one. If you can’t decide, you can use MailChimp like I do. Many artists use FloDesk. I did a whole episode on the costs of these. They all are very inexpensive, especially if you’re just starting out. And I think MailChimp has a free version for the first 500 subscribers, which will be totally fine for you. But let’s even go to the land where — now I’m just like guesstimating how much I’m spending. So Shopify, I think I’m spending $35 a month on my Shopify. I spend a lot more on my email because I have 30,000 people who follow me who are subscribed to my email lists, but you’re not going to have that. So maybe you’re going to have, let’s just call it $35.

So you have $35 on a website, and you have $35 on an email, like $70 a month. How many businesses can you start for $70 a month? And so many artists are afraid of spending that. And why is that? Well, maybe you’re afraid you’re not going to make any art sales. We’re going to talk about that in a moment, like what your fears are. But before we get there, what I just want to go over is I want to compare the monthly investment required to start an art business. And we’re talking about outside of art supplies. So that’s going to vary. If you are a sculptor, your supplies are more expensive than somebody who is a painter. If you’re doing oil painting, those supplies are a little bit more expensive than somebody who’s maybe doing acrylics. Okay. But outside of art supplies, relatively low to start a business talking $100 a month and let’s go to the land where you’re going to invest in doing this for a whole year. You’re going to say, “Hey, I’m going to start today. I know you’re listening to this in March, and I’m going to give this a full year to try this out and make this work.” So 12 months and I’m going to even round up let’s go crazy instead of $70 a month, let’s call it $100 a month.

That’s $1,200 that you’re going to invest in a business to run it for a year. For a year. Okay, let’s compare that to another kind of business that you can start. Hmm. How about opening a restaurant? Well, one of the largest expenses for a restaurant is going to be your rent. Your rent can easily range from a few thousand to tens of thousand dollars a month. And this could be opening a restaurant or any kind of really brick and mortar shop, like if a clothing store, um, whatever. So you have rent, you’re going to have utilities, gas, electricity, water, garbage. That’s going to be another thousand dollars per month. You’re going to need licenses. You’re going to need permits. You’re going to need equipment, kitchen equipment. If you’re running a restaurant, dining room, furniture, tableware. Um, what about starting a retail store? Okay, well, you need inventory. You can’t just open a sneaker store with nothing in it. You’re going to need stock. You’re going to need to replenish that stock. And you’re going to need to staff it unless you plan on running it all yourself the entire time. But you know, if you need to go, if you’re running selling sneakers, you need to go in the back room and get a pair of sneakers. You don’t want someone to walk in and rob your cash register. So you are going to have to hire somebody.

Launching a tech startup costs money. You got to hire developers. What else? Um, freelance writing, graphic design business. So here’s my point. If you’re starting a business when you compare opening a brick and mortar store, a sneaker business or something like that. Where the primarily monthly expenses are more than just website hosting and email platform. Which is under $100 a month. It’s clear that starting an art business is really a low financial investment. And I wouldn’t even think about it, as every month I’m spending 100, every month I’m spending 100 because that’s going to give you a lot of stress. If the first month you’re not selling art, I would think about it this way. You are investing $1,200 for the year, and you have a year to start ramping up and making the kind of money that will make $100 a month a no brainer. Okay. So when we come back, we’re going to talk about why you’re having this drama and do a mindset shift. But first these words.

So now let’s talk about why you have drama around spending less than $100 on a business. Understanding the fear that comes with investing in your business is critical for overcoming the hurdles that prevent you from transitioning into a professional career. Because when you’re still thinking of your art as your hobby, that is what is driving this fear. It stems from a combination of internal doubts and misconceptions about what investing in an art business truly means. So let’s dive into them. Let’s talk about the most common ones. Number one fear of financial loss. So you might be thinking, what if I spend all this money on a website, marketing or materials and I don’t make any sales? This fear of not recouping your investment can be paralyzing. The thought of spending money without a guaranteed return can seem daunting, especially in the unpredictable world of art, where success often feels subjective. That’s why I wanted you to think about it as not spending X amount every month, even though that’s how you’re paying for it, but you’re investing $1,000 for a year. What else have you bought $1,000 on where there was no guarantee of making anything back? Um, maybe you spent $1,000. Uh, well, actually, there’s a lot of things you probably spent a couple hundred dollars on every month where you’re not making any money. Like. And what I’m thinking of is. So I told you, I’m recording this February 12th, and last night was the Super Bowl, and, my husband and I, we only right now we’re only paying for Netflix.

That’s the only streaming platform. And I have Amazon Prime, which sometimes gives me stuff. So we’re like, oh, I wonder how much it would cost to watch the Super Bowl. And it was like, okay, well, you can do Paramount Plus for, I forget what it was, $15 a month. The thing is, there are so many different streaming platforms: Hulu, Paramount, Disney, blah, blah, blah. And I remember when we lived in the burbs and we actually did pay for cable television. It was quite a lot of money every month. It was definitely more than my the website hosting or my email service provider. So there’s lots of things that we spend money on that we don’t even think about it as making an investment in anything. So just think about one mindset way to get over this thought is you are investing in a business that at least has the possibility of bringing money in for you, and think about all the things that you invest in on a that just are entertainment or just are whatever — absolutely are not going to bring you back anything.

Number two, misconception about immediate results. Now, there’s definitely a common misconception among new artists that any time you invest money, you should make it back right away. So building an art business takes time. It takes patience. It takes persistence. It takes determination. It takes discipline. It takes the idea that you’re going to keep working on your business no matter what, until it works. I actually saw something recently on Instagram. Alex Hormozi. And here’s what he says “To everyone trying to find their passion: You’re never going to find it. You’re going to do shit for a while that you suck at, which you’ll hate until you get good at it, and then you’ll like it, and then you’ll have found it. Just takes a few years of sucking first.” This was something that I used to teach when I taught watercolor and artists. I would teach them, you know, you really have to be willing to be bad at this first before you get good at it. And now that I am focused mostly on teaching people how to run an art business. Yeah, you may not be great at selling your art for a while. You may be bad at it first. It’s okay. We’re all bad at things when we first started and then we get better. And yes, this impatience can be frustrating. And it can be, um, you know, disillusioning when the results don’t come in right away. But I promise you, if you stick with it, they will come.

Number three: Fear of just not being good enough. Imposter syndrome hits hard in many fields. But I think especially in the arts, because you’re battling thoughts like, not only am I good at selling art, but am I even good enough to make this into a business? Is my art good enough? Will anybody even want to buy my art? So this lack of confidence can prevent artists from taking steps to professionalize their practice because they fear their work isn’t worthy of their own investment. But here’s the thing: you’ll never find out. So you’d rather not find out if it’s good enough than to take that risk. And this is really like, how much do you love your art? You have to love your art so much that you feel the world would miss out if they didn’t have it, if they couldn’t find it, if they couldn’t see it. That’s the attitude that it takes to be an artist. You have to love your art. You don’t worry so much about what other people are going to think about it. You love it, love it.

Number four: Misconception about what constitutes an investment. Okay, so investing in your art business, it’s not just about the money you pay. Time, effort, and consistent learning are also investments. So you might be thinking, I can’t start a business until I can afford to invest big money. But then you’re overlooking the value of investing the time into learning about marketing, improving your craft, building your email list. All of these things are critical, and if you can invest $1,000 this year to suck at it, oh my gosh, as you get better at it, that’s going to pay off so much more. Some people say it’s like that Sleeping Beauty complex where they want to just hide in the cave, hide in the forest and not come out until they’re really great at it and not spend any money until they’re really great at it. Both great at, uh, painting or creating whatever their craft is. Not necessarily painting, but creating as well as being a business person. It just doesn’t work that way. You have to be willing to be a teenager, to have braces, to have pimples, to kind of be awkward when you’re first starting out. So investing that time and that small amount of money now is going to pay off with that experience because you’re investing not just the money, but you’re investing your time in building that experience.

Number five: Fear of the unknown. Diving into the world of art as a business involves navigating uncharted territory. Questions like, “Oh my gosh, what if I do all this work and nothing changes? What if I fail?” Yeah, there’s uncertainty here. Starting out, you might lack a clear roadmap. And so making the prospect of investing in your business may seem more intimidating. That’s why I built the Artist Incubator program. It lays out the exact steps for you to take for every single thing you need to do in your business. Now, the boot camp will also give you some starting steps, and a lot of this was inspired by, like I’ve said before, questions that came up during the boot camp. If you haven’t watched it yet, We do have an on-demand version that we offer in between the live ones.

Number six: Selling out. Some artists hold back from investing in their business because they’re afraid of selling out or losing their artistic integrity. Okay, this is something that never was a problem for me, probably because I didn’t go to art school, so I was never taught that idea. Um, but people who fall in this category worry about focusing on the business side of art means compromising their creative vision, and nothing can be further from the truth. That’s why I love to bring out Michelangelo, who was probably one of the highest-paid artists of all time, especially if you put it in today’s dollars. And he didn’t say to the “Hey, Pope, I’m not going to paint the Sistine Chapel because that compromises my artistic integrity. I’m a sculptor and I only want to do sculpt what I want to sculpt. That’s why I sculpted this, uh, angel over here. You want that? That’s what’s for sale. Not my services on the Sistine Chapel.” He didn’t say that. And when he did do sculptures, he did like the, he did the funeral sculptures. He did the Medici Chapel, which is basically a mausoleum. He did the Moses sculpture, which was, I think, for the Pope. So he didn’t think, I don’t want to be a commercial artist. I might lose my true self. He didn’t think that way. So what’s good enough for Michelangelo is good enough for me.

Okay, so let me summarize for you these six fears. I’m going to recap them. We had number one: Fear of financial loss. Number two: Misconception about immediate results. Number three: Fear of not being good enough. Number four: Not understanding what constitutes an investment. Number five: Fear of uncertainty. Number six: Fear of selling out.

So let’s talk about how to overcome these fears. To move beyond these fear. First of all, it’s great that you’re listening to this podcast because I have almost 300 episodes about how to overcome fear, how to move beyond that, how to educate yourself about the business of art. That’s what the art book Artpreneur is all about. Understanding the market, understanding marketing strategies, understanding the importance of all these things can demystify the process for you and make them less scary. Start small. The investment doesn’t have to be massive. Remember I talked about less than $100 a month. Invest in a website. Invest in quality art materials, invest in an email software platform. And I would say number three: embrace patience. Recognize that building an art business doesn’t happen overnight.

Success doesn’t come overnight, but persistence will pay off. And if you think about it as just what are you investing per year? Is it a thousand? Is it 2000? It’s worth it. And finally seek community and mentorship. Connecting with other artists and seeking mentors and coaches can provide guidance, reassurance, and a sense of belonging. One of the reasons people join my programs is not just because of the step by step, but because they have camaraderie with like-minded other artists who they can connect with. They can share results with, they can brainstorm with. They have me every month that they can come to the artists who join my inner circle. They have me on a more regular basis because they get unlimited access to me, to ask me questions about whatever it is that they’re spinning on. So by addressing these fears and misconceptions head-on, you can begin to see investments not as a barrier, but as a step towards realizing your dream. It’s not just about building a foundation for your business, but it’s about building that foundation that allows your art and career to flourish. All right, my friend, thank you so much for joining me here today. I hope you enjoyed today’s show. Reach out to me over on Instagram. I’m at SchulmanArt over there. I’d love to hear from you. And until next time, stay inspired. Bye for now.

Speaker 2: Thank you for listening to The Inspiration Place podcast. Connect with us on Facebook at, on Instagram @schulmanart and of course, on

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