My wrap-up of the 2015 Artful Business Conference
Artful Business Conference
2015 artful business conference

All of us at ArtfulBizCon 2015!! (photo from Matt Clark Photo)


OH. MY. Seriously my head is still spinning from this wonderful, amazing, warm-hearted, beautiful, sharing conference. It was inspiring, it was practical.  It was mind-bending and down-to-earth.

I think it was even life-changing (but I’ll let you know for sure in a year or so).

Karen Gunton (The Lighthouse Revolution) spoke about the need to resonate with what you do. Make it a mission. Call it a revolution. Your purpose is a crusade, an evolution, a voyage, a legacy. To not feel like you have to change the world, but to know you can change the world for one person. To ask yourself, “Who am I NOT to share my passion, my why, what I have to offer?” I felt sure she said that just for me.

Lynda Rennick (Homelea Lass) spoke on living with chronic illness. About life teaching you what you need to know – and being open enough that you listen to its lessons. To live your life with gratitude, to go gently, and to create daily. To write yourself a love letter. About becoming more self-aware, and realising that when you fall into a rut and old habits, you can get yourself out again.

Kym Seletto (the original Rad Bitch) spoke about her journey from art school drop-out, dealing with anxiety and depression, to realising that self-care is an enormously important thing, and being a life coach, teaching others to put themselves front and centre. How to set boundaries in your life and stick to them so that you don’t get burnt out.
And she was fun. She made us all eat frogs. Truly.

Sonia Lyne (Dandelyne Embroidery) talked about her journey from making tiny embroideries to sell, to making kits that are selling worldwide. About her business ups and downs – being confronted by ‘haters’, being told she was ‘lucky’ (it’s hard work), dealing with copiers, dealing with stress. About listening to  what the customers are asking about and using that to change and grow her business. About using your problems to become your solutions. And SHARING. Always sharing. About the need to make yourself happy. About struggling with growing up in a family that always reinforced the idea to “Do things that make other people happy”. But when we do things that make us happy, the happiness flows out of us to others anyway.

Nicky McKay, a web designer and branding expert, brought home the idea of how vitally important it is to brand properly, by telling us the story of her search for the perfect wedding dress. And how the reality of a messy, crowded shop not matching with their slick website left a bad taste in her mouth. And how messy websites made her simply click away. Be authentic; be consistent.

Sylvia Chierchia (Beautiful Money) got down and dirty with the practicalities of dealing with money. How to get clear on your financial situation, how to sort out your money purpose, what systems to have in place, and to always work with a mindset of abundance, because this is such a powerful thing.

Tash Corbin spoke on the New Feminine Dynamic of Business.  It’s all about connection – discussions, groups, support, showing your vulnerability, responding, inviting questions, caring, and knowing people.


And Elle? Elle Roberts is the bee’s knees.


So yes, I laughed and I cried. I had tears (of overwhelm, in a good way!). I spoke to (and hugged) all of the speakers. I spoke to nearly everyone in the room, and ate the incredibly delicious food. I met lots of my online friends, and make some new connections. I learnt a LOT about myself.

It was terrific. I’ve already booked my ticket for next year. (You can too, I’d LOVE to see you there! Here.)

And you can STILL get a recording of this years event too – a Silver Pass gets you LiveStream Access and a USB recording of all the speakers and all the workshops! Get it here.

If you were at the conference, either virtual or in the room with me, leave me a comment telling what was YOUR biggest takeaway. If you weren’t, let me know why you’d like to go, and what/who you’d like to see!


Big love, Julie X




Looking for your ideal customer? Here’s where to find them
looking for your ideal customer


OK, so you’ve got a fabulous product that you’re head and heels totally in love with and you can’t stop talking about it.

But you know, there’s one thing missing. HAVE YOU EVEN CONSIDERED YOUR CUSTOMER?

When you aim for everything you hit nothing, so they say. If you try to appeal to everyone, then you’re appealing to no one.

The only real way to have a product that sells is for it to solve a problem for your customer, fill a need, or make them feel great about themselves. Ask yourself what does your product or service help them with (for instance, if you’re a fine art photographer, your product helps them with their interior design; or if you sell baby clothes, you make them feel great by having a well-dressed baby). You absolutely need to get inside your potential customer’s head and figure out what it is that they’re wanting. And to do this, you need to be as specific as possible about who they are. (Yes, there is definitely trial and error and a certain amount of guesswork in this. But the more you do business with them, the more you’ll find out about them, so just keep going.) And when you know who they are and what they want, you can start to speak their language, and ask them the questions they’re asking themselves.

Because when you speak the same language, when you have the same world view as them, you automatically make an emotional connection and that’s the key to turning them into paying customers. You’ve built up rapport and trust. And when you deliver what they want, they’re so thrilled with what you do that they not only become return customers, but they spread the word about how fantastic you are. 

Ba-BAM! Business explosion! Right?

Hmmm yes well it’s all very good in theory, but WHERE IN THE HELL DO YOU FIND THOSE DAMN CUSTOMERS? You can have THE best product in the world – one that’s going to end global poverty, keep the oceans free from waste, and make small children excited about keeping their rooms tidy – but if nobody knows about it, what’s the point?

You need to get out there and find those customers.

SO here are my top seven tips for searching out and connecting with your tribe.

  1. Facebook groups – Listen, as much as you hear all the time that FB “isn’t worth the effort” because they limit and fuss around with what everybody gets to see in their feed, I absolutely believe that it’s still worth getting in there and using it – for all sorts of different reasons. If you’ve got a Facebook page for your business, use it!How FB decides what goes into people’s feeds is based on a number of factors, pretty much centred around how active the group/page is.  So if you’re in there posting every day, AND your people are commenting and liking on your posts, then your posts will be shown to more and more people. The trick is to make your posts engaging for your people – ask them about themselves (because people love talking about themselves); ask provocative questions (only if they’re relevant); entertain them with a (relevant) beautiful or amusing image.

    The bonus is that by asking questions, you find out heaps more about the folk who DO like your page! Use that knowledge to fine-tune your ideal customer profile.”But I only have a tiny FB following” you moan! Well I say, have you invited all of your FB friends to like your page? Your family? Asked your close friends if they mind sharing your page with their friends? Posted links to your FB page on your website? On other social media? Round ’em up, get them engaged, post shareable content, and you are well on your way to growing your following.

    JOIN OTHER FB GROUPS. Have you engaged in other groups to let them know who you are and what you’re doing? It doesn’t have to be all icky push and salesy (and it’s better if you aren’t) – many business groups have set days where you encouraged to share what you do and what you’re offering (for instance #PromoThursday), and sometimes people straight-out ask for particular services in these groups too – so make sure you’re around and can put your hand up! Search some hashtags to find relevant conversations about what you’re doing – this will not only allow you to see what people are asking for in your niche (so you can help tailor your services), but you can also find other groups to join. Win-win!

  2. Twitter and Instagram. Use the same strategy with your other social media –  Follow others AND ENGAGE WITH THEM, offer up good content, and use the hashtags – they’re a great search tool for finding other conversations that are happening in your niche.
  3. Pinterest – is not really ‘social’ media in the same sense that the other three biggies are. If you use it, think about how often you actually engage with the people you follow – hardly ever, right? It’s primarily a search tool for finding stuff you’re interested in (especially pretty stuff). BUT, it’s still a rich source of information about your potential customers – use the search tool to see what others are pinning, and particularly what has been pinned from your website – this will give you the best ideas about what your customers actually DO love the most (so you can keep doing more of it. You can find yourself by using – and seeing what pops up.
  4. Use search engines. Google your business’s keywords and see what other conversations you can find from potential customers. You might find a great forum, or another fantastic website with a heap of interesting comments. Depending on what you find, you can join in the discussion and help out with excellent advice – people will love you for it.
  5. Guest blog about your area of expertise on a site you admire. Reach for the stars – go the Huffington Post if you dare!  If you’re not quite there yet, simply look around at the sites that you love reading and approach them for guest posting opportunities. Some don’t accept guest posts and that’s OK, but many do. Once you’ve found a site you’d like to try, make sure you do 5 minutes research and find out the name of the person you need to be writing to. I DON’T open emails that start with “Hello blogowner”, and rarely open ones that start with “Hi there”. But if it’s got “Hi Julie”, I’ll read it.Keep your proposal short and sweet – start with why you love their blog, what area of expertise you have, and a couple of suggestions for topics that are closely aligned with THEIR audience.  You might like to include a couple of links to your best articles. Be beautiful, be polite and say thank you for their time, and that you look forward to hearing from them. And follow up – if you don’t hear back from them in a week or two, contact them again with a short, polite reminder, because hey, sometimes things get put aside and forgotten! We’re all human.
  6. Reach out to other people in your niche for a collaboration. Find others with complementary skills/products – what can you do to collaborate? How can you benefit both audiences with a super valuable offer? Join forces, brainstorm, get it out there and you’ve doubled your audience! Magic.
  7. Start up a mailing list. Probably THE best strategy ever for connecting with your customers. You know that if they sign up to your list, they’re already interested in what you do. So make sure you have plenty of opportunities for them to do so – on your website sidebar, on your “About” page, and on your “Contact” page.And reward them for it. Most people don’t bother signing up to a list that merely promises “regular updates” (unless of course you’re Seth Godin). If you’re selling products, you could offer to put them in a draw for a prize each month, or you could write a short e-book on your area of expertise. If you’re a jeweller for instance you could offer your best tips and tricks on looking after jewellery, and/or how to look after it while travelling. If you’re a portrait photographer, you could offer a round-up of your best tips on how to prepare for a shoot – what to wear, makeup, choosing a location, how lighting can effect the mood of your shoot, etc. If you’re a service provider, it’s a simple matter of offering an intro or brief version of one of your paid courses.


So that’s it! There are LOTS of different ways of searching out and connecting with those beautiful customers; you’ve just got to put in the time.


BACK TO YOU! Have you found some innovative ways to connect with your customers? What’s your best customer-connection story? I’d love to hear! Pop a comment in the box below, share your biz name and how you’ve connected, and you never know – you might just connect with some other great people here too!

Julie x

Inspiring: Laura Olivia & the Mekong Delta {surface design}
laura olivia - floatingflowermarket

laura olivia – floatingflowermarket


Laura Olivia has a long-term fascination with Vietnam. So much so that she has designed her latest collection around it – from the floating markets where the locals trade from boat to boat, to the lush tropical flora and fauna of the area – especially around the massive Mekong River, which is the lifeblood of Vietnam as well as so many other countries in South-East Asia.

Perhaps it’s a foil for her home-base in not-so-tropical Nottingham, but Laura has built up a career and portfolio based around these lush, vivid themes. Vibrant colour and bohemian style, in lots of handpainted, layered textures, she focuses on supplying designs to the interiors and soft furnishing industries, and her clients now come to her from around the world, including Haiti and Malaysia.


laura olivia - Market Day

laura olivia – Market Day


Although she does work with some major retailers, she often finds herself being sought out by small start up companies. For instance, the client in Haiti requires stationery and homeware designs for the launch of a new brand strongly reflecting the Haitian culture, and she’s also working for a fashion designer in Malaysia who wants to produce a new line of dresses aimed at ladies who are respectful of their faith yet want to wear beautiful clothes. Laura loves it, and says it’s great for keeping everything fresh – “My projects are very random but always exciting!”

It’s taken some time and very hard work, but since she established her studio in 2010, she’s built it up to include a small team of designers, and now offers clients a bespoke pattern design service, a print library and a luxury boutique homewares brand.


laura olivia - Mekong Flora

laura olivia – Mekong Flora


Branding is something that has grown naturally over time. “It’s still a work in progress but I know I’m on the right track. The best method I have found to help with this is creating a huge story board to refer back to and develop; it’s a big visualization tool. This could include pictures of your work and other inspirational images that best fit your brand, but also props such as furniture and accessories that would work well when styling product photoshoots, to ensure everything is working well together.  I’d also display your colour palette and include some key words to describe your brand.  A great way to do this is imagine for a moment that your brand is a person, if they entered a room how would you describe them?”

“I do use a photographer for my product and lifestyle images and I’d say that is a must, but I didn’t get any help with my branding because I thought there wouldn’t be anyone who understands my brand better than me, and a lot of branding companies I looked at were geared towards a more corporate look.”


laura olivia - Vietnam Floral Blush

laura olivia – Vietnam Floral Blush


laura olivia - Mekong Lily

laura olivia – Mekong Lily


Her best piece of advice?


“The best advice anyone gave me is don’t be too hard on yourself, and try to learn how not to ‘self sabotage’ . We are our own worst enemy sometimes and it is true that we can often stand in our own way! . Oh and also don’t compare yourself to strangers on the internet, no good can come of it!!”

You can find more of Laura’s work on her website, where you can also purchase prints and homewares with her lush designs.


What does an artist need to be successful?

What makes one artist succeed over another when they both do good work? It’s a great question!
Guest post by Deborah Blakeley

After having interviewed over 170 artists and artisans from around the world you would think I should have the answer to this question. There are similarities, and there are many and varied reasons for them to be successful.

There is one thing that does flow through all the artists. They are passionate about their work and they all know it is as important to them as breathing. They want to create.

Let me take three examples.

Peter Clark from London works with paper. He collects paper. But he looks beyond the actual paper, and it is through this he is able to take sheet music and create ballet dresses. Or maps and make them into cowboy pants. The paper is there but it is Peter who breathes life into each work.

Peter was unfortunate to have a stroke and it was his need to create that made him battle beyond the physio’s exercises to take up his scissors. He said that cutting and the need to cut gave him back the strength he needed for his art.


peter clark - paper sulpture

peter clark – paper sulpture



Even the very BIG names need motivation and encouragement, like Peter Randall-Page who has been working for over 30 years producing sculptures that are around the world. When I asked him about the Tate Modern acquiring his sculpture Where the Bee Sucks 1991, Peter Randall- Page told the truth; but the truth is humbling. “Honestly, I am still delighted every time a work of mine enters a public collection, but without question the biggest boost was when the Tate bought Where the Bee Sucks. No artist should forget that they need encouragement. This also applies in giving encouragement. Tell others that you enjoy their work if you are able to buy their work.”



“There is no better way to give an artist encouragement than to see a simple red dot against their art.”



Peter Randall-Page - 'Where the Bee Sucks' - limestone

Peter Randall-Page – ‘Where the Bee Sucks’ – limestone



A final example is Velda Newman who said that she had taken loads of classes in colour, design and composition to find confidence in herself.  Originally a painter, Velda Newman applied her skills and knowledge to textiles. Rather than make quilts similar to others she needed that something ‘special’.  “I knew I had to do something to make my quilts stand out from the rest. That’s when I started making large scale quilts. My second quilt won Best of Show at Houston, TX and I have never looked back.”

Artists know when their work is good. Like Velda Newman they need to find that niche where they can stand out, be different so be noticed. Not try to do what someone else is doing or rather has done. Find your niche and go for it.


velda newman - zinnia quilt - 8ft x 18ft, paint and ink on cotton sateen

velda newman – zinnia quilt – 8ft x 18ft, paint and ink on cotton sateen


Velda Newman with her work

Velda Newman with her work




Every artist that I have interviewed and will interview has had to decide on the medium that they will work in and master. They have had to leave many other ideas behind and concentrate on the aspect that they love doing and will want to get out of bed each day to do. They have honed their craft and developed the skills and added their very own personality. This leads to invitations, and exhibitions and recognition they have worked very hard and kept within the parameters. They are experts and they want to share their passion with the world.


My personal passion has been to ask all those thousands of questions and build up a site {ZoneOneArts} that has so many different and varied artists who have wanted to share their work with a broader audience. Look at their work, look at your work and develop your own niche. It will lead to success but it will require bucket loads of hard work. Don’t dwell on your mistakes, be like Peter Clark and pick up the scissors and give yourself the strength and determination needed. Good luck!

Deborah Blakeley