Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in fine arts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Karolina Szablewska, Owner of artKarolina Paintings, located in Montreal, QC, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I am a visual artist & I mainly create paintings that would attract fine art collectors. I also provide illustration services in portraiture, location art, album covers, and custom illustrations. I have two different customers: anyone looking to remember a special trip, moment, or a person and is looking for art that's of higher calibre for decorating, collecting, and gifting, and clients who need specialized illustration in traditional mediums in my style.

Tell us about yourself

I always wanted to be an artist, but I knew that getting into some gallery or becoming famous enough to make money easily would be a pipe dream. I didn't want to be another art school grad with a career at Starbucks. I knew I had to treat art like a business and be practical and entrepreneurial. I sold my first painting when I was 14 for over $100. I have a very deep drive to create, it's like eating & sleeping, so I'm grateful I get to structure my life around filling this need and that it can pay bills. I can't imagine a life without creativity.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I know it's a huge risky ask for a customer to trust me with thousands of their hard-earned dollars for a luxury product, especially in times like today. Every art commission I receive that is a larger amount than previous feels like a huge accomplishment because it means I built enough trust with a client, my service is of high quality, and I did my marketing right to portray I am trustworthy, reliable, and great at my work.

What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?

I think it takes a tremendous amount of resilience & dedication to be a business owner because what's not apparent on the surface is learning how to do everything from the ground up, continued education, building habits, mistakes, extra hours, and unpaid leave. I can't hand off what I do to someone to fill in, so the days or weeks I can't work really bring me down. For a creative job, a creative block is paralyzing.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

Strangely, the biggest tip I can give is to work on your mind. You don't want to get in your own way, and you have to be strong. It's so easy to give up or get distracted because you get impostor syndrome, get intimidated, follow armchair advice from random strangers or family, or follow a new flashy gig idea. Your business could be objectively doing great, and you let one of these things derail or stall progress. It's so important to make even the most basic business plan, even if it's a few sentences, and stay focused on it like a horse with blinders.

Creative people tend to get sucked into their projects, but you need to dedicate time to creating a marketing and sales strategy... it's the dirty truth. In terms of marketing, I also think social media is overvalued (and tries to convince you it's the most important tool in the world since their marketing is so finely tuned), so always ask yourself with any tool or process, "Is what I'm doing translating to sales or real, genuine connections with people?"

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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