Miriam Schulman is an artist, author, and founder of The Inspiration Place and The Artists Incubator Coaching Program where she helps artists (from amateurs to professionals) develop their skills, tap into their creativity, and grow thriving art businesses. Her podcast, The Inspiration Place, is in the top 1% of all podcasts globally and is listened to in over 40 countries. Miriam has been featured in Forbes and has been a guest on numerous podcasts including The Art Biz Podcast, Thrive by Design, Your First 100K Show, and Pencil Kings.
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Table of Contents
Thank you for joining us today. Please introduce yourself to our readers. They want to know you, some of the background story to bring some context to your interview.
Miriam Schulman: I’m a full-time artist and art business coach. Ever since I was in the fourth grade I knew I wanted to create, but I wasn’t sure about how I could make a living off of it. Although I studied art history in college, I ended up taking the practical route and pursued a career in finance. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I had a wake-up call and abandoned my hedge fund job on Wall Street to work on my art full time.
My love affair with portraits took off when I painted my son in his Batman costume. He had loved it so much he had his friends over to come see it. The kids ended up telling their parents and soon I was painting their kids and the domino effect started and word went around. I started to sell my art online and expanded to different mediums and techniques, including mixed media and watercolor.
You are a successful entrepreneur, so we’d like your view point, do you believe entrepreneurs are born or made? Explain.
Miriam Schulman: Building a business takes courage. Having life experiences that build resilience and tolerate risk will make you more successful in the long run. You can create these experiences yourself through the process of building a business, but I’ve noticed that many of my more successful colleagues have been dealt those hard knocks early in life.
If you were asked to describe yourself as an entrepreneur in a few words, what would you say?
Miriam Schulman: Being an entrepreneur is a natural extension of being an artist. I imagine something in my mind that doesn’t exist and create it in the world.
Tell us about what your company does and how did it change over the years?
Miriam Schulman: The Inspiration Place is an online artist community for creative souls to discover new techniques and get inspired. I help artists at all levels to develop their skills, tap into their creativity, and grow thriving art businesses through online classes, business coaching programs, and the podcast.
My business model has evolved over the years from portrait artist to artist who teaches portrait techniques to one who shares advice on how other artists can turn their passion into a paycheck. My business has really blossomed into ways I couldn’t have imagined years ago.
Thank you for all that. Now for the main focus of this interview. With close to 11.000 new businesses registered daily in the US, what must an entrepreneur assume when starting a business?
Miriam Schulman: Many folks believe that the first thing they need to do is print business cards, design a logo or create an LLC. However, there’s one thing you must do first before anything else. Can you guess what that is? Nope, it isn’t a website (although you’ll need one). The very first thing you need to make your art business real is a business bank account which is completely separate from your personal bank accounts. When you’re in business, you must have a way to receive and spend money to run your business.
Even if you have the bare minimum of overhead (your art supplies, website, and more), you don’t want to muck that all up by mixing your business with your personal expenses. If you want to make a sustainable living from your art, you need separate bank accounts. This will create both a physical as well as a mental container for your business.
Did you make any wrong assumptions before starting a business that you ended up paying dearly for?
Miriam Schulman: When I first started out, I used to believe that all these people I’ve been giving my cards to are going straight home, logging onto the internet, looking me up, and giving their credit card ready out to make a sale. One of the biggest business mistakes I ever made was not starting my email list and building that from the very beginning. During those early years, when I was selling art on eBay and then on Etsy, I missed out on a lot of repeat business. Now that I maintain and use an email list, I can maximize the lifetime value of my customers.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what advice would you give yourself and why? Explain
Miriam Schulman: Here’s the advice I would give to myself back then if I could.
- There will never be a “right time.”
I’m glad I left my job in the financial world before it was time. I’m glad I started my podcast and I’m writing my first book (to be released fall October 2022). I hate to admit it now, but there were a few times I considered writing to my agent to let her know she made a huge mistake and I won’t be writing a book after all. When we got a HUGE contact from a top-tier publisher, I realized just how wrong I had been in underestimating myself.
- You’re not going to go any further than your dream.
If your dream is too small, that’s going to limit you. You must have a dream. You must have a vision, which means you also must have a goal. Not having a goal I kind of like getting into your car and just driving around aimlessly until you run out of gas. I’ve now learned to “set the goal beyond the goal.”
- Relationships are your greatest currency.
Getting help is super important, but just as important are connecting with other people and building a network. Connections are important not. just first finding clients but also to increase your opportunities for more exposure for your business, and keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s relevant.
- If your dream doesn’t require other people, then your dream is too small.
The more help I get, the further I go. When I first started it was all me all the time and that limited me. I thought I needed to know how to do everything. Over time, I realized that Instead of investing my time in learning the thing and then investing time teaching, I could just hire people who already had the knowledge to do what I needed to be done.
- Building a business takes courage.
Yes, it also takes money, but building a business is more about your courage than anything else. Everything I’ve mentioned takes courage whether that’s dreaming big, hiring help, reaching out to new people, or taking risks. Courage means taking action even when you feel fear.
What is the worst advice you received regarding running a business and what lesson would you like others to learn from your experience?
Miriam Schulman: The worst advice I ever heard (and still hear repeated) is that you can only make money in the health, wealth, and relationships space. For nearly 20 years, I’ve made my living selling art because people crave beauty and pleasure. In fact, people pay more for products and services that give them pleasure rather than those that merely fix a problem. That’s why people will drop a bundle on luxury cars, watches, wine, and more. If they just wanted to fix a problem, such as tell time, they’d buy the cheapest watch possible.
In your opinion, how has COVID-19 changed what entrepreneurs should assume before starting a business? What hasn’t changed?
Miriam Schulman: There’s nothing like a crisis to lift a veil over what’s not working in your life. More than ever, people are learning that working for yourself is safer than being at the whims of a corporation. When you’re an entrepreneur you can steer your ship and direct your own destiny.
What is a common myth about entrepreneurship that aspiring entrepreneurs and would-be business owners believe in? What advice would you give them?
Miriam Schulman: Lots of people think if only they can build up their Instagram following, then they’ll be able to sell more. You do not need to be Insta famous or have thousands of fans to make this work. Sure, social media definitely has a place. But again, it’s all about leveraging it strategically. You can completely leave out Instagram and still be successful.
What traits, qualities, and assumptions do you believe are most important to have before starting a business?
Miriam Schulman: Building a business takes courage. Successful people are willing to take risks that unsuccessful people aren’t willing to take and ride the wild horse of fear.
How can aspiring leaders prepare themselves for the future challenges of entrepreneurship? Are there any books, websites, or even movies to learn from?
Miriam Schulman: Leaders are readers and I think it’s critical to read from a variety of authors from diverse backgrounds. This year I’ve enjoyed Kindra Hall’s Stories that Stick, Matthew Pollard’s The Introvert’s Edge, and Rachel Rodgers’ We Should All Be Millionaires.
You have shared quite a bit of your wisdom and our readers thank you for your generosity but would also love to know: If you could choose any job other than being an entrepreneur, what would it be?
Miriam Schulman: After twenty years of working for myself, I believe I’m unemployable. However, if I had a job as a radio or television host I think I’d like that.
Thank you so much for your time, I believe I speak for all of our readers when I say that this has been incredibly insightful. We do have one more question: If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, but not a politician, who would it be; why?
Miriam Schulman: If I could add anyone to Mount Rushmore, it would be Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat. We could all use a little humor and a good laugh. It would be a great reminder not to take ourselves so seriously.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Miriam Schulman for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Miriam Schulman or her company, you can do it through her – Facebook
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