Miriam Schulman is not just an inspiration, but she is a curator of inspiration! Her business inspires art-lovers to reconnect with their creativity, learn new skills and techniques, and profit from their art. Her passion for art began in the fourth grade! She studied art history in college, but fearing that she couldn’t make a proper living as an artist, she pursued a career on Wall Street at a high-paying hedge fund job. Painting a portrait of her son in a Batman costume changed her life’s path. She started selling art to other parents and soon expanded to online sales. Then people started asking her to show them how she created her art … and The Inspiration Place was born! Miriam has built a successful business that includes teaching art online, coaching other artists on how to make a thriving living from their art, and hosting her own podcast. Miriam is not only doing what she loves, she’s making money from it too. Holy Batman! We’re impressed!
Meet Miriam Schulman of The Inspiration Place!
What inspired you to launch a web-based business? When I created my first commissioned portrait over 20 years ago, I knew that it was time to buy a digital camera and create a website. This was long before smartphones came with a built in camera. Although many commissions came from word of mouth back then (and still do today) the website broadcasts the word that you’re a professional.
What do you love most about having your own business? I get to do what I love, which is offer actionable tools and insights to help artists quit doubting themselves and overcome imposter syndrome, which is exactly what I needed when I was first starting out. In addition to that, I love being in charge of my time and creativity. Plus my business allows me to employ other smart women which allows them to make a thriving living from their creativity as well.
What are some of your proudest accomplishments? Starting before I feel ready is a habit that has served me well on the road to becoming a full-time artpreneur. Without it, I never would have quit my Wall Street job, launched The Inspiration Place podcast, created online art classes, or even written the book, Artpreneur. You may never feel ready, but you’ll never get past that if you listen to the voice of doubt. Your success won’t hinge on getting rid of your fears but on acting despite them.
What are some professional risks you’ve taken that led to positive outcomes? Over 20 years ago, pregnant with my second child, I gave two weeks’ notice and walked away from a high-paying hedge fund job. When I broke up with my job, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I had left that world forever. In fact, a year after I left the hedge fund, I had thoughts of returning. But then I witnessed the devastation of 911 and knew that I was meant to do something different in life.
Right now, you may believe that staying in a job is more secure. But if the global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that “secure” jobs can change on a dime. When you work for someone else, there’s always a risk that your job won’t be as secure as you imagine. And with the comfort and security of your job perpetually on the line, is sticking it out really your better option? If you want to make it as an artpreneur, you must take charge of your destiny. Don’t wait for a sign from the universe to fulfill your life purpose.
Name three web tools you can’t live without.
Do you have favorite podcasts? As a podcaster, I’m always checking out other people’s podcasts. My current favorite (other than my own, The Inspiration Place) is Denise Duffield-Thomas’ Chill and Prosper.
Are you part of any mastermind or networking groups? If so, which ones? There are times when I can’t see the path forward in my business. That’s when I enlist help in the form of a mentor or a coach. I’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars over the years in coaching and masterminds, but I’ve almost always found the help I get is worth it. This is because it helps me avoid mistakes, which saves me time and money.
If you wanted to go for a walk along the beach or around your neighborhood, you wouldn’t need a guide, right? If you wanted to go hiking, you might need help. If you wanted to go rock climbing, you’d be a fool to go alone. Making it as an artpreneur can be like rock climbing, with unpredictable ups and downs. Having a coach is a great advantage toward building a successful business—especially if you want to enjoy the experience.
When you share your wins with a networking group, and they respond positively, your positive feelings last longer. That’s why joining a professional peer group, such as a mastermind, is so powerful. When other people cheer you on, it enhances your happy feelings and amplifies your success. I ask my Artist Incubator members to share their wins for the week before discussing challenges. Members also feel motivated by hearing other people’s wins and are more likely to tackle a new strategy when they witness their peers success doing it.
What does your typical day look like? When I create my ideal schedule now, I use theme days or theme time blocks, and I encourage you to do the same. For example, for me, Mondays and Fridays are “Zoom free”; I don’t normally allow people to schedule calls or podcast interviews with me on those days. In addition, I keep my mornings free of appointments so I can have “genius time” for creative work that requires a lot of decisions. I want to give my best self to my creativity.
How do you unplug from work? My favorite way to unplug from work is either through fiction books or through prayer and meditation.
What tips for maintaining work/life balance would you give to other businesswomen? Create categories for your goals. Many people’s categories include love, health, creativity, work, family, friends, community, and religion or spirituality, but your own categories can be anything. (For example, though I sell my art to make money, I separate my creative goals from my income goals, because not all the art I create needs to be monetized.) Use whatever categories make sense for you. Plus, have your goals balanced in more than one area. For example, maybe you’ll want a health goal, an income goal, a personal development or spiritual goal, and a creative or intellectual goal. If you don’t balance your goals, you may overfocus on your career and let your relationships suffer.
What’s something you do every day to take care of yourself? I’ve noticed both long-term and short-term benefits from meditating. Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine in this 2014 study also concluded that “Mindfulness meditation programs had moderate evidence of improved anxiety.” When I meditate in the morning, I’m calm and focused the rest of the day, and it’s easier for me to concentrate during long stretches of working in the studio. Meditation has also helped me let go of negative thought patterns. This helps me quiet my inner critic while I’m painting or writing.
What is a quote you live by? “Remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art.” —Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
What investments have most helped your business grow? The best investments I make in my business is always to invest in my customers and in my prospective customers. For my existing customers, I invest in the best materials and software to to host online classes. To turn a one-time buyer or a looky-loo into a loyal patron, you need to stay in touch. For this purpose, there’s only one avenue better than email—and that’s the mailbox outside the front door. There’s no spam filter in a snail mailbox and getting a personalized message into the hands of a potential buyer for the cost of a postage stamp is a small price to pay.
If there’s an in-person component to your business, consider sending a handwritten note after meeting each new prospect. Sending invitations to your in-person events through physical mail is also effective. Since printing (and postage) is an investment, I’m more discriminating about who gets these invitations, and more aggressive about sending physical mail to people who have collected or commissioned art in the past. I also send physical cards to prospects who have recently signed up for my updates. Although I print these as affordable postcards, I spend the extra money to put them in an envelope to make sure they get opened rather than lost in the shuffle of junk mail.I’ve also used physical mail to engage my online clients and art students; sent “save the date” postcards to fill up webinars; and even turned sales pages for my online classes into printed booklets mailed to my hottest prospects.
The sales I made via direct physical mail more than paid for the cost of postage and printing, and my clients love the high-end touch. We get so little physical mail these days that artists who use the snail mail approach will stand out.
What is the number one piece of advice would you give to someone who wants to run a web-based business? Start building your email list and make sure you’re adding names to it on a consistent basis. Out of all the electronic marketing methods, email is the most reliable way for your messages to get through. The average open rate for emails hovers around 18 percent. That means 18 percent of your email list will see your message. Compare that to the less than 1 percent of your followers who see your posts on social media.
Your subscribers get to decide whether they’ll open your email. When you share a post on social media, it’s the social media app that decides whether to show your post to your followers. This is why when it comes to nurturing relationships, email remains king of the internet. In addition, I would argue that most people probably check their email inbox several times a day but take intermittent breaks from social media. (I know I do.) And even if they log on frequently, again, they’re only seeing what the algorithm feeds them when they refresh. I’ve deleted social media apps from my phone to improve my productivity, but of course I would never delete the email apps from my phone. Email feels manageable because when I open an email, there’s an end to it, whereas social media is an endless scroll of never-ending distractions. When your subscribers read your email, they, too, are inside a container that has fewer distractions than social media, and it allows them to decide to take action before bouncing to the next thing.
Miriam’s book, Artpreneur: The Step-by-Step Guide to Making a Sustainable Living from Your Creativity, is the definitive sales and marketing playbook for anyone looking to make a living from their art. Each page provides the inspiration and practical steps you need to build a personal brand, overcome starving-artist syndrome, and finally make consistent sales from your art. By combining left-brain traditional marketing methods with the tools you‘ll build a confident mindset, take charge of your destiny, and create a clear path for success. Purchase her book on Amazon.
Learn more about Miriam and her business by visiting https://www.schulmanart.com/ and by following her on YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. Listen to Miriam’s podcast on iTunes.