Danessa Mayo is a visual artist who uses her background in Studio Art and Clinical Psychology to propel her work. Danessa pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Cognitive Sciences and a minor in Studio Art at the University of California, Irvine in 2009, and completed her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology at Loma Linda University in 2015. Together, her areas of expertise create a collaborative conversation between the process of art making and the healing arts. She currently lives and works in Northern California.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
I was inspired to start my own business after going through some rough patches at work. I was a postdoctoral scholar in a university setting and was struggling to figure out my next career move. I no longer felt fulfilled in my job role or inspired by the type of work that I was doing.
I’ve always been a creative person and have attempted to bridge both my interests in psychology and art, but I had never shared my artwork in a professional manner. Out of my personal frustrations and struggles with my professional career, I was motivated to prove to myself that I was capable of taking charge of my life, become my own boss, and do what I love.
Tell us about your business.
I run an online fine art store and sell my original artworks and prints. I sell acrylic and watercolor paintings with the overarching theme of mindfulness, emotional healing, and cultivating a more conscious lifestyle. My paintings explore the relationship between individuals and their lived experiences.
I am inspired by the impact of love, sorrow, nurture, and trauma on the human being. For this reason, my work alludes to complex mixtures of effaced, decayed, and yet strikingly vibrant surfaces. I paint with the intention to assert that people are infinitely enhanced by what they have witnessed and learned to overcome.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
Always! Right now, sign up for a free art calendar from me each month via my website: www.danessa-art.com. I also run several art giveaways throughout the year with each milestone reached in my business. You can follow me on social media (Instagram/FB/Twitter: @danessamayo) and stay in the loop on my latest art giveaways and discounts throughout the year.
- This past holiday season, I was selected as part of the #ShopWithHer campaign by Spotlight Girls HQ. It was such a tremendous honor to be one of the 180 female-owned small businesses selected in the US!
- I’m also a part of the Art With Impact organization as a Volunteer Grant Writer.
- Aside from my art, I am a licensed clinical psychologist in California.
Where is your business based?
My business is currently based in Sacramento, California. I am also in the San Francisco Bay area.
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
To start with, I had to figure out how to run an online art store—from marketing my art in social media, increasing interest in my work, and gathering followers and subscribers. I made my own business cards, created a website from scratch displaying my work, read up on a lot of business marketing tips for creative entrepreneurs, and listened to podcasts about being a creative entrepreneur.
I also had to figure out packaging, shipping, and the printing shops I wanted to collaborate with to get my products to my clients. Lastly, I invested in a cloud accounting program to keep track of my expenses and profits.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
Facebook and Instagram ads is my main way of increasing my brand awareness and gaining new clients. Word of mouth is very powerful, especially when you are starting up your mailing list. I’ve also utilized Mailchimp newsletter emails and ads to attract new customers with freebies and giveaways.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
So far, one of the biggest challenges for my art business has been making balancing the expenses for my art store and art-making with my profits. However, I do understand that in a small business, the profits are not as apparent until after a few years later.
I am confident that as I keep going, the business profits will steady itself and it can be a reliable side stream of income. Other challenges that I’ve had to work around have also been related to balancing my online art store with my day job as a clinical psychologist.
How did you overcome these challenges?
So far, I’ve learned that perspective-taking is an important coping strategy as a creative individual and choosing to be in the entrepreneurial field. Now, I see my art business with a long-term game plan in mind.
Thinking about it in long-term versus short-term gains has helped me see the big picture and why it is worth investing more on the business marketing and brand awareness side at this point in time. Creating a manageable monthly budget for the marketing, supplies, and other expenses definitely helps keep me organized and feel in charge of my business.
To help manage my work-life balance with my day job and creative art business, I have devoted specific parts of my week to accomplish my tasks on each area. I also utilize a lot of scheduler applications for social media (Instagram, WordPress, and Facebook), digital marketing assistant (Kit), calendar alerts, Gmail suite, and a graphic design app to manage my brand (Adobe Spark). Pre-planning my posts have made the biggest difference, and it has made my one-woman show doable!
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
It’s funny because what inspired me to get started with my art business was a feeling of defeat and disappointment in my previous career situation. Now that I am running my own art business, I do still experience difficult times when I worry if this is a worthy cause or if I am good enough to do this.
I think it is fortunate that I have a day job that can financially sustain me so that I am not reliant on my art sales to pay my bills. However, I look back at my journal entries prior to my big idea taking place and I am effectively reminded of my goals and why I started in the first place.
And sure enough, it’s whenever I am on the verge of “quitting” that I get a random message from a new client for a new art commission or a big art purchase has been made.
How do you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
I think that my artwork and art-making is unique from other artists because of my background and training in both clinical psychology and studio art. I have learned how to use my knowledge and experience from both to be able to create something that taps into ideas of emotional health and wellness, healing, self-reflection, and infuse color, aesthetics, and form to make something meaningful that represents myself and/or my clients.
What is the best advice you have received recently?
In his book Real Artists Don’t Starve, Jeff Goins said, “make money to make more art.” This has opened my eyes to a different way of thinking about my art-making and business. I think this is an effective way of looking at revenue and profits. With more money, it should be used to continue to fund my art-making process.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Invest in a cloud accounting software early in your business to keep track of everything!
You get what you pay for. Choose wisely and pick mindfully where and when to scrimp and save, and when you should be opting for the quality products. This will go a long way for you and your brand.
Start before you think you are ready. You will always have more to learn and the learning never ends, especially when you are in business. You don’t need another degree, certificate, etc. before you can feel “legitimate” in an area. Just get started and commit to following your goals.
What are your favorite business tools/resources and why?
I adore the Being Boss podcast! They have the best and most helpful resources for all creative solopreneurs like me and I enjoy hearing their interviews of other creatives and how they got their businesses up and running.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I highly recommend Jeff Goins’ Real Artists Don’t Starve. It has made me rethink the whole “starving artist” mentality in which artists are expected to suffer for their work to be appreciated. Instead, Goins stated that we should strive to be the “thriving artist” of our contemporary society.
A book I am currently reading is Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness. My interest in this book inherently lies in the idea that our physical surroundings shape our emotional states and the homes we create and furnish for ourselves are a deep reflection of our values, ideals, and what we strive to be.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
As an outgoing introvert, I find it hard to get in front of the camera and talk to my audience. I am looking to work on this in the upcoming year because I am interested in creating tutorial videos on how to paint and draw.
Currently, I am learning from other social media video bloggers and how they present themselves on camera and am taking notes on how to engage my audience. So if anyone has any additional resources on this, I would gladly appreciate it!
What are your goals for the next few months and how are you striving to achieve them?
Reach 1k+ followers on both Facebook and Instagram: FB and Instagram ads have been key to my growth. Sharing valuable content such as other site posts, writing regular blog posts about my work process, and giving others a bigger window into my creative life is my current mission.
Increase my mailing list: Continue to have art giveaways such as free calendars, prizes for reaching milestones has been helpful.
Balance my profits and earnings with my expenses: Keeping better track of my expenses with a cloud accounting software has been a game-changer! Don’t leave home without it!
Continue to show my work in art galleries and shows: I sign up for Call for Art Entries all the time and am now looking to show more regularly in the SF Bay Area.
Have a steady wait list for my art commissions throughout the year: I’m currently on track in filling out at least one art commission a month. FB ads have been very helpful!
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.