Professional GROWTH: a wee story & art

I’m feeling better each day, y’all. I’m volunteering weekly at a local elementary school, I’m working a part-time job;  I’m exercising and reconnecting with friends and family members, and I’m feeling confident as a mom again.

And, of course, I’ve been painting.

With my creative process ever evolving, well… I’ve had to learn more about how to run the business end of things more effectively. I figured out how to create invoices and take payment PayPal.

And then I realized I have issues.

Not long ago, an enthusiastic buyer sent me dozens of messages via Facebook, email and text message. I thought we’d finalized things so I got to work; apparently – she sent me a Tweet requesting that I revise a few things. Needless to say, I never saw it, so I didn’t make the piece the client wanted. After this snafu, I realized that corresponding on so many platforms didn’t do me any favors. Now, I only communicate via email, and I make sure to confirm orders with people before I start any work.

GROW is a 4×4 canvas featuring acrylic paint, texturizing medium & buttons. Just $20. Interested? Type SOLD in the comments or email me at
GROW is a 4×4 canvas featuring acrylic paint, texturizing medium & buttons. Just $20. Interested? Type SOLD in the comments or email me at

Another one of my issues involves asking for money.

I feel uncomfortable every single time I ask for payment.

Every. Single. Time.

Until recently, most of my orders came from people with whom I’m friends with on Facebook. It felt weird to ask friends for money. I thought people were just being nice by buying my little canvases. I felt unworthy of being paid for something that I was dabbling in as a hobby. And then I opened my Etsy shop and the orders started flooding in. That’s when a friend told me she was concerned I was undervaluing my work.

“Just because you make small paintings doesn’t mean they’re worth small dollars.”

I squirmed around with that for a while.

Me? Charge more? What if no one wants my paintings anymore? That will be so embarrassing. And how do I change prices. And won’t people be mad if they’ve already bought a 4×4 canvas and now I’m asking more?

I have a tendency to be a people pleaser, which is to say that historically, I’d go to great lengths to make else comfortable, to my own detriment.

I’m done with that.

So here’s the deal: effective immediately, I take cash or payment via PayPal. (No more personal checks.) I won’t start work on anyone’s canvas until I’ve received payment. If payment is not received within 48 hours of placing your order, that order will be canceled. Starting in the new year, 4×4 canvases are $25, plus shipping and handling (if applicable). Oh, and I’m not delivering canvases anymore. Folks have to pick them up or I’ll pop them in the mail (for an extra $5.95).

These are my policies. (There are a few others, but you get the idea.) As my friend reminded me, policies establish boundaries for acceptable behavior and guidelines for best practices in certain situations. They offer clear communication to buyers as to what they can expect from me, the seller, and also how I expect them to act.

Still, I can’t help feeling like my policies sound rigid and kinda bitchy.

Professional growth for me is learning that it’s okay to create boundaries, to say yes or no to something and then stick with that decision. It’s believing my work has value, that I’m good at what I do, and that I have a right to request payment.

To that end, the 4×4 canvas above – GROW – is yours for $20. Because it’s still 2014. Interested? Write SOLD in the comments or email me at

Do my policies sound reasonable? And what are doing to promote your personal or professional growth?

tweet me @rasjacobson

25 thoughts on “Professional GROWTH: a wee story & art

    1. Tracie: I don’t know how you do it. Maybe it’s because you always set strong rules in school, but I find it really difficult to stick to my own rules! i guess I operated better when the rules were “absolute” – you know, they came from the top down regarding what I could wear and how I could act in the classroom. Now that I’m trying to create my own rules, I’m finding the path to be much more confusing than i’d previously thought. In any case, I’m glad my rules don’t sound bitchy. That’s my own issues, right?

  1. You have issues!!!!? SAY IT ISN’T SO!!! 😉

    Renee, in business you must look after #1 while doing your best for “customer satisfaction & service” for the repeat business. The latter is much easier when you’re passionate about your work, service, product — and obviously you got that!

    Hey…’re doing just great woman! Let it fly Girl!!!

    1. Oh Professor! You always make me laugh. I just read your fabulous long email … and I accidentally deleted it. Me and my chubby fingers! Can I just say I’m glad to know you’re still dancing! I’m definitely having a bit of an adjustment taking care of #1. I’ve never thought about myself in that capacity before. Being a teacher is a full-time caregiver gig, so I always had to put my needs second. And then I did it again when I had my son. In business…well…I’m finally learning that those policies are to save me a hassle later! I just had an uncomfortable situation come up today and it’s 100% because I didn’t follow through on my policy of collecting money at the start of a custom job. Of course, now that the piece is done, the person has changed her mind! Sooooo frustrating, but i only have myself to blame, right? Apparently sticking to my own rules is harder than I think!

      1. Alright Happy-Fingers 00-14 (vs. 007)…I’ll resend the project email again if you want. In fact, I can send several copies to a few different email addy’s just to be safe from your finger-caniptions. 😉

        Teacher selflessness? Know exactly what you mean. Refine it but don’t ever repress it. Got it!?

        1. That’s such a good point: refine don’t repress. Lord, where were you my whole life? I am just learning all this stuff now! I guess that’s why you’re the professor! And if it isn’t too much trouble, this naughty retired teacher would LOVE to have the opportunity to correspond to your email more fully, so yes please… resend. 🙂

  2. Yes, your policies are perfectly reasonable! My friend owns an art gallery, and she has very similar policies in place. They give your customers structure and set expectations for both of you! To promote my professional growth, I’m now looking for full-time work in the writing field. Our daughter is almost finished with high school (we homeschool) so it’s time. And I’m ready! Keep painting!!

    1. Hi D: I know my policies are similar to those of others,, they just sound … I dunno…mean or something. That’s my own issue. Glad to hear you’re working on being gainfully employed for all this writing that you do. I’m doing that too! Congratulations on your daughter (almost) finishing high school. That is truly an accomplishment!

  3. Your policies are perfect. It’s not like you’re asking anyone to pay you personally, with a cashier’s check, while dressed in chiffon and doing the Hokey Pokey. You’re asking for standard stuff!!

    This is a hard thing for a lot of people. My dad made custom wood furniture for about 20 years. The first 15 years it was a side job. The last 5 it was his entire livelihood. He could get away with undervaluing his work those first 15 years but not those last 5. He never took the risk to raise his prices, and it was part of why he had to go get a regular job again.

    1. Hi Jim: Thanks for your vote of confidence. So interesting about your dad. I think for lots of “crafty people,” we like to give our things away. It feels strange to change.

      And yet.

      If a person went to a store to find a similar piece of furniture, people would have expected to pay, right?

      I’m learning that the things I do actually have worth, and I’m trying to believe that I’m worth it. Thanks for sharing your story with me.

  4. Renee, Your new policies make perfect sense. The problem we artists have is that we can’t believe we can get paid AND love our work. On top of that others also don’t think we should get paid for something we enjoy, nor for something they believe is easy for us to do. We may have an aptitude for music, visual arts, poetry, dance, drama, but to be good requires work and discipline…which others do not see. Would a cabinet maker give his/her work away just because they enjoy working with wood? Should an obstetrician not charge for delivering babies because they love assisting women in childbirth? It is so unfair to expect artists of any discipline to be wishy-washy and poor business people. Artists are self-employed and need to take care of business because no one else will do it for them.

    What am I doing to grow, personally and/or professionally? I continue singing, pushing myself to stretch as a musician by playing instrumental music and subbing for a K-2 music teacher friend who recently had a baby. Gives me a chance to observe children learning music within the context of Common Core…

  5. You have to have firm policies if it’s a business. And I think you probably know yourself better now than you ever have in your life, which is a good thing. Know yourself, and be true to yourself. Part of being true to yourself is setting boundaries to protect yourself against being taken advantage of. As Nike says, just do it.

  6. Totally normal and fair to have policies! Nobody would go into a store and pay whenever they felt like it. So impressed with the direction you’ve taken this business in such a short time. Your passions shows!

  7. Renée,

    Let me tell you about selling a short story. I was over the moon when they said they were going to take it. After all, it was my first sale.

    A couple of weeks later I get the contract…

    I spent a lot of time selling into the Fortune 500. I know a bit about contracts. This one had some oddities to it. Everyone else signed it. I questioned it.

    Turned out that the editor loved my questions, and re-wrote the contract.

    Point being, you have to look out for yourself. This was something I had problems with too. My parents grew up in the Great Depression, when any job, no matter how bad, was considered a good job. That’s what they taught me, and that’s what I believed for years. I never pushed for a raise, I was taught that you got a raise if you proved to the boss that you were worth it.

    It was a long time before I was able to work past that, at least partially. I’m still not really good at doing things for me.

    But hey, I’m getting better. So I know where you are coming from. Setting rules just isn’t something you are good at. But the rules you’ve set sound good to me.


  8. I just have to say that I’m happy you are volunteering, painting and feeling more confident! Miss talking to you, but am smiling knowing the sun is shining a bit brighter for you these days!

    1. Thanks Naomi. Yes, I’m just starting to get back into the swing of things. I have to be careful. It’s my nature to take on much too much too fast. It’s okay to leave one day to relax or work out or meet friends. That’s important, too.

    1. Thanks Val. I know rules are necessary to make our lives less complicated, so we don’t have to ask or answer the same questions over and over agin… but I guess I worry finding myself in that one situation that my policies don’t cover. I guess that’s when people have to take things on an individual basis, eh?

  9. Hola, Amiga! I have been taking a bit of a blogging rest and thought I would come out of hiding and check on my peeps. 🙂 First of all, congrats on getting that part time job you were hoping to get!

    I am also happy to hear that you are navigating through the maze and feeling stronger. As to your boundaries and business guidelines, they are absolutely right on! People want to do business with someone who has respect for themselves and who values their worth. You are that person! 🙂 xoxo

    1. Hi Maria! I was just thinking of you. I hope you are feeling well. I know the gloomy winter days are upon us, and I hope you are finding ways to occupy yourself. Thank you for your kind words and the affirmation that my policies are spot on. I actually feel much ore confident hearing that other people found them completely reasonable. So thanks for the feedback. Let’s catch up on the phone again soon. xo

  10. I understand completely! I hate asking anyone for money. I’m horrible at soliciting donations for charities, and I’d be awful at telemarketing. I’ve also recently started my own business, and although what I’m selling is not my own creation, I still find it difficult to basically be asking people to buy stuff so that I can earn money. And I spend way too much of my own time trying to help my customers get the most bang for their buck. Twice now I’ve had customers place their orders and choose the wrong type of shipping (directly to them, instead of the host of the party they are buying through). I’ve caught it and then had to contact them, explain they are paying $10 too much, get their order canceled, create the new order, this time correctly, etc. I’m still working on my professional growth – I need to feel much more comfortable offering my business opportunity to others!

    1. Hi Faith! Congratulations on trying something new in your life. I have been going thru very much the same things you are describing. Taking on a new business venture can definitely be daunting, and I admire you for taking on second job.

      I think women, in general, have a hard time asking for money. We aren’t socialized to be demanding in that area. Historically, we’re supposed to rely on the men in our lives to take care of us, which is silly! I think for myself, I feel like people must think, “Oh, her husband makes all the money in the family. Isn’t it cute that she’s making a little ‘pin-money’ to spend.” Um hello, no. I’m really trying to create a business out of my art and my writing. I wonder if you assume something similar, like: “Oh, she’s probably doing this for fun, not the money.” I’m sure you are enjoying the social part of your new business, but I’m also guessing you’d like to make money, too – yes?

      It’s all a learning curve, right? Thanks for chiming in.

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