How a Decorative Painter Built a Business (Part 2)

by Carolyn Edlund

In Part 2 of her interview, San Francisco decorative painter Debra Disman discusses time management and marketing for her successful business, and how emerging artists can use these techniques to enhance their careers.


Striped interior wall


AS:  Marketing is important for artists, and your website gives a great presentation, including video. What recommendations do you have for other artists looking to publicize themselves?

DD: I see marketing as a three-fold process:

– face-to-face/in-person experiences: joining and meeting with business groups and individuals

-“behind the scenes” actions such as mailings, phone calls, and emails

– consistent online activities to create a presence, such as maintaining a website and blog, sending out an email newsletter, and participating in social networking

Not everyone loves to write, join groups, or present online, but the act of connecting with others can yield unexpected gold. All the teaching and exhibition experience in the world did not cause me to grow in the way that participating in BNI for two years did, because I had to return to the Chapter each week, and present my business and my art in front of a group, and define in words what I was doing.

Through Twitter, I connected with the master decorative painter Lyna Farkus, co-host, with the creative entrepreneur extraordinaire Rebecca Parsons of the blog radio show “Artistically Speaking Radio” an interview program spotlighting artists and the creatively self-employed. Because of my connection with Lyna, I was interviewed on the show. It was not only an honor, but a real joy to share with these amazing women and their listeners about some of the things we care about most – offering information to support others.

Having a video on your site can be very helpful to present and share about what you do. Engaging in the educational, marketing, and networking activities I have described may lead you to the perfect videographer to showcase your work.

Whether you are making a web site or a video to present your work, blogging, crafting an “infomercial” or an “elevator” pitch, tweeting, posting or updating, you are using these forums to share what you do, and inspire others to become interested in your work and ultimately to buy it. A salient way to do this is to communicate the value of what you do to others. This can be achieved in multiple ways for the greatest impact.

Equally important is to give back, whether it is through contributing time or consultation to a worthy cause, mentoring other artists and those new to your field or donating your skills, tools or equipment to create something.

AS:  Time management is a challenge in your busy career. How do you plan and organize to get the most out of each business day? What are some of the tools you use?

DD: Many of my time management and organizational tools are deceptively simple:

  • One of my tools is the humble analogue notebook. I use it to prioritize tasks, peruse websites and communications, track progress, make comments and evaluate where I am at any given time.
  • Sometimes saying no can be as important as saying yes. Say no to perfectionism and overworking.  Don’t continue to pound on a problem – instead, of take a break from it.  Walk away, and get some exercise and refreshment. Getting “away” helps to free up the mind for solutions.
  • When overwhelmed with the challenge at hand, I try to break it down into manageable steps.  I focus on each individual step without worrying about the outcome. Then I set a specific amount of time to deal with a task.
  • I have a plan for each day, but the plan needs to be loose enough to allow me to respond to an unexpected client calling about a project, a moment of creative inspiration or a surprise email. To remain focused, yet flexible is a supreme art form and one that requires constant practice.
  • I am a big fan of identifying and doing things that bring you back to your central joy and passion about your work and about what compelled you to follow this path in the first place, which remind you why you love to do what you do, even with all of the struggles, frustrations and sacrifices.


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  1. […] Institute was kind enough to interview me about how I built my decorative painting business.  The interview was done in two parts, and forms a “document” that can be shared with others, offering […]

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