WSU fine arts alumnus Iris Scott, 34, makes her living finger painting. That might sound like nice work if someone else is paying your bills, but the Brooklyn artist—known for her impressionistic paintings of the natural world in psychedelic colors—is fully self-supporting. She broke $500,000 in revenue last year and will exceed $1 million this year, she says.
Thanks to her artistic talent, entrepreneurial spirit and creative use of social media to market her work, Scott is among a fast-growing group of self-employed professionals who are building annual revenue in solo businesses and partnerships to $ 1 million or more. The number of nonemployer firms—meaning those staffed only by the owners—that generate $1 million to $2.49 million in revenue rose to 36,161 in 2016, up 1.6 percent from 35,584 in 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That number is up 35.2% from 26,744 in 2011.
It’s not easy to make a great living off of creative work. So how has Scott managed to make a great living from her art while creating work that has gotten her represented in galleries and covered in publications such as American Art Collector?
She has designed her career on her own terms by putting in the time and effort make the most of her talents on a daily basis, assessing and acting upon the opportunities in front of her in real-time, having the courage to ditch the unwritten rules of the art world and its gatekeepers when they didn’t make sense to her, developing ongoing, two-way communication with her customers—and responding to followers’ suggestions. Here is some detail on the strategies she used, which will be relevant to owners of many types of ultra-lean businesses.