Today is a day for celebration here at These Are Things. First of all, this week marks our fourth year in business for ourselves. Four years! It’s a milestone that feels particularly huge as we gear up for a year of fun projects, new challenges, and bigger adventures than ever.
By chance, our anniversary happens to coincide with another exciting event: the debut of a project that we’ve been quietly working on for the past six months. We can’t wait to share it with you next week!
Here’s a look back at where we were four years ago – and a peek at what’s coming next.
On a cold winter’s night
Four years ago, Omar and I were huddled inside, putting the finishing touches on a collaborative art piece that we’d been working on for weeks. It was a particularly cold Ohio winter, much like the one we’re having right now. With ten inches of snow on the ground, there wasn’t much to do except stay inside and make art. Fortunately for us, that’s just the way we liked it.
With brand new art degrees and great jobs in the design industry, we thought we had all the necessary ingredients for creative fulfillment. But something was missing.
After months of soul searching and late night talks, we finally figured it out. We didn’t want to be a pair of hired hands. We didn’t dream of making websites and commercials for the rest of our lives. We wanted to make our own art. We wanted to be creative according to our vision, not someone else’s.
We looked at the careers of successful independent artists in awe, feeling simultaneously inspired and intimidated. We were intrigued by their ability to make a living by creating whatever they wanted, yet mystified by how they had managed to pull it off. We knew we wanted to make a living with our creativity on our own terms, but we weren’t quite sure how to make it happen.
All we knew was that we loved making art together. So, during every free moment, that’s exactly what we did. We spent our nights and weekends working on personal projects, filling the gap between our less-than-inspiring day jobs and our creative passion. When we finished our masterpiece – a modern world map to help us track our travels – we decided to print a small run and share our work with the world. We threw together a quick one-page website with a PayPal button and hoped for the best.
“Who knows,” we shrugged. “Maybe we’ll sell a few.”
The surprise of a lifetime
Then, on an ordinary Wednesday morning, everything changed.
It started out like any other day. We dragged ourselves out of bed, scraped a sheet of ice from our windshields, and headed to work. Omar settled in for a long day at his design job while I went to teach a class of eager (and not-so-eager) art school freshmen about the beauty of typography.
An hour into my morning class, something strange happened. I was in the middle of a lecture when my phone started buzzing. And buzzing. And buzzing. When I checked my email, I discovered that we had been featured on a big design blog that morning. The maps were selling! And not just a few of them. We had sold all of the maps, and orders were continuing to pour in for hundreds more.
We didn’t know it at the time, but at that moment, our lives changed forever. We had discovered the power of creative freedom – and there was no turning back. Since that first sale, our business has grown far beyond our wildest dreams. We can hardly believe how far this journey has taken us.
Today, on the fourth anniversary of starting These Are Things, we want to share the gift of creative freedom with you.
Introducing a new project
When we started out on this journey, there was no roadmap – no proven method for making money with our art. Like many creative entrepreneurs, we’ve had to chart our own path along the way, learning how to run our business through trial and (lots of) error.
As These Are Things has grown, we’ve devoured stacks of business books, but none of them truly addressed the unique complexities of running an arts-based business. When our friend Chris Guillebeau reached out this past summer and asked if we’d be interested in contributing to his Unconventional Guides series, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to share what we’ve learned with aspiring creative entrepreneurs.
For the past six months, we’ve been quietly working on what is probably the biggest and most challenging undertaking of our journey thus far: writing the ultimate guide to starting your own creative business. By sharing the blueprint for success that has powered These Are Things – and the businesses of over 20 other successful independent artists – we hope to empower designers, crafters, and makers around the world to find their own creative freedom.
It’s called Designed to Sell: The Unconventional Guide to Creative Freedom. With Chris’ guidance and encouragement, we’ve developed a clear set of steps that you can use to start your own creative business today, from finding your big idea to making your first sale – and beyond.
This project was a labor of love. We started our first draft while we were in New York and completed it in the middle of our busiest holiday season ever. It’s the result of countless late nights, very patient mentors, and hours-long discussions about every single component of running a creative enterprise.
As we wrote this guide, we envisioned ourselves four years ago, sitting in our studio, wondering if the dream of creative freedom was within our reach. This is the guide we wish we’d had when we were starting out. We wrote it for ourselves, and we wrote it for you.
It was a tough process, but as soon as we saw the finished product, we knew that every single minute we had spent on this project was worth it. Why? Because after experiencing creative freedom for ourselves, we discovered a new dream: to see every artist, designer, and maker enjoy the life-changing benefits of creative freedom. We’re beyond excited to share this resource with the world – and hopefully see this dream come true for all of us.
Mark your calendars for February 11 at 11am EST (8am PST) when we’ll be revealing all the details about Designed to Sell. Until then, stop by Chris’ blog to get a sneak peek at this new resource and enter for a chance to win a copy for yourself. (We’re giving away a few of the maps that started it all, too.)
To everyone who’s followed along with our story over the past four years, please accept our heartfelt thanks. We couldn’t have done this without you! And to anyone who is reading this and dreaming of their own creative freedom, trust us: the dream is possible. We’re living proof.
J + O