Make It Up As You Go Along

I started teaching online classes in 2002 without ever having taken an online class or even knowing that anyone else was doing it. I delivered lessons via email manually (without autoresponders) and the discussions were on a Yahoo group.

I started selling e-books in 2003 – immediately upon hearing the word “e-book.” I believe I had purchased one e-book that was formatted poorly, but I still thought it was magical that I could instantly download all of that information in one document.

I started presenting workshops in 2003 without researching how other businesses were doing workshops. I created proposals and letters of agreement that outlined my fees and expenses and got hired immediately.

Dive In and Do the Work

You don’t have to have all the answers before beginning a project.

Whether it’s trying a new medium in the studio, writing a how-to book, or teaching a class, just dive in!

Don’t worry about how others do it. You will learn the ropes.

Yes, you’ll make mistakes, but you would have made those anyway. When I look back at those early efforts in my business, I cringe. I’ve learned so much between then and now and I wish I had do-overs. The content and formats were far from ideal! But I delivered affordable content to people who needed it.

These were necessary steps in the evolution of my business.

As long as you move forward with integrity and good intentions for your art and for you customers, you can be proud of your efforts.

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23 comments to Make It Up As You Go Along

  • This is great advice. I’m usually very methodical in all aspects of my life: art, work, decisions. I have found that when “I dive right in” I get better results from the spontinanity.

  • Thank you for encouraging what I used to consider one of my worst faults: diving in before proper research!! But what I came to learn about my work habits was that if I took too long to study the idea the big MO passed and I never persued the opportunity. I liked learning from my own mistakes and sometimes I discovered a way that was more fitting to me than the usually professed methods. Dive-in I say, if you are honest and humble and authentic then your viewers will appreciate and enjoy the effort…refine and define as you go along; don’t let the momentum get lost in the fear of doing it “right.” thanks for this validation Alyson!

    • Cindy: Glad this spoke to you. I do think you have to do some research and be smart about it. The most important thing is that you don’t hurt your reputation or anyone else.

  • thanks for the inspiration. i’m also a great believer in winging it. “ignorance is bliss” has its rewards. but sometimes i get scared. so hearing about your successes is very helpful.

    • Betty: It’s easy to get scared. Gremlins have very loud voices.

      And perhaps, too, we’re scared for a reason.

      Not everything we think of should be acted upon. Sometimes we have bad ideas. (Heaven forbid!) We need to be able to separate the good from the bad ideas somehow. Fear might be one way.

  • This is terrific advice. When I try to control everything in advance I make no progress. You just can’t control every aspect to perfection anyway, so you might as well go for it.
    Usually the most satisfying and successful experiences have a middle part where I think, “If I had known this was going to be so scary I would never have done it.” But it is always better to reach as far as possible.

  • Inspiring accomplishments and great advise! I am relaunching my art website in September with a new look and new services. I have found myself dragging my feet with uncertainty even though I am generally one to dive in. I find the internet a blessing and curse for my creative soul. If I need help I can find it, but I can also paralyze myself with too much information.
    Thanks for reminding me that there is no right way, or right time when the ideas are ready.

  • It’s so true that we can spend a ton of time, money and energy preparing and getting everything ‘right’. I’m like you – I get an idea and then I do it. I started teaching poetry in 1996 without having any formal education in poetry or teaching. I had a lot of enthusiasm and resources and the classes were great for people who wanted a safe environment in which to create.

    Thanks for this reminder to gather up our chutzpah and go for it!

  • Jessica Sanders

    Thank you for the encouragement. I have been considering teaching mosaic classes, but always felt I didn’t have enough experience.

  • I totally agree with you…just dive in and you will figure it out….I started taking art classes for kids because, their parents wanted me to…I had no plan what so ever and that was in 2007 in India…The same thing happened this year in the US when parents insisted I teach their kids…but this time around I am lot smarter, have a plan and a system that I use over and over again…I plan my lessons as it comes….did I mention parents are happy kids are happy and I know what I am doing.. ;)

  • Hi there Alyson,

    I found you through Mara Purl, and am so glad I did!

    If I didn’t dive in letting fear control my life, well I hate to think about the person I’d be…definitely a boring one without much depth!

    I am an artist and a mature student at 58 ,about to graduate in the coming Spring.

    I first became a mature student at 30 after loosing my husband at 27 in my last year of my BFA at NSCAD. I didn’t return to finish my degree after this life tragic loss and so took the geographical cure and moved, becoming a welder in the NWT.

    At 40 I quit my vocation and job as a Youth Care Worker and went to fulfill my child hood dream of wanting to ride horses, which I did for two years, and became a riding coach, but mostly got to hang with horses and learned everything there was to know about them.

    When I turned 50 I seriously took up middle eastern dance (belly dance) and even had the privilege of teaching of this empowering and wonderful art form to the local woman in my very small local community hall.

    Now as I am very soon to be approaching 60, I’ll be graduating, finally with my BFA at 59, just under the wire and ahead of schedule!

    I love, love, love your blog and have subscribed and am following along on the Twitter!
    I have been using blogger/blogspot for 3 and a half years. I like it, but am wondering if I should make the switcheroo and join WordPress instead. Any thoughts, or suggestions?

    Catherine

    • Catherine: Thank you for sharing your very personal story. I’m so happy that you found us here and that you’re living your dream.

      I can’t tell you to switch to WordPress, but I can tell you that your blog will never be the same when you do. There’s so much more you can do with a WP blog and many more plugins and options for WP users.

      Go for wordpress.org (residing on your own server) rather than wordpress.com as long as you’re making a big move. But, if you can, get someone knowledgeable to help you with the migration. You might be able to save your links if done by someone with know-how.

      Good luck!

      • Thank you Alyson for your kinds comment and reply.

        Yes well I have heard a lot of good things about WordPress. I know there is a way to migrate it, as WordPress makes that possible. I will figure it out! Thank you for the suggestion.

        Blessings,
        Catherine

  • Catherine, your story made me cry…(your ask:)My new WordPress blog has been getting tons of hits, I think it offers very readable templates…I didn’t take my Blogger blog down though- I just started from that present & am moving forward…Instead of moving old posts, you can start fresh…In terms of the subject at hand- I feel that often artists are this duality of over-thinking perfectionism which switches to completely flip blurting randomness, & would caution to try to reign both those extremes in to some more controlled bursts…

    • Thank you Sari for your comment.We all certainly have stories that touch other in some way.

      Alright well I am going to dive in to Word press and like you keep my old blog if I decide to migrate but I love the professional look of the WordPress. Thank you for the suggestion!
      Catherine

  • Keisha

    This is all so true. Sometimes you just over think things. I am all for diving in!!!

  • Hah, this is totally relevant to my Exhibition Proposal project from the Consipracy! I just have to dive in and work it out as I go. Thanks for the little kick in the pants.

  • Learn by doing, there’s no better way to work the bugs outs.