How I Became a Successful, Financially Independent Artist

My name is Lily Adele van Lennep. (@lilyadeleart)

And … I DID IT; I actually did it!! I became a successful, independent Artist running my own profitable business and if I can do it? I know you can too.

My younger self wouldn’t believe me if I told her now that I am an International selling Artist.

That I regularly collaborate with private individuals and world-renowned Interior Designers.

That I exhibited my work at Fortnum & Mason, a world famous quintessentially English department store. It's a monumental building in Piccadilly, London is a MUST VISIT if you are ever in town.

Or even that my Instagram account is now growing by the thousands.

How it all Started:

I spent the first half of my twenties in London, struggling with social anxiety and episodes of mild depression. I worked at a desk in an Interior design studio, which for a lot of people may be their dream job, but for me, I’d have little glimpses of my potential to do something else; to be something else. I just didn’t know how to set that free, and it crippled me.

I soon found myself in the hospital where I spent the next two months. It turned out that I had an undiagnosed illness called Hyper-parathyroidism. Symptoms include: anxiety, depression, calcified kidneys, delusions- the list goes on. Luckily they caught it relatively early, but I spent those two months in bed next to some terminally ill patients. This type of thing changes you. It shook me; it shook me so hard in fact that some buried gold coins of self-belief fell out. So I decided in that moment, I wouldn’t waste these precious last few coins and so I deposited them in my future to create, to add beauty to this world.

I quit my job and did the single most important thing that got me closer to my dreams - I just started. I remember feeling so incredibly overwhelmed by how insurmountable it all felt in the beginning.

I remember feeling so incredibly overwhelmed by how insurmountable it all felt in the beginning.

Here’s how I did it:

First, I moved back to my parents house in the countryside so I could spend the next 6 months building up a portfolio of work I was proud of.

I swapped a piece of artwork for a beautiful photoshoot because I couldn't afford to pay for one. The photographer and I curated the shoot so that the photographs showcased my work, but also looked as if we had shot them on loads of different days. This is so I could drip feed the content gradually after launch day - Oh the magic of a simple outfit change. 

I then staged a “white cube” gallery space at my parents office. They just so happened to be moving office locations so I jumped at the opportunity to use it for a pop up gallery.

Then, I invited anyone that could make it in the area and asked a photographer friend to snap everyone in the gallery looking at my work and boom - It was lift off time.

In my head it was just a celebratory launch party/ pretend gallery so I didn’t even think about selling anything and I certainly hadn’t rehearsed the money conversation. So when someone approached me asking how much a piece was - I didn’t know what to say. The buyer eventually said, ‘look we want to buy it, can you just email me the price?’ I leaped into an over enthusiastic hug that was completely inappropriate and one sided. Oops. 

I launched my new Instagram a couple of days later. I directed all of my friends and family over to my new account and just started drip feeding all of the content I had collected from my photoshoot and from the “exhibition” over the next few months.

My makeshift white gallery space and private view seemed to give me the “legit” status on social media, and soon the commissions came rolling in. So to anyone too scared to make a go of your dreams- my advice would be …. don’t be afraid to fake it till you make it ;).

Then it got more difficult:

All that aside I feel it would be disingenuous for me to say that my career took off in an instant and it was all plane sailing after that. You see, even though my body was better and I no longer had Hyperparathyroidism, my mind was not healed. I somehow managed to get my business afloat but I neglected the most integral part of success- having a healthy mind. This neglect snowballed significantly over the next couple of years until I found myself in the pit of a Major-Depressive episode. In those depths, everything felt insurmountable again.

I was not going to survive this episode if I didn’t do something about it … quick.

I got online therapy, I started meditating, journaling and I did a social media cleanse. I got rid of all the accounts that made me feel like I was not “enough”. I made a conscious effort to find inspirational, motivational accounts. Cue -  Girl’s Building Empires. Their posts started popping up in my feed and passed my inner-strength the microphone for once; releasing my relentless inner-critique from her “duties”.

Day by day, the grey fog of the depression lifted. I had energy once again, the simple magic of energy. I think the currency of energy becomes so precious to those who have been depressed. You cannot waste a drop, it becomes your lifeline.

I used this new-found energy to throw everything into my art. And when I saw Girls Building Empires were doing a course on how to grow your business on Instagram? Well to put it simply- I trusted them, and so I enrolled in the Empire Building Masterclass.

From branding, to your tone of voice, to tips on how to grow your account, the course really helped me fine tune my Instagram strategy. After crawling along for the last few years, they helped me grow from 7k to nearly 10k in the space of a couple months.. But most importantly it helped reconnect me to my “WHY”.

Since finding my purpose, I have found my happiness.

Where I am headed:

My dream is to significantly scale the “print” side of my business so that it will enable me to continue to grow my team of creative souls. I will be launching this in the next couple of months so… WATCH THIS SPACE. I dream of reaching the millions of people out there who struggle to believe in themselves. I want to make people realize that from day one – they already have what it takes, they just have to find a way to set it free.

I love what I do and I want others to love what they do too.

I did not achieve any of the above with shark-like sales moves, side-stepping short cuts or sneaky advertising tactics. I simply stayed connected to my most authentic self. I used instagram as my main platform and wrote captions that were relatable to my audience. I made sure everything I posted was of actual use to them. This made my posts shareable. Adding value is one of the most important lessons I learnt in the Masterclass.

Join my Community:

If you are reading this, and any of what I have said resonates with you. Come and join my wonderfully supportive community over @lilyadeleart. You will see the comments section are filled with people who have gone through similar things, and my captions always aim to share ways we can get that little bit closer to our dreams, and who knows you may even like my art too ☺.

If you have ever struggled or are currently struggling with your mental health; this last year has been exceptionally hard so give yourself permission to feel it all. Know you are not alone and most importantly – know you will feel the sunlight again. There is life light and hope waiting for you, so don’t give up.

Sending all my love, strength, self belief and support.


Lils x

@lilyadeleart

lilyadele.co.uk/

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