Meet the Mentor: Hillary Butler

This is part of an ongoing Maker Mentors guest blog series that features interviews with established makers.  Join the updates or recommend a maker for the blog.

What does your business do? I am an abstract artist- I sell originals and prints from my online shop and work out of my home studio.

When did you start your business? August 2011.

What kind of work were you doing before you started your business? I was a meandering soul for a while!  I started undergrad as an art major and finished with a degree in English and Art History.  I taught English for a semester and then started what I thought would be a temporary gig as an admin assistant at a tech firm.  I went back and got a graphic design degree and ended up doing executive assisting / marketing / design for the company for 5 years.  I couldn’t do the cube life anymore and was dying to get back in the studio, so I quit with absolutely no plan, and here we are!

What was the biggest challenge in getting started? No plan!  I had no idea what I was doing, but I was so determined to not go back to a 9-5 that I had to make it work.  I had to seek out a lot of self education on business planning, budgeting, art marketing strategies – you name it, but if I had known how wild this ride would have been, I may not have taken that huge leap of faith.


What product are you most proud of? I’m probably most proud of my process that I created to give customers a unique and breezy decision / buying experience.  I was seeing a lot of anxiety in purchasing art, so I used my design background to mock up artwork on a clients wall before they commit to purchasing.  It’s boosted sales a ton!

How did you find your first few customers? I think my first few clients were friends or friends of friends.  I started a blog and started putting work on Facebook and gradually orders started coming in.

What marketing tactics have been most successful for you? Social media for sure.  Instagram is super hot right now for art.  I’ve sold a lot through the ‘gram.  My email list has been really great- keeping former clients in the loop has been a great way to bring back repeat customers and build loyalty.

Who are three creatives that inspire you? Jen Gotch: founder of, she is hilarious and has built a huge business around not taking herself too seriously.  My business coach, Shanna Skidmore.  She has shown me I can dream and plan at the same time and both can lead to success without living like a crazy person.  She is my sensei!  My friend and artist, Beth Winterburn.  She is kicking booty raising 3 kids and growing her art career.  And she’s just a phenomenal friend and encourager.

What does a typical day look like for you? A walk is a must first thing with my dog, breakfast while I read my Bibleand then I usually make granola or prep for dinner; this time for myself allows me to be present in my work because I’ve filled the tank for the day.  I then hit emails for a few hours.  If it’s a paint day, I dive into mockups for clients or filling select-a-size orders.  Some days are admin days where I order supplies, take care of accounting, package and ship artwork, pay bills.  Other days are photographing new work and loading them to the site – that usually takes all day.  The really, really best days are time where I get to create new pieces for the shop and just play with paint.  That’s when the magic happens and the days that give me energy to keep doing what I do!

What is one thing you wish you knew before you started your business? IT TAKES TIME!  Oh, boy, did I wish I knew that going in.  I honestly thought that I’d post some artwork, people would come running, and that I’d be back to my former salary in 3 months.  Was I ever naive!!  It takes a long time to build a following and figure out what you’re doing.  The best advice I have ever received is to keep putting out good work- focus on the quality of your work and keep putting it out there and your audience will come!

You can follow Hillary’s work here: Website // Instagram // Pinterest // Facebook

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