At IPaintMyMind, we’ve worked with hundreds of artists over the years from coast to coast, and it’s always interesting to see how folks work. Most of us want to get more organized in some aspect of our lives, but as artists and creators, it’s especially important that we work smart, understand our own energy, and implement strategies to ensure there is a method to the madness.
This sounds basic but you’d be amazed how many people, let alone artists are basically winging it when it comes to their time. Maybe the calendar app is installed but you don’t like it and haven’t found a new solution, or maybe you just love to rage against the machine. Despite your rebellion, knowing what’s happening next in your work day is the best way to be fully prepared and invested in the work you’re about to do.
Plus, getting places on time is actually one of the cool aspects of being an adult in business. Do it.
We all have energy spikes and lulls, times when we feel most creative, ready to think big, and make. It’s super important that you figure out when you’re raring to go so you can embrace that and really crank work out when you’re feeling potent, thoughtful, reflective, or ready to turn an idea into reality.
Daniel Pink talks about ‘chronotypes’ in his book, WHEN: The Science of Perfect Timing, basically saying that we all fall into one of three categories, and that understanding which chronotype we are can really help us get the most out of the times when our brain is on fire.
Speaking from experience, I can’t tell you how helpful Trello has been to getting my work organized. As an artist, there are tons of min-actions, getting supplies, preparing workspaces, etc. Being able to keep track of where projects are in their own timeline, and what stage of production it’s in can really help give you the feeling that it’s all moving along. It also helps make it abundantly clear when action is needed now, for example if you’re about to miss a deadline for a client because it was written down as opposed to tracked anywhere!
You can open Instagram and get image-y with it once the work is done. Even setting your phone down in another room helps the ADD of the modern age not seep into your beautiful, creative brain. Router filters and web blockers can help, there are a few apps that do the trick nicely.
Again, another one that sounds basic but can really make energy lag & keep you in a whackamole headspace. Instead of bopping from one thing to another with caffeine and sugar fueling the fury, have a huge mason jar of water filled all the time and be sure to sit down & have a banana from time to time. While you certainly need to embrace the times when inspiration hits, re-energizing by stepping back and having a healthy meal is so necessary to being your best.
This is especially important for artists that are beginning to work with more clients & repeat processes. Sure, you know how you do whatever the task is, but ideally, you’ll be getting help on the stuff that is necessary to the business but that you’re not that good at or don’t want to do. The other thing about documenting these processes is that it’s like a notebook that takes stock of where you’re at at any point in time. By the way, SOP’s = Standard Operating Procedures.
Simply seeing processes on paper allows you to think about how to make them better, and when you do hire someone to be part of your team, you’ll need a simple, concise, clear way to explain how you make your art and how your business operations function. They’ll thank you.
The really cool part about getting to a place where you have a few bucks or hours to accomodate a part-time employee or intern, is that you can start building yourself out of entire operations. Emails to clients? Commission inquires via your website? Posting on Instagram? Submitting proposals?
There’s a lot to do as a working artists other than make the art, and once you’ve got working SOP’s, there are plenty of creative young people who would love to learn something and either intern or make a few dollars being part of a local artists’ business.
This is especially important for artists just beginning to make money selling their work. Sure it might be on-the-side at first, but knowing what you’re investing in your art and understanding what margins look like after you’ve begin to conduct business operations is all part of figuring out if this is going to work for you. At IPMM, we use QB, but there are plenty of good options.
For artists who work digitally, there are so many great online platforms for selling your art these days. Whether Society6 or Etsy, or the many others that are springing up left and right, if you’re down with people buying open edition prints of your work, you might as well post that work and make it available on as many of those sites as possible. Obviously, if you’re hoping to place your work in fine art galleries, the calculus is different, but in that case, you’re certainly going to ant to develop a solid content strategy that is putting your work in front of people.
No matter what we do, it’s so imperative that we set time aside to work on how we work. It sounds funny, but the concept is simple. We need to jump off the hamster wheel. We need to stop doing for a few minutes so we can think, analyze, test, and iterate. I suggest that all artists reserve 10-20% of the time they spend on their art for learning, improving, or optimizing some aspect of what they do. This way you’re always feeding the need to keep moving and learning, while also staying agile in your ability to change your artistic business to work better for you and your life.
Whether tools, apps, mental approaches or merely making sure to drink some water, your art needs to be supported with a level of organization that frees your creative mind to do its thing.
Social media alerts, be damned.
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