This post is written my Alice Whitfield from one of my favorite tools for artists – Artwork Archive.
Wondering why on earth you need to inventory your artwork on an online system when you have a trusty Excel document or notebook – or even why you should inventory your art at all?
You wouldn’t be the first.
Spreadsheets and notebooks seem like a comfortable, safe bet for inventorying. And even then you might think, “Eh, there’s no need to do that. I can remember most things.”
But inventorying your art is essential to a thriving business and to your reputation as a professional artist.
It comes with a ton of benefits and is so much more than storing information about your pieces. From informing your business strategy and impressing people who matter to increasing the value of your art (yes!) and actually freeing up more time for creating, it can be invaluable to your art career.
Now, you might be thinking it will be too complicated or, at the very least, cost an arm and a leg.
Thankfully, inventory software isn’t usually complicated and doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. My favorite (ok, I’m a teeny bit biased because it’s my job) is Artwork Archive. [I’m not biased and my favorite is Artwork Archive too! – Laura] It costs less than one fancy coffee a month, is quick and intuitive, and offers a plethora of perks. Here are a few ways it can help you create a flourishing art career and keep tear-out-your-hair moments to a minimum.
1. SPEND MORE TIME ON YOUR ARTWORK
You might be thinking, “But wait, won’t this add to my already heavy workload?” There will be an initial effort to upload your work into an inventory system, but after that it’s a breeze. Instead of wasting hour rifling through notebooks, searching your emails for receipts, clicking through your spreadsheets, and generally losing your mind… you can be in the studio creating art.
When a collector or gallerist asks for a certain detail, you’ll be able to find it at the drop of a hat. John Feustel created Artwork Archive for his mother, oil painter Cynthia Feustel, who made sure he built it to meet the specific needs and time constraints of artists. So it’s got all sorts of helpful features like storing high-resolution images of your art, keeping track of collectors and galleries, and even giving you a public page to share the pieces you choose with the world.
2. IMPRESS BUYERS AND GALLERISTS
Ever called up all your galleries to locate a certain piece? It’s so easy to lose track of your artwork without a proper tracking system. But, it can damage your reputation among galleries and will always mark you as disorganized – a huge problem for people who may want to work with you.
Invoicing on scratch paper or Post-it notes can put you in the same situation – yes, this does happen. Instead, you want to put your best invoice forward and not undermine the professionalism you’ve worked hard to build.
Most inventory tools allow you to create professional documents like polished inventory reports, portfolio pages, invoices, or consignment reports that you can easily shoot off to a gallerist or collector. And in Artwork Archive you can customize each report with the details you choose. Yes, it’s as snazzy as it sounds!
3. KEEP YOUR WORK SAFE
We’ve all been there. Someone bumps the table and your notebook becomes a puddle of orange juice. Or worse, your computer screen goes – and remains – blank.
If you only have one copy of your art business information, that’s it. It’s gone along with all the hours you spent inputting data. But with an internet-based tool, you can access it from any device.
The same goes if you have a natural disaster nightmare in your studio. While it’s devastating to lose artwork, you’ll at least have all the images of your pieces and their values at the ready for your insurance company to reimburse you.
4. INFORM YOUR BUSINESS STRATEGY
Ever thought about who your top clients are and which galleries are performing the best? Once you’ve organized with inventory software, you will start to see important patterns emerge. You’ll have access to at-a-glance insights too, so you can see information like how much you’re producing versus selling and how many pieces are at each location.
These insights can be presented in bar graphs and pie charts, making it easy to strategize for your art business. For instance, if you have $30,000 of unsold inventory from last month, you can use the next month to focus more on selling versus producing.
Or if all your galleries in the South are killing it, but those in the Pacific Northwest are lagging behind, you can quickly realize it and focus on getting more galleries in the South and checking in with the ones that are underperforming, potentially pulling your work.
5. INCREASE THE VALUE OF YOUR ART
Provenance can be a deciding factor when an art collector is choosing between two works. If your artwork comes complete with an exhibition and publication history, it’s going to be a lot more attractive to many collectors than a work without a story.
Track and record all showing and publication information and you will impress savvy collectors.
6. SHARE YOUR ART IN A FLASH
Gallery shows and art fairs can be excellent places to meet collectors who want to learn more about your art. When you have all your beautiful images and the details ready to go, you can share them on a phone or tablet – wherever, whenever.
So when a potential collector wants to know a certain piece’s showing history, price, or story, you can pull it right up instead of racking your brain for the info. And you can even show them similar pieces to the ones there with you and potentially sell work that isn’t even present!
7. PLAN FOR SUCCESS AND YOUR RETROSPECTIVE
While it may be tempting to think that you can keep track of everything in your head, things get a bit hazy when you’re planning your retrospective decades down the road.
It’s much easier to have all your artwork and the corresponding details catalogued safely in your inventory management system.
That way you’ll know the location of every piece and who purchased what – along with their contact information. And if you’re questioning if you’ll ever have a retrospective, I say plan for success!
Ready to take control of your career and ditch your notebooks?
You’ll never look back.
Instead of a frustrating drag, managing your art business will be a fast, easy – and dare we say enjoyable? – experience. Plus, it will impress the right people, increase the value of your art, and keep all your data safe and secure.
Alice Whitfield runs the blog at Artwork Archive where she writes about art business strategies and interviews art career experts. Her mission is to provide artists with the right resources for success, helping them stay organized, save time, and run their business with confidence. She also loves to figure skate and search for the perfect slice of chocolate cake. Alice has finagled a wham-o deal for you! On top of a free 30-day trial to play around and make sure Artwork Archive is the inventory tool that works best for you, you’ll also get a whopping 20% off your first year!