One of the biggest problems for artists trying to sell their work is staying organized so work (both creative and otherwise) goes smoothly. This issue comes up on a daily basis and is a constant battle when you don’t have strong systems in place.
Let’s first talk about how you can test these methods of organization to see which works.
Most of the time, we sign up for a new app we just discovered, use it for a few days (not completely following it all the time) and then dump it because it didn’t work.
The trick for testing systems is to use the system for a month. Yes, a whole month! That gives you enough time to not be perfect with it at the beginning and then to see how it works for you once you get really perfect at it. If you can’t make yourself get perfect at it in a month, then you know it’s not the right method for you.
If you are sticking to the system by the end of the month, you should look at whether you’ve been more productive or less stressed in the last two-ish weeks. Those are the two main reasons to put systems in place when you’re a one-person business (if you work with others, you have the added reason of smooth communication and seamless collaboration). If you haven’t been more productive or less stressed, the system probably isn’t working for you. But if it’s doing its job, then keep with it.
Make sure you re-evaluate your systems every year to give yourself the opportunity to change up organizational methods that are no longer working for you.
As you and your business grow and change, systems will stop working for you and you need to be able to realize that and adapt.
So give it your all for a month and when you do find the right system, don’t be afraid to give it up if it’s no longer working for you.
So what sorts of areas can you organize? And what tools are out there to organize those areas?
The most common areas for artists are productivity, inventory management, order management, and finances.
This is to-do lists and idea collection. Ways to keep on task and get more done and keep creating.
There are hundreds of great tools for productivity. A few of my favorites (free unless noted):
Wunderlist – a simple to-do list with categories, due dates, repeat functionality, and subtasks.
WorkFlowy – outline everything, but digitally so you can access it everywhere. Great for collecting your big ideas when you’re not ready to take action on them yet.
Evernote – as close to paper as you can get, but digital so you can access it everywhere and include links and photos.
The timer function on your phone – great for keeping yourself on task. Set it for 15 minutes and get through as many emails as possible until it goes off. Set it for an hour and write social media posts for the next month. Set it for 2 hours and get head-down focused on your newest piece of art.
I wrote a thorough post on inventory management previously, with lots of resources for keeping track of your art and the information that goes along with it (like price, size, where it has exhibited, who purchased it, etc.)
The simplest way to keep track of your in-process sales is with your payment processor. Whether your customers pay with PayPal, Stripe, or any other credit card processor, it’s a quick and easy way to see who has paid, what/when they bought, and their address. That makes sending them their art a lot easier.
But I also strongly recommend a white board in your studio for this. Make a simple table with the customer’s name, the title of the piece(s) they bought, the date they purchased, and shipping status. In the status column, you can write that you’re still finishing the piece (great for commissions), you’re packing the piece up, the date you sent it out, or anything else important. And when the package arrives, you can erase the order from your table.
You might also consider a system for keeping track of customers. If it’s not built into your inventory management system, you can use a CRM (customer relationship management) like Highrise, which actually allows you to create custom fields in addition to their standard fields and lets you take dated notes on each person so you can see when you last got in touch with them and what you talked about.
This is crucial. If you forgo all the other organizational systems for your art business, at least make sure you’ve got a system for tracking your financials – a better one than looking up the transactions in your online banking.
When tax time rolls around, you might find it more difficult to report your income and expenses when you have more sales or if you become an LLC or an S-Corp. At that point, you need to be able to quickly see transactions by category and your total income and total expenses.
Plus, you really want to be able to do the financial portion of your monthly reviews really easily. Instead of whipping out your calculator, you could just open up program that’s already done the work for you.
My favorites are Wave Accounting, Xero, and Mint, all of which connect to your bank account and/or PayPal to seamlessly track your financials for you. All you do is pop in once a week and categorize the transactions (takes less than 5 minutes unless you sell A LOT of pieces).
And the best part is that each of these tools has reporting features so you can look at cool things like whether you’re selling more large paintings in November/December than you do in the Spring or which customers have actually spent the most with you.
No matter what you make, getting organized is going to help you make more and sell more.
It frees up a lot of your time tracking down information and a lot of stress trying to remember things or find things. You’ll be more productive and have more peace-of-mind.
Right now, schedule a day next week to research your options for organizing the most overwhelming of the four areas I mentioned in this article. Pick a tool or method and start using it. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll find your perfect solution so you can bring more ease into your art business.