Now that you’ve had a chance to really think about the art product you’re making, we can start getting into the really nitty-gritty stuff. This is the stuff that will actually drive your business: its daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly activities.
Let’s start by looking at an average retail business — whether you yet realize it or not, you as an artist are in a retail business, being both the wholesale producer and the retailer (that is to say you take the materials, make a product, and sell the results). In a typical retail business, they get product in, stock the product, sell the product, make deposits, enter payables, print reports on inventory and sales, and prepare financial statements. Some of this I’ll get into more depth with as we move into bookkeeping for the artist, but right now you need to be aware that these tasks exist and they’ll need to be handled. So, let’s now apply this to your art business.
You make a piece. Boom, it’s done. You’re wholesale portion of the process is done and you’re ready for it to enter into the retail side so you can sell it. Well, there might be some production tasks you need to complete. For me, I keep my painting separate from my finishing production touches (FPT). I do this to save myself time — I can process several pieces though the FPT phase much more effectively than I can one at a time. For me, my FPT includes photographing, varnishing, cataloging, framing, wiring, preparing certificates of authenticity for ACEO’s, and putting the ACEO’s into the card protectors. It’s a combination of paperwork and tasks that I don’t consider part of the creating but still needs to be accomplished before I can sell a piece. Your FPT may differ. You should know what these remaining tasks are so you can best schedule your time. You might decide to do these tasks daily, weekly, or when you have enough to process.
Other tasks needing accomplished could be website updates, social marketing, online store listings, newsletters, client communications, or whatever assists your mode to sell your work. Then there’s the bookkeeping and reporting.
On a recent podcast from Dan Miller, he spoke about becoming a consultant and if the consultant worked 25 hours a week actually doing consulting, then the other 15 hours needed to be spent on the things that made the consultant’s business run — the bookkeeping, soliciting new prospects, and in essence, those daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. As an artist, your ratio is really no different even if the hours you put toward your art are. For my freelance artist readers, this also pertains to you. Replace “consultant” with “freelancer” and you get the idea. If you can only put 5 hours a week into your art, make sure 3 of it is in creating and 2 toward the other tasks to make your art business go. I know we all wish to put those 5 hours into creating, but if you want to have forward movement with your career, you have to remember to spend the time creating your business too. When I’m disappointed with how long it’s taking for success to be seen in my own art, I remember that I am growing my career. It takes time to sow the planted seeds. I am creating my garden. I see the fruits and flowers coming, I know someday I’ll walk in the beauty of what I’ve created, but in the meanwhile I have to remember to water, weed, and all the other tedious tasks I don’t necessarily enjoy so that someday I’ll have it all.
Start making a list of the tasks your art and business need to grow, even the ones you don’t like but know you have to do. Decide how much time you have and make sure you decide how to do these task (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually). Maybe as you start to break this out, you’ll see that you can delegate some of these items. If bookkeeping doesn’t thrill you, for example, find someone who does enjoy it — go back to my blogs on Doing What You Love. Yes, you may have to pay for these services, but you can also write off the expense and free up more time to create. Once you know what you have to do, you can start processes to ease you through your list. One task can flow into another. It also makes it easy to hand the chore off to someone else if you know your step by step through the task. This is what success businesses do. For more ideas in this regard, check out The E-Myth series by Michael Gerber.
The next step is a doozy. It’s so simple it’s hard. After you know what tasks you have, do them.