By J.J. Long
An Interesting Observation
I was at the dentist’s office getting a root canal the other day (oh joy!), and I couldn’t help but notice how organized and efficient my dentist was. As I sat in the chair for an hour and a half, all I could hear (other than the drilling and sucking noises), was my dentist telling his assistant what tools he needed next in order to get the job done. He’d rattle off the different names and sizes of the drills and tools that he needed and because the assistant already had these items laid out in front of her, she was ready in a moments notice to hand that specific instrument to my dentist.
They both were a well oiled machine and every second was used in optimum fashion. In that hour and a half, there was practically no down time and my dentist probably made roughly about $1,400. He was super swift and calculated and I’m sure his philosophy was “The sooner I can wrap up this patient, the sooner I can work on the next patient and make even more money”.
So why bring up the dentist? I think as artists, many of us lack the organizational component to how we run our businesses. Being organized as an artist can free up a lot of physical and mental clutter in our brains that will eventually lead to more money down the road. As a result we’ll have more time to work on our businesses and concentrate on generating revenue rather than scrambling to figure things out because we don’t have our systems in place.
I think many of us love the creation process and tend to lose ourselves in the moment with our art, but when it comes to having a clean studio or being able to “balance the books”, a lot of us lack that necessary habit. How many artists have you met where their studios look like a bomb went off and they can never find that color red that they’re always looking for? Or those artists that are super talented, but don’t have a website yet to showcase their work or if they do have a website, it looks like it’s riddled with cobwebs and hasn’t been updated since the 1980’s (insert Bon Jovi ballad song). Being disorganized costs us time, and although it might only be minutes here or there, it compounds over time and can eat into our potential profits if we don’t have the right habits in place.
5 Tips on How to Get Organized
1. Book shelves, containers, and hooks:
This probably sounds self explanatory, but no matter what your craft is if you’re a painter, a musician, a writer, etc., having bookshelves is a great way to organize your supplies and inventory. If you’re a painter, just having containers that separate your brushes, your paints, and your palette knives are a huge help. If you’re a musician, having your microphone or XLR cables cleanly wrapped up and hung on a wall hook can be freeing. If you’re a writer, obviously having all of your books and journals cleanly displayed on a bookcase can be beneficial. Having things neatly organized by size, style, and type can make things more reachable and easier to find.
(My shelving unit in my studio space)
2. Accounting Systems:
Having solid accounting systems in place is huge when it comes to bookkeeping. For business receipts, keep all of your receipts in an accordion style envelope organized by months. If that’s too much organization for you, then at least place your receipts in a singular place like a box and organize them at a later date. This is important if for some reason you get audited by the IRS down the road and need to furnish proof of your expenses.
Keep track of your income and expenses using online accounting software. For many years I used Excel spreadsheets to keep track of my income and expenses. If Excel works for you, then that’s great, keep up the great work and do what works best for you. Even if writing on napkins works for you and you commit to making it a habit, at least you have a system in place and this is great for starters. If you want an upgrade and want something that is a bit more easier to navigate and can generate a variety of reports, I highly recommend WAVE accounting software which is what I use for JJArtworks. With WAVE you can do things like create invoices, accept credit card payments from customers, connect your bank account to the software so you have seamless integration, etc. And did I mention that WAVE is completely free!
Keep track of your mileage. As a business owner you can claim your business miles traveled on your taxes. No matter if you run to Staples to get ink for your printer and the drive is only 2 miles from your house or if you perform a service at a clients house and they live 200 miles away in another state, it’s important to record all of your mileage. Remember to record both directions and remember to record even the low miles. All those miles will eventually add up and make sure to make it a daily or weekly habit. I currently use Excel to track all of my mileage, but they also make apps for your phone like MileIQ, Everlance, and Autotrip in the UK that you can purchase for a small fee.
Having good budgeting software is key as well. I use a company called YNAB (stands for You Need A Budget), to budget for both my business and personal expenses and it’s a great way to keep track of your cash flow. I plan on doing a whole Blog post or at least some tutorial videos about YNAB because honestly, it’s truly revolutionized the way I operate my business. It’s a software system that I use daily and it really gives me peace of mind in so many different ways.
3. Online Portfolio:
Not only do you need to be organized in the studio or office, but you need to be organized online as well. If you don’t already have an online portfolio, you really need to join the 21st century and get on the internet train! Having your own website and displaying your own products and services to the world is paramount for success. In addition to your own business website, you also need to be present on social media and interact with your customers and audience on an almost daily basis. If you’re new to social media, start with the major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Once you get organized with your online branding, then the next phase of organization is streamlining your posted content, but we’ll save marketing and content creation for another post. I just want to give you guys the basics for this post.
4. Calendar Systems:
Having both an online calendar system and a physical wall calendar system is important as well. If you’re an artist and you book a lot of art festivals per say, then having a calendar system is crucial so you don’t double book events and you can easily tell customers when you’re available for commissions and other art related projects. For an online calendar system, Gmail offers a free calendar system which is great. You can share internal calendars with other people in your organization and you can all edit and view these calendars. JJArtworks uses a company called Zoho for our calendar and emailing system. Use whatever company works best for you, there are a lot of free ones out there.
Also, having a traditional wall calendar is great as well. I’ve been using yearly “At-A-Glance” wet erase calendars for JJArtworks for at least 4 years now, and it’s honestly great being able to look at all 12 months at once. Being able to look at the year in this way makes it easier for me to set quarterly goals and stay on point with my numbers.
5. Accountability Partners:
After you’ve made the decision to get more organized, it really helps to have an accountability partner, or someone that can help you stay on track with your goal setting. Even just having a friend or family member give you a call once a week saying, “So how’s organizing the studio going?” or “Have you found a new calendar system for your business yet?” can really go a long way. Let your friend or family member know what your goals are to get more organized and give them a personal deadline to when you would ultimately like to be more organized by.
To Wrap Up
Organization is a beneficial ingredient in an artist’s tool kit. By organizing your work space, having your systems in place, and cleaning out the physical and mental clutter in your life, you’ll be saving lots of time down the road which will ultimately lead to more financial success in your business. By saving time, you’ll have more free time to create without unnecessary obstacles and focus your energy more on generating profit than searching for that darn red paint or lost microphone cable.
I know I left out plenty of other ways to get organized as an artist and I’d love to hear your ideas and personal experiences. To leave a comment, click on the blue "comments" link underneath the facebook and twitter buttons where you can leave a reply. Thanks for tuning in friends!
5/2/2018 11:27:44 am
Aww thanks a bunch. I'm glad it's an easy read for you and you found some nuggets of wisdom in there. I just really want to add value to the world through my writing and my experiences with the art world. Thanks for continuing to read the blog and I appreciate the comments. Keep em coming!
5/4/2018 08:49:45 pm
I need to get into the 21st century and work on MY art instead of everyone else's. Great read, brajah!
6/15/2021 11:59:56 am
I think having containers to separate brushes and paints is a great idea. That would help out a ton during painting parties. People could keep everything to themselves and they would all have the same tools needed.
1/10/2023 09:20:06 am
Being organized as an artist can free up a lot of physical and mental clutter in our brains that will eventually lead to more money down the road. I’m so thankful for your helpful post!
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J.J. Long is the founder and CEO of JJArtworks. J.J. has been professionally painting, singing, acting, writing, teaching, and doing voiceovers for over 13 years. The purpose of our blog is to help artists thrive in their own businesses by sharing valuable and sincere content.