Organizing your Information
A business won't run without some organization. At least it won't be as efficient as it could. But you don't have to be running your own business to need to stay organized, and for artists, this cannot be truer. For us, we are always creating, then moving on and creating something else. If we don't stay on top of it, we will forget about all the other hundreds of things we have made before this. Then when it comes time to apply to a show, or you're looking for an image of that old piece, you can't find it anywhere.
It doesn't have to be complicated. I am going to go over a simple spreadsheet with just column headings that you should include to get the necessary information recorded and be able to find it quickly. Here is the list of columns I use:
1. Title. For me, this is often just a number that then the SKU reflects. There are both up and downsides to using numbers. I can never remember which piece is which number so I have to open up the inventory every time to check. On the other hand, with names, they will not be in as short or easy to recognize.
2. Picture. In my inventory, I include a picture of the piece right in the cell of the spreadsheet. That way I know exactly which piece that number belongs to. Plus, I am a visual person, so it is easier for me to quickly look down and see the image and what information goes along with it.
3. Date. This should be the date it was completed. I also have columns for the date it was put up for sale, and sold.
4. Dimensions. Height x length x depth.
5. Medium/materials. Include specifics if you can, like the brand. It is better to have too much information than too little later on.
6. The number of units. If necessary. For me, this would include digital prints or the number of a printmaking edition.
7. Description. If necessary.
8. Location. Is it sold? In storage? In a show?
9. Production cost. What did all the materials cost? How much time did it take? How much do you want to be paid for your time?
10. Sale Price. I will have a whole separate blog post about pricing art. This can be super tricky and is different for everyone. Art is subjective after all.
11. Framed. Or ready for hanging/display. Yes or no? How much did that cost?
12. Sale information. Who was it sold to? Contact information.
13. Notes. Lost, needs to be photographed, or do you need to work on it more?
That should be all you need to generally start out. This is just one of my sheets. I also have a price chart, finance sheet, and order inventory with more specifics on costs and discounts that is connected to a chart to track growth.
This might not be perfect for you, though. Feel free to play around and make your own. But here are the elements that make a great organized spreadsheet:
1. Find a format that works for you.
It might seem like every template would work, but it still has to feel right to you. For me, it has to be visually appealing, as well as being organized and super efficient. For example, I like numbers (macs version of excel) better than excel just because it has white space around it instead of being one giant sheet if you want to make multiple tables. But, with a little tweaking in excel, you can do the same thing and still be able to make charts across multiple tables. It all depends on what you need it to do, and what you are used to. Don't underestimate experience. They don't work exactly the same.
2. Track information that makes sense.
Make sure it is in an order that allows you to find information quickly. Maybe the pieces go across and the details go down, or vice versa, maybe the photograph location is first while the year it was created is last. It has to flow for you.
3. Use the right elements.
It has to have everything you will need. If you think of something else you want later it's not the end of the world, but it will seem like a daunting amount of work to get your sheet updated. More information is better than too little. As you grow, you might need to highlight or track other information as well.
4. Use multiple tables for multiple things.
For example, I have a table for the pieces, one for current inventory, one for orders, prices, monthly finances, yearly finances, goals, etc. figure out what exactly you need to record. And how many tables/graphs it will take. Does it work better for you if it is on the same sheet or a different one for each topic? It is all up to you.
5. Use graphics.
Sometimes with all the information, we are accumulating, that's the only way to really see it clearly, especially with finances and tracking growth. Utilize charts to easily see updates.
6. Photograph your images.
This isn't directly part of the sheet, but in order to stay organized and on top of the work, you should photograph it as soon as possible, and organize the images immediately. I will have a separate blog soon about how to document your work. If you are really on top of it, it would be beneficial to photograph in progress shots as you are working as well.
7. Break up the tasks.
When you first start it's going to be overwhelming. Take some time and just do a little a day and before you know it it will all be organized and ready to go.
8. Update immediately.
After you finish each piece, make a new column of it right away and fill out all of the information while it is right in front of you. Staying on top of inputting the data will ensure you're not overwhelmed when you suddenly realize you have 25 new pieces to put in. Create a regular system and habit and you won't even notice it's happening. Some parts of the sheet can also have formulas that update themselves. I definitely suggest doing this as much as possible.
9. Edit it as you go.
Update the location of things as they move. You might not think it's relevant without a large amount of product, but with time, you will be glad you have it all organized, especially if you suddenly need to find an old piece.
10. Save it in two places.
This might become quite a comprehensive document. Invest in a flash drive, external hard drive put it in the cloud, whatever, but if your computer breaks, you are not going to want to have to redo all that work. Yikes.
Before you know it you'll be a master organizer! Or maybe not, but you will be able to get information easier and to take advantage or any opportunity that comes your way. Happy spreadsheeting!
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Owner and Founder, kfons