“Working from home” by Francesco Ferraro

Managing Your Workflow as an Independent Artist

Anastasia Koutsogiannis September 21 2021


Organization is the key to success. Here’s how to take control of your career as an independent artist.

Like many things in the art world, being a freelancer has its pros and cons. On the one hand, you have to fend for yourself and grow your career on your own. On the other hand, no one can boss you around; you call all the shots!

That being said, all this control over your work life comes with a lot more responsibility. With commissions coming in, deadlines to be met, and collaborations to be explored, you’ll need to get organized. This can be especially difficult for student artists who have just graduated. Professors and projects are no longer there to frame your workflow. It’s your time to shine!

Being as busy as you are, you don’t need any more headaches. This article will offer some tips on managing your workflow as an independent artist.

Designate a workspace

Whether you have a home studio or you’re renting an art studio, it’s crucial to have a separate area to work in. Mixing your living environment with your creative space can be confusing. Because you don’t have a traditional 9-5 job, your brain needs to understand where you work and where you can relax.

If you were to keep your paintings in your bedroom for example, you may feel inclined to pick up your paintbrush when you should be unwinding. The same goes the other way; you may take a nap mid-productivity time. Put your tools as far away from your home-y rooms as you can. If you can’t afford an art studio, turn your garage, extra bedroom, office, or attic into a home workroom. You can also check out 6 Tips for Emerging Artists Looking to Create the Perfect Home Studio and Part 2 of Tips for the Perfect Home Studio as an Emerging Artist.

A designated workspace will boost your creativity, keep you in check, and promote organization. Imagine having an important contract sitting on your night table; just the sight of something like that could add stress when you’re trying to go to sleep. Not to mention the possibility of it getting tossed around and lost under a pile of clothes.

Create a routine

Many of the world’s greatest minds (Pablo Picasso and Maya Angelou to name a few) followed a daily routine. We’re creatures of habit; repetition, patterns, consistency, and discipline are things we instinctively crave. Yes, there are some people who work well with erratic schedules. However, they’re quite rare, and the ones that I’ve personally known ended up burning out.

As I mentioned earlier, you’re now your own boss; that means you set your shifts. Find out what works best for you and stick to it. If you know you’re most creative in the morning, start your work at 9AM, allow a few breaks and a lunch, and end your day around 3PM. Make art even if you’re feeling uninspired, or do something administrative at the very least. Treat this time with respect and don’t allow anyone to interrupt it; you’re working after all!

A fixed schedule will allow time for all aspects of your life. This way, you won’t have to compromise your work or your social life. If you were to work at random times during the day, you’d never know when you should make plans or have time to run errands. Make things easier for yourself!

Set deadlines

If you were once or still are an art student, you know how stressful deadlines can be. As awful as they can be, you can use them to your advantage. Working on a non-commissioned piece can go on forever. Knowing when to start or when to stop can be frustrating. If you’re heavily driven by your creative feelings, your work may never see completion. Every excuse in the book will come up.

Try to frame your production schedule with a deadline, even if it’s not mandatory. This will help you plan out your hours, schedule, and overall time management. Being self-employed requires holding yourself accountable.

Use physical reminders

As an artist, it’s very possible that you work and learn best with clear visual guidance. Sometimes, a digital calendar just won’t cut it, and you may not even want to open it at all. If this is the case, don’t be shy to get a bit obnoxious with your time management tools. Grab some colorful sticky notes and plaster them where you know you’ll see them. Get a huge calendar and put it up on your wall. Make sure your reminders are hard to miss!

Have a to-do list

I know, a to-do list is nothing new, but you’d be surprised by how underused they are. To-do lists can help you achieve attainable goals when working. Oftentimes, we tend to over anticipate what we should get done and end up feeling disappointed. Lay out your tasks in a way that makes sense with your schedule and overall workload. Your to-do list can be a daily, weekly, or even monthly; it’s up to you! Personally, daily to-do lists help me map out my day. It ensures that I prioritize and complete all of my small tasks, working toward a bigger picture. The sense of gratification when crossing something out is also a bonus.

In sum

Being an independent artist is very exciting, but a lot of work. Get creative with your time management tools; use what is helpful to you! Discovering your own flow will take some trial and error, but once you find it, it’s a wonderful feeling.

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wlande199925 replied 2 years, 4 months ago Practical art-education at it's finest. Wonderful article!