ARTIST INSIGHT | Work Balance & Selling Art Online

Ele Willoughby from the Toronto Etsy Team shares creative online business techniques for artists and how to balance two careers.

TOP 5 TIPS | Creative Business, Logistics of Balancing Two Different Careers. 

1. Simplify your Workflow. For instance, I have everything I need to ship prints ready to go including on-line resources like Canada Post's price estimator or the USPS zip code finder, customs forms, standard messages for customers or galleries, and packaging for efficient use in the evening or early morning prior to work. I bring packages to work and mail them on my lunch hour.

2. Stay on Top of Communications. Keep separate email accounts, but check them both regularly and respond to messages within a maximum of 48 hours.  Archive everything. Use tools which allow you to access information (previous email, inventory, whatever you need) online from anywhere, at any time.

3. Sketchbook and Notebooks as Logbook. As a scientist, my lab book is my security blanket. I write down everything, every day. Everything from the details of experiments, to people's contact information, to calendars and schedules, to shopping lists for supplies. Nothing is too trivial to record. I know if I need information I can find it in my lab book. I use my sketchbook the same way. It contains sketches as well as lists of ideas, reminders to buy supplies, deadlines, and my print inventory information. I also carry small notebooks, so that when I have an artistic idea at work, I can make a note of it. Record keeping may be dull, and may not be a use of your time which satisfies the creative urge, but it makes running a creative business possible. Incorporating the record-keeping into your artistic practice can make this seamless.

4. Do Bookkeeping As You Go. You'll be thankful come tax time. Also, sometimes, if you license artwork, you may find licensees need friendly reminders.

5. Enjoy it. Hopefully you have two careers because you want to, and enjoy both. Not everyone has that luxury, but even if you do something other than art strictly out of financial necessity, having two jobs allows you to think about two different (perhaps very different) things. Focusing on the issues of one can free up your subconscious to work away at any problems in the other. If you you get stuck doing one thing, you can switch to something other for a while. This can be very satisfying and a good way of avoid getting into a rut, or being frustrated. It's also important to know when you have too much on your plate and how to say no. If I have to do fieldwork, I suspend art sales for the duration. I can neither ship artwork, nor attempt to draw on a moving boat at sea. Conversely, I would only take on a major time investment in my art business, like participating in the One of A Kind show, if I could take the time off work I would need. 

BIO | Ele Willoughby - Since earning her PhD in geophysics in 2003, modern Renaissance woman Ele Willoughby has worked as a scientist in academia and government while simultaneously building her printmaking portfolio and growing her online art business: things from secret minouette places.  Subjects from the history of science, natural history and interactive art, incorporating  colour-changing or electrically conductive inks and electronics, straddle the art/science divide. Captain of the 800+ member  Toronto Etsy Street Team, she also teaches an online ‘Etsy Seller Newbie Bootcamp’.

Ele Presented at Making A Living, Making Art: Creative Business and Social Media Strategies for Artists in partnership with Neighbourhood Arts Network and in partnership with Lakeshore Arts on Wednesday June 18th, 2014.