4 Semi-Unrelated Business Lessons

Here are four semi-unrelated business lessons I either learned or shared last week. I hope they help you with your art business.

1. Capture it. Write it down.

My housekeeper was overwhelmed with all she had to do following her father’s passing. The coach in me kicked in: “If you don’t mind my asking, do you write things down?”
“I never write anything down,” she admitted.
That’s why she was so overwhelmed! All of her To-Dos were floating around in her head. She had no peace because they were constantly nagging at her.

photo of cat and computer
Frida makes herself comfortable on top of my daily task list.

Writing things down gets them out of your head. It helps you stop worrying about what you need to do because you see it all on paper. The list rarely appears as overwhelming as it seemed in your head. It’s manageable.

2. Figure out how you work best.

When a client and I are figuring out the best way to accomplish something, I’ll ask: Is this a task you’d do in one sitting or would you prefer to chunk it down into smaller segments?
You have to know how you work best and work with that tendency, not against it.
For brainless activities like updating a mailing list, I like small chunks of time. I can’t imagine spending 2 hours doing data entries.
But when I need to focus and think clearly, I work well with big chunks of time. I close down email and social media, develop a rhythm, and avoid distractions. Most of my writing projects require this type of scheduling and planning.
I write my newsletter best in several sittings. I need about an hour and a half to write a draft, but I won’t be satisfied with it in a single sitting. It will need two more pass-throughs before going to my proofreader.
I’ve learned that I need to approach my time working on big projects with a sense of purpose. I work best when I say to myself, “I am now going to write the first draft of my newsletter. I will do other things on my list later.”

3. Practice.

Last week I held my first webinar (see below). I was a little nervous because I had attended some pretty lame webinars.
There always seems to be a tech issue at the beginning of a webinar and the slides are often horrible. I wanted mine to be visually interesting and engaging.
I’m very happy with my first webinar, but only because I practiced. I conducted about five run-throughs of my slides – carefully honing my words each time.
Whether it’s language for talking with people about your art or a cold-call pitch, practicing gives you the confidence to complete the task to your standards.

4. Line up your team.

I couldn’t have pulled off a successful webinar about entrepreneurial artists without the help of two of my team members.
One person was assigned to answer any email questions before, during and after the webinar. Her attention needed to stay focused on her inbox.
Another person uploaded a new website page while the webinar was in session, which I directed people to at the end of the webinar.
Their help allowed me to stay focused on my guests’ experience.
You need people on your team – paid or volunteer – to help you succeed. That’s one of the hallmarks of an entrepreneur that I talk about in the webinar replay you see above.
What business lessons have you been learning lately?

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7 thoughts on “4 Semi-Unrelated Business Lessons”

  1. These are great suggestions. Honestly, I am a list-maker, so I literally cannot function without tons of lists. It’s too hard to keep track of all of those little things I wanted to do/need to do without them. What took me to a better level of functionality–and made it easier to really focus on actually WORKING when I needed to work, was using the iCal on my Mac. I’m great at making lists, but actually setting a time to DO some of the things on my list (the items that perpetually became categorized in my head as “oh, I can do that later…”) was necessary to get things done. Once I committed a chunk of time to it, I was more likely to do it. Sometimes things get shuffled to another time or another day, but it’s easier to see that I need to do them, and how long they should take (so why keep putting them off?). By visually setting aside a time to work, I’m more likely to sit down and work, too. As much as I love to create, sometimes I need a kick in the pants, so to speak, to get started. Seeing that my time is scheduled out, that’s the kick I need.

  2. I really enjoyed and appreciated your story and your video about 4 semi-unrelated business things.
    I read that you suggested we post a guest blog, but I cannot find WHERE on this site to do that.
    A LITTLE ABOUT ME: I am an award winning artist, printmaker, inventor (EMBOSSITS™ – which won PRODUCT OF THE YEAR with Dick Blick Company, Galesburg, IL in l992 – which honored me by creating an embossed looking cover for their almost 500 page full color catalog) art publisher and wanna be author with a BFA degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. (67 applied and 3 were accepted for this degree.) I also use multiple mediums and sculpt, paint, draw, etc.) I have had a solo museum exhibit at the Joslyn Museum, and they have one of my award winning white on white cut and layered prints in their collection. The animal prints I created and published received “MUSEUM ACCREDITATION” and the Denver Art Museum sold them, as well as 56 other museums and places where art prints were sold. My work is in at least 8 other countries and I have lovely memories of many of my clients over the years. In all, I have approximately 30,000 prints and originals on planet earth that I created or help create and I say my legacy is “Littering the planet with beauty!”
    I have one foot in the fine art world and the other in the commercial art world. I do a lot of commission work and make that known wherever I am, Starbucks, at the grocery check out line, Panera’s, the golf course, car wash, etc. Somehow, that got around and Citi Corp contacted me to do a commemorative for a small city in which I was residing. To make it easy for them to hire me, I agreed for a reasonable fee TO GIVE THEM THE FIRST OF AN EDITION OF 25 + 3 Artists Proofs that would be elegant, but simple, and easy to do white on white hand embossed prints that would fit beautifully onto a 22″ x 30″ 100% rag paper. (I always reserve copyright ownership with rare exceptions.)
    When I finished my rendering, I attended the local Chamber of Commerce meetings to announce the project and share the news of this upcoming event. I also contacted the local paper that did an article using the black and white rendering I had made. (It would have been difficult to show the white on white image). I had an attorney draw up a simple, few paragraphs contract, got it signed, received the initial payment for the first print BEFORE it was produced and used that money to fund the project. Then I drove around town, enjoying photographing landmarks. I then selected those which I felt would make an artistically pleasing design and created a full sized black ink rendering. My design also included special events the town hosted, like the hot air balloon festival, etc. After completing the design, I had a metal plate created by a local company, then hired a strong young man to do the hand embossing. He earned a substantial amount of money in 2 days for hand embossing the 28 prints. I then destroyed the plate. THEN…. IN THREE DAYS I SOLD EVERY ONE of the prints (except the one I still have) and netted approximately $6,000!!! Not bad for 3 days work and a lot of fun!
    I am thinking about making this into a part of my normal business offering.
    P. S. Please “edit” at will. Warmest regards, Catherine Newhart

  3. The good thing about making a list other than instant benefits of crossing things out as you complete each task is that it can be reused on monthly, quarterly or semi annual basis. It takes a bit of effort to do it at first but so is everything else in life to become a Successful Artist. Every minute detail helps in creating a huge picture and our “Brand” as an Artist. It is funny when people use the term “An Over-Night Success” for an Artist. They cannot fathom the amount of discipline and dedication it takes to be a Successful Artist/Musician/Sculptor/Writer. There is no such thing as clocking in and clocking out in our line of business. It is a 24/7 without any holidays and vacations.

  4. Thanks Alyson,
    I am reminded of a quote that goes something like “There is no mind stronger than pen put to paper”.
    Lists are essential. Once it’s on paper, you can quit using energy trying to remember a chore and get on to something really great – like creating new artwork!

  5. Yes! These are great ideas! I discovered GTD and David Allen’s book after one of your tweets, Alyson. Apparently I live under a rock!
    I have been using his system for about 3 weeks now. I am not using it perfectly yet, but I have noticed my stress level is lessened and I am not constantly going over the huge to do list in my head. I highly recommend it for art entrepreneurs. Thanks!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Sara: I had the pleasure of hearing David Allen speak earlier this year. He’s a hero of mine, for sure – even if I can’t seem to grasp GTD in it’s complete brilliance.

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