Balancing Studio Time with Business Time (Curious Monday)

Know that you are not alone in wanting to know the answer to this question.

Tami Bone photograph of woman holding terrarium
©Tami Bone, Terrarium. Photograph. Used with permission.

It's asked of me so often that I thought I'd throw it out to you.

Loyal reader Tami Bone put it this way …

How do other artists juggle or balance studio time with time to focus on marketing and business?  

I find the switching back and forth to be difficult, and it seems I need full days to focus on one or the other. 

So, what say you?

How do you find the balance? How do you divide your time between business and making art?

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63 thoughts on “Balancing Studio Time with Business Time (Curious Monday)”

  1. I have an assistant who I have trained to do a lot of marketing for me.
    Since she works at my computer, it “forces” me to stop marketing and start creating during that time… of course sometimes I use that time to take care of the rest of my life but having an assistant saves me energy.

    1. I’m with you Miriam. I recently took on an assistant to help with the inputting and paperwork, so I can concentrate on being in the workshop. It doesn’t always work that way, but we’re getting there.

    2. Still desperately seeking this elusive “balance”! At the moment it comes at the expense of sleep–too many all nighters this year… Looking for that magic wand….

  2. Michelle Arnold Paine

    When the baby sitter comes I paint – but one session every two weeks I go to the library and write/update website etc —

  3. As an artist balancing studio time with time to focus on marketing has to be planned into my week. So, I set aside specific times during the week to focus on marketing of my art

    I even go deeper than that. I focus on the specifics of marketing for Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and my Blogging. The key for me is to know WHO I am marketing too and what social media to use for each marketing morsel. Each social media has a specific purpose for us as artists.

    Then I can enjoy my Studio time with the music turned up high!!

  4. I think it’s imperative that I create a schedule in which to do my marketing. I have a full time job, so evenings are it for me – and it’s very often taken up with other areas of my life…health issues, family vacations, preparing for upcoming art fairs. I’m finding if I don’t actually schedule marketing time it will not get done. I always have my camera on me, so the art is constantly being produced, but it won’t reach many of people if I don’t make marketing a priority.

  5. I need to devote a day to either painting or marketing. I keep track of my time for each activity. I find it difficult to switch from one to the other in a day. I usually do marketing on Monday. I have energy and focus for that kind of work.

  6. Marketing is, as a rule, my break from painting. As it happens, I totally enjoy marketing so it makes a great break. And because of my physical disability I often have to leave off painting to allow the paint to dry because otherwise I unintentionally mess things up so it works out perfectly.

    I have set up for myself ready-to-go Tweets and posts – hundreds of them. I don’t have access to Instagram, etc. where I live, nor, with my hands the way they are, would they be particularly practical for me. If I’m inspired to make a new post or have new art up, I copy the post and add it to my list of post-able items which are arranged by subject, alphabetically. I keep track – just under each post – of the date and time of posting so that I get good overall coverage.

    I’m good with discipline and organization and whatnot but not too hard on myself when, if I’m on the road or something, I don’t get to post. I figure I’m in people’s faces so much on most days that some time off will be refreshing for all of us,

  7. Such smart comments here! I make a schedule that I permit myself to deviate from. I cannot be too flexible, since I gravitate toward admin tasks even though I enjoy artmaking more. Why? I’m still brain-wired to get my homework done before I allow myself enjoyment! I’m almost 50! So I schedule time-chunks for maker time & biz, & mostly follow it while honoring my moods, circumstances, & aptitudes.

    My schedule is like tent poles: they make a wonderful structure when assembled correctly, but they’re very flexible.

  8. I know my most productive time of the day for me is the morning so try to keep the morning to painting and afternoon and evening for marketing, social media, etc. Starting my day with marketing, etc just lead me into a black hole without getting any painting done. When gallery owner Jason Horejs said a productivity coach advised him not to check his email until 2 p.m. It made me re-think my time on social media!

  9. I’m not on a strict or structured timeline to split business and art production as they are so intertwined most of the time and one fuels the other.

    I paint every day, no matter what, so art production is built into me and becomes some of my marketing ploy too. I get cranky if I can’t paint. 🙂 I usually find that I end up painting in the late afternoon and at night. Its a run over from when I worked in a day job and had to work on art at night or weekends and its difficult to break from that routine. But if I have a show or exhibit, I pull out the stops and paint to meet that deadline.

    I deal with marketing as the need arises. I know what I need to market and to who. Reaching the “who” and engaging them is always the challenging part. I am proactive in keeping social media, blog, newsletter and real connections live and fed. I work on financials, administration and emails on a daily basis, usually mornings or late night. If I keep on top of it daily then it doesn’t ever become overwhelming and I always know exactly the state of the business.

  10. This is very helpful to read others’ comments. Thank you for asking Alyson! For over a year now, Monday through Friday, my routine has been to make art in the first half of my day because that’s when I have the most physical and creative energy. Next I have a quick lunch and then work on all art business type things including marketing in the afternoon. The evenings are for house, family things although there are always times where this plan gets flip flopped for various reasons. It seems that my marketing is the last thing I get to if at all. I am still trying to work it all out after 14 years. I would also like to add in exercise, meditation and more fun with family and friends! Most of the time I am like Jeanette J. and if I have a deadline, everything else suffers and I paint like a crazy woman. In addition to keeping up with Alyson’s blog, I’ve been listening to marketing podcasts while I paint. Hopefully I can implement some of what I am learning soon!

    1. I agree with the others, don’t let it put you off. I have done three markets and the takings have dropped each time, it is all about picking the right one. I have found a really good way to pic the right one is to buddy up with someone selling work of a similar quality and they can hoelpufly tell you of the good ones.

  11. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, studio time. Tuesday, Thursday, chores, art marketing, playing (if there is time). Saturday – open for ‘just in case’ and Sunday is for chilling and letting ideas flow in. It doesn’t always work, but I remind myself and others this is my work schedule otherwise I don’t get anything done!

  12. My balance changes with necessities of caregiving and the limits of exhaustion (due to same). It’s actually working out fairly well, all things considered. Certain tasks are set to follow one after the other (snap a photo share to Instagram and facebook). Others are more standalone (go into the studio and make art). Some days I do one or the other. Some days, both. Almost every day, now I do something that can be considered marketing even if it’s only to write in my editorial calendar for a few minutes. Writing is easy and doesn’t need to always take a lot of time.

  13. Art almost always gets first billing. Marketing and business get fit in between times in the studio. I try to be pretty consistent about it but if I have a choice, and I usually do, I’ll head to the studio and create. I usually take a break sometime in the early afternoon and post to Instagram (Facebook and Twitter) every day though.

  14. Since I have two all-day art shows every weekend, I’ve made Monday a ‘business’ day. Fresh from the weekend shows, I inventory cards, prints, etc. that were sold & need to be replaced, add names of people who want to be on my list, send out announcements of upcoming exhibits, announce new paintings, etc. Tuesdays & either Wednesday or Thursday (my “weekend”) I paint. Fridays I attend a life drawing workshop in the morning & use the rest of the day to prepare for my weekend art shows. So far it’s working better than anything else I’ve tried and I’m always trying to fine-tune it.

    1. Linda,

      I am interested in your idea of week-end art shows. Could you talk a bit more about that? How do you do that? Do you have the shows in your studio or another venue? Or are you on an art fair circuit?

    2. Thanks Alyson. This schedule works the best of any I’ve tried.
      The weekend shows aren’t festivals or art fairs. I am part of a small art group (12) that shows (“Art on the Beach”) on the promenade at Avila Beach (California central coast). We contract with the city & harbor patrol for use of the space every Saturday from the beginning of June until the end of October each year. We show/sell fine art paintings only, plus art prints, notecards made from our own original art.
      On Sundays, I have my art on exhibit & for purchase at the Kelsey See Canyon winery. I started there as part of the “Roll Out the Barrels” activities and now I’m there every Sunday. They have live music on weekends and it’s a beautiful setting with peacocks roaming. In addition to the regular weekend shows I do a few yearly festivals.

  15. Actually I don’t think I do this very well at all, but what I have found helpful is to use a matrix that I created that assigns marketing/business tasks to every day of the week. I look at that, do what I am supposed to do on that day, and then forget about it. It keeps me from thinking about the marketing and business stuff all of the time! I do the matrix stuff BEFORE I do studio stuff…so it’s not weighing on me. Ha!

  16. I am usually pretty organized and used to following a schedule, but for the last 8 weeks, I just can’t seem to get into the studio regularly and when I do, I am not happy with the results. It is actually easier for me to be at my computer (years of being there, I guess).

    I am giving myself a break since in these weeks I developed my mailing list, created and launched my website, learned how to use Facebook and Instagram, and created wearable art online from my designs. That last item was a lot of fun and stoked the creative fire.

    But, frankly, it’s summer now and all I really want to do is nap under a fan and read (thank you for the last blog question…now I have an even longer reading list).

  17. I am a portraitist so marketing is concentrated on local events and I have a flurry of work when opportunities arise.
    I do general office work like accounts every Sunday. Other business like emailing is done in the mornings. I like to get all that out of the way so I can concentrate on art for the rest of the afternoon.
    My schedule is art in the afternoons 1 to 5 in my studio every day. I can’t do much internet marketing with people’s portraits so I have been doing pen and ink drawings that I can promote and I do my blog, Google+, SAA, Facebook and Pinterest every time I finish a drawing. I find Pinterest is best for me as I am getting a few followers on that. I tried Instagram but it didn’t suit my style.
    I used to do portraits in the studio in the afternoon and pen and inks at night on the kitchen table, but I rescued a cat who sits on anything I try to do, so I am rethinking that and am in the process of setting up a standing easel to do small pastels in the living room.

    1. Jennifer,

      If you are going to do small pastels in your living room, you might like to try PanPastels. They are much less messy than traditional pastels. I use them exclusively after decades of using traditional pastels partly for that reason.

  18. Lynne Reichhart

    I typically do my marketing right after breakfast – the problem is tearing myself away to get to my art. I am always so excited to share something new with my peeps! Right now I am in marketing mode since I am getting items packaged and labeled to take to a new venue. I am in several brick and mortar venues and keeping things fresh is a job in itself. I need to get back to art mode soon since without new art there is nothing to market 🙂

  19. Usually painting is given to the daytime hours and marketing to night when the light is gone. I also work on marketing tasks like writing blog posts or newsletters whenever I’m in a situation where I have to sit and wait. All the daily duties of care, household, couple time, painting and marketing just don’t fit into a day. I’ve had to accept that things I want to accomplish are going to take longer than I would hope. So far, scheduling tasks hasn’t worked very well for me since something is always coming up that can’t be put off. I still think I’d benefit from planning tasks out, so I haven’t given up trying.

  20. It’s definitely hard trying to find the balance, and trying to decide which sites are worth the effort. I also have a day job which makes it difficult. I’m losing alot of faith in Facebook as a valuable network for marketing. I purchased an ad for my biz page, & didn’t come close to the results as far as the “quality” of likes for the post I boosted.

    I’m back to using Hootsuite for scheduled posts, but still trying to find good times to post that get the result I’m looking for. I’ve used alot of the times that are suggested for “best” times to post as well.

  21. Corinne McNamara

    I’ve had to work around my teaching job. Every assignment generates 40-60 hours worth of paper-grading time and my students have 5 papers per semester (3 x 15 wks/year). Business plans are in the back of my mind, but balancing art-making, business, and teaching is difficult. I post some art on my Facebook page and participate in a local art show, but it’s been inconsistent.

  22. My studio is 45 mins from my home so I get up at 7, and while waiting for rush hour traffic to pass I do the SM part of the day. First I check emails and respond/delete. Then I check facebook. I don’t use facebook for personal use, my interaction is all with artists, collectors and curators. I scan for new venues to show work, openings I want to go to and people who are moving around in the business. And I try not to get sucked in to the otter videos. I then check in with Instagram, see who and what is getting traction. I also post whatever I was working on the day before, or anything finished, any new exhibitions etc. If I have anything to add to my website I take a little time to do that too. After all that Im usually ready to hit the road to go paint. At the end of the day I photograph whatever I worked on so I have something to post the next morning. I also send out a newsletter once or twice a month as news develops. All that said, I am not seeing a ROI on my time on line. I have made two sales directly related to newsletter posts, so of all, that effort has been the most fruitful. The idea that really working social media will result in lots more sales has not been borne out by my experience, lotsa lotsa likes and hearts, few sales. Would like to hear how people use these tools to actually sell their artwork.

    1. Sarah: Hope you read my post today (7/14/16) about testing social media.

      I believe your newsletter list is your most valuable asset and that you should focus on building it.

  23. I also naturally want to spend the morning hours in the studio or outside painting, but sometimes marketing admin stuff just piles up and I find if I start on the computer most of the morning can be gone. I really struggle to find enough time for both studio time and marketing. I always take Friday afternoons for admin things and desk work. Recently I started trying to make Sunday free days without any commitments so I don’t get burnt out. I also work on things like inventory and website updating and newsletter in the evenings. I resent having to spend so much time on marketing but I realise if I don’t keep up with it it will be more difficult to sell my art

  24. As a photographer my world is very different. My competition is everyone. As most people believe that whatever they see they can shoot with whatever means they have. An actual camera or a smartphone or tablet etc. So if they see something of mine they look and say “I think I can do that”. Most can’t and won’t but as soon as they say it it equals no sale. Galleries know this as well. That becomes a very frustrating thing. Where does one market something that most don’t consider art? I and others have been asked and I quote “Well all you are doing is pushing a button right?” So again how does one compete with something that most don’t view as hard? I post on some social media but there it is comprised of others posting and simply liking your work. It is flattering when someone else likes your my but in the end that doesn’t help me.

    For me I must decide where to go to shoot which might mean hours away to get what I am looking for. Driving then staying a few days to get what I see and then back home to spend countless hours editing. And then what do you do with it? More posting? Photography is a whole other world and therefore not one that I can equate with other art forms or methods of business.

    1. Agreed, Stephen. But there are also many other mediums that are being picked up by hobbyists. Not to the same extent. I get that.

      This is a topic for another discussion I suspect.

  25. Gloria Clifford

    One of my greatest challenges is having time to do enough social media communications and making enough time in my day to actually make my art/paint. You can easily get caught up in social media if you are selling “art products” like I do. What I try my best to do is to share something positive with those who are on line “friends”….or to be an inspiration to others….and not only to always put my art “out there” for sale every single time I post something . Establishing and nurturing relationships does take a lot of time and HEART I must add……but I’ve been really blessed to meet so many amazing people as a result of social media. I also frequently sell smaller priced items as a result….but it’s really not about SELLING ….it’s about meeting so many amazing people who are blessings to my life.

  26. Patrice Mitchell

    The question of balancing business and marketing to me is aside from studio time painting. I love business like an art so I look at it as a wonderful creative extension of bring forth that which I know and love, my passion, my art.
    Fortunate for me in my email someone always seems to point me to some very useful business knowledge and I try it tailored to my area, but when not I’m constantly trying more positive suggestions. This all happens in the early morning hours and then the evening after art when the light leaves me.
    Marketing comes out of the business tactics, and in the nighttime when it is dark outside and my brain gets inspired by what I’m seeing.
    Studio painting time is the same always, during the day and I accept no interferences.

  27. Great question Alyson. I used to assign specific days for art and business related issues. But this ended up not working for me because my art projects usually take around 6 to 8 weeks to get to a point where it makes sense to pause. I spend about a week working on business issues and then back to art. It’s probably not ideal from a business perspective, but the whole marketing thing sidetracks me from art because I do find it interesting in its own way.

  28. Gail Folsom Jennings

    Well, I’m going to say what no one else seems to have as a problem. I absolutely hate marketing. I’m essentially an introvert and I’m not particularly technologically savvy. Every new thing I try to do with tech ends up taking too many hours and making me want to scream in frustration. For now, I’m just staying focussed on producing a body of work sufficient to warrant promotion. In order to stay afloat (I’m “retired” on an insufficient income from SS), I do freelance art-related work and that takes me away from art time. Hiring an assistant is as far out of the question as hiring a housekeeper (which I would love to do!) When I get enough artwork ready, I’ll approach some galleries and look for shows to enter. I occasionally attempt to post something on Facebook, but I don’t really see that as a great venue for generating sales. The best sales I’ve had recently came from a display of my work at a local library. I feel pretty overwhelmed trying to singlehandedly hold a household together, earn enough to live and get any artwork done without dedicating time to social media and other online promotion.

    1. Yikes, Gail. I hope you find a way to enjoy sharing your art with others. As I often say, change the word “marketing” to “sharing.” You might have a different outlook. And, if you don’t, well … I’d be concerned about that.

  29. Hi Alyson, This question is very pertinent to me. I am in my late 60s and find if I leave marketing for too long I forget all the ways around my website and just how to do things. I really struggle to do both and whenever I sit down I try to do something on the website or with blogs, broadcasts, adding products, tweaking etc! The more I fiddle with the more I find needs doing. I often feel overwhelmed as the to-do list piles up and my painting is left behind. I get very frustrated with the time taken by technology side of things resetting passwords etc. So for me there seems to be no balance, just one thing or the other. Life gets in the way a fair bit too!

    1. That’s what planning time is for, Philippa! You have to learn to prioritize and make those tough decisions about how to spend your time.

      And … studio time always comes first.

  30. I like to watch myself, to journal, and log hours in a planner, to keep track of my energy patterns. When am I most efficient, when am I doing my best work? Then I try to work on my painting during that time when I’m most efficient. My best plein air painting and studio time seems to fall between 9am and 2pm. Then in the afternoons when I need a break from painting I can do marketing work – it’s a bit more “left brained”, working with computers and websites and so on. I feel better once I know I have gotten my real work done, even if I’ve only done a small amount of painting. Whereas if I spend the morning on the computer, checking email, posting on Facebook, etc. I feel I have cheated myself out of valuable painting time. I will go out and paint anyway, but it’s not ideal.

    Often I will feel unmotivated to go out and paint or paint in the studio. In times like those it seems best for me if I do something more physical, like making new canvas panels, or house projects, just to get myself going, or to go out of the house/studio and find other people to talk to, then I can come back more energized.

  31. This is the Holy Grail question, isn’t it? Thanks so much for asking and for all the thoughtful comments… Very helpful to see how others manage this!

    I’ve been all over the map on this myself, often flaily wildly to either extreme. Lately, however, I’ve found that planning out my tasks the night before (in my new bullet journal!) helps keep me accountable to whatever I’ve chosen to focus on, either production or marketing.

    I’ve also found it much easier to be productive if I don’t go online until after 2pm. I’ve had quite a few sales from my social media efforts, but they were very slow burn types of sales, and often many from old high school acquaintances, whom I’d never have been in touch with at all, but for the wonder of Facebook. The downside of social media time for me is how easily I get sucked in, so self-limiting my social media access until the afternoon seems to be helping me stay productive both with studio & marketing tasks.

    1. Carrie: I love the “not after 2pm” rule. Is that your studio time?

      Have you posted your bullet journal anywhere? I love to look at those things. It’s not really how my mind works, but they’re crazy fun.

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