The Art Biz ep. 46: Structure Your Days to Be in Control of Your Art Business Now

About this Special Podcast Series for Artists

For the foreseeable future, I’m dedicating the Art Biz Podcast and this blog to discussing what you can do now to stay in control of your art business.

It’s just going to be me talking. Episodes will be shorter and more frequent. There will be no music. No bells and whistles. My goal is respond to the situation quickly and to keep you going at the expense of a fancy, professionally engineered audio program. I hope you understand.

I need you to be part of the conversation. I need to hear from you! Please join me on Instagram using #ArtBizNow and bookmark as a hub for art business resources during this crisis.

So, staying in control of your art business. It sounds like a simple theme, but it’s profound.

So much of what is happening right now is beyond your control. You can’t control how many people get sick. You can’t control how fast the virus spreads. You can’t control what our leaders do (though you can vote and I strongly urge you to do that).

But you can control how you react. It’s critical for your well being that you pay attention to what is in your control. This is going to make you feel much more optimistic about the future, and give you fuel to carry on.

Listen to Episode #46 Now

This post is a complete transcript of the audio.

Structuring Your Days

I want to begin this series by discussing how you spend your time every day, hour, and minute—even if you have kids at home.

Structure Your Days to Be in Control of Your Art Business Now

In a recent interview with Colorado Matters, Craig Knippenberg, a licensed social worker in Denver, discussed the importance of structure at this very strange moment. Adults do better when they have structure, but kids absolutely need it, so having a schedule is even more important if you have kids at home right now.

Here are some suggestions for what to add to a structured schedule if you’re new to the process.

1. Go to bed and wake up at the same time.

This helps you better plan your day and know when you need to start winding down for a restful night.

2. Make time for inspiration.

We all have different environments. If you’re homebound in a small high-rise apartment, you might look for inspiration online or out the window. But find it somewhere.

And I’m not talking about inspirational quotes. You’re a visual artist, so I encourage you to look for visual inspiration in clouds, the landscape, or online art exhibitions.

Oil painting by Blanche Guernsey
©Blanche Guernsey, The Next Adventure. Oil, 20 x 16 inches. Used with permission.

3. Continue learning.

During this period when you aren’t in the throes of writing exhibition proposals or planning your next event, study a subject that has piqued your interest. Maybe indulge in an online art history course. Or enroll in lessons on embroidery, mosaic, or illustration. You can bet that anything you want to learn can be found from the safety of your home. You can also be assured that you will grow as an artist with any knowledge you gain.

Yes, you can schedule these things. Devote, say, Thursday afternoons or Tuesday mornings to learning. Be deliberate and seek out something you’ve always wanted to know about rather than reacting to the latest MasterClass ad you see on Instagram. If you want to learn more about building an art business, I do hope you’ll look at the Art Career Success System, a program and community I have been perfecting for years.

4. This is not a suggestion, but an imperative. You must continue making art.

I know a number of my students and clients are excited for the opportunity to focus on their studio practice right now. Others are despondent because they have lost access to their off-site studios. That is heartbreaking. But you can still keep making. You just might be making something different than if you were at the studio.

You might be drawing or building cardboard sculpture instead of painting 6-foot canvases. The important thing is to keep being creative. It’s in your blood and your well-being depends on it. If you have kids at home, make sure they know your studio hours and when you’ll be available for them. The structure they need can work with the structure you need as well.

Batik Lollipops by artist Cara Young
©Cara Young, the toothflyer, Sweets Rot Your Teeth lollipop pillow tops. Rozome batik and silk, 7 inches diameter. Used with permission. 

5. Keep marketing.

Marketing is going to look a little different right now. It’s all about maintaining personal relationships, which is something I’ve been stressing forever. And it’s the focus of an entire course I teach at Art Biz Success titled Collector Relationship Essentials. Your art, your kindness, and the beautiful touches you add to the world can be a balm right now.

Focus on sending personal emails, direct messages, and postcards. If you haven’t been doing much with video, now is a great time to start! Define your marketing time in terms of dedicated hours or days per week.

6. Mix in the housekeeping and cooking.

For the first time in, well, I don’t think it’s ever happened before, my husband and I have a meal planner on the refrigerator door—taking turns being responsible for dinners. Furthermore, I’ve decided to add more cookies and treats because they make me happy. Last weekend we delivered cookies to the doorsteps of good friends in the area, and then texted to tell them they were there. Just because it made us happy.

We have also divided up the housekeeping chores because, out of an abundance of caution, we’ve asked our housekeeper to remain at home (with pay). But we have a boundary: no cooking or cleaning during office hours. We’re spending more time than ever in the house and we want to enjoy our limited surroundings.

painting by Gaurangi Mehta
©2020 Gaurangi Mehta, Momentarily Cynical. Acrylic on watercolor paper, 16.5 x 11.7 inches. Used with permission.

Yes, there are more than 6 things that you’re juggling right now (exercise, anyone?), but let’s start with these. What will your new structured schedule look like?

I suggest you map it out. I like to do these things on paper rather than digitally, and I prefer Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner for this process. But you don’t need a fancy planner. You’re an artist! Make something that works for you, post it, and follow it as best you can.

In that interview I spoke of earlier, Craig Knippenberg gave listeners the permission NOT to be perfect. If you have children, he says that it’s great if you can adhere to a scheduled plan with your children 80% of the time during normal times. Right now, he suggested that you’ll be great if you hit 65% or 50% if you have pre-schoolers.

If you don’t have children, the point isn’t to follow a structured schedule militantly. We’re in uncharted waters, so give yourself a break. Be kind to yourself, for Pete’s sake.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes—from motivational speaker Les Brown:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Create a structure for your family or only yourself and follow it as best you can. Then forgive yourself when (not if) you don’t execute it flawlessly … when you miss the moon and land among the stars.

Hopefully this first tip for staying in control of your art business during these uncertain times has been helpful. Structure your time as much as possible.

On upcoming episodes for this special series, I’m going to discuss everything from refreshing your marketing materials, to writing, to spiffing up your office or home space.

I also plan to share videos and interviews with friends and artists to expand on these topics.

Painting of Carmel Coast by Carol Cottone-Kolthoff
©Carol Cottone-Kolthoff, Carmel Diptych. Watercolor, 10 x 22 inches. Used with permission.

If you dive into your trusted (!) news source, you could quickly convince yourself that the world is ending. It’s true that the world is going to look very different on the other side of this and you want to be strong—mentally, emotionally, physically, creatively, and financially. It’s that last thing—financially—that I know we’re all worried about.

I can’t promise that listening to this podcast series is going to stabilize your financial situation. I can’t promise that I can help you sell more art (or any art) right now.

What I can promise is that if you stay tuned and implement my suggestions, you’ll be in a better place than if you get caught up in a quagmire of tweets and breaking news.

You are a critical part of this conversation. I need to hear from you! Please join me on Instagram using #ArtBizNow. Post a photo as you normally would (hopefully, of your art) and, in the description, share how you’re structuring your days.

You can also follow along on my Facebook page @Art Biz Success.

Remember to visit for updates for your art business during Covid-19. We threw together this site very quickly, so it’s quite imperfect. It will evolve as we continue to add to it as a hub for staying in control of your art business in this new economy.

Thank you for listening. I am grateful for your trust.


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16 thoughts on “The Art Biz ep. 46: Structure Your Days to Be in Control of Your Art Business Now”

  1. Thank you. I haven’t painted since I left work with my gallery in St. John in mid-February, and it’s time to start. I felt that without any new work to post, I shouldn’t put out my newsletter, so that’s another incentive to get busy with new work. My galleries are going virtual as they are not expecting nearly as many visitors this summer (if they are open at all), and would like new work for their websites–another incentive. It’s spring in Maryland, and getting beautiful–still another incentive. It’s discouraging, as art events are canceled almost daily, but clearly there’s lots to do from home. I’ve been giving myself excuses, but it’s time to stop that. So again, thanks for the push.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Claudia: I hope you know that you don’t have to have new work to put out a newsletter. Showing your subscribers you care is all they need right now. What is your new schedule going to look like?

  2. Thank you Alyson!! I greatly appreciate you doing these shorter podcasts with great tips, they are very helpful reminders at this chaotic time in our world!!!


  3. Alyson, with so many changes to our lives in the last weeks, old schedules have taken a real hit. My gym is closed, events have been cancelled, my husband is suddenly home full-time with all the attendant adjustments two people who share a space must make, and we, like you, continue to pay a maid who we’ve decided shouldn’t come into the household, along with our children, friends, and neighbors who we’re not seeing face-to-face, either. I have decided to return to an old weekday schedule that puts my yoga, which I can do at home, first thing in the morning, business computer work from roughly 10-12, and painting in my basement studio from 1-3 or 4, or until my back starts to bother me. Evenings after dinner are for relaxing with whatever book I’m reading (I’m not a TV watcher, nor is my husband) and with your reminder, I’ll try to get to bed a little earlier and get up a little earlier (both had been creeping later). Since there are fewer distractions now–very few errands, for example–I can probably stick to that schedule at least 4 days a week to keep some flexibility for getting out in the garden to weed and taking some walks, as well as allowing time for projects my husband will surely be dreaming up.

  4. Hello!
    I have ideas, I drawing, but I never can do what I want.
    I have medical problems.
    That is my dilemma- In my condition I can never do what a healty artist do.
    It is someone interested in incomplete art?
    Thank you!

  5. I have been approaching this new normal with schedules, plans and joy at being in my beautiful studio. Then two days ago my husband had a heart attack. The rush to the hospital and all of the subsequent fears totally derailed me. He was blessed with amazing Drs., nursers and care. He is back home and the prognosis is excellent. Thank God. But me…not so much.

    Your podcast came at the perfect time. I shall be kind to myself and take two or three days just to breathe and regroup. Maybe different lists. I’ll be back in my studio on Monday. Maybe not creating great works, but just to settle in and start the process. Who knows where that might lead. Could be amazing.

  6. This was such a great post, Alyson! I listened twice and then came down to my table and sat and wrote out my schedule. During this time it’s so critical and also thinking about how the schedule is a working document when I go back to the full-time job I will just have to adapt this again but I felt so much better when I sat down to give myself some structure.

    One thing I have on my notes though is to make videos? I think I heard that in the podcast but what should I make videos on? I’m thinking this would be for marketing but any idea about that? Or am I confused?

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