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Become a Working Artist

Lesson 20 of 22

Planning for Success


Become a Working Artist

Lesson 20 of 22

Planning for Success


Lesson Info

Planning for Success

We are going to focus this last segment on preparing for and managing your success but before we do that I want to point you to something in your workbook that is relevant it's a little out of order in your packet but it's relevant to the last segment and it's a worksheet and the top is this question finding your niche brainstorm and this is really about the illustration market if you're interested in illustration, you could also use this to brainstorm anything but um to think about maybe tonight as homework since you just got through listening to a segment on illustration of licensing what illustration our licensing market seemed to be the most interesting or enjoyable what makes them seem interesting and what questions do I still have um so a place for you to go to record your thoughts if that's something you want to do so we will be coming back to this pack it at that towards the end of this segment but I've got some input for you first I'm really excited about this segment because ...

it's something that I think we really talk about and that is managing opportunity and managing our workflow as artists I am becoming increasingly more transparent about managing my work flow because it's something that I I was completely shocked by when I started to get busy as an artist it used to be when I was starting out and I was self employed, but still not getting regular work. I would wake up with this sort of cold sweat every morning, like, what should I do today? I know there are lots of things I should be doing, but I was overwhelmed with the choices and scared I would be making the wrong the wrong choice about where to focus my energy that day. Um, and I was sort of terrified of, you know, making the mistake of using my time in a way that didn't make sense or wasting too much time on something that wasn't gonna end up leading to anything, and so I feel like time management, it is important both when you are starting out and then also when you become successful, so over time, more and more opportunity came to me, and then it was a big shock to my system because for so long I had I had so many options about how I could spend my day because I was sort of choosing because I didn't have a lot of paying work. I was just trying to build my portfolio and get it is many sales in my etsy shop is I could now I have much more strategic workflow, it can also feel super overwhelming to have all of these things that I'm working on it one time. To know which of those things to even say yes to in the first place so we're going to be talking about all of that um I think almost every working artist struggles in some way with managing um or anyone self employed for that matter there's a myriad of things you could be doing how do you know what to work on and what to focus your energies on? So, you know, the beginning I couldn't wait to get to this point where I had so many things to choose from I was going to get paid for and then that point came and I was just overwhelmed so how do we work through that overwhelm? Um all right, so here we are the last time we're gonna look at this and I think the important thing to remember here is that none of this happens by simply sitting back um let's go back to segment one having a positive attitude and really believing that this is possible is absolutely at the core then in subsequent segments we did a lot of goal setting and research how many people have revised their goals or they're actionable tasks based on what they've heard in some of the input segments over the last few days almost everyone okay um so the more you learn and know about what it takes or what it potentially takes to achieve something, the more you're going to be refining your task list your goals all of that, you may decide after listening to betsy and I today that licensing is the thing you want to try to dio you may have also decided it is a thing you do not want to do. And that's, the great thing about learning is that sometimes it just teaches us what we might not want to do. Because it's just not resonating and that's okay, too. We can't actually just write down our actionable task. We actually have to do them. And I hope that some of you at least could go back tomorrow. And, uh, how many of you have one thing that you're gonna start working on tomorrow already? Okay, so action is going to be happening if you don't strategically think about how to use your time and including the time you spent taking care of yourself, which is also really important. Your life, your career may feel a bit aimless and chaotic. So, um, we wantto manage the planning and the action. So you want to set yourself up for success by creating a work schedule before it gets busy? Don't do what I did and wait until after you were overwhelmed to figure out howto work effectively. This is something you should start practicing now, especially if you're already self employed or in the periods of time that you have carved out if you do have a full time or part time job, you've obviously got some time carved out to work on your art in the evan flow of a freelance career sometimes especially when you're just starting out, you have time when there is little or no work coming in to fill your days right? So we'll talk about how to use that time well, and I have some suggestions for you and we'll also talk about what happens when you begin getting a lot of work when you hit your tipping point and that will happen for all of you if you're determined enough and work hard enough and and began promoting your work. So how do you manage multiple project deadlines? How do you know how work is enough whether to take on any more? These are all things that I'm happy to answer questions about, um and how do you say no to jobs that come your way when you know they're not right, saying no can feel really hard? So what happens when your work is in demand? How do you know how much is enough? How do you say now? Okay, so you have job making, you have art making time and that's, um whether you are a full time artist or somebody who makes art outside of your regular job, you need to treat this time like it's your job so this means even when you're not we've touched on this before, but I'm gonna keep reiterating the same points even when the work is not coming your way you don't have a show in a gallery that or you don't have a body of work ready or you don't have illustration work coming in you want to use some of your time not all of it but some of it to build your port fault folio and your body of work okay, you also here is my mantra the more work you make, the more work you get. I think I've said that a few times over the last couple of days the ideas you're not sitting around waiting for the opportunities to come to you you're working hard at putting yourself out there that includes marketing, creating work, sharing your process, creating more work so that when people find you, you've got stuff for them to look at and they can see you you are prolific and you've got a lot there that's interesting you want to market the work you do have and you want to use the time to grow professionally and this is something that we haven't talking much about yet so some of the ways you can um grow professionally if you have the time to do that are take classes not just business classes like this although they're really important um there are other great online classes out there are the great classes on creative live a couple of which I've recommended um there are other classes in your community take art classes, expand your repertoire we've talked a lot about honing your digital skills if you're an artist who is really great with hand drawn are hand painted stuff but you're not sure how to translate it into something that is marketable in other realms take classes um I would also add apply for residencies residencies, air great ways teo toe have protected time to build your portfolio there great things to put on your cv especially if you're interested in fine art there are a myriad of residencies out there I wrote about them in my book and there is ah resource section in the back that list some of the most amazing residency is out there some are residential where you actually go stay somewhere and if you apply and you're accepted, sometimes you're living expenses are paid for for that period of time so mantra for so presidencies air great um let's see what else you want to volunteer volunteer at local arts organizations you're looking for a part time job look for a part time job in your arts community as away to get your foot inside your arts community, there are several arts nonprofits in every major city. They're more than several see if there are any in your community volunteer that's a great way to meet other artists it's a great way to meet people who are movers and shakers in the art world um, volunteer take classes applied for residency, branch out to build your community, meet others, broaden your practice so fully immerse yourself in the life of an artist and in all aspects of our making, I can't emphasize enough this idea of beginning to think of yourself as a full time artist, if that's your goal, even if you're not one yet to begin to envision yourself in that place. Well, what will you be doing? What kind of work will you be doing and begin toe live that to the extent that you can practice marketing making the kind of work you want to get, um using a system for scheduling that includes art making so that it's part of what you do if not every day than the time that you do have carved out for it that's regular? If all you have is one hour a day or one hour a week, then use that time and use it well in short, don't wait right, do it now don't wait around okay let's talk about how to manage a full schedule so I'm gonna cover basically four things one is workflow workflow is your guide to sanity you the good news is workflow is your guide insanity the bad news is you have to develop your own workflow that works for you because every person's preferences are different and it takes a certain amount of discipline to experiment with different workflow now if you don't know what workflow is I'll explain that in a second but I didn't have a work both for a long time and I felt like an insane person and I read about the importance of structuring and scheduling work taking breaks working in regular intervals and it has completely changed my life in fact, I didn't even write about it very much in the book because that's how recently I have discovered that work flow is important um I'm also going to talk about hiring help many of you may not be at the place where you could afford help or would even know what to give another person to do to help you but you will get there eventually I'm there right now I'm at this place where I need either a business manager or an assistant someone to take on aspects of my work and actually the more you delegate the more you can actually do and accomplish it just takes giving up control and figuring out what aspects of your business you can and want to turn over and their different reasons for doing that and different things to think about s so you may not be in that position now but that's the goal right that's what you want to get to the place where you can actually afford to hire someone to help you with the stuff that you're not as good at or you don't like to do um we're gonna talk about the importance of slowing down and taking breaks and also the importance of saying no and that's what we're going to spend the last period of time talking about so first let's talk about work flow and you'll see there's little hearts all over and that's because we're close my next my new best friend um so what is it so technically workflow is your orchestrated in repeatable pattern of work activity generally your workflow what you work on during your workflow changes from day to day or week to week but it's this sort of predictable system that you work inside of even if you work in an office you can create some workflow for yourself provided you're not always in meetings which can often destruct workflow even especially even when you're self employed meetings, phone meetings with clients and stuff can disrupt workflow but for the purposes of this conversation I'm also going to include in the definition all the task that you're responsible for completing um listed in a lot recorder so that's pretty much your workflow document that shows all the breath and death of all the things that you're working on and then you come up with a way of working that works for you um, so I like to create a workflow document document this is the first thing that I did that ended up sort of changing my life when I got really busy, I started a have like, five, six paid jobs at a time. On top of that, I had maybe blogged interviews that I needed to complete or press enquiries. Um, I was preparing maybe for some public speaking or teaching opportunities that I had, um, donations that I was making to charitable art auctions um, there are so many things that aren't part of, like, the paid work that you do, but that contribute to the paid work thatyou dio that end up being part of your workflow, so keeping track of all that stuff can feel really overwhelming, and if you don't have organized place to write it all down, um, you're always gonna walk around feeling like you're forgetting something. Can you guys relate to that? Like, unless there's a place where you can check in on a daily basis is to make sure that you've got a handle on everything you're responsible for? And you know, when it's all do um, I'm the kind of person that I can manage a lot of stuff at one time I'm busy, I probably do more than I should, but I figured out a way to manage it as long as I can keep track of all of it because it's, the not remembering if I've forgotten something that keeps me awake at night, not the actual work itself, it's worrying that I'm not that I'm forgetting something that's worse than the actual stress I have over completing things so it's important to keep everything written down and out of your head so that those swirling thoughts don't happen. You want to make sure you're attending to everything that you've got on your plate, that you sort of have a full like you can make it more informed decisions about what to do on a daily basis, when you can look at something, a document that tells you everything that's on your that you need to be worried about, and then you can say, ok, these are going to be my priorities today, given when all this stuff is due, etcetera. And so you want to make sure you're checking every day to make sure your to do list is comprehensive, I am going to show you a screenshot of my work flow this is from earlier this year, I keep a google doc and I'll let you look at it long enough to write down the categories if you want to copy it but I this is what I came up with by thinking okay here the things that, um here the categories that I have things that I worry about when it comes to things that I have to do and I made those the columns. Okay, so, um we have over here this is my actual work flow so you can see some of my client works and things that I had to do. So I have a client in column a what the product specific project for that client is because sometimes I do work overtime for a client and it's different different jobs specifically the tasker job. Um, let's see if I cross it out because I don't want you to know how much money I make but the the fee. And then if my agent takes a commission if it's an illustration job, what the fee after the commission is and that way I can also sort of look at my work flow is a place to just even check in on how much money I potentially have coming in over the next few months. Uh, have I received the art direction for that job if it's relevant was there, um, any inspiration or concept ng that I needed to collect you can see I don't really use that column very much sometimes you think of categories and then you're gonna end up using them on your spreadsheets but that's okay um when are the rest do I didn't always put that in one of the finals too, and for the most part I keep my, um workflow in order of when the final artwork is due or when the deadline is because you'll notice like I have some client work here bold italic glade martha stewart living this lrs that's my illustration agency and I needed to send them updated images for my portfolio so there's like administrative stuff that you're gonna end up doing um I was doing a talk for the reno, nevada a I g a and I had to prepare a lecture I needed to make new business cards. I wanted some new moo cards um other jobs this flower pepper gallery that was a painting for a show that I was preparing I was part of a hand lettering book published by a woman named johnny doe so I had to get her some designs thiss was life is better rescue was that is animal rescue that I was donating artwork to their auction I donated some work to the portland state university shop um that's a fundraiser for their student group cat portrait, a commission for my friend karen I was part of an illustration project that was a nun paid job that my friend was sponsoring, so these are all things I did pretty much in february and march of this year, and you could also add to that there's nothing on here, but, like occasionally, I'll get, like interview requests it's an ill do blawg interviews and things, and those are those are all anything that you are responsible for finishing should go on your workflow, okay? And I didn't really need to put in the end. I don't even know if the project or task and job columns are that important it's more. The reason that this document is so important to me is because it gives me a place every day, and I still use it to go. I put everything that I have to do and this list even stuff that feels mundane, anything that's going to take me more than twenty minutes, and it gives me a place to go every single day and say, ok, and my attending to everything have I forgotten? Because what if I know I have to get jenny a bunch of examples of my hand lettering for this book, and I put it on the list, but she doesn't need it for six weeks, so I know in my head I'm not going to start for four weeks. But it's always there and if I check and I said, oh, that four weeks this past I better get started on this stuff for jenny's book got it? Where it that just sits in your email you might completely forget unless jenny sends you a reminder so then that stuff gets I can move these rose up, whatever this is mine and I made it to work for me. I recommend that you figure out the categories that work for you, and if you're not a spreadsheet person, then make it visual in another way. Okay, um question yeah, what is that? What are the colors? I mean, for me, I didn't end up taking the color's off. So this is this is a completed page. So there's two tabs at the bottom this this is a screen shot from my list of completed jobs, but if you there's another tab that's the stuff I'm currently so is a cz soon as I'm done with it, it goes, it stays, but it gets transferred, teo like a second tab, which is looks the same, but so I can keep track of everything that I've worked on. This is also a great way of just keeping track of everything you've done, um, and the color's, uh, like red is like this is the highest priority in the universe sometimes I'll have so many things that are due around the same time but some are more high priority because I know they're just going to take me longer require more thought yellow is like also really important green is like you got this we're almost done or don't it's due in a couple weeks but it's not gonna take you very long um and the things without color I probably just took the color off at some point or another everything has color and the colors don't denote the urgency or the things I need to pay attention to the most again those always are changing and evolving okay so keep everything responsible for written down you can have a place to check in on the breath and depth of your responsibilities every day before updating your to do list and if you don't use it to do a daily to do list or a lit or some kind of way of checking in about what you want to accomplish on a particular day I highly recommend that you do that even if you're only using your art making are promoting time an hour a day it's still important to priorities prioritized how you want to use that time and so it keeps me sane I know it's all written down and it's something I forget to put something on my work flow I'm in trouble okay um you also want to create work flow in your day. So you want to find a schedule or rhythm that works for you? We'll talk about the different ways that that can look. Oh, by the way, before I move on, I just want to say there are some online tools like there's one called asana it's a software that you can get this project management software. I know there are others. So again, I just I'm fine using a google doc. This works for me, but if I do take on an employee or a business partner someone to help me with aspects of my business, it might be good for me to get some software that we can both use to communicate. And a lot of these project management, um, workflow softwares that you can get, um, allow you to communicate with other people that you work with about your workflow and about tasks and stuff like that. And I've heard great things about asana. I know that there are others out there probably workflow, aps and things that you could down on. So again, you make something up you want to use in google docks that's great, or you might discover there's some software that you like using. So you want to find a schedule or rhythm that works for you, and this is how you actually use your time? You want experiment to see what works, and it may take you a while to figure that out. I highly recommend considering dividing your day into twenty five or forty five minute chunks. I started this and it's changed my life, it won't work for everybody. In fact, I post it on facebook that I was doing this forty five minute chunk thing, and so far of my friends were like, oh, that's, a great idea, I'm gonna try that, and then of course they tried it for a few days and it didn't feel natural to them. So again, this is something that has worked for me that you might want to try give it some time, it takes time to develop a habit. So the idea here is that let's say, you're you're in the position that I'm in where or your or you just want to accomplish a lot, even if it's not paid jobs, you just have very rigorous goals for yourself and there things that you want to get done and you're self motivated and you've got that work flow that's got like ten things on it, how do you decide what to work on, especially feet a lot of stuff needs not equal attention but similar amounts of attention in a day the way I used to work is I would say okay thatjob for florida travel in life magazine that that is six maps I know they're gonna take me forever so I'm just going to do that and get it done and then what happens to your week? Everything is about that job and or email because email also is, um a time suck and then that other stuff that's also due around the same time has completely been ignored and then I'm freaking out even more because while I'm almost done with florida travel in life magazine job, I also have all these other things that I haven't paid attention to you because I put all my energy into that, so what I decided to do is divine my day into forty five minute chunks um some people do twenty five minutes there's even a name for that pomodoro yeah, that didn't seem lot feel long enough to me I get my head into things and I like to go for a little longer, so I decided to use forty five minute chunks so what I dio is I say in every morning I look at my to do list and it kind of parse things out a lot of it is just sort of got a feeling about how long something is going to take me and I say, oh, come and spend the first forty five minutes on this thing I'm going to take a fifteen minute break or ten minute break and then I'm going to work forty five minutes on this thing at something different and then I'm gonna take a break and then it's usually between that and maybe going toe the gym it's lunchtime and I eat lunch and then I do the rest for the afternoon so at the end of that day I've probably worked on florida travel in life I'm using that as an example it was very difficult and time consuming illustration job I had so it will remain in my brain for a long time for maybe two or three even of those forty five minute chunks and I've dedicated a lot time to it, but I've also dedicated forty five minutes to something else on my list and maybe another forty five minutes to something else and I've needed maybe even broken up working on those maps for that trouble magazine by working on other things, which leaves my brain a little fresher when I come back to what I've been working on something else and maybe one whole forty five minute chunk is just working on getting through some email which I actually have been trying to do at the end of each day unless it's low hanging food, fruit stuff I can respond to in a really quick turnaround um, so dividing your day up into chunks forces you to take breaks s oh, I try not to just dive from one forty five minute chunk into another without getting up in at least walking around a little bit sometimes if I have to run an errand or walk the dog, I try to do it during the breaks and it allows me to attend to lots of different things and still feel some sense of accomplishment it's like it feels like a strategic use of time. There are days when every forty five minute chunk I'm working on the same project and that's because it's due tomorrow or something, but most of the time if you look at your workflow document and you know you've got a few weeks or a certain amount of time to finish a certain number of projects, um you can sort of split them up and then when you go to bed at night you're like I feel really good because I worked on a little bit on everything or a decent amount on everything over the course of one day I'm attending to I'm I was feeling really stressed out that there were just things that were hanging there that I wasn't attending to and I didn't know how to prioritize my work and now I feel like I've got this system where I'm dividing things up which leaves me feeling more energetic for the different projects because I'm not working on the same thing all day most of the time, and also makes me feel like I'm attending toe all the different things, um, that ideo, including marketing and some chunk might be entirely marketing. Okay, so remember, also it takes time and effort to make something a comfortable habit. You may not like this chunking out your time idea it's worked really well for me, so if you struggle with this feeling of overwhelm, like you're ignoring certain things that you shouldn't be ignoring it's a great way, teo, to get a system of work flow into your day and you can even be if you're really have a mind that works in a very organized way, you could even say the first forty five minute chunk of every day is going to be this. The second chunk is going to be this you can really like if you're somebody who likes a predictable schedule and likes understanding or knowing what they're going to work on next, it could be really a strategic about how you use each chunk or what you do in the morning versus what you do in the afternoon.

Class Description

"This is an incredibly helpful class for anyone who feels intimidated by all the "giants" in the land of art, and wonders if it's really worth keeping trying to make money from their talent. Lisa breaks everything down into manageable steps, while not dumbing things down. Her manner is very approachable, so that you can imagine yourself doing what she does. Her generous spirit means too that she is sharing really useful stuff - not just some fluff, and keeping all the good ideas for herself!"
 - Janet and Craig Mathewson (CreativeLive Students)

An enthusiastic audience that appreciates your art is waiting for you. Join Lisa Congdon, illustrator, artist, and author of Art, Inc. for Become a Working Artist and learn everything you need to know to make a living as a fine or commercial artist.

In this class, you will find out exactly what it takes to break into the art world and reach new, diverse audiences. Lisa will show you how to:

  • Identify the characteristics that make your style unique
  • Map out the vision and goals that will drive your artistic career 
  • Navigate the fine art market and break in to it
  • Land and negotiate art licensing deals
  • Develop effective techniques for promoting your work
Every artist faces rejection and setbacks on the road to finding an appreciative and paying audience. Become a Working Artist will teach you how to navigate the inevitable disappointments and push through to build a vibrant, rewarding career in art.

Making money as an artist doesn’t have to be far-fetched dream, Lisa Congdon will show you how to make it a reality.  



I was very happy and inspired to be able to attend to this class! It helped me so much to understand which are my goals as an artist and what I need to make to make them happen. Lisa is amazing and I cannot be happier to have been part of this, thank you so much!! I am now more than inspired to create beautiful things and make the tasks I need to make to become the professional artist I aim to be. Thank you Lisa for your wonderful generosity and Creative Live for hosting and creating such a wonderful event!


This course was fantastic! The format was great and Lisa was extremely helpful, knowledgable, and engaging. I was so inspired and loved that she gave very real information and great advice. I came away with a great new plan for my business and a renewed excitement for growth. I would highly recommend this class!

Simply Stated Architecture, PC

Professionally, I am an architect, but I also dabble in some watercolors as well as wood and metal work. When I started my own architectural office, I found good resources for business information were scarce. Most of what I found applied to retail or service businesses that really did not apply to a creative professional. One of the best resources I have found has been my local art guild - The Yellow Breeches Chapter of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. I found that the painters, jewelers, potters, fiber artists, and other artists faced much more similar issues to what I was dealing with than the contractors, store owners, financial planners, insurance salesmen, and other business people that I was finding in business groups and classes. Lisa Congdon's class is the first CreativeLive course that I've taken. I had signed up for the CL email recently and Lisa's class just caught my eye. I'm glad that I took the time to sit through the sessions. A few of the segments - such as that on illustration and licensing or fine art - really did not have any practical application to my own situation. But there were items of value in pretty much all of the segments that I could take away to adapt in my own business. For someone just starting off in a creative profession, I'd highly recommend Lisa's course as a roadmap of items to keep in mind and plan for in their business. But by no means should you consider this to be a "beginner only" course. I started my business four years ago and I really wish that I had found something like this course in those first months or first year. But even after four years, I found great value in this course. The information on setting goals, actionable tasks, and the final segment on managing your success were extremely valuable and gave me many items to work into my own business in the coming weeks and months.