ARTIST’S ADMIN SOFTWARE
There is significant potential value in digital office administration packages and software programmes on computers for professional artists. But many artists do not use anything.
Being a full-time professional artist is quite tricky. Basically an artist is quite often a ‘small one-person business’ run by someone who doesn’t know much about running a business. To make it worse the self-employed artist is working in a very fickle market, creating a product that is unnecessary, unquantifiable, and shrouded in mystery and self-delusion.
HEAD IN THE SAND
One of the problems in the art business is that artists focus on their art. They are not looking for a magic business formula that can be repeated and exploited like other successful commercial enterprises.
Elsewhere other small business enterprises seek attention and get help.
For instance if you are an ambitious builder, plumber, or a hairdresser you can probably sign up for a course at your local business school. There you can find out about the existing office systems available in your niche. They will be available because this is well-trodden ground and has been done many times already.
But running a business that makes art is less common. And many artists resist the idea that they are a business.
Very few artists actually survive and thrive as full-time professionals. So other people do not expect an artist to be a viable small business. Artists have low esteem as commercial entrepreneurs in the eyes of other professionals and organisations. Therefore there is a shortage of business help and specific admin software for this group.
This means that artists will often just wing it and hope to survive without the help of efficient, targeted, guidance or administration packages. And this is why the ambitious artist who wants to be a success at the art business might need to look elsewhere. Maybe try to adapt the vastly over-complex super-software programmes that are the basis for a lot of business software. They will look at the big existing office systems. I am referring to Office, Word, and Excel, in the PC world, and Pages, and Keynote in Apple.
The snag is that the designers built into this software far more complexity than an artist will ever need. And they have left out other bits that are quite important.
This is what an artist’s admin software should do.
Record artworks. Create an image library. Make a comprehensive portfolio file including images, titles, sizes, thumbnails, variations, prices etc. Ideally also create a record in a spreadsheet that keeps track of print edition numbers and print sizes, canvas or paper etc. Plus details re framed or unframed.
Record people, customers and potential customers. A spreadsheet record with names, addresses, email, phone numbers, dates of contact, how contact was made, sales, etc.
Record sales, and financial details. Who bought what and when, how much, how paid, where seen, future potential, costs, etc. Create invoices.
That sounds so simple. Sigh. But it isn’t. Ideally these three kinds of records should all be linked together and interact with each other. But if you have three separate programmes doing three jobs they wont be.
Target one. Recording artworks.
Artists deal in images. It is rather difficult to control images in the standard spreadsheet software. And artists are curious creative people who want to make new different things as often as possible.
PhotoShop is a super image manipulation piece of software. An artist image-maker should get a copy and learn how to use it.
Target two and three. Recording people and recording sales.
I tried several existing programmes. One or two were woefully inadequate. I guess these cheap versions were aimed at the large amateur artist community and were kept simple and uncomplicated. They could be useful for a beginner.
Others were much better but very expensive. Whilst these were much more complex programmes it became obvious that they were designed for the art dealer and gallery market. They catered for multiple artists contributing artwork. They were much better business packages because they included costs and profit into their records.
AFFORDABLE, EFFICIENT, and COMPREHENSIVE
So I searched for a solution for a one-man art creation business. And I eventually found one. I purchased the software and have been using it for several years now. The package was affordable and reasonably easy to learn. It was a new programme based on the Apple software database Filemaker. But simplified to cut out useless extras.
Since then the software has been upgraded several times. Some upgrades improved the performance, others did not. But I have stuck with it and I am very sure that it has saved me not just hours, but days, no months of time since I started. I think that I am much more efficient in my paperwork. I reckon that my record keeping is up to small business standards.
The software that I use is called Tessera Pro. It is made by Arawak in Australia. See here.
And I am not getting a penny for sharing this with you.
But I expect that there are more solutions out there that other full-time professional artists use.
Please let me know so that we can share the knowledge.