Hopefully you have read some of the many articles circulating which explain that artists/writers don’t get their work done via a random dumping of some magical inspiration fairy dust, but rather they just work. Everyone has their own method of handling the innumerous tasks it takes to make and sell. For me, either when I feel lacking inspiration or overwhelmed by all the other stuff needing to be done, I employ what I call The AIM Method for barreling through or slowing ticking off tasks: Administrative, Inventory and Marketing. All of the tasks crossover their headings of administrating, inventorying and marketing, but the categories help to focus on potentially overwhelming tasks a self-employed body has to do and the name is kind of fun, yeah?
For many of the tasks below I employ The Fly Lady Technique of throwing myself into something for at least a solid 15 minutes and keep doing that until it is done. For writing projects (pitches, editing, etc) I find that 40 minutes is more productive. I also employ The Treat Technique, meaning I reward myself when I have accomplished something truly heinous, like revamping my blog or re-photographing product images that I wasn’t happy with but used anyway.
So, if you are lacking inspiration, AIM to get some work done:
This is usually the dreaded 15 minute stuff, but there is always enough of it to get at least an hour’s worth of work done, and then I really do want to get back to making pretty, pretty things. Your variety of making and selling will likely mean you have specialized administrative work to do, but there are plenty of standard tasks and here is a sampling of mine:
• Email, including the Etsy inbox, moderating blog comments and similar. Respond to all your emails, either the most pressing, the oldest or the newest- just get them done. Also finish all of your sold order e-work, such as marking items off as shipped, sending out thank you notes and coupons. Respond to all those kind Etsyians who have included you in their lovely treasuries. Being sidetracked by make reciprocal treasuries is purely business, go ahead and do that too.
• Taxes. They come up every year, whittle off some of your tax work throughout the year, organize your receipts, print out your Paypal statements- whatever need be, get a little done and reward yourself for being so professional.
• Hunt down a new supplier for that thing you need or have been paying too much for.
• Doing in-person sales? Need to register or find more venues? There is a rewarding task to tackle.
• Fly Lady any task you have been avoiding: redo your store front or business cards, update your resume or artist statement, open that blog or Instagram account you know you should be doing but never have time to. Ok, maybe you will need a series of 15 minute chunks, but start it up and you can get it done or be distracted by some other task, but again you are getting work done.
• Up your skills. Seek out a class or tutorial that you need to improve your work, don’t forget to reward yourself for being a committed student!
It’s great when you can pop in the car, run over to a local shop and pick up that thing you need, but it is also more costly in the long run by taking away from other work time and likely you are paying retail for the supply.
• Make a wish list. That’s sound funs right? It is, but it also helps to keep in mind what supplies you really need all the time as well as inspiring ideas for your products to evolve. Window shopping can be very inspiring.
• Think seasonal. What are you going to need for items specific to next season and/or upcoming holidays? Plan to get them in advance so you have time to make and market.
• Do some price scouting. Maybe even do a little crossover admin work and create a spreadsheet of which of your suppliers has the best prices for your most needed and/or expensive supplies.
• Destash! Get rid of some of those things sitting around which you really aren’t going to use. List them on Etsy, Ebay, Craigslist or ‘challenge’ another making friend to use them in their work. And by challenge, I mean unload that junk-to-you-treasure-to-someone-else.
You have to do this, all the time. If you have not already set aside specific time for marketing tasks, then when your inspiration feels low is a great time. No seriously, you just have to push yourself to work through these things, no magical inspiration required, though caffeine or otherwise nice treats help. I am currently working my way through this great list and suggest you do something similar. Here is how I do some of these specific marketing things:
• Etsy treasuries. Treasury-making is a powerhouse task of marketing, networking and even inspiring, but they can also be time consuming to crank out. I always have several treasuries in the making. Whenever I come across an item that I ‘heart’ I scroll down to the ‘add this item to a treasury’ link and then either add it to a theme I have already started or start a new one right then. When one of my treasuries has several items in it, I then spend an hour or so filling it up and rearranging it. Then don’t forget to do the admin work of contacting each seller in the list and graciously inviting them to view and share it.
• Pinterest. Go see all the pretty things and maybe your inspiration will pop back up, but also read some articles about how to use Pinterest as a marketing tool and do that.
• Collaborate. This one is hit or miss because so many people do not understand the benefits of collaborating, both for expanding your making and as well as for marketing and networking, so just keep trying it time to time. Throw yourself out there, ask someone- a stranger or a bestie – if they want to work with you on a specific project or if you can contribute to their project. Don’t wait for the inspiration, give yourself a little push here, but be sure not to flake or else this will turn into a negative marketing experience.
• Archive. People love to see an artist’s process, so if you are not in the habit of photographing your work along the way, go set up some shots to take now and share later at a relevant time. For instance, I just got a delivery of my sterling silver wire which is handmade locally here in Morocco. I grabbed a simple shot of the silver fresh out of the package to share that on my Facebook timeline and later I plan to write a little blog post about how the wire is made with recycled bits from my own workbench.
Inspiration really is magical and I love it when it comes. But when it just isn’t there I don’t believe that tinkering in other areas is procrastination, rather I believe in ruminating and germinating. Even if I don’t throw myself back at the workbench after watching a tutorial or reading an article, I did something and I am sure it will further something else if I just AIM to do more and more. Hey you’re reading an article about how to get work done, so that’s some work done right there!