Yes, I’m an artist and I also love spreadsheets

Can you do something for me? Conjure up a picture of an artist in your mind…

… got one? I’ll bet that 9 out of 10 of you have pictured some flouncy type lounging on a couch looking forlorn with a half finished painting in the background and a glass of red in hand. There is a stereotype that artists are a bit, well… flakey. And that doing the ‘business’ side of things is difficult for them because they can’t pull themselves away from their art to get organised. I’m here to debunk that myth, and if there is living proof that artists can also be organised, it’s me.

I studied Fine Art at university. A lot of it involved painting pictures, spending hours in a dark room developing photos or writing ironic phrases on the walls of my studio space. But, as it was a course where we mainly worked to self-directed briefs, I also learnt important skills around self-discipline, managing my own time and prioritising workload. It didn’t surprise me that lots of people I knew from art school went on to be project coordinators and managers. I myself went on to coordinate programmes, events and marketing in charities for a decade after graduating. Now that I run my own graphic art business, I love the admin side as much as designing!

So, if you are a creative person and find it hard to get your head round the admin side of your business, here are a few tips from me to help you get on top of things:

  1. Make sure you allocate time each week for admin. I find keeping the whole of Monday morning free works as it get’s it done before you’ve even picked up your paintbrush (/graphics tablet/knitting needles/chosen creative weapon of choice). Don’t start designing and making until after you’ve ticked off some of the admin you know needs to be done.
  2. Find a way of working that works for you. If you can get on board with a spreadsheet or find an app that helps – great! But succumbing to technology isn’t the be all and end all of getting organised. I’ve tried so many different spreadsheets to plan my marketing contact, but at the end of the day they all get forgotten and a pencil and paper list is actually what works for me for that task. Try different things and go with what achieves results for you.
  3. Shift your mindset. I find it helps to re-frame how you think about the concept of ‘creativity’ and apply it to things other that artwork. Software developers write creative code, sales managers make creative pitches and administrators think of creative processes to manage offices more efficiently. Does that mean they’re an artist? No. But that doesn’t mean they lack the ability to CREATE. I love to think of a good colour coded budget spreadsheet as a creative task – could you apply this to the admin tasks you’ve got on your list?

Of course, if you’ve tried to get organised but are still struggling to keep on top of your admin, consider getting help from a VA. They can help on a regular basis or with one-off tasks, and sometimes a small investment getting support with tasks that you just can’t get your head round means that you can get on with other things that will help to drive your business forward.

Rachel Brown runs Brownlow Brown Designs, creating colourful cards and prints that brighten up your life. You can find her on Instagram @brownlowbrowndesigns and at

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