5 Tips for Productivity When You're A Self Employed Artist: How We Get Stuff Done

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It’s the dream, right? To be your own boss.

But, for many artists it’s a daily struggle deciding how to structure your work day. At first this feels like freedom and affirmation that you’re doing the right thing, you’re on the right track, and a 9 to 5 was never for you anyways. You may look forward to easing into your morning, having a leisurely mid-day stroll around your neighborhood, and the enjoyment of knowing you can now say yes to grabbing a coffee with a friend at 10 AM on a random Wednesday. Ahhh, freedom.

Well, that freedom period is usually fairly short lived. Then comes the next phase which feels more like dread, overwhelm, and total uncertainty. This is when you’ll start asking yourself, ‘What the heck did I even do today because I have nothing to show for it?’ And that’s when the frustration and anxiety hits. This is your job. You need to get work done. You need to make money.

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We get it, we’ve been there. Here are 5 tips for how we structure our work days as artists— and we both get tons of stuff done and enjoy plenty of freedom in the process!

  1. Know how you Morning.

    Yes, ‘morning’ as a verb. Some people excel with early mornings, some people do best when they’ve had a full breakfast, or when they’ve worked out. Think about the mornings that prepare you for your best days and commit to that version as much as possible.

    It may mean that you need to set your alarm a little earlier to get a jump start on your day or squeeze in that exercise, but you won’t mind it if the exercise is truly what helps you to have the best kind of day.

  2. Set a goal.

    What’s your quarterly sales goal? How about monthly, or weekly sales? What about how much art you need to make to hit those goals? And then how many hours you need to make that much art?

    Goal setting often starts with the identification of a goal which then opens a series of questions about how to get there. Those questions will help you with the next step.

  3. Create a plan.

    Now that you have a few big picture goals you can start working backwards to developing a plan for how to achieve those goals. This can then become a plan for each day, helping you get closer to your goal in purposeful strides.

    Write out each step, even the minor ones. It always feels good to check off an item on the list and see that you are making progress (“Write to-do List “— CHECK!)

  4. Add accountability.

    When you’re working within an organization it’s easy to take for granted the accountability you receive from other team members. When you’re self employed it’s all on you.

    Structure a mid-week checkin with yourself to evaluate where you are with your current weekly goals. This is a great time to make any changes to your plans for the rest of the week to help you achieve what you set out to accomplish.

    (We set weekly goals and share them here in our free Facebook Group every Monday for motivation and accountability! Come join us!)

  5. Set work boundaries.

    This is a tough one, but it’s so important. When you’re self-employed you can work anytime… but you can also work ANYtime… as in all of the time. If you want to be done with work to spend time with your kids after school, commit to that. If you want your weekends free, commit to that.

    It may sound like work boundaries will make you less productive but it’s the opposite! By having boundaries you won’t work during times when you’re distracted by other (often more important things like family) and you’ll better tackle your to-do list during your dedicated work times!

    Bonus tip in regards to boundaries — remove your work email app from your phone! We know— Gasp! But that way you ONLY tackle your inbox when you are focused and prepared, sitting down at your computer within the set timeframe you’ve established. Be intentional with your time, and trust us— that email can wait a few hours. Promise.