Max Ruebensal is a contemporary artist, mentor, and writer based in Berlin. His work focuses on creating physical manifestos of bold statements, rather than crafting one message to perfection.
Being active in various fields, he’s always eager to streamline processes to avoid getting trapped behind his desk instead of spending time in the studio. 

Do you have tasks in your day that are taking up too much of your studio time? 

If there is one thing that I didn’t expect when becoming a full-time artist, it's that you spend so much time on the things that you don’t necessarily want to do ... but that you have to do.

Being a full-time artist, or being self-employed in general, means that you are (most likely) a one-man army that has to juggle between various tasks that demand their equal share in your working hours.

For me, and many artists alike, my to-dos mostly vary around these fields:

  1. Making art
  2. Marketing that art
  3. Networking for opportunities
  4. Business processes like handling, shipment, etc.
  5. Running an inventory, archiving artworks, etc.
  6. Planning my next steps like future shows, series etc.

All of these aspects demand their share of your daily working hours. And, if you've ever done a time audit, your time is always much more limited than you think. With a limited amount of time, it is important to maximize efficiency in all areas that are not directly correlated with making art to maximize your creative time.

That’s the whole point about becoming a full-time artist right?

Over the years I’ve tried countless "productivity hacks", tools, as well as attending a bunch of courses that promised ‘quick wins’ in productivity. Through my long episodes of wins and failures, I’ve picked up a workflow that proved itself being beneficial to my routine and helped me maximize my art-making time.

It's important to note that this process is of course tailored to my specific needs and the way my mind and body works. There is technically no shortcut to figuring out what will work for you. It’s a continuous, sometimes painstaking process of going back and forth between analyzing and optimizing your time in a way that supports your individual way of working, thinking, and creating.

You don’t want to become a human-robot or one-man factory that has to function with the press of a button. There is really no need to rise at 5 AM if your brain is not ‘fully awake’ until the sun rises. If you’re a night owl and work better when it’s dark outside, that’s just fine.

There are, however, certain tools and processes that can help you get more efficient, and can make you better at ‘making time’.

So here are my best tips and tricks that I picked up over time:

Process shots of Blasphemy No. 1 by Max Ruebensal

Assess the "making art" part

I've found it extremely beneficial to conduct a time audit to optimize my work time when assessing the "making art" part of the equation. When you do a time audit, you start tracking your actual time and can put pen-and-paper facts to your vague assumptions about how you spend your time. It can be really mind-blowing.

People always overestimate the time they have in the day. Of course, one day always has 24 hours, but how much is left when you subtract sleeping time, time for meals, errands, housekeeping, commuting, or anything else? It has also been a common misconception that when you have 8+ working hours a day, this is equivalent to your “productive time”.

I’ve come to realize that most often it is much less than that.

How much time you really have can only be determined if you’re doing a time audit. Do you really know what you spend your time on, or do you only think you know?

Get a spreadsheet or use an app to track your time. I personally love the app RescueTime because it can be installed on all your devices and it automatically assigns times and tasks to what you were doing. You can also set reminders and block distracting sites to make you even more productive.

When you have a data set of at least 1-2 weeks you can assess how you spend your time. Are you spending a lot of time with things you don’t really need? What are the tasks that can be abolished? Where could be potential gains in your production time?

Furthermore, optimizing your art time is not just about maximizing your time, but also about strategically scheduling and planning it. Here’s where the time audit comes in handy again: Are you a night owl? Do you work better in long or short sessions? Extract this information and plan your future tasks accordingly.

Raw by Max Ruebensal. Acrylic On Canvas, 40 x 40 x 7 cm

Don't skimp on the marketing portion, but be smart about it

It’s one of the things many artists don’t want to hear: When you’re self-employed, you’re a business.

And, when you are a business, marketing is important. Period.

It is what draws the eyeballs and hearts of people that will eventually end up as your customers, who enable your living as a full-time artist. Because of that, some would even say that as an independent artist the share between making art and marketing should be 50/50.

So what can you do if you don’t want to spend hours in front of your laptop every day? The magic trick here is automatization. And no, that doesn’t mean that some fancy robot is doing all the writing and photography work for you. But, apart from that, a lot of work that is done by hand can be replaced, which can save a lot of time.

I usually plan all of my Facebook posts about a week ahead and create them in one big session (usually on Mondays). Then I schedule all of them at once. For that, you can use a social media service like Tailwind or Buffer or use the native scheduling tool on Facebook. I can pinpoint when I want these posts to be published and that way I don’t have to sit in front of my laptop to post at the optimal time for my audience (Insights can help you with that).

Another advantage of these services is that I can automatically cross-post to other platforms like Instagram and Pinterest with the click of a button, which can be another huge time-saver. You can even post in Facebook groups without moving a finger*! Now all I have left to do is wait for the comments to come in, which I also answer in bundled 10-minute session every day.

*For this you would need an additional automation tool like Zapier, and you would have to be or ask the group admin/owner to connect it in group settings. Managing own groups can be very beneficial to your fan community—more on that in a future post!

 

Invest in networking and it will give back to you

Whether you like it or not, networking can be very beneficial to your art career. In the end, many things in life come down to personal relationships and bonds that you make with similarly-minded people. A person you know could have a say in choosing the upcoming shows in your favorite venue or could bring your art visibility to potential future clients.

Networking can take various forms. It could be being active in your local art scene with visiting art shows and cultural events or nurturing an online community that is based around your niche and topics. In the end, it all comes down to communication.

I personally like to do a combination of both. This would mean that in the past I’ve been a huge collector of things like business cards. They would stack up on a spot at my desk until I eventually picked up one or two to shoot them an email.

Here’s where the Contacts feature in Artwork Archive came in handy. Now when I come back from these shows, I’ll type in all the information in my Contact section. I can also add various relevant information in the Notes section. For example, I'll add some things the journalist told me about him, some work the potential client really loved, etc. Then,  I  set up a reminder to contact them. This has not only helped me to achieve a cleaner desk – it's prevented me from missing out on opportunities that could be beneficial to my art career.

A recent addition to this has been that I adapted the “zero inbox” approach.

Having too many unread and un-replied emails can really cloak up your mental space and slow you down. For a maximum of 30 minutes per day, I work on my daily incoming emails and reply or delete them straight away. Even if some replies might need further information (for example, I can't reply until I've spoken to a shipment processor later that day) I will hit reply and say, “Write you later with details”. I then will set up a reminder in the Contact section again or close the email with an auto-reminder to open the next morning and address the details. 

Max Ruebensal in the studio

Get your business processes down to a science

Another responsibility that comes with running an art business is handling the in’s and out’s of your artworks. The pieces have to be packed and labeled properly for shipment to clients.

Here I use the Reports section of Artwork Archive to create informational sheets and a certificate of authentication that can be included in with the package. Name tags can also be quickly printed out on adhesive paper (Avery labels) and stuck onto your package. No more going back and forth between the screen and your package, no more forced good handwriting or literals. In addition, the Location tab is also a good way to keep track of your various works that go to and back from shows, client work that comes back for damage inspection, etc. You could even go as far as using an online postal service and shipment processor to have your work collected right at your door and not having to wait in line at the post office.

 

Run an inventory sooner than later

Running an inventory is something that many artists, like me, postpone so long until it can’t be delayed any further and takes weeks to accumulate the information.

It’s only many years later that we wish to have clear documentation about our early works, young progressions and beginning stages in our life as an artist. At this point, some information might be hard to recap or some works might even be lost forever.

I initially started with a google spreadsheet, but that proved to be too rigid, boring, time-consuming and too complicated to always keep up to date. It’s how I came to Artwork Archive in the first place – I was searching for an easy, time-saving way to handle all my archiving, various storage locations, and inventory.

I don’t have to say much more about it, because ArtworkArchive services can speak for itself. They have saved me days of working time already and you should really take a look at it if you’re looking for similar functions in your art archiving process.

Max Ruebensal starts a painting in his studio.

Always be planning your next steps like future shows or new series

When I plan my artistic future, I usually start with my big goals for the year and further break them down into quarterly, monthly, weekly and daily tasks.

Throughout the day, voice assistants like Siri or Google Assistant help me to quickly set up calendar events and reminders without having to interrupt what I am doing right now. I regularly check in with my long-term goals and make sure that I am heading down the right path. As with everything, success lays in continuously going back and forth between analyzing and optimizing. It’s what I learned through many tries and failures and what ultimately brings the long-term results I and many of my mentees desire.

If you have big goals for 2020 and want to take your art to the next level, shoot me a message. I coach artists to find their unique and unified voice across all media, identify their ideal customers and teach them how to build valuable relationships and sell their artworks. Feel free to message me if you want to know more!

 

A few actionable steps to get started right away:

  1.  Print out a timesheet (or use an app) to start a time audit today. No waiting until tomorrow or next Monday— you can start right after finishing this article!
  2.  Determine a special time of 1-2 hours in your weekly schedule to pre-produce and schedule posts
  3.  Explore Artwork Archive with a 30-day free trial – no pressure – and see if it is for you.
  4.  Shoot me a message here if you want to learn more about your unique voice as an artist + marketing and finally selling your artworks.

 

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