Tools of the Trade
Given that the specific implements or software programs an artist will use vary so significantly depending on one's speciality, we will not cover specific tools here. You know which implements and apps are essential to your craft. Instead, we will address tools that play a pivotal role in your career as an artist.
For each of the tools discussed below, there is a myriad of free and paid solutions available. While you are welcome to get as fancy as we like, we recommend keeping things cheap and simple. What matters is that you produce great work, not that you can run detailed reports analyzing your momentum on a particular consulting project. Just make sure that you have a tool and approach in mind for each of the tasks discussed below.
Tools for Showcasing Your Work
A good portfolio plays a pivotal role in any artist's career. Though many of the platforms and artist networks previously discussed in this course offer portfolio options, you may still want to create physical and independent portfolios.
When building your own portfolio, be especially mindful of presentation. While it's all about your work, clients will still pay attention to the manner in which you construct interfaces. You may have beautiful work, but if you present it via a clunky, difficult-to-use, or broken portfolio, potential clients and buyers will probably look elsewhere.
We have found the following portfolio tools to be useful when it comes presenting work in a polished, unobtrusive manner.
Physical Portfolio Tools
- Moo: If you would like to showcase your work on high quality but reasonably-priced business cards, Moo is a great option (believe us, we have analyzed a lot of business cards); Moo also provides high quality postcard and greeting card products
- Blurb: Our favorite option when it comes to popular print on demand platforms (especially when it comes to quality), Blurb can be used to create professional looking books featuring your work (a definite step up from a sleeved portfolios- we don't like the idea of lugging around and possibly damaging art, plus presenting clients with ragged, possibly powdery and worn materials)
- Paper Chase Press: A nice high end option with a special program for artist portfolios, Paper Chase Press nevertheless offers reasonable prices and several printing formats
Online Portfolio Tools (Beyond Major Platforms)
WordPress plugins: There are countless gallery plugins you can leverage (both free and paid) should your personal site be built using WordPress (even Gigaverse uses a WordPress gallery function to display courses on the site); the gallery that works best for you is contingent on your work and the type of WordPress theme you have developed or chosen, however we encourage you to take a look at some of the most popular plugins
- Wix: Excellent if you want your own portfolio, but don't know how to build a website and have a small (or nonexistent) budget; Wix makes it possible to build an online portfolio using templates and drag and drop tools
- Weebly: Enables you to create a simple portfolio without coding skills and the option to use your own domain
Tools for Keeping Track of Your Art Sales
There are several software programs artists may purchase to keep track of their art sales and exhibitions, including eArtist, Flick, WorkingArtist, GYST, and Masterpiece Artist Software, however free, generic tools can be just as effective (and are in many cases, easier to use and more attractive).
Based on our research, we recommend:
- Simple spreadsheets: While an obvious and low tech choice, a spreadsheet is the simplest way for you to keep track of your various works of art, their prices, their locations, and the people to whom they have been lent/sold
- Platform-based features: With the growth of online storefronts, you are free to rely on the tracking software of each online store through which you sell; just be sure to only sell through online stores that provide good order monitoring and sales tools
- Quickbooks: If you really want to pay for a solution (and need help tracking sales more than exhibitions), the most popular option amongst those we have interviewed is Quickbooks, which offers a 30 day free trial and is available in its simplest form at $12.95 per month
Work Tracking Tools for Artists
For those who are interested in using work tracking tools would like to choose from a wide range of options, we recommend stopping by Wikipedia's comparison of time tracking software. While the solutions outlined in that table, as well as other popular options such as MakeSomeTime and Toggl, offer awesome functionality, we have yet to hear from many artists who use them in their freelance work.
Most artists instead focus on producing work and track their progress using low tech and simple solutions, the most popular among them being:
- Email: The vast majority of artists we have interviewed use nothing more than use email to keep their clients updated; should your clients be OK with this option, we recommend going with it
- Pen and Paper: Popular amongst analog artists
- Google Drive: An excellent option for clients who do not want to be bothered with regular emails but wish to be able to check up on your progress from time to time (just share the Google Drive folder containing works in progress, final files, and a document outlining what you have achieved so far and what has yet to be completed)
- Google Calendar: Works well if your clients actively use the tool and would like to be able to view your work on a calendar- plus schedule calls and meetings with you using their own system
Each client will have unique requirements when it comes to tracking work and reporting on progress. If a client wants you to use Basecamp, use Basecamp. If your client wants you to use a special time tracking app, go ahead. That said, if you can help it, don't get bogged down in unnecessary tools and distractions. Just create good work.
Tools for Sharing Private Work with Clients
If you do not need to do anything special to track your work, all you need to be able to do is share progress pieces and final files with clients. When email won't handle large file sizes, the following options work well for sharing and transferring work:
- Google+: Should you only be sharing traditional image and video files (and not anything complicated, such as .ai or .ind files), you can easily share private images (in their original file sizes) with clients using Google+; in addition to displaying images in an attractive environment that is conducive to dialogue (via comments), photo uploads to Google+ will not contribute to your overall Google Drive storage space (for the time being, at least)
- Google Drive: If you are a heavy Google user but need to share files that aren't just images for videos, Google Drive is a good choice- and an especially convenient option if you use it to store most of your files anyway (just click the share icon to give access to files or folders via direct emails or a public link)
- Dropbox: An industry standard when it comes to professional file sharing in professional contexts, Dropbox is a tool with which many business clients will be very comfortable and familiar (if a client does not have a Dropbox account, you can still easily give them access to a Dropbox folder by providing them with a link)
- Rackspace: Perfect you just want unlimited storage, intend to also use this storage for personal business purposes (e.g. your own website), and are willing to pay $0.10 per GB per month
Invoicing Tools for Artists
The most convenient invoicing tools are those which are integrated with an agreed upon payment method. If checks or cash are a must, stand-alone paper invoices sent via email or delivered in person are great, however there are plenty of simple invoicing options for clients who are interested in paying via credit card (or a particular online money transfer service).
- Google Docs / Microsoft Word: Any major word processing software comes with invoice templates that you can customize and use as you please (for an example, peruse the templates offered by Google Docs)
- PayPal: PayPal enables you to send invoices (which can even include specific line items) to clients through which they can immediately submit payment using PayPal balances (meaning you enjoy no fee) or credit cards
- WePay: For those with a vendetta against PayPal, WePay also offers a simple invoicing tool that enables clients to pay via credit card
For more information about receiving payment online, review our detailed guide.
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