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Spreadsheets – I’m converted

I’ve recently relaunched the shop portion of this site. Data won’t populate its own fields by wishful thinking on my part, so I’ve had to come to terms with spreadsheets. Now, my business manager/best friend is a complete wizard at these things, but I knew I needed to grow a pair and face my fear of rows and columns once and for all.

I manage the day to day bits of my site – built it, update it, etc. – and if I want to have more time in the studio, I need to automate my admin processes as much as possible. Spreadsheets can help me do this, specifically .csv format documents for importing products into my store.

I have a mega-badass-spreadsheet-of-doom that I’ve been building (with help from the wizard guy) to properly, finally, inventory all of my artworks. This bad mammajamma is big and getting bigger, and includes the following columns: SKU, TITLE, STATUS, LOCATION, SUBLOCATION, JDA SHOP, YEAR, MEDIA, MEDIA EXTRA INFO, FINISHING, EDITION, SUPPORT DIMENSIONS, EXTERNAL DIMENSIONS, PRICE, PRESENTATION, COMMENTS.

That’s a lot of information, but all necessary for me to do business. There’s more data that could be useful, such as WEIGHT, but enough is enough for now. In fact, it might be useful to add BUYER to the columns, but that could also go into a customer database with a SKU item reference. Oh, gosh- I’m actually thinking about creating more spreadsheets! Send help!

I kid. The mega spreadsheet has been worth all the hours going into it. I even carry an updated copy of it on my iPad mini, right there with my digital portfolio. I have all the information at my fingertips. Very professional for meeting potential buyers or galleries, and keeps me from saying, “um, erm, can I get the information to you in an email later?”

Using the spreadsheet of doom to populate a smaller spreadsheet for shop import is easy. That requires a slightly different data structure specific to WooCommerce (my shop software) and those columns are (but not limited to): NAME, SKU, MANAGE STOCK, STOCK STATUS, STOCK, BACKORDER, PRICE, SALE PRICE, SHORT DESCRIPTION, DESCRIPTION, FEATURED, CATEGORIES, IMAGE. Those are what’s called Importable Attributes and there are about another dozen I could use if needed. I save this spreadsheet as a .csv file, go to my shop software, import, and it magically ticks boxes and fills in information. It imports as many product rows as I throw at it in seconds and saves me hours of hand inputting data.

The reason I’m telling you all about this is simple: You need this level of organisation in your art business too if you want to make the best use of your time. Sure, it initially takes you away from slinging paint for hours/days/weeks, but having a master database/spreadsheet of your work is priceless and flexible. I now have not only my business cards on me at all times (a habit I started a couple years ago), but I also can tell you anything about any sketch, print, or painting I have created in the past five years or so. Wanna know how serious I am about making it in this crazy business? Let me show you a spreadsheet and you’ll get a good idea… 😉

The importance of a file system

Ugh. My bum still aches from sitting ten hours in front of this computer yesterday, sifting through numerous digital locations for my scanned images. My desk is sitting squarely in a hole I dug myself and I’m cleaning up a couple of years or more of haphazard digital filing.

Yesterday’s marathon file system cleanup was brought about by the need for one file, one single image out of hundreds – probably thousands. And I haven’t found it yet.

So, the hunt continues and I just might throw in the towel and re-scan the work; I have that luxury in this case, but what if I didn’t? This is where my diligence is kicking in and I know that in order to sit in this chair less and paint more, I must get my digital ducks in a row.

There’s a book called “I’d Rather Be in the Studio“* – it’s a good one, and goodness knows that title is how I feel of late. So, dear friends, don’t let your files get to a chaotic state. If you produce a lot of work (and I’m guilty of stacks of finished work no one has ever even seen), then you owe it to yourself to spend a day, or even a few hours, planning and implementing a digital file system that makes sense.

* I think the next edition is only available through the author, but you can click on Kindle edition from that link above if you want it as an ebook.