For the majority of my adult life I was a full time teacher, now as a full time artist I'm learning how to organise, my time, life and business, in away I've never had to do before.
As a teacher, there were a myriad of things to organise and remember, the school calendar was a bible, my teaching planner a tome of great import and before conditionally formatted spreadsheets were fashionable, my mark book too, was a work of art. To be honest, I rather liked it. For me one of the perks of teaching was the endless stationery. I love stationery. The childhood ritual of buying a new pencil case for the start of the academic year, never really left me as an adult!
Now free from all this, with only myself to organise, I had grand romantic schemes of linking my digital calendar, across devices, and thus a new age of efficiency would be be born. My scheduled blog posts, commissioned paintings deadlines, art fairs, meetings, appointments, exhibitions would sync seamlessly and this 21st century artist would embrace it.
After not very long at all, I realised I was resisting the digital calendar. Don't get me wrong, I'm fully Appled up and have devices of varying sizes and power, but I just prefer a nice paper diary.
But then, my nice dairy wasn't coming up with the goods either. Too many post-its bulging out all over. Not happy.
So I went retro. In my university days I had a filofax, the bastion of the London yuppy. I wasn't a yuppy, I was a London Art student, but I still used my filofax all the time, everything was in there, and it worked. I still have my original 1980s filofax, but it's a small one and I fancied investing in new one.
So here's my ultimate list for the best organiser I've ever created.
A purple Malden filofax A5 size. It's gorgeous.
This filofax isn't serving just as a diary. The normal diary pages simply weren't enough for me. I wanted a full on planner (just like I used to have in my teaching days) but my planner needed to be colourful, beautiful even. It had to be flexible, inspire and motivate me and be aimed at fresh entrepreneurs trying to juggle a shed load of things.
I'm delighted that I have discovered the brilliant Life is crafted planners by Arienne Gorlesh. They are beautiful, can help you focus on the big picture whilst also crafting your daily life and help you create actionable and inspiring goals.
I write everything there. All those arty appointments, the workshops I run, my social media strategy, a list of photos to upload each day, ongoing painting projects, commissions...you name it, it's in the filofax, just like it was in the 80s!
In addition I've printed out pages from Jennifer Lee's brilliant Right brain business plan. I have a huge RBBP on my wall, but I have some key pages included in my planner so that I can keep developing and growing my business organically.
Just to make things super pretty I also bought myself some pretty dividers from Atelier Days on Etsy. They are gorgeous, properly laminated and will stay beautiful for a long time.
So what have I learned from all this.
I love technology, but only in its place. I can't shake my stationary habit, I love having paper to write on, flick through and muse over.
Is it really surprising for an artist to be this way?
And if it's working? Then surely it's right.
I have just revisited my Right-brain business plan, and I am amazed at how much this has helped me plan my business. I started using on Jennifer Lee’s book "The Right Brain Business Plan" a couple of years ago. Back then, it was purely theoretical.
My life has changed, and now I’m full time self-employed and loving every minute. And I thought it was probably time to re-visit my plan.
The concept of the right brain business plan is for creative people (supposedly Right Brained thinkers) to get their heads around the problems of going into a successful business. Businesses require planning, businesses require an understanding of the bottom line, and having a strategy.
Jennifer Lee’s Right brain business plan book, allows creative types to work in their naturally creative way whilst still working towards a sensible achievable business plan.
Deep down I think the way we can all achieve more, and use our brains more effectively is to use both sides of the brain. But when you consider how “left brained” and activity writing a business plan is; spreadsheet on sales and expenditure, net and gross profit, legal issues etc etc. It makes sense to be more creative in the planning stages, before you get to the formal written part.
There are lots of techniques to use, Jennifer is a particular fan of collage, but you can use all sorts of visual stimuli to help you understand what your real business values are.
The right brain business plan isn't a walk in the park though, you really have to drill down and work out what it is you're offering your customers, who your customers are, and how you are going to manage the moolah! You have to do considerable research; no SWAGs allowed (silly wide-assed guesses).
My business plan incorporates a variety of techniques. I began with an accordion book collage, my first collage was created two years ago and I've stuck with the basic principles I created then. However almost everything else in my plan has now been re-vamped.
I have to consider my core values; what really makes me tick in business. I have to consider who my ideal customers are and how I should speak to them. How should I get the word out beyond spending lots of money on advertising; there has to be a more creative way to find out where my customers are and how I can send them a clear message.
You have to be really specific to with your business plan, no vague ideas allowed! I have to make sure I have all my action steps in place and a date for when those action steps will be achieved, that way I increase my chances of success considerably.
I also have a section on ‘milestones’. When will I be able to celebrate those little victories when I have achieved what I set out to do.
Like all business plans you have to face up to the reality of making money. You can be creative in the way that you make the money but you still have to to address the problem of spreadsheets.
My business spreadsheets and business accounts do not appear on my visual business plan board but they are addressed in the book and I found it extremely helpful to approach them in a creative way. It keeps me inside my comfort zone when I'm feeling least comfortable!
My big Right brain business plan board also begins to cover Jennifer's second book “Building your business the right brain way”.
I have mapped out my Entrepreneurial ecosystem. This again looks at my core values, it looks at what I offer my customers, and how I can attract them. It also makes me consider how I can be supported by other experts in my field.
It also helps you plan your year ahead, sometimes thinking in terms of the seasons can be extremely helpful if you're selling creative merchandise. Mapping out Mothering Sunday, Valentines day and Bonfire night are all opportunities to reach your customers with seasonal merchandise.
Sometimes you can get lost in the myriad of things you have to do as a solo entrepreneur. The Right brain business plan helps me prioritise what I should be doing and when. It stops me getting lost. It's not so much a plan, its a map! Its a visually stimulating, inspirational map that can keep me on track.
Making my space a more beautiful space!
My tag line is “make your space a more beautiful place” , the idea being that anyone can enhance the pace they live or work in, with artwork.
This summer has seen massive change in my life, by me leaving full time work ( I have been a full time teacher for over 20 years) to finally devote my time, full time, to being an artist.
I’m lucky enough to have a studio in my garden already.
Over the past few years the studio has been partially occupied by my artwork and easels, combined with a storage space for garden furniture, other stuff, and has provided us with useful space to lay out food and drink during barbecues and parties.
So, during August, with the help of my Dad and my husband, the space is being re-modelled to become a professional space, rather than a glorified hobby room.
It started with a plan to remove the massive drawing boards and replace them with a workbench, with enough room for four or five people to work. Thus allowing me to teach small classes, something I enjoy a great deal.
Luckily for me, my Dad pointed out, that before we do that, we really ought to put a nicer, and better floor down. Meanwhile my husband (a scientist) suggested I re-worked the sink area enabling not only a wash station for hands and brushes, but also enough space to retain damaging chemicals so that they can be disposed of properly, rather than down the sink. This is easy to achieve when its only me painting, but more difficult to organise when managing four or five painters.
Suddenly the project appeared to be larger, and more expensive than I’d originally anticipated. However this is such an important process to go through. Not only is my studio being changed and re-modelled but so is my mind. I’m making the move, physically, emotionally and intellectually from part time artist to full time professional.
Here are the starting photos. An entrance space, used for storage and a downstairs space for painting. I’ll post the process and finished studio in the coming week.
New year, new start and all that.
Over the Christmas holidays and festivities I've had the time to catch up with friends and family. Various conversations started with "How's the art going Lou?"
'Jolly well thanks', but hang on, they all said "Lou"…mmm that's got me thinking.
Everyone calls me Lou.
Or Lu. Or Lulu.
Even my Mum calls me Lulu.
Hardly anyone calls me Louise. Even my sixth form students, when wanting to be a little less formal, but not too disrespectful, have taken to calling me "Mrs Lutes".
So why am I officially known as Louise Luton when it comes to being an artist? And should I consider changing it?
I think that Lu Luton looks a bit neater than Lou Luton.
This might also be more memorable for people and easier to look up.
LuLu Luton might be fun but could be problematic. Potential customers and fellow artists might ending up typing in far too many "Lu"s whilst trying to find me over the tinterweb. Lulululuton. Who knows where it might end!
We all know that Branding is really important, but surely my name is only a tiny part of my brand.
What do you think? Have you changed your name in business because it sounded better? Alternatively have you stuck to your true name, because there is value in being truthful in business?
Should I change?
Would it be more memorable?
How much of a difference would it really make?
You comments would be valuable to me.
I've been reading Jennifer Lee's great book the Right Brain Business Plan and it has really helped me focus on what I need to do to develop a business as an artist.
This Summer I've added to my skills by becoming a Licenced Instructor for Unfolding your life Vision, also by Jennifer Lee, which compliments the RBBP very effectively.
By exploring your own thoughts and visions about what is important in your life, you can reveal some important aspects that you might want to focus on in the future.
You then create your own "unfoldable book" and collage it with important key phrases and images.
It's great fun, but incredibly insightful too.
I'll reveal more about my discoveries form UYLV on my website in the coming weeks.
I will be leading Unfolding your life vision courses in 2014.
If you life in the Salisbury area and would like to participate in a preview session of UYLV completely free, later on this year, then sign up on the courses page of my website.
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