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Seven things to do as a Creative under a Stay-at-Home Order

We're all living though harrowing and life-altering times due to the devastating effects of the covid-19 pandemic. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the millions of people who's lives and livelihoods have been rocked by this deadly disease. That said, through all the fear, horror, and compassion that this dreaded virus evokes, we must must survive. To socially isolate ourselves is certainly what's best for the species, and we should continue to do so for as long as the experts request. But we cannot just sit, week after week, watching our businesses fail, and our bank accounts dwindle.

My problems may be dwarfed by those others are facing, but there are positive, proactive, and healthy things I can can do as an artist to attempt to keep my business alive during this time of self-imposed quarantine. During any business slow-down, success always depends upon new business I have in the pipeline. What I am doing right now, the prospects and plans I am considering today, are what will sustain me when the slump has ended. The issue now is that the pipeline is completely dry, and the customary ways I had to fill it have all gone away. My business has stopped making any money, and there is no path for me to restore that income for the foreseeable future.

So I have come up with 7 concrete things I can do today to better prepare my creative business for whatever comes next.

  1. Keep a routine. For the first couple of weeks, I was so stunned and confused that I just watched Netflix on a loop, and nested in the house. I slept in, spent the day in my PJs, and was very intermittent in my work. That has now changed. I get up at the same time each morning, exercise every day, shower and dress like I was going to work. This may appear to be both unimportant and unnecessary, but for me anyway, it makes a huge difference.

2. I need to look as professional as possible. I am spending serious time updating my website, adding e-commerce plugins, updating resumes and images. I'm doing the same with all my social media platforms as well. I want to make sure my brand is clear, I look like a successful artist, and that all of these tools are serving me to their best potential. I've needed to do this for ages, and it's amazing how quickly and completely these various platforms go out of date.

3. I have to organize all of my work. I use Lightroom to manage all my images, but each piece of art needs a title, date, description, collection, and keyword tagging. I also send my work out to gallery owners, open calls, contests and grant applications. I have started using Artwork Archive to organize that sort of thing, so there is a lot of data entry to do there too. Time I spend organizing my artwork will make me look much more professional later, and will save me a lot of time in work flow.

4, This is a great time for me to work on my client database. I can finally update emails, addresses, mine new prospects, and catch up with those I've not spoken to for a while. I use a CRM database called HubSpot, and keeping up with all those collectors, customers, and colleagues is core to the success of my business. If a potential client needs to hear from me five times before they will do business with me, I need to have a clear idea of whom I am communicating with, how often, and what happens next.

5. I must also keep my eyes wide open, watch for trends, and jump on opportunities as they occur. This pandemic is changing the landscape for all of us. I have noticed that since everyone's shows and exhibitions have been cancelled, there is a sudden flood of open calls for competitions and online exhibitions. Take a look at all those opportunities, and sign up for as many of them as makes sense. They are offering prize money, solo exhibitions, publishing opportunities. I must have responded to about six just yesterday. Congress also just passed the Cares Act, which allows for all sorts of small business loans and grants through the SBA. Get those grant applications in now. Some of that stimulus money could keep your business afloat while you rebuild.

6. There seem also to be all sorts of free online courses, videos, and podcasts. I'm trying to use this extra time to get as much professional development and education as I can. This is very helpful information, and something I never seem to have enough time for during the good times.

7. Finally, and most importantly, I have to keep producing art. The work I am creating now will be the collection I promote when these dark clouds lift. It helps me emotionally to keep working, and it builds my inventory so that I am ready to sell, as soon as the customers return.

That's what I'm doing anyway. I hope you have a plan, and are staying as positive and productive as you can during this difficult time. I know we're all in this together, but that doesn't stop the fear and doesn't pay the bills. Take care of yourself, and keep making beautiful things. We know that whatever society emerges on the other side of this plague, people will still want, need and appreciate art. Let's give it to them.

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