Important Tools Most Freelance Artists Overlook

While I've not been a freelancer for all that long, I feel that I'm pretty hip to the goings-on of the internet and I try to take full advantage of what it has to offer.  Even if you do artwork 100% traditionally, you still need the internet to help market yourself, display your works and even get inspired for that next painting.

To celebrate the 300th post on my blog, I decided to help out others and list some things that I take advantage of on the internet.  When I tell other artists about many of them, they are astounded by the fact they haven't been doing these things also!

Your Inbox

I use Gmail.  This little comic strip explains (rather accurately IMO) about why I do.  All jokes aside, Gmail allows me to check multiple email accounts (I have one for almost all of my projects), sort my email productively using labels and even gives me an ad-hoc to do list via Priority Inbox.

You can check multiple email addresses in Gmail by following these instructions. That way you only have to check one email account and get all of your emails.

You can make and use labels easily, sorting your email in such ways as "Home" and "Work", then further drilling down by adding a "/" after your main category, like "Work/Marketing", "Home/Friends".  I have about 25 labels that I use and I can sort all of my incoming email with these categories.  If you aren't as picky as I am, then maybe you can get by with even less.

Priority Inbox allows you to have several inboxes when you first open up Gmail in your browser.  I separate my email into 2 categories:

1) emails I need to respond or take action on
2) emails where I'm waiting for someone to respond to me

I archive all emails I don't need a response from or need to take action on any more.  That way my inbox stays relatively uncluttered.  The easiest way I designate an email as needing to take action on or not is with a star.  I star emails that I no longer need to take action on and I'm waiting on a response.  I don't want to completely forget about them, which is why I don't archive them and keep them in my inbox. I can close up the "Starred" category of my inbox and check it only once a day or week, emailing back those emails I still haven't received a response from if needed.  The rest of the emails in the "Everything Else" category generally stays open and it motivates me every time I check my email to do something about these emails so they can get archived or starred!

Podcasts

Podcasts get me through the day.  There are tons of podcasts related to freelancing- and even specifically freelance art!  Here are 13 good ones related to freelancing right here.  Some of my favourite art-specific ones right now are Drawn Today, Escape From Illustration Island and W.I.P Podcast.  Do take a listen if you care about doing well in your career, especially if you feel you are kind of struggling.  Once you get caught up (most are an hour, so you'll get caught up quicker than you think!), you'll have some easy listening every week and a lot of good tips that will get you through rough patches, invoicing, marketing and a lot of things that you, as your own sole proprietorship, never thought you had to worry about.  Best of all- they're FREE! Great information at that price is just unbeatable. I listen while I work on my art, so I feel doubly productive!

RSS Reader

This is probably the most undervalued tool you could have in your arsenal.  I wouldn't know about even half the stuff I've written about here without reading my RSS reader every night before bed.  Even if you just use it as a nifty article collector, you still be so much more informed, so easily!  I just use the Google RSS reader because it's easy to collect interesting blogs to read and it integrates well with my workflow. 

I read my RSS feeds on my iPhone, though the computer works just as well.  I use the iPhone app Reeder.  Yeah, it costs $5, but I don't have ads in the articles and it loads up quickly.  Also, it allows you to easily Tweet and email articles (as well as some other options)- this is handy when it's late and I want to quickly run through my list and email myself articles to read in the morning! I suggest making categories for your blogs, mine are: Animals -because I need my daily cute animal fix!, Art Related- for blogs talking about art or process but not individual artists, Artists- individual artists, Ect- stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else, Freelance- for all the great freelance related blogs out there, Jobs- sites that have art job related news and posts, and My Sites- so I can monitor my sites to ensure articles show up well in RSS feeds.

I don't recommend using the "Follow" option on Blogger sites, because they will clutter up the top of your Reeder list and you will have to scroll past all of them to get to your nice categories.  Maybe this is a fault of Reeder more than Google, as Google lumps them nicely in a folder marked "Blogs I'm following" when you go to the Google Reader site, but that's just a recommendation.  It's too much hassle for me to unfollow everyone now!

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Well, I hope those three tips helped you out.  They came to me today as I was checking through the emails I sent to myself via Reeder and realised that not a lot of artists probably do this in their daily workflow- but they totally should.  Feel free to pass this article around, I hope to help as many people as possible! :)

Feel free to list any helpful tips you have in the comments!

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