This is important in the long run, and yet very often neglected in the beginning. A nicely done work space works on a lot of different levels. It might take some time and effort to set up, and then again it doesn’t have to. And if you are thinking you do not have a space for a work space to begin with, think again.
Here are some thoughts, ideas and what not to help you get setup. The ultimate effort will have to be yours of course.
Eventually, every artist would like to have an area dedicated to their work. A place that’s inspiring and a sanctuary to their creativity. A kind of place you feel excited to enter everyday and find bliss and contentment in the day’s work you do there. And fantastic as all that may sound, it can be just as simple to achieve.
I know we are saying it again and again, that setting up a workspace is simple. That’s because making your creative workplace is not about getting elaborate and striving for perfection.
It’s psychologically and symbolically a strong notion, one that helps you work better and feel a lot better whole working.
Let’s begin. There are roughly five kinds of functions you will be performing in your workplace. Now you can segregate the area for these different functions, if you have the space, or you can manage them in a single place.
The 5 functions are:
- Making your art/craft
- Office work, computer work and paper work
- Taking product pictures (for selling online)
- Preparing and processing items for shipping (online selling)
- Storing finished items safely.
This may sound like you require a lot of space. But the trick lies is being as organized as possible and getting creative with space management.
Start With Clearing Up
Reduce the clutter around you.
Throw out things you do not use like paper, books, files. Paper really has a way of collecting if you do not get rid of it regularly. Remove objects you do not like. Either replace them or fix them to look and serve better. This includes tables, chairs, cupboards etc.
While you are at it, de clutter your computer as well. Delete old files you do not need. Transfer your several years worth of photo collection to an external hard drive.
Read up on Feng Shui a bit.
It’s an ancient philosophy that speaks of the impact of your environment and surroundings on your health and success. According to Feng Shui, clutter complicated your life, interferes with success, disturbs your personal space and robs you of your vital energy.
Open yourself to the idea of working with the space you have and come up with ideas to do more with it. The Internet is filled with idea for small offices and workplaces at home. Pinterest is a great source of information. Look for “home workplace ideas.”
Yes, it does take time to create a space. But the effort is worth it once you have a space that welcomes you to work everyday and gives you a creative high.
A Place To Do Your Artwork
Are you creating a workspace from the scratch or going to work with an existing one? Either way the place where you create your artwork needs to be functional and help you focus. It should make your work easier to do.
Different crafters have different requirements of course. A painter, a woodworker and a seamstress all need very different kinds of space, tools and storage to help them function well.
You need the right equipment for work. If you are advancing from being a hobbyist to a professional, then your tools might need an upgrade as well for better quality work.
Your production will be more planned as a professional. You need containers, boxes, shelves etc. to organize tools, materials and finished products although you probably want to put away your finished items separately if you can.
Things you can use include, clear plastic boxes, boxes made out of cloth look nice, printed cardboxes with lids come in many designs and covers, vintage trunks add style and metal lockers/cabinets are secure and durable.
Do not mix up spaces.
We are not going to mix up the art work place with the office space. You want to keep them separate because the 2 kinds of work are not conducive to each other. It’s not a good idea to put your computer, printer and paperwork in a place where you sculpt, use paints, make sawdust etc. You will appreciate having a corner away from all that to do your computer wok and paperwork.
Get a good table and chair.
If you are selling online and we highly recommend that you do, the time you spend on the computer will be substantial, and therefore deserving of proper space creation and setup. What you will need is a good chair and a desk large enough to function. You can manage with a small one if its only meant for your computer. But more often than not you will also want to put other equipment on it like a printer, label maker, phone etc.
Use a larger table.
In fact, if the space allows, this is a good opportunity to use a larger table for packing your items. With your computer close by you will be able to check orders and print labels with ease.
Make a filing system.
You will also need storage for paperwork and a filming system where you can put business related documents like bills, orders, account information etc. Again, keep your space clutter free and organized for easy functioning.
Get good lighting.
A very important point to mention is the lighting. We are big advocates of using natural lighting to work in bright, uplifting and good to see actual colors you are working with. However, go with bright overhead lights with daylight temperature for your work area. These keep your environment well lit and energetic.
Add ambient lighting and lamps with warmer temperature to lend warmth to the place. Your office can be lit up only with soft lighting and lamps if you like it that way.
A few more things to keep in mind about your office space:
– Ensure you have a decent computer. Nothing too old or too slow. It will only make your work take longer. It should be capable of running memory and processor hungry programs like your photo editing and management software. Make sure you do regular backups of your work either on the cloud or external hard drive, preferably both.
– Ensure you use an Internet connection that’s reliable and fast. Most people today do not have anything less than a broadband connection. Anything slower and your online work can take a lot of time. If you are selling online you will be doing a lot of your work online. A lacking Internet connection will be frustrating.
– Get a laser printer. Make it wireless. It makes printing from any device possible and so much easier. Go for a scanner, copier and printer All-In-One model to make things even more convenient for yourself.
– Get a phone for the office. Having a separate landline for the office helps. You can maintain business hours for taking calls without any infringement on your personal phone numbers. You can choose to have a separate business mobile instead of a landline if you find that more convenient. Just ensure that your calling plan and rates are adequate for your need.
When you start a business you will be required to complete a lot of paperwork. You will most likely need to get a business license, permits, insurance and complete some legal formalities. All these documents should be put away properly. They are very important and you may need them from time to time.
The regular functioning of your business will add to the amount of paperwork you collect. You will add a business plan, collect receipts for your expenses and sales, catalog credit card statements used for business purchases, record important info like bank accounts, financial transactions for taxation purpose and so on.
It’s a good idea to develop a filing system early on. Make separate files for all the documents you need to file your taxes. For example, all sales receipts go into one folder while business expenses go into another.
Have different folders for online sales, store sales and craft shows. When the time comes for filming taxes you are already sorted.
You can also choose to have an accounting system in place on your computer. It makes for clutter free records and can give you at a glance access to interesting information like no. of sales, monthly profit and expenses and so on.
But many crafters find the manual method more convenient. I know that many books and articles will tell you about online inventory systems (StichLabs.com, Bizelo and CraftyBase.com) and online accounting systems. (QuickBooks and Quicken)
Yes, they work well, can integrate with your online shop and PayPal and keep good records. But you don’t need them to begin with. You will probably need help setting them up and learning how to use them.
This can wait till a little later with more business coming you way. You will know when you need help managing your inventory and maintaining accounts.
However, make an effort to get as organize and streamlined with all processes critical to your business i.e. work flow, online listing, shipping etc.
Ideas For A Great Office Space
Ideas for an office at home are probably better expressed by showing you examples in pictures. That is why we recommended that you head over to Pinterest and open a free account if you do not have one already. Search with phrases like “home office ideas.”
But still, here are a few sound theories that go a long way in creating a space you will love as your home based office
- Create a boundary. Divide the space between your living area and your work space. This gives an effective and satisfying sense of stepping into the work mood. Carpet the area, use a folding screen or hang a curtain. Remember, office and work area can be used for a deduction in your income tax returns in the United States.
- Arrange your desk in a power position. This is an angle to the room and facing the door rather than a door. It’s supposed to help you work and stay productive for longer. However, if you feel you work best in an isolated environment, set your table in a cozy secluded nook.
- Put up a soft board, or many. You easily make one at home. Cover it with things that inspire and please like photos, sketches and magazine cut outs. Again, head over to Pinterest and check out ideas for making soft boards, fiber boards and bulletin boards for your walls.
- Use a whiteboard to make note of important numbers like sales target, daily to-do’s etc.
- Pay attention to lighting. It’s everything when it comes to creating the right wood in the office. Try to setup so you can work in daylight.
- Get a big table if you need to do a lot of packing and shipping. You will need to store boxes, envelopes, packing table, and packaging material like foam and bubble wrap.
You will also need a storage space to put items awaiting shipping. USPS Priority Mail Flat Rate is a good way to send heavier items. The boxes are provided free of cost from the office and the weight of the package does not matter as long as it fits into the box. Priority Mail gets delivered within 2-3 days within the United States. They even ship abroad though not at the same flat rate. The shipment is trackable online and is perhaps the most cost effective way to ship your products.
Your Photography Space
A place to take consistently good and uniform pictures for your products is critical to success if you are selling online. If you are not, you should still take pictures for the purpose of record keeping and cataloging which might come very handy in the future. Let’s assume for the sake of this part of the article that you are selling online.
Your photographs is the method that your customers are gong to see the craft before they buy. Hence, the need to develop the right setup. We have talked at length about how to take good product photographs in this post.
Your space and setup requirement will depend a lot on what you are photographing. Small items can be put on a table whereas larger items need more space and background. The first and foremost thing to work with is light. If you have a room where you consistently get plenty of diffused daylight, its great. We do not want direct sunlight and we do not want strong shadows.
If natural light is not available or not consistent, an artificially lit area gives you more control. Any well lit part of your workplace can serve the purpose provided, the light is strong enough, it does not cast shadows and you can arrange a suitable backdrop for the pictures.
The color temperature of the light should be consistent and can be easily managed in a good SLR’s settings to reflect the natural colors of your work. An example in case, I often take pictures for a clothes designer in her studio. The place is normally lit up with wall lamps and a chandelier and the clothes are photographed against the backdrop of a richly painted wall.
Once you have figured out the place and technique for taking good product pictures, stick to the routine for a consistent look across your online shop inventory.
There is much photography equipment available at a reasonable price like temperature balanced lights and soft boxes. You can even construct a soft box at home. However, I do not think that you need it as long as you can manage a source of bright and diffused light that does not cast harsh shadows. What you do need is a good camera (an SLR) and a photo editing software on your computer like the Adobe Lightroom. It works wonders for your photographs.
Also, try to work in a budget for a good lens above and byond the stand and lens that you get with a SLR camera. Go for a pro lens. You can usually distinguish these lens by the fact their aperture can remain constant throughout their zoom range. Try shooting with a block lens (non-zoom). Normal zoom lens give poor image results towards either end of their zoom range.
Stop down the aperture 2-3 stops from its widest setting for sharper images.
Safe Storage Area
I have seen crafters quickly run out of storage space. The clothes designer I take pictures for fills up boxes, cupboards and entire rows with her finished and unfinished items. And she still needs more space.
Its good to plan this space right from the beginning. How you do it will depend a lot on what you are making.
Photographs and prints need to be slipped into plastic sleeves, stored upright and protected from moisture and sunlight. This could warrant the use of a dehumidifier or silica gel machines to keep the air dry, especially if you live in a place with damp weather.
Canvas paintings can be bubble wrapped and stood upright or rolled up and put in special cans meant for this purpose.
Fabric crafts should be put away in plastic sleeves or bags, folded or hung depending on their size and preferably put away in a closet away from sunlight and odors.
Breakable crafts made out of glass and ceramic should be bubble wrapped and also put away in boxes. They can be the same boxes that you intend to ship the product in. This goes for all 3-dimensional art.
There funky and clever ways to manage storage in your workplace. For example, a trunk that stores your raw materials and doubles as a table.
Think vertical. Creating shelf space really boosts the available storage space without taking much room. Floor to ceiling shelves also look great.
Include information sheets with the products before storing. For example, story behind the creation, materials used, care instructions etc. This will make it easier to sell and ship.
Remember, it may take time and effort to set up your workplace. But that effort is going to pay off very well fast.