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Keeping your art files organized without spreadsheets

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

rose gold laptop, pink mouse and pink dragon fruit mousepad to stay organized in style

One of the serious downside of making a living as an artist and surface designer is that art files add up and pile up very quickly on your hard drive and it can become very tricky to remember what you uploaded and where. Many artists will tell you how they swear by some sort of spreadsheet or planner that lives on their computer and how it's a great way to stay organized and stay on top of things. Some even include which descriptions, keywords and tags they associate with each design.

The problem is that there are a LOT of us out there who are seriously spreadsheet challenged and keeping a list that way is the surest way to get even more disorganized. I'm absolutely famous for forgetting appointments and events that have been entered on Google calendar and for forgetting I even have lists in spreadsheets. Heck just creating a spreadsheet stress me out and I mess it up half the time which leads to my husband having to help me with it...I'm THAT bad with them. So what if I were about to tell you that it's possible to keep your art files organized and do so without spreadsheets?

Two weeks ago I made my comeback on YouTube after a long hiatus showing you exactly how I do it :

My method is highly visual and works for everyone who needs to see things to remember them rather than see a name in a list. I also show you how I make an habit of backing up my files regularly to avoid clutter on my laptop, and make sure everything stays safe. To do so, I use a 1TB Toshiba hard drive I bought a few years ago which unfortunately is now only available as a 2TB drive on Amazon but that I still recommend (it's an affiliate link by the way). The system is pretty simple :

- Files that have been published on ALL my main PoD platforms are put away in folders with the name of the design inside a bigger folder I named "Cyn's art". Those are files I don't need to see as icons anymore, and I only keep the most recent designs on my laptop or those I might revisit in the near future.

- Files that are yet to be backed up on my external drive are left out of a folder and do not have a red dot label (I'm on Mac)

- Once my files are backed up on my external drive, they go in a folder if they have been published, or they stay in the open and get a red dot label which indicates that the file has not been published yet but has been properly backed up. - I upload all seamless tiles file in a whole different folder after I published them, it's easier for me to have them all in one place when I build collections and be able to sift through thumbnails image to get an idea of what works together or not.

I have a number of "red dot" designs in my "Cyn's art folder" some that have been there for months. The reasons could be that they are out of season, like for example Christmas designs that I created all through December and make no point of uploading past the shipping deadline PoD companies set to get your order delivered before December 24th. Those designs will safely stay on my hard drive until it makes sense to publish them again. Then there are all the color variations of a design I often make in batches but will take a couple of months to be all up for sale as I don't like flooding my shop with 5-6 color variations all right after one another. These red dotted designs always come in handy when I am stuck in a creative block, that way I have something to fall back on to maintain my uploading pace on PoD and keep their algorithm happy.

When I publish a design, I make a point of publishing it all within a day or two at the most to ALL my main print on demand platforms, this means Society6, Redbubble, Teepublic and Threadless. That way, I don't have to worry about remembering keywords and tags as I'm doing it all in just a few hours. The only catch is that with Teepublic being most a t-shirt platform, my patterns do not make it there, and it's fine. I have a few other smaller PoD and some of them are super specific like Raspberry Creek Fabric, so I upload separately on those and my content is often curated. If I find a new platform to try at any point, I start by uploading my best selling designs and go from there.

For the highly visual person that I am, this system has worked pretty well over time. So if you are allergic to spreadsheets and can't register words as well as images, this is a system that might be a good fit for you.

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