What Artists Should Know About Outsourcing

by Carolyn Edlund

As an artist, your most valuable time is spent in the studio. How can you get the help you need to run the rest of your business?


Artist working in her studio


Juggling multiple tasks in and out of the studio can hamper your ability to make progress on your business goals. Many artists find themselves tackling everything themselves, from business planning to packing boxes, simply because they are solo entrepreneurs. Without assistance, your plate is often filled with tasks that don’t really suit you. They probably could be done better and more efficiently by someone else. Are you ready to reach out for help?

As the artist and creative mind behind your business, you should prioritize your own highest value work. These are things that only you can do, like creating in the studio and acting as the CEO of your art business. Fortunately, in this gig economy, it’s not hard to find people who can step in and take over specific work of your choice for any length of time.

Acting as the decision maker, you’re the one who delegates jobs to others. But it’s still your responsibility to make sure those choices serve your overall business plan. You should be able to measure the results of work being done on your behalf, to make sure your money is well-spent and your assistants understand each project thoroughly. Review completed projects or ask for statistics to show that their efforts are working to fulfill your objectives.

Virtual assistance

Online outsourcing is typically paid on an hourly or per-project basis. Many websites specialize in meeting these needs. You can outsource website design, graphic design, social media posts, bookkeeping, internet marketing and much more. Some top resources for virtual help are:

Fiverr – This site gives you a range of specialty options, with fixed prices upfront. Payment isn’t made until you are satisfied with the result.

Upwork – Freelancing site based on billable hours or fixed-price jobs with set milestones to track progress.

Outsourcely – A site that connects employers and workers to longer-term or permanent remote gigs.

Reduce your risk by starting small with outsourcing, by delegating limited projects for a set period of time. Once you find someone who delivers what you need on time and without problems, keep the relationship. Rather than choosing the lowest bid for any job, look for the highest quality and customer recommendations at a rate you can afford.

Outsourced production

Working in the studio just got easier, with new technologies automating rote jobs or production. Try these resources to help speed your workflow and significantly reduce labor expenses:

Makers Row – Get help with pattern making, product development or domestic small batch manufacturing to help scale up your creative business. This site matches you with U.S. manufacturers who can accommodate your needs.

Shapeways – Their services include 3D printing, which can expedite the design process, mass-produce components, fulfill orders and even test market your work.

Spoonflower – Perfect for surface designers, this service produces short-run fabric, wallpaper or gift wrap featuring your designs. Great for creating samples, or order larger quantities for bulk discounts.

Contrado – This provider offers print-on-demand on a huge range of fabrics, clothing, homeware and leather goods. They also wholesale, and may be an option for ongoing production that allows you to increase your product offering and price point spread.

Studio assistants

In-house labor can be really valuable to a busy artist who wants to produce and earn more. Word of mouth referrals are great ways to find capable paid assistants. Get leads through art centers, organizations or through your artist community.

You may want to consider hiring interns if that fills your needs, although these are usually short-term arrangements. Barefoot Student  is a site that matches college students and grads with employers. Another option for hiring interns is to check local art schools and universities. Internships may be paid or unpaid, but will have requirements to meet, such as providing professional training and mentorship for the intern that will help them earn college credit. This internship program at the Maryland Institute College of Art is an example of what you might find when searching for an intern.

Getting efficient

Outsourcing, delegating and automating can offer enormous time savings as you grow your art business. Sooner or later, as sales increase and things get busier, you will be in a position where you must make a choice. Although it can be stressful to make the commitment, and you will need to fund that assistance, it also puts you in a position of focusing deeply on your own strengths and using  your time wisely.



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