The Art of Inventory: Why artists should keep inventory of their products.

I work as second in command in at printing company located in Columbus, Ohio which means I take on many tasks that expand my title as a designer. A little less than a year ago I was put in charge of organizing the company's inventory and fixing the many discrepancies that had been appearing.

I know as an artist you are thinking, "That is the probably the least sexy assignment ever." but remember I am a little out of the ordinary and love working on improving efficiency in the company I work for so I jumped at the opportunity with stars in my eyes.

As I worked on this I began to question why I didn't have an inventory as an artist selling at conventions. So late one night I sat down and decided that it was time.

As an artist I needed inventory records of all my products.

I began my efforts with research to see what other artists were doing. Sadly it proved difficult to find any articles, videos or even examples which is why I decided to write an article and provide a basic template for any future artist who wants to keep inventory of their products.

How does keeping track of my inventory make me a better artist?

Funny you should ask!
Here are some benefits I have noticed with keeping track of my inventory:

  • Knowing exactly how much of each product I have going into an artist alley, event or convention helps me know exactly how much I have sold when I am finished, which is necessary for filing your taxes! (Another sexy subject)

  • Being able to clearly see what I have sold helps me determine what pieces sell best. This helps me determine what I should continue drawing and what I should discontinue.

  • Knowing if I need to produce more product because it is reaching a re-order point.

  • Inventory is necessary to develop a good ROI (return on investment)

Ok so where do I start?

Another great question! :D

1. Get Organized

I started by working in a spreadsheet and listing all of my finished products such as prints, original sketches and swag. 

I then separated my products into categories and began to count everything I had and placed it into the spreadsheet. Below is a sample of what it looked like:

(Click to enlarge)

Artist inventory basic template

The above downloadable file is an excel file and has equations built in.

This inventory template is best used for final products that you sell. I would recommend keeping track of material you have as well (for tax purposes) but this template may not be the best solution for material inventory.

For any of you Google Drive  users you may have picked up on the fact that this spreadsheet was built in Google Sheets. There is no need to drop big bucks on a spreadsheet program. Unless you have thousands of products Google sheets will get the job done for you.

2. Keep it Simple

I have broken my products down into three categories:

  • Prints

  • Originals

  • Other

I know many of you probably already dread the idea of keeping inventory, but you can make it an insufferable task if you get too complex with your categories. 

3. Don't Forget the Descriptions:

Sometimes we need help. I tend to have someone with me at every convention I go to and they don't always know the names of my pieces. Adding a description seems silly if you are making only small sales, but can be very helpful to anyone who partakes in the selling of your work.

4. Produced vs. On Hand

Keep track of how much product you have produced. Also keep in mind what exactly "Produced" means to you. In my case a "Produced" print is one that has been printed, sleeved and branded (the sleeve has my logo stickers and business card). "On Hand" should be produced products that have yet to sell. Keeping track of this will give you a "Big Picture" vantage point on how your products move.

5. Update

No matter how you often you sell your work you should always update your inventory. If you are someone who sells online and daily, I would say update at least once a week. If you only go to conventions and they are spread out, update every time you have an event. The worst thing you can do is NOT update your inventory. It seems silly to go through all the work of making something so awesome and then not using it!

We are at the end! Thank you for sticking with me through this sexy topic! I will be posting more sexy topics in the future so stay tuned!

Your biggest fan,