Today I am going to talk about the least glamorous and most dreaded topic of all artists: the business budget. Every business needs a budget, and your art or creative business is no different. One of the key messages in my book Secrets of the Art World: Getting Real about the Process, Business, and Selling of Your Work is that every artist is an entrepreneur. Making a living as an artist is every bit a business enterprise. And like it or not, in order to have a successful career as an artist, the “business” side of your artistic life can’t be ignored. As an entrepreneur and business owner, I have a budget that I work within. And, over the years I’ve helped many artists craft their own as well.
Budgeting for your art business is really no different than having a budget for your home—you project the money you have coming in, and then you plan for required expenses to subtract from that amount. Whatever is leftover at the end of each month can be used as discretionary spending, or you can put back into your business. I highly recommend doing the latter!
The concept of having a budget is simple—but executing it isn’t. That’s why I am here to help!
Reasons you need a budget for your art career
There is an old saying, "You can’t grow what you don’t measure." Tracking and measuring your expenses not only makes financial sense, but it can also actually help you improve your financial status. By keeping a budget, you are going to see what works for you and what doesn’t. One of the realities of business is you have to spend money to make money. Every business—your art business included—needs to invest a certain amount of money back into their business in order to ensure that each month cash flow comes in. Just some of the items in my budget are:
- Rent/gallery space
- Sales, advertising and marketing expenses
- Salaries and employment taxes
- Travel to trade shows
- Exhibit space
- Framing supplies
In addition to these expenses, you, as an artist, will also have:
- Materials and supplies used in creating your art
- Planned expenses such as booth rental in an art fair
- Entrance fees and travel expenses to juried art competitions
Why You Need to Spend Your Money/Invest in Your Art Career
As a business owner, I know I have to invest in things like marketing, advertising, and trade shows. And artists, you have to do this too! Yes, it’s expensive. But, there are ways to mitigate expenses by partnering with galleries like ours. You want to be able to maximize your marketing and advertising dollars. So be smart about it. Going after a solo booth at a trade show can cost upwards of $15,000! Also, I know from experience it can cost tens of thousands of dollars to take out ads in magazines that may or may not ever get in the hands of the designers or art collectors you want to reach. That’s why I created Blink Art Resource that I send DIRECTLY to interior designers, trade buyers, and art purchasers. To date, we’ve had hundreds of artists who have purchased pages in our annual catalog that received commissions and sold thousands of dollars’ worth of art. (Read some testimonials here.)
Something Else to Consider
The good news is when you spend money on your art business you can claim it as a business expense. You want to be sure to track everything you spend on your business. This will help you tremendously at tax time. Save all the receipts! Remember everything you spend on your art career is tax deductible. The way I look at it is: I would rather spend my money on things like advertising, marketing, promotions, trade shows, exhibit space, and ways to reach my customers that will result in a return on investment than taxes. Small businesses can claim all business expenses as a tax deduction on their taxes, thus lessening their tax burden. Would you rather pay a lot of taxes on your income at the end of the year? Or would you want to invest in your business and get that return on that investment?
One Last Thing: Don’t Give Up!
I am going to get real here: It’s not easy. Believe me, I understand. I know how difficult on the purse-strings it can be to invest in advertising, marketing, and tradeshows. In the earlier years as an entrepreneur, it felt like an impossible task. But, I stuck with it. I kept investing in my business. When I made money, I invested it back into my business, and every time I did this, my business grew—I sold more art. And that meant I made more calls to happy artists to deliver the wonderful news: I SOLD YOUR PIECE! Yes, a lot goes into selling a piece—a lot of money goes into it—but making that call to a happy artist is so worth it, and why I do what I do.
So keep at it. If I can do it, you can do it!