It is quite the struggle for the artist to handle the business of art…. at least that is something i hear alot. And i get it totally – I can get lost in the creation process, the development of a project, the consuming of my energy to produce something the world has possibly never seen before. But the beautiful and unique art that is created must also have someone give voice in the marketplace. And when something sells, keep track of the funds, the taxes, etc.
Over the last weekend I had a conversation with a very talented woman who works in several mediums, makes amazing and remarkable things. Her energy jumps in her art…. vibrant, thoughtful, and so very special. And she has been doing her art for a few decades. We were discussing various art shows, and the many issues related to the current market – too many shows, decline in buyers, decline in educated buyers, increase in the Walmart – “i can get that for cheaper” attitude, or thanks to the many sources of information the growing “Ah, take a good look at this – we can make it at home ourselves”attitude. In the midst of the conversation she said to me “you know, I don’t actually know how well I am doing this year versus last year. I don’t really keep great records, so I am not sure.”
Perhaps it my three decades in the business world (often wanting not to be there, but held in a role that would pay my bills, sustain our lifestyle) that rubbed off… or it was my masters degree with all of those practical things like accounting, budgeting, and marketing. I think i must be an outlyer as an artist and a business person. I can get totally absorbed in a project, not realizing it is 2am and i need to sleep so i can function at my day job. But by the same token i am getting more and more organized with tracking mileage, expenses versus income, sales tax, and such. I have looked for tools for my smart phone that will help me be more accurate, accountable, and be able to make a healthy determination of the profitability of this business. And a part of the core of my being is driven to be a life long learner – always reading, always growing, and always trying to hone new skills.
So here are a few resources that have helped me to learn more:
- Art Fair Insider – a wonderful website that is intended to be a go to place for help, information, exchange of ideas, place to safely sell supplies and equipment, and a wonderful community of Artists . The website is www.artfairinsiders.com/
- Arts Business Institute – An organization dedicated to strengthening and educating artist business side. They offer a daily email with wonderful tips, ideas and suggestions. I remember giggling when i read one email and it was all about the importance of clearly pricing your art. But when you realize human behavior – people will walk away rather than ask how much the item is – this is a practical and simple remedy to improve your business. They also offer classes across the country on various subjects. I would recommend receiving the free email by signing up on the website, http://www.artsbusinessinstitute.org/
- Find a mentor – There are fellow artists that have a grasp on both the art and the business of art. I can tell you we have been very fortunate to know and absorb everything we can from these people. But always be open to listening, and learning, and applying what they share. Good business sense is just like anything else – it grows and strengthens as you practice it.
- Take a class – Periodically a friend of ours teaches a class on the Business of Art at Valley Art Center – and it is so very much worth the effort to invest in your knowledge and grow your business side.
And if you are using a cell phone, here are a few applications that i find invaluable (i choose the free program, and yes, they always have an upgrade that i am not so certain i need to buy. )
- Expensify – Its an application that can be on your computer or smart phone – captures expenses and mileage. When we are driving out of our drive one of us turns on expensify to track the mileage, and the app remains active in the background until we turn it off. A record is created of the mileage for that event. We love it because you can also scan (snap a photo of ) your receipt… and should you loose the receipt you still have a captured image of the expense. This is really nice because it makes resolving expenses much easier. We have not been utilizing the time feature, but if you are working in a way that involves billable hours this might be the way to go for you.
- Evernote – This works so well because there is a mobile application for both android and iPhone platforms, which integrates with a web based login (using the same password and login name). Evernote allows you to capture notes, photos, set reminders, make lists and chat with others. You can set up folders for projects or subjects, and easily access them at another time on your pc, or phone. Steve and i have only scratched the surface of what this application can do. I like it because as I do the accounting for the event I have a record of the date, the location, the expenses and the income (which i break down into cash, checks and charges). I can also take that note and send it to steve so he has the same record. There are plenty of additional options but for now we are learning to use these. Evernote has a free version, and versions that are at a charge… with paying for it come some bells and whistles… but we opt for the free one… it serves us at this point and the tutorials on using it are lovely and easy to follow. It takes a learning curve, but well worth the effort.
- ScanSnap Evernote – Its an application that works with Evernote – allows you to snap a photo of a document, or if you a re so inclined, scan the image via a scanner and bring it into storage on your pc or phone. For me its helpful to scan applications for art shows, and i am now beginning to scan the sale record from various shops to keep track of what has sold, and the amount of money earned.