Let’s Talk About Money
Money can be a pretty taboo subject—but keeping quiet about it won’t make it go away.
As artists, we need to develop a healthier relationship with money, or else we’ll never be able to make a living from our work. Especially for artists who didn’t grow up in upper-class families or families where the arts weren’t valued, putting a high price on their artwork can make their skin crawl.
On the other hand, having an unpredictable income month-to-month is also extremely stressful and leads to money insecurities that damage our ability to objectively handle our finances.
We need to get over these mental blocks by cultivating a healthier relationship with money and that starts with how you manage your own money from your art business.
Take a look at these five money management tips for artists.
Arm Yourself With Knowledge
“One of the reasons people have a poor relationship with money is misinformation or lack of information,” remarks clinical psychologist Joe Lowrance. That’s when anxiety about money starts to creep up on you and take over your day. Because, how can you fix a situation you don’t understand?
If you want a better relationship with money, you need to learn as much as possible about running your art business and handling finances the right way.
Luckily, there are so many resources available for artists these days.
Start by reading books and blogs specifically for artists... Listen to art podcasts. Ask other successful artists for their advice. That pesky cloud hanging over your head won’t ever go away unless you actively do something about it.
Tackle the Problem Head-On By Developing a Strategy
“By brushing off the financial side of a career in the arts, artists are practically ensuring that they will be unfulfilled personally, professionally, and financially,” explains artist and financial advisor Elaine Grogan Luttrull.
Luttrull suggests first changing your perception about saving: "You have to realize that having cash reserves isn't just a good thing financially; it also means you don't have to accept some job that you don't want to do." It gives you more freedom to focus on your passion—and saving is easier when you keep this goal in mind.
Make a monthly budget by noting all of your expenses (art business, housing, utilities, gas, groceries, loans, entertainment, etc.), plus how much you want to add to your savings fund, and comparing it to your average income.
NOTE: An art inventory system like Artwork Archive helps you track your expenses, so you’ll know where all of your sources of income are generated, where your money is going, and what you can write off. More than that, you can tie your expense records to a client within the database, gain insight into how much you are spending in certain categories (advertising, supplies, rent, etc.), and get one-click expense reports. Learn more here.
Really examine your purchases and ask yourself where you can save. Do you need that five-dollar cup of coffee each morning or can you brew some in the studio? Can you buy art supplies cheaper in bulk? Can you eat out once a week instead of twice? Always be sure to take care of your needs before your wants!
Sticking to a budget and using a weekly saving schedule like this one from Four Hats and Frugal will help ease the stress of living with a variable income.
Open Yourself Up To Abundant Possibilities
Gaining gallery representation and selling at art fairs are standard when it comes to making money as an artist. But, there are many more opportunities to bring in income that many artists unknowingly leave on the table.
Artist grants, social media, teaching workshops, licensing—all of these opportunities to make money can be more constant than art sales alone or can at least supplement your income when sales are slow.
That way you aren’t putting all your eggs in one basket with fingers crossed that it all works out. Talk about stressful! Instead, give yourself options when it comes to making money. Learn more about how to build multiple revenue streams to lighten the financial load here.
Know What Your Work Is Worth and Stick To It
Always undermining your art prices during a sale or losing out on business because you’re disorganized won’t get you where you need to be financially! Here are a few things you can focus on when it comes to actually making a living from your art.
First, examine your pricing strategy. Take costs like materials, shipping, and especially your time into consideration when determining your price so that you stand to make a profit from each art sale.
Using a consistent pricing formula will help you skip the frantic “I don’t know what to charge!” phase and keep you from undercutting yourself while talking to an interested buyer. Offering multiple price points can allow you to bring in sales from a wider range of art customers.
Next, find an easy way to keep track of your art sales so you always know how much money is coming in and when. A tool like Artwork Archive helps you manage which pieces have been sold and for how much. You can even generate an invoice that figures in sales tax and shipping costs with the click of a button.
Your Net Worth Does Not Equal Your Self-Worth
If you take one thing from this article, remember this: your net worth does not equal your self-worth.
We repeat—no matter what profession you are in, how much or little money you have, or what your relationship with money is—your net worth does not equal your self-worth.
Because artists have a variable income instead of a monthly paycheck, money issues can weigh heavily on the mind and quietly trickle over into your self-esteem. But, even if you are the wealthiest businesswoman or the highest paid artist in the world, you will not be happy if you are not chasing your passion.
That being said, you can use your passion to make a living!
Toss the starving artist narrative out the window. Artists can cultivate a healthier relationship with money, and it starts with finding ways to keep your art business organized and profitable. Developing strategies to both save and earn more from your artwork, learning as much as possible, and using tools like Artwork Archive that can carry some of the weight will start you down the right path.