Art, Artists and Money
Practical money tips for people in the arts.
1. Sock it Away
If you are in the arts there is no such thing as a steady paycheck. Money usually comes in spurts with no money, often for months, many months, in between. Don't make the mistake of thinking that spurts of income will happen on a monthly basis.
When you get money from selling paintings at a show, a role in a play, an advance for a book, any art project--sock it away in a very safe place, CD's or bonds or a savings account. Rainy days always come in the arts and hurricanes happen.
2. Live Under Your Means.
Don't even think about "keeping up with the Jones's." Live under your means. Forget the fancy car, the country club, designer clothes the expensive house, fancy vacations and private school for your kids.
That doesn't mean you can't do nice things for yourself and your loved ones in a reasonable way now and then, we all need to do that. And if you happen to make millions and become independently wealthy as an artist, then fine-go for all that later on. But, if you have to have that expensive vacation home in the most desirable location, then maybe being in the arts is not for you.
3. Your Rainy Day Fund
It is recommended that people with a steady paycheck put away eight months of income in case they loose their job. In the arts, it's a good idea to try and put away three years worth if you possibly can. Not an easy task, but if you can achieve it, you'll sleep a lot better at night.
4. Saving For That Rainy Day Fund
How to save for that desired artistic rainy day fund? If you can put a little bit away each month and leave it in a safe place, a place that adds interest-bonds or CD's for example, you will be amazed at how much you can accumulate. Forget any quick short cuts, they almost always backfire, and it will sabotage your art career.
5. Forget That Credit Card
Nothing can kill a career in the arts faster than credit card debt. If you know you can't pay for it when the monthly bill comes, then don't buy it.
6. Keep Receipts
On your taxes declare your art income and your art expenses. Keep receipts because if you are ever audited, you will need proof of your expenses.
If you have an accountant that does your taxes, that expense can be written off next year, and he or she will probably know how to do your taxes a lot better than you do.
7. Pay Quarterlies
When you do receive income as an artist, put a third of it away for taxes. You not only pay the IRS, but state taxes and Social Security. Social Security tax is 15%, as an artist you pay it all, you don't have an employer to pay half.
Pay Quarterlies, which means as an artist you pay a partial amount towards your taxes four times a year -- ask your accountant about this. If you make a lot of money that year, you won't get a huge tax payment that you hadn't planned on. If you don't make a lot of money that year you'll get a very nice tax refund. Both you and the IRS will be happy. (You can put the tax refund in the rainy day artist fund, instead of putting it towards that red Ferrari).
8. Health Insurance
Try and get health insurance. It's a luxury many artist's feel they can't afford, but it's important. In many cities there are art organizations that you can join for a nominal fee, which have group health insurance. If you live in a smaller area you can often get reasonably priced group health insurance by joining your local chamber of commerce.
All of these tips assume that being an artist is your vocation. A vocation has been described as "something you can't not do."
© Mary Baker 2005
Mary Baker is a contemporary realist painter, whose studio is in Newburyport, Massachusetts. This New England city, north of Boston, has been the inspiration for the artist's realistic oil paintings. Mary Baker is a professional artist and has shown in New York art galleries. Mary's art work has passion, depth and beauty, capturing moments in time that many people pass by.
You can visit Mary's website, Mary Baker Art, at http://www.marybakerart.com , see her beautiful paintings and read her comments on creativity, the creative journey, the creative process, Art, Artists and Vocation, Tips on Breaking the Creative block and creative space-the illuminating silence.
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