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Article: Your Business

For many of us, spring signals us to attend to all sorts of annual tasks. Spring cleaning of our work space, filling out our tax forms, and envying our friends who seem to have it SO TOGETHER. At Artist Trust we receive many desperate calls from artists who are determined to finally organize their business as an artist. The desire to efficiently and effectively organize one’s business seems quite common among the diverse artists we serve – artists in every discipline, from every part of Washington.   

We are not aware of any perfect books, advisors, or software programs which free us from the office and buy us more time in the studio, but we did find a few suggestions from artists that we thought we’d pass along. We hope these tips will buy you more time – more time to make art.

Sally Schuh: I save all my monthly receipts in two envelopesNon-Art and Art. At tax time I gather the monthly art envelopes and re-sort them into my tax categories: promotional (slides etc), rent, utilities, etc. I also have a separate checking account and credit card for my art expenses and (hopefully) income. I couldn’t imagine trying to track art-related activity within my personal finances. 

Jennifer Loomis: I make a log sheet for each person that I call. The sheet has blank spaces for their name, title, company, phone number, person who referred me, and any actions that I do as a result of the calls. In addition, there is a separate section to record each call and what it was about, whether I left a message or agreed to send something. Then I put all these sheets in a binder with tabs ACTION and FOLLOW-UP. So then when I need to start making some calls about work, I can figure out whom I called, whom I spoke with, when and what it was about. It keeps me sane. And every time they call me, I go get the binder and record that information.

Freya Wormus: Alex and I have a separate checking account for our dance company. We use these checks for every dance company related expense, and we're really specific in the register about what project the money is being used for.  If the account runs out of money and we need to use personal funds, we make a donation and record it just as if the money came from some other donor. We also keep all receipts in a folder, and start a new folder every year. It makes it a lot easier at tax time to break down our expenses.

Shea Bajaj: I find that Microsoft Outlook Calendar is the best for me to keep track of events, project progress, and deadlines. Inevitably a year passes by quickly and another opportunity is missed to apply for a grant just because I have forgotten about it.

Dan Webb: Omigawd! I’m perhaps the least organized person on the planet. The secret of me getting anything done is simply to see making art as my job, and therefore having really strict business hours. I’m in my studio a lot. I don't have a magic bullet, or any clever tricks…I’m just a worker bee.

Susan Myers: I have a receipt folder at home for all art-related receipts. I make it a point after every purchase to write directly on the receipt exactly what I purchased and for what particular project the material or expense is related to. Then I file away my receipts until tax time. This organization of receipts is also good for tallying all expenses for a individual project, and helping me to remember at what location I purchased something and what particular model or item number I might need for re-ordering, etc.

Rich Lehl: A filing cabinet with hanging files and file folders is an essential tool for organizing my art practice. I keep files for art resources, grants, my current resume, and my artist statement, all of my exhibition promotion and press materials – all accessible and organized in these files.

Blake Haygood: The best thing my wife and did was to start using Quicken for all of our finances. It has saved me so much time and aggravation, especially during tax time. You can categorize all of your receipts as you go, art sales, art expenses, etc… Then you can print one report at the end of the year. You have a running total of how financially well, or how poorly, you are doing. You can do year-by-year comparisons as well. The Quicken program itself isn't terribly expensive, and it can be written off! We also use an airline credit card for most of our purchases - we get free miles, and a monthly statement, making it easier to monitor than cash transactions. The danger is you have to keep to a budget; otherwise you may not be able to pay off the balance.