'Dahlia' ©

Dahlia © Mary Baker, Oil on Panel

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, a savings account or CDs. Rainy days always come in the arts, and hurricanes happen.

2) Live Under Your Means
Don't even think about "keeping up with the Joneses." 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 a savings account or CDs 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
Get health insurance. It's a luxury many artists feel that they can't afford, but it's important. And now health insurance is available everywhere for everyone. No excuses.

© Mary Baker