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Four things we creatives need to learn to manage when it comes to the financial aspects of our work

Whether we like it or not, finances are an integral aspect of our work and livelihoods as creative professionals. 



How financially literate and efficient are you as an artist or creative entrepreneur?



Some of us embrace learning about and managing the financial components of our practice or business. For example, I just wrapped up work with an artist who wanted to, in her words, “level up” her business savvy. She was super eager to learn about how to manage the financial aspects of her work and she put some sound financial tools and practices into action over the course of our work together. On the flipside, I have also worked with many clients who acknowledged that their resistance, resentment or outright dread of having to think about, never mind deal with this part of their work had them feeling stuck.



Unfortunately, financial management is not typically part of artistic training or education. Most artists and creatives have to develop financial literacy, tools and practices on their own. Many don’t know where to start or may be afraid to admit what they don’t understand or ask questions that would help them become more financially savvy about selling their work or services and managing their finances. Some struggle to build the systems to get organized and stay on top of financial details. Others have limiting beliefs or mindset about their capacity to manage financial aspects of their work. Sound familiar?



Here’s four things we artists and creatives need to learn to manage when it comes to the financial aspects of our work:



Our level of financial literacy. Gaining financial literacy as a creative professional requires being intentional and proactive about what we learn. It also requires being willing to be vulnerable to ask questions about what we don’t know.  We need at least some level of financial literacy in order to be able to:


  • Understand our revenue and expenses for tax purposes and also to assess if we are making enough money when pricing our work or services.

  • Appreciate the financial aspects and impacts of contractual and copyright use agreements.

  • Make informed short decisions and long-term financial plans in relation to our practice or business.


We ignore building this level of literacy at our peril! 



What knowledge gaps do you want to close this year where it comes to

the financial aspects of your practice or business?



Our financial strategies and decisions. As creative professionals, we need to develop and manage strategies to generate income from our practice or business. We must also strategize how we price our creative work or services to cover our intellectual and hands-on labour, materials and other expenses. We must decide what we can afford to invest in materials, equipment, space to work from  and our professional opportunities and development. 



What financial strategies are working for you as a creative professional? 


What financial strategies or decisions need attention to help you move forward

 in your creative practice or business this year?



Our financial organization, tools and systems. If we are generating income through our creative practice or business we need to keep track of revenue generated from sales of work, services, grants, artist fees and other means as well as track our expenses. We need to do this for tax purposes and also for ourselves, to assess if we are making sufficient profit when pricing our work or services. We may need to invest in professional services such as an accountant or tax professional who understands the art world. In which case, we need to provide them with these records. We need to provide clients with invoices and receipts. Many of us also need to manage annual or monthly payments related to our websites, insurance, software licenses and work space. We may even have staff to pay. Some of us need to track inventory of work available for sale or exhibition. Staying organized in relation to these tasks and responsibilities requires some manual or software tools, templates and routine practices. How satisfied are you with your financial record keeping, tools and systems? 



What do you need or want to get organized in relation to your finances 

as an artist or creative entrepreneur this year?



Our mindset around money and finances. Some creative clients I’ve worked with have really struggled with their mindset around money and finances. Demonizing money - seeing wanting money for our work or selling our work or services as something that is bad, crass or sleazy can hold us back from learning how and taking action to make our practices and businesses financially sustainable. So can thinking that we have to compromise our work or sell out to make money. Or underpricing our work based on our assumptions about what clients can afford or will be willing to pay. I’ve also come across clients who have the mindset that time or energy invested in financial administration of their practice takes away from their creativity or creative time rather than supporting it. Our mindset can be a determining factor in the financial (and emotional) sustainability or burnout of our creative practice or business. 



How is your mindset around money and finances serving or not serving you

as a creative professional?



Yes, these four things may feel like a lot for creative professionals to manage when it comes to finances. You don’t have to manage all of them alone or all at once! - Sometimes it’s worth hiring a professional to get advice or support to get organized and put systems into place. Artists and creatives can also benefit from having an accountability partner to work in tandem with as they increase financial literacy, change habits and mindset. 



What resources or support do you need to manage the financial aspects

of your creative practice or business?



Learning about and managing the financial aspects of our work as creative professionals takes work, time and energy. It can feel like heavy lifting when our learning curve is high and we are putting new systems in place. But it’s totally worth it because the financial sustainability of our work and livelihoods depend on it!


Image Credit: Michael Evans


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2 Comments


Excellent article which brings awareness or gives art a credibility as an actual career for me.

It brings a seriousness and grounding necessary for me to permit myself to dream and achieve in this lifetime.

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Thanks for reading my blogpost Elizabeth. I appreciate your feedback and I'm happy to hear that found it helpful!

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