Not Rockefeller, but fancy his bank account? I know it’s a stretch, even as a sky-high dream, when you are a creative. But perpetuating the “starving artist” myth doesn’t need to be the alternative.
We take a look back over some fiscally aware ArtsHub stories and collate some of their best advice for a fresh read to head you into the new year.
1. Have open conversations
Having open conversations about what we earn and how we manage money is the only way to a richer arts ecology, says ArtsHub writer Rochelle Siemienowicz. ‘For most of us working in the creative sector – artists, writers, performers, arts workers – the amount of money we make, inherit, save or spend is an intensely private matter. It’s tangled up in knots of angst, guilt and self-recrimination,’ she continues.
Her article ‘We need to talk about money in the arts‘ – written following the Federal Labor Government’s changes to the Fair Work Act in June 2023 – encourages transparency. She says, ‘Secrecy breeds injustice… Who does it serve when we stay quiet and remain deliberately ignorant about money? Employers, mostly.’
Transparency around what you are paid can no longer be included in employment contracts, meaning that you are entitled to talk to your colleagues about what you’re paid – opening a door to collective bargaining or engaging with your union if you are not on a par.
2. Be creative at tax time
No one likes doing tax. And for many creatives and artists, it is a foreign headspace – they may as well be looking at a manual for the next NASA launch. But just like NASA with its own camp of conditions and specialities, the arts too offer some unique returns at tax time, which a regular accountant may overlook.
One of ArtsHub’s most read stories is this quick checklist of things ‘not to forget to claim’ at tax time. From sunscreen to Spotify, makeup remover to teeth whitening, we take a look at the less conventional – but legit – items it may be possible to claim. Rather than leaving it to June, why not freshen up now to help you collect and organise receipts as you move through this new year.
3. Don’t underestimate the potential for online income
It feels as if there are hundreds of blog entries out there offering quick tips on selling your art online. But believe me – there is nothing quick about setting up an online business and magically making money. The online world of ecommerce is a mystery to many. But it needn’t be and, in fact, it should be part of your revenue mix if the fit is right. Take a look our Artists Essentials Toolkit, which steps through five easy ways you can make money from your art, from selling your products to livestreaming your event or running a crowdfunding campaign. You may just find the insights you need to break through the quagmire and get the coins rolling in.
4. You’re not alone – so look to the side
ArtsHub writer Celina Lei took a look at how to scale one’s income last September, on the occasion of A New Approach (ANA)’s report, ‘To Scale: Mapping Financial Inflows in Australian Arts, Culture and Creativity’. The report found that ‘cultural and creative industries earned 87% of their income – the largest proportion – from sales and services’, so what does that mean in practical terms, if that money is not coming through government funding streams such as grants?
The report identified greater capacity for cross-industry learning and collaboration. Can we be providing – and selling – creative services to tourism, councils, health services or education providers? The key to greater income may simply mean ditching the silos and being proactive in costing out the services you can provide.
5. Compartmentalise and cash up – not cash out
While another of ArtsHub‘s best read articles last year offered ‘tips for selling your art online‘, it is one key piece of advice that deserves a stand-alone mention. One of the biggest questions an artist or maker faces before setting up their online business is: what are they going to sell? Do they compartmentalise their practice to allow a door to remain open for gallery representation, while not compromising an income stream from the studio? This is a common income stream for makers who establish a “production line” of objects.
Think it through. Be true to your integrity and goals, and make the tough decisions. There is no room for winging it here – it is a really important career strategy to consider, and it is a key part of how you can potentially drive forward and increase your income.
6. Don’t worry about money – simply rethink it
‘The less money you have the more you think about it,’ writes Madeleine Dore in her article: ‘How to rethink worrying about money‘. It is so true – and for many creatives, a daily reality to juggle. Dore says one way to move through this headspace it to focus less on your bank account, but instead ‘be alert to your saleable skills’.
She also reminds us to realise that our time is an asset – and it has a value. ‘Viewing your time as an asset that can be traded for money will also prevent people from taking advantage of you.’
7. Is income protection just insurance nonsense?
Maybe, and maybe not. Insurance is not cheap. In fact, insurance premiums have been on the rise in recent years. But for some creatives, working with their hands, for example, may be key to their creative business. Sick leave is limited, so the question is would you be able to cope financially if something happened to you to hinder your ability to earn money, either in the short or long term?
Our earlier article runs through some of the considerations. Unlike Workers’ Compensation, which only covers injuries suffered in the workplace, Income Protection Insurance (IPI) is basically a risk-management strategy. Be clear what you are getting, and do the cost analysis on whether it is right for you and your business. The alternative is to set up a buffer of cash as a contingency plan. Either way – plant the idea to manage the unexpected.