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Budget is NOT a four-letter word!

Kathy Gulrich -- When you use both sides of the brain, you can become a better artist AND sell more artwork.

Okay, here goes. Just about everything you'll ever need to know about budget, right here, in three sentences:

Start with all the money you have coming in (your job, selling your work, your rich uncle, etc.). Subtract all the money going out (art supplies, car payments, mac and cheese, etc.). What's left is your profit.

If your profit is enough to live on, fabulous! Skip right to next month's article....

If your profit covers all your art costs (canvas, paper, paints, classes, etc.), congratulations! You're breaking even.

If your profit is ... uh ... a NEGATIVE number ... you've got a bit of work to do. But it IS pretty simple. And I'll show you exactly what to do.

But first, let me give you a little incentive to follow through. Here are seven ways a budget can help you become a better artist -- AND sell more artwork:

1) You'll be more focused on your art.

If your attention is on how much money you need -- or how much money you don't have -- it's not on your art. So do a budget. You'll see right away how to improve your financial situation. And that'll give you much more free attention for your art.

2) You'll have the tools to continue with your art as long as you like.

If you're spending more than you're earning, it won't be long before you run out of money to pay for your art. A budget will show you changes you can make -- NOW -- so that you'll be able to support your art in the future.

3) You'll value your work even more.

The price you put on your artwork defines your income (the money coming IN from your art). Understanding your budget will help you price your work in a way that'll support you as an artist.

4) You'll never discount your work.

There are lots of reasons why you should never discount your work. Your budget is yet another! Once you see how important every dollar is to your profit, it'll help you stick to your prices -- no matter how persistently someone haggles with you.

5) You'll impress your buyers and collectors.

When you have a budget (the basis of your art business plan), you'll be more professional. And that's pretty impressive to collectors! Just see how your sales increase once you start handling your art career as a business, rather than a hobby.

6) You'll have a much neater studio.

I know this sounds like a stretch. But it's true! Here's why: First, you'll think long and hard before you run out and buy a bunch of new paints ... or that cool neon paper ... or anything else that you don't really need.

But that's just the half of it. You'll take a good look around to see what you already have ... BEFORE you head to the art supply store. The result? More money in your pocket, and less stuff to find room for in your studio!

7) You'll be more real -- with your art, with your life.

Let's face it, totally ignoring your financial situation doesn't do anything for your art. And it sure doesn't make things easy for people around you. So come on, just do it!

It's not really that hard (I promise...).

Most people are pretty good at the "money coming in" part, so I won't say much about that. All you need to do is keep track of how much money you earn each month (job, gifts, artwork sales, etc.).

I'm willing to bet, though, that you're NOT very accurate about how much you spend. So here's the plan:

Starting today -- and for at least four weeks, every day -- write down every penny you spend. Yep, EVERY penny. From your morning newspaper, to your new canvas, to the new pair of sandals you just couldn't live without. (It may help to buy a small spiral notebook for this. And yes, the price of the notebook gets written down, too!)

Also, every time you get a bill (telephone, rent, etc.) over the next month, save it.

Pretty easy so far, right?

Here comes the interesting part. At the end of the month, take a look at some of the "small" things you're spending money on.

Say, that $1 cappuccino you have every morning to get you going. Couldn't you go a lot further on the $365 you'd save -- every year -- if you had coffee at home instead? (Hmmm. Three cappuccino-less years and you could save, let's see, more than a thousand dollars....)

Take a look at all the places you could save -- WITHOUT having to change your lifestyle. For example, magazine subscriptions for magazines you don't have time to read. Framing that you usually send out, that you could easily do yourself. A cell phone plan with way more minutes than you ever use. Get the picture?

Just thinking about how you're spending will help you spend less. Guaranteed. So go for it! In fact, have fun with it!

And maybe one day soon I'll bump into you at some fabulous little restaurant that costs about half as much as the one we used to go to!

Artist and Art Coach Kathy Gulrich, www.smARTbusinessCoaching.com, is also the author of the new book 187 Tips for Artists: How to Create a Successful Art Career -- and Have Fun in the Process!, available at her Web site and at www.amazon.com".

© 2004 Kathy Gulrich

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