Bookkeeping and inventory software

My recent series on finances has brought up the question: “What software do you recommend for keeping track of my art work and having the correct information for tax purposes?”

What you need are two different pieces of software: one for your inventory and mailing list database and another for your financial records.

Based on feedback I receive from artists, I speculate that these are the top three inventory-mailing list databases. They will keep track of your inventory, sales, and contacts.

  1. Flick!
  2. eArtist
  3. Bento (Mac only)

Both Flick! and eArtist are formatted for artist use. Bento is like “FileMaker Light” and requires formatting, but I’m told it’s quite user-friendly. There are other options, but I narrowed down your choices based on what I’m hearing in the field.

7/6/09 Update per Ron’s comment. I should have been more specific in the above paragraph. Bento is not an art management platform, but a general database. Therefore, it requires significant formatting–unlike the others here. Because of this, you can use it for all of your database needs-not just for your art inventory or contacts. Also, because of this, you can personalize it and make it look however you like.

See these related posts:

As I say in I’d Rather Be in the Studio! Most of these options can handle every aspect of your art business except the detailed financial reports that a program like QuickBooks can provide.” (page 17)

So, for financial records, I recommend QuickBooks, although many people are very happy with Quicken. If you have a bookkeeper or accountant, I’d certainly ask them for their advice in this area before you purchase bookkeeping software. You want to be able to share files easily.

Send to Kindle

62 comments to Bookkeeping and inventory software

  • I use Quickbooks for my art business and Quicken for personal finances. For business purposes, Quickbooks offers exactly what I need.

    I use eArtist for my database. The company has been great to deal with. I’m very pleased; highly recommend this software.

    I think I first learned of eArtist through you, Alyson, for which I am grateful. I ordered it some time ago, and have been pleased thus far. I admit it’s the only artist database I’ve used, so I cannot offer comparisons.

  • I finally decided on Flick!, partly because it had the only user interface that I could stand to look at. I’m on an Mac.

    I’m quite happy with it. I had problems with the install and the guy who runs Arawak and who designed it, was prompt in his communication and hung in with me until we got it figured out. So, thumbs up on service after the sale.

    I also use Quicken and the trauma of the monthly checkbook balance is a thing of the past. Three checking accounts (business, personal and a stash for things like sales tax), plus a record of my business credit card, all in one place and easy to get to.

  • Alyson, I have been using MYOB software since about 1995. It is a great accounting software and even has an inventory component. My CPA says that it is much better than Quicken. Very user friendly and works on windows and Macs. If you want to check it out go to http://www.myob.com

  • Alyson, I use Filemaker Pro for my inventory and Quickbooks for finances. The following question concerns the use of whichever software is selected.

    I am producing very many, very small works: how far do I go in keeping track of the inventory? Photographing, cataloguing, tracking ownership, etc. I can easily see making 500 to 1000 per year. All the items are similar, but not identical. I give some away and will sell some. What is prudent? What is obsessive?

    Maybe some other artists out there have ideas. I would certainly welcome comments and advice.

  • Just curious…has anyone made the switch from using “Working Artist” to “Flick” and what was your experience?

  • This was perfect timing for me as I was just coming to your site to look for that list of software. I am currently going through each trial version to decide which one it shall be!!

    Thank you!

  • I went from Working Artist, which I hated, to Flick when I converted from a PC to an iMac. I had to re-enter over 200 paintings, but it went really fast to get the basic info. in like number and title.

    I’m doing a second pass to add sizes, prices, thumbnails, etc. I really like the way Flick lets you display anywhere from one image record on the screen to a list of all of them.

    My understanding is that Working Artist was sold to a new owner, so maybe it’s better now.

  • Thanks for this Alyson and the commenters! I am currently looking for a good program and have downloaded the trial versions of Flick! and Artlook.

    Flick looks much nicer and easier than Artlook. Artlook has lots of text blocks that you don’t need (aquisition details for -your own!- work next to sale details), but in Artlook it is very difficult to quickly see (preferably within one click) what the retail price, sale price and gallery commission of a work is (you would have to go to a seperate financial bit) while in Flick the information is all loud and clear under the ‘price’ tab.
    What is better in Artlook is the way you can create ‘exhibitions’ or ‘events’ and put all artworks in there that are in the exhibit. You can see with one click which works are at the exhibit. In Flick this is not so clear although you can fill in with each artwork where it is and if it is in an exhibit. It would just be handy to also be able to click on an exhibit and see all that is there.

    The catalogues, consignment notes and gallery lists you can make and print with Artlook are great, but I think you can do slightly similar things with Flick.
    The mailing list properties with Artlook are better and more advanced than with Flick, where they are pretty basic.

    I haven’t made a choice yet….but the £100 for Artlook probably means I won’t go for that one….
    I’ll go look into the others….
    Hope this helps someone who is also looking for the right software.

  • I’m so glad to see you say this. :) I’ve never found a database programme that adequately handles my accounting, which is quite simple. I use a 2nd programme for my accounts so I can get the breakdowns I need to analyse trends (like income categories), produce the records the tax people require, and produce shorter bottom line reports that people like loan or insurance companies want.

    After years of searching I don’t think there’s a ‘one stop’ solution. So two it is. (oh, and I use and highly recommend TinyBooks for accounting on a Mac)

  • Just the other day, in an effort to find a basic accounting program, I stumbled on this one – and as far as I know it is free. Microsoft office accounting express.

    After reading some in the help section, I now understand the basics of setting up my expenses and income. There are tons of features and I wouldn’t classify it as basic, but it does what I need – maybe one day I’ll get into the meatier stuff.

    Today, I wrote out some invoices and was able to very easily email them to my clients via office outlook – which I’ve never used. Setup took less than a minute. The emails appear in my gmail account as will any replies. I am completely thrilled. Invoices, payments, expenses, and customers all in one place. . . .for free!!!

    download it here.
    http://www.ideawins.com/Default.aspx

  • Stephanie: Why do you use two different pieces of software for personal/biz finances? Seems like it would streamline things to use just one, but perhaps there is a good reason that we should know about.

    Gay: Thank you for that question. It’s such a good one that it sounds like a blog post unto itself. Coming up!

    Sophie: I’ve never heard of Artlook. Thanks for that. Although I guess it concerns me a little that I haven’t heard of it and, because of that, I can’t recommend it. I just looked it up and found this link:
    http://www.artlooksoftware.com/

    Tina: Yes, I think it’s important to recognize that there is a reason certain software is highly specialized–because the people know the industry. I didn’t know of TinyBooks, so thank you for that resource.

    Rebecca: Does it also allow you to keep accounts such as checkbooks and credit cards? That would be very important to me.

  • Alyson, It seems like you can link the program to your online banking accounts using the free software (if that’s what you mean). And when you make payments and receive income, you can tell from which and to which account(savings, checking. . or one you create) the money is moving. There are tons of reports, I’m sure you can just bring up a report that only shows your checking. . etc.

    I just created a quote today, will transfer it as an invoice when the pricing is approved, and then receive payment from the customer. It makes it really easy, and I love the emailing options – it’s quite nice and professional. I feel so organized. And tax time next year will be a breeze.

  • Ron

    Hi there,

    Just a quick note that Bento is not actually an art management program, but a general use database program. You can certainly use it for arts management if you choose to set it up that way, but out of the box, it’s not built to do that.

  • Ron, I meant to imply that when I said it requires formatting, but I should have been more specific. I think I’ll update the post per your comment. Thanks!

  • […] also:Reading homework for financially savvy artists.Software that will make your life (and tax time) a whole lot easier. tweetmeme_url = 'http://www.artbizblog.com/2009/06/10-financial-homework-assignments.html'; […]

  • […] software that makes it easy on you. While names and addresses are waiting to enter your computer, keep […]

  • For contact management I’ve been using Daylite by Marketcircle for years. It is a Mac program. Robust and feature filled it helps me to target my mailings and keeps me on my toes for the endless tasks involved in running a small business, which is what I am as an Artist.

    I use Quickbooks for my accounting which was suggested by my CPA accountant.

    I use Bento to visually database my Art and I also use it to keep track of my garden inventory. The program is easily customizable for any project.

  • When seeking a dependable Bookkeeper, you should expect superior bookkeeping and payroll services with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.

    The relationship that you have with your Bookkeeper, must be built on trust, mutual respect and good communication.

    Thank you for sharing your Industry knowledge and insight.

    Best wishes.

  • WOW. Thanks for this post. My accounts are all well looked after in Quickbooks but the inventory aspect has been neglected. I click on the trial of Flick! and was instantly won over. Thanks for the recommendations.

  • Mesa: Thanks for your professional advice here.

    Amanda: Glad you liked Flick! Keep me posted on how it works for you. I love knowing about this stuff and the only way to find out is to hear from the users.

  • I hear lots of artists that like “Flick”. I had trouble opening and using the program so I contacted Flick via email. I would love buy the software but I can’t even get anyone from Flick to respond to my emails. Anyone had this experience besides me?

  • Just wanted to say that I tried Flick! and although it has a pretty user interface that seemed to have everything I needed, it was very unstable on my PC. When it crashed it became corrupted and unusable. The developer suggested I start over with a fresh download and promised that the next version that would come out in “a couple of weeks” will fix the bugs and will have option to upload a folder or multiple files at one time. But weeks have become months and still no new version. It seems to be a one-man operation. He told me a year ago he could add that multiple file functionality in a couple weeks. Last month he showed me a screen shot of what it would like. But still no new version. I’m going to look at e-artist and request a refund for Flick.

    Meanwhile, I may have missed it — did you write the post about how much is too much when tracking small pieces per the question from Gay? I have the same question.

  • Jeff: I hope it worked out for you. I know this isn’t a primary business, but that Flick’s creator does this as a sideline and with great care for his artist-wife and clients who like what he created. I’ve heard many people who got good customer service.

    Jana: Well, I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe the people who are having the most luck with Flick! are Mac users. It was an early program available to Mac users who had few other choices at the time. I’ve heard much good about e-Artist, too.

    I’ll put your other question in the queue for consideration.

  • Jeff Legg September 27, 2009 at 9:07 am
    I hear lots of artists that like “Flick”. I had trouble opening and using the program so I contacted Flick via email. I would love buy the software but I can’t even get anyone from Flick to respond to my emails. Anyone had this experience besides me?

    I’m so glad to see this post Jeff. After viewing and being impressed with the trial version I bought Flick! I had a lot of trouble with getting the working version of Flick! to download. Emails from the support person suggested I was doing it wrong but I’ve been working with lots of different software programs for years and have never come across the sort of issues I am having – it’s pretty annoying being made to feel that you aren’t smart enough to figure something out. A simple set of instructions are needed and I can’t even get that. I am quite disappointed.

  • I finally gave up on Flick and received a refund from the owner. I’ve been testing eArtist and am extremely impressed. It is a much more robust and professional program than Flick (which is cute, but doesn’t seem to really work well on the PC and is limited — can’t upload a folder of images like you can on eArtist for example). In the vetting process I have had numerous email conversations with the developer who is very bright and responsive and professional. I’ve now tested it with Windows Vista and Windows 7 and it has worked flawlessly. I have complete confidence in the developer and the product after my testing during the free 30 day trial and will be buying the program this weekend.

  • Amanda and Jana: Thank you for sharing your experiences here. It’s always helpful to hear from the end users.

  • Mark Daniels

    I just purchased Quickbooks Pro.
    How is working with two programs, one for financial accounting (quickbooks), and another for inventory done?

    My art business is very small, but I do enough business to pay tax at the end of the year. It sounds like I would have to make an entry in Quickbooks, then record other necessary info into eArtist. What info do I keep in Quickbooks, and what info do I shove into eArtist.

    I’m getting a headache just thinking about this stuff…
    Thanks!!

    • Mark: This is a great question! I have put a tweet out there to see if anyone has written about it. I would think you might need both. QB has an inventory system, but I think it’s probably too cumbersome to use. Also, it’s not artist-centric, which I think is very important.

      I’ll see what I can find or maybe do a Deep Thought question about this.

  • Mark, I am finding that eArtist meets my needs without having to use Quickbooks because it has built in invoicing, receipts and reporting as well as the extensive art inventory management. But if I needed to also enter ALL of my art-related expenses as they occurred, then I’d probably need to use Quickbooks or Quicken too, for detail-level business income/expense tracking. I just wait until year end and tally up all the expense receipts and records of payments to me for teaching in my business receipts folder and get the sales income from what I’ve entered in eArtist.

  • […] you need BOTH an Inventory System AND financial software like […]

  • I was able to easily get Working Artist usable and all my data perfectly in place after upgrading to Windows 7… with a little help from their tech support and present owner. He is revamping and coming out with a new version and is asking artists what they would like as he improves Working Artist. I personally could benefit from something as simple as a copy paste which the program doesn’t allow. I have never had any problems with Workign Artist, but it could be a little more user friendly. He said “…looking at expanding the import/export capabilities of the program. Is there something specifically that you’d like to see? If you could provide some thoughts on how you’d like to import art data and patrons into WA, I could look into that. For example, are you thinking about having an ability to import from something like Outlook or another contact management program?”

  • Mark Daniels

    thanks guys. I should contact eArtist about the “Intuit Partner Platform”. There is an option in QB Pro to allow other applications to interact with it. if eArtist, or WorkingArtist could get a hold of how to do that. THAT would be awesome. I see too many people not buying QB Pro because it’s too general or some such. “I would get it, but it doesn’t have the art side at heart.” So quite wishing that a big company like Intuit will listen such a small segment of business, and go to eArtist. going there now to suggest.

  • I am a MAC user and I use Artist’s Butler for my inventory and Quickbooks for my business. I used to use EArtist and tried Flickr, but found both lacking in some areas. Artist’s Butler is definitely one you should check out.

  • I used Quickbooks for my gallery and after having two computers crash on me and having Quickbooks constantly having to upgrade when opening the program I found that Quickbooks has an Online version which is always the latest release and cost only $10/month. I especially liked that I could access it from anywhere and never had to worry about losing data.
    Hope this helps.

  • As a followup..For the same reasons as with Quickbooks I wanted our gallery inventory system to be online also. Every time a computer would go down I had to worry about loosing data or having to find the backup. I finally went with Artwork Manager which provided both online data and website intregration. Bit of a learning curve but was very pleased with the results. Now I would love to find that same kind of program for individual artists.

  • Jana & Robin: Thanks for sharing your experiences with eArtist and WA.

    Mark: Great idea. Software developers are usually open to ideas and want to hear from their customers on how to make their product a better one. Let us know what you find out.

    Amy: Glad to hear you have had a good experience with Artist’s Butler.

    Don: Thanks for that. I guess I used to know that QB had an online version, but wasn’t aware that it was so cheap. Do you know if it works with Macs also? So many artists use Macs.

  • Not sure about QB on a Mac but I assume so because it’s web based. Can you believe it..I work on a PC:)

  • Just wanted to update on my ealier post about Flick! and the frustrations I was having with the registration and loading. The developers contacted me to let me know they have released an updated version I have dowloaded it and had no problems with registration, accessing or uploading. I’m pleased with how it is working so far.
    And I’ve also come across another great looking product called Vam-p [ http://vam-p.net/ ] which is worth a look for people considering their options.

  • Don: Yeah, you’d think it would work on both. C’mon, man, get with the motors and go Apple!

    Amanda: Thank you for taking the time to update us. Not everyone does that so it’s really appreciated. I’ve been looking at vam-p.net. I really appreciate that as I’ve never heard of them. Good to know!

  • […] art. Helloooooooo. If you can’t make enough work to fulfill commissions and orders and maintain inventory to show at galleries or art festivals, you need to raise your prices. It’s the law of supply and […]

  • […] If you maintain, as you should, a database of your work, it’s easy to add these notes to your computerized inventory. var shared_object = SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Conservation of Your Artwork: Intent and […]

  • I just bought GYST (3.0 version) last week. It is produced by an artist who I met last year at an art marketing workshop in New Orleans. I have contacted her by email and by phone and she is very prompt at responding to my questions (I am not too computer savvy).

  • I just bought GYST (3.0) last week. The developer, an artist, has been very prompt in responding to my emails and telephone calls, as I am not too savvy on computer records/importing, etc.

  • […] Gallery relations, portfolios, photographs, and other gallery resources: Taught by Alicia Bailey, Owner of Abecedarian Gallery and book artist, Alicia provided extremely useful information from the perspective of both a gallery owner and a working visual artist. Here some highlights from her class: Regarding images of your artwork: – Label your digital images with artist name NOT with the artwork title. – Limit your submitted portfolio to one primary medium and be consistent. – Eliminate distracting backgrounds from your images (esp. for 3D work). – Avoid including the artwork’s frame in your image, unless it of particular importance to the work. – Order your images in a way that strives for balance as images are often looked at all together. – Follow directions concerning image size and what materials a gallery requests. Your portfolio is a way to evaluate your future relationship with the gallery. -Keep one good image large of your work and then lock this file. Do a ‘Save As’ to make specific, smaller copies for other uses. -Several good inventory softwares are on the market for managing your images – check them out here: Flick, Bento or Alyson Stanfield’s blog about inventory systems. […]

  • Thanks for this information – I know this is an old thread, but it is SO helpful to hear other people’s experiences as I am sifting through everything that is out there.

  • Lawrence Sene

    I have tried trial versions of most of the above-mentioned Mac apps and am very likely going to go with GYST. It looks good, it’s user-friendly and is fairly comprehensive.

  • […] right away. Step 1 is to capture the names in a file folder or email folder. Step 2 is to select a good database and start entering names and […]

  • At the moment I just use: spreadsheets to track income and expenses, apple’s address book for contacts, iCal for schedules and a program called Direct Mail to track email campaigns (Campaign Monitor is good too).

    Google Docs are free though and updated all the time. They’re calendars, spreadsheets, (not as nice to work with as numbers though) and probably an address book. Looking forward to checking out all you’ve recommended everyone!

  • […] line: Do something. Anything! Every little action — whether it’s selecting artist software, updating your fan page on Facebook, or sending a newsletter — takes you closer to your life […]

  • Duane Bruce

    Accounting needs are pretty much the same for all of us. We just need to track our costs and our earnings – which any accounting package will do. I use MYOB – because it is free. The challenge I struggled with for years was finding a business software package that was specifically designed to support an art business. Where I was struggling was in tracking where all of my art was, what I was charging for it, and what I was supposed to get paid when it sold. This was such a drag to keep track of. Every month I was managing spreadsheets and scanning old email messages. This did not work well for me – I was even losing track of my work!
    One of the galleries I work with suggested the program they use – Masterpiece Manager. They have an artist version. This version doesn’t include stuff I don’t need anyway – like staff commissions. It does keep track of all of the locations where my art is displayed, the consignment rates I am charging as well as what when and for how much everything is sold for. At the end of the month it allows me to download a report of everything that has happened for use in MYOB. I am saving a ton of time and money with an accountant – which I don’t use anymore!!
    http://www.masterpiecemanager.com/artist-software.php
    BTW – Masterpiece Manager also provides me free listing at http://www.masterpieceonline.com/. I have gotten a handful of good leads as a result.

    hope this is helpful.

    • Buck Layton

      Duane: I just read your post and read that you said MYOB was free. Is this still true? After viewing their web site they are advertising $25 per month, or $239, $899, or $1949 for their various versions. Did they used to be free? I am still trying to decide on a small business accounting package to go along with GYST at http://www.gyst-ink.com/index.php ? Thanks!

  • […] works are easier to find and to file in organizing systems. They’re also easier for you to talk about and refer people to. The more unique each title is, […]