What Your Art Business Will Cost You

When you own your own business, it’s important to look at expenses as well as income in order to remain profitable.

I looked into various (not all – not even education or supplies and materials!) expenses for artists and thought it might be interesting to share the results. Feel free to add to our completely unscientific list in a comment on the Art Biz Blog.

Maggie Ruley’s Key West studio. Used with permission.

Maggie Ruley’s Key West studio. Used with permission.

Studio Space

These numbers are based on responses I received through Twitter and Facebook.
(sf = square feet)

Central Virginia (476sf): $355/month
Key West, FL (750sf – 3 rooms): $1600 for studio + store front

Ravenswood, Chicago, IL (600+ sf): $540/month
Downtown Chicago, IL (sf n/a): $485/month
Gages Lake, IL (1200sf): $500/month with utilities

Albuquerque, NM (175sf): $200/mo in nonprofit art center, includes utilities, not air-conditioned
Colorado Springs, CO (400sf): $455 includes utilities

San Francisco, CA (154sf): $431/month and says most of her friends pay around $800 for an equivalent space
San Diego, CA (185sf): $550/month is on the high side because it’s in a retail space and on the art walk path
Los Angeles, CA (800sf, skylight, private bathroom, gated parking): $1050/month

Chilturn, Victoria, Australia: $120AU/week (about $105US) + $1100AU year in utilities

Healing House Art Studio

Crystal Neubauer’s Healing House Art Studio in Gages Lake, Illinois. Used with permission.

Inventory Business Management System

eArtist: $125 software installation

GYST: $59 for GYSTBasic and $129 for GYSTPro software installation

Artwork Archive: $49/year for the Apprentice version and $99 for Master (unlimited inventory), Cloud-based

Email Delivery Platform

MailChimp is free up to 2,000 names. You can pay a little for more features. Those rates start at $10/month for up to 500 contacts.

Constant Contact starts at $20/month for up to 500 contacts.

iContact starts at $14/month for up to 500 contacts.

See a review of the various options (don’t forget to scroll to page 2) here.

Business Licenses

Registering a Doing-Business-As name with your state. In Colorado, this fee is $20 for a sole proprietorship.

Applying for a sales tax license is $16 (for 2 years) in Colorado with a one-time deposit of $50 that is refundable. It is an additional $20 fee (for 4 years) in my city.

Patty Hankins loads up her Chevy van with her booth set-up. Used with permission.

Patty Hankins loads up her Chevy van with her booth set-up. Used with permission.

Entry Fees

Average: $15-40 per entry for art shows and festivals.

In contrast, a gallery booth at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2012 was $55,000.

Click here for the art fair cheat sheet.

Booth Set-Up

Textile artist Lisa Call spent $11,380 on her first booth for the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore. Of that, about $5,000 was for items she will reuse. That means about $6,400 for each additional year she does the show. See her breakdown. (link not available)

The booth fee for the 2014 American Craft Council wholesale show in Baltimore was $800-1500.

Flower photographer Patti Hankins offers these numbers:

  • I started with grid walls and an EZ Up Canopy. The grid walls were about $900 and the EZ up was under $200. I upgraded to my current booth in stages.
  • Booth fees range from $75 to $1000 for craft shows. I often do a booth and a half indoors. Flower & garden show fees are much higher.
  • My tent is a TrimLine that was $1000 for the basic setup plus more for extra canopies, sta-bars, etc.
  • Pro Panels are more than $3000. I have enough walls for a 20-foot booth, bins, desk, and shelf.
  • Chevy Cargo Van was more than I care to remember. Having a van to haul everything is so much easier than dealing with a trailer, and it’s so nice to have a vehicle just for shows.
  • Bonus info … And for photographers who plan on doing their own printing, you’ll need a professional photo printer. My Epson 9800 was $5000.
Kitty Ansel sits atop Patty Hankins’ Epson printer. Used with permission.

Kitty Ansel sits atop Patty Hankins’ Epson printer. Used with permission.

Website

Domain name (URL): around $15/year at 1and1.com and GoDaddy, although they offer very inexpensive first-year prices to hook you. NameCheap is $10.69/year.

Website hosting: $4-20/month and up

After watching my previous hosting service and platform deteriorate badly in 2013, I vowed to stay away from the numerous companies bought up by EIG. Here’s why. I now pay a lot more for more reliable up-time and better customer service at LiquidWeb.

I found this review site to be particularly helpful when searching for a new Web hosting service.

Web designer: fees up to $75/hour

Printed Material

Graphic Designers: up to $75/hour

Business Cards
Moo: $19.99 for 100 MiniCards or $39.98 for 100 Classic (regular size)
GotPrint: $18.10 for 100 standard cards (14pt Premium Uncoated Cover)
VistaPrint: $13.39 for 500 (front only)
OvernightPrints: $39.95 front+back for 500 Art Biz Coach cards

4×6” Postcards (+ shipping to my Colorado home (500 quantity) color front and black back)
PrintingforLess: $131.62 (120# gloss color)
GotPrint: $47.01 (14pt Gloss Coated Cover with UV)
Modern Postcard: $144.35

Brochures
500 4-color, Tri-Fold, 100lb Gloss (folds to 3.6” x 8.5”)
Modern Postcard: $406
PsPrint: $308.70 (they had a 60% off promotional discount when I checked – total =$123.48!)

Elaine Kehew’s handsome marketing collateral for her upcoming show.

Elaine Kehew’s handsome marketing collateral for her upcoming show.

Catalogs
Blurb: $12.99/each for 7×7” square with 20 pages
PrintingForLess: $4.04 each for 5.5×8.5” with 20 pages when you print 250 copies
PsPrint: $10.60/unit when you print just 25 copies (gloss color interior + 13 pt matte cover) or $2.514/unit for 250 copies

Assistants

Bookkeepers
$20-35 an hour for sole proprietorships, which most artists are. More for corporations. The more complicated your books and tax preparations are, the more you should expect to pay.

Virtual Assistants or Online Business Managers
$35 and up per hour

Studio assistants
$10-20 an hour

 

Yes, your art business is an investment and the expenses can add up. It’s critical to keep excellent financial records.

The United States Tax Court recently ruled in favor of artist Susan Crile who had been claiming expenses for 40 years without seeing much profit. She beat the IRS!

==>Read the comments below from artists who told us about their expenses.

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45 comments to What Your Art Business Will Cost You

  • Writing from the UK…80 sq.ft. studio my basic running costs are this year £620 [about $992]…Heat, light, rent [from myself], electricity, supplies, internet, website phone, insurance printer & supplies…etc. All before I even make a painting or show it.

    • Thanks for the Brit perspective, Phil. Is the $992 for the whole year? Is it just studio or does it include the other items you mentioned.

      • Those are my costs as listed and they are projected to 31-12-2014…from 01-01-2014.

        Add to this the cost of one canvas + one tube of paint + one brush per painting…about £40 [$60] as a standard costing.

        In my prime I painted 50 canvases per year…add £ 2, 000 [$6,000]

        In retirement my time is ‘free’ but when actively selling my art in the past it was included in the sales price. So far this year only two canvases are finished.

        • Adds FootNote:

          The obsessive in me..

          2006 built the art studio from a kit £6,000 – $9,000…basic carpentry skills.

          2007 built the accountancy package for my art business from scratch…it’s only a spreadsheet after all! This took longer than the studio build.

          2008 built my website from scratch [template based]…it’s work in progress.

  • HI Alyson,

    I also pay an accountant to do my taxes and I have business insurance and pay $500/year for that.

    Thanks for the list!

    Helen

  • Nancy Nuce

    I am an experienced bookkeeper (non-degreed accountant) and I would like to know exactly where I could get $20 – $35/hr for bookkeepting services. A few hours a week would pay the expenses for my true love – art.

  • Basic liability insurance, required by many high-end shows, and good idea if you have client come to your studio or do installations, runs about $600/year for me. I believe it is higher if you also teach classes in your studio.

    Taxes: $100/year for Turbotax

    Another resource for an awesome high-quality printing service that has a turnaround significantly faster than anything else I’ve ever used: http://smartpress.com/

  • My current favorites: MagCloud for printing an artist’s portfolio, cheaply, under $8 for 30 perfect bound full color pages–you can lay out and upload images for your portfolio for free on Google docs. My high school-age assistant (no relation) at $10/hr who I found through a friend who is head of a local high school art department.

    TinyBookPro to keep all my sales and expense records and tax info (one-time fee of under $70, occasional upgrades and good support to get you started (because an artist needs to change many of the line item identifiers in the system). A great help–you keep the records, but if you do it right you can prepare a document for your accountant for your business taxes at the end of the year in very little time–it takes me about 2 hours; very intuitive program. I also have used Working Artist software since 2004 to catalogue all my artwork and patrons. It has lots of other features (you can create invoices when you sell work), but these are the most used. Not intuitive, clunky for a Mac because you need Parallels, and reports are not at all compact and can mean pages and pages of printing if you are not careful about what you print–but the best system for me because I have 2500 patrons and 1000 artworks on it and too cumbersome to make a software conversion. So actually not on the favorite list, but necessary.

    My website is on FASO at $28/mo, great support, plenty of updates and new features that are easy to implement, don’t need a website designer because they do a lot for free. Includes a newsletter and blog at $28/mo. However, I use Mailchimp for my monthly email newsletter; goes to about 700, no charge, but I pay my assistant for design time, working from my copy and image uploads.

    Also use Daily Paint Works at $12.95 to post small works and works well for online sales and exposure; use. Etsy for small prints–must renew every 3 months but cheap. Not as much exposure as DPW, but DPW only takes original work. Another favorite thing I consider money well spent–time with 2 different art business montors My expenses typically have run between $15 and 20K for years. My studio and office are in my home, so that is not an expense nor do I expense the space, but business travel adds up quickly, as do the assistant’s time, and shipping and framing., the biggest expenses. Hope this is helpful to someone.

  • Walter Hawn

    That ‘case study’ (on the cheat sheet) of Art Basil! Yee! The gallery in question needs to sell at least a quarter million to break even — without considering salaries and other non-show overheads. I wonder how much they require their artists to ‘contribute’ toward the show? Lots, I’d bet. And I thought the Omaha Summer Arts Festival was pricey….

  • Thanks for the mention Alyson!

    If anyone has web hosting issues/questions feel free to reach out. http://reviewsignal.com/contact

  • Alicia

    Don’t forget to add travel expenses like hotel, gas and meals for shows. That can bump up the average cost of a show from $400 to $1000. Shipping is another one.

  • Don’t forget mileage:
    – Run out of materials and go get some? Cha-ching 3 times in a week? Cha-ching, cha-ching.
    – Attend an opening with your work in it? Cha-ching

    – Attend a meeting or conference? Cha-ching.
    – Plus the obvious out of town mileage when driving for exhibiting, attending conferences, teaching and such.

  • Agreed. A great option for an artist website is FASO. (Fine Art Studio Online)
    Check it out at FASO.com

    Another art business cost- credit card fees, a portion of your phone if you run a card slider like Square, and some office supplies, especially paper and ink if you do your own on demand prints.

    • Absolutely, Susan.

      Do you know what your credit card fees run? You’re talking about merchant account fees, right? Not really credit card fees (interest on your charges). ??

  • Lori woodward

    Alyson, I’ve found a great situation. Six artists share 1200 sq ft in an old mill building, downtown Nashua NH. We each pay around $100/month which includes electricity and heat. There’s ample working space, and a gallery section in the front near the entrance.

    Each has the option to leave with 30 days notice, but we’ve never had any problem filling vacated space. Interestingly, we each have different styles and price ranges. We bet along well. For me, working beside orther dedicated artists outside of my home has been a boost to my productivity. It also gives me social contact in real life.

    I wince had a studio on my own that cost me $900/month for 2000/sq feet, but that cut into my profits too much, so I took over the entire Livingroom in our home. Last year, I spent way too much on shows, traveling, and rental space in an antique store. I sold lots of work, but my prices weren’t high enough to realize a profit. My net profit was $2000 and I worked full time.
    Pretty darned pitiful… Worst income ever! So this year, I’m creating work that will bring in higher prices and getting my expenses way down.

  • Lori woodward

    A friend of mine does a local non-juried show.mhe sold $14,000 worth of work there in two days. The caliber of the artists’ work is high. The show fee is $100. I’ve only done shows within driving distance that are non juried but in resort areas.. Fees have a,ways run under $100… Not much monetary risk involved.
    Now off to that studio!

  • Really helpful information.

    I am an oil painter.

    I would like to add that I have a bread and butter aspect to my budget, I teach one day a week and do a few workshops each year which covers all of my regular expenses, materials, car, insurance,travel, website, etc. My art sales ( happy to say my walls are empty,) make up my profit. The profit each year might vary but my expenses are always covered.

    I live in a rural area so I was able to build a studio 575 sq ft. It cost less than 10k. Best part I was able to put in north light, priceless for me, a painter.

    BTW Rural lifestyle is great for focusing and working in the Studio, there are not any distractions, but regular networking is harder. I would love to hear any ideas regarding this.

  • Don’t forget all the little taxes/expenses. You need to have a budget for “incidentals” that some months is as much as your studio rent. When we had a studio downtown we had to pay the city parking tax (maintenance on the parking garages) that I believe is now around $200 per business per year. Our landlord required us to pay for a twice-per-year cleaning and maintenance of the heating/AC unit (she scheduled it, they billed us directly). Cable internet connections not only have monthly fees, but in many studios in interesting older buildings you not only have to pay big bucks to have wires run to your space from some central location, you also often have to pay the building owner a fee for “damage” to the building, and sometimes pay for the building’s maintenance person to watch the whole installation. Some cities also have signage fees, and some just charge regular “fines” for putting out the standing signs advertising a studio open house. Repair fees can also be a PITA — we had someone break our studio front door glass about a month into our studio rental, and insurance only paid half the repair cost which meant we had to pay the other half since any glass damage was our responsibility according to our lease. Which reminds me, if you’re signing a contract for a studio (or a show) you probably need to run it by a lawyer especially the first time you sign anything to make sure you’re not signing a bad contract.

  • QUESTION: With the emergence of all these art fairs happening all over the world and that we can’t be part of because of the huge expense of a booth, If I wanted to do an art fair, what would be a cheap ( cheaper) way of doing one AND also, what sort of non art fairs would you recommend we try. EX: Interior Design shows, Hospitality Shows?? Where would you get your biggest bang for your buck (1) as far as trying to make more people aware of your art and art business.

    • Demetrios: The difference between art fairs and the type you recommend is that serious people actually go to art fairs to BUY. They don’t necessarily go to those other fairs to buy art. And I do believe that artists should exhibit as much as possible. There’s learning value in every experience.

  • Excellent list for calculating what expenses we may incur, Alyson. I enjoyed the variety of costs, the differences between places and how some Artists comments extend into their own savvy solutions. I primarily work from home. While I get the best daylight and space in the kitchen, I’ll sometimes spread out into the living room floor during horizontal work I sometimes include in my creations. As for prints,Mpix..com has a high quality, great pricing and frequent special pricing offers. The turn around is efficient in my case. I also offer on demand prints through my site at http://www.adrianajgarces.artistwebsites.com. That is, with Fine Art America. Having my own domain through WordPress cost $18.00 to start and I’d like to explore /learn more about handling it. As a Member Artist at http://www.conartistnyc.com, the initial cost is $50.00. For monthly, daily, weekly fees, I recommend checking it out. It’s THE most affordable, fun and accessible studio space in New York City. We’re part of an Art Collective/Gallery/ Studio/ Storefront exhibiting new shows monthly and in between. I hope this helps others in the NYC metro area, as their pricing structure is virtually unheard of. Have an awesome Columbus Day weekend everyone!

    • Adriana: Thank you for that excellent NYC resource. I’ll bet you’re helping a bunch of people out here.

      • You’re very welcome Alyson. It took me some research and getting to know what the true costs can be for studio space, etc., before finding this one. Besides their excellent pricing, Brian Shevlin, its founder is one of the nicest, knowledgeable people in the business. The Artist Members I’ve gotten to know have all been just as amicable, helpful and eager to jump in whenever anyone of us needs to complete a project requiring a special skill set. That’s probably one of the best things about it: help each other. 🙂

  • I guess my art business is a bit out of the norm. I don’t do shows juried shows or craft shows. My studio is in my home. I do my web design, social media, blog and photography.Catalogs and postcards are not how I get the word out so those are not things I spend on.
    One of my biggest expenses is shipping to galleries. My husband recently drove from our Virginia home to a gallery in Atlanta with 13 large paintings. The cost was under $200. Freight would have been $800-$1000 and that comes out of my 50% of the split.

  • Nina

    this is such a great resource. really love the knowledge you share. thank you.

  • Amy

    Thank you SO much for this article, and the comments! I am an “emerging artist”, and this is the stuff they should teach in art school! There is so much to learn–it’s great to hear how other artists are making it work!

  • Moe

    I was wondering if any of the email services you listed would help manage contacts in general and generate mailing labels and other fun stuff.

    It seems to me doing just email really leaves a gap in what they could do for people.

    Thanks for the knowledge.

  • Pertaining to the article, we provide all your business cards, brochures, and postcards printing with a super fast turnaround time in order to meet all your printing needs. Of course, we serve every customer with budget in mind; we specialize in reducing your printing costs.

    http://www.printleaf.com