Tag Archives: accounting

Your Art is Your Business: Making Time for the Business to Keep Making Art

There are three things that work against artists making a living from making and selling their work: the (seemingly) fickle nature of people’s taste, the fickleness of the market, and (sometimes) the artists themselves.

Movies and television have fed us that trope for years: the temperamental artisté who isn’t good at “real life.” The writer who won’t use a computer. The painter who hates cell phones. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with liking typewriters or hating cell phones. But if you are counting on being discovered, lauded for your eccentricities, and left alone to create while other people handle your money for you, you might be waiting a really long time.

If you’re not interested in making a living with your art, that’s one thing. You working a day job and you make the time to create. But if you want to make a living with your art, you can’t afford embrace that faux artistic temperament and ignore the practicalities of running a business.

If you’re going to make a business of making art, you need to be able to approach it, in part, as a business. It helps to start doing that from the very beginning. That means creating a workable business plan.

What you need to know about creating a business plan

The Mission and Vision Statements

Every business plan, and every business, begins with mission and vision statements. Naturally you know why you’re an artist. You understand the drive it requires. But there’s something about putting it down in writing, codifying and clarifying it so that as you move forward, they are more than words on a screen. They are the foundation of your future success.

Goals

Yes, you want to create art and sell it. That’s the larger goal. Establishing some benchmark goals, however, will help you plan the steps you need to take in order to make that a reality. Where do you want to be in three months? Six months? Nine months? A year? You want your goals to be ambitious, but they should also be reasonable. You want to be able to march forward, but you also want to make sure that your goals aren’t so abstract that you grind to a halt when you hit a stumbling block. (And you will.)

Identify your customer

No, it’s not about making art to satisfy a customer. It’s about focusing your marketing and social media strategies to create the best possible outcome. The thing about being an artist is that while it may sometimes feel like no one notices what you do, it’s important to remember that there is an audience – and a customer – for everything. The hard part is knowing how to focus your marketing so that you’re working smarter, not harder.

 

That’s really the entire trick to giving the business enough time so that you can keep making art. Work smarter, not harder. It means more than just being comfortable wearing multiple hats and working on multiple levels. It means that, on some level, you thrive on it.

Starting and running your own business is always a risk, regardless of the kind of business it is. Turning your art into your business is a unique kind of risk, though, because you’re risking more than just the very important tangibles of time and money. You are also risking that intangible part of you that drives your art and makes you who you are.  The bravery required to put your passion on the line is necessary. But you need to protect that passion as much as you can.

However, if you forged ahead without a business plan, that doesn’t mean you can’t sit down and write one out. There’s never a wrong time to sit down and rethink how you’re doing things, and creating a business plan is a good way to re-evaluate and reorganize your business so you can focus on your art. There’s plenty of information out there to help you, too. Remember, part of working smarter, not harder means making use of available resources. Check out the Small Business Administration (SBA) Small Business Development Center, and SCORE a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses in your state.

Small Business Accounting Pitfalls

There are so many things to keep in mind when you own a small business. Details ranging from inventory to order fulfillment are just the baseline concerns. If you’re a brick and mortar business, your overhead includes a lease, utilities, and maybe additional employees. If you run an online business, your overhead includes the cost of parking your domain somewhere, maybe an email management system. Regardless of whatever kind of business you own, though, you will have to make sure your books are in order.

Keep it separated.

It’s true that you will spend money out-of-pocket to start your business. You’ll also most likely spend out-of-pocket to bolster up your business in the first few years. Until you start turning a profit, pretty much everything you have will go into the business.

In spite of what seems like an endless flow of your personal cash into supporting your business, though, you should still keep your personal finances and your business finances separate. Creating a separate business checking account is a good way to compartmentalize and organize your business. Not only is good accounting policy, it’s also a way to help you mentally compartmentalize and look at your business in a critical and objective way.

Anyone who starts a business has to have passion and drive. Without it, there’s little point to making all the necessary sacrifices. But the truth is, it’s just not enough to be passionate about your business idea. You have to be able to look at the business and make decisions as objectively as possible.

Keeping it as separate from your personal finances as possible is a solid first step towards helping yourself do this.

Pay attention to the kind of business credit you get.

Depending on the kind of business you started, you might need seed money to build inventory, or to float your overhead for the first few months — or longer. There are all kinds of options and all kinds of institutions that might be able to help you., from banks to credit unions to even crowd sourcing. Be sure you pick the one that’s right for you; and, if you can, at all costs, try to avoid seeding your business using a credit card. If you find yourself unable to pay it back, it could seriously hurt your chances to access other kinds of funding.

Keep it organized.

Disorganized record keeping is the death knell of small business. If you’re forward thinking enough, you already set how to organize and store your important records. But even if you didn’t think about that in the beginning, it’s not too late to start now. Take the time to go back through your records and organize them. Yes, it’s a pain. Yes, it takes time, which is a commodity that’s already in short supply. Yes, it means some headaches, depending on how long you’ve put off going through and organizing your records.

But it will be worth it. And, it’s also a good lesson for you that will have more good returns than bad.

Update your books on a regular basis… more than just monthly.

You are the heart and soul of your business. But your books are the blood and bones. Keeping your books up-to-date isn’t the sexiest way to spend an evening; but it will give you the confidence you need to make objective decisions.

It may seem like updating your books monthly would be enough, and it may well be enough for a well-established business. If you’re just starting out, however, the ebb and flow of your business isn’t all that stable. The more you put your eyes on your books, the better chances you have to succeed later. It’s not enough to keep your receipts. Add them in weekly, or even bi-weekly. Keep an eye on your receivables and sales. If your business has heavy overhead, it’s even more important that you update your books regularly.

Don’t confuse sales with profits.

You’ve made a few sales, satisfied a few clients, and gotten a few more. Good for you! But if you’re just starting out, be sure to remember that sales aren’t profits. You don’t get to call it profit until after you take out business expenses – if for no other reason than to take pressure off your personal pocketbook – and quarterly or annual taxes.

It’s good to be passionate and important to be excited about your business. But don’t start trying to roll around in profits before they actually start rolling in.

Don’t be afraid to consult a professional.

It’s okay to admit you’re over your head in certain aspects of your business. That doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel. A smart business owner knows it’s important to sometimes find someone who knows a little more about some aspect of the business. Because in the end, owning a successful business is as much about learning and evolving as it is relying on common sense.

Last minute tax tips for small businesses

As the April 18th deadline for filing taxes looms on the horizon, you may be in the enviable position of having already filed your tax return. If you haven’t already filed, however, as a small business owner or entrepreneur you are probably working overtime to get it done. Depending on the kind and size of business you run, you might have a tax preparation professional do your taxes for you. But you may be just starting out and want to save the expense; if that’s the case – and even if it’s not – there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Know what you owe

As a small business, you should probably be paying your taxes quarterly. These payments can be easy to forget, though, especially if you are a sole proprietor working in the creative economy or the gig economy.

If you did make your final quarterly payment on January 15th, make sure you take that into account when you file. Take the time to deduct any levies or account for any late fees and penalties the IRS may impose if you happened to miss a payment.

2. Accelerate or defer.

Many sole proprietors use cash basis accounting – which means they report income when payments are received. Depending on the kind of business you have, you might consider scheduling your billing so clients can pay early in the new year for work you completed late in the previous year.

The advantage to this is that you’re getting income early in the year.

However, if you had a successful year you could accelerate your deductible expenses. There are a few things you can do to help relieve your tax burden if you plan ahead, such as:

  1. making extra charitable donations,
  2. renewing professional journals and licenses before the year ends, or
  3. replacing old business equipment.

If you are in the position to, you might also consider

  1. prepaying your state income tax,
  2. selling an investment property at a loss, or
  3. selling securities at a loss.

If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, there’s nothing you can do about taxes. They are as much a part of your business as your customers or client base. The trick to making it all less odious, though, is to be proactive. Think ahead early in the year so the end of the year doesn’t hit you any harder than it needs to.

Self Care: The Self-Employment Tax

If you work for yourself, it doesn’t take you long to figure out that the American Dream has a few strings attached. One aspect of self-employment that people hardly ever talk about is the self-employment tax. Yes, you already pay income taxes, and depending on how you structure your business, you may be paying them quarterly.

But what about FICA? It’s not the government’s job to make sure that you, as a self-employed individual, are paying the proper amount into Social Security and Medicare.

That’s part of your job.

This is what we mean by the self-employment tax. According to the IRS , the self-employment tax “is a tax consisting of Social Security and Medicare taxes primarily who work for themselves.”

The first thing to remember that unless you make more than $400 in a year, you’re not required to pay the any self-employment taxes.  You’ll notice that the threshold for requiring to pay is lower than the amount required for a client to provide you a 1099.


You’ll also notice that there are two options for figuring your earnings to base your tax payment on: one for farmers and one for other kinds of self-employed individuals (the nonfarm optional method). The nonfarm optional method can be used if net profits are less than $5,457 and also less than 72.189% of gross nonfarm income, but you had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400 in two of the prior three years.

Please keep in mind, however, that the nonfarm income optional method can only be used five times by a self-employed individual.

When determining your income, make sure to clearly delineate between what you’re paid as a self-employed individual and any money you earn as the result of investing in something else – especially if the business you end up investing in is in a similar line to what you do. You also need to be aware of the IRS and court rulings regarding monies paid out as retirement. Retirement is just taxable income (depending if from a tax-deferred vehicle) not self-employment, and no FICA or medicare is taken out, just income tax based on your tax bracket.

Even if you’re not bringing in a lot of money yet as a self-employed trailblazer, you may want to consider going ahead and paying some self-employment tax voluntarily. Although you may not be legally required to pay, there is an advantage. You will be able to earn Social Security credits, which translate into higher benefit when you retire.

Marbles and monkeys: tracking your hours and expenses

Even though Richard Florida’s 2004 brain child, “the creative class”,  has come under fire in the last few years, many cities trying to redefine themselves in the wake of an increasingly dominant technological economy have still spent considerable time and capital trying to accommodate young urban creatives – freelance writers, graphic designers, computer programmers, artists, and media workers, as well as people working in healthcare, business and finance, the legal sector, and education.  As a matter of fact, a 2010 report predicted 40% of American workers will be earning their living as part of the “gig economy” by 2020.

 The next few blog posts will be focusing on accounting issues and challenges that face entrepreneurs whose work falls under the category of “the creative class” in a “gig economy.”

So either you’ve been sucked in by allure of being your own boss or you’re unable to find a single, stable job in your chosen career field. Now here you are. You are part of the gig economy. You have several clients with rotating deadlines, or you have a slew of single-project clients.  You get to work from home. You get to work in your pajamas. Sometimes you can grab your laptop and go to your favorite coffee shop and work. You might even be able to work from the beach! You have more control over your schedule than your parents did. And it’s awesome being your own boss.

But unlike the days of The Organization Man, you also have to shoulder the responsibility for tracking your hours and being more aware of your expenses. Even though sources like Forbes Magazine and Investopedia praise the gig economy and the idea of a mobile creative class, you know there’s a large part of your job that isn’t creative even if it is mobile.

Depending on the client, you will charge for your time differently: by the hour, by the project, or even by the word if you are a copy editor/copy writer. There are a lot of marbles to keep track of when you work for yourself. Different hours worked on different projects on any given day. Different hourly rates for different clients. Record keeping is essential. If you’re good with spreadsheets, that’s helpful. If not, consider finding some accounting software, cloud accounting, or — if you have a large enough client base – find an accountant to take the guess work out.

Not only do you want to keep a precise record of your work hours so you can bill your clients correctly, you also want to keep track of any taxes you will be required to pay. Why? Because now you’re now your own boss, without anyone in human resources or payroll to arrange for deductions. You are responsible for making sure Uncle Sam gets his cut. With all the joys and challenges of being your own boss in the “gig economy,” you don’t want that big angry monkey on your back weighing down your success.

GrinchtoGlee

From Grinch to Glee – Make year end easier with these bookkeeping tips

It’s not that your heart is two-sizes too small like the Grinch, but rather that your head might explode from all the year-end bookkeeping tasks on your list. While these to-dos could certainly put your holiday spirit in short supply, we know how and Who can help.

It’s essential that your data is accurate, complete and organized for tax time and the year ahead. But where do you begin?

Like the Whos in Whoville helped Grinch, we offer tips to keep you and your books on the nice list.

  • Evaluate your financial standing

Review profit and loss, your balance sheet and general ledger. Make sure they aren’t mangled up in tangled up knots by checking that all transactions have been recorded and posted to the proper income, expense, asset or liabiity accounts. Also check the accuracy of your accounts receivable and accounts payable, and write off uncollectible debt so as not to overstate your income (especially if accrual based), and overpay the You-Know-Whos.

  • Complete bank reconciliations

Make sure your checking, savings and credit card accounts have been reconciled. Loan interest should be separated from the principal and accurately logged. And a decidedly, non-grinchy trick: reconciling monthly makes it easier to catch errors.

  • Review Personal Expenses

You shouldn’t, wouldn’t, oughtn’t, mustn’t mix your personal and business expenses (although for the Sole Proprietor it’s often a necessity), so look at your expenses closely and if that’s the case find receipts and/or cancelled checks and log the expenses in your books. Then watch your heart grow because you avoided paying extra taxes.

  • Review Subcontractor Services

If you’ve hired any Whos who are Sole Proprietor’s or LLC’s, for contract services totaling more than $600 during the year, you’ll be required to send them a 1099 Misc form. It’s a best practice to send each new subcontractor or vendor a W9 at the time of hire to ensure you have complete address information and either their Social Security Number or Federal ID Number information on file.

  • Take Inventory

Review your inventory during the last month of the tax year and make necessary adjustments to align the inventory account of floofloovers and whowonkas to match the items in stock.  Your inventory value should show the cost price or price paid rather that the selling price for your items.

  • Create a Filing System

It may sound overly simple and antiquated, but we know an organized system for easily accessing the documents you need, when you need them come tax time will make you happy as a Who.

As you celebrate the close of 2016, it’s also time to look to the year ahead. If one of your goals is to have more flexibility and time to achieve your personal and business goals, consider the advantages of having a Bookkeeper. Not only an excellent resource to simplify your financials and ensure accuracy, a Bookkeeper can also be a personal advocate, a partner as loyal as Max, and someone to help you make your Holidays mean a little bit more for years to come.

Make The Holidays Count!

My favorite time of the year is upon us… the season of thanksgiving and bestowing gifts upon others. It all starts with reflecting how grateful we are for our many blessings and successes over the past year. Whether these accomplishments were made through businesses endeavors or simply through our personal sweat-equity, we are grateful for those opportunities. We can profit from the many benefits that come from having a grateful heart such as improving our physical and psychological health. Gratitude also enhances empathy and reduces aggression and it can help people sleep better too. These are just a few good reasons how feeling grateful can improve our bottom line which allows for the next step.

Being grateful is only half of what stands out during the holiday season. As soon as the dishes have been cleared from the Thanksgiving feast, we are reminded that, “Hey, “Black Friday” is only a few hours away!!” In an instant, our thoughts go from being “grateful” to thinking about gifting and sharing with others. We can all understand how giving to others is good for our community and the world, but giving can also reap huge benefits in our own lives as well. Did you know that giving to others lowers our blood pressure and stress levels? This, alone, will help each one of us live longer and happier lives.

So, in honor of the season, I have put together a few examples where you can reach out to the community and show your gratitude by giving back.

For Businesses:

  • Choose a local Charity Event that is relevant to you and your business and donate money, be a sponsor or volunteer your time.
  • Encourage your business team to get involved in a fundraising event such as Toys-For-Tots.
  • If your company has a budget for donations, provide a Turkey Give Away program for families in need.

For Individuals:

  • Have a garage sale in your neighborhood and donate the profits to charity.
  • The local homeless shelter or soup kitchen could always use a helping hand.
  • Provide care-packages for people in need; For example… the troops, seniors, kids and teens in group homes, the homeless
  • Let us help our planet by recycling! The proceeds can once again go to a charity.

With all of the wonderful benefits that go along with being thankful and giving back, let’s make a difference in our communities through our valued time and efforts this holiday season.