Monday, January 14, 2013

Three Gifts for the New Year


By Kris A. Kramer

If I could give you three gifts that would most help your PMC business this year, propelling it into the next chapter of success, they would be these.

Find a Business Resource
Keep a PMC-Related Time Log
Maintain Good Records

One -- Find a Business Resource

    When a gallery shop owner offered me information on a program on how to become a market-ready artist, I let go of my ego, took the hint, and enrolled in the program. That program propelled my PMC business at least ten years into a successful future.
    Find yourself a business resource, a program fitting to your PMC passion. Whether it's a book or two, a college course, a program offered by your state's art council, SCORE (a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses), or a group of friends with the same focus - do something to improve yourself entrepreneurially. My program, offered by the Montana Arts Council, was called the Montana Artrepreneur Program (MAP), and I took it at a community college. Students ranged from well-established, two-dimensional artists to recent graduates of the college's metal-smithing program. 
    The course's book was Artrepreneurship: Sustaining the Creative Life written by Dr. Edrienne L. Kittredge (see 1 below), who created, developed, and now directs MAP. A coach conducted monthly classes and met with each of us in our own studio at any time. Equally useful was a weekly meeting with two other artists, set up on our own to keep each other accountable and on track.  
    There are many ways to further your business savvy. A serious internet search turned into an extended and organized project would work. How about inventing an internship, exchanging your time for on-the-job training at a gallery or fine-art retail site? A program fitting one's profession benefits any artist or artisan as well as it might benefit a physician, lawyer, or other professional.

Two -- Keep a PMC-Related Time Log

    In order to run any business, you need data. For example, it is hard to set a price on one of your creations if you don't know hours of production. You can't write a budget if you do not have a history of your spending. So, while you investigating a business program, you can accumulate information that you will need down the road - beginning with a PMC-related time log.
    A log of time you spend on PMC activities includes time in which you create in the studio, order supplies, update your website, reconcile your business checking account, and any activity directly related to your PMC world. Most importantly, track time you spend making one piece, whether it's a one-of-a-kind piece or one of many in a product line. 
    For example, I love to make charms for the currently popular charm bracelets. I will make ten of one kind of charm, tracking my hours. Then I divide the total time by ten to get the hours-of-production for one charm, which I use in determining a price. In an upcoming post, I will tell you some more uses for tracking your time and the benefits of this information.

Three -- Maintain Good Records

    An attorney specializing in art law, Bill Frazier (see 2 below), tells of an artist by profession who never sold a single piece of work or made one cent from her art. She traveled to workshops, visited museums, and partook of art-related activities, tallying up legitimate business expenses and deductions. When challenged, the IRS determined her a professional artist, and she was able to continue her activities and deductions.  Profit or not, organized business records will help you decide your tax status, (sole proprietor or LLC, for example), save on taxes, apply for funding, set financial goals, fill out grant applications, and more.
Some important aspects of maintaining good records are these.
   -  If you don't have a business checking account, open one. You will need a business credit card, too, all for the purposes of keeping your business income and expenses separate from your personal ones. 
   - Use a good accounting software like Quicken or QuickBooks to record legitimate business expenses.  Build your accounting software's categories by referring to a tax return form or consult with the person who prepares your tax return. Record your earnings along with the source of the income (direct sale at a show, wholesale order, or retail location). Organize and file your hardcopy receipts.
   - If you have a studio at home, figure out what percent of your total residence square footage that it occupies and designate the same percentage of your household expenses to your PMC business. And for sure, keep track of your mileage associated with your PMC activities. The post office is the most frequent destination in my mileage records.
    - If you have an accountant, talk with them about what other record keeping and organizing steps you should take.
    - Finally, it helps to further legitimize your business with a business license, like Lora Hart put on her chalkboard To-Do list in her January 7th post.

Trust that this isn't just busy work. These important steps will pay off and the puzzle pieces will fit together nicely down the road. And one day, you will look back and be amazed at your PMC achievements, your PMC business, and the amazing feeling of being an artist and an entrepreneur.

1  Dr. Edrienne L. Kittredge's email is if you are interested in this book.

2  Bill Frazier practices in Big Timber, MT and is a regular contributor to the Montana Arts Council's State of the Arts Newsletter.

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