Category Archives: Business

Art Taxes

I did my art business-related taxes on my own this year. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. The key is to keep good records throughout the year. Here’s a quick list of some things I’ve learned when filling out a Schedule C. For every art transaction you make, into your coffers or out, record the following:

  • Category of expense – i.e. travel, supplies, marketing, merchandise
  • Gross profit (or expenditure)
  • After-sales-tax profit (this is what you record as profit – sales tax is a transaction directly between buyer and state or locale; you’re just the facilitator)
  • Any commission fees
  • Any miscellaneous fees (Paypal fees are included in this category, as is convention attendance and art show hanging fees)
  • E-Marketing (website etc.)
  • Paper Marketing (business cards, flyers, etc.)
  • Travel expenses (airfare/hotel are in the “travel” section and mileage/parking are in the “automobile” section)
  • Shipping/postage fees
  • Where the sale was made (i.e. at a convention or on the internet)

Also, keep all your receipts. Paper, too. When the contents my hard drive were lost last December, I lost all my e-records for the year. I hadn’t backed up in a few months, so I had to reconstruct several months’ worth of profit and loss from Paypal records and paper receipts. KEEP THE PAPER.

You may not need all this info for every transaction, but it’s a great idea to make a habit of recording it all. That way you know exactly what you did on March 2nd of last year even though you can’t remember it for the life of you. Your wallet will thank you.

Chattacon Report

chattacon09

I’m back, and in one piece! Conventions are really good for the artistic soul; I got a lot of art done, and I’m inspired. That’s the good news. The bad news is, I had a lot of free time to do art.

Not sure if it’s the economy or what, but I sold very little. Nothing went in the art show, and I barely made enough at the table to cover the cost of renting it. I was thinking that merchandise was the way to go, since art is a luxury item – put it on stuff people can use! But I sold not one t-shirt. They went like hotcakes at Dragon*Con. I still haven’t figured out the ebb and flow of cons and art purchases. I may never figure it out.

But! I met some cool people. I sat next to the neatest gal, and bought some beautiful handmade jewelry from her. This stuff is art as much as it is jewelry. She puts so much time and love into her pieces and each one is unique and has a story. Go check her out at Moonkist Designs. There’s not a whole lot on the website, but she’ll update it soon.

So… Chattacon 1, Meg 0. But I have a new friend and a knitted Cthulhu. That makes everything worth it. ;)

cthulhu

Coding, coding

No art from me recently. I’m in a bit of an inspiration slump. To fill this new void in my free time, I started coding the new website. I’m having so much fun… I’m sure you can see my nerd from all the way over in wherever you are right now. In the 2+ years since I first started my site, the ubiquitous “they” have really improved the packages available for creating and customizing your own website. If any of y’all want me to go in depth, I will! But not unless you request it, because even I can fall asleep reading php code if I’m not in the mood.

The PLAN: 2009

meglyman_holidayoctopus

Happy Holidays!

So, I promised a plan for 2009. It’s still a rough outline – refinement necessary. But it exists, and that’s half the battle. The other half is execution. And that battle, my friends, will be laid out for you blow-by-blow on this blog as the next 12 months unfold.

Unlike last year, I’m going to throw in some personal goals, because they are time-consuming enough to effect my art productivity. Which is just a fancy way of saying I’m legitimizing my excuses up front.

  • Show art at 10 shows. Same goal as 2008, and I almost made it… 9/10.
  • For the local shows, get a booth to sell merchandise. This is far more profitable than just selling originals. And by keeping it local, I cut down on travel costs. For the far-away shows… only go to the profitable ones, and mail in art to the rest.
  • Research new ways to merchandise. I want to build the business, and in a recession, people are more likely to buy art if it’s got a purpose (other than looking good on your wall). A few ideas so far: greeting cards, stickers, stamps. Would you pay for cute, 41-cent USPS cephalopods to send your bills?
  • Get married.  :D
  • Learn Arabic.
  • Try gouache on more supports. I’m becoming quite familiar with some, but I want to try more, like Colourfix board, Wallis, and Aquabord.
  • Keep all the paperwork straight. I need to renew my business license and make sure I file those semi-annual sales tax returns even if I didn’t sell anything in the state of PA except for 3 days last June.
  • Update the website into a portfolio. I have actually done some coding for this. It’s been on my list for a year. I’d better get it done soon or the personal accountability police are going to beat me with their nightsticks of righteousness.
  • Ditto on the blog content and interactivity, and promotion on social networking sites.

Please share your goals too! And I’m open to suggestions on mine – especially the merchandising part. What have you had success with? What would you buy, especially in this tight economy?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS and have a safe New Year’s. Cheers to 2009!

2008 Revisited

One of my Turn-Your-Character-Into-a-Cephalopod Commissions

In the beginning of 2008, I posted a list of goals for the year. Now, with just 4 short weeks left in 2008, I’m revisiting those goals to see how I did. I want to see how realistic they were (to help me set goals for 2009) and to see what was really important to me and my art business.

  • Register my business by March

Done last February. Early next year I have to renew it.

  • Redo this blog to greatly expand its content and interactivity

Um. Yeah. I have great plans, but when it comes down to it, I’d rather paint than write code. Maybe over Christmas vacation. I’d love to make this thing chock-full of good information and daily content updates.

  • Trim my website into a portfolio

Over Christmas. I swear. This is easier than redoing the blog, and probably more important…

  • Time all my projects with the new stopwatch Santa got for me

I did pretty well at this, especially for the big paintings. Knowing how long it took helped me figure out how much to charge.

  • Complete the 100 Cephalopods project

I did, like, four. This goal was way too ambitious. It’s still on my list, but I think it’s a lifetime goal rather than annual. It’s too time-consuming and not very profitable.

  • Promote my art on MySpace, Facebook, etc.

Waiting until I redo the website.

  • Obligatory really vague goal: strive to always improve and learn

This one worked! I learned something new with each big project and maintained previously learned skills. That rocked. I highly recommend it. Focus on one small aspect of improvement for each project.

  • Do 10 shows and/or conventions

I attended 7 conventions and showed art at 2 others. 9 total, pretty close! I may trim this down next year simply because I ran out of vacation days at work and haven’t visited my grandmas in waaaay too long.

All things considered, I think I did well! Next year may be tough, art-wise, because I recently got engaged (that wasn’t on my 2008 list) and am likely getting married in 2009. YAY! But! Business will grow. Damned if I know how yet, but it will… I promise. Hold me to it.

RCFM Report

RCFM setup

Nothing like a convention or show to drag you up out of art block, whether you want it or not. I got a lot done this weekend, some of which was even on my to-do list!

This is the setup for my dealer’s table at Rocket City FurMeet. I didn’t do a lot of business, but nobody did – it was a fairly slow con. However, note the t-shirts for sale in front (and hanging up). It was my first convention for shirt sales, and they went pretty well! Having that banner and the shirts hanging up helped, I think. Nobody else had something up on the wall, and it was very visible from the entry. I had a good spot. I got to sit next to my friends, too, which made it wonderful, no matter how much or little sold.

Off to do more art! Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Fluorescent Anteaters

Snoozy Anteater

Snoozy Anteater by Meg Lyman

Gouache on notecard

SOLD

I need to go to an art store for burnt umber gouache and masking fluid to replace the masking custard I found last week. Going to art stores is dangerous. My wallet cringes.

Make sure to check out Lisa B’s awesome alphabet sketchbook project. It’s inspiring.

I got two paintings finished this week to close out an illustration contract. It rocked. But I can’t post them here because all the rights were purchased. That also means I can’t update my website with them yet, and my update for May is going to be pitifully small. Sigh.

I doodled this anteater in the airport last year, promptly lost it, and found it again last week when pawing through stacks of illustration board for the aforementioned project. I got out the typical browns and blues to make a grey anteater… but then I sort of lost control of it, and now he’s ready to go to a rave when he wakes up.

When I start a painting, I don’t usually plan to push the boundaries of color. But when I’m successfully able to drop my “I’m going to ruin it” fears, I always end up unintentionally experimenting with color. And it usually turns out well. I encourage the lot of you to do the same, because it’s so fun.

May all your anteaters be fluorescent.

Free Art

Hippopoctopus

Hippopoctopus by Meg Lyman

Free sketch commission

On several art gallery websites, you are given a statistic called “pageviews.” It’s an inaccurate counter of how many times your main gallery page has been viewed. It’s also tradition on these sites to offer free art (generally sketches) to people who can “screen-capture” a nice, round number on the pageview counter. Typical numbers include 1000, 10,000, 55,555, 100,000, etc. I decided to participate and offer a free sketch for the 5,000th pageview on FurAffinity.

I’m not doing it again.

Due to those aforementioned inaccuracies, four separate individuals captured 5000 on their screens. Being the kind-hearted, wanting-to-please-everyone person I am, I did free art for all four. It was fun – no outlandish requests, hippopoctopus included – and it ended up being great marketing. Plus, I know I have at least three more pageviews than that stupid counter says.

Donating Art

Ubuntu Penguin

Ubuntu Penguin – commissioned piece

Gouache on Bristol

I recently had some opportunity to donate art prints to various causes. In celebration of the almighty upcoming Tax Day, I wanted to remind you that any art you donate can help lower your tax bill. I’m still unclear whether you can claim the market value for said donations, or the cost of making them… but either way, donating art to a worthy cause is a great idea. The tax benefits, sure, but also promotion! It’s a great way to get your name out there.

I donated a few prints to the charity auction at OmegaCon, and two matted cat-themed prints to the recent anniversary celebration at Furkids, where I volunteer. Charity auctions are great exposure – people go prepared to spend money for a good cause, and small, lower-priced items like prints are a great option for people who want to donate on a budget.