Money matters

12 Sep 2014

I think of myself as a working artist, that is I create things and offer them to the market and people buy them. 
I don't have to apply for grants or hope that galleries buy my work.
 I didn't get any kind of financial backing to start my dollmaking career and I have worked long and hard to make what I do a success and not a drain on family finances.
 I didn't start making dolls as a way for me to avoid out of the home work, I started making dolls because from that first doll I couldn't not make them.
 I had found my bliss.

So that gave me a small, well, micro business and I have to think sometimes with my business hat on. 
The hardest part I think for anyone who sells their own work is to settle on a price, a price that reflects not just the cost of materials or even the time that goes into each piece of work but the years of experience and skills and the level of worth that you feel in yourself as an artist.
 And it is difficult, really difficult for most people I think to put a price on that part.

Some of my dollmaking colleagues are the primary breadwinner in their families so it might be easier or at least more important or urgent for them to get their pricing right.
 I  am not now in that position.
 I have been when I was a physiotherapist and my husband was a student. 
But a physiotherapist gets paid the same whether they are the primary breadwinner or not, you just have the flexibility to alter your hours if someone else has taken on the primary role.
 Working artists need to  value their income as an important part of the household income. 
Value your time and energy, your creativity and inspiration. 
Spending time working through what your work is worth in dollar terms, truly worth, will give you the freedom to then put that to one side and get back to the creating.

And each time I re assess the monetary worth of what I create I think of ways I can improve my work, my techniques, I look upon the reassessment as a time to innovate, to push myself to be better, the very best I can be. 
Getting a decent financial reward for my time gives me the freedom to make each piece of work the best it can be, gives me the freedom to be creative, to be true to myself. 
Seeing my income as essential to the household income also pushes me to keep at the top of my game so that those who are intrigued or beguiled by my work, who are fans of my work will stay with me, come along with me on my journey.

I have to make dolls, it is my bliss.
I need to contribute to the family finances.
In the beginning earnings from my dolls just had to pay for dollmaking and craft materials and books so there was no drain on the household income, my main job was my family and home.
As my family have grown, my dollmaking has grown.
There has been an organic growth to my dollmaking business.
Now my bliss is also my work 
and that's a happy and fortunate place to be.

12 Responses to “Money matters”

  1. Jenny you are one of the very few who can say that they love their job.
    Do you have to have an ABN or anything like that to sell your craft?
    cheers Kate

    1. I have an ABN, I am a registered business

    2. wow that's really a 'grown up' job. I was wondering a few days ago when selling a few handmade things crosses over and becomes a business. I see people offer their wares on FB and at markets etc and I just wondered how it all works. When I read your post I thought "oh here is someone I can ask. Jenny will know how all that works."
      Is there an upper amount you can earn before you need to have an ABN and be registered etc or is it really something that anybody who is selling should have?
      I'm just interested, can't see myself ever selling anything lol.

      cheers Kate

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Oh, your post was close to my heart. As a needle artist, designer and teacher I am often exposed to others who de-value my worth because it is a "domestic craft" instead of see it as art. And because I like what I do. Unfortunately it is other women who think I should give away my talent instead of charge for it. I do give away my talent often. But I am a business, it is my job to do what I do. My income is part of our livelihood. It enhances the lives of my children and grandchildren. I love your term "Business Hat" and will borrow it from you often. There are men in my industry and NO ONE questions how much they should be paid for doing the same job I do. Thankyou! Thankyou!

  3. Good post, Jenny. I am in a similar position......never had a grant or handout, though I have won the occasional sculpture prize, which is always an unexpected windfall but not something that can be relied on! Since my husband died last year, my artwork has been the main source of income for this little household of myself and my grand-daughter. A few scary moments, but so far we're keeping heads above water!

  4. A really good post. I was surprised to see someone ask about the level of income before having an ABN.
    If you earn any money at all from work then you must pay tax on that money. This is the law. The flip side is that you may also claim expenses.
    I sell a product that is all my own work. I have an ABN. I am a registered business. I send invoices and provide receipts. I use the services of an accountant at tax time. Do I make a lot of money? Not yet. But I make a little bit. The advantage is the equipment that I purchase solely for my business, and the expenses related to running my business, including lighting, phone, travel, computing and air-conditioning. I log every hour and every kilometre very carefully. I acknowledge copyright.
    Why would anyone be so careful of things that seem unimportant to so many other people? I treat my work as the outward sign of my reliability and my reputation in my field must be good.
    Has it always been so meticulous? No, and I have learned hard lessons from my sloppiness.
    My advice to anyone wanting to sell a handmade product or a work of art or any intellectual product is to follow the rules. An ABN is worth its weight in gold. Log every expense and watch your progress. Your product will improve. Your business skills will improve. Even operating at a break-even level for a couple of years is worthwhile. Every time you win an award increase your selling price. Consider the low-income years as training time.

    1. Thanks for answering Louise. I was just curious. I'm not skilled enough to make anything, so I really do appreciate that others do have those skills.
      Cheers Kate

  5. Education needed! I have a business license from my state and also pay the taxes and use an accountant. But I have never heard of an ABN. Would you please explain what it is and why it is important? Thank you. RSmith

    1. An ABN is an Australian Business Number.


    3. Thank you! I guess since I live in the USA I don't need an ABN, just the license from my state to operate as a business. I don't know why I never realized you were in Australia, but I didn't. I love looking at your dolls and the work you put into them. They are the type of doll I would have gotten for my daughter. I do agree with the conversation though. We are artists and we need to consider ourselves in a professional light - if we don't - no one else will. Thanks again. RSmith


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I don't always have time to reply but I do read every message you leave.