How to Artist Part 3: Business Expenses

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This is the final post in the how to artist series. This mini blog series was based on a question I received from someone on Instagram, “How do you run a business as an artist?” Previously in this series I address Artist Representation, and How I Spend my Time as an Artist. You can click to read those previous posts. This final post addresses how/where I spend money for my business, aka business expenses 101.

As a self-represented artist I’m making enough to run my business and support myself financially independent from loans, or outside support. I do this by myself, with no staff, working 7 days a week about 60-75 hours a week. Take it for what you will. I feel pretty good about the success I have had so far and only have goals to grow. I have never ending goals, business tactics, strategies, programs and plans that I want to work on. I’d also like to eventually hire staff to help me some of the more mundane parts of running a business and free up more of my time to paint.

Here is a percentage breakdown of where money goes.

I spend about 15-20% of my income annually on supplies. Here is a supplies list and the places I get my supplies from.

  • Canvas
    I usually get my unstretched canvas from Amazon. I stretch most of my pieces but occasionally I will buy pre-stretched canvases from Blick.
  • Stretcher Bars
    I always get heavy duty stretcher bars that are 1-1/2″ profile and are 2″ wide.
  • Paint
    I usually buy Liquitex or Golden brand paint from either Blick or Amazon.
  • Frames
    Depending on what kind of frame a client wants, if client wants a paper piece matted I usually take it to a professional framer, but if it’s putting on a frame around a canvas, that’s within my skill set so I usually order mine from
  • Wire, hanging materials
    These I usually get off of Amazon, make sure you’re putting the right brackets and wire on your canvas be sure they are weight tested by checking how many pounds they can hold and how heavy your piece is.
  • Power Tools
    These are usually from Amazon. The tools I need and maintain are drills, saws, staplers, clamps, levels. I also have about 10 billion measuring tapes, I can’t live without them.
  • Stationary/Business Cards
    I get all my materials printed at Moo. They’re fast, easy, I can design what I want, and the quality is always great, nice and thick cards.
  • Packaging materials
    Shipping is a big part of art, I buy my bubble wrap, boxes, tape from Amazon.

Subscriptions are about 5% of my income

  • Adobe Creative Cloud Subscription
    I use the adobe suite mostly for photoshop when editing prints, or making Pinterest pins. I also use indesign for layouts and contracts. I use illustrator for things like my business card. This product is invaluable and I couldn’t do what I do without it.
  • Xero 
    This is accounting software for small businesses. It’s super easy to use and at any moment I know exactly how much money I’ve made YTD and how much I’ve spent on business expenses. Very helpful software.
  • Tailwind
    Tailwind is a Pinterest scheduling platform which is a lifesaver. I try to pin upwards of 200 pins a month (I’d like to do more, but don’t have the time right now). This app is a paid program which helps me schedule pins and engage in tailwind groups to boost content.
  • G-Suite
    I use the Google Suite for email and storage. I pay monthly for my [email protected] email account. I also use 104 GB of storage for all of my files, which I pay for. There is no way I’m keeping all of that on my computer. Google makes it really easy to keep all of my files in one place, and having a professional email address is essential.
  • Accountant Bob
    I pay an accountant to do my taxes. My husband and I both own and operate our own businesses. His is an S Corp, mine is an LLC. Wrap up both of those business taxes, plus personal finances and tax season is no walk in the park.

Speaking of how horrible taxes are. I spend about 35-40% of my income on business taxes and sales tax. So fun right? There’s really not much more to say except, dang ouch.

I spend about 5-10% a year on advertising, usually pertaining to holiday sales, or specific promotion for a certain product or event. Most of this advertising is on Pinterest.

I donate about 5-10% of my income a year to charitable organizations either in the form of cash, or art. Usually it is a mix.

And before you know it almost feels like I made no money at all. Which is why I paint out of my in-home studio, because studio rent in Washington D.C. on top of all of that is basically impossible.

If you are a collector instead of an artist reading this, just know that every time you support an artist instead of a big box store, you are actually putting money in the artist’s pocket to pay for a mortgage, a doctor’s appointment (oh right because I’m self-insured too…), or a much needed date night in the middle of a 70 hour work week. Shop small whenever you can.

Are there better ways to do all of this? Yes, probably there are. But I’m still learning (I will be forever). At least I can thrive, doing something I love. So concludes my three-part series on ‘How to artist’ in response to one users question, “How do you run a business as an artist?”

Basically, my friend, running a business as an artist is exactly the same as running any other kind of business, only the thing you are selling is art and little flecks of your heart and soul. I hope this series was helpful for you. If that wasn’t good enough for you, I do offer individual coaching sessions to help your art business grow. View the other two posts on Artist Representation, and How I Spend my Time as an Artist, and share it with your friends if you learned something.

Follow me on Instagram @christineolmstead Pinterest @christineolmstead and Facebook @ceolmstead


  1. Pingback: Stretching Your Own Canvas - Christine Olmstead

  2. Pingback: How to Stretch a Canvas - Christine Olmstead

  3. Hi Christine.

    Thanks for the good info. Do you you box or crate paintings larger than 24 x 36”? (Paintings that are say 48 x 48” or larger. )

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