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DIY Arts Admin: Finances with Jillian!

We love arts entrepreneurs. But getting your project off the ground takes a lot more than just hard work and optimism, you have to learn a lot! Starting an arts business is a crash course in everything from fundraising and marketing to financial accounting and tax-statuses. We try and make all the hats you have to wear as a DIY artist a little easier to put on and be successful at with all of our products and services. That's why we thought that as we honor some of the best and brightest arts entrepreneurs of 2014, we should share some of the tips we've learned on our own journey in running an arts business.

Jillian Wright, Controller and Dance Teacher

We get started today with our favorite financial whiz, Jillian Wright, Fractured Atlas's Controller. Before joining our ranks in 2010, Jillian worked in arts management and finance for Stephen Petronio Company, Battleworks Dance Company, The Center for Kinethetic Education, and The Diller-Quaile School of Music. When Jillian isn't busy being our financial whiz, she spends her time teaching dance at the prestigious Steffi Nossen School of Dance in Westchester, one of the few dance academies whose core curriculum is centered in modern dance technique, as opposed to ballet. So whether she's balancing a budget or balancing on one leg, Jillian sure knows her stuff.

I asked Jillian to provide some tips for getting your finances in order. Here's what she had to say:

  • Budgets ≠ List: Keeping a list is helpful, but think of a budget as a financial plan for the next month, quarter, or year. Project the expenses you will incur to produce your work and the revenue (both contributed and earned) that you will need to generate in order to support it.

  • Budgets as Metrics: Budgets can be used as a benchmark to measure how you're doing, and help you make more informed decisions when deciding what to do next. You can also use them to measure how you've done from year to year.

  • Track Expenses: They come in all shapes and sizes. Keeping a list is great, but categorizing your expenses by type, recurrence, and relationship to various projects will help you better predict costs in the future!

  • Web-based accounting software: Spreadsheets are great, but a basic small business online accounting subscription (try QB Online or Freshbooks) will allow you to track your expenses on the go, upload receipts for easy storage, and get up-to-the-minute snapshots on your financial stats.

  • Time is $: Your time is valuable! There are a lot of online tools (including that help you track the time spent on a particular project for grant reporting/invoicing or just for helping you more accurately price your art.

For those of you who want to learn more, Jillian recommends The Accounting Game: Basic Accounting Fresh from the Lemonade Stand as a great introduction to accounting principles. If you're a little more advanced, you should also check out Harvard Business Review's Finance for Managers. Also, check out our courses in Fractured U. for more learning opportunities!