The Accountant And The Artist: A Love Story

Alexis Fedor

Pig, Tax, Financial Advisor.

Have you ever wondered what business owners are doing that you could be doing to grow your business with your art? Do you believe deep down that if you had the answer to that you could catapult yourself and your business to a new level of profit and growth?

I remember working a banquet as a server for a restaurant near Rockefeller Center in New York City right after I finished grad school right around the time I was working on getting my first self-funded production up with a full cast and crew. The banquet was for a group of businessmen who were part of a networking group, so there were lawyers, accountants, bankers, doctors and some private business coaches in the mix. I was serving drinks in one area of the room and ended up overhearing a conversation between a banker and an accountant. They were talking about how they work with small business owners who have inconsistent streams of revenue, and they were lamenting over the poor decisions these business owners made that lead to their profit loss.

The accountant noticed I was listening and smiled. “This is what we deal with on a daily basis,” he said. I smiled, happy he didn’t make the typical “this must be so boring for you” comment that I heard quite often. “What do you do?” he asked. “I’m a performance artist,” I said. “Wow!” he said. “That’s a tough career.” “Why do you say that?” I asked, curious to know what he thought from an accountant’s perspective, but I did not expect the answer he gave.

“Because artists are really stupid when it comes to money.”

I stopped, put the drinks down, ready to go to bat in the name of myself and every other artist I knew and loved. I was set to defend the art world against the rest of the world as we had an unfair advantage in getting the proper funding or making enough to support our art.

He stopped me before I could say anything.

“Hold on, I’m only speaking from experience, and I’m being completely honest with you. I deal with small business owners all day, and none of them know much about their finances. But artists are the worst.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“They don’t try. That’s the bottom line. The worst business owner who is doomed for failure always leaves his business financials in the hands of their accountant or banker, expecting us to work a miracle when things get rocky. They act like victims in their own lives. Artists take that to a whole other level- they don’t even have an accountant half the time, and the only time they seek one out is when they are in crisis mode. And that’s the sign of a business that is doomed from the word go.”

I settled down as I took in what he had said, and began to nod my head, slowly. I had fallen into the exact category he had described, and I knew many of my colleagues had as well.

“All you have to do is start to treat your business with your art like more of a professional- like, be an entrepreneur- and you’ll suffer a hell of a lot less, I can assure you. And make our jobs a hell of a lot easier!”

The two men laughed at this, while I pondered his words carefully in my mind. He had an undeniably good point that I needed to acknowledge.

I had spent a great amount of time putting my finances in order, but I knew I needed to take a bigger step in the direction of growing them, not just keeping them in the same place they were.

That guy ended up becoming my accountant for several years, up until he retired. And he helped me realize it takes a small village to grow a business, regardless of what kind of business it may be. You need a group of supportive, knowledgeable individuals on your side, helping you make the best decisions for the growth you want to see for your particular work.

This was the beginning of my understanding the importance of expanding my financial IQ and combining that with knowing how to make a profit in my business. It is undoubtedly what gave me to courage and confidence to build a six-figure business I am proud of, and it started with my asking this man one single question: where do I begin? The answers I received in return have been financially life altering.

Talking about how to grow financially and how to market art properly is the first and ultimately most important step in turning this paradigm around as artists. We are all smart, brilliant creators, perhaps just missing the one piece of the puzzle that is responsible for the profit and personal fulfillment we need to move in the direction we so desire.

What is your number one question about growing your profits with your art in your business right now? Let us know in the comments below! I am offering a limited number of one-on-one art marketing strategy sessions for those who engage in this discussion and inspire others to do the same!