How to Stay on Track & Get Paid: Record-Keeping for Artists

record keeping for artistsMost creatives will freely admit that they’d much rather spend time on their craft than crunching numbers or organizing their filing cabinets. While paperwork isn’t necessarily fun, it is part of what allows you to do what you love for a living. There are a lot of components to running a successful business, so I’ve planned a series of bite-sized posts covering key business practices. Over the coming weeks, we’ll go over best practices for record keeping, pricing artwork, writing contracts, sending invoices, filing taxes and dealing with postage. These simple art business guidelines will help you take care of paperwork as efficiently as possible so that you can focus on what you really love!

Don’t forget, you can also find this information in Artist’s & Graphic Designer’s Market, Photographer’s Market or right here on

Keep creating and good luck!



As you launch your artistic career, be aware that you are actually starting a small business. It is crucial that you keep track of the details, or your business will not last very long. The most important rule of all is to find a system to keep your business organized and stick with it.

Every artist needs to keep a daily record of art-making and marketing activities. Before you do anything else, visit an office supply store and pick out the items listed below (or your own variations of these items). Keep it simple so you can remember your system and use it on automatic pilot whenever you make a business transaction.

What You’ll Need:

•    A packet of colorful file folders or a basic Personal Information Manager on your smartphone, tablet, or computer.
•    A notebook or legal pad to serve as a log or journal to keep track of your daily art-making and art-marketing activities.
•    A small pocket notebook to keep in your car to track mileage and gas expenses (or use your smartphone).

How to Start Your System

Designate a permanent location in your studio or home office for two file folders and your notebook. Label one red file folder “Expenses.” Label one green file folder “Income.” Write in your daily log book each and every day.

Every time you purchase anything for your business, such as envelopes or art supplies, place the receipt in your red Expenses folder. When you receive payment for an assignment or painting, photocopy the check or place the receipt in your green Income folder.

Keep Track of Assignments

Whether you’re an illustrator or fine artist, you should devise a system for keeping track of assignments and artworks. Most illustrators assign a job number to each assignment they receive and create a file folder for each job. Some arrange these folders by client name; others keep them in numerical order. The important thing is to keep all correspondence for each assignment in a spot where you can easily find it.


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