Quick guide to budgets

Quick guide to budgets

a-n/AIR’s Exhibition Payment Guide asks artists to provide a clear exhibition proposal and budget in advance of negotiation. This guide by Cultural Enterprise Office, re-presented from a-n.co.uk, offers straightforward advice on how to construct and manage a simple budget.

A budget is an essential tool for any artist planning a new project, exhibition or making a funding application or drawing up a business plan. It is a practical plan that balances the cost of a specific project, outlining the total amount of money needed to make your project a success.

Good practice

A good budget will prepare and organise the realisation of your project, and prevent you from running at a loss. It is a breakdown of what you will need to spend money on during the course of your project, and will balance these figures with the total amount of money your end product is expected to generate.

Bad practice

Artists are often tempted to prepare budgets by costing their work, time and materials at ‘best deal’, ‘cheapest located cost’ or ‘well within budget’, in the belief that if the costs of their project are kept to a minimum, they are more likely to receive funding.

The opposite is often true – you are far more likely to receive funding due to:

• the strength of your proposal
• your reputation and past successes
• accurate research into costs.

It’s a common misconception that once you’ve won the funding your budget may be ‘creatively’ adjusted to direct funds to other sources – eg the purchase of unrequested resources or equipment, or the downscaling of allocated fees to technical support or project managers.

This is bad business planning and accountancy practice. Don’t be tempted to do this – make sure that your original budget is properly researched.

Monitoring budgets

Be aware of the value of tracking your own personal form against working to budget. It’s important to truthfully audit your personal budgets and past history.

If you have previously worked to a budget on projects, but found that you continually overspend in either money or time, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

• Are you investing too much outlay into the purchase of equipment or materials?
• Are you under pricing yourself or the worth/value of your project?
• Are you falling behind schedule? Do you need to adhere to a strict timetable?
• Are you unnecessarily wasting money? If so, how, why and where?

Budget headings

Here is a brief rundown of some of the most applicable categories for an artist’s budget. Some or all of the areas might be included in your initial plan under ‘expenditure’ – your total outgoings – and ‘income’ – the monies you expect to come into the project.

This could include:

• Salaries – wages you pay yourself or other employees.**See exhibition budgets below
• Professional and technical fees – eg for video production, framing, construction.
• Production costs – including the rental of studio or workshop
• Materials – costs of any materials essential to your project.
• Equipment – purchase or hire of essential equipment.
• Administration – eg project manager, office space, postage, photocopying, telephone, insurance, etc.
• Marketing – photography, design/production of catalogues, leaflets, etc.
• Delivery costs – including transport of art works to galleries.
• Research and development – money invested in project development period.
• Contingency – finance should always be calculated into the budget to deal with the unexpected – usually 5-10% of the total cost of the project.
• Total expenditure – at the bottom of your expenditure column, the sum total of all the outgoing money for your project.

This could include:

• Grants – eg from a funding body, local authority or trust, including ‘matched funding’
• Earned income – eg ticket sales, workshop, talk and exhibiting fees.
• Sales of work – remember to calculate and deduct any commission charges if you are operating through an agent or gallery.
• Sponsorship-in-kind – the value of services or materials provided to your product, that are given without charge, eg workshop time, studio space, materials or free advertising.
• Donations – monies from individuals, organisations or companies to assist the project, without expecting a return on their contribution.
• Advertising – income from selling advertising space on your flier or catalogue.
• Total income – at the bottom of your income column, the sum figure for all the monies that you predict your project will earn.

Balanced budget
All budgets will differ in their content, for each artist, organisation or project. The only rule to remember is to try to cover all aspects of financial outgoings in one chart, balanced against all aspects of potential income in another chart.

If, when completed, your total expenditure for your project matches your total income for the project, you are probably on the right track.

For your first-time budget, seek advice from other artists, local arts organisations, funding bodies or business support agencies.

**Exhibition budgets
If you are preparing a budget for an exhibition with an organisation which receives public funds you should make sure you include a separate budget line for the Exhibition Payment so it is ring-fenced from other production or installation costs. See a-n/AIR’s Exhibition Payment Guide.

This is an edited version of a guide from a-n Resources, by Cultural Enterprise Office. It is provided here to support the implementation of a-n/AIR’s Exhibition Payment Guide, the outcome of the Paying Artists Campaign. For full access to a-n’s member resources and other benefits go to www.a-n.co.uk/join

More on a-n.co.uk

The artist’s fees toolkit
Enables artists to calculate an individual daily rate for services they supply based upon their unique circumstances and overheads, and to prepare quotes when pitching for freelance work.

Guidance on fees and day rates for visual artists
Sample day rates (updated annually) to guide arts budgeting and to help visual artists negotiate a fair rate of pay for short-term contracts such as commissions, residencies and community projects.

Quality on a budget
Outlines an approach to finding workable compromises whilst maintaining quality for times when money is tight.


Posted on

October 5, 2016