Monday, June 29, 2009

this post doesn't have a title because I just killed 10,000 brain cells and I can't think of one

I just returned from 4 days in the blasting heat and sun of Palm Springs. No sane person visits Palm Spring in June unless there is a very good reason to. My husband was raised in Palm Springs-- yes, people are raised in Palm Springs-- as were both of his parents, hence: family visits in June. The heat there is completely inhumane, the coolest day was 107° F while we were there. The locals love to ask, "Hot enough for ya?" They can take one look at my flushed cheeks, sunburned shoulders, and the tiny pieces of clothing covering the most minimal parts of my body, and immediately discern that I am not a local. Locals take great delight in wearing long pants in 107° and standing in the direct sunlight while informing you that these are the best days of summer, the worst is yet to come in late July and August. By the way, even though my husband left Palm Springs about 17 years ago, he still acts like a local. Which means I have to listen to him scoff at me every time I leave a weather-proof room and enter fresh air, a moment I find to be extremely painful, and I am sure immediately kills off about 5o brain cells. Look, my people are from Washington State. I'm not made for this kind of heat.

You may ask how I could possibly take 4 days off when my biggest retail show of the year is a mere two weeks away. You may not know that my biggest retail show of the year is two weeks away, but it is. It's the Palo Alto Clay and Glass Festival, not only my biggest show, but my most favorite show. I have hardcore fans there, and I sell the same amount of work in a weekend that I would normally sell in about 6-8 weeks in my normal day-to-day business. So it's a really important show to me, and people expect me to bring the latest and greatest work from my studio, so I'm usually working my ass off right about now.

This is the first time in probably 10 years I've taken any time off within a month before Palo Alto. I think I'm just tired of working myself down to a little nub, especially before big shows. I'm sick of the constant pressure and the merry-go-round of elation and disappointment as work comes out or... doesn't come out. By the way, I had this realization that I am plagued with customers who love to say to me, "Oh, just make it whenever you have time, I'm not in a rush. But here's my money. Please take it." So it's not pressure from customers, it's my own personal brand of pressure. And let me tell you, the packaging sucks, and it stinks too.

I do have some pretty fabulous work that is brand-new awesome, hasn't even been photographed yet or um, glazed yet, and some other pretty pieces stockpiled, so I'm kinda like... hey, I need a freakin' break! Especially after having my books balanced for the first time ever!

This is the best reason for having your books balanced, aside from knowing how much money you actually have: The profit and loss statement. My mom generated one of these useful little doo-dads for me and I felt not only deeply informed about my business, but also kind of... studly. Yeah, studly, because my income is pretty dang good! I know it's taboo to discuss the specifics of personal income in this culture so I'm not going there, but I'm doing a bit better than okay. I've always had a suspicion around how much I thought I made, but now I really know. So if I miss out on a few bucks at Palo Alto because I didn't make a couple of pieces I should have made, and instead was working on frying my brain next to the pool in Palm Springs in 112° weather and getting some skin cancer to boot, well then yay for me!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

fixing the books

If you are wondering where I have been, I am here still.  My mother has been here for 5 days to clean up the mess I refer to as my finances.  She has my computer hijacked all day as she not only tries to figure out where my money goes, but how my ridiculous accounting program works.  A few people commented on the money post about MYOB software.  Well, that's  the accounting program I have, and I can tell you it totally sucks.  As someone not too savvy with the financial software, I was never able to get it to operate properly.  My mother, who is savvy, has also been mightily challenged by it.  I really wish now that I had bought Quickbooks Pro, and so does my mom.  If it's not too late for you, forget the MYOB, unless you have a degree in accounting.  I consider this a public service announcement.  You have to pay extra when you buy this software if you want any kind of support, and if you don't then they charge you $50 for every 10 minutes of support.  I mean jesus christ, think about that rate for a second.  My mom is standing over me so she can continue to itemize my expenses this year, so stay tuned.  I promise to get a post up as soon as she leaves!  And here's a big shout out to my mom, who thinks nothing of flying in from Seattle for a week to slave over her daughter's books.  I'm a lucky girl.

Monday, June 15, 2009

artists who blog

Stephanie Levy, a fantastic artist and fellow blogger, publishes a blog called... Artists Who Blog. She published an interview with me a couple of days ago, check it out right here!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

mind your business

I run an art-based business, which means I am not only an artist, but a businessperson. A lot of my friends, who are also full-time artists, think I'm a business genius. The fact that I have an accounting system which helps me track invoices and expenses is what gives me the genius award. And last spring I paid back a very large business loan in about a year, which has also raised my status among my peers. Let me just say, the bar for being a business genius in the art world is very low. Many of my friends, who shall go unnamed, have no idea how much an item actually costs them to make, or what any of their profit margins are. As long as there is money in the bank, they are all set.

I have a confession to make: I am not a business genius. As my business has grown larger, my ability and willingness to handle my money has grown smaller. I get all kinds of statements from my bank, my credit card, and my credit card processors. I throw it all into a pile marked "statements" (in my mind) and that's it. I don't open them. As long as there is money in my bank with a balance around where I think it should be at when I go to the ATM, I am good to go.

Last week, I actually wanted to open a statement because I needed to make sure a transfer from PayPal had gone through. At the bottom of my statement I see this weird thing I've never seen before, because I don't open my statements. It says, "Business Link Reserve Account" and it claims I have a balance of ... let's just say a figure well into the four figures. Not the low four figures either. According to this statement, my automatic finance payment had just been made on this balance, and my finance charges to date this year was hundreds of dollars. I panic. It's after 5 pm and my bank is closed, so I scramble around for about an hour, tracking down all my unopened statements-- the fact that I don't just throw them away is what helps convince me I'm not completely irresponsible-- and find that I've been paying finance charges on a very large overdraft from two years ago. This reserve account is something I applied for through my bank to make sure all overdrafts on my business account were paid immediately. And then I immediately forgot that I had this account. The next day, after the manager at my bank did some research, it turns out that when that overdraft was made, I had the money, just in the wrong account. But I never realized any of this because... I don't open my statements. And I am not a business genius.

It took me about 24 hours to mentally recover from this snafu, and I'm not being shy about sharing my experience with my friends and with the people who read this blog. I feel like an failure, a loser (my husband very lovingly said to me, "You're not a loser baby, just kind of a fuck-up!") but I'm determined to start being a better businessperson. So I'm treating this issue like I'm an alcoholic, first by admitting that I have a problem: I'm scared of handling my money, and I hate making time to do it. Secondly, I need help. My mother, who is a genius, is flying into town in a few days and she is going to straighten my shit out. She's going to get my accounting program all up to speed and actually interfacing with my bank accounts, so I can start noticing when I'm paying finance charges. And I can spit out these things called "profit and loss statements".

One of my very successful artist friends told me she doesn't want to know what's going on with her money. She claims it's better that way for her. Of course I understand this feeling, since I am guilty of the same behavior. But I also know this is a fear-based reaction, and not knowing is not better, you just don't have to take any responsibility for what is happening in your business. You also don't have to take a long, hard look at any decisions you are making around your business that involve money. Think about that for a second. All the money you spend-- on supplies, on rent, on shows, on freight, on travel, on advertising, on labor, on commissions, -- is money you are spending without the analysis you need to know for yourself that you are making the best decision possible. How is that better?

Bottom line: a fully successful artist has to be a good businessperson too. You cannot have one without the other. I can sell work until the cows come home-- or whatever it is that cows do-- but if my money is not being used wisely once it hits my bank account, then what is it all for? You can post your nightmare money stories here.