Bookkeeping and inventory software


“What software do you recommend for keeping track of my art work and having the correct information for tax purposes?”

Unfortunately, you're going to need at least two different pieces of software: one for your financial records and another for your inventory and mailing list database.

For financial records, I recommend QuickBooks, although many people are very happy with Quicken.

Newer options, like FreshBooks, are also available. If you have a favorite, please leave it in a comment below.

If you have a bookkeeper or accountant, I’d certainly ask them for their advice in this area before you purchase bookkeeping software. You want to be able to share files easily.

In the many years since I first wrote this post, options for artist inventory and contact software have come and gone.

These days, most of my clients are using the cloud-based Artwork Archive for their art inventory and contacts (buyers, collectors, prospect). It's a great company that is responsive to artists' needs. ‘

Say you heard about them from Art Biz Coach.

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62 thoughts on “Bookkeeping and inventory software”

  1. I use Quickbooks for my art business and Quicken for personal finances. For business purposes, Quickbooks offers exactly what I need.

    I use eArtist for my database. The company has been great to deal with. I’m very pleased; highly recommend this software.

    I think I first learned of eArtist through you, Alyson, for which I am grateful. I ordered it some time ago, and have been pleased thus far. I admit it’s the only artist database I’ve used, so I cannot offer comparisons.

  2. I finally decided on Flick!, partly because it had the only user interface that I could stand to look at. I’m on an Mac.

    I’m quite happy with it. I had problems with the install and the guy who runs Arawak and who designed it, was prompt in his communication and hung in with me until we got it figured out. So, thumbs up on service after the sale.

    I also use Quicken and the trauma of the monthly checkbook balance is a thing of the past. Three checking accounts (business, personal and a stash for things like sales tax), plus a record of my business credit card, all in one place and easy to get to.

  3. Alyson, I have been using MYOB software since about 1995. It is a great accounting software and even has an inventory component. My CPA says that it is much better than Quicken. Very user friendly and works on windows and Macs. If you want to check it out go to

  4. Alyson, I use Filemaker Pro for my inventory and Quickbooks for finances. The following question concerns the use of whichever software is selected.

    I am producing very many, very small works: how far do I go in keeping track of the inventory? Photographing, cataloguing, tracking ownership, etc. I can easily see making 500 to 1000 per year. All the items are similar, but not identical. I give some away and will sell some. What is prudent? What is obsessive?

    Maybe some other artists out there have ideas. I would certainly welcome comments and advice.

  5. This was perfect timing for me as I was just coming to your site to look for that list of software. I am currently going through each trial version to decide which one it shall be!!

    Thank you!

  6. I went from Working Artist, which I hated, to Flick when I converted from a PC to an iMac. I had to re-enter over 200 paintings, but it went really fast to get the basic info. in like number and title.

    I’m doing a second pass to add sizes, prices, thumbnails, etc. I really like the way Flick lets you display anywhere from one image record on the screen to a list of all of them.

    My understanding is that Working Artist was sold to a new owner, so maybe it’s better now.

  7. Thanks for this Alyson and the commenters! I am currently looking for a good program and have downloaded the trial versions of Flick! and Artlook.

    Flick looks much nicer and easier than Artlook. Artlook has lots of text blocks that you don’t need (aquisition details for -your own!- work next to sale details), but in Artlook it is very difficult to quickly see (preferably within one click) what the retail price, sale price and gallery commission of a work is (you would have to go to a seperate financial bit) while in Flick the information is all loud and clear under the ‘price’ tab.
    What is better in Artlook is the way you can create ‘exhibitions’ or ‘events’ and put all artworks in there that are in the exhibit. You can see with one click which works are at the exhibit. In Flick this is not so clear although you can fill in with each artwork where it is and if it is in an exhibit. It would just be handy to also be able to click on an exhibit and see all that is there.

    The catalogues, consignment notes and gallery lists you can make and print with Artlook are great, but I think you can do slightly similar things with Flick.
    The mailing list properties with Artlook are better and more advanced than with Flick, where they are pretty basic.

    I haven’t made a choice yet….but the £100 for Artlook probably means I won’t go for that one….
    I’ll go look into the others….
    Hope this helps someone who is also looking for the right software.

  8. I’m so glad to see you say this. 🙂 I’ve never found a database programme that adequately handles my accounting, which is quite simple. I use a 2nd programme for my accounts so I can get the breakdowns I need to analyse trends (like income categories), produce the records the tax people require, and produce shorter bottom line reports that people like loan or insurance companies want.

    After years of searching I don’t think there’s a ‘one stop’ solution. So two it is. (oh, and I use and highly recommend TinyBooks for accounting on a Mac)

  9. Just the other day, in an effort to find a basic accounting program, I stumbled on this one – and as far as I know it is free. Microsoft office accounting express.

    After reading some in the help section, I now understand the basics of setting up my expenses and income. There are tons of features and I wouldn’t classify it as basic, but it does what I need – maybe one day I’ll get into the meatier stuff.

    Today, I wrote out some invoices and was able to very easily email them to my clients via office outlook – which I’ve never used. Setup took less than a minute. The emails appear in my gmail account as will any replies. I am completely thrilled. Invoices, payments, expenses, and customers all in one place. . . .for free!!!

    download it here.

  10. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Stephanie: Why do you use two different pieces of software for personal/biz finances? Seems like it would streamline things to use just one, but perhaps there is a good reason that we should know about.

    Gay: Thank you for that question. It’s such a good one that it sounds like a blog post unto itself. Coming up!

    Sophie: I’ve never heard of Artlook. Thanks for that. Although I guess it concerns me a little that I haven’t heard of it and, because of that, I can’t recommend it. I just looked it up and found this link:

    Tina: Yes, I think it’s important to recognize that there is a reason certain software is highly specialized–because the people know the industry. I didn’t know of TinyBooks, so thank you for that resource.

    Rebecca: Does it also allow you to keep accounts such as checkbooks and credit cards? That would be very important to me.

  11. Alyson, It seems like you can link the program to your online banking accounts using the free software (if that’s what you mean). And when you make payments and receive income, you can tell from which and to which account(savings, checking. . or one you create) the money is moving. There are tons of reports, I’m sure you can just bring up a report that only shows your checking. . etc.

    I just created a quote today, will transfer it as an invoice when the pricing is approved, and then receive payment from the customer. It makes it really easy, and I love the emailing options – it’s quite nice and professional. I feel so organized. And tax time next year will be a breeze.

  12. Hi there,

    Just a quick note that Bento is not actually an art management program, but a general use database program. You can certainly use it for arts management if you choose to set it up that way, but out of the box, it’s not built to do that.

  13. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Ron, I meant to imply that when I said it requires formatting, but I should have been more specific. I think I’ll update the post per your comment. Thanks!

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  16. For contact management I’ve been using Daylite by Marketcircle for years. It is a Mac program. Robust and feature filled it helps me to target my mailings and keeps me on my toes for the endless tasks involved in running a small business, which is what I am as an Artist.

    I use Quickbooks for my accounting which was suggested by my CPA accountant.

    I use Bento to visually database my Art and I also use it to keep track of my garden inventory. The program is easily customizable for any project.

  17. Mesa Bookkeeping Services

    When seeking a dependable Bookkeeper, you should expect superior bookkeeping and payroll services with the highest standards of integrity and professionalism.

    The relationship that you have with your Bookkeeper, must be built on trust, mutual respect and good communication.

    Thank you for sharing your Industry knowledge and insight.

    Best wishes.

  18. WOW. Thanks for this post. My accounts are all well looked after in Quickbooks but the inventory aspect has been neglected. I click on the trial of Flick! and was instantly won over. Thanks for the recommendations.

  19. Mesa: Thanks for your professional advice here.

    Amanda: Glad you liked Flick! Keep me posted on how it works for you. I love knowing about this stuff and the only way to find out is to hear from the users.

  20. I hear lots of artists that like “Flick”. I had trouble opening and using the program so I contacted Flick via email. I would love buy the software but I can’t even get anyone from Flick to respond to my emails. Anyone had this experience besides me?

  21. Just wanted to say that I tried Flick! and although it has a pretty user interface that seemed to have everything I needed, it was very unstable on my PC. When it crashed it became corrupted and unusable. The developer suggested I start over with a fresh download and promised that the next version that would come out in “a couple of weeks” will fix the bugs and will have option to upload a folder or multiple files at one time. But weeks have become months and still no new version. It seems to be a one-man operation. He told me a year ago he could add that multiple file functionality in a couple weeks. Last month he showed me a screen shot of what it would like. But still no new version. I’m going to look at e-artist and request a refund for Flick.

    Meanwhile, I may have missed it — did you write the post about how much is too much when tracking small pieces per the question from Gay? I have the same question.

  22. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Jeff: I hope it worked out for you. I know this isn’t a primary business, but that Flick’s creator does this as a sideline and with great care for his artist-wife and clients who like what he created. I’ve heard many people who got good customer service.

    Jana: Well, I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe the people who are having the most luck with Flick! are Mac users. It was an early program available to Mac users who had few other choices at the time. I’ve heard much good about e-Artist, too.

    I’ll put your other question in the queue for consideration.

  23. Jeff Legg September 27, 2009 at 9:07 am
    I hear lots of artists that like “Flick”. I had trouble opening and using the program so I contacted Flick via email. I would love buy the software but I can’t even get anyone from Flick to respond to my emails. Anyone had this experience besides me?

    I’m so glad to see this post Jeff. After viewing and being impressed with the trial version I bought Flick! I had a lot of trouble with getting the working version of Flick! to download. Emails from the support person suggested I was doing it wrong but I’ve been working with lots of different software programs for years and have never come across the sort of issues I am having – it’s pretty annoying being made to feel that you aren’t smart enough to figure something out. A simple set of instructions are needed and I can’t even get that. I am quite disappointed.

  24. I finally gave up on Flick and received a refund from the owner. I’ve been testing eArtist and am extremely impressed. It is a much more robust and professional program than Flick (which is cute, but doesn’t seem to really work well on the PC and is limited — can’t upload a folder of images like you can on eArtist for example). In the vetting process I have had numerous email conversations with the developer who is very bright and responsive and professional. I’ve now tested it with Windows Vista and Windows 7 and it has worked flawlessly. I have complete confidence in the developer and the product after my testing during the free 30 day trial and will be buying the program this weekend.

  25. Amanda and Jana: Thank you for sharing your experiences here. It’s always helpful to hear from the end users.

  26. I just purchased Quickbooks Pro.
    How is working with two programs, one for financial accounting (quickbooks), and another for inventory done?

    My art business is very small, but I do enough business to pay tax at the end of the year. It sounds like I would have to make an entry in Quickbooks, then record other necessary info into eArtist. What info do I keep in Quickbooks, and what info do I shove into eArtist.

    I’m getting a headache just thinking about this stuff…

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Mark: This is a great question! I have put a tweet out there to see if anyone has written about it. I would think you might need both. QB has an inventory system, but I think it’s probably too cumbersome to use. Also, it’s not artist-centric, which I think is very important.

      I’ll see what I can find or maybe do a Deep Thought question about this.

  27. Mark, I am finding that eArtist meets my needs without having to use Quickbooks because it has built in invoicing, receipts and reporting as well as the extensive art inventory management. But if I needed to also enter ALL of my art-related expenses as they occurred, then I’d probably need to use Quickbooks or Quicken too, for detail-level business income/expense tracking. I just wait until year end and tally up all the expense receipts and records of payments to me for teaching in my business receipts folder and get the sales income from what I’ve entered in eArtist.

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  29. I was able to easily get Working Artist usable and all my data perfectly in place after upgrading to Windows 7… with a little help from their tech support and present owner. He is revamping and coming out with a new version and is asking artists what they would like as he improves Working Artist. I personally could benefit from something as simple as a copy paste which the program doesn’t allow. I have never had any problems with Workign Artist, but it could be a little more user friendly. He said “…looking at expanding the import/export capabilities of the program. Is there something specifically that you’d like to see? If you could provide some thoughts on how you’d like to import art data and patrons into WA, I could look into that. For example, are you thinking about having an ability to import from something like Outlook or another contact management program?”

  30. thanks guys. I should contact eArtist about the “Intuit Partner Platform”. There is an option in QB Pro to allow other applications to interact with it. if eArtist, or WorkingArtist could get a hold of how to do that. THAT would be awesome. I see too many people not buying QB Pro because it’s too general or some such. “I would get it, but it doesn’t have the art side at heart.” So quite wishing that a big company like Intuit will listen such a small segment of business, and go to eArtist. going there now to suggest.

  31. I am a MAC user and I use Artist’s Butler for my inventory and Quickbooks for my business. I used to use EArtist and tried Flickr, but found both lacking in some areas. Artist’s Butler is definitely one you should check out.

  32. I used Quickbooks for my gallery and after having two computers crash on me and having Quickbooks constantly having to upgrade when opening the program I found that Quickbooks has an Online version which is always the latest release and cost only $10/month. I especially liked that I could access it from anywhere and never had to worry about losing data.
    Hope this helps.

  33. As a followup..For the same reasons as with Quickbooks I wanted our gallery inventory system to be online also. Every time a computer would go down I had to worry about loosing data or having to find the backup. I finally went with Artwork Manager which provided both online data and website intregration. Bit of a learning curve but was very pleased with the results. Now I would love to find that same kind of program for individual artists.

  34. Jana & Robin: Thanks for sharing your experiences with eArtist and WA.

    Mark: Great idea. Software developers are usually open to ideas and want to hear from their customers on how to make their product a better one. Let us know what you find out.

    Amy: Glad to hear you have had a good experience with Artist’s Butler.

    Don: Thanks for that. I guess I used to know that QB had an online version, but wasn’t aware that it was so cheap. Do you know if it works with Macs also? So many artists use Macs.

  35. Just wanted to update on my ealier post about Flick! and the frustrations I was having with the registration and loading. The developers contacted me to let me know they have released an updated version I have dowloaded it and had no problems with registration, accessing or uploading. I’m pleased with how it is working so far.
    And I’ve also come across another great looking product called Vam-p [ ] which is worth a look for people considering their options.

  36. Alyson Stanfield

    Don: Yeah, you’d think it would work on both. C’mon, man, get with the motors and go Apple!

    Amanda: Thank you for taking the time to update us. Not everyone does that so it’s really appreciated. I’ve been looking at I really appreciate that as I’ve never heard of them. Good to know!

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  39. I just bought GYST (3.0 version) last week. It is produced by an artist who I met last year at an art marketing workshop in New Orleans. I have contacted her by email and by phone and she is very prompt at responding to my questions (I am not too computer savvy).

  40. I just bought GYST (3.0) last week. The developer, an artist, has been very prompt in responding to my emails and telephone calls, as I am not too savvy on computer records/importing, etc.

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  42. Thanks for this information – I know this is an old thread, but it is SO helpful to hear other people’s experiences as I am sifting through everything that is out there.

  43. I have tried trial versions of most of the above-mentioned Mac apps and am very likely going to go with GYST. It looks good, it’s user-friendly and is fairly comprehensive.

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  45. At the moment I just use: spreadsheets to track income and expenses, apple’s address book for contacts, iCal for schedules and a program called Direct Mail to track email campaigns (Campaign Monitor is good too).

    Google Docs are free though and updated all the time. They’re calendars, spreadsheets, (not as nice to work with as numbers though) and probably an address book. Looking forward to checking out all you’ve recommended everyone!

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  47. Accounting needs are pretty much the same for all of us. We just need to track our costs and our earnings – which any accounting package will do. I use MYOB – because it is free. The challenge I struggled with for years was finding a business software package that was specifically designed to support an art business. Where I was struggling was in tracking where all of my art was, what I was charging for it, and what I was supposed to get paid when it sold. This was such a drag to keep track of. Every month I was managing spreadsheets and scanning old email messages. This did not work well for me – I was even losing track of my work!
    One of the galleries I work with suggested the program they use – Masterpiece Manager. They have an artist version. This version doesn’t include stuff I don’t need anyway – like staff commissions. It does keep track of all of the locations where my art is displayed, the consignment rates I am charging as well as what when and for how much everything is sold for. At the end of the month it allows me to download a report of everything that has happened for use in MYOB. I am saving a ton of time and money with an accountant – which I don’t use anymore!!
    BTW – Masterpiece Manager also provides me free listing at I have gotten a handful of good leads as a result.

    hope this is helpful.

    1. Duane: I just read your post and read that you said MYOB was free. Is this still true? After viewing their web site they are advertising $25 per month, or $239, $899, or $1949 for their various versions. Did they used to be free? I am still trying to decide on a small business accounting package to go along with GYST at ? Thanks!

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  49. Alyson Stanfield

    Susan: I hope you’re not referring to “my take” on Flick because I’ve never used it and don’t have a take on it. I just reported that it was a popular one. I’m sorry you are having difficulties. I know Arawak has been a one-man operation and that the software is very inexpensive. Still, it’s frustrating to encounter that.

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  51. I am just starting out using BeadManagerPro. It is very nice and not limited to beads. I can put my paints purchases in there, for example, just it was created for bead workers.

    I want to try other platforms for contact list management but can only budget Flick at the moment. That said, and having read other people’s posts about it, I am going to test out the trial version and if I like it get the full version as it seems the programmer is fairly responsive as a one person side-line software creator can be.

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  54. Dear Alyson and readers,

    A group of artist and I recently formed a Cooperative and opened a Gallery. I am seeking additional comments and suggestions about software we can use to manage the Gallery. GYST and eArtist appear to be the top two because of our limited budget.

    I welcome your comments and suggestions.
    Kenneth Bitz

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