The 7th Step to Achieving Income Goals

A. Alabi Akinloye, Female #1. Pastel on board.
A. Alabi Akinloye, Female #1. Pastel on board, 24 x 18 inches. ©The Artist

Last week we were reviewing income sources for the past 3-4 years in order to set new income goals for 2011.
After you have your goals, it's time to figure out how the money will come in.
This was the next step (the 7th step) I took for myself in the process, and here's how I did it.
Time to create another spreadsheet!
Record all of your areas of income in the left column. Across the top, you'll list the months, January through December.
Under the corresponding months, you'll note your major events: exhibits, festivals, sales, trade shows, and so forth. This gives you a visual as to where most of your activity will be happening.
Based on previous performance and new goals, divvy up your income goals across the columns.
Let's say your goal is to make $2400 from selling greeting cards, calendars, and other low-end products.
It's too easy to add $200 to every column (12 x $200 = $2400), and you know that's not the way it usually works. Some months see stronger sales than other months, which is why, as I mention above, you consider your planned activity.
Take care to understand when and how the money will come in. If you do this exercise without thorough deliberation (number crunching!), you won't reap the benefits.
After you have input all of the figures, total each row and each column.
Do the rows equal your final income goals in each area?
Are the monthly figures realistic, yet challenging?
Where are your slow months?
What will you have to do to account for less income during those periods?
Are you actually doing this process with us? How are you doing on it?
If you aren’t, why not?

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18 thoughts on “The 7th Step to Achieving Income Goals”

  1. This ties in closely to the financial workout you gave us in the Blast Off Class recently. Identifying my Income goals at the start of the year really helps me plan what actions need to be taken, whether it be exhibitions or more online marketing etc. This year I’ve started keeping a monthly database to see what areas need more improvement which areas are doing well, and which areas can be further targeted. It’s definitely worthwhile.

  2. I have actually been keeping track for the past 5 years in my Quicken program. Easy to read graphs made it simple to target the slow months with shows and promotions. So far, so good, but it does take time. Einstein said it best: “Opportunity is missed by most folks because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Ron: I use QuickBooks, but even with the data, you still have to sit down and figure it all out. You still have to analyze.

  3. Hi Alyson-
    Great straight up advice on the number crunching.
    Recently, I was asked a direct financial question (out of nowhere)- and it was awesome to have a correct and direct answer.
    It is important to derail the perception that creatives are some how unaware of their income power.
    thanks & I enjoy the portrait by A. Alabi Akinloye

  4. These articles are spot-on with what I need…yes, the subject is intimidating but all the more reason your posts are welcome. Money talk is such a funny thing. Much easier to talk about hanging a show or something.
    Kristen Gilje

  5. Instead of another spread sheet – Alyson loves them and I cannot stand them 🙂 – I just use my Quick Books to tell me where my income comes from and when. I have a category for each income stream, be it original paintings, calendars, books, etc.
    Now I need to go get the info from the previous 3 years as I have not done that comparison.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Carol: What in the world makes you think I love them? I don’t love any part of this. What I do love is the visual and the concreteness of the process.
      I have QuickBooks, too, but just because you’re keeping your data together doesn’t mean you have done the analysis.

    2. Oops! For some reason I thought you liked spreadsheets. Oh, I know the analysis still needs to be done, but don’t know how, nor want to know how, to create a spread sheet. So I will start with my QuickBoooks report. For example, I just realized that my “Original Painting” category in QuickBooks needs to be broken down between commissioned and non-commissioned work. Back to the drawing board I go!
      This is good, but head hurting stuff to do. 🙂

  6. First let me say that I’m not giving up no matter what anyone says.
    Ok, that’s out of the way. Now, I don’t have fancy spreadsheets because to be honest, I don’t have enough data to fill them in. Most of my months have no income in them. Those that do show little to no statistically valid trends with one exception. I sold several tutorials in November (and one in December) this past year. Is that enough to extrapolate a trend? Probably yes with a grain of salt. My other sales were even less conclusive even looking back over the last four years.
    Given that my work is exceptional I do not ascribe this lack of sales to poorly conceived or poorly crafted work. This means I must work Alyson’s exercises without benefit of past experience as guide. So what do I put in my proposed income spreadsheet?
    Should I concentrate more on small ticket (but less artistically experimental or fulfilling) pieces? Even though I want to create works that will get me noticed? I think I know the answer: find a balance. But creating even smaller works that don’t get bought is not really doing anything besides running in place.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Patricia: That sounds appropriate in this instance. Balance. You must keep making the work that you want to be known for.
      Is there a way to love the other work, too?

  7. Alyson always makes me think.
    Well, I like the other work but not as much. I’d like it better if it sold – Hahahaha! What I am thinking, though, is to work on tutorials and patterns which are more likely to result in smaller works and of course I have to make prototypes which would then be sold as well. The nice thing about tutorials (and patterns) is that I only have to do the hard work once and then I can sell them over and over again. What’s not to love, eh? My plan is to then combine groups of tutorials into one or more ebooks. This would do nicely for an income base which would then allow me to work on both art bead weaving and my paintings (which have another kind of reprintable potential through such venues as Imagekind and zazzle).

  8. Having to do the analized work is really hard for me. I have my income in my receipt books and also on my computer but not broken down there. In my receipt books I did put which ones were teaching art, cards, and paintings. I did date them. I also have one computer that I share so I can’t put in a full day on analizing. Anyway it might be exscue. Take care

  9. Hi Alyson
    I’m following this through and it’s opening my eyes…I have multiple income streams from my studio however the last three years (I now see) there has been a drought building.
    It’s time to seed the clouds and so the rain dance.
    2011 is the year to get a grip…for the past 24 months I maintained a dilgent work schedule and have felt that ‘any minute the tide will turn and come back in.
    I have weathered many a financial storm over the years.
    I need help and support to get a handle on the appropriate changes to make.
    Your contribution in this area is a huge assist.
    Thank you.

  10. Hi Alyson,
    Thanks so much for this seven step process. I don’t have a specific income goal, just more sales than last year! Hopefully many more!
    When I did the spreadsheet of what I sold each month and how many of each, I was very suprised. I am a textile designer, so my work is different depending on the seasons. It’s easy to get caught up with what sold in the fall/winter, since that’s the most recent, but right now I’m trying to plan on the spring/summer, so this made it really easy to look back at last year.
    Crunching the numbers really made a difference. It is so easy to get emotional about your work and what you would like to be producing. When a favorite piece or several from a series sell, it can often be more rewarding emotionally than financially. When it comes to the numbers, you’re getting the raw truth. And the truth of the matter is that product lines that I spent more time on sometimes sold less (percentage wise) than those I did not invest as much time into. This was a real eye opener for me, because now I know which lines to enhance and which to scrap, which was not at all in line with my expectations.
    Now that I plan to invest more time into these successful lines, I’m expecting my sales to increase exponentially, because I’ll be planning my time wiser (resulting in more works) and thus selling more works, because these lines were so popular. Thanks for helping me put emotions aside and to be more objective. I think it will generate more income in 2011!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Leanne: This is awesome! I’m so glad you crunched the numbers. It is eye-opening and your experience is evidence.
      Now, how can we get others to do it?

  11. Creating a spreadsheet of my income goals by month for 2011 was the best jump start I could take for my financial Art goals this year. It helped me to put things into perspective & realize that I need to get cracking on looking for new shows & opportunities. It also reminded me to look at past events’ failures & successes. Now I have all of my goals in one spreadsheet including personal, Art, financial and I can try to manage them all together since I am living the life of full-time employee at someone else’s company as well as Artist, wife, home-owner, etc. Life is all about time management since we only get one in this body.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Nicole: Did you do the spreadsheet as a result of reading about it here? Regardless, I’m very happy you did it for yourself.

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