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how to build financial support in your art business for when life gets messy

passive income Jul 09, 2024

Something that we don’t want to think about or talk about often enough is how to set up a business that can hold steadfast when sh*t hits the fan. How prepared is our business to handle the difficult messy parts of life?

When a loved one is suddenly sick and we have to care for them, or we are sick, or a loved one passes away and we’re left to deal with the baggage that comes with that, all the while navigating heavy emotions and a foggy headspace. When nothing seems as real or important as what is happening at that moment.

In moments like those, working on our business feels like an impossible task. We wish we could just take a step back and process what is happening. Everything in our body wants to fight any kind of “normal” activity. But when we have bills to pay it forces us to show up. However, doing so only adds stress and a new level of exhaustion.

It might make us realize that our business is not prepared to handle life’s chaos, but the silver lining is that it can help us see what structures or systems are missing from our businesses. It can leave us wondering how going forward we can build a business that supports these moments of chaos instead of further inciting them.


The thing that makes these life changes even more stressful is the financial aspect. As business owners not only do we have to think about our personal income and expenses, but also the expenses of our business. Money coming in and going out is an immediate concern, and in times like those, it’s the last thing we want to think about.

Especially as artists, we are the ones who are responsible for creating the “main product” aka our art. We can't simply hand that off to someone else, that has to come from us. Even so, there are ways to get around having our income depend on our creative output.

Having gone through several life-changing moments in my 10+ years in business, I have learned that there are two things we can incorporate that can ease the pressure of working on our business when we don't want to or simply can’t.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor/professional, I’m just an artist sharing my business experience.)

Build up a cash reserve

I like to call it “alternative cashflow”, others may call it savings. Having enough cash in our business to cover at least a month of business expenses (and our pay if possible) can give us some reprieve. Having personal savings also helps, but if we’re using that money for whatever emergency is at hand, then also having to rely on our personal savings for our income can further add stress. This is why it’s preferable to have both a business savings and a personal savings account. 

I built mine up by getting a handle on outgoing expenses - being honest with myself and admitting where I was unnecessarily spending. It also meant learning how to manage my money during high and low months. Most especially learning how to spread out the earnings from my high months to create a more balanced cash flow. 

Diversifying income

Having money come in from different sources that are not tied to our productivity is without a doubt the most beneficial component to a business during this time. In my experience, it can really allow us to take a step back because we know with certainty that money is coming from elsewhere.

The way I have done this in my own business is in the form of passive income. By partnering with others who can help me sell my work like a gallery, art consultants, or licensing I can let go of the reigns for a while. It does take some time to get to this point where we can predict how much money is coming in passively, which is why I always recommend starting sooner rather than later.

The combination of these two allows us to quickly form a plan, and gives us an idea of how long we can step away from our business. Sometimes that runway will be long, sometimes it will be short. But whatever it is, at least we’re not left floundering. A small plan is better than no plan at all.

I know this isn’t stuff that we want to think about, especially when we feel our business is on the up and up. But when something does happen (and I truly hope it never does!) you’re going to be glad you took the time to figure it out.

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Take the next step:
Explore 7 different ways you can make passive income from your art

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