Money Management for the Creative Class

A Q&A with Elaine Grogan Luttrull, Author of “Arts & Numbers”

  • By Sandy M. Fernandez
  • May 16, 2013

In 2007, Elaine Grogan Luttrull’s career arc could be summed up in six words: confidence feigned; successes gained; enthusiasm waned. In fact, that’s exactly how the certified public accountant described it in her winning entry for Smith Magazine’s six-word memoir contest.

The contest, and the realization that accompanied it, marked a turning point for her. A long-time arts lover, she decided to re-ignite her enthusiasm by refocusing her career on helping artists and other creative types further their dreams through good money management. In the six years since, she’s founded Minerva Financial Arts, a company devoted to improving financial literacy among artists and arts organizations, and done work for the Juilliard School, the Kennedy Center and others. Recently, she published her first book, “Arts & Numbers: A Financial Guide for Artists, Writers, Non-Profits and Other Members of the Creative Class.” We asked her to share some of the financial lessons she’s shared -- and learned -- as an entrepreneur.

DailyWorth: The title seems like sort of a misnomer. You really mean it for a wide swath of creative classes, it seems?

Elaine Grogan Luttrull: The concept started out as just for artists, but as I was developing the work and developing my own business, I found the tips I was offering were equally applicable to my business as a freelance accountant (of sorts). And it dovetailed nicely with the growth in "creative entrepreneurs" we see among all professions... Someone with an open mind who is serious about investing time and energy into building (or re-building or expanding) a creative business.

What are the biggest financial issues freelancers face?

I suspect if you asked my students, clients, and peers, they would say it’s trying to make more money. But the biggest issue I see is taxes. Often, freelancers are unaware of the self-employment tax responsibilities they have as sole proprietors, and they find the nuances of sales and income tax to be overly complicated. The second biggest issue I see has to do with budgeting. Everyone knows they should "budget," but it isn't always easy to translate a task like budgeting into something useful, rather than simply an exercise in math. Both of these are related to making more money. I found that connecting budgeting to an entrepreneur's goals -- whatever they may be -- and translating it into simple, actionable steps made the process more effective. (Keep reading for more on finding the right career mix for your lifestyle.)

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