Book Review-Arts & Numbers by Elaine Grogan Luttrull
I did a bit of extra writing for the Whispering Prairie Press newsletter this month. I’d read Luttrull’s book and found it extremely helpful, so WPP decided to include my review in this month’s newsletter.
You sold your first piece of work! Hooray! Congratulations! Celebrate that check, because it is a major moment of creative validation. You have mad creative skills—skills with financial value. If you want to pursue your art/writing professionally it is important to understand what your talent is worth, figure out how to quantify it, and start maintaining good financial records. It sounds daunting, but there are a ton of resources available to help you, and a good place to start is with the book Arts & Numbers: A Financial Guide for Artists, Writers, Performers, and Other Members of the Creative Class by Elaine Grogan Luttrull.
The opening chapters cover Luttrull’s definition of the creative class and the risky rewards associated with a creative career like writer, artist, dancer, musician, etc. She does an excellent job of introducing basic financial ideas and framing them in a way that is relatable to our professions. Inset throughout the book is a series of interlinked examples relevant to freelancers of all kind that do a great job clarifying her points.
Luttrull walks us through finance basics like goal setting, disciplined savings, practical budgeting, budget variances, personal financial statements, and cash challenges. If you have a strong background in finance/budgeting the opening chapters may be something to skim, but the inset examples are worthwhile and a nice reminder of basic concepts.
The later chapters of the book focus on the problems creative entrepreneurs face. For me, the “Make More Money” chapter was one of the most helpful. Luttrull shows the importance of setting up contracts for individual projects, gives examples of how a contract can help navigate tricky situations, and covers graceful exits of bad situations. Her advice allows you to walk away from toxic situations with your reputation in tact, which is huge in our creative industries that often rely on word of mouth or referrals. This section also covers effective volunteering and shows how volunteering correctly will help you increase the perceived value of your work.
The final chapters focus on necessary information such as “Understanding Taxes” and “Financial Management Systems.” Finally, Luttrull tackles “The Business Plan,” a concept that many of us are overwhelmed by, but could definitely benefit from. At 199 pages, the book is a short reference guide that breaks down financial challenges of our profession in a meaningful and helpful way.