2.3 Money Management

A budget has two elements: income and expenses, and the totals of each of these aught to balance. Budgets go through several drafts, from initial estimate to final budget. Expenses fluctuate depending on your ability to predict expenses and the accuracy of your estimates. Income depends on the number of sponsors you get, whether grants come through and show attendance. You should prepare two budgets from the very beginning – one being a worst-case scenario, the other being the best-case scenario; plan for both.

You can download a sample of the items you will probably want to consider including in your budget here: budget model

Creating a budget takes some research, and involves pricing the various elements that cost money during the life of the project to give you an idea of how much money it will take to avoid a deficit. A realistic and balanced budget is essential for grant applications. Don’t be afraid to ask funders and other dance professionals about the going rates. Include what are called ‘in kind’ amounts – support in a form other than money (ex. studio time, reduced collaborator fee, etc.) to which you can attribute a dollar value. These amounts must appear on both sides of your budget, as expenses but also as income, even if no money is exchanged. Most of the following expenses and revenues apply in most cases; some apply only if you are self-presenting.

Rehearsal studio rentals generally cost between $10-20 per hour. There are ways, however, to get inexpensive or free studio space: using your alumni status at your former school, through a relationship with a company that allows you to use their space when they are on tour, or even by trading work for studio space (cleaning, administration, etc.). Residencies are an increasingly popular service from many studios, theatres and companies, and provide a concentrated block of time for free. This time can be used for creation if in a studio, or for working on technical/lighting concepts if in a theatre. Most places offering residencies require that you submit an application, and they select amongst the applicants.

If self-presenting, the cost of the performance venue varies, to some degree, according to the length of your run. When negotiating the price of the venue, make sure you know what is included in the rental price. Are you taking the full income at the box office or is there a sharing arrangement? Do you have to hire the venue’s technical staff, their box office and front of house staff? What is the over-time rate? Are there handling costs for the tickets? If you accept credit cards as a mode of payment for tickets, do you have a service fee to pay? Are they giving you any advertising in their season program?

With low-budget, first works, it is likely that any fees involved will be symbolic. However, when working with less experienced people you have another form of currency to offer – you are providing them with an opportunity to develop their skills and build a résumé. The going professional rate is $10 to $30 per hour for rehearsals depending on the experience of the dancer, and anywhere from $50 to $200 per performance. Bartering may also be possible if your financial capacity cannot support full professional wages.

To determine your designers’ wages, carefully consider the following questions: who is constructing or operating the designs? Who provides the materials to create these designs? . Some designers may want to negotiate “droit de suite”, a means by which they share in the proceeds of successive sales of the work, after its initial sale. Make sure all details are clearly stipulated in their contracts. In professional theatre, designers generally earn between $500 and $3000, depending on the production.
Small non-union theatres generally pay skilled technicians $12 to $15 per hour. A head technician gets a premium of $2 to $5 per hour on top of this rate. There is a four-hour minimum call on all jobs, and a higher rate for over-time.

The production manager is often paid a flat rate, anywhere from $500 to $5000 per production. A professional press agent can charge between $800 and $3500. A symbolic fee for someone starting out might be $200. Fundraisers and ad-sales people generally work for a commission, anywhere from 10% to 40% of their sales. Be sure to clarify what happens when they secure a service rather than money. Volunteers might be helpful for ushering or selling tickets, when not provided by the venue/presenter.

Promotional Costs
Photography costs should include an honorarium for the photographer and printing costs, and sometimes a fee for the right to use the photographer’s copyrighted material. To save time and money, do it yourself with a digital camera.

Price poster and flyer printing according to your needs and tastes as colour and paper quality can considerably increase the cost. With a good design, you don’t need to spend too much money on extras. In any case, approach your printer with a budget and ask them what they can do for you. The cost of 500 to 2000 flyers will be anywhere from $5 to $800.

Hidden Costs
Account for the unpredictable expenses that pop up in the middle of a production. Take the total of your expenses, multiply it by 0.15 and add this amount to your expenses; it is your 15% contingency or emergency fund. Remember to account for sales tax when budgeting for expenses such as space rentals. Also, many venues require that ticket sales be taxed.

It is never be easy to predict income. Do not count on any grants or private funding until they are confirmed. Always have a plan B. Do not assume a high income from ticket sales. It is standard practice to estimate that 40% of tickets will be sold. Take (# seats) X (# shows) X (ticket price) X (0.40) to calculate this amount. Evaluate your fundraising efforts three weeks prior to opening night. It is unlikely that much more can happen in the period left, so it’s a good idea to adjust your budget accordingly at this time.

To keep track of your spending, you need to do some kind of bookkeeping. Create a payment schedule – evaluate who needs to be paid promptly and who can be paid after the production is over. Keep all receipts and invoices, and clearly label each one with a date and item. Doing the majority of your transactions by cheque facilitates tracking spending, though it can be useful to withdraw some cash for small miscellaneous expenses (petty cash). Periodically transfer this information into a spreadsheet to monitor categories and tabulate subtotals. You can create your own system using the following models: bookkeeping worksheets.

… next chapter: 2.4 Financing

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