In an online magazine I subscribe to, Narratively, I came across this piece that I know will be a reminder to me (and other artists) about how to be a legitimate artist in the eyes of the IRS. The title of the piece is "The Nightmare Audit of an Indie Artist," and it is about how 2 very interesting artists in Minnesota, a married couple, survived (yay, that's the spoiler) an audit.
In order to be able to write off your expenses as a self-employed business, you have to prove you have a profit motive, otherwise you will be classified as a hobbyist, and thus be unable to claim all the materials you need to do your art.
So this tax status consciousness runs COUNTER to art; it's such a dilemma. John Green has the quote: "Don't make stuff because you want to make money. It will never make you enough money. Don't make stuff because you want to get famous. Because you will never be famous enough. Make gifts for people. And work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice. Maybe they will notice how hard you worked, and maybe they won't. And if they don't, I know it's frustrating. But ultimately that doesn't change anything because your responsibility is not to the people you're making the gift for. But to the gift itself."
I guess this is all well and good, John Green, but I guess you can do this gift thing if you don't file a Schedule C. If you file a Schedule C, you have to make gifts with the idea to make a profit.
Perhaps I am a hobbyist. I would give it all away and more if I could. But I really DO want to make money off my writing. I struggle with that, the vulnerability I have to expose to be able to say, I want my writing to generate income. So what if I don't expect much. I just want to not go in debt as I make my "gifts." ( I hear the confidence angel saying, you can do better than that. )
At this point, I do not have any products to sell. But I hope to this year. And though they are "gifts," they will also be for sale.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.