Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Figuring The Income From An Illustration Business

The income stream of an illustration business is the amount of money received for work produced. However this does not necessarily translate into personal income. Personal income is based on the profit the business will generate.
© 2013 Don Arday.
Profit (or loss) is based on the juxtaposition of the operating expenses of the business to the income the business generates through the work it provides. Put in the simplest terms, if a business has $20,000 per year in operating costs, and the income earned from illustration commissions adds up to $30,000, then the business has made $10,000 in profit. The personal income generated by the business is whatever profit is achieved, in this case $10,000. This may or may not be what is required or desired by the owner, especially if a thorough financial model was lacking at the outset of doing business.

Studio Operating Expenses

The operating expenses model below has been provided to serve as a practical example of typical operating expenses for an illustration studio. In this case, the model is based upon an in-home studio, so certain expenses, such as rent, utilities, and liability insurance, are shared expenses with the household, and are prorated accordingly.

For a complete definition of each of the expense categories refer to The Informed Illustrator article at: http://www.theinformedillustrator.com/2016/10/figuring-cost-of-starting-illustration.html

Studio Operating Expenses Model

Expense Category
Cost Basis/Monthly or %
Yearly Amount

Office/Studio Rent
$350/25% of $1400 Mortgage
$65/25% of  $260 Home Utility
$80/100% $40/50% Business Usage
$960 / $480
$30/100% usage
Business Supplies
Resale Supplies
2000 miles/54.5 cents per mile
Professional Services
Health Insurance
Liability Insurance
$21.25/25% of  $85 Home Ins.

Total Amount

$17,542 / $17,062
Note 1: The transportation cost figure is based on the 2018 Internal Revenue Service Mileage Reimbursement calculation. The health insurance cost figure is based on data provided by E Health Insurance. The liability insurance figure is based on average homeowners insurance rates provided by Home Insurance Co.
Note 2: This operating expense model does not take associated expenses into consideration such as student loans.

Determining Income

Using the cost figures from the above model the first and easiest thing will be to figure what the studio owner/illustrator must do to break even. This is also known as the cost of doing business (CODB). The illustrator must receive at least $17,542 to equal the CODB. Now this is where it gets interesting. The illustrator can complete 17 + $1000 editorial commissions, or 7+ varied market illustration commissions of $2500, or any combination of streams of illustration income. In terns of hourly effort, at a rate of $30 per hour, the illustrator must work 585+ billable hours to reach the $17,542. Now this may appear to be quite frightening, but it only equates to working 12+ hours a week for 48 weeks, leaving 4 weeks for vacation.

Now lets say that the illustrator/studio owner wants a salary/profit of $40,000 at $30 per hour, which includes the $17,542 in operating expenses. That would require them to work a 40-hour work week for 48 weeks. So, if they could guarantee a steady flow of work, they could achieve their salary goal. This example could be an acceptable income for a young illustrator.

With that said, there are many illustrators that run their business with operating expenses between $20,000 and $30,000. Most use a fixed price structure for their commissions, rather than one that is hourly based. However, by using an hourly rate basis to calculate earnings, rather than a fixed price one, an illustrator can tell how many hours per week are needed for them to meet their goal. Just for the sake of expanding upon the above examples, here are some other financial projections based on a variety of possibilities and situations.

Income Projection Table

Income Basis/Variable
Business Costs
Yearly Earnings

Minus Costs
Hourly Basis

$40 hourly rate/35 hour week/48 weeks
$40 hourly rate/40 hour week/48 weeks
$50 hourly rate/35 hour week/48 weeks
$50 hourly rate/40 hour week/48 weeks
$40 hourly rate/40 hour week/48 weeks
$40 hourly rate/35 hour week/48 weeks
Fixed Job Price Basis

3 commissions per month/$1500 average
4 commissions per month/$1200 average
4 commissions per month/$1500 average
4 commissions per month/$2000 average
6 commissions per month/$750 average
4 commissions per month/$500 average
Disclaimer: The above table is for the purposes of illustrating income potential. It represents a very limited number of possibilities. Depending on the nature of an illustration business, some of the income examples will be more pertinent, while others will not.

Income Tax

Now enters the IRS. A hard pill to swallow, and something no one accept accountants like to think about, taxes should be considered when taking a comprehensive look at income. Taxes are paid based on net income, i.e., the income that is left after operating expenses is accounted for. For the sake of again providing a simple example, if $30,000 was earned, and $20,000 went to expenses, this would leave $10,000 in profit. The $30,000 is the “gross” income, and the $10,000 is the net income. So for a single filing self-employed person, taxes would be paid based on the net income as follows: $10,000 @15% income tax and $10,000 @ 12.4% social security tax. In real dollars this would translate to true after tax income of $7260.

Income Tax Rates

Single Filing Status 2021 Rates
10% on taxable income from $0 to $9,950
12% on taxable income over $9,950 to $40,525
22% on taxable income over $40,525 to $86,375
24% on taxable income over $86,375 to $164,925
32% on taxable income over $164,925 to $209,425
35% on taxable income over $209,425 to $523,600
37% on taxable income over $523,600.

Married Filing Jointly Status 2021 Rates
10% on taxable income from $0 to $19,900 plus
12% on taxable income over $19,900 to $81,050
22% on taxable income over $81,050 to $172,750
24% on taxable income over $172,750 to $329,850
32% on taxable income over $329,850 to $418,850
35% on taxable income over $418,850 to $628,300
37% on taxable income over $628,300

Social Security Tax Rates

Self-Employed Persons 
12.4% of net self-employment income, up to $147,000.
The Social Security tax rate had been temporarily reduced for the years 2011 and 2012, in what was referred to as a payroll tax holiday.

Employed Persons
6.2% of wage earnings, employees portion, up to the maximum wage base of $113,700. The employer then matches the 6.2% employee contribution of wage earnings, up to the maximum wage base of $147,000. This equates to a 12.4% total Social Security contribution.

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