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How to Run a Face Painting Business - Book Keeping Essentials

For many face and body painters painters, reality is that they love to face paint, but they don’t like spending time adding up invoices, finding receipts, preparing taxes, etc. However, if you want to run a successful business you need to keep an eye on your expenses and your taxes. Preparing for tax filling will help you find out if you have made a profit or not and since paying taxes isn’t really an option, you might as well do it right. Doing your taxes wrongly could end up costing you a small fortune.

Bookkeeping is an essential part of your small business and it can be done easily if you do it regularly enough and you get used to saving all of your paper records. To know what records to keep you should contact the IRS or a CPA to check what expenses can be deducted as such, and what income qualifies as business income. When in doubt, save every receipt and every record, then you can throw away what you don’t need. If you use QuickBooks online you can scan all paper records to add them to your entries (this is great in case you ever get audited).

There are plenty of software programs out there that could make your task easier to accomplish if you are a computer kind of person. You can go as simple as an Excel workbook, or you can use a software like QuickBooks. We use QuickBooks and we had our CPA set the file for us according to our needs. We were able to get trained in 2 hours, and every now and then we call our CPA to ask questions. It is fairly easy to use and it really makes tax filling a lot easier at the end of the year. QuickBooks offers reports that you can run at the end of the year to compare expenses, income sources, etc. You can also invoice your customers from there; pay your employees, etc.

Below is a list of the things you should keep records of. These are just examples, your business might have different categories, but the ones listed below are pretty basic:

Business Expenses for your Face and Body Art Business

  • Face Painting Supplies: keep records of all of your purchases. All stores should send you an invoice with your order, either by e-mail or with your order. Make sure you keep copies of them and make a small chart with each purchase so that at the end of the year you don’t have to go over your invoices again. When charting your expenses make sure to enter the date of purchase, the store you purchased from and what you purchase. Keep in mind that if you did not pay for sales taxes when you bought your paints or other supplies, you must do it at the end of the year. If you did pay taxes for the face paints to a state different to the one you live in, you might need to pay the difference between that tax rate and the one for your state. Always check with a tax lawyer or CPA for the most accurate information.
  • Costumes: do you have specific outfits that you use only for your face painting business? Keep records of those purchases to make sure you count them as business expenses. If you spent money getting them fixed or specially cleaned at a dry cleaner you might be able to deduct those expenses as well.
  • Office Supplies: to run your face painting business most likely requires paper, ink cartridges, pens, etc. Keep a chart with those purchases, save the receipts, and add them up at the end of the year. Again, if you fill in your chart every time you make a purchase, it will be much easier to find the total spent at the end of the year.
  • Services: do you use internet, electricity, your own home space? If you do, you are probably entitled to deduct part of that as a business expense. Keep records of how much you spend on your phone, internet, rent, energy bill, etc. At the end of the year you should be able to deduct a portion of those expenses. Usually, you will calculate what portion of your home you use exclusively to run your business, and then divide that by the total surface of your home. That will give you a number below 1. You will multiply that number by what you spend on rent and energy to calculate how much you could deduct. Please visit the IRS website or contact your CPA for specific rules.
    You should also be able to deduct part of your internet and phone bill; the total should equal what you think is proportional to your use of those services for your business versus personal use. So, if 10% of the time you are using your cellphone for business, and 90% of the time you are using it for personal purposes, then you should be able to deduct 10% of your annual bill. Some exceptions apply (normally you can't deduct expenses on your first land line).
  • Marketing: do you spend money on business cards, website fees, yellow pages, gig salad (or other directories), printed ads, online ads, etc? If so, keep records of each expense on a chart and save your receipts. They could all be listed, for example, under an “advertising” expense account. Check out this marketing blog for face painters to get some ideas on other ways you can advertise your business for free.
  • Insurance: do you have business/entertainer insurance? If you do (we strongly recommend for you to have it, you can check our blog post about it here), you can deduct that as a business expense.
  • Miscellaneous: any other expenses that you don’t know exactly how to classify. Keep records, and later you will find a category for them when you are filing your taxes, or not. But it is better to keep records in case you can deduct them.
  • Mileage: if you want to deduct miles driven that are work related you must keep a mileage log. The log should include your odometer reading at the beginning and end of the year, the odometer reading at the beginning of a business trip and at the end of the trip. It should also have the address of destination and the purpose of the trip. Depending on who you ask, they might give you a different opinion on how detailed that log must be. Another option is to do an online search of the trip you made and calculate the miles driven back and forth, and write that on your log instead of the odometer readings. That might not be compliant with IRS regulations though, so double check. Also, keep in mind that some car insurance companies require that you have a business rider on your insurance if you want to use your car for that purpose. Not having that rider could potentially create issues at the time of a claim, so check with your car insurance agent.
    Remember that generally speaking a trip can only be described as a business trip for mileage purposes if the entire purpose of that trip was for work (if you stopped at the supermarket on the way there those miles technically cannot be counted as business’s miles).
  • Legal and tax related expenses: have you paid a lawyer to draft a contract for you? Do you pay for a CPA to help you with your taxes, or you bought tax preparation software? Keep records of those expenses in a chart with descriptions of the purpose of each expense. If you are still not sure why would you need such expenses, check our legal/tax status of your face painting business blog post.
  • Bank fees: does your business bank account have maintenance fees? Did you get a bounced check fee, and overdraft fee, etc? All of those might be deductible expenses, make sure you keep records of them. If you don have a separate business account dedicated just to your business you should consider having one, it makes it a lot easier to track expenses and to keep things separate.
  • Education: Did you attend a convention or local workshop? Did you pay for online classes at one of the several online schools? If so, make sure to keep records of all expenses (including travel expenses) so that you can deduct them at the end of the year. Remember that for travel expenses there are special rules that apply. If you go on a trip to a convention but you spend more than 50% of the length of the trip somewhere else, then generally speaking you cannot deduct any of those expenses as business expenses. Also, you are likely not going to be able to deduct your husband/friend/kids expenses if they go with you.

PS: if you haven’t yet, you should check out Olga Mursaev’s International Face Painting School (online), it is the best online educational program for face painters currently available.

Business Income from your Face and Body Art Business

  • Full payment for your jobs: keep records of the person or company you worked for, the date, location and total billed. You should have a copy of the invoice or booking sheet for each gig. Make sure to write down how they pay, if they pay first for a deposit and then for the balance on a later date. All of this information will not only come in handy when filling your taxes but also when trying to keep track of your bookings.
  • Tips: although it is hard for the IRS to realize if you are declaring your tips, it is always a good idea to declare all of your income. It will keep you out of trouble and increase your contributions to Social Security, which should reflect on a better Social Security check at the end of your career, hopefully. To keep better track of your cash income we suggest for you to always deposit everything on your business account, that way you can better account for it.
  • Other income: maybe you not only face paint at events but also teach face painting workshops; that is also income that needs to be reported on your tax return. Make sure to keep track of all information related to the events that generated that income.

It can look like a lot at the beginning, but as you get used to keeping your records updated with every purchase or gig, you will realize how easy it is to know what you are making, and make adjustments to your business accordingly. This way, filing taxes at the end of the year will become a much easier tax.

Also, good records will make a tax audit a much less stressful experience. No one is exempt from tax audits, so it is always better to be prepared. When keeping records, you should think that they need to be good enough so that you can explain your expenses and income up to 7 years back in time. That is a LONG time, so keep your records as complete and clear as possible.

Don’t stress, this might be a boring part of your business, but the information you will get from doing this will help you accomplish your business dreams, and will put you a step ahead of your competition.


Disclaimer: these are opinions based on our personal experience, we are not lawyers or CPA’s, so we recommend for you to contact a lawyer and or CPA before making any decisions. We are not in any ways giving legal or tax advice and we are not liable for any decisions you make or stop making based on the opinions provided above.

Image courtesy of adamr /

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Cindy - April 24, 2019

Wonderful and very informative information! Thank you very much. Kind regards, Cindy

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