It’s useful to build your budget in four steps:
Step 1: Build the Fantasy Budget: What is the show you want to make? What would it cost to have everything and everyone you need to make it possible? What do you need (think about all things related to the show, including production costs, accessibility costs, personnel costs, etc.)? What’s impossible/possible? You’re creating the best case scenario budget here.
Step 2: Build the Practical Budget: Now start to think realistically. How many weeks can you actually pay your artists for? Is this a profit-share show? What are practical venue costs? What is possible in crowdsourcing revenue? In what ways can you include accessibility in your performance? Make a second column in your Excel sheet and shift the numbers from the fantasy budget to practical one
Step 3: Build the Grant Budget: Given that you’re applying for a grant, it’s useful to adjust how municipal, provincial, or federal funding will affect the success or viability of your project. This budget should live in between the Fantasy and Practical. Because grants councils are looking to see community impact, artists well paid for their work, and clear artistic value, this budget should be a bit more substantial in scope.
Step 4: Build the Actual Budget: This is likely the numbers you’ll be working with for the show. Why not just start with this? The prior three steps are useful to help whittle down what is essential. And also give you a sense of what’s possible, and where money can be spent if you have an unexpected set of revenue come through.
Write notes into the budget to explain the numbers. This is useful as a reminder but also important for supplementary budgets in a grant application. i.e. The fight director is $75 because they’re being paid $25/hr. (Describe how you came up with the number and articulate the reason for the numbers you’ve chosen).
If you have built budgets in the past, use these as a learning tool for building your next one. Go back and compare what you projected to what you actually spent. What are the unexpected costs that came up?
Compare this with your new budget.
As a producer, make sure you include yourself on the list of expenses. You should be paid for your work. There is no industry standard fee for producers, but sometimes people suggest about 5% of the budget. Try and keep the fees along par with the director.
If you’re also an artist in the production you should have one share as the artist and a separate share as the producer.
Hiring a Production Manager can save you money in the long run and help you fill out your budget with accuracy. They can figure out other costs like crew costs, set building, tech riders, accessibility costs (such as the fee for an audio describer or an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter) etc.
PMs work closely with designers and the producer. They know the technical community and can help with renting or building things at a reasonable rate. They can be useful even for a load-in and load-out of a smaller show and have a crew lined up for that work like organizing the strike. They can book an ASL interpreter and check your venue and production for its inclusivity for patrons, performers and technical staff. They ensure that all the budget reports and petty cash comes back, and that receipts come in. Their responsibility is to work within the budget.
A (mostly) exhaustive list of typical budget items. Keep in mind that no two productions are alike: you may not need every single item in this list or you may need many more items that are not included.
Dance Umbrella of Ontario offers hints, tricks and tips for building your budget based on standards for dance performances.