Building Your Budget

You will likely go through multiple drafts of a budget until you find one that will meet all the needs of your production and is also feasible. You can use begin to vision your budget using these four steps:

Step 1: Build the Fantasy Budget: This is the budget for the show you want to make. What would it cost to have everything and everyone you need to make it possible? Think about all the things you may want and need, including production costs, accessibility costs, personnel costs, etc. In the best case scenario, how much money will you make?

Step 2: Build the Practical Budget: Begin to think realistically. What is a reasonable amount of money you will make? How many weeks can you actually pay your artists for? What are practical venue costs? In what ways can you include accessibility in your performance? Record these numbers in a second column in your Excel sheet.

Step 3: Build the Grant Budget: If you are applying for a grant, it's useful to adjust how municipal, provincial, or federal funding will affect the success or viability of your project. What will your budget look like if you are successful in your grant application? This budget will probably fall somewhere between your Fantasy and the Practical budget. It's important that this grant accurately tells the story of your project's priorities and should support the plan and values you laid out in your written application.

Step 4: Build the Actual Budget: Using all the knowledge you've gained creating the previous versions of your budget, you can now create the budget that you will use for the duration of your project. This budget should be realistic and leave room for unexpected expenses so you're prepared in circumstances should change or things go wrong.

Tip: Write notes in another column of your budget to give context for the number you chose. Not only will this help others who are looking at your budget (e.g. granting juries) but will help you remember how you came up with that number in the first place. For example, Fight Director fee: $75 ($25/hr for 3 hrs).

How do I know how much things cost?

You will have to do some research to make sure that your estimated numbers are as accurate as possible. For example, you will need to consult CAEA contracts to find out appropriate artists fees or call a company for a quote on the building materials you need for your set.

If you have built budgets in the past, use these as a learning tool for building your next one. Which numbers were accurate and which ones weren't? What are the unexpected costs that came up?

Use all this information to create your new budget.

How much do I pay myself?

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. The fees should be along par with the director. If you’re also an artist in the production, you should be paid one fee as an artist and another as the producer.

Including a Production Manager

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 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.


Download Basic Budget Template #1 - 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 (preview below).

Download Collaboration Budget and Reconciliation Toolkit* for projects produced in collaboration with another organization(preview below)

Cash Flow Templates can be found on our Cash Flow page!


Dance Umbrella of Ontario offers hints, tricks and tips for building your budget based on standards for dance performances.

Community Engagement Budget Example is a video taken from our Peer Conversation Project (21/22) where Rinchen Dolma sits down with Lucy Coren for a budget jam.

Created by awong. Last Modification: Thursday September 14, 2023 07:07:05 EDT by pallison.