The ‘Time Quality Money’ triangle offers you anything good, fast, or cheap. I don’t want to spend any more time dreaming about making art, I want it now (fast) and I want it to be good (quality), this means that it’s going to cost money. This month, Christina Ying (Writer), Amy Thorstenson (Writer/Producer), and I share 9 creative ways we’re financing our art.
1. Quit outsourcing jobs
Every time the newspaper prepared to publish a special edition, our editor became a broken record: “I don’t want no freelancers; I already paid y’all to write.” More contributors meant less profits.
Be like the newspaper, quit outsourcing jobs.
Fire your chef. Amy says, “Learn how to cook. It's not just another fun way to be creative, it’s cheaper than ordering in or going out every night. See if you can't sponge off your mom's CostCo membership.”
Christina says “I also meal plan and cook all of my meals at the beginning of the week for lunch and dinner. This is has saved me a ton of money.”
I get that many of you hate or can’t cook. Still, doing chores really is a great way to be physical, and allow your subconscious to find solutions to the project you’re working on. So be like me, find a partner (or roommate) who will cook for the both of you.
Other jobs to keep in-house: maid, personal trainer, seamstress, hairstylist, etc.
2. Outsource jobs
You can’t do everything yourself. “To bring in the finish date (time), you could spend more in resources (money) to finish the work faster or cut features (scope) so there’s less work to do before the new deadline.” -- The Project Triangle.
Hire a supervisor/accountabilibuddy. An official whip cracker who checks in regularly, ensuring progress is made. A fellow creative may have a better understanding of your challenges -- however, having to overcome these themselves -- may make them enablers. A non-creative may be too profits-oriented, turning them into inhibitors. Regardless, they must play bad cop and call you on your BS.
3. Value your time
‘monthly need’ divided by 24 hours. Having less clients or paying gigs means I put more hours in my work. Next week is not guaranteed, sometimes it’s busy and I only have 5 hours for me. In that case, I’m glad I put in real hours.
Christina says, “I've had to develop an iron-clad marriage with my calendar. Before, we were just on a need-to-know basis. I now schedule in days when I need to work on my writing and when I need to address business stuff. If it's in my calendar that means it's important. I've actually been better about managing my calendar post-graduate school, because I've had no one else to rely on.
Jessica Abel’s Idea Debt is a three-part article series discussing the cost of generating, but never acting on ideas. She very succinctly advises how to make the most of your time.
4. Channel your emotions
Ad blockers. My ad blocker also works to disable sections of Facebook such as “what’s trending.” On social media, I want to focus on connecting with contacts, not dodging ads. Note: I do support my favorite YouTubers by letting their ads play. We can all afford to give them an extra 30 seconds.
No spam. For the life of me, I can’t understand why chain messages are still a thing. Content sharing is a great thing – it’s part of my business model. What I can’t take is hoax messages. Not only are they dangerous (potential viruses), but those 5 seconds it takes to hide or delete them add up to time I could’ve spent working. Since letting offenders – like my mother – know that I hate “forwards,” I have less noise in my inbox.
Declutter and prioritize. Jessica Abel’s Idea Debt touches on the negative effect of having unfilled project sitting on your computer or in the back of your mind. She very quickly shows you how to choose what stays and what goes.
5. Don’t be a consumer
How about not spending money? Christina is a baller on a budget. “I haven't bought any new clothes in a long time. I try to model my wardrobe to be capsule-like, minimal, and interchangeable. Long gone are the days when I impulse-buy cheap clothes. I have about 35 items of clothing that I love and mix up. It's a minimalist and cheaper way to live.”
After grad school, instead of buying a new bed, I bought a year’s worth of theater tickets. After each show, I’d network by sharing my honest opinion of the work, and following up by reaching out to the creators via email and social media. These artists may become future collaborators and fans.
Pro tip: don’t kiss butt of a “successful” artist if you don’t truly enjoy the work. You will waste money and time trying to stay on their radar. At best, you’re hired to work on a project you that makes you miserable.
Before you buy, see if you can go without, borrow, trade, or rent.
6. Be a rich, poor person
Here’s where the real money is found. Amy encourages us to not “be afraid to milk the system. I produced my first feature film while on unemployment [benefits]. Heck, I'm on unemployment right now! Only feel guilty about it if you're not creating anything.” Please only MILK – not SCAM the system.
Mental health/therapy. Northwestern offered 12 free counseling sessions with CAPS. If CAPS found you required regular treatment, they will continue to treat you at no – or low – cost. A simple internet search can save you money and your life. Not a student? Join a church, check your community center, or local college’s student-run clinic. I got free marriage counseling through my church.
Reproductive health services. Poverty shouldn’t have to equal sexual frustration. Planned Parenthood offers services on a sliding scale and full proof of income is not required. Also, do a search for “free condoms + your city”.
Free meals and fun stuff. I used Northwestern’s Plan-It Purple to find on-campus events for free activities and food. I’m not ashamed to take a doggy bag. Even if you only score cookies and soda, that’s money you can otherwise spend on real food.
“Ask people who have the job you want out for coffee. In addition to their valuable insight, these people are financially successful and know you're not. Nine times out of ten, they'll pay for your coffee – and maybe even a sandwich. They've been there, and they know how tough it can be,” says Amy.
Birthdays, networking events, church potlucks, and company retreats are all great events for free food. Swallow your pride, pack a Ziploc, and take home the scraps.
Library membership. Amy advises utilizing public libraries. They have tons of free resources such as film rentals, books, e-books (no more hunched backs), and classes. There are so many reasons why the library is a better choice than a café. Cancel your internet subscription and join the library. After each successful session, check out a film or some music to play at home.
Those who can’t do – teach. Those who are unemployed – incorporate. Be active about turning your art into a career.
Freelancing. “I've opened up some freelance services. I've taken on a ghost writing gig for other aspiring writers in the city. This has brought some empowerment to my life, instead of waiting for someone to give me an opportunity, I've decided to use my skills to make my own money,” says Christina.
My rule: any request requiring a skill for which I have formal training should offer financial compensation. Similarly, for jobs where I have enough experience to qualify for an entry-level position. This is not being greedy, this is valuing yourself. Knowing a gynecologist doesn’t entitle me to free pap smears. Similarly, knowing a painter doesn’t entitle you to free portraits.
Scholarships. To attend Northwestern, I contacted my Minister of Education, presented them my budget, and requested special assistance. Better than being offered the general study financing loan, I got a scholarship!
I also asked a former employer to sponsor my M.F.A with the promise of returning to work for lower pay. They declined, but at least I asked.
Advertising/Sponsorships. Pepsi and L'oreal use Beyoncé’s brand to promote their products. Why not have this happen for you? I’m not talking about donations. Think like a business, find the links between your work and the audience of the company you are approaching. Prepare a proposal, search for the right contact, and pitch! There are many factors to consider when landing advertising and sponsorship deals, find a friend with a business or marketing degree.
Usually, investors need proof of concept before investing. For the new artists, this may not be required when asking for first-project funding (i.e., people will give you money just because they like you). After that, you need to prove yourself.
“Crowdfunding is great, but people are skeptical. Be specific about your product, your timeline, and how the money will be used. I raised $1,070 on Kickstarter for Cosmic Love. I was very upfront about where the money would go – paying my voice actors and reserving studio time. Although, we deserve compensation for our art, I'm always hesitant to pay myself out of crowdfunded money. Make sure your backers feel like their donations will be used wisely,” says Amy.
With crowdfunding, request enough funds to cover materials and collaborators, but avoid bloating the budget. More reasons not to “pay yourself.” See tips 3 and 4 on managing time. Think critically about the timing of your project, you may not get paid from it, but you can use the momentum to find paying gigs.
“I have no weekends right now, but that's okay. This is only temporary. I spend my weekends catching up on building my business, my writing, and preparing for the long week ahead. This is the most investment that I've ever made into myself, but mentally I'm in a much better place than I was before I made this transformation,” says Christina. Again, you may not profit monetarily from your first efforts, but the satisfaction of being a doer versus a dreamer should hold you over for at least your first year.
In conclusion, recognize savings and fundraising opportunities and value your talents.
COMMENT BELOW: How are you financing your art?
8. Find a Sponsor/Business Partner
“Find a Sugar Daddy or Sugar Mama. Okay, I'm mostly kidding, but pooling resources – whether with roommates or a significant other will reduce your spending. Plus, it's nice to feel like you're not alone on a sinking ship. Finding a few more sailors can help bail you out in times of crisis,” says Amy.
For other outsourced jobs/collaborations, consider bartering or subsidizing labor. This is not paying with “exposure” -- you must offer real value.
9. Leverage Your Friendships
Thank you Amy Thorstenson and Christina Ying for your savvy tips and Vicky Lim (Abstract Door zine) for introducing me the Jessica Abel!
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Funny Business is a monthly article series sharing practical ways to turn your funny into a business. It features real tips and habits from women in comedy, entertainment, and other creative industries. Get the tools and confidence you need to be creative.
A creative with type-a tendencies. I come from a family of artists and entrepreneurs. While I wait for my big screenwriting break, I share my BA in Communication and work experiences to help fellow artists get organized and put more art into the world.
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