When it comes to spending your money on your creative business, it can be easy to get bogged down in details, trying to select the exact right choice. But not every decision you’ll make is worth the hours of research and contemplation that you put into it.
When selecting something that matters but doesn’t matter that much, like getting your first marketing materials together or putting your work out there for the first time, you may be better served to focus on the doing of the action, rather than the result.
Completed is always better than contemplating.
Don’t worry, you can always clean it up in ‘post’.
It may not be too long into your actor hustle before you start to think, “I just want to do a show. Let’s put on a play!” Suddenly the romance of casting yourself in your favorite role expands into imaging yourself at the helm of a real arts and culture institution. Yet, the biggest hurdle as a start-up theater maker is often the same thing driving you to want to create your own work: money.
Through my work as a money coach for creatives, I’ve developed three innovative approaches to raising the cash needed to launch dream projects. By straying from more traditional paths of fundraising, my clients are able to generate out-of-the-box solutions using their creative skillset as a superpower. You too can use my funding framework to create unique ways to bankroll your new theater company.
1. Embrace the power of money. Celebrate where you are now. Resist the urge to paint your vision too large. Over half of all non-profits fail after a few years. It’s not from a lack of ideas or good intentions. The audience base and funding pool are shrinking. The time between idea and execution, shoestring budget, and fully funded season may seem like an impossible gap to breach but there’s great power in starting small.
Begin to think of yourself as the chief investor in your artistic dreams. You are the visionary leader that you’re asking others to believe in. Demonstrate the power of your leadership by applying your well-honed creativity to the problem at hand: funding your theater company. Original approaches to generating financial support are often rewarded by those with deep pockets.
2. Determine your current resources. To create your money-making master plan, you have to figure out what’s available. It’s easy to say you have nothing and leave it at that. Focusing on what you have now gives you a sense of control that can free your mind and kickstart problem-solving mode. Challenge yourself to make a list of who, what, and where you might have a resource you can use. Label each entry using the following three categories:
PEOPLE: Ignite to Excite This could mean people you know or the people they know. It might be money people, a tight-knit community, or mentors who can help. Scroll through your contacts list and start to brainstorm who you have that might support you. Make a note of how you might approach them. Your enthusiasm is key so make sure you approach them from a place of passion. Ignite their excitement by sharing why you think your latest project is just the thing for them.
THINGS: Delight in Discovery Consider what raw materials you have that could be transformed into something to sell. Maybe it’s that pile of wood you’ve been “collecting” or colorful fabric scraps, even foodstuff. Experiment with what you could make to thrill buyers. Picture where they might go to purchase it. Perhaps it’s an Etsy shop or a tasting booth at a local event. It could be a website where you sell virtual singing telegrams featuring handcrafted crazy costumes. Whatever resources you have, harness the power of your imagination and make something you know your buyers will take delight in discovering. It might even spin out into a little side business for you, win-win!
PLACES: Built to Last Do you have access to a space, physical or virtual? Support your star project by doing smaller shows: maybe late-night sketch shows, cabaret Mondays, or streaming open mic nights. Focus on quality so you can grow your reputation while bringing in ticket sales. Consider also cultivating a relationship with another non-profit. Some organizations foster nascent non-profits as part of their mission. If you find the right fit, they might even help you submit grant applications and funding requests. Forging a strong presence (concrete, virtual, or organizational) endows a sense of legitimacy. It suggests that what you are constructing is built to last.
3. Create a plan of action. A clear-cut path can spell the difference between a flash in the pan success and a career-defining breakthrough. Chart out how you will produce your first piece and include your best ideas to generate the cash flow you’ll need. This is what people with serious money want to see: that your success is sustainable. Create a roadmap to demonstrate how. It doesn’t have to be perfect and it doesn’t have to be fancy. It does need to make sense and be easy to follow.
Schedule out the ways you think you can get cash flowing and make sure they have dates attached to them. As many people have said, if it’s not scheduled, it’s not real. Make your vision a reality by putting your ideas on the calendar and take timely actions to make them happen. Life is a lot easier with money in the bank and running a theater company is no different.
Funding your fledgling theater company demonstrates the innovation our industry needs right now. With the recent theater closures, we’re actively looking for new ways to create tomorrow’s breakout hit. If you can chart a course of support for your creative vision, you may just find yourself sailing into richer horizons in the future.
When the theaters of London were shut for approximately 6.5 yearsbetween 1603–1613, a man we call Shakespeare created some of his greatest works: “Antony and Cleopatra,” “Coriolanus,” and “Macbeth,” just to name a few. Repeated outbreaks of the “Black Death” lead to the government-imposed theater closures under public quarantine regulations. Yet, Shakespeare, a self-made man with only seven years of schooling at the village school, emerged prosperous from a time when other leading writers lost their shirts.
Little is definitively known about the man who came from Stratford Upon Avon to make his way in upwardly mobile Elizabethan London. Yet close examination of Shakespeare’s plays, paired with details of his proposed biography, reveals three key money principles that may have guided him to create plague-resistant financial success when his main source of income was largely nonexistent.
1. It pays to be popular. As an actor, Shakespeare was likely paid a working-class wage like a craftsperson or a foot soldier. Yet, with a young family back home to support, Shakespeare quickly set his sights higher and began to write plays, which increased his take home pay five times for every play. Since a popular play could mean a second showing, when the ticket sales went directly into the playwright’s pocket, Shakespeare soon began to explore tales of love, patriotism, and bloody revenge: timeless crowd-pleasers. While these plays were less groundbreaking than his later works, they generated the revenue he needed to begin to stabilize his financial footing and begin to build his cash flow reserves.
While mainstream projects might not light your creative fire, the money it generates can fund your master work in the meantime.
2. Spend less than you earn. When Orlando heads to the woods in “As You Like It,” it’s his manservant Adam who funds the journey. Making no more than the average actor, Adam saved nearly a quarter of his lifetime income. This character-defining thriftiness allows Adam to protect and provide for his young master in a time of crisis, exactly as Shakespeare himself did for his family back in Stratford. Shakespeare’s will indicated he died a well-to-do man, leaving property, belongings, and even gold to his family.
And since even “a penny saved is a penny earned,” this is a principle you can start today and increase as your income picks up in time.
3. Get serious about your side hustle. When time (and cash) was right, Shakespeare bought into his theater company. As a shareholder, Shakespeare put money in his purse with every pound his company made, whether he was involved or not. Suddenly the boy from the sticks was making an average of four times the yearly income of an actor. He spread this extra income between a wide range of investments, including buying property and land back home. While few people talk about Shakespeare the landlord, this extra income secured the financial safety that sustained Shakespeare and his family during the theater closures.
Think about adding some new special skills to your résumé: developways to make money beyond the performing arts.
Sunny days are always coming–but make sure you have good money practices in place to stay safe and secure for the duration of the storm.
For hungry artists, the creative hustle can be draining both financially and emotionally. The feast or famine cycle of creative work affects more than just the bottom line in your bank account. It can diminish the level of care you take for yourself: mind, body, and soul. This means over time you have less to share as a creative artist, which can lead to diminishing returns on your booking rate. Believe me, I’ve been there.
When I was a fresh-out-of-drama-school actor, I would fly so high after booking a job only to crash when times grew slow. After one particularly devastating audition, I realized I had put my creative worth in the hands of the audition panel. My steady diet of $1 dumplings, anxiety, and not enough sleep was not helping. I resolved that there had to be a better way to feel the value of my creativity and thrive during slow periods. I spent the next few years educating myself on what I consider the non-negotiables of creative self-care: money management, mindset, and mindfulness.
I built up the financial and emotional resources I needed to perform all over the world, branch out into content creation, and produce my own work, including the premiere of my first feature film in Europe this summer. Now, I coach creatives to do the same. Working with my clients, I’ve found there are five key ways you can build up your creative reserves in even the most stagnant period.
1. Schedule an artistic recess. Your mother was right: go play outside! Those moments spent outdoors put a reset on your thinking, which creates more space in your brain for your creativity to chime in. When stuck indoors with nowhere to go, try turning on the Nature channel or finding options online. Time spent in virtual nature counts and helps rebuild the reserves we need to keep our creative engine humming.
2. Tap into all five senses. Taking a moment to tap into your five senses can open your creative brain and help you travel to a more relaxed time and place. Light a candle that smells like Valencia oranges. Play that song that reminds you of walking by the Seine. Toss some mint into your iced tea to make a quick mental trip to Morocco. Pull out the scarves you bought in India but never remember to wear. These moments of sensory indulgence may seem small but pack a punch for your mental health. They ground you in the physical details of your experiences and trigger a journey in your mind, which is jet fuel for creativity.
3. Seek out new experiences. The mind craves new experiences, which can be hard in our shelter in place times. Challenge yourself to adventure in place instead. Watch that foreign film you’ve been meaning to see. Cruise through that book of travel photographs growing dusty on your bookshelf. Scroll through a museum online. It’s never been easier to step outside your zipcode without leaving your house thanks to the internet.
4. Clean up your relationship with money. Working one-on-one with my clients, I see how often it’s their thinking around money that repels the financial freedom they desire. These voices in their head can be a formidable enemy but I’ve found an easy ritual that stops them cold. Grab an old school dollar bill. Post it somewhere prominent like by your bed or next to your desk. Every time you glance at it, repeat to yourself: “There is always more money.” This mantra paired with the visual of the dollar cements in your subconscious that money is always within reach.
5. Document your journey as a creative. With billions of eyes one click away on your smartphone, it’s absurd not to show what you’re working on. Take a picture of what you’re doing each day, file it in a specific folder, and give it a great title that makes you happy. I call mine the Rockstar File. It cracks me up! Each time you add to this folder, you’re creating a portfolio of work you can share with your followers through your website or social media. With time, these shares become a body of work that represents you and the creative work you do. Like a business card for the digital age, it speaks for you 24/7. And when someone is looking to hire someone just like you, they can find you even while you sleep.
When I began to implement these approaches in my creative career, I saw slow periods as opportunities to nourish myself as an artist so when the casting director for an Equity tour called, I knew I was the secret to my creative success. Booking that six-month job (with benefits!) was icing on the cake after everything I’d learned. While we may not know when our industry will get back to business as usual, being the most healthy and whole artist translates into a richer creative well to draw from when the time is right. And truly, why wouldn’t we take amazing care of our most valuable resource–ourselves?
Many of my creative clients say it makes them feel like they don’t deserve the things that they want. That desire and pleasure must be separate from ‘having enough’.
Since creativity requires a sense of enjoyment and delight, this is a counter-intuitive approach to your creative business.
Like we aren’t responsible for our genetic legacy, we aren’t responsible for the cultural beliefs we inherited either. They are given to us by our family and upbringing.
How we apply them to our life is a different matter.
Imagine that you could view money as a co-creator in your creative journey and that the things you wished for made your creative business flourish. When you stoke the fires of your innovative mind, you might be surprised the gold that emerges from the ashes.
Take a moment today and consider what inherited belief or behavior around money no longer serves you (and maybe even holds you back) and seek out ways to release it for good. So money!
There can come a time in your financial journey when saving becomes enjoyable, even addictive.
After so many years of trying to get that number in your bank account to rise, it feels amazing to stack those zeroes and watch them rise.
This may seem like a good problem to have but it is really the other side of the (MONEY) coin in terms of your financial wellbeing.
Exerting tight control over your finances, sometimes called tight-fisted, is just as unhealthy as overspending.
It can lead to poor financial decisions like keeping too much of your savings in cash. It can lead to denying of quality investments, like vacation time with your family or celebrating a win with a splurge. It can create chronic unhappiness and diminished enjoyment.
Better is a relationship to your money that lets you spend money when it feels right while also keeping enough to feel safe and secure for the long term.
Putting a number on your time brings up all kinds of inferiority complex playmates: Am I enough? Is my work enough? Do I even know enough to charge? etc. etc.
The MONEY MONSTERS start roaring the minute you start to consider your value. They can’t help it, they’re trying to keep you safe.
So take a step back and remove yourself, your sense of self, from the equation.
Figure out how long it takes you to do what you do. Write that down.
Add up the financial cost to create what you create. Put all the numbers in there, pens, internet, muppet felt for your puppet, everything.
Make a note of what you make in other paid aspects of your life. Other jobs, gigs, side hustles, even tips. Write it all down.
Also consider what you would like to get paid, your target price or money goal. Put that in the top corner of the paper where your name used to go in elementary school. Circle it. Star it. Make it fancy.
Now, add the money you make in the other parts of your life to the costs to make what you make. That’s your bottom line. That is how much it costs you in man hours and supplies to make 1 of whatever you create. Don’t accept anything for less than that number.
(wage at other money gig) + (costs to make your art) = BOTTOM LINE/No Line
Next divide your money goal amount to be paid by how long it takes you to make it. That’s your target take home pay.
(Money goal to be paid) / (hours to make the thing) = TARGET TAKE HOME PAY
Finally (and maybe most important of all ~ PLEASE DON’T SKIP THIS STEP), add the cost to make your art and your target take home pay. This is your ideal rate to charge. Cha- Ching!
(Costs to make your art) + (Target Take Home Pay) = Ideal Rate to Charge
Somewhere between your Bottom Line (your No Line) and your Ideal Rate to Charge is how much you should charge. You can always agree to more but you can’t settle for less.
Have you ever gone on vacation and felt that sense of endless days filled with possibilities?
Wandering new streets and seeing new shops, window-shopping at new places and even buying something you never expected are some of my most favorite parts of traveling.
Yet how often have you gone on a MONEY vacation and felt the power of your spending possibilities?
Pick out a new part of town (or an old favorite you haven’t visited in awhile).
Set yourself a limit for what you could spend if you wanted.
If you are a cash person, even take this out of your account to carry with you. Tactile is good for MONEY adventures.
Select a few destinations you have been meaning to check out, maybe the new cuban bakery or the thrift store that always has the most *interesting* finds.
Grab snacks, a sweater, water, and a journal. Bring all your creature comforts with you!
Head out. Breathe deep. Take in the sights.
Enjoy the day as if you were on vacation and could allow the experience to unfurl without expectation or limit. Honor your MONEY allowances but know you can spend a little less or a little more if the right thing calls you. Enjoy.
The key here is to tap into the abundance of your daily life where you live, in your everyday experience. You don’t need to go to Bali to live your best life and feel limitless in abundance.
Begin to cultivate the muscles of joy and gratitude right where you are.
Abundance follows appreciation and appreciation happens in the moment. JOYnow.