If only I had more money…
It’s a refrain I hear weekly, if not daily, when working with musicians and various creative professionals. But, beware that siren song in your life. Why do you need more money? How will you use it? Do you already have a budget sketched out for income needed and expenses when it comes to your projects and/or season as it relates to your overall career goals? Money is a convenient excuse when we do not have very much of it. It’s convenient because we can blame our inaction on non-existent funding. We can criticize the lack of funds instead of asking ourselves how to better our technique, build a supportive audience, and more. Instead of telling you that you shouldn’t want money (I would never do that.) Or, even worse, tell you that you should be happy with what you have. (Double ugh.) I want to discuss income, profit, expenses, and investing in your future in a strategic way.
Your 29 Days to Diva Day 8 assignment is to make a plan for how you will increase your income.
Start With Your Goals
First, I would be remiss if I didn’t implore you to, once again, take a look at your three-to-five year plan and any other goal-setting exercises you have done recently. If you are unclear on your short and/or long-term goals, please go back and do that. Let’s avoid sunk costs wherever we can… (she says as she hops into her time machine to tell her undergrad self…) In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, we’ll borrow this handy definition from this helpful Business Insider article, “Sunk Costs are time and money (and other resources) you have already spent on a project, investment, or some other effort. They have been sunk into the effort and most likely you cannot get them back.” If you make continuing investments in an area simply because you’ve already spent precious resources there, you are less likely to change plans, narratives, and course when necessary. Go back to your goals and determine which of your ambitions need investment and how you plan on investing.
A Note of Warning
I once heard someone encourage a singer going to an expensive summer music festival abroad, “go ahead and say ‘yes’ – we’ll figure out the money part later.” Nope, all sorts of nope. There is no magical day in the future in which the money part will make more sense than now. If it doesn’t work now, it is highly unlikely that it will work out in the future – especially in classical singing. If you spend your future resources on opportunities now, you may not have the financial flexibility to take on future opportunities.
Before you go any further, please take this to heart: I want you to invest in your singing career wisely. Do not overspend your budget. Do not outspend your current income assuming that there will be more later. Yes, I used the analogy of the med student career path the other day. Many med students take on large amounts of student debt because of the likelihood that their future incomes will be able to support the debt repayment. Singers, you do not have that luxury. Many creative professionals live the variable income life. Do not obliterate your ability to continue pursuing your passion by shackling yourself with insurmountable debt.
Income & Budgeting
Today’s post is specifically about income. This subject is broken down into a few posts so we can talk about income, budgeting, and investing in your career. So much ink has been spilled and countless blog posts have been written about these topics that a simple paragraph from me will not suffice. However, I will give you some basic prompts and a reading list.
Upgrade Your Income – Prompts
- What are your current income streams?
- How will you encourage more people to pay you in those areas (scale your customer base)?
- How will you make more income in each one of those streams (scale your prices)?
- Which additional income streams can you develop in the next 3, 6, 12 months (scale your offerings)?
- Which additional project-specific funding opportunities will you focus on applying for in the next 3, 6, and/or 12 months? These could be grants, fellowships, prizes, sponsorships, or research budget money.
- Who do you know that can tell you where to look for more of these opportunities?
- What kind of trigger can you enact to help you systematically research funding opportunities?
- Do you have any passive income opportunities that you have not fully developed?
- How can you focus more on income-producing activities that help support your long-term goals?
- A note here: I am a big fan of day jobs and non-music-related jobs. Please be aware if your narrative is forcing you to only survive financially on music-related income streams. This post is about a healthy financial picture. I do not encourage anyone to give up income/profit because it’s not directly tied to their art-making practices.
Upgrade Your Income – Reading List
- It’s important to get your personal financial picture straightened out if you would like to pursue this path. I’m going to include some of my favorite finance and income reads. Reading an entire book is not usually a micro-action, in my terms. However, Audible has been a game-changer for me when I’m traveling for gigs. I encourage you to schedule your reading through any of these books and put the micro-actions they suggest on your calendar. Specific dates and times equal specific and quantifiable action.
- Reading list with some potential micro-actions peppered in:
- Get Rich Lucky Bitch by Denise Duffield-Thomas
- Make a negative consequences brainstorm list.
- Pick specific areas/spaces of your life to declutter.
- Define your energetic income level.
- Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter
- Make a list of potential passive income streams.
- The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
- Make a list of work that you can outsource.
- Profit First by Mike Michalowicz
- (Freelancer types, I cannot recommend this one enough!!)
- Get yourself on a 10 and 25 accounting schedule.
- Set up your Profit First bank accounts.
- Figure our your profit, taxes, and operating expenses percentages.
- Create a transfer schedule.
- Women & Money by Suze Orman
- Set up a retirement account.
- Plan how to fund your retirement account.
- I Will Teach You to Be Rich (click the link for his blog) by Ramit Sethi
- Update your credit card.
- Call your bank to get rid of fees.
- Create a conscious spending plan.
- Get Rich Lucky Bitch by Denise Duffield-Thomas
D.J. Sparr, an ebullient composer/performer who was featured in a recent post, added some excellent suggestions to our reading list. I’ll include them here with some of his advice, “if you don’t like the word ‘money’, replace it with ‘music’ in your mind’s inner-narrator when reading.”
- More for your success library from D.J. and Danielle:
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- The Master Key System by Charles F. Haanel
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- The Ask by Laura Fredricks
Danielle Buonaiuto, whip smart soprano and compelling performer, also gave me some excellent advice when it comes to money and living the diva life. She told me that becoming comfortable asking for money was one of the skills that she had to develop over time. She wrote, “There are hard skills that you can cultivate to make this one come — I recommend reading The Ask by Laura Fredricks – but in the end, this is just an ineffable state of mind borne of knowing what money means to you, and feeling that your project is worth it.”
TODAY’S THOUGHT LEADERS
This year, since I’ll have so many people to thank as we’re making our way through the series, you’ll see the names of people who have contributed their wisdom in this section.
- D.J. Sparr is a composer and electric guitar soloist who currently lives in the mystical high plains of the Wild West. He has a passion for captivating audiences with his musical performance and eclectic, boundary-erasing composition. D.J. is also a proud faculty member of the Walden School Creative Musician’s Retreat, http://waldenschool.org/creative-musicians-retreat/. Support his work by visiting his website www.djsparr.com and singing his vocal music www.djsparr.com/category/compositions/vocal/.
- Danielle Buonaiuto is a soprano based in New York City. Her artistry is driven by values of community building, access and inclusion, and compassion. She seeks projects that treat issues that matter to her – environmentalism and climate change; LGBTQ+ issues; racism and systemic oppression – in direct, intimate, and emotional concerts. To thank Danielle and cheer her on visit www.daniellebuonaiuto.com/o-sea-starved-hungry-sea.html to learn more, hear a preview, and get involved with her new recording project.
- Sharin Apostolou is a performer based in Wilmington, DE. She loves opera, theater, and all things that fall in the grey area between or around them. She’s @supergreek on all things social media. To thank her and cheer her on give her a follow, say hi, and see her in action with Urban Arias April 13, 14, 17 & 18, 2018 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center; Washington D.C.
Show Your Work
Sharin Apostolou is a generous and inspiring performer in opera, theatre, and everything in between. She has been described by friends as “the hardest working woman in opera.” Her advice on this topic really hit home:
Learn how to manage your money: This. Can. Not. Be. Reiterated. Enough. For the most part, we deal with a feast or famine income stream. You can make a ton of cash one month and then very little the next. This can be difficult to deal with. Figure out a budget and stick to it. Try your damnedest not to get into unnecessary debt. Pay off your student loans. Learn to rock your taxes. Your lifestyle is different than your muggle friends and you should not compare your economic trajectory to theirs. Director and all around awesome lady Tara Faircloth wrote a really great blog post on this a few years ago. It’s really brilliant.
Your lifestyle is different than your muggle friends. Remember to take advice that is actually useful to your situation and not someone else’s situation. Show your work today by sketching out how you will upgrade your income. Share your ideas with your Diva Buddy System. Ask them if you’re missing anything that sticks out to them. Ask them if they use any systems that they would recommend. I’d love to hear about the resources that have helped you increase your income in your creative business. Please feel free to share your ah-ha’s on the Sybaritic Singer Facebook page or directly with me on Twitter. As always, I’m @mezzoihnen.
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