When our industry completely shuts down, such as the case with the COVID-19 pandemic, the options for making money decrease significantly.
However, as an artist like yourself who works gig to gig, you’ve experienced moments of financial uncertainty before. This situation is not new to you.
Whether you’ve been between jobs, injured, or working on a passion project with little-to-no pay, you’ve dealt with financial unpredictability, and you’ve found a way to make it work.
Artists are resilient. YOU are resilient.
That doesn’t mean it’s been easy, though. Pandemic or not, it can be a real challenge whenever you’re not out there collecting those paychecks.
You don’t HAVE to stay on the struggle bus, though!
You just need strategies to maximize your money.
Here are four of them that will help right now and at anytime, because the pandemic is not the first financial crisis in the world, and it won’t be the last.
1. Take Stock of Your Current Situation
We can be guilty of blowing things out of proportion… (Say whaaaaat?!? Artists are dramatic?!? 🤭)
Get the facts down on paper. Are you receiving any sort of income? Do you have any sort of emergency fund or other form of savings? What are your current expenses?
You may find your situation is not as dire as you thought, or maybe not dire at all. You may even realize you could be saving money at the moment. In that case, you can craft a desired outcome of how much you’d like to save.
However, if you do find your pennies are tight, you now have a clear (and factual) idea of what you need to stay afloat and what can be adjusted to do so.
BTW, I know gathering this data isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, and it maybe even terrifies you to peek behind your own curtain.
But. Don’t. Skip. It.
How can you maximize something without knowing what you have to maximize? That’d be like ordering more bottles of wine before even knowing if you liked that varietal…oh wait, I may have done that before…but you get my point.
By taking stock of your current situation, you’re now armed with the info you need to take advantage of the next three strategies.
2. Leverage Your Existing Funds
Let the money you already have make more money for you! Even if you have little or no income, you can still be earning money through interest. Keep in mind, interest rates are very low during a financial crisis, but earning something is better than earning nothing.
Where should you save it? It depends on how soon you need it.
If you need your money accessible at any moment, go for a high-yield savings account. High-yield just means a higher interest rate than a standard savings account.
If you’re able to set aside some money that you know you don’t need for the next few months or couple of years, CDs earn a little higher interest. (CD = Certificate of Deposit)
If you’re able to set aside some money longer than that, make sure you’re taking advantage of a retirement account. These have higher interest rates (referred to as growth rates) due to the long-term nature. Also, the longer your money is invested, the more the growth from the interest compounds. Historically, your money in a retirement account will double approximately every eight years.
In all three of the above scenarios, online financial institutions most always have higher interest rates than your local brick-and-mortar bank, so do a little online research to get the best rates.
3. Reduce Your Expenses
This allows you to keep more of the money you already have and will continue to earn. During a pandemic, you’re most likely already spending less per month than you normally do anyway.
Is there anywhere you can trim the fat such as things you no longer need or that aren’t providing you with any value?
Do you still need a cell phone plan with international data when you’re unable to travel? Do you still need meal kit/planning services now that you actually have the time to plan and shop for your meals?
Would trying something new also cut out some expenses?
For example, what if you leaned more towards a vegetarian diet? Just cutting meat out of even a few meals each week would reduce your grocery bill. What if you started running? Could that replace fitness classes you’ve been purchasing? Do you have any books that’ve been sitting unread on your shelves? Reading each night could reduce the amount of movies or other home entertainment you’ve been purchasing.
Be sure an expense reduction is actually saving you money.
For example, it may be tempting to get out of your lease and move to a cheaper location, but if you plan on coming back to the same city, do the math first. Moving furniture back and forth, paying broker fees, and terminating and setting up utilities are all things that could erase any savings you expected to gain. Perhaps it’s better to sublet your place or work with your landlord and utility companies on temporarily reducing or postponing your payments.
4. Increase Your Cash Flow
Notice this one is last, and that’s on purpose. Most people think of earning more money as the first thing to do when money is tight, but I liken it to a barrel with holes in it. You can keep pouring water in, but if it leaks right back out, the barrel stays empty.
The other three steps above plug the holes in your barrel so when you DO earn money, you can keep more of it and leverage it. In other words, you can actually amass wealth.
Earn through what you already do.
If you’re an actor, maybe you can’t act on a stage while theaters are closed, but can you act in a commercial, film, or TV episode? I’ve still been getting paid to choreograph remotely during the pandemic. It’s possible if you take some action to make it happen.
Start an aligned side hustle.
By aligned, I mean something that’s integrated with your main career focus and will continue to benefit you after the pandemic is over. Tutoring would be an easy thing to get paid for at the moment, but does it help your singing career? Unless it brings you joy, that may not be as worthwhile for you as virtually assisting a producer, for example. If you’re a dance who’s good at web design or video editing, there are plenty of choreographers who could benefit from your services.
Take advantage of grants and relief funds.
There have been so many financial resources available for artists—I’ve earned nearly $3,000 combined to replace some of the lost income from theater jobs I had been contracted to do. A friend of mine received $10,000! Search online what’s available in your area of the industry, and don’t forget about places like The Actors Fund or checking with your union on their assistance programs.
Of course, you have to actually implement the tools you’ve chosen!
This seems obvious, but many people don’t end up taking any action because they feel the gains are too small to be worth it.
For example, “I only have a few bucks to save, so it’s not going to make a difference.”
I’m telling you it does.
The thing with money is that it takes time.
It’s almost ALWAYS going to be small gains at any one moment.
All of those individual little gains compound, though, and they continue to compound making the overall gains larger and larger.
Therefore, it’s the habit of using the above strategies that truly maximizes your money. And they’re not just for a pandemic.
These strategies can, and should, be used all of the time.
I mean, when would you NOT want to maximize your money?
So go out there and pile up those coins!