Nicole Crist is a dancer, performer, teacher, choreographer, trainer, director. She has a company called Altitude Aerials, where she is the self-dubbed head aerialista.
As a self-employed creative I’ve been pondering for years how much I charge for my art. I continuously go over past proposals and invoices; work and re-work the numbers to figure out just how much I make from each creative gig. I sit and think, how come X & Y gigs were twice as profitable as gig Z? What can I do to get bigger pay-outs like those X & Yers?
Now recently my husband has started asking me “But how much does it cost for you to maintain? Like in between the gigs?”
As with anyone who uses their creative skill to make a living, you’ve simply got to maintain your skill set. I often look at my whole financial picture and when it shows up lacking I tend to cut out my own necessary physical and artistic maintenance needs first.
It starts off innocently enough.
“Oh, we really don’t have $25 to spare for me to take that hot yoga class. No worries, I’ll just put on the shower and stand in the steamy bathroom for an hour doing it by myself.”
Yes you have permission to laugh. Here’s another one:
“That kink in my wonky shoulder is really bothering me, but there is no extra cash for a chiropractor appointment. I’m not sure how to treat it, so I’ll just use ice AND a heating pad. It’ll be fine in a week.”
Ahem, no, it was not actually.
Just to be clear, I take full responsibility for these dreadful decisions. If I had consulted with my better half he would have hit me over the head and sent me packing to the yoga studio and doctor’s office. He understands my livelihood absolutely depends on the maintenance of my creative thing.
Here is My Creative Thing Monthly Maintenance Budget. By doing this I am psychologically giving it as much importance as all the obviously required stuff like eating/sheltering/clothing/transporting, etc. It’s a mind trick I’m using, and it works.
My Creative Thing Monthly Maintenance Budget
Routine BodyWork $160.00
Emergency BodyCare* $100.00
Aerial Training $120.00
Studio Play Time $60.00
Special Coaching $200.00
Artistic Entertainment $60.00
Yoga Classes $25.00
Equipment Purchases $50.00
Monthly Total – $750.00
Yearly Total – $9,000.00
So I spend a total of $750 per month on average simply maintaining my creative thing. When I go below my budget, it’s NOT a good thing. It means I’m cutting corners somewhere. I end up suffering, and so does my creative thing. Since my creative thing of aerial dance happens about 20ft up in air, it is potentially dangerous when I underspend.
Three things about this budget to note.
First, I’ve included the major unplanned expense I historically have. Look at the *Emergency BodyCare. In 2010 I got sick about 7 or 8 times (in fact I’ve nicknamed it the year of the sinus infection). Budgeting that $100 per month to deal with the otherwise not routinely scheduled doctor appointments is a trick I play on myself. This way when I do inevitably wind up at the Ear, Nose & Throat guy, I have that money already set aside to pay for him. I’m the type of person that if I don’t do this beforehand when the expense comes around I just won’t have it available. I use Ramit’s strategy of having an auto withdrawal into a sub-savings account in ING to accomplish this.
Secondly, as I’ve alluded to above, not all my expenses are on a monthly basis. I do take one hot yoga class per month but my aerial training happens weekly. Other expenses are quarterly and some are more haphazard, like once per year or whenever the opportunity arises. I just did the math. Breaking down the cost into a monthly figure gives you the freedom to spend that budget money right away or let it accumulate for a while and do something bigger and spectacular later on.
Lastly, I’ve included Equipment Purchases in this budget because I constantly have carabiners, straps and rosin to buy and/or replace. This is stuff that I need to train. What I do NOT include in this budget is how much is costs for me to actually do a gig. I’ve plenty of expenses come performance time, like costumes, custom color silks, etc. Whether I’m charging that directly to the client or working out another arrangement, my business operating expenses are completely separate from my Monthly Maintenance Budget. This budget is about what do I personally need to spend to be able to continue to do my creative thing. It’s got nothing to do with my clients.
So there you have it, friends. I hope sharing my personal budget for my art will help other creative types realize that there is a price you pay being self-employed in a creative field. If you’re reading this blog, then you’re already trying to bust out of the grossly misconstrued and untrue starving-artist mindset. Awesome! Correct budgeting can help. So what’s your Monthly Maintenance Budget?
If you have a friend who’s creatively employed and this post has made you think, consider sharing it!