A while ago I talked about how, through separating your personal and business finances, you could pay yourself a salary and better handle the variable income that comes with being a freelancer: artist or otherwise.
But that’s not the only reason for separating your personal life from your business one. And I’m not just talking about record keeping and all that stuff.
It can be a really useful mental distinction.
Mental stuff matters
I think for a lot of small business owners it’s tough to separate what we do, from who we are. That’s probably true of lots of people, freelancer or not, but for us there aren’t some of the natural separations that come from more traditional types of employment.
It’s just you. You’re the boss and the employee. Artist or not, if you pour your heart and soul into a business you believe in it can be hard to figure out where the personal-you ends, and the business-you begins.
So when it comes to applying the idea of a financial plan, it can become confusing and overwhelming because you’re just trying to do so much… and often it doesn’t seem like the two sides fit together all that well.
When I started to get control over my money, I cut back on a lot of things. I was trying to be good. Not spend too much, but the problem was that so many of my business expenses weren’t cheap.
For those of you unfamiliar with it, opera is a pretty high input industry. You spend thousands on schooling and training. It can then cost you further thousands to fly to auditions, hire accompanists, rent places to stay, and that’s all before you make a cent.
There are cheap ways to do some of these things, but not all of them. Training with the cheapest teacher is not the best way to succeed. Renting a really terrible hotel room the night before an audition doesn’t really set you up for success.
There’s no ‘one’ plan that combines frugal living with the realities of pursuing an opera career.
But it was my lovely girlfriend who summed it up perfectly.
We were driving across Montana, and I was droning on about budgeting and personal finance (yes, I am a blast at parties) and she said:
“The problem is that I want to be able to be financially conservative in my personal life, but I need to be financially aggressive in my business life.”
There is no one size fits all plan. Living frugally was something I wanted and needed to do personally, but it just didn’t work with what I wanted in my business.
It’s two totally different financial mindsets.
Trying to build a new business, or in my case build a career in the performing arts, takes a lot of resources.
A lot of time. A lot of energy. And lots of money.
But in my personal life, there was lots of room to downsize, to simplify.
So what does that mean, practically?
In my previous post I mentioned opening two separate accounts for your personal and business lives.
Now I expand on that. Since I have two very different goals for my personal and business sides I need two separate financial plans.
Dr. Artist and Mr. Chris:
Mr. Chris (Personal Chris):
Lives pretty simply. I keep rent cheap by living with two other people. I don’t eat out all that often. My basic living expenses really don’t add up to that much. Personal Chris is pretty likely to turn you down for going out for drinks, but quick to invite you over for lentil stew (mainly because he’s been eating it for the last 4 days and he’s pretty freaking sick of it and needs encouragement).
I have fun. I’m always saving up for travel opportunities, and am constantly scoping for cheap basketball tickets. But my main concern, especially these days when money is tight (and I’m actively funding my dentist’s next vacation ) is being as frugal as possible.
Dr. Artist (Business Chris):
After I pay personal Chris a salary the rest of my money goes to the business. There are some months where that’s not a whole lot, but there are others when that’s the vast majority of my income. But as I’m still trying to build a career, I’ve decided that the best investment for my money is to put it into my business.
I try to set myself up so that I don’t have to skimp on the things that I need. I have a weekly lesson. I coach when I need to. I have money set aside for plane tickets and audition fees.
I’m not nearly as frugal when it comes to my business. Going out after a show is an important business expense. I know far more people who have gotten jobs at the bar after a show than in the audition room.
Of course I have to try to stretch out those business dollars as far as they will go. But there’s no getting around the need to spend money.
Two completely different strategies, but they both want the same thing. They’re trying to create the stable life that I want to build: Mr. Chris, by cutting back and living on less.. and Dr. Artist, by heavily investing in my business to (hopefully) create more income in the future.
Which means life as an artist is even crazier than you might have thought. You have to know how to be super frugal, but also not be afraid to spend like crazy when opportunity knocks.
This is why personal finance is so much less cut and dry for artists.
Cause it’s not JUST personal.
When you’re not running a business, you just have the personal side to worry about. And let me assure you… that’s enough to worry about.
But you’re balancing your personal needs with the needs of starting, growing, and maintaining a business. It’s a really tough job, but it’s the one you signed up for (whether you knew it at the time or not).
It won’t just happen. I wish it would… but as much as it may look like it is for ‘other’ people. It’s not. And it doesn’t.
And you know what? You’re so freaking capable of this.
You may not end up with the same plan as I found worked for me, but I do think that you should consider your business and your personal plans separately. They may require the same thing, or they may need very different focuses.
What are the things that you find creep between your two lives? Do you feel like you need two separate plans for your business and personal lives? Or do you feel like they have the same basic goals?
Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?
Financial Planner/Opera Singer
Money never came naturally to me. In fact… I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be ‘financially out of control’.
And honestly, I still get stressed about money… that doesn’t stop… the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.
And those tools are what’s made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.