Many South Africans struggle to understand their financial position, even when they’re earning regular salaries and have stable jobs. For creatives who are part of the “gig-economy”, it can be even worse. Earning money in random bursts, from multiple income sources and depending on “busy-seasons” that are always fluctuating.
Our experience in working with artists has shown us that creatives of all kinds, find it hard to manage their finances and to make good financial decisions simply because, they’re not sure where to start. So, we’re sharing five practical tips on how to get better acquainted with your money and make financial decisions that will move your creative career forward.
The first step to financial freedom, or even just financial stability, is understanding your money position.
1. GET FAMILIAR WITH HOW MUCH MONEY YOU MAKE AND HOW YOU MAKE THAT MONEY
This means taking the time to understand where your money is coming from and when it comes in, which payments are regular, which payments are once-off and being able to differentiate between these.
The reality for many South African creatives means living gig-to-gig and using money just as quickly as it’s coming in. Take stock of your earnings to understand what your total monthly income is. If you have a full-time job and hustle your art on the side, it’s important to identify what money is coming from your job and what how much comes from your side hustles.
It would be ideal if you can identify two specific numbers, what your consistent income is and what your potential income is.
2. KNOW YOUR EXPENSES (Business & Personal)
Now that you know how much you’re making; do you know how much you’re spending? It’s easy to spend little bits at a time – that eventually build up and prevent us from achieving our goals.
Going through the process of calculating your monthly expenses will show you if you’re making more than you’re spending or the other way around. Once you’ve figured out your personal expenses – toiletries, food, rent etc – you’ll need to work out your professional expenses. Think of everything you possibly can when doing this.
Do you uber to your DJ sets? How many times a month? Do you need to buy new paint or pay for studio time? Understand how much money you spend on yourself and then, on your art.
3. GET FIMILIAR WITH YOUR BANK STATEMENTS
Take the time to go through your bank statements, one transaction at a time. We understand how hard this can be but the idea is to notice patterns of behaviour and to find areas where you can cut down or improve. Do this monthly for at least three months – you’ll begin to notice things you didn’t even know about your spending habits.
If you don’t have access to printed copies of your bank statements, most banks in South Africa should be able to print up to three copies of each month for free.
4. INVEST IN YOURSELF
This is hard when we have to take care of our personal lives and look after our families but it’s important that you make some prevision to financially invest back into your art.
Decide what you want to achieve and do the research around what it will cost. Do you want to upgrade your camera equipment, take an advanced design course? Want to buy a new laptop or release your album? Figure out how much your goals are going to cost to accomplish and have a look at what you can do to accomplish them. Look at your income VS your expense and see if there are areas where you can cut down or save.
Even if you can’t put something away every month, keep your professional savings top of mind so that when you do have some extra cash, you’re motivated to save towards your goals.
5. STAY ONE MONTH AHEAD
This one might be hard, especially living in S.A and trying to survive with the high cost of living! But you ideally want to work towards a place where you’ve saved at least one month’s worth of expenses.
This is important because artists, freelances and seasonal workers are extremely vulnerable when it comes to losing income and gigs. Budget cuts, project cancelations and deadly viruses could mean that money you were betting on will no longer come through. If this happens, at least you’ll have a month of cushioning to fall back on while you try to figure things out.
Remember that these principals can be applied to any time period, whether you want to work your finances on a monthly, fortnightly or weekly basis, the five tips above will help you better understand your financial position so that you’re able to make more informed decisions.
The above article forms part of our series, The Creators Guide – South Africa’s guide to doing business in the creative industries. Watch it on YouTube