Starving Creatives: $ Issues

Love should be the reason you become a creative. But the creative pay check will break your heart for the first year or three. (That jerk) 

Here's another Friday Reality Check be prepared to work banker or lawyer hours for receptionist pay.

The ad industry pretty much hazes you. You have to invest a lot upfront to prove you want to be here and show you have what it takes to stay here.

Get ready for the paddle, kids!

Portfolio school costs upwards of $30,000 a year. That's on top of whatever you may have paid for undergrad. (Most offer financial aid and there are some scholarships available so don't sweat yet.)

Your first job starts you off from about $35,000 - 55,000. Taxes, benefits and 401k eat a chunk of that and then you're left with the costs of housing, food, car and general living. Oh and repaying those ridiculous student loans. (Sweat now.)

I wish they had a class about how to budget and manage money post-graduation. So many of us ran wildly into the open air with our portfolios, lofty ideas and our love for Advertising. And crashed when we saw the salary situation for most juniors.

You shouldn't have to sink in debt following you dream. This post is my attempt to tell you what I wish I knew then. And I really wish I knew enough about the money/finances to really set you right. (Me and words are like this *twists fingers together* But numbers... we had a big spat back in 97 and things haven't been the same since. Rassingfrassing logarithms.) 

I asked a financially savvy friend of mine for money tips for entry level folks so I'll post those soon. (Unless it's a yawnfest, in which case I'll post a picture of a kitten fighting a dog instead.)

In the meantime, here are some Creative Wannabe Financial-ish Tips from my experience:

* Call your student loan providers and try to work something out. If you're not working or you don't make enough you may be able to apply for economic hardship or work out some plan. Don't ever miss payments. It'll bite you in the ass later.

* Look at the cost of living in the state/ city you want to work. For instance, it's cheaper to live in ATL than NYC. Consider starting somewhere close to home, saving and getting more experience and then moving. Try this COL calculator. Or this one.

* If the job offer is too little to meet your needs, try to negotiate to get more $ (I should probably post on this too. Sigh. Y'all are so needy.) or figure out how to make it work if it's a totally awesome opportunity. Some agencies low ball you because they know 20 other people are thirsty for the same position. Look at the experience and growth you'll gain and see if it will balance out all the oatmeal you'll have to eat. Once you're in, you're in, and your next job will treat your budget with more respect.

* If you're freelancing, save all your work related receipts (food, transport, etc) for your tax returns.

* If you're freelancing, take on more work, no matter how small or uncreative, to build a padding. You never know when your next big job may come.

* Rent realistically. The best advice I can ever give you is to live within your means. You can move on to the East Side (to a deluxe apartment in the sky) later. (If you didn't automatically start singing the theme song to The Jeffersons you should quit life.)

* Couch surf. When I first moved to NY I had 2 suitcases, a short-term freelance project and big dreams. Fortunately I also had amazing friends. I slept on 3 different couches over the next few months until I got steady freelance and  saved up enough to get my own place. So use your friends, family and classmates to help you get off your feet. (Yet another reason not to be an asshole.)

* Be creatively frugal (aka cheap). Take advantage of everything that's free or on sale from movies to Groupons to food leftover from meetings. 

* Allow yourself an allowance. Look at where you can sacrifice so you can splurge. Do you spend most of your $ on food? Drinking? Clothes? Travel? Set aside a part of your budget specifically for that and only use that money for that thing. When it's out it's out. I stop shopping and partying so I can save for a big trip - I'd rather have an experience than an item (or a hangover) so I spend most of my play money on Kayak and Travelzoo.

* Save. Always put aside something from every paycheck. Open a high-yielding savings account and have it automatically take $ out of your account on the 2nd and he 16th. Even if it's only $25. You'll thank me later.

* Be patient. The money will come. Right now focus on getting work for your book, learning the ropes and making contacts.

That's all I got.

Go make some amazing things for your book and win an award or two and be completely, undeniably awesome, Then you won't have to worry when it comes time to getting offers.They will be plentiful and generous.

Get to work!