Freelance Isn't a Dirty Word

I’m angry.  Yup, that’s how this is starting: I am (expletive deleted) angry!  I graduated with a BFA from Emerson College in Theater Management and Production.  I had no accounting class, no personal finance class, no economic class.  I did, however, learn how to climb a ladder in class and tie knots.  Not to say I haven’t used all of the skills I learned at college but there were so many left out that are integral to running a freelance business.  And running a freelance or small business is what everyone in the arts does.  In some cases, not only are you the CEO (chief executive officer), CFO (chief financial officer) and COO (chief operating officer) but you are also the product and the materials!!  None of those skills are included in any arts degree I know of and so I’m pissed off about it.  But me being angry doesn’t help you.  Well, actually, if you’re reading this I guess it does since that’s kind of why I’m sitting here eating donuts and drinking bloody marys and writing right now. Back to the point, if these skills aren’t taught in school – how do you learn them?  The truth is, I’m really not sure.  So I’m going to share with you some of the top tips from all the amazing people I know who have figured it out.  Because you deserve to make money!  Yes it’s called a play but as an actor (director/stage manager/designer/choreographer…) you WORK for a living.  And not as in “werk gurrl, werk.  That’s for your down time.

So what can you do about it?!  Here are three suggestions and a picture of my pug, Cleopatra Norma Desmod to help.

1.    Separation of church and state – Business accounts and personal accounts.  Even if you are a sole proprietor this holds true.  It’s easier for you to track your income and to know if your arts business is running at a profit or a loss.  This means if you need to buy art supplies or an audition dress, it comes from the business account or is purchased on the business card.  If you buy dog food for say, your pug who is on prescription food (not that I know), that goes on the personal card or from the personal account.  Sometimes you may pay your personal account extra from the business account.  Sometimes you may borrow from your personal account to your business account.  Just keep track.  And by keep track, I mean it could be QuickBooks, excel or just some sticky notes.  Doesn’t matter to me as long as the system works.
2.    Business Plans!! – Yeah, you have to have a business plan.  Otherwise you’re like Alice in Wonderland talking to the Cheshire Cat.
“Would you tell me, please , which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go.” 
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Yeah, that’s you sans business plan.  What are your goals for the year? What income do you want? Where do you want to work?  When do want to take vacation?  HOW WILL YOU DO IT?!?!  I’m not saying everything on your business plan is going to come true but at least you have a direction.

3.    Get a Team – No one is great at everything.  Surround yourself by people who are the best at things that you are the worst at.  (And might I recommend checking out for some great potential team members?)

pug in sweater