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Mentoring and the creative industries: How can a mentor help you?

We talk mentoring for creative workers, with I Like Networking’s Isabel Sachs

There has been an increasing awareness around the concept of mentoring in the creative industries for the past few years. The pandemic has only supercharged this trend. I spoke to Isabel Sachs, founder of I Like Networking, about the benefits of mentoring, how to find a mentor and how to make the most of a mentorship opportunity.

For all the considerable challenges of Covid-19 facing creative workers, there has been a silver lining. The resulting technological change has simultaneously opened new doors and clearly highlighted the vast disparities in gender and racial equality that exist in all walks of life, not least the creative sector. As such, there is now a rising desire to share knowledge/contacts, actively address inequality and generally extend a helping hand to those who are trying to progress in the creative industries.

I spoke to Isabel Sachs, who has just launched I Like Networking’s second annual mentorship scheme for women and non-binary professionals entering or working in the creative industries. It’s completely free to take part, so check out the stellar line-up of mentors and, if you’re interested, you can apply until 19 April, 2021.

I took the opportunity to ask Isabel a few questions about the scheme and the benefits of mentoring for creative workers. Here’s what she had to say…

What’s your background in the creative industries and what motivated you to start I Like Networking?

“I first started in the creative industries serving coffee at film sets when I was around seventeen years old, so it’s been a while! I didn’t know exactly where I would fit in so for a few years I experimented quite a bit, working at an art gallery, fashion shows and more. I got really into the film industry world until a chance encounter with two artists and directors led me to open my own company in Brazil. It was a great experience and I’ve learned so much, so fast.

“I sold it in 2015 after having moved to London to explore other options. While I was here I did a masters in arts management at City University and worked at various organisations such as V&A and East London Dance. I was on a new freelance project in music when Covid hit in April 2020 and, well, that didn’t go ahead!”


In need of financial support amid the Covid-19 pandemic? We’ve rounded-up some options here: Coronavirus support: resources for the creative industries


“Having that support and soundboard was essential, not just to my career development but for my mental health”

Isabel Sachs
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Please tell me a bit about the ILN mentoring scheme. Who is it for and how does it work?

“The mentoring scheme is for women and non-binary people aged 18+ who work or want to work in the creative industries. It’s international and is intended for anyone who needs support getting ‘unstuck’ or perhaps pivoting. Mentees are paired with their mentors for four sessions over 3-4 months, throughout which they will work on goal-setting, tools and will also be introduced to other industry connections through their mentors. In 2021 we have over 50 mentors involved, working in Marketing, Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, Social Impact, Fashion and more.”

Isabel Sachs (founder of I Like Networking mentoring scheme)
Isabel Sachs, founder of I Like Networking
Have you had the benefit of mentors? How did they help you?

“I never had a formal mentor but I was very lucky to have tons of informal mentors throughout my life. Having been an entrepreneur and a freelancer for most of my career, having that support and soundboard was essential, not just to my career development but for my mental health.”

What difference can a mentor make to your career? Do you have any good examples in this respect?

“A mentor can do wonders for anyone who is willing to put in the work. They can help you understand where your strengths lie, where you might be sabotaging yourself and especially regain confidence. We have a podcast episode coming out 26 March with former mentees from our programme, which are great examples of all of that!”

“Mentors can help you price yourself correctly and even negotiate”

Isabel Sachs
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How to find a mentor

How can someone find or identify a potential mentor?

“A mentoring relationship is one of trust. So, I’d start by assessing why you want a mentor now and what are the key issues you’re wanting to work on before reaching out to someone. It can be a peer that seems to have strengths in that area, or someone whose career trajectory you truly admire. Ideally, you’d start building a rapport and start to have conversations with someone before asking for a formal mentoring relationship but you can also have mentors (like I did) that you connect with ad-hoc throughout your life. We have a whole session on finding mentors [below]!”

What tips do you have for readers who are thinking about approaching a mentor?

“Know what you need from them and be clear on how you think they can support you and how much support would you need (is it a one-off conversation? Four sessions across six months?) Be clear on your goals and why you think they would be the best person for this.”

Click here for I Like Networking's mentoring scheme
If you like the sound of I Like Networking’s mentorship scheme, apply before 19 April, 2021.
What should we consider when establishing a mentor/mentee relationship?

“It is important to understand that a mentor sort of keeps you company while you go through your career development or career hurdles. They won’t do the work for you, so you must be ready to do a lot of work yourself, listen to prompts and, most importantly, be open to feedback. But I’d say respect and trust are they elements to consider”

The not-so-secret mission of Creative Money is to help people figure out how to sustain themselves in the creative industries. Is it OK to discuss finances or how to navigate the financial realities around creative work?

“100% – I think this is vital as well and I grew up with a lot of privilege in that aspect because my parents were adamant with teaching us financial education from an early age. When I opened my own company, my father used to say he was my back-office: he taught me a lot about cash flows, taxes and pension. I talked to colleagues and informal mentors about this a lot as well. Mentors can support you with finding a business model that works for you, help you price yourself correctly and even negotiate.”

“Individuals who work with great mentors see more promotions, increased confidence and better personal and professional outcomes”

Isabel Sachs
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It feels like the idea of mentoring has really caught on in the UK in the last few years – becoming more accepted by both potential mentors and mentees. Why do you think that is?

“I am not so sure! But I’d say since the pandemic I definitely saw a desire to be proactive and support one another and mentoring is a fantastic way to do that because it really is a relationship which is mutually beneficial and accessible to almost anyone. The results speak for themselves – individuals who work with great mentors see more promotions, increased confidence and better personal and professional outcomes. What our programme adds to that is the networking aspect which is KEY in the creative industries which still often operate on the basis of who you know, so we are trying to smash some of those barriers that way.”

What final words do you have for anyone who is nervous or hesitant about approaching someone/joining a scheme?

“Feel the fear and do it anyway. If you feel like you’re stuck and you’ve tried everything else, mentoring is a free tool and you receive what you put into it. You can also start by reaching out to a trusted friend and colleague with small things such as reviewing your CV and cover letter or doing a mock interview with you. You will receive feedback, probably see the value in it and be ready for more! Also, as mentioned, take a look at our podcast and other resources as they will help you demystify some of that.”

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Coronavirus financial help for UK creative workers

Want to know what’s available in your sector? Start here…

This piece was first posted in July, 2020. However, the pandemic has dragged on and with it the devastating impacts on the lives and livelihoods of many of those in the creative industries. This is now the third fourth update of this page. There is definite light on the horizon, but we remain in the grip of coronavirus. Financial help for UK creatives has ebbed and flowed throughout, so let’s take a look at what’s available after the recent Spring budget.

Just want to know what’s going on with the SEISS now? Skip to the Freelancers section

Here I’ve rounded-up some of the key resources by sector. This list will likely be updated, so if you feel I’ve missed anything useful or important, please drop me an email on creativemoneycontact@gmail.com.

If you want to stay up-to-date with wider funding opportunities for the creative industries and shorter-lived hardship schemes, I round these up in a free fortnightly newsletter. This is usually the best place to find current opportunities.

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#GapsInSupport

Creative Money would also like to take the chance to shout about the significant struggles faced by those who have fallen through the gaps in government support, an outsized proportion of whom work in these industries.

These groups include freelancers taxed via the PAYE system, those setup as limited companies and paid via dividend, plus the newly employed or self-employed.

UPDATE (10 March, 2021): The government has now announced that those who filed 2019-2020 tax returns but not previous years (i.e. the newly self-employed) are now eligible for the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS). This should apply to some 600,000 people, though only a fraction of those will be in the creative industries.

Meanwhile, those who receive most of their payments via PAYE or via limited companies are still excluded from the SEISS. Rishi Sunak has now said unequivocally that limited company directors will not be getting any more help.

That still equates to millions of taxpayers who have been unable to earn since the start of the pandemic and who have, effectively, been penalised by the somewhat arbitrary rules regarding Covid-19 support schemes.

What can you do to support the excluded?

If you’d like to help do something about this, then please support the excellent work of ForgottenPAYE and ForgottenLtd by visiting their sites and following their social media channels.

More importantly, sign the petitions they are promoting, email your MP, write to the papers/media and make your voice heard. If you’ve not been impacted directly, it’s highly likely that your colleagues have been.

Hang In There artwork - Coronavirus financial help UK
Hang In There. Credit: Ayşegül Altınel.

Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives.
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Coronavirus financial help: support by sector

Jump to your sector using the links below, or scroll down to take a look at the full range…

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Arts Council funding

Since the pandemic, the Arts Council (the body responsible for awarding public funding for UK creative work) to respond more readily to the needs of small practitioners and freelancers.

The government’s vaunted £1.57bn support for the cultural sector is being delivered via the Arts Council. However, the options below are not Covid-19-specific…

Developing Your Creative Practice

This fund focuses on helping creative workers to develop their skills and associated career options.

UPDATE (10 March, 2021): The ninth round has recently closed and applicants will notified of decisions by the end of April.

National Lottery Project Grants

Aimed at everyone from individuals to larger organisations, there is an enlarged budget of £75 million available until 21 March, 2021 and the fund is now designed to be “more responsive to the needs of smaller independent organisations and individual practitioners during Covid-19.”

UPDATE (10 March, 2021): the ‘supplementary guidance’ on supporting individuals has been extended until 31 August, 2021.

Film/TV

Bectu

Media and entertainment union Bectu has been calling for a government to create a support package to specifically aid the recovery of the much-beleaguered creative industries.

They are asking people to write to their MPs and have created this handy letter template that will populate an email to your MP, based on your postcode. It’s very easy to use, you just have to pop in your name and address.

Covid-19 – Support for the UK Television & Film Industry

This is an active support page on Facebook for UK TV and film industry workers. It’s got 6000+ members and aims to share information on everything from financial support to spare rooms. You might find it useful.

Film & TV Charity

Offer a free 24-hour support line on 0800 054 0000, or if you prefer you can email or live chat. They can offer advice on financial issues, legal queries, health and wellbeing and even career development. They also have a helpful page on financial support options amid the pandemic.

ScreenSkills

The industry body ScreenSkills is offering loads of genuinely good online training courses at present, some have a fee but many are free and offer direct access to commissioners and other industry experts.

Music

Aim Crisis Fund

This launched back in April and got bolstered by a further £300,000 (from PPL and others) in new funding in late September. It is directed specifically to support music freelancers who have lost work with AIM member’s artists. Requires nomination by an AIM Rightsholder (more info on the site).

CoronaMusicians

The excellent UK charity Help Musicians has built a dedicated site to compile a vast array of resources and support available for musicians affected by the pandemic. This includes links to government schemes, union support and charity funds, plus legal/contract advice, resources for those in music education and mental health support. Thanks very much Help Musicians.

Help Musicians Hardship Fund (Phase 3)

We’ve highlighted this separately as it’s one example of support that can be accessed without being a member of a union (though we’d still recommend you join one ASAP, if you have the means). You can support the fund by donating to the charity.

UPDATE (13 November, 2020): The third phase of funding is now open and will support successful applicants with a monthly top-up until April 2021.

Music Minds Matter

A helpline for anyone working in the music industry. It’s free, confidential and open 24 hours. Just dial 0808 802 8008.


Does your work situation make it difficult to save money? Check out our guide: ‘How to start saving (when you don’t think you can)


Performing Arts

Actor’s Children Trust hardship grants

ACT continues to pay Corona-crisis grants of £300 per family per month towards food and bills, as well as specific grants for children’s costs.

Equity Benevolent Fund

Full members of the Equity union can apply for grants for one-off emergency expenses like bills and food if they’re facing financial hardship.

Exchange Project

A great scheme that aims to connect the under-utilised, furloughed staff from the theatre industry with creative freelancers, in order to help the latter develop new projects and skills.

Royal Variety Charity Financial Assistance grants

The Royal Variety Charity is uniquely positioned to provide financial assistance to anyone who serves any facet of the Entertainment Industry.

Theatre Artists’ Fund

UPDATE (10 March, 2021): This is currently closed.

Offers emergency grants of £1,000 to theatre workers and freelancers. It is one of the biggest funds around in this respect, having raised over £3.9 million thus far thanks to donations from Netflix, the Arts Council and Backstage Trust.

Theatre Helpline

A free and confidential helpline for those working in the theatre industry. They can offer support on everything from debt and financial options, to mental health and career decisions. Just call: 0800 915 4617.

TheatreSupport

TheatreSupport is the mega resource you need for a full breakdown of support for those working in the arts. They’ve even put together this extremely useful flow chart to help you figure out where to go, depending on your role/sector.

Publishing

NUJ

The National Union of Journalists (interesting note: it’s also open to those in publishing) has a charitable hardship fund NUJ Extra for members, which can issue one-off grants to help cover bills and other crucial expenses. You can donate to the fund here. They have also put together this briefing on government support schemes.

The Society Of Authors

Have set up the Author’s Emergency Fund, which issues grants of up to £2,000 to meet “urgent need” for writers and related roles (including journos, illustrators, poets, scriptwriters etc.) No need to be a member, as far as we’re aware.

The White Pube Writers Grant funded by Creative Debuts

Not Covid-specific, but might be useful… £500 given out monthly to a working class writer based in the UK. This grant has been set up to support writers of all ages who are early in their careers and would benefit from this no-strings attached financial support to help them in whatever they like. Deadline: ongoing

Writers Guild Of Great Britain

The WGGB has a welfare fund for members to help them meet debts, or cover essential business or personal expenses. Grants are usually limited to £1,000.

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Coronavirus financial help for UK freelancers

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme has received numerous tweaks since it was first unveiled in Spring 2020.

UPDATE (10 March, 2021): The latest news is that there will now be a fourth and fifth grant available to those eligible. However, following a trend established with the third grant, the criteria and the generosity of the grants have been tightened.

Both grants have a payment cap of £7,500, which is calculated at 80% of a three-month average of your trading profits (e.g. if you averaged £5,000 profit over three months, you would receive an SEISS payment of £4,000). This is calculated using up to the last four year’s tax returns, depending on your personal situation.

Grant 4: Covers February to April 2021 but (somewhat cruelly) cannot be claimed until the end of April 2021. To apply for grant 4 you must have filled in and submitted a 19-20 tax return, but (as mentioned above) this does mean that some 600,000 more people will be eligible for help, though this sadly won’t be backdated to include previous SEISS payments.

Grant 5: Covers May to September 2021 (a five month period) but maintains the payment cap of £7,500, meaning that is in effect 20% lower than previous payouts.

Once again, claiming for the SEISS now means you must declare “significant reduction in your trading profits due to reduced business activity, capacity, demand or inability to trade due to coronavirus.”

As ever with HMRC, if you’re struggling to pay tax it’s best to let them know ASAP. HMRC has a Covid-19 hotline: 0800 0159 559.


Trying to keep a closer eye on your finances? Check outThe best budgeting apps for UK creative workers


Coronavirus financial help for UK students

Many of the unions mentioned above are not extending hardship funds to their student members, so if you need help start with your student union and/or education provider.

Most universities have student hardship funds, such as this one from Sheffield Hallam, which may be open to applications and can help you with grants, bill payments, advice and food voucher schemes. Housing charities like Shelter can also offer support to those struggling to pay rent or facing accommodation issues.

UPDATE (10 March, 2021): I know from my own sometime-workplace that the OfS (Office For Students) has recently bolstered certain institutes hardship funds quite significantly, so if you need help, talk to your student support/welfare office.

And finally… a note on Universal Credit

Bear in mind that if you can’t get support through the existing government schemes or funds above, you will likely still be eligible for Universal Credit (provided you are on low/no income and have <£16,000 in savings).

The system is still far from perfect and the amounts involved are simply not enough for most, but the system has reportedly improved dramatically since its launch. The standard monthly allowance is £409.89 for over-25s and £342.72 for under-25s, but this can be higher, depending on your circumstances.

UPDATE (10 March, 2021): Universal Credit payments have been topped up by £20 a week throughout the pandemic and this has been extended until September, 2021.

What did I miss?

If you have anything to add to the list above, or any recommendations or resources that have proved particularly helpful during this time, please let us know in the comments below, or via email on creativemoneycontact@gmail.com.

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5 lessons learned from talking to creative students about money

Back in November, I launched a series of online workshops at music colleges across the UK, the aim of which was to help creative students to better manage their money.

The idea being that if they can figure it out during their studies they might have an easier time while in education and start their professional lives on a stronger footing. As a result, I have spoken to students from Manchester to Brighton, London, Bristol and Birmingham. It’s been really interesting to see how this stuff connects with people.

“I always ask people who come to the workshops what financial education they have received. The most common answer is ‘I haven’t had any.”

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Like many of us, I am what you might optimistically call a ‘multi-hyphenate’ freelancer. Alongside my main role in music journalism, I also spend a day a week teaching budding music/media types and I do Creative Money stuff about one day a fortnight. The workshops have felt like a good way to bring all these threads together.

What’s more you learn pretty quickly as a tutor that your knowledge is highly subjective. So, with the first iteration of the workshops, I tried to be a good listener. Now, as I go into the second run of these workshops, I’ve been pondering some of the main points I’ve learned from the first run. Here’s what I’ve found…

1) Fix the cause, not the behaviour

It probably won’t come as a surprise that students worry about money, however, the proportion still surprised me. An astonishing 71% worry about making ends meet, according to Save The Student’s annual money survey. Money gets quite intertwined with our emotional state sometimes and many of them tell me that they have experienced anxiety when checking their balance.

I can get on at them about using a budgeting app, but if someone feels they can’t check their balance in the first place, it’s not going to help. Instead, I’ve realised that helping people to think about the causes of that anxiety (be it self-judgement, role models, or a simple knowledge gap when it comes to money) needs to take priority before you can change those behaviours.

2) We still have a major issue with financial education

I always ask people who come to the workshops what financial education they have received. While a few have had some tips from parents, the most common answer is ‘I haven’t had any.’ Again, Save The Student’s annual money survey backs this up, with the vast majority (71%) saying they wish they’d had a better financial education.

Martin Lewis has made some good strides in partnership with Young Enterprise and this stuff is now on the secondary curriculum, but it seems it’s still potluck when it comes to the depth and resources devoted to the topic by different schools.

The majority of the young adults and adults in this country (i.e. those with almost ALL the earning and spending power) have had no financial education outside of the ‘university of life’, ‘school of hard knocks SON’ etc. Talk about the blind leading the blind…

I have written before about the fact that you can not be inherently bad with money – most of the time we’re just not educated. However, the more I consider the lack of educational infrastructure around this utterly essential topic, the more the situation strikes me as completely insane. And that’s before we try to get our heads around the misbranded student loan system…

3) Location matters

Because I am A COOL GUY, I surveyed students at the beginning and end of the five week course. They were asked to gauge agreement or disagreement with a number of statements, for instance, “I know what to do if I run out of money.”

One thing that struck me was that students in London and Brighton were noticeably more anxious about their finances. Those students’ biggest gains in the course came from alleviating anxiety points. For instance:

  • “I am confident avoiding or getting out of debt” = 50% increase
  • “I know what to do if I run out of money” = 68% increase
  • “I worry about running out of money” = 46% decrease
  • “I feel anxious about student debt” = 53% decrease

While I’m pleased to see the course helped them, I think it’s telling that they made noticeably greater gains in these areas than their counterparts in Manchester.

Of course, many students already consider living expenses when picking a university, but the numbers would suggest that those in places like Manchester were generally happier about their finances.

Given money’s ability to affect everything from our mental health, to our diets, relationships and even our ability to focus on education, the financial impacts of the location are worth serious consideration when picking a place of study.

4) Most of them know much more than I did

I was not great with money at university and I had good financial role models around me.

“The students I meet rate far, far lower on the ‘financial tool-o-meter’ than I did at their age. This is a good thing.”

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My typical day at university went something like: wake up too late to make breakfast. Eat a disappointing plastic sandwich on the way to my lecture. Sit through engage fully with a lecture and seminar. Break for lunch (baked potato from the canteen). More lessons. Go to the pub. Eat a gigantic cheeseburger. Drink. Go to another bar. Drink. Give £20 to one of a series of guys with suspect nicknames. Order pizza. Fall asleep in front of the DVD menu of Alan Partridge.

Essentially: it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. My approach was fun and fairly typical, but the consistency of it was, err, sub-optimal…

The current generation have only known the world, post-financial crisis, and are aware of the need to not-be-tools when it comes to money. Even if they haven’t got all the answers, they’re taking this stuff seriously because they have been left without the comfortable cushions of fully functioning welfare, healthcare and employment opportunity enjoyed in the previous two or three decades.

The students I meet rate far, far lower on the ‘financial tool-o-meter’ than I did at their age. This is a good thing.

5) The best solutions are the simple ones

Many people think learning to handle their finances will be a dangerous combination of the complicated and the mind-numbingly boring. It doesn’t need to be either. People can be suspicious of simple principles, but my experience thus far has told me they tend to work best because it makers them much easier to communicate, adopt and turn into habit.

Once you can address the causes of your financial behaviour, the basic solutions to any financial goal almost always comes down to the following…

  1. Track your net worth, income and spending
  2. Find a way to spend less than you earn
  3. Save or invest the difference

Tracking your net worth might sound fancy but it is essentially just asking ‘What have I got?’ (i.e. your cash, savings and investment balance minus your debts) once a month and noting the total.

There’s an abundance of apps that can track your spending and income without demanding you switch accounts. Then, once you know what you’re spending, you can see where the fat is and trim accordingly, making way for that burgeoning savings habit.

Sometimes I tell people how I go about the above and I can see them switch off, as if it’s too simple or obvious to be really helpful. It needs to be simple, though, or we don’t do it, at least not consistently. To the doubters, I ask, “But are you really doing all of this?” Most are not. Keep it simple, students – and everyone else, too…

Want me to talk to your students about running their personal finances? Get in touch!

Creative Money Blogs include principles, resources and opinion pieces relating to personal finance for creatives.

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How I keep track of money in roughly 30 minutes a month

Keeping track of money doesn’t have to be hard and complicated. In fact, it should be just the opposite.

One thing I’ve learned from running sessions on money management for creative students is that a fear of checking the bank balance is really common.

I know the feeling. I had a fairly privileged ride through higher education and yet, financially, still managed to clutch defeat from the jaws of victory at just about every turn. Checking my balance was like reviewing a list of bad decisions.

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

In retrospect, I didn’t know where to start, how to find the information I needed or, just as importantly, how to use that information to improve the situation. What’s more I felt like it would just be bad news and I didn’t want to think about that, thanks very much.

“If we don’t know what’s going on with our money, we’re permanently living with that fear of the unknown”

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The issue with this approach is that if we don’t know what’s going on with our money, we’re permanently living with that fear of the unknown. And that’s at best wearing and unpleasant and, at worst, life-ruining.

I’m a lot better with this stuff now. It didn’t happen overnight but over time and with help and input from friends, mentors and assorted internet heroes, I’ve settled on a process that seems to work.

What has made the difference? Well, the two main thoughts that occur to me now are…

1) It’s better to review trends than transactions
2) 30 mins once a month is much better than six hours once a year

So how do I keep track?

I use a budgeting app

Budgeting apps are, for me, best used as part of a wider system. Having an app that gives you a sense of your spending trends is only useful if the transactions are tagged up relatively accurately.

This doesn’t need to be painful. I just check for a minute or so every few days to make sure it’s not tagged my weekly shop as a Virgin Galactic flight and there’s enough in the current account. I find this is best done during those times when I’m holding my phone but can’t remember why.

I keep it relevant

I don’t use every category available in my budgeting app. I just pick five to 10 options that can house every transaction.

I’ve tried to narrow it down to the things that reflect my priorities. I’ve also got savings/investments automated, which has the considerable benefit of meaning I feel OK if I spend what’s left over on fun stuff.

Mostly, though, I just need to make sure it’s easy to spot those times when I’ve eaten a heap of flash takeaways and yet hear myself saying things like, ‘No we can’t afford to buy her new shoes. She’s four. Why would she possibly need to go outside?’

I dump it into a spreadsheet once a month

On the first of the month, I will sit down and drop the totals from the 10 or so categories (plus income) for the last month on a spreadsheet. This takes 10-15 minutes. A few really simple formulas tell me how much I have left over (or overspent) from the previous month.

Next, I’ll check the balances of savings accounts, stocks and shares ISA and pension(s) and – if I’m feeling particularly fruity – the outstanding mortgage and whack that on another sheet. This tots it up and tells me my net worth, or as I like to think of it, ‘the degree to which I don’t have to work’. This also takes about 15 minutes.

I just keep doing it…

Doing this just once a month means my passwords are not buried in the bottom of a drawer, I have a relatively accurate idea of our spending trends and I have a quick reference point if I need to make decisions about work.

Recently, following the advice of Alan and Katie Donegan, my wife and I have started to have a brief chat about what these figures look like, what surprises us, what direction things are going in etc. It started off quite awkwardly but we can now look each other in the eye when we do it, which is progress.

I’ve found the biggest benefit though is that the act of checking in each month tends to mean I make better calls about spending and it helps me to stay consistently motivated with savings/investments. Why not give it a go and see if it works for you?

Creative Money Guides are ‘How-to’s and explainers relating to specific aspects of money management for those working in the creative industries.

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How I Make It Work

How I Make It Work: Annie Nightingale CBE (DJ/presenter)

On her changed relationship to money and the barriers to earning and learning faced by women in media

A short while ago I had the pleasure and privilege to talk to Annie Nightingale CBE, the legendary BBC broadcaster.

The interview took place last year around the promotion of Nightingale’s excellent 2020 book ‘Hey Hi Hello’ – a collection of stories gathered across 50 years at the heart of pop culture. During our discussion, I explained to Nightingale what I’m trying to do here with Creative Money and she was kind enough to answer some questions about her trailblazing career, how she views money and her thoughts on overcoming the career barriers to women in broadcasting.

I heard you mention on Elizabeth Day’s How To Fail podcast, that your relationship with money has changed over the years. How so?

“When I was young, it was all very stupid. It was all tied-up in believing in things like ‘fate’ and ‘destiny’, which is utter rubbish. You should never do that. You’ve got to be down-to-earth, practical and only believe what’s [proven to be] true. Don’t be fooled: anything that seems too good to be true, is too good to be true, so don’t believe it. People are always trying to sell you something amazing. I must have been conned into who knows how many insurance policies and all sorts, because I was young and naive and believing. Be very suspicious, be very, very careful [when it comes to money].”

“I realised the most important thing in my life was freedom and that you do need a certain amount of money to be free”

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What caused you to change your view around money?

“A lot of it was to do with growing up, probably. I was never money orientated. When I decided I wanted to be a journalist it was the idea of adventure. I was never driven by ‘what is the top earning job?’ It felt a bit wrong. I was terrified of doing a boring job. Terrified.

“Here’s a good example of my ‘badness’ with money. When I was in school, you often had a holiday job and a January sales job, across the Christmas holidays. I worked in C&A in Kingston-On-Thames and we got jobs as sales girls. They were mostly hideous creations. These women would come into the cocktail department and try these things on and say, ‘What do you think?’ I would be honest and say, ‘Actually, I don’t think it suits you…’ At the end of the week we’d get our money in a little brown envelope and all the sales girls were absolutely shocked that I had made the least commission of anybody. It was big indication to me that selling things was not my strong point!

“Then as life goes on, I realised the most important thing in my life was freedom and that you need a certain amount of money to be free. At the moment nobody’s going anywhere much, but if you want adventures, you need a certain amount of money. So I’m not driven by it, but I’ve realised you’ve got to be sensible and don’t waste it – like I used to.”

Annie Nightingale Hi Hey Hello cover

Hey, hi, hello

You were famously the first female presenter on Radio One. What advice do you have to women, or anyone facing discrimination, about entering the creative industries?

“I think just don’t accept rejection. You may get rejected several times. I used to think that meant you can’t go again, but it’s not true. Some boss at the top might change jobs or policy or change their minds, you never know, you’ve got to be consistent. But also accept that no one has any entitlement to any job at all, so it’s up to you to make it work and make it happen. For me, it took three years to get in at Radio One and the weird thing is that there wasn’t another female DJ for 12 years. That’s the bit I never understood. I had no idea whether there were any more who wanted to do it and got turned down or not. I still don’t know. All the people who were in control then are long gone…”

That does seem to be a pattern. There’s often a trailblazer, but it’s a long time before people start to come through without encountering that discrimination.

“Yeah. You think, ‘Was it a token gesture?’ It was a lot of pressure [on them], some of it generated by me, the feminism movement was growing… But I also think it’s what I call the ‘You’ll do syndrome’. If you hang in there and suddenly someone is ill, or people are on holiday and they go, ‘Oh god, who do we know?’ You’ll be the one who comes to mind. In all kinds of ways, not just broadcasting.

“A lot of people got the opportunity by just hanging in there and it’s important for me that women are in broadcasting because of their talent, not because of gender tickboxing. I think now they are. There are so many really good female broadcasters. Now the situation is much, much better and we have people at Radio 1 I’m very proud of. You want to be there because you’re accepted as good enough to do the job, not because you ticked a box. We all want to feel we’re there for the right reasons, not because of some quota.”

I know someone who started at the BBC and there were three women and one guy in the same job. They’ve all since had kids, but it’s the guy who is now a producer and still full-time, whereas the three women are now part-time or in the same position. This is not to suggest the BBC is at fault. It seems to happen everywhere, but it neatly illustrates how disproportionately women with children face reduced earning power and opportunity in the creative industries.

“I feel very strongly about this. I was bringing up small kids when I joined Radio One. I’m very aware of that situation. It’s about how we help women through those years. They need to retain their confidence and abilities and keep up with the technology, so that when children grow up and they can return to full-time, they retain their confidence.

“I remember someone saying at an awards show, ‘Show me a working woman who isn’t guilty.'”

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“I know very, very well how that feels. There are a lot of boys with toys who love swanking about with their technology and love to cut you out of that, to say, ‘You don’t understand what this means…’ They want to exclude you and I think women can get very intimidated by that. But you’ve got to keep up with them and stay in the loop. Even if you’re doing one day a week, try to stay in the loop and tick-over, when you’re children are in their early years. Then when they’re older, they can come back with great force. I’ve seen a lot of people do that. You see women, when they’ve been caring for a child for all those years, actually gain a lot of confidence, because it’s not easy to bring up children! It’s much easier having a job.”

Don’t write yourself off

“I remember someone saying at an awards show: ‘Show me a working woman who isn’t guilty.’ It is really difficult, you know? You don’t want to miss the carol service. But I think a woman who is fulfilled with work and childcare is going to be a happy person, the trouble is getting the balance right. When you’re hot, you’re hot. If someone’s saying, ‘Oh come to New York this week and then we’ll go to LA…’ And you’re thinking, ‘I can’t do that. Am I going to miss out? Someone else will get that job and I’ll be overlooked.’

“I wish we could find a way to organise [to do something]. We had a thing called Sound Women, Jane Garvey, me and Angie Greaves (among others) who are three women broadcasters, which was trying to support women in broadcasting. Eventually, it was broken up, but it was a very good way of meeting women in broadcasting. I remember one of them saying to me, ‘I do a breakfast show.’ And I said, ‘Who drives the desk?’ and she said it was a bloke. I said, ‘Change that immediately.’ Because he’s got the power and you’re not going to be respected equally if you don’t have the same technical ability. I felt that so strongly. If the guy’s got control of the desk, he can fade you out any minute. Things like that, if you’re a woman you’ve got to have the confidence to stand up for yourself without [worrying about] being called some horrible bitch.”

Clearly, we really need solutions that allow women to work without the guilt. Childcare is a huge part of that.

“It’s been a problem for women as long as I’ve been doing what I do. I’m very aware of it. So don’t write yourself off. Don’t think, ‘I’m not 23 anymore, I won’t be able to keep up.’ You’ve got life experience. You might be much better with people, for instance, than someone who’s had their headphones on for 25 years and never held a conversation, which happens!

“Journalism and broadcasting seem to be quite necessary at the moment. People need us. We have a role to play and I’m very grateful for that”

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“Women make good communicators, good producers. I work with all women. I can’t remember the last time I worked with a man. It wasn’t a decision, it was just the way it happened at Radio One. I’m not anti-men, it’s just there’s a kind of division. They often seem to prefer the tech-y side and email speak. Some people have spent their whole lives in front of the computer and don’t remember what it’s like to talk to real people. I’ve really enjoyed promoting this book because I’ve had so many good conversations with people like yourself. I’m really enjoying it. I’m enjoying this, you know?”

I’ve got kids now and I’m still freelance and I go back and forth a lot on whether I should be doing ‘a proper job’ somewhere, to support the family…

“But what is ‘a proper’ job?”

Well… Exactly. I don’t know! But I think it’s the conversation that I’d struggle to give up. Essentially, I need people like you, Annie, to solve my problems.

“Ah! Well I don’t know if I can do that. I can talk your head off, though! Frighteningly so. I love having conversations, but I also think to be honest that we’re incredibly fortunate at the moment to have any kind of job in communication. I don’t want to scare anyone but we don’t know where this thing is going, so my sense is work very hard, be very conscientious and be very grateful. Thankfully, things like journalism and broadcasting seem to be quite necessary at the moment. People need us. We have a role to play and I’m very grateful for that. You see the headlines: 12,000 jobs go at Marks & Spencer, or British Airways. You think what are those people going to do? So I feel pretty privileged. I think we’ve got to help each other. But I think it’s talking to other people that has kept me going.”

Annie Nightingale’s latest book ‘Hey Hi Hello: Five Decades of Pop Culture from Britain’s First Female DJ‘ is available now via White Rabbit.

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How I Make It Work is a series of interviews with a variety of creative professionals, where we discuss personal experiences and lessons learned about money in the creative industries.

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Guides

How to sort out your personal finances in 5 stupidly simple steps

Keeping track of your personal finances can be confusing and painful, so let’s try to layout a path that’s easy to follow

The problem with money is that it’s everywhere. It is in your fridge. Your shoes. Your education. The very screen you are reading this on. It is zapping from your smartphone in myriad micro transactions. Amid this endless swirl of decimal points, it’s really easy to lose yourself in the details and miss the bigger picture.

You know the drill: we think nothing of buying lunch at work or university, but don’t start a pension. We stress daily about our fluctuating incomes, but do not set aside cash when it does come in.

We might even spend some time beating ourselves up about this. But none of this is your fault. You are not bad with money. Rather, as a quirk of evolution, the human brain is just not wired to deal with this stuff.

“Everyone has their own priorities in life, but there are some principles that apply no matter who we are”

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Our brains are capable of a lot, but at our deepest level of mental programming, we think we are still hunter gatherers. As creative freelancers in 2020, that means we mostly hunt for work and gather sandwiches. We are trained to acquire and quickly consume the things we need because, historically, the things we need have been perishable.

However, the perishable items we need are now easy to acquire. We do not need to down a mammoth before we can make dinner. Money is not something we can directly physically consume and it is usually intangible, meaning our brain’s default position is to file these things away in our bulging ‘stuff to deal with later’ folder.

Map it out

In order to tread a better path for the longer term, it helps to use a map. Everyone has their own priorities in life, of course, so these maps will vary for us all, particularly as creative workers, but some principles apply no matter who we are. These are what I call (in annoying-but-catchy blog parlance) the five stupidly simple steps to financial freedom.

These steps are…

  1. Spend less than you earn
  2. Save the difference
  3. Pay-off debt
  4. Build an emergency fund
  5. Invest to support your goals in life

They are simple ideas, but they have huge pay-offs. Making ourselves conscious of these steps, periodically checking the map and taking some action to progress along the route, stops us from getting lost, or worse, into debt cycles or nasty financial outcomes.

Below, I’ve broken down each step and listed some of the resources you can work through that might help you with each stage. Take it a step at a time. This is not an exhaustive list (yet!), this page will act as a bit of a hub and I will update it as I get more relevant material on the site.

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What if I don’t do this stuff?

If you’ve got this far in life without thinking about these steps, again, I get it. We’re all here because we want to make our living from creative work, not sweating over spreadsheets.

The issue is that money problems absolutely will raise their head at some point in your life and if you’re not prepared for them, the outcomes are not good.

The upside to following these steps is huge. The potential downside that comes from ignoring them is far, far greater

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At the milder end, you could wind-up forced-out of your industry, missing out on personal and professional opportunities, or ruining your parents’ retirement.

However, it’s also not uncommon to face spiralling mental health problems (the link between money and mental health is well-established, while depression is three times more likely among creative workers), relationship issues (money worries are the biggest cause of divorce) or even homelessness.

Even if you’re confident that someone will bail you out, how long will that be the case? And how long will you feel comfortable taking that support?

The upside to following these steps is huge. The potential downside that comes from ignoring them is far, far greater.

Most of us would agree that the hour or so a month it will take you to avoid these outcomes feels entirely worth it when you consider it in this context. What’s more, that time will help you to not just avoid that pain, but very likely give you a disproportionate return in terms of improving your longterm happiness.

Here we go, then, the five steps…

How to spend money
Photo by Igal Ness on Unsplash

1. Spend less than you earn

If you take away one principle from this post, or indeed this entire site, make it this one.

Cracking this is key to the whole thing. Consistently spend less than you earn and you can make horrible investments, blow your life’s savings at the roulette table and still likely come out ahead of over half the population of the US.

How do I do this?

You have two methods at your disposal: it’s all about reducing your spending and increasing your income.

Reduce your spending
Boost your income
Photo by Fabian Blank on Unsplash

2. Save the difference

We often tell ourselves that building savings is a process of rigorous, joyless discipline. However, thinking in those terms is really unhelpful.

Instead, think about how you can make it easy for yourself to do the right thing. For me, I’ve associated a savings habit with some fairly motivating, positive ideas: mainly the freedom to turn down work I don’t like and the desire to comfortably sustain myself in the down times associated with freelance/creative work.

How do I do this?

  • Just make a start – remember any savings are better than no savings. The main thing is to get used to getting that money out of your current account (where it might easily be spent) and putting it to better use elsewhere. You might find this piece How to start saving (when you don’t think you can) helpful here.
  • Know why you’re saving – a deep, personal motivation can make a huge difference to your ability to start saving some cash. Some people want an emergency fund (see below), but sometimes reframing it as ‘the freedom fund’, or ‘the f***-off fund’ can really help. This piece from The Billfold lays out a compelling case for having a f***-off fund.
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

3. Pay-off debt

If you’re in high interest debt, redirect the money you’ve started saving towards repayments. Treat this as a priority – and I mean a genuine priority.

Think about your wealth as water in a bucket. Most of us in creative work have little desire for infinite wealth, but we do want to raise the water level in that bucket to a point where we have a sense of freedom and security.

The bucket - a metaphor for your personal finances

In this instance, our income is like the tap, sometimes flowing fast, sometimes slowly. However, each debt is a hole in that bucket and if you’re paying interest on those debts, then not only are you losing water, but each of those holes is growing bigger every day. The sooner you act the easier it is plug the holes.

Ignore them, though, and they will grow to the point where the bottom drops out. That looks like bankruptcy, homelessness, relationship breakdown and other things that we very much do not want in our lives.

The excellent US blogger, Mr Money Mustache says you should treat high interest debt as an emergency – as if “your hair is on fire”, so hurl everything you’ve got at it.

How do I do this?

  • Move high interest debts to lower interest accounts (e.g. a 17.9% interest credit card to a 0% balance transfer card) – this will slow the growth of the debt and mean you can direct more to the actual repayment.
  • Focus on paying off the highest interest debt – Make minimum payments on the others, when that’s paid off, roll the same payment amount over to the next highest interest debt and so on. This is the time to tighten the belt, maximise that gap between your earnings and spending and funnel everything you can to the debt.
  • Struggle with motivation? Try Dave Ramsey’s ‘debt snowball’ technique – This approach asks you to order your debts by total owed and pay off the smallest one first, then roll all the payments over to the next smallest and so on. Some people find that clearing those first few small debts is really motivating. One caveat is that it is usually not the best option mathematically, because it can leave you paying more in interest.
  • Learn to differentiate between good debt and bad debt – not all debts are equal. Taking on a mortgage for the right property might represent a great investment, while racking-up high costs debts on a Buy Now, Pay Later service (Klarna etc.), or putting pints on a credit card, are signs you’re taking on bad debt. These are the ones to jump on ASAP and avoid in the future.
How to start saving money - build in steps
Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

4. Build an emergency fund

Everyone should have an emergency fund, but if you’re a freelancer or on a variable income (like the majority of creative workers) you absolutely need one.

There is a reason that all good financial advisors and personal finance experts recommend this: you can’t predict what an emergency will look like or when it will come, but it will happen.

Vehicles breakdown. Technology turns on you hours before a show starts. Things get lost or stolen on tour. A work or personal relationship sours suddenly. Houses flood or go on fire. There’s a bloody great pandemic and all work dries up. You get the picture.

How do I do this?

  • Pick an achievable target – the common advice, and I think it’s solid, is to save £1,000 or a month’s expenses. If things go well with that goal, you can then build that up to three to six months expenses over time.
  • Keep it somewhere accessiblenot in a shoe box, but in a savings account that you can reach with a few hours or at most a few days notice. You will earn horrible interest on it. Accept this.
  • Do not skip this step – some people think they can do without the emergency fund and move on to the fun ‘make me money’ investment stuff. I have totally tried this approach and am here to tell you it totally does not work out. If the investment drops at the same time as an emergency expense* you are forced to withdraw your money at a point when it’s worth less than you paid-in.

*Finances seem to operate on a ‘Sod’s law’ basis, so if you gamble that it won’t happen, it probably will…

Sort out your personal finances so you and enjoy doing the work that you love
Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash

5. Invest to support your goals in life

Most people who have built their own wealth have done so via investing or creating businesses. It’s very, very difficult for most of us to simply save our way there.

Investing is the process of buying assets – things that hold some value and can be expected to produce an income (for instance, stocks and shares, which pay a share of a company’s profits, or a property which pays you rental income). In other words: putting the money you save to work making more money.

If you’re not in love with the idea of investing, the trick is to pick something you understand and keep it simple. I have not covered investments on this site yet as I’ve been focussing on some of the previous steps in this list. This will change in the future, but for now here are some key pointers…

How do I do this?

  • Get going ASAP – the hackneyed phrase in financial circles is that “the best time to invest was 10 years ago, the second best time is today”. This is annoying but also true. As soon as you’ve got debts in hand and some emergency savings, direct that cash to investments.
  • Start a pension – there is a pensions crisis looming in the creative industries and it’s going to hurt a lot of people. Only 24% of the self-employed save into a pension. The current UK state pension is just £134 a week and likely to fall in real terms over the coming decades. If you don’t have a workplace pension with a company, consider opening a SIPP (Self-Invested Personal Pension). Any amount on top of that state pension is better than no amount. What’s more, even if you’re self-employed, the government will automatically top up your payments by 20% in the form of tax relief, meaning that if you pay in £100 it becomes £120 – and that’s before any return from the investments you put it in. Don’t miss out on that.
  • Diversify your investments – it’s a very good idea to spread the risk of your investments, so that if things don’t work out then you’re not at the mercy of one market or firm. For this reason, it might be wise to invest in whole markets via low cost index funds (in which you buy a single fund which automatically invests your cash into a small share of every company in the index or stock exchange of your choice). Have a look at Alan Donegan’s guide to index funds. It’s really not hard to get set-up.
  • Invest for the long-term – if you invest in stocks and shares, think long-term – like 10 years plus. You’re not locking that money away forever and (if you use something like a Stocks & Shares ISA) you can often access it within a few days if need be, but leaving it in there for the long term gives you a far better chance of a decent return. The stock market fluctuates wildly day-to-day, which is why picking individual stocks and so called ‘day trading’ is tantamount to gambling for most. However, it almost always goes up over the long term.
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Acknowledgements

The thinking in this piece has been heavily influenced by a number of financial gurus.

Dave Ramsey we owe for the debt snowball and his renowned concept of the seven ‘Baby steps’, some of which has filtered through here (I don’t agree with it all). Mr Money Mustache continues to influence a lot of my thinking about saving, dealing with debt and investing. Alan and Katie Donegan’s Take Control Of Your Finances course was also really helpful to me in terms of simplifying this overall journey. They were both very generous with their time and humour. They deserve much praise and Mars bars.

Disclaimer

The information does not constitute financial advice or recommendation and should not be considered as such. Creative Money is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), its authors are not financial advisors and are therefore not authorised to offer financial advice.

Investing carries risks – the value of investments and any income derived from them can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the original amount you invested. Always do your own research and seek independent financial advice where required.

Categories
How I Make It Work

How I Make It Work: Lily Canter (freelance journalist)

From monetising hobbies, to podcasting and pensions – we discuss managing your money as a freelancer

Lily Canter is a freelance personal finance journalist and lecturer (among other things) who writes for this likes of the Metro, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times and South China Morning Post.

I first heard of Lily via her excellent Freelancing For Journalists podcasts, which she launched earlier this year with fellow freelancer Emma Wilkinson. As someone who spends much of their days pitching and writing about personal finances, I figured she would have some great insights on the trickier issues facing freelance creatives (hello again irregular cashflow and lack of pension/holiday infrastructure!) I was not disappointed.

We spoke about Lily’s portfolio career, the challenges and merits of her Freelancing For Journalists side hustle and the methods she’s using to funnel a significant slice of her earnings into savings.

Lily Canter on how she manages money as a freelance journalist
Lily Canter… Freelance journalist, lecturer, author, trainer and so on!
How would you describe your role? It’s definitely in the multi-hyphenate territory, right?

“I say I have a ‘portfolio career’! Fundamentally, I’m a journalist, but I’m also a lecturer, a podcaster, trainer, I’m also a running coach and I’m starting to write books as well, but I suppose it comes under the journalism. Then Freelancing For Journalists is part of what I do. I think it’s probably about 10% but that changes depending on what is happening, like when we’re running a training course. Then my teaching is about 30% and my journalism work is about 60%.

“I’m very old fashioned, so I keep track with a diary and when I’m doing something with a person, I highlight it and I tend to work about a month in advance. “

“How do I split my personal and professional finances? I don’t really!”

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The Freelancing For Journalists podcast has found a loyal audience pretty quickly. What was the impetus for that?

“We wrote the book first and then got some funding from the university to do the podcast series. It was initially meant to be a learning tool for students and it spun off from that. We had an initial budget for six episodes and we based them on chapters of our book. We had a good three months of planning, we did it in the radio studio, with students helping us to record it and the idea was that it was also work experience for students.

“Then lockdown happened and we still had a few episodes to record, so we ended up shifting to Zoom and doing nine episodes. People liked that first series, so we convinced the university to give us money to buy mics and then we did a second series.”

I like that you found a way to fund it without sinking your own time and money into it. How is it going to in terms of sponsorship or monetising it?

“OK. We’ve had a lot of people who have been positive and we’ve got one sponsor lined-up [for the next series] and we need to decide if we wait for more, or go ahead and see if we pick them up on the way. I’d been warned that would be the case, though, and I’m always thinking of other ways of monetising it. We’ve not gone down the Patreon route as a lot of our listeners are new or starting out and I’m not sure if they can afford it. We have Ko-Fi but it’s just the occasional cup of tea, really! It’s fiddly to use though, you have to go on the site, but we thought we’d try it out. But at the moment it’s more about building the audience and then the training work we’re doing is a by-product of the podcast.”

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These projects often lead to things, don’t they? Even if the pay-off isn’t immediately obvious.

“Yeah. We’ve certainly got commissions to write stuff for other platforms about freelancing off the back of it, we can promote the book and it’s certainly a good marketing tool for the Freelancing For Journalists brand. I think it’s what we’re most known for. We’ve been doing guest lectures on freelancing as well. We’ve also run some of our own webinars and that’s been the nice thing about lockdown, people have found their own ways of making money. We did a couple in the summer and they both did well. It was a good way to test the market.”

How do you split your personal and professional finances as a freelancer?

“I don’t really! I still have my personal account. My salary from the university goes into there and my freelance stuff goes into there and then I have a savings account attached. So I have a target of what I want to earn every month and then anything over that is a bonus, then a proportion of that – nearly 50% – I save and that’s in there for tax and pension and anything else. We do have a joint account, too, and my husband and I put money in there as a holiday pot.”

“Previously, I had a full-time job as an academic with a massive pension, so I’m trying to match that and save like eight grand a year.”

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That’s interesting – I think a lot of freelancers and self-employed don’t think about regularly setting money aside for holidays and time off like that.

“It was sort of an accident. It was originally a pot to pay off a car, so we were each putting a certain amount away ready to pay it off, then once we did, we didn’t cancel the standing orders. We just carried on on and that became our holiday fund. I used to be really rigid with that stuff when I had a salary. I’m much more flexible now, because my income is much more flexible, but I do check my balance pretty much every day. It’s a bit like my diary, in that I keep track of it all the time. I’m also trying to save quite a lot into my pension. I had a full-time job as an academic with a massive pension [a perk that I lost access to going freelance], so I’m trying to match that and save like eight grand a year.”

That’s a decent savings rate! A lot of freelancers don’t like locking money into a pension because they feel they may need it before pension age. How do you handle that?

“I tend to let it build up over time and then move it over once or twice a year in lump sums. So, for instance, I didn’t get any [SEISS] grants, because last year I earned more from employed work than self-employed. Fortunately, I had some money saved which was [intended to be paid into] my pension pot – so I did need it and I’ve got to build that up again now.

“I have a LISA, which I put four grand a year into [as retirement savings], so I build it up and stick it in there, then I’m still sorting my personal pension with my financial advisor. We’ve got a rainy day fund elsewhere, for the joint account, and I always make sure we have at least £1,000 there as a float, so we overpay into that essentially. Then we’ve got other stuff, like we’ve never touched our child benefit, it just goes straight into savings. The idea is it’s there for when the kids turn 18, but if we suddenly need money to buy a new car, we’ve got it!”

Freelancing For Journalists
The Freelancing For Journalists podcast covers everything from finances to lifestyle and imposter syndrome.
What else helps you stay on track with savings?

“I look at my bank balance and try to keep a minimum amount in there and then anything over that goes into savings. But I’ve always saved. I’ve barely used credit cards. I’ve never got a car on finance. I just don’t believe in spending if you haven’t got it. Every six months I’ll do a kind of audit just to track if I’m on target with my savings, or earning enough and, if I need to, I look at my spending, or if I can pitch and deliver more work. Even the high street banking apps now tell you what you spend your money on and basically I spend all my money on running: gear, races and a personal trainer. That’s like 90% of my money and the last 10% is probably wine!”

If you’re trying to keep your spending low to build savings, then it’s important to direct the money you do have left in the way that makes you happiest. This seems like a good example of that.

“Well, I also coach a group of runners and I charge them now. I did it for nine months for free and it took up more and more of my time and I’d built up this relationship with them. My view was that I’ll be out running anyway, so why not make an income from it? So I started charging a small amount and I make an income from it. I’ve signed up for some coaching training and warned them all that as soon as I’m qualified, my rates will be going up. There’s tax benefits, too, so quite a lot of the gear that I buy is now tax deductible.”

“My view was that I’ll be out running anyway, so why not make an income from it?”

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Have you made any significant mistakes with money?

“I do splash out every now and then. We bought a painting right before lockdown, which we never do and that might not have been the best time to do it! We felt bad about it, which is daft because it’s been years since we’ve done something like that. Then once when I left a job and got a load of holiday money and I went and bought an £800 chair, which no-one ever sits in! So every now and then I do that kind of thing, but only if the money is there.

“There are a couple of things I’ve signed up for this year that I regret. There have been a lot of membership communities and one I signed up for after doing an interview with somebody who really enjoyed it and it was just a total waste of money. It was not what I thought it was going to be. But there are other things that have felt worthwhile.

What has given you good value, do you feel?

“I do subscribe to Journo Resources. We work a lot with Jem and I just really want to support what they’re doing. It’s useful and it’s good for keeping tabs on what’s happening on the freelance journalism world, but it’s more about just supporting what she’s doing. I also know that I can call on her for advice and I don’t feel guilty about it, if I’m subscribing! But I just think everything they do is really good and she’s nailed it, really.”

We do a lot of moaning as freelancers about payments (and, quite rightly, because the system is broken, really). But how would you fix it?

“There’s various things. Transparency about rates is one and that is happening. The #FreelancePayGap list that Anna Codrea-Rado started is really useful. It puts you in a better position to negotiate and allows you to push back when an editor is offering you a certain rate. I guess it’s also educating companies and editors that it’s not just an admin thing. It’s not just ‘Sorry I forgot to pay your invoice’, it’s people’s livelihoods. I’ve never enforced late payments fees, but I do send stroppy emails. I think we just need to be more transparent and not be afraid to talk about money or ask for more money and to be paid. But also, just don’t work for people who don’t pay you properly or pay you on time, in the long run it’s just not worth it, so don’t do it!”

Hear more from Lily Canter via the Freelancing For Journalists podcast and website.

The FFJ team are also running a four-week long training course ‘How to become a successful freelance journalist’ via Journalism.co.uk (costing £150), beginning on 2 November, 2020.

How I Make It Work is a series of interviews with a variety of creative professionals, where we discuss personal experiences and lessons learned about money in the creative industries.

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How I Make It Work

How I Make It Work: Chris Frantz (Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club) – “Small is beautiful”

Post-punk icon Chris Frantz discusses the principles that have helped him to survive and thrive across his storied career

Chris Frantz is best known for his role as drummer, co-writer and founder of Talking Heads. Frantz formed the group in 1975 with fellow art school-type David Byrne, later recruiting his partner (now wife) Tina Weymouth and Jerry Harrison into the band.

While their punk touring buddies were on a mission of cultural ‘slash and burn’, Talking Heads built something new and enthralling in its place, melding funk rhythms and jarring melodies into a new form of art-pop.

The rest is rock history: seven gold albums, critical acclaim, bust-ups, world tours and an influential legacy that can still be found some 45 years on, resonating in the work of innovators like St Vincent.

Later, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth would pull off a similar trick with their band Tom Tom Club, channeling an experimental blend of lilting tropical beats and electronica that would prove fertile ground for early hip-hop samples.

“When you’re paying fifteen people to travel around the world and hotels and airplane tickets and everything, it just gets out of control”

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Now Frantz has published an autobiography, Remain In Love, in which he documents his experiences in both groups and beyond. Like all the best bios, it’s packed with star-studded anecdotes, poignant reflection and a little score-settling, for good measure.

I spoke to Frantz, initially on behalf of the excellent Electronic Sound. However, I also took the chance to ask him some questions about some of the money mistakes, close calls and savvier moves Frantz and co made across their career for Creative Money. He was kind enough to share some really helpful insights…

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Creative Money is all about helping people in the creative industries – whether that’s art, music or writing – to figure out how to sustain what they do. What principles or decisions have helped you to sustain yourself as an artist?

“Well, Brian Eno, very early on, in 1978, when we were making More Songs About Buildings And Food – he didn’t tour behind his albums to promote them or anything. But he told us ‘You know, you can make a very good living if you keep your expenses down.’ It sounds like a no-brainer but a lot of people seem to forget that. If you keep your expenses down, you can actually survive. And you can also – he explained this to us – licence songs to the BBC. In his case, he was licencing instrumental tracks to the BBC for their various shows, and he was making not tonnes of money but he was making a good amount, a fair enough amount that he could survive.”

“We just paid the money and it wasn’t a terrible amount for just looking at a contract – and it saved our ass”

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So how did you practically apply Eno’s advice? And did you ever make any major mistakes on the financial side?

“Well, we did very well for a long time because we were just a four-piece band. Then we threw that all out the window and had nine people on stage, and then the expenses got so high that, at the end of a very very successful world tour, Tina and I combined had $2,000 in the bank! That was right before we made the Tom Tom Club album and our accountant said ‘Chris and Tina, you gotta do something, you only got $2,000 in the bank…’ When you’re paying fifteen people to travel around the world and hotels and airplane tickets and everything, it just gets out of control. So, small is beautiful.”

That’s great advice. The other thing that stuck out to me from the book was your description of the close encounter with a contract that came via Lou Reed.

“Oh yes, that was a shocker too because, you know – you can imagine Lou Reed wants to produce your first album and you’re a band from Lower Manhattan and how perfect would that be? And then you go to see the lawyer about it and the lawyer says ‘Oh no, I would never allow one of my clients to sign one of these standard production agreements because, when all is said and done, you could have a hit album and you would never see a penny’. So yeah, that was a shock.”

“It sounds like a no-brainer but a lot of people seem to forget… If you keep your expenses down, you can actually survive”

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You were a young band living on nothing in Bowery lofts at that time. I don’t imagine you had a lot of money to spare for legal advice. What made you decide to pay that money and get it looked at?

“Well, we felt like we didn’t have a lot of experience in this business, but we didn’t want to be stupid. I got a recommendation for a lawyer that we thought might be good, and my father [who was also a lawyer] said ‘Oh yes, he’s very good, go ahead…’ We made an appointment and the lawyer’s name was Peter Parcher – and he had been in the newspapers because he got Keith Richards off of a big heroine bust in Canada. He was able to swap jailtime for a concert to raise money for the blind and, well, that’s my kinda guy.

“We had a meeting with him and he said ‘I wanna introduce you to my partner here who this is his specialty’, and you know we just paid the money and it wasn’t a terrible amount for just looking at a contract – and it saved our ass.”

That was probably a $100-200 at the time. Who knows how much that saved you in the long run. It’s likely the best investment you ever made.

“Yeah, money well spent!”

Chris Frantz autobiography Remain In Love

Chris Frantz’s autobiography Remain In Love is published by White Rabbit and available now.


How I Make It Work is a series of interviews with a variety of creative professionals, where we discuss personal experiences and lessons learned about money in the creative industries.

Chris Frantz autobiography Remain In Love
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Short Cuts

Day jobs: Linz Hamilton (Vodun) – musician and electrician

As part of a new series looking at day jobs for creatives, we speak to the NZ guitarist about the merits of his side-career as a contract electrician

It can be really difficult to make a living from creative work alone. As I discussed previously with DJ/new music guru Shell Zenner, sometimes the only course is to work a day job and try to build things to a point where you can go full-time.

It is a balancing act, but done well, this approach can result in you doing more than one job you enjoy, while also easing some of the financial pressure and helping you gain some complementary skills.

Linz Hamilton (pictured top of the page, left) grew up in New Zealand and came to the UK to make his way in music. On arriving, one of the first shows he caught featured the band Vodun – a voodoo rock trio that meld big, Sabbath-y metal riffs with the powerful soul-style vocals of singer Chantal Brown (ex-Invasion, Chrome Hoof and Do Me Bad Things). As fate would have it, just few years later, he wound-up joining the group.

“It really works with the lifestyle of touring. If you’ve got a break, you can go and do a three month contract”

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When he’s not occupying his role as a neon voodoo spirit, though, Linz covers his bills by working as a contract electrician. It’s a line he got into due to the foresight of his school career’s office.

“A friend of mine went to the career’s department and said, ‘I want to be a musician and play in bands’,” explains Linz. “They said to him, ‘Go and do electronics, because at least then if your gear breaks, you’ll be able to fix it.’ He went on to be a painter and I took his advice and trained to be an electrician!”

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Trading up

Perhaps my views are outdated, but I can’t imagine a UK equivalent being so practically-minded. Either way, it appears to have been good advice.

“It’s been really handy for me to have a trade,” says Linz. “It’s meant that I could go, ‘OK, I’m going to uproot from New Zealand, get a job, be educated, do contracting.’ It really works with the lifestyle of touring. If you’ve got a break, you can go and do a three month contract, or jump on a site for a week or so.”

Music is one of the riskier career paths and Linz says the idea of finding a complementary day job had long factored in his thinking.

“I was endorsed by my neighbour in NZ who used to make handmade guitars for me and he said, ‘Never forget that you will need a job.’ It’s not the 70s anymore where the big labels will fund you the whole way. You’ve got to love it and want to love it and you’ll have to pay your way a little bit.”

Fanning the flames

As predicted by the Linz’s school career’s advisor, the career choice has had other benefits for his music, too. Not just in understanding signal path and tone.

“It really paid off at a show in Madrid,” adds Linz. “I had to stop and resolve an electrical fire so the support band could finish their set and we could play ours!”

“It’s not the 70s… You’ve got to love it and want to love it and you’ll have to pay your way a little bit”

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The other benefit of becoming an electrician is that a lot of the training can be done via a paid apprenticeship position. However, if wires aren’t your thing, Linz has one other suggestion…

“As a little side note,” adds Linz. “Chan [vocals] would also recommend cheffing/kitchen work, as she has been working for a charity Made Up Kitchen over the lockdown/pandemic, cooking donated food into a different daily menu for those in need over this crisis. She is really enjoying the ability to still be creative and giving back to the community.”

For Linz’s part though, he says he’d happily recommend electrician work for touring musicians and he’s glad he took the tip given to his friend. As Linz jokes: “It has been the best advice I never got!”

If you want more information on apprenticeships, check out the City & Guilds website. To keep up-to-date with all things Vodun

Linz Hamilton (pictured left) works a day job as an electrician when not touring
Vodun (Linz Hamilton pictured left)

Short Cuts is Creative Money’s series of quick tips, tricks and thoughts about saving or making money in the creative industries.

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Guides Principles Resources

Can you buy happiness? 5 principles for happier spending

Trying to buy happiness itself is unlikely to work, but changing the way you spend and consume can help you to get more of it

No one gets into creative work for the money. However, as I started to discuss last week in my How to spend money piece, the resulting limitations on our funds mean we need to be smarter-than-average when it comes to our spending. This means it needs to make us as happy as possible for as long as possible. So how can you buy happiness?

Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton are two US academics who spent years researching the impact of different spending approaches on people’s happiness levels. Dunn, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and Norton a marketing professor at Harvard Business School, eventually recorded their ideas in a helpful book entitled ‘Happy Money’.

Happy Money: The New Science Of Smarter Spending book cover

I stumbled across ‘Happy Money’ when I was working in my local library and I’ve since found it really useful in helping me to reframe spending decisions.

‘Happy Money’ resists the temptation to get preachy, which means it does not trigger my internal ‘f***-off!’ sensor

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It’s an impressive book because, although there’s a substantial amount of research behind their recommendations, it reads in a very straight forward, useful fashion. It also resists the temptation to get preachy or dogmatic, which means it does not trigger my internal ‘f***-off!’ sensor.

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Inside, they identify five key principles of happy money. You can learn more about them below, but the book goes into much more detail and has loads of compelling evidence and useful examples to back it all up. As such, I really recommend you consider reading ‘Happy Money’. You can buy it over on Amazon or, even better, drop by your local library (when possible).

  1. Buy experiences
  2. Make it a treat
  3. Buy time
  4. Pay now, consume later
  5. Invest in others

1) Buy experiences

photo of assorted-color air balloon lot in mid air during daytime
Photo by Mar Cerdeira on Unsplash

Buying experiences instead of stuff usually makes us happier and in a more lasting way.

Cleverly-marketed shiny things are designed to persuade you to buy a lifestyle by purchasing a product. We want that positive change – it’s part of process called ‘self-actualisation’ (an awful term for the process of trying to become the person we want to be) – and advertisers are very good at telling us that buying their stuff will get us there.

Look to buy experiences that match Dunn and Norton’s criteria. You’ll be happier for it

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The problem is that it usually does not. Just look at the scores of high-earners who find the big house and the statement car to be somewhat hollow victories, once acquired.

A sense of self

Instead, Dunn and Norton cite a Cornell study that shows how things like travel, theatre trips, gallery visits and dinner with friends come to define their subject’s sense of self much more than their purchases.

Interestingly, when given the option to go back in time and change one of these purchases for an alternative, those who had bought an experience were much more likely to stick with their initial decision.

This makes sense to me. In my role as a music journalist, I’ve often heard musicians say as much: “There’s nothing I’d change, it all made me who I am…” etc. Indeed, it happens so often that I’ve written it off as a crap question.

Notably, Dunn and Norton say experience-based spending proves even more satisfying when it…

  • brings you into contact with other people
  • results in good stories
  • is linked to the ideas you have about who you want to be
  • is in some way unique

Resist the urge to buy the shiny thing whenever you can and instead look to buy experiences that match Dunn and Norton’s criteria. You’ll be happier for it.

2) Make it a treat

white teacup near bread
Photo by Linda Söndergaard on Unsplash

Being conscious of what you consume and spacing-out (or varying) the good stuff allows you to gain more enjoyment from it.

Have you ever been round the likes of Borough Market in London (or any farmers market/purveyor of posh produce) where they divvy out free samples?

You try a sliver of cheese and, suddenly conscious of the flavour, it tastes phenomenal. Four hours later, on the sofa, you can be ladling fat wedges of barrel-aged cheddar into your gob in front of Netflix and feel only a fraction of the joy. The more you consume, the less benefit you experience.

Diminishing returns

This is the psychological effect to look out for and that Dunn and Norton say justifies their ‘make it a treat’ approach. That aforementioned owner of the big house and statement car will find it stops making them happy because they soon get used to it. It’s the same with most things in our lives – and even our lives themselves.

Identify the good things and savour them by limiting consumption and being more conscious of them

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A bit of mindfulness helps here, the authors say we should identify the good things and savour them by limiting our consumption and being more conscious about enjoying them.

So, if fancy cars really matter to our hypothetical ‘high-earner’, they might be happier buying something dependable and efficient, then using the savings for regular track days, or just renting a posh car once in a while.

At the other end of the expense scale, there’s a lot of happiness to be gained in your daily life, whether it’s being a tourist in our your own city, savouring your food (away from the TV) or making the most of those first few drinks.

3) Buy time

person holding yellow round analog clock
Photo by Morgan Housel on Unsplash

I think this is probably the most important lesson for creative workers to absorb. If one thing from this list is going to make the most difference to our ability to develop the work and lifestyles we enjoy, it is buying time.

For most of us, the sense is either that money is scarce and you need to work more to earn more, or that your time is very valuable and therefore also scarce. Either way, we all feel time poor. So what can we do?

Astonishingly, they report an hour long commute has a similar sized impact on your happiness as having no job at all

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Well, they say if you want something give it away, and it is apparently the same with time. For instance, in a study cited by Dunn and Norton, those volunteering for just 15 minutes a week felt like they had more free time as a result of giving some up.

So how do you buy time? It’s usually a trade-off. Maybe you take a lower paying job closer to home, or you leave the overtime on the table, or (as the authors suggest) resist the urge to invest in time-sinks like cinematic TVs.

The three big ‘time wins’

Dunn and Norton say the big three areas to focus on are commuting, watching television (and I think we can safely extend this to screen time in 2020) and socialising.

Astonishingly, they report an hour long commute has a similar scale impact on your happiness as having no job at all. While another survey found that one of the greatest sources of happiness was simply playing with your kids.

Even if you feel you’re stuck with the commute, making a conscious effort to directly trade screen time in favour of social interaction could have huge benefits on your happiness.

Time and money don’t have to be rivals, but we can probably spend both more wisely.

4) Pay now, consume later

white yacht on dock

Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash

Reverse the debt process – take the purchase pain on the chin now and you’ll enjoy it more later.

We live in a culture where it’s possible to fulfil small desires very quickly, without paying for them upfront. This phenomenon is only speeding up – look at the rapid rise of store credit firm Klarna, as a recent example.

The products often don’t make us happy in a lasting way, while the debts definitely make us unhappy. They also limit our future spending power and, by extension, future opportunities to use that money in beneficial ways.

Our natural instinct is to seize a benefit and delay the pain (payment). Reversing this process makes us happier

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Dunn and Norton say that reversing this process, conversely, has great benefits in terms of happiness. Paying upfront for something – whether it’s a city break or an Xbox – and spending some time anticipating it can actually increase our enjoyment of the product or experience.

What’s more, they say that regularly using this anticipation process, even just thinking about tomorrow’s dinner, makes you a more optimistic, happier person.

What purchases can you make now and anticipate?

The process works best when delaying the experience allows you to research aspects of it that will increase your expectations of a positive experience (e.g. looking up menus, looking at hotel pics).

They say it’s also particularly effective when the experience itself is likely to be brief, as it allows you to maximise your happiness from the consumption. Of course, this doesn’t work for everything: don’t delay your MOT, for example.

The authors also point out that our natural instinct is to seize a benefit and delay the pain (payment). This is the sneaky power of debt – the reason we find it easy to use credit cards, but hard to save for pensions – but it’s also the thing least likely to make us happy.

Dunn and Norton’s research tells us that if you can do the reverse of that instinct, pay upfront and ideally consume later, you’ll be a lot happier as a result of your spending.

5) Invest in others

woman holding white and black coffee cup
Photo by Javier Molina on Unsplash

Spending money on others makes us even happier than spending money on ourselves.

Dunn and Norton recount an experiment in Vancouver in which a student handed people $5-20 to spend on either themselves or someone else. Those who did the latter reported a much higher degree of happiness than those who spent the cash on themselves – no matter how much they’d been given.

The link between happiness and what they call ‘prosocial spending’ is remarkably universal

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A much broader study of US citizens found a similar correlation, as did one that compared similar experiments between a rich country (Canada) and a poor one (Uganda). Dunn and Norton describe this link between happiness and what they call ‘prosocial spending’ as “remarkably universal”.

Make it a choice, make a connection, make an impact

Again, Dunn and Norton say that there are things you can do to increase the happiness return. 

First, make it a choice (mandatory charity is less satisfying). Second, make a connection (perhaps by giving in person or to someone that’s close in some way or even just to a charity of your choosing). Third, pick something that has a notable impact, even if it’s a small donation (they cite examples like malaria nets, or spontaneously buying meals for strangers).

Interestingly, even if you don’t have a philanthropic bone in your body, Dunn and Norton note studies that found those who routinely gave money away also wound-up wealthier over the longrun.

Those are the five principles behind ‘Happy Money’. They’ve certainly come to shape the way I think about my spending. How can you adapt them in your life?

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What issues are you facing? What questions do you have about managing your money in the creative industries? What would be most helpful to you?

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