"You think about money the old fashioned way. Money is not a thing, it is not even a process. It is kind of a shared dream." - from Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
This post is aimed primarily at young (or not so young) artists who do not have significant (or any) outside financial support. In many ways it is a continuation of the thoughts I put down in The Doctrine of Love or Money.
One thing that has led to several blog posts is when I find myself being asked for the same type of advice repeatedly, and then find myself giving the same and/or similar answers over and over.
This suggests that:
1) It is an existing and consistent issue with which people need help.
2) At least some of my suggestions are useful and/or I seem to be someone who has at least partially figured out how to address the problem.
3) My lazy ass can just write it down in one place and send people here.
I'm going to discuss learning about money, marketing, and business. Especially as pertaining to those of us in the arts. We live in a world where it is gauche to discuss such things. I see that mindset as a luxury belief and ultimately extremely classist.
I've written elsewhere about how my experience as a freelance fight director ended up being excellent preparation for success in NYC real estate. What I want to do now is point to some resources that were valuable to me that I consistently find myself recommending.
What follows is a series of recommendations of books and courses about finance, business, and technology that I have personally found useful. All of the listed recommendations are either free or extremely low cost.
It is a place to start. As theatres are likely to remain closed for some time, and as many of us are still in lockdown, it is also a way to prepare for whatever comes next.
Read this first. Especially if you have any anxiety at all over finance.
This book is essentially everything you should have been pulled aside and told about personal finance as soon as you were old enough to understand the concept. It is comprehensive, understandable, and straightforward. The writing style is clear and irreverent, and it addresses several things that people are afraid or embarrassed to ask (I am making him sound like the Dr Ruth of money and that's ok).
This is a book that can change your life. Not because the information in itself is earth shattering, but because it is all simple stuff you can apply immediately. It was recommended to me by a close friend years ago and I am constantly recommending it (and have given it as a gift multiple times).
I have two caveats:
1) I fucking hate the title. I understand why it is what it is, but it makes it sound kind of "get rich quick" and the material inside is very much not that.
2) His discussion of real estate can use more nuance, especially in markets like NYC.
Besides those two points (and the title part is essentially minor), it is the absolute best place to start.
The link is to the author's site as I do not want to advocate for one bookseller over another. There are also a fair amount of free resources on his blog/page, but really, just get the book.
I also enjoy his social media presence.
Addendum: Another finance book that people put a lot of confidence in and is often recommended is Rich Dad/Poor Dad by Richard Kiyosaki. I found it useful, but it is not the place to start. The place to start is with Ramit's book.
HubSpot Academy Inbound Marketing Courses
There is not nearly enough attention in most arts training programs on the business end of things. One of the biggest elements of the business is getting people to know about your art. Enter HubSpot and Inbound Marketing.
These are free (Freeium) online certifications on best practices in using online resources, including social media, websites, and videos, to get you and your product out there.
If you are on this page, you are reading it because of HubSpot. I took their course in 2011 and started my blog soon afterwards. Application of their principles has gotten me work in both the arts (playwriting, fight directing, scholarship) and in real estate. It is on my to-do list to take the updated/current version of their certificate.
The certifications are free, and are respected in the business world. More importantly, their methodologies are effective.
Caveat: Do not expect this or any other certification to get you a job by itself. Take the course for the skills, apply the skills, benefit from their application.
Disclaimer: At time of writing I also own stock in this company. I purchased it largely because of the quality of my experience with their courses.
TAKE A NEGOTIATION COURSE
I had an excellent experience with Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategy and Skills created by George Seidel through the University of Michigan via Coursera. There are others out there from various institutions. Coursera is a great place to start, as is EdX.
My own initial resistance to this was that it is not a teachable skill. I was very wrong. You can always benefit from tools and strategies, and this course also covers some very basic legal aspects of contracts that everyone should know. Many things in your life and work are negotiable, this is in part a way to recognize what they are.
The course I linked to itself is free. If you want a certificate there is a fairly low fee. Certificates can look good on your LinkedIn profile (create and maintain a LinkedIn profile!) but the caveat that they will not in and of themselves get you work still holds.
Take courses for the skills and knowledge, not the credentials.
ELEMENTS OF AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Free Course via the University of Helsinki
This one is pretty out of the box compared to the rest, but hear me out.
1) Artificial intelligence is ubiquitous enough that you should have a working knowledge of what it is regardless of what you do.
2) There is a growing field of opportunity in collaborations between artists and scientists, particularly in tech.
3) Should you start to look into tech as a dayjob/parallel career option (many artists have), it's an easy place to start learning some important concepts.
This is a free course with minimum quantitative requirements. It is mostly theoretical, and touches upon many aspects of technology and culture. This course does grant a certificate, but all caveats about such things still apply.
I recommend this one in part because I found it very interesting, and in part because since it is free there's no risk in seeing if you enjoy it.
TAKE SOME BASIC COURSES IN BUSINESS: FINANCE, ACCOUNTING, EXCEL, ETC
You do not need to be an expert in these subjects. You will however, find it extremely beneficial to be conversant in them.
I would add that they are all probably easier than you think they are.
Three big reasons to learn business practices:
1) You as an artist are an independent contractor, so you need this information to function as such. Your success will in part depend on your infrastructure. Understanding all of these elements is part of that infrastructure.
2) There is a fair chance that you will have career opportunities outside the arts. These skills will be important.
3) There is also a significant chance that you will at some point be on the ground level of founding an artistic enterprise of some kind. If so, you will need this stuff.
As I said above, Coursera is a great place to start, as is EdX.
If you are more ambitious and can spare the funds, I am a big fan of eCornell. I took a finance course with them and the positive impact on my business was immediate and dramatic.
Again, these look good on your resume and LinkedIn profile, but will not in and of themselves get you a job. If you already are working, you will find that you will become better at your job, which will give you more time and energy for your art.
Anecdotally, one thing I will say about these as credentials is that I used to hear from clients that they were concerned about if I was a serious businessperson because of all of the arts degrees in my bio, and that stopped immediately after I had a single certification that said finance on it.
LEARN ABOUT HOME OWNERSHIP IN NYC
As some of the people following me know, in the past few years I've pursued a parallel career in NYC Real Estate ("I realized academia is no business for an honest man, and so I sell real estate in New York City").
My firm regularly holds free seminars (about once a quarter) on what you need to know to purchase a home in NYC. It is one of my favorite things we do as a firm. It is informative, zero pressure, and catered (at least in non-Pandemic times). As home ownership is something many people consider but know little about, this is something we offer as a public service. We have continued to present them virtually during lockdown. If you are not in NYC, a significant portion of the information is still relevant in other markets.
Should you choose to sign up, please use the promo code MERONBLOG at this URL:
READ OUTSIDE YOUR DISCIPLINE
It was my study of finance that inspired me to start writing Slippery Slope. Being an artist does not mean that you are only an artist. And having a life beyond your art will make you a better artist.
If there is a business/tech/finance course or resource that you've found particularly useful, please link to it in the comments!