Investing in Yourself
If you were going to start a business, you would put aside money for start-up funds. Similarly, as an artist, you need to invest a certain amount in yourself. Here’s an example. For years, I was trying to make videos using Windows Movie Maker because I couldn’t afford a better program. If you’ve ever used WMM, you know the quality it produces. After months of trying to make professional quality videos with sub-par equipment, I finally invested in Premiere Pro. The price tag hurt a little, but my work quality increased exponentially. This investment has helped me to get my work published in places I wasn’t able to before, leading to client recommendations and, in the end, money. Here are some tips for knowing when and how to invest in yourself.
Bite the bullet for your own domain name. While partyhardyjohn.websitedomain.johndoe may be an excellent website, johndoe.com is more professional and easier to find. Domains run for as cheap as 7.95 a month (usually with web sponsored advertisements present), and an ad free site is easy to find for around $10 a month. That’s one Chinese food order, your Netflix subscription, or the price of one drink. You can do it. Try wix.com for user flexibility and great pricing.
Even in this digital age, business cards make a real impression. Start small and order a few. I recommend moo.com. For $20, you get 50 durable, high quality business cards. You can personalize these with your own images, and they’re double sided. If you’re really limited on budget, they offer “free” business cards (plus shipping) that have the moo logo in watermark. Invest in these. If you try for the 300 business cards for free sites, you’ll get what you pay for. Forgettable, low quality cards on cheap paper.
Know when this is necessary and when it’s not, because this can run up in price. If your business meeting is informal (a friend or long time colleague), try to set up meetings at home over a home cooked meal. It makes the meeting feel warm, and you don’t have to spend money. Sometimes, though, a business lunch is most professional outside of the home. Gauge your audience. If you’re meeting with someone who appears to be in your similar income bracket, op for a coffee shop or tea place, where you don’t have to spend too much. If a meal seems appropriate, again know your audience. If you need to pick a swanky place, eat before you go and order soup or an appetizer. Sometimes, paying for a person’s meal can be a great move, but this is a rare occasion. Choose wisely.
Festivals and conferences
I’ve said this before, conferences and festivals may be expensive, but the networking and opportunity for mentors will more than outweigh the cost. Keep a piggy bank or separate account where you put aside money for these monthly or weekly. Now, this is down on the list, because I know that this type of extra money isn’t something everyone has, but try your best to save for these events. A $400 conference yearly is only a little over $1 a day.
Wants vs Needs
The most important key for investing in yourself is to know wants vs needs. You might want to order the steak when you go on that business lunch, but it may not be wise. You may want the $500 art supplies, but if you know you can get a similar quality from the $50 kit, buy lower. Investing in yourself is not an excuse to splurge.
In synopsis: Your art is your business. Put aside start-up money and treat it as such.