Five women personal finance bloggers — all of whom have worked in creative professions — have joined to write this series about being an artist and making money. Please see the end of this post for links to other posts in the series.

When I was a theater major in college, one of my teachers begged us “If you can do anything else with your life, then do that…life in the arts is difficult and not very lucrative.”

It was a stern warning for us and a reminder that in school we were in a safe bubble and that the “real world” was going to be tough.

As any artist or creative person knows, it’s not that you choose it, but it chooses you. It’s something you can’t avoid, something you can’t imagine living without.

Though I didn’t become the next Meryl Streep or Whitney Houston as my childhood self had imagined, I couldn’t shake theater completely. So I went into arts education as an administrator and later teacher.

Though I’m not teaching now, writing fills my creative void (yes, even if it’s about money). It helps me think about things differently. It gives me an outlet for my thoughts. There are so many ways to tell a story. And surprisingly, through my creativity I’ve been able to double my income and break free from the ‘broke’ trap that I thought I was destined for.

I used to think that as an artist you had to struggle. Being broke was part of the deal and there was really no way out. I thought that money was evil because it was the great divide between rich and poor.

Over the years, my thoughts about money and being an artist have changed. I now realize that you don’t have to struggle to make a living based on your creativity. I’ve also learned that being a creative person can actually help you make more money and make you better equipped at being your own boss. Here are a few lessons I’ve learned.

When I was younger, I used to worry how I would make a living (and I think my parents did, too). But I always figured it out. I made it work.

Now, more than ever, I can see that my creativity is my greatest asset. Being a writer means having to pitch new ideas week in and week out. It means coming up with a new angle or saying something differently than others. As a business owner, it means venturing out and doing other things that I think are awesome, like hosting unique events.

So, what am I saying with all of this? What I wish I knew earlier was how valuable my creativity is. How marketable it could be. How much you can leverage your skills into doing something else.

When I was a teacher, I told all my students that everyone is creative, because I genuinely think everyone is. Not in the same way, but we all have something we are good at — where we can express our ideas and flourish.

Whether you consider yourself an “artist” or not (because let’s face it, that term comes with a lot of baggage), you are a creative person.

You are unique. No one has your story. No one has your voice. So cultivate it. Don’t be shy. Don’t let others silence the parts of you that speak the loudest. Don’t be afraid to walk alone on a path — it means you are brave.

When it comes to creativity and money, I think the two are intertwined. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. It doesn’t have to be “selling out” if you’re an artist and make money. It doesn’t make you greedy or selfish to want to make money either.

These are the things I wish I knew before. But now that I know, I feel empowered to use my creativity, my voice, and my ideas to create, help others, and build wealth.

What else should young artists know about money? Check out the other posts in this series:

Dear Artists: You Can Profit From Your Creative Skills

Dear, Artist: A Little Goes a Long Way

Dear Artist: Vocation Does Not Equal Exploitation

Dear Artist: It’s Not the Struggle That’s Interesting

This post is in: creativity

I know many of us are already thinking about 2016 and planning to make it our best year yet. I am too. At the top of my list? Making more money and continuing to rock my freelance career.

I’m going to put it out there — even as scary as it seems — but I’m gunning for six figures. That’s what I want, and it’s not some arbitrary number. It’s a number that I know will help me pay off the last of my debt (currently at $11,700) and will help me catch up in other areas of my financial life, namely investing. It will afford me peace and comfort and help me accomplish my dreams.

While six figures still seems far away from my current income, I’m a hell of a lot closer than I was last year, or any previous years.

Times Have Changed

Three years ago when I started this blog, my net income was $20,000. I struggled more than I ever had to get by, and it was a truly humbling experience. Now, I’m super proud that this year alone I’ve paid off $20,000 in debt!

I’m not saying this to brag and never want people to think that’s what I’m doing. I’m sharing because I want people who are currently in the same situation to know what is possible. If it weren’t for so many others that showed me the way, I would have never known that freelancing full-time while paying off debt is possible.

But it is! And you can totally rock your finances being your own boss — even with the erratic income. I’ve found that being my own boss has been the only path toward building wealth.

Here’s the thing, though. So many people still believe that they’re meant to be a starving artist. Asking for money, or even wanting money, is dirty and bad. It feels like it’s tainting our work and spoiling it. But let’s be real. All of our work — especially our creative work — is of value. It’s time, resources, heart, and hustle. You deserve to get paid for your work.

And I want to help you. I’m so excited to announce that I’ve partnered with ModernThrive.com to teach creative professionals how to manage their finances and pay off debt.

The Workshop

The workshop will be over three days, January 4-6 at 7pm EST, and for one hour each night, we’ll be going through how you can manage your money, ask for more money, and build your network so that work starts coming to you.

I’m so excited to get back to teaching and share what I love! The best part? I have a killer deal for you. The workshop is $97, but with the discount code DearDebtVip, the workshop is only $37. This code is only valid until December 1.

Let’s break it down — with the discount code, that’s about $12 per hour for each class. Even with the full price, it’s only about $32 per hour.

My Passion and Pursuit

So, why am I so passionate about this? Or why am I even qualified? Because in the past year, I’ve more than doubled my income and paid off more than $20,000 in debt. I’ve learned the hard way about working for peanuts and sticking to low-paying work just because it was comfortable.

For some perspective — as recently as February, nearly all my clients fell into the $25 to $75 range. I was writing like a fiend and cranking things out. It didn’t feel particularly fun or useful, but I was “producing”. After a full month of working, I kept seeing that I was barely making $3,000 each month. After self-employment taxes and paying for my own health insurance, I was barely competing with my old nonprofit salary.

I did the math. If I wanted to make $5,000, I’d have to write 100 articles per month at $50. That’s 25 articles per week. I knew something was wrong and that something had to change. After looking everything over, I knew I was going after the wrong clients and the wrong pricing.

So I made a lot of changes, got rid of four clients in one month and relentlessly pursued higher paying clients. With a lot hard work, motivation, and branding, it worked. Now nearly all of my clients are within the $200 to $400 range (for one article).

I am living proof that you can make money being your own boss, and that you can make changes quickly, with a few small, but powerful shifts.

Now, I want to help others make more money and rock their finances. Freelancing doesn’t have to be feast or famine. You don’t have to be a starving artist. You can be a #Girlboss (or #Broboss?) that makes what you deserve and live a life you never expected.

I sure didn’t expect any of this when I was on food stamps three years ago. But I’m beyond grateful and have learned a lot.

I hope that you’ll join me in this workshop. Use discount code DearDebtVip to get it for only $37. If it’s not your thing, please share!

Are you ready to rock your finances in the new year?

This post is in: creativity

September 5, 2015

I just had to send in my bio for one of my gigs. I always have a hard time with bios. What should I say? Should I be smart? Funny? Impressive? I always go with something relatively boring and impressive, because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do with a professional bio?

I thought I’d try something fun called “honest bio”.

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer that works entirely too much. She’s a workaholic that dreams in hustle. Oftentimes, you can find her pretending she knows what she is doing and acting like a boss, but only after she’s had a level nine anxiety attack and screamed and cried in a pillow.

Every time she submits her work she’s convinced people will call her out for being a fraud. She’s amazed no one has yet. Although Melanie is an only child, she often feels like she’s never alone, because Larry David actually lives in her head.

When not sticking her foot in her mouth, or being inappropriate on the Martinis and Your Money Podcast, she enjoys G chatting with her friends online because those are the only ones she has left. In her free time…wait, what’s that?

Ah, I feel better already 🙂 Please comment with your “honest bio” below.

This post is in: creativity

August 12, 2014

I’m so excited to see my blog lookin’ all sexy and fresh! So fresh and so clean. I haven’t been thrilled about any of the blog designs I’ve had – but if you read my quote about fashion, you would know I can be quite utilitarian. But it was time for a change!

Your website is often the first impression someone has of you. I knew the previous designs didn’t reflect my personality, at all. I want to make sure people feel welcome here, enjoy being here, and understand a little about who I am.

But money, I thought!

I’m trying to pay off debt!

Then, thanks to Debt Busting Chick, I realized that you can buy pre-made themes on Etsy for $20. Say what? After getting lost in the abyss that is Etsy, I found my designer.

Not just a designer. A chef, even. The Master Chef at Graphic Cookies. Mr. Tautvydas Gaudesius is a pretty rad dude (with a pretty rad name). I was going to get a pre-made theme for $20, until I realized a custom design was only $100. I was flabbergasted by the price. How could I say no?

He was so wonderful to work with and so accommodating. I was a real pain in the a$$. I didn’t know what I wanted, hadn’t really thought about color and was extremely picky. He was patient, generous, accommodating, creative and so fun to work with! He has a great eye for things, too.

My new design cost me $100 and took 3 weeks. I couldn’t be happier! He even installed it for me, so I didn’t have to lift a finger to make it happen.

If you’re looking for a new design, I highly recommend him.

Here’s some other things I love and highly recommend:

Carrie from Careful Cents. I think she’s a rockstar babe. Full disclosure, I do work with her and help her out with some editing and writing. But she has been more than a boss to me. She has been an incredible mentor and friend to me and I can’t even express my gratitude. I wouldn’t have pursued this crazy adventure without her support and guidance. I’m so excited that she is offering 30-minute sessions to pick her brain — so you can get started on pursuing all your wildest dreams, too. That’s how it started for me, so be ready. 🙂

I really dug this post by Lauren at The Write Budget. I used to waste so much time doing client work, but using a timer has really set me straight.

Also, Kassandra’s post on how she is saving 50% of her income! You go girl! I can’t wait to follow in your foot steps.

Tell me. Do you judge people by how much money they make?

Lastly, if you enjoy my content, would you consider nominating me for a Plutus award? I’d love to be considered for Best Debt Blog or Best New Blog (i.e. blogs created in 2013 or 2014). You can use this simple link that is already filled out to nominate me (and others!). You do NOT need to be a blogger to vote.

Thanks for reading! I don’t generally do roundup posts anymore, now that I retired Sunday Worship, but I do still want to spread the love. By the way, there are no affiliate links in here, just sharing content I think you’ll find useful. But if you do use any of these resources, let them know I sent you?

What things are you loving lately? How is the start of your week?

This post is in: blog, career, creativity

I don’t know about you but I hate buying things with lots of chemicals in it. For this reason, I generally steer clear of beauty and cleaning products.

In the past few years I’ve found some natural remedies for things that I need. Here are 5 uncommon uses for common household products.

Salt to Remove Blood Stains

A few years ago, I was at a friend’s house and stepped on a piece of glass with my bare foot. We took out the piece of glass, but I was gushing blood on her light-colored couch. Instead of focusing on my pain, I was mortified. I didn’t want my blood to stain her couch! My friend got a wet washcloth and some salt. She put some salt on the stain and started rubbing. To my amazement the blood was coming right out! I was so relieved. The key is to act fast and get water and rub a nice amount of salt on the affected area. And voila!

Coffee Grounds for Cellulite

If you are looking to exfoliate and tighten up your thighs, try using used coffee grounds. Cellulite is essentially pockets of water between fat (I think) and the caffeine helps dehydrate the area and make it look more firm. I usually do this treatment once a week and exfoliate my thighs. Yes, it’s a bit messy, but it works. It is temporary though, it’s not a permanent solution. Exercise and healthy eating should help. 🙂

Baking Soda for Cleaning

You can add water to baking soda and use it as a scrub for cleaning. Easy to make and use, without all the smell.

Olive Oil for Dry Skin

In the winter, my face was perpetually dry. I tried moisturizer and face cream but my skin still looked parched and flaky. I decided to try some olive oil after hearing about the benefits. It did wonders for my skin and made it luminous! If your prone to acne, keep it light. It’s also good for hands and the bottom of your feet.

Turmeric for Teeth Whitening

This one totally blew my mind. I read that turmeric was a great natural teeth whitener. I thought “no way!” How could something so yellow and something that stains nearly everything in sight remove stains from your teeth? I decided to try it. I took a dash of turmeric on my finger and put a little water on it. I applied it to my teeth for 2 minutes. At this point I was freaking out. My teeth were bright yellow. This shit better work, I thought. And it did! My teeth looked whiter and it had removed superficial coffee and wine stains (items I practically live off of). You can do this with a toothbrush instead of your finger but it will stain it!

These are household items I already have in my house so I spent no additional money. I love finding new ways to use things you already have.

What’s your favorite natural remedy?

This post is in: budget, creativity, life

I have a background in the arts, and have also worked in nonprofits my whole life, so I feel like I know a thing or two about being broke.

It’s no fun.

While many people may glorify the starving artist stereotype or the nonprofit slave stereotype, it’s not something that my partner or I aspire to be.

You’ve heard the stories about musicians living out of their cars, with the last $2 in their account, while writing the song that would propel them into wealth and fame.

Sometimes struggling can give you a different perspective on things and can create some beautiful art, music, etc.  It brings out that feeling of really being alive.

While there are many successes out there that have fostered their creativity in a period of great duress, I would argue that being broke stifles creativity.

I know there are many aspects of creativity, and for this purpose I don’t want to merely focus on artistic creativity. I think there are many ways to be creative – thinking outside of the box, making things work with limited resources, using old things in new ways, etc. In fact, creativity is often born out of necessity. Don’t have something? Figure out how to make it! Don’t have the right ingredients? Figure something else out.

For me, I wish I could say my debt has made me more creative. I guess in a way it has, because it forced me to speak up and write about my experiences. I couldn’t stand the solitude and shame anymore. In general though, I often feel creatively stifled. I don’t want to sing, or write, or photograph – it all seems too luxurious right now while I am in hardcore debt repayment mode.

As a former arts educator in an area of extreme poverty, I used to wonder why none of the children were attending free art classes. FREE! Why weren’t people knocking down the doors to attend artistically enriching, life changing classes? Oh right, because when you are worried about paying your rent, have three jobs, don’t have a car, don’t speak English, have 10 people living in the house and are worried about where your next meal is coming from, maybe free art classes aren’t your first priority.

Granted my situation is not nearly as bad. I have shelter, food, and a job and I take advantage of many privileges I’m afforded. But I can’t shake this heavy weight of debt. It stifles my spirit and wants to keep me silent. It wants to kill the humanity I have left inside of me. Sometimes I am so focused on paying off debt, calculating my expenses or looking for that very-next-gig, I can’t see outside of that very narrow sphere. It’s never ending and because of that I’ve spent less time on learning languages, writing, creating images, singing, etc. I don’t want to hold myself back, but it’s hard to think about anything else, when I want to be debt free more than anything else.

If you think about it, it all makes sense. Think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which pretty much states that you need to meet some basic needs like food, water and sleep before you can think about things like creativity and problem of solving.

I clearly don’t want to shut a part of myself off for 4 years and be creative later on.  It just reminds me how many things have been on hold because of this debt. Dreams deferred and life goals on lay away, purchased for another day. Dreams seem like things that only happen in the future, but I am stuck with today.

I don’t mean to sound too dark— on the contrary, I’d like your help with brainstorming ideas on how to unclog my brain to let the ideas flow; to let go of my fear, to strengthen my focus.  So far the only thing that has helped is meditation, which I need to be more disciplined about.

Let me know if you have any ideas. I also want to hear from you if you think being broke stifles or promotes creativity?

 

This post is in: creativity, personal finance