Ballad of the freelancer’s tax return.Posted: March 17, 2014
I wrote this post a year ago, in March 2013, right before the book deal happened. I just came across the draft and thought I’d share it because so much about the freelance life is still true.
Above: receipts. It’s tax time!
I’ve been living the freelance life for about a year. It’s working, sort of. I was thrown into the deep end last winter when a patron who’d signed a contract for my creative work went bankrupt. (Long story.)
As I noted in this entry, I don’t find circumspection to be useful when it comes to artist finances. I want other beginning artists to know what’s involved. Several friends have asked me how they can leave their job, pursue their passion, and head into the wild blue yonder, and they seem to think it’s something only rich people do. It really isn’t. I make very little, but went to Belize for three months anyway because I decided it was essential to my work. It just took intention and planning.
In 2012, for the sum total of my creative work, including artist commissions, fees, publications and performances, I earned $2,230. For my freelance work, including editing, writing and consultation, I earned $10,126. (I should stress that I deliberately under-work; that is, I only invest enough time in my business to pay my bills and save for travel, so that I have the rest of the time to make art.) The sum total of my artist expenses, including fees, mailings, books, supplies, travel, rent and utilities, tickets to shows, health insurance, prescriptions, and doctor visits, was $8,488.
Gaps were filled by (1) liquidating my savings and (2) three microloans from very kind family members. I’m privileged in those ways and others: I have no children, no student debt, and no serious medical conditions. I have a prestigious educational background that was, itself, enabled by privileges of race and class.
I’m really, really happy with the life I lead. I pray I can avoid 9-to-5 jobs for the rest of my life because they make me feel like I’m dying. My mother died at 60. I know how short life is. But still, I look at the numbers above—especially the liquidated savings—and realize my situation probably isn’t sustainable. As Obama says, I’m one emergency away from financial ruin. So this year will probably have to be different.
I’ve taken steps already, and am taking more. Stay tuned.