Let’s talk about money!

Often as creatives we would rather hide under the duvet than talk about money. We have a love, hate relationship which isn’t always healthy.

As we head towards the end of January I want you to take this time to really think about your finances. I’m not talking about the tax return, or how much is in the bank (although I hope you are keeping an eye on those things!). I’m talking about the work that you are doing and the money that it is generating- or not!

In this podcast I talk through why it is so important to keep an eye on the projects that you are working on. We invest so much of yourselves into our creative work, both emotionally & through the time we spend on it, that we can often forget it needs to earn us a living!

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Get a grip on copyright

 

Be original

Getting a grip on copyright can be one of the greatest tools in your creative kit. I have met so many creatives who don’t understand copyright law, and this so often puts them at a disadvantage with their clients.

I have studied copyright law, but it does change quite often, so it is important for you to check what the latest laws are in your country. Most countries follow the same copy rights laws, apart from China. In this article I am going to talk about the UK copyright laws.

Copyright law doesn’t have to be scary. I’m going to talk you through a few basics, and explain a few exceptions to the rules. This should be enough to empower you to make the right decisions when selling your work or taking on a commission or employment.

In the podcast below I talk through the basic principles of copyright law, how it can make you money and how to explain to your clients what your rights are.

Here are the basics

  1. As a creative, when you produce a piece of work, whether it is a painting, photograph or writing, you own the copyright.
  2. You don’t need to register your work, for you to own the copyright to it. In the states and the UK you can register your work to prove that you own the copyright, but this isn’t a requirement.https://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/register/
  3. You can add the copyright symbol © at the bottom of your website or work, but again it isn’t a requirement. I like to add it to remind people to respect my copyright.
  4. If you sell your work (like a painting or photograph) you retain the copyright. Even if the work is a portrait of the client, you have the rights to the copyright. They have no right to make copies of the work, whether they sell them or not.You can sell them the copyright- but I’ll cover this later on.

Exceptions to the rules

There will always be some exceptions to the rules, so it is important that you check with your own country’s law as to what the exceptions are. They also change regularly, so it is important to make sure that you are up to date with your knowledge.

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How to get paid on time

How to get paid on time

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Getting paid on time when you are a freelancer or just starting out on your creative career, can be the difference between making or breaking you.

When I was starting out I had no idea that I could set the date that invoices needed to be paid by. I thought I was at the mercy of the people that I worked for as a freelancer. I now know that was wrong.

When we hustle for work and make new client and customer contacts we are building relationships. We each come with a way of working and we need to compromise to be able to work together. This I believe should also extend to payment plans as well.

When we start out or work with a new client, we are so grateful to get the work, we want to be on our best behaviour and hope that they will hire us again.
Money is one of those areas that as creatives we still struggle to have conversations about, but it is one of the most important things that we need to do.

We have all heard creatives say “Oh I’m no good with figures.” but this is really a way of saying “I don’t understand figures, or I’m scared of figures, or I don’t know how to ask for help about money”.

I don’t want to ever hear you say again that you are no good with figures! If you can use an ATM machine, then you can figure out some basic book keeping. At its most simple level all book keeping is, is money coming in and money coming out.

We all played with money boxes as kids adding up all of the coins that we had collected, and it is no different now that you are freelancing. I’m not the world’s best mathematician, but I know that I don’t have to be. I can use calculators or pay a monthly fee to use software like Kashflow.
As creatives we have so much more access to help to get our figures sorted out, than we ever did before.

Yes it can be boring, but it is the life blood of our career so we should show it some respect. Just as you wouldn’t feel good living on junk food your whole life, you need to look after your money in the same way and feed and care for it. How we get paid on time is a big part of that care package for your finances.

In the podcast I talk about ways to help you get paid on time and have designed a getting paid checklist for you to use.You can listen to it below.

To download the checklist click HERE.

When you start a new relationship with a client or customer find out who is actually going to be paying you.

  • Is it them, or someone from the finance department?
  • Get their name, email address and direct phone number before you start the work.

Having these conversations at the beginning will save lots of heart ache in the long run.

Next you want to work out what terms you want them to respect.

Does that mean that you expect payment on receipt of the invoice, or that you are paid in instalments as parts of the work is completed? By being asked to be paid in instalments it offers you some protection. If they can’t pay you for the next chunk of work, then it means you won’t start it until they have paid you for the previous work you have done. This is very useful if you are a designer, as you will be working closely with the clients and going backwards and forwards to make changes with them etc.

If you are a photographer, (like I was) it is harder to ask for payment as you go along, but there are other ways of doing it. You can supply watermarked photographs, or if you still work on film then you can supply watermarked contact sheets and hold onto the negatives until you are paid.

I have had terrible experiences in the past working for glossy magazines who said they would pay me monthly (and I didn’t know I could negotiate those terms). I waited to be paid monthly and then the magazine went bust with me losing 3 months worth of work, and having to fight with the bailiffs to get my negatives back. Don’t let this happen to you!

If they can’t afford you, then you need to ask yourself if it is worth working for them. Magazines and newspapers have a policy of only paying monthly, and sometimes longer. I still think that there are ways to work around this, as I mentioned before about holding onto the negatives or making sure you get some petty cash up front to pay for expenses.

We are often so excited to have the work our professional brain leaves the building! Believe me, I have been there. It is much harder to claw back money once the work has started than to negotiate terms for that work at the beginning.

They may say that their way is the only way, but if they really want to work with you I always think there is some compromise. After all this is all about relationships.

  • Can you get per diems (money for food, parking, hotels etc) up front?
  • Can you get them to pay in instalments if they can’t pay the whole fee on time?
  • Can they pay you some of it out of petty cash?

If you keep meeting brick walls you need to ask if you really want to work for these people. It might seem like a great place to be, but there is little point working hard for them if they are not going to pay you on time when you need the money for the work. All you get if that happens is a feeling of loss and bitterness that they took advantage of you.

As single freelancers it is always hard to negotiate the money alone, but once you have tried it once, you can do it again and again. As you build your reputation, you can set the way your payment plan works, and if they don’t like it, then you need to ask yourself if you want to work with them in the long run.

Too many young people come out of University or start their careers doing work for free. I beg them to stop.

It isn’t only that they are being taken advantage of, but it also damages the industry that they are entering. I have seen too many young photographers, designers and artists giving their work away for free again and again. It often comes down to confidence and the lack of skills to negotiate.

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Dealing with difficult clients.

Dealing with difficult clients

It doesn’t have to be painful.

There will have been some point during your career when you have had to deal with difficult clients. You may have started off well with a good relationship, but as the work commitments piled on the relationship broke down.

Usually there is a basic cause to the problem and 9 times out of 10 it usually relates to communication.

Communication can break down due to a number of reasons. They might have given you more work than was agreed, or else they keep moving the goal posts, or they keep making changes to the work which leaves you with many more hours than you imagined you’d be working on it.

All of this can be prevented. In order for that to happen you need to start at the beginning. I explain how in the podcast below.

When we begin freelancing we often think that we have to say yes to every project. We fear that we will never work again if we say no. I spent my early creative career saying yes to things that I later resented doing- and no one likes an unhappy employee or client.

We need to learn to say no more often. Now I’m not talking about the shouty kind of no which makes the person who offered you the work feel bad. I’m talking about taking the time to say no. Rather than saying yes immediately, ask them if you can get back to them, or check you diary. Anything that buys you a bit of time so that you can weigh up whether this is the right thing for you to be doing. I always as myself these three questions:

  1. Will I enjoy working on this? (You are at work for many hours in a day, so you have to want to work on it).
  2. Will this help to further my creative career? (If we keep on working for free we are going to end up bankrupt and still on the bottom rung of the ladder).
  3. Are these people who I want to work with? (Just as you need to enjoy the work, you want to enjoy working with the people. Trying to work with someone who is difficult from the start isn’t going to end well).

I’m lucky that I have now got enough of my career behind me to be more picky these days, and I spend most of my time saying no to things. Often it is because what they are asking me is actually going to take several days rather than a “can I pick your brain”.

Saying yes to the right things, will help you progress your career, will help you to shine as you are enjoying the experience, and you are more likely to deliver your best work when you have felt valued and excited about the projects.

There will always be days when you need to pay the rent and have to say yes to something for the money, but there are ways to manage that job so that it doesn’t turn into a horrible experience with difficult clients demanding more, and you hating every moment of that. I talk more about how to deal with that in the podcast.

Communication is key. From the beginning, until the end. I would always rather someone was informing me of their progress every day than not at all.

Think about the times that you have been waiting for a bus or a plane and it is suddenly delayed. You sit and wait and no one tells you what is happening.

How do you feel?

I imagine that you begin to feel frustrated and annoyed that no one is telling you what is going on, or when the transport is actually going to arrive. This is how clients feel if you don’t tell them what is going on.

There will be days when we realise that we aren’t going to meet the deadline, or that a problem arises and we need more time. As long as you are communicating this to your clients, reasonable people will understand. Reasonable people can turn into unreasonable people if they are left hanging, with no idea of what is going on.

The second thing that can create difficult clients is money. Money makes the world go around, whether we like it or not. Creatives are particularly bad at pricing themselves correctly. (There will be a future podcast and worksheets to help you with pricing).

Sorting out the money before you even start the job is hugely beneficial. You get those uncomfortable money conversations out of the way first. Often the person who hires you isn’t the person who pays you, so before you do one single hour of work, make sure you discuss how you want to get paid and who is going to pay you.

  • Do you want to be paid before the job starts? (This is possible if you have a good relationship with them. All of my mentor sessions are paid up front).
  • Do you want to be paid in instalments as you deliver the work in chunks? (This can be a great way of working as the client gets to see the work progress and understands that they need to pay for the next piece of work etc. It also allows them to give feedback as the job develops.Plus it protects you. I have had the horrible experience of a magazine going bust on me and months worth of work went unpaid, and I had to contact the bailiffs to retrieve my photographic negatives! Not a nice experience. If I had requested payment in chunks this wouldn’t have happened).
  • Look at what terms you add to your invoices. And if you don’t put payment terms on your invoices do it now! Payment terms basically mean the number of days you are willing to wait until the invoice needs to be paid.I put 15 days for most work, and 30 days for magazines and newspapers as I know their departments take that long to process things. I’ve seen designers as to be paid on receipt of the invoice. Work out what you need in order to survive or what you are willing to wait for, or put up with, and then set your terms.
    Continue reading “Dealing with difficult clients.”

How to crowd fund successfully

We would all love to know how to crowd fund successfully. I get asked a lot of questions about how to raise finance for projects or funding. Even the Arts Council and Banks are looking towards crowd funding to get their clients to raise half of the cash.

Si Walker
I always have rosy cheeks!

I love a challenge, so I hunted out the lovely Si Walker from Crowdfunder.co.uk, which is the biggest crowd funding platform in the UK. He generously recorded a podcast with me, teaching you how to crowd fund for success.

Si talks through lots of top tips, and ways that you can drive an audience to your projects and pledges. One of the best pieces of advice was that the audience can become your fans. This also acts as marketing for your business in the future.  Si talks through how that can be done in the podcast.

You can listen to the podcast below.

If you missed the top tips PDF from Crowdfunder that I shared last week, you can access it again here: CROWDFUNDER 

Do let me know what project you would like to crowd fund, or if you have one on the go at the moment. Share links to them in the comments below.

Is there a subject that you would like me to cover in a podcast, or someone you would like me to interview? Send me an email and I’ll see what I can do. CONTACT 

Life as a female documentary director

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing the female, documentary, director Vicky Lesley this week over Skype. She talked candidly about her creative career, the ups and downs and ways that she has been able to access alternative finance for her projects. We giggled often through out the Skype call, and I felt like I had found an old friend, even though we had just met.

Life sometimes takes us on a journey that we didn’t expect it to. We can either take that less travelled road with good will and confidence, or we can moan about the injustice of it all, and stay at the cross roads. Sometimes we end up on another path that wasn’t as good as the first, and other times we find ourselves in paradise.

Vicky has had her fair share of career ups and downs, and has always managed to find a way through. It might not always be the quickest route (her documentary feature has been 10 years in the making!) but it can often turn out to be the most rewarding.

Vicky Lesley

You can listen to the Skype interview here, as we talked about alternative finance, life as a female director and coming back to work after having children. I hope she inspires you as much as she did me.

You can see more of her work at her website: www.tennerfilms.com

What we have to try to remember when we are building our creative careers, is that there are no rules to how we navigate them. Some of us will find part-time work to support our creative work on the side, others will take night jobs pulling pints or waiting on tables. (I was a waitress when I was working to build my photojournalism career). The important thing is to value each of those moments, and give them as much of your enthusiasm as you can muster. You might hate waiting tables, but by shifting your focus to believing that waiting tables is helping you reach your creative career goals, suddenly the bigger tips come in, and your shift flies by.

Building a creative career is never going to be easy. If it was, everyone would be at it! We are blessed to have talent and passion to drive us forward. The key is to work out how to survive financially while we are building our careers.

What is the biggest financial block that you are facing at the moment? Share your story in the comments below. Let’s see if we can help you figure out a route to alternative finance.

Getting your hands on the money

When we are having the fun times we can forget about the finance that we need, to be able to keep our creative careers going. I have heard many creatives tell me that they are no good with figures. What if I was to tell you that there is a way to get a handle on them, a way of getting your hands on the money, and by doing so it will help you to empower yourself and your career?

Scared? Want to run and hide under the sofa? That was my attitude to money in the beginning. With a bit of help and guidance you can get to grips with it so that you too can flourish and grow.

I like to think of money as water flowing in and out of our business, this is how I want you to think about it too.

When we understand the flow of our finances, we can prepare for the times of rain & the times of drought.

Continue reading “Getting your hands on the money”