Well, yeah. That’s kind of the whole point.
Do you hear that sound?
That’s the sound of thousands of people clicking over to TMZ simultaneously in a futile effort to numb the pain.
Don’t do it. Stick with me.
Step #4: Earn More Money
Once you start developing a smart and sustainable budget, after the initial amazement, optimism and novelty begins to fade, there will come a point when you realize that you just can’t cut your spending any further.
What are you going to do? Start making your own soap? Never buy pants again? Go on the Karen Carpenter diet? (Ouch. Too soon?)
You’re eventually going to start realizing that there are truly important things that you just can’t afford without taking on debt.
How are you going to catch up on savings toward the things that matter to you most? How are you going to take vacations to places other than the roof of your building?
At a certain point, you’re just going to realize that you need to start earning more money.
How to Make More Money by Really, Really, Trying
At first the idea of asking people for more money may seem scary, dirty, daunting, improbable. Especially for someone who works in music at a time when recorded music revenues are down by 60%.
But maybe one of the reasons that we got here in the first place – as an industry – is that we stopped thinking about these things.
Perhaps at some point music professionals, as a group, forgot how to budget and forgot how to ask others to pay us for all the value we offer. Maybe we even forgot that our job is to create things that other people value so much that they desperately want to give us money to keep on doing those things.
Maybe we forgot that part of our function, as an industry, is to ask people to pay us the money so we can keep making the things that they like.
Aren’t artists supposed to help remind regular people of what’s really important?
With that in mind, if we’ve forgotten that one of the most important things in life is to sustain doing the things we love, to create things that other people value, to demand that others respect us and show us what we’re worth, then what the hell good are we?
If we forget to do these things and if we forget to remind people that they, and we, are important, we are by definition failing at our jobs at as artists.
So, what I’m saying is that maybe it’s time we focused on what we can do to earn more money.
If you’re working as an unpaid intern somewhere, ask yourself where that’s supposed to lead. To more unpaid work?
If you’re playing shows only for “exposure”, ask yourself when and where that exposure is supposed to end. Exposure for what, anyway? Another non-paying gig?
If you’re putting out a product and no one seems interested in buying it, maybe ask if you’re taking the right approach or putting your resources in the right place.
If you’re working a dead-end assistant job, ask yourself how long it’s supposed to last. How much more “experience” you need?
And are there new things you can start doing, in that job or in another one, in order to make more money and offer more value to the world than you already are?
How to Ask For More Money: The Creative Employee Version
If you work for someone else, here’s how to get a raise:
Figure out what matters most to the person who’s signing your checks and deciding your salary.
(Is it having more time? Is it making more money? Is it leading a more pleasant day-to-day life or is it earning more prestige?)
Then, figure out how to give them that, and how to make them realize just how much you’re delivering.
If you really do that, any sane person who has the ability to pay you more will pay your more, or they will risk losing you.
If you really do that – if you’re not just telling yourself you’ve done a great job, but can demonstrate that you have done a great and relevant job and can back that up with facts and results – you will have done something that is Incredibly Rare.
Anyone who doesn’t pay you more for that doesn’t deserve you. And if they want to pay you more but can’t afford to? Well, you’ve just focused on solving the wrong problem for them. Focus on the “helping them afford to” part, or find someone who can already afford you.
So, what is your employer or client’s biggest problem?
One way to find out is to guess.
Your boss or client seems concerned about sales? Figure out to improve them. She always seems overworked? Figure out how to take tasks and projects off her plate and execute them flawlessly.
The other way to find out is to ask.
Tell your boss or your client your intentions. Explain that you want to move up in salary and responsibility, and ask what you would have to do in order to get that kind of consideration.
What kind of service would they actually pay another $5, $10, $20 for? What kind of results would they need to justify a pay increase?
Then, deliver, and find a way to prove that you’ve delivered. Show them the numbers. Spell out the results.
If you ask, most good business owners have a few ideas about what’s really important in their business and where they need to make up some ground. Chances are the mere fact that you took any initiative at all to find out what those things are is going to come as a refreshing surprise.
Trust me when I say this is a depressingly rare and unusual thing for people to actually do and follow through on the simple things we’ve just described. But these kinds of actions are the very things that great businesses and booming economies are built on.
But what about if you’re an independent operator who serves clients, customers or fans?
How to Ask For More Money: The Creative Entrepreneur Version
There are essentially two criteria to making money on your own. You’ve got to find people who:
A) Have the ability to pay (ie, they’re not broke) and
B) Are willing to pay. (ie, they actually think that what you’re selling has some kind of rare and useful value in their lives.)
This is easy to say, harder to do.
Teenage rock bands might be willing to pay for recording services. But are they able to? A wealthy hobbyist might be able to pay for you to mix his recording, but is he willing to? Maybe yes, maybe no. What if he likes the idea of mixing it himself?
You can ask these question about any number of things: Selling records, teaching, consulting, licensing, writing jingles, playing concerts, doing repairs, designing tools, whatever.
Wherever the answers are “yes” and “yes” there is pretty good potential that you can make a living.
When the answers are “maybe,” “sometimes” and “it depends,” know that you will have an uphill battle, but that if you’re dedicated enough, you might just have a chance to eek it out.
When the answer to either of these questions is a definite “no”? Run.
Run far, far, away and never look back.
The Final Calculation