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How to Not Stay Broke All the Time (Part 2)

In the continuation of my last post on The 10 Commandments of Personal Finance for Actors, here again is the vital yet not discussed very much subject of money in our business. Every actor wants money, but you’re not in it for the money.  Hummm. The pure love of art and the craft of acting is the very reason most actors are starving artists forever…never attaining many of their dreams.

With a little bit of focus and some attention paid, (double meaning there…PAID, get it?) you’ll start to see some shifts that will make way for a financial breakthrough as well as make it easier for you to create art.  Here are the last 5 of the 10 Commandments:

5. Thou Shalt Set Financial Goals

In order to reach your financial goals, you need to know what those goals are. Nobody can determine these goals except for you. You need to take the time to figure out exactly what your financial goals are so that you can take the needed steps to reach them.

One of the first steps I recommend is to find out current actor pay rates.  I find that when I work with my coaching clients and we begin setting financial goals, they’ll come up with an arbitrary number they’d love to make in a year.  Often that goal is sooooo unrealistically reachable simply because they don’t know what stuff actually pays.  I won’t go into all of that here, but knowledge is power and starting with achievable goals and attaining them creates enthusiasm and momentum to reach higher.

If you don’t know specifically what your financial goals are for this year, next year and 10 years from now, take the steps needed to create them.  Choose target dates and a plan for reaching those goals by that time.  Review your plan every quarter.  Progress makes perfect!

4. Thou Shalt Educate Yourself and Be Responsible for Your Decisions

I know you want to really make a great living as an actor and when you do, while it may be more convenient to hand over all your money matters to somebody else, please promise me, you will not do this. Part of being financially responsible is having the final say in all decisions about your money. That does not mean that you can’t seek out advice and get opinions on your finances, but in the end your money is your responsibility, and you are the only one who is going to truly look after your own interests.

Many years ago I got hooked on learning about investing my money without a financial planner.  I took my savings and IRA money and put it into self-directed investments.  In order to not screw it all up and lose everything I took classes with Tyrone Jackson, an actor and voiceover artist, who taught himself everything he needed to know to invest wisely and win in the stock market. He created a class for actors and artists and shared that knowledge. Now he has widened his horizons and teaches his methods to any and all who want to learn.  It’s because of this financial education that I’m confident about my future retirement and prospects for having all the money I’ll need when I’m older.

3. Thou Shalt Save and Invest

As in the two previous commandments. Take the money that you pay yourself first and either save or invest it to make it grow and work for you in the future.

If you are carrying credit card debt, invest your money by paying it down/off first.  But also make sure to take full advantage of the saving and investing opportunities that are available to you now that you may not be.  If your flexible day joy company matches contributions to a 401k, contribute up to the match maximizing the potential savings.  No matter what your work status, opening a Roth IRA and making regular contributions, no matter how small, will create the habit of saving. Having an emergency fund is also essential.  And no, heading out of town for a last minute weekend adventure is not an emergency!

2. Thou Shalt Protect Your Finances

This is more than making sure your purse is closed or your wallet is in the front pocket when walking through Times Square.  At some point in your career, you will need to take the necessary steps to make sure that your money and investments are protected in case of a disaster.  This mostly means insurance and there are several different kinds.

Take the time to make sure that all your assets are properly insured, and re-evaluate this every few years or whenever a major life change occurs, such as buying a house or apartment, getting married or having children. Be sure to compare insurance rates on a regular basis, since this is a competitive business.

I know that some of this seems far down the road for some of you, however looking forward to what’s to come and what’s needed in order to maintain and protect what you’ve worked so hard to create is essential.

1. Thou Shalt Donate to Worthy Causes and Those Less Fortunate

This is my absolute, #1 favorite commandment. No matter how desperate your finances may appear, if you are reading this article there are a lot of people that are far worse off than you are in the world. It’s important to nurture a sense of giving and to be thankful for the small things that you do have. That means donating to worthy causes on a regular basis.

donation

Helping the homeless, donating to the Cancer Society of America, animal causes, etc. are all needing funds to make an impact. Find the causes that you believe in, and give to them generously. Don’t assume that money is the only way that you can give. Volunteering time and skills are also appreciated by most charitable organizations.

On my website I sell my recommended agencies list and donate all of the proceeds to one of my favorite charities, The Best Friends Animal Society.  They also have the largest “no kill” animal sanctuary in North America located in Kanab, UT and I’ve volunteered there as well.  What an amazing experience I’ll never forget and can’t wait to repeat!

So that’s it.  The Ten Commandments of Personal Finance for Actors.  Even if you just start with implementing 3 of them, that means you’re taking ACTion and that’s a good thing!

I always love to hear your opinions on my posts but here I’d also love to hear which one (or three!) commandments you’re committing to taking on.  It’s time to have an adult life folks…actors are fun loving creators and that childlike quality is what keeps our creativity alive.  However, the business of show requires you to get your financial act together so come on, tell me what you’re gonna do!

How to Not Stay Broke All the Time

the-ten-commandmentsThe real title of this message is:  The 10 Commandments of Personal Finance for Actors.  But that’s not very sexy.  Money in our business tends to be a taboo subject and even though every actor wants it, many work for free for the love of the art.  People in our business tend to be broke – a lot, so here’s my take on CHANGING that for yourself forever!

It starts before you have a ton of it.  Practice these commandments NOW and when you work for it and make more money acting, you’ll have the habits and discipline to make it work for you.  It’s simple, but not easy, only because you may not be in the habit of abundant thinking and ACTion.  Stay the course and you’ll begin to notice the magic happen…

10. Thou Shalt Take ACTion

Reading about how to improve your personal finances is a start, but it has absolutely no meaning if you don’t take the action of putting what you learn into motion. Before you can get anywhere with your personal finances, you need to begin — right now. If you are reading this, you already know that you should be taking steps to get your personal finances in order.

Print out these commandments and place the page where you will see it every day, so that you are reminded that money is important and a priority in your life!  Commit to taking some kind of action each and every day to try to improve your situation.

9. Thou Shalt Pay Off All Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is, in most cases, the #1 enemy to your personal finances. It can have a huge negative effect on your future as well as feel like a burden presently if your credit card bills are not under control.  Managing debt is possible even when your income is sporadic.  If at all possible pay, your credit card bills every single month to not carry a balance.  Waiting for that big future payday to take care of a big debt it is folly.

Pay off balances with the highest interest rate first.  As you eliminate the debt from the higher balance cards, put them away in a drawer and don’t use them anymore.  Continue the process with the card with the next highest rate, etc. until your debt is paid off.  Easier said than done, I know, but focusing on eliminating debt will improve your personal finance position immensely.

8. Thou Shalt Understand the Difference Between Wants and Needslatte-art-171_p25488P6

To keep your finances in perspective, you need to understand the difference between wants and needs. There is nothing inherently wrong with small luxuries, a latte here and there or an evening out with friends.  You deserve to be able to enjoy many of the nonessential things you have. But it is important to realize that wants are not needs. If you master this skill, your finances will be in much better shape.

Take some time to critically look at your true needs vs. your wants.  If you truly need that latte, I get it, but if you’re struggling to pay your rent every month and your true desire is to enter your short film in a festival with a $75 entry fee and you can’t because of your latte needs, well, this is where you’ll need to change something up.  The distinction between wants and needs will truly shift your “starving artist” conversation for good.

7. Thou Shalt Live on Less Than You Earn

When I first heard this commandment I was like “whaaaaaat? Nobody actually does that, right?”  Well truth be told, abundantly thinking and financially secure people do.  There are no two ways around this one. If you want to keep your personal finances in order, you need to live on less money than you make. That means buying stuff for your biz that you need like Actors Access, dues and membership fees and yes, those lattes, all have to cost less than you currently make.

Hate the word budget?  So do I so I have taken on a wonderful money management system I learned from T. Harv Eker of Peak Potentials, LLC that I teach in one of my seminars. It makes commandment #7 easy peasy.  It’s either that or figuring out a way to increase your income from “side jobs” so that you can spend more, but still less than you earn in total.  Either of these is perfectly fine.

The easiest way to live on less is to make a list of where your money is going each month, then look for replacements.  For example, shopping for a new cable company or switching phone plans will leave you with the same services for less. The same concept works for products.  If you purchase a couple of soft drinks each day, instead of can by can, buy a 2 liter bottle.  What the above examples have in common is that you are still getting the same items or services that you are getting today, but at a better price. This frees up money, allowing you to live the same lifestyle you have been enjoying for less.

money-stack-psd605386. Thou Shalt Pay Yourself First

I know you’ve heard this one before and have thought it was a great idea yet the majority of actors I know leave it for last.  Because of this there’s no such thing as a savings account and the paycheck to sporadic paycheck lifestyle of the starving artist perpetuates.

Before you pay any of your other bills, you should pay yourself a minimum of 10% of all money that comes your way. Money earned from a straight job, acting income, residuals, birthday money from Grandma – all of it! This money is taken off the top, FIRST and put into an account that is not part of your immediate spending.  This is your financial future!

Go to your bank and set it up so that your paycheck is automatically deposited if you have a regular job, if possible. Then set it up so that an automatic payment is immediately taken from your paycheck into a specified account that is not used for your monthly expenses.  This could be a savings account or an IRA or if you like to have your money make money while you’re sleeping, put it into the stock market after you’ve gotten an education in investing there.

If the first 5 commandments make cents to you, ahem, sense to you, then stay tuned for the next post with the TOP 5 commandments.  I’d love to hear from you with your thoughts on money.  “Money doesn’t grow on trees”; “It takes money to make money”; “Money is the root of all evil”; “A penny saved is a penny earned”.  What thoughts about money have shaped your life?  Please share in the comments section below.

3 Tips to Help You Achieve Your Dreams

It’s nice to have dreams, essential in fact, but at the end of the day they are never going to come true unless you ACT on them! (See how I did that, LOL!)

These 3 tips will help you clarify your dreams and work toward them in the most efficient way. I HIGHLY recommend the following:

1. Write Them Down: A dream written down and attached to a date becomes a goal. It sounds over-simplistic, yet that simple act is the difference between a dreamer and a doer. The statistics are staggering. People who set written goals are much more successful than those that don’t. Putting your goals where you can see them is really important.  My CEO grads can attest to this one.

2. Dream BIG Dreams: It’s funny, but the amazing thing to me is the fact that it is easier to accomplish a BIG dream than a small one. Big dreams are exciting and keep us motivated. They get us up in the morning and keep us motivated through the day. They attract other people to get involved. Little dreams are easily forgotten and often abandoned.  Like one of my great mentors, Les Brown is quoted as saying “Shoot for the moon, cause even if you miss you’ll fall among the stars.”

3. Focus on One Dream at a Time. An old Chinese proverb states that “A man who chases two rabbits, catches none.” Focus is critical to achieving our goals. Steve Jobs commented that the single thing that made Apple successful was the thousand projects they didn’t do. Focusing on one important goal at a time will help you stay on track.

I’ve been talking a lot about dreams lately…the kind we have when we are awake, but this exercise has a lot of effect on the dreams you have when you’re sleeping too and I consider this internal programming, if you will.  When you wake up in the morning going after your DAY dreams feels exciting and inspiring.

So that’s it…simple yes, easy no.  It takes practice so get to it!  Let me hear right now in the comments section what your BIG dream is.

What NOT To Do – 8 Ways to Screw Up Your Marketing

marketingCloudYou work hard at your craft, to build a reputation and contact list, generate positive reviews and word of mouth.  You’re working on your visibility and getting known for what you do. But are you undermining your own efforts?  Consider these common pitfalls of actor marketing:

1.  Your marketing is all about you.

It should focus on your talent and what you bring to the party, right? Well, no, not exactly.  It should primarily focus on what your talent and “actor services” do for the project or people who are hiring you.  The former is about “me and what I want and need” and the latter is “here’s how I can best serve the story that is being told.”  Take yourself out of your marketing and put your contacts (the people you are marketing to) at the heart of it.  In other words make THEM the “leading man/woman” in the story of your career.

2.  You market to yourself.

You can really mess things up of you make assumptions about your contacts based on the preferences and behaviors of you or your friends.  Your marketing could end up possibly offending and deterring your intended audience – out of touch with their true wants, needs and likes.  On that note…

3.  You don’t know your audience.

If you aren’t your target market, well, who is?  Invest the time and money to identify not just who your niche market is but how they behave. How do they prefer to be contacted?  Email, snail mail, social?  Where do they look for talent – what sites, networking places and showcases do they use/attend?  What influences their decision making process.  Who influences their choices?  Have a clear and full picture of the person you are trying to reach before you reach out.

4.  Your marketing is based on what you’ve heard, not learned.

Marketing in our business is like parenting:  Everyone has an opinion and believes they know how to do it effectively (especially those who don’t have children).  Even if you admit to being clueless, you are often influenced by others who also have no clue or are a know-it-all.  The best way to counter-act both is to have information (data) that backs up your plan.  Stay away from marketing classes and services that guarantee you results with no effort on your part and gain knowledge from your own research, participation and learning about your desired contacts.  Knowing who and how to reach your target market is best achieved by having insight into their mindset, not by choosing funky fonts or colored paper for your correspondence.  Which is why you have a problem if…

5.  You don’t have data.

I just said this above but it bears repeating.  Research, not opinion or gut instinct, should be the foundation of your marketing program.  That doesn’t mean art and creativity (which abounds) have no role in your plan.  Instead, think of data as giving you the necessary clarity you need to create new opportunities.  That’s a truly inspiring place to begin and will create a foundation for marketing your talent that’s fun.  Remember you’re ABCD’s – Always Be Collecting Data.

6.  You rely on example instead of analogy.

Creating your “big break” opportunity will be completely different from anyone else’s.  What has worked for one actor will not necessarily work for you. Even if you studied their story and duplicated their marketing, your path (by Universal Law) has to be different. However you don’t have to re-invent the wheel either.  Remember, the folks in our biz really don’t love “original” (unproven and risky) but they love “unique” (familiar, with a twist).  By the way I’m talking about your marketing, not your acting.  Therefore I suggest you look outside of the way most actors market themselves and to other people and organizations outside of our biz for ideas.  Be innovative.  Take something that worked “over there” and start using it “over here”. (For example, the inspiration for this post came from Entrepreneur magazine)

7.  You aren’t sharing yourself or your experiences.

In our socially connected world, between all of the technology that has forever changed the way we relate in our industry and get work, many actors are not leveraging the newest methods of marketing available.  The traditional (old fashioned) way of creating visibility and getting hired are still around, but have significantly narrowed the opportunities, while the amount of actors seeking work has increased 10-fold during the same period.  Your marketing has to include social media and enabling connections outside of the “norm”.  Are you encouraging and supporting interaction by rethinking the way you reach people?  How about building relationships before industry professionals have identified you as a possible candidate for a project?  You must have an on-line and social strategy in place so you can frequently engage folks in the industry outside of always “trying to get a job”.  Building rapport is the key to future success.  Which leads me to…

Quiet on set8.  You’re too quiet.

If someone reaches out to you on social media, do you respond, or is the message met with silence? Too busy/picky/don’t know what to say? Actors, casting directors, agents, producers, directors, et al are people first and these days most expect real-time (or near it) responses. This is a fast business with tons of options at all time and if an answer doesn’t come quickly, the likelihood of any R.O.I. (return on investment) is greatly reduced.  And after 24 hours, forget it.  If you’re not facile with social then get started because it is replacing almost every traditional method of making contact out there.

I’d love to hear about some of the ways you’ve screwed up.  Then let me know how you learned from your mistake and what the “correction” was.  SHARING your pitfalls (heck I’ve had so many you’d go blind reading about them) is the surest way to inspire others and gift them your wisdom so they can learn from your mistakes.  Please post comments in an effort to “pay it forward” to our fellow actors in the community!

To Your Success, Lisa

First Thursdays – Cartoon Impressions, Silly Poses, and Lots of Fun! 5.3.2012

Wow! Our May First Thursdays Networking Party was packed!  This month we had some new contests for our ACTors.  Brave folks won kudos (and free drinks) by impersonating Family Guy, knew a whole bunch about vocal training trivia, and gave us their very best glamor pose Read more

Directors and Agent attended February 2012 First Thursdays Networking Party

First Thursdays – A warm spot in a suddenly cold week 2.2.2012

 

Elana Mudgen, Tracy Costa, and Shirley Faison What a great time we had a February’s First Thursdays!  We had so many newbies show up and each one of them networked with the class and style our industry guests have come to expect.  The room was a buzz with news of the AFTRA/SAG merger and the upcoming Super Bowl (GO GIANTS!!!). I’d like to thank Elana Mugdan for bringing along the FABULOUS Bill Connington and of course Read more

First Thursdays – Kick Off to the New Year! 1.5.2012

I can’t believe it!  You partied without me and it inspires me to know that the turnover of this event to Tracy Costa was FLAWLESS!   Fabulous industry guests attended and grace us with the present of their presence this new year.  Nadette Stasa, CD with Background/Foreground generously gave every actor in the room the opportunity to qualify to take her 3 week on-camera commercial class for F*R*E*E.  And as a special bonus treat for all, actor Richard Kline, probably most famous for playing gold chain wearing, chest hair baring, neighbor Larry to Jack, Chrissy and Janet on the 70’s hit Three’s Company stole the show, ahem, party!  Way to go Tracy, way to go!  I can’t wait to come back for a visit in February for the Oscars!  Can’t wait and miss you all, Lisa.  CLICK HERE to see all the pics from our Holiday party!

Post Card Set-Up – What you NEED to know that the USPS won’t tell you!

When I’m asked what I recommend actors use as their best and most effective marketing follow up tool, the postcard is the simple answer. And yet still the majority of actors don’t use them! Why? Did you HEAR they’re not effective, read, or looked at with any real “notice” given? Sure, anything anyone says that takes the WORK out of what you have to do will be easier than doing it, so HEAR this now:

YOU MUST POSTCARD, often, all of your contacts, to create on-going relationships. How often? Read more