Benjamin Franklin once said, “Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.” Take it from him, his face is on the $100 bill. As artistic professionals, it’s easy to focus on “the big break.” But your credit score isn’t based on your reel. Big breaks are often a series of small breaks throughout your career that grow incrementally. To survive as an artist, you have to focus on incremental financial growth, making fiscally responsible choices, and the here and now.
A scarcity mindset will make money scarce. Your relationship with money is like your relationship with anything else in your life. A positive attitude will yield better results. Healthy boundaries are a key to growth and you need to be honest with yourself. It’s good to figure out the money you will realistically need to survive. This doesn’t mean working with what you have and rationing it out. It involves being honest with yourself about how much you need to thrive. When it comes to this, Miata Edoga, the president and founder of Abundance Bound, is not a fan of using the word budgeting.
“I feel it puts the focus on everything we can’t have,” she explains. “Instead, I encourage people to engage in financial ‘forecasting.’ Start planning and purposefully deciding where your money will go.”
If you spend without awareness, you’ll continue to lose money. Realistically looking at your spending and what you need whether it’s trips to Starbucks or trips to see relatives is important.
“You choose how you’re going to spend with your specific end goals in mind,” Edoga says.
We must have a healthy relationship with our money and our spending. We have to find an empowering outlook because entertainment is a long game. The only way to get out of feast and famine is proper planning.
So what is on a comedian’s budget?
A lot of the reason you may be broke is you’re not looking at your spending. There are expenses people often forget until they need them. If you have a cat, car, or child you should have money stashed for expenses that will inevitably come up. Beyond just a rainy day fund, it’s smart to honor the life you want instead of saving to survive plan ahead. Edoga calls this planned savings.
“There can be pressure to have 3–6 months of living expenses sitting in an ‘emergency savings’ account. But for many actors, this feels overwhelming,” she says. “I ask my students to first focus on creating ‘planned savings.’ This is money you expect to need to spend on expenses that don’t happen every month, i.e. car repair, travel, holiday gifts, etc. Putting money aside each month for these costs helps us to avoid panic and high levels of credit card debt.”
Establishing a realistic picture of what three months looks like in your life factoring in yearly expenses is a great first step. This will help you plan. It can also help you get a picture of how much you’re making versus how much you need. Under-earning is often a huge issue among creative professionals. If you’re not making what you need to live on it’s a recipe for debt. There are tons of ways to make cash. Also, if a job is not giving you the life you want, it may not be the job for you.
Specific Comedy Expenses
Now to the nitty-gritty. Comedians often have expenses they don’t keep an eye on. For instance, open mics often have associated costs. These add up over the course of the week, month, and year. It’s worth noting how much you spend on these a month. That can dictate the goals you set in your comedy career.
In addition to open mics, there are costs related to getting a video of your set, attending shows, and travel to and from your open mics, shows, and auditions. That drink you get at a show and the gas you spend to get there should all be part of your planning.
Then there are the costs to invest in your career. It’s easy to assume you’ll make it in comedy just by lurking at your local comedy spot or by sheer merit. Many comedians diversify their comedic portfolio with sketch comedy, improv, and acting. They all have costs.
Also budget for comedy and acting classes as well as filming sketches that can have wardrobe, travel, and filming costs. Having headshots and promo photos, recording a comedy album, and having a website are all costs to have on your radar. These should be viewed as investments in your career. Your time, like money, is a form of currency.
Submitting to agents, managers, and touring agents all have associated costs. It’s a good idea to add these to your forecast so that you’re properly giving yourself what you need to succeed. Submitting to comedy festivals or auditions often have costs too. Websites like Backstage all have some nominal fees.
If you ever want to rent a venue for a show and market that show, you’ll need to plan for those as well. The goal of standup is to perform. If you want to tour whether it’s comedy festivals, different states, or multiple venues in your area, there are expenses. Gas money, accommodation, and submission fees should be considered. It takes money to make money. These investments can give you more credits for your comedy résumé. Also, if your goal is to be universally funny it’s good to get a feel for your comedy with different audiences.
The benefit of proper forecasting and setting goals that align with your ideal career is to live a less stressful life. While stressful situations can lead to funny jokes, a clear, cool head can lead you to make smarter choices with your money, your time, and your career. You’re more likely to be in a position to make people laugh if you’re not riddled with anxiety over your finances.
Budget in place? Time to check out Backstage’s comedy audition listings!
The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.