Music careers cost money. This is an inescapable reality. The question is, how do you budget for it?
Making money in music can be a difficult thing as-is, never mind budgeting for it. Even so, when it comes to money, you can’t just fly by the seat of your pants. You must have a plan, or you could end up treading water.
If you haven’t figured out how to manage the financials for your music career yet, consider implementing the following strategies.
Separate Your Music Income from Your Personal Income
If you haven’t separated your music income from your personal income yet, this would be a good time to do so. Open a no-fee bank account, and start paying into it all your music related income. I know the temptation might be to open a business account, but I would advise against that – the fees typically aren’t worth it. In Canada, we have President’s Choice Financial. In the States, while I cannot personally vouch for this, Capital One 360 supposedly has a no-fee checking option.
Certainly, you can pay yourself out of that account, but don’t mix your career money with your personal money. Your music income should go towards paying for relevant career related expenses.
If you treat your career like a business, you’ll understand this mindset. All your music income is money that can go back into your business to help fund future projects and tours. Don’t rob yourself of seed money. The reason many musicians don’t have enough money to do the things they want and need to do is because they don’t take this simple step.
If you are diligent about saving your career income, you should always have the funds you need to continue promoting and making music. You may still have to save for big expenses, but if you manage well, at least you won’t be starting from scratch every time you’re looking to get a new project off the ground.
Account for Every Penny
Because your income isn’t generally fixed as a musician, it can be harder to create a solid budget for your expenses. As much as possible, however, try to get into the habit of assigning where you want every penny of your income to go.
This might sound difficult or tedious, but when you don’t assign where you want your money to go, you may end up spending it on something else without even thinking. Most people manage their money on autopilot, which is why they fail. You must pay attention to your finances. Check your bank account – both personal and professional – on a weekly basis, if not more often. Move your money around in a deliberate way.
This process does not have to be complicated. You can assign most of your surplus to your savings account if you want to. Just make sure you are aware of what you are doing before you do it.
Keep Track of Income and Outgo
Create a log for all your career related income and outgo. Because your income is going to be reinvested into your business, all expenses should be considered tax deductions (meaning you should track them).
But please consult with your tax adviser before writing anything off. I am not an accountant, so do not take my advice as final. However, owning a business does tend to have many tax advantages, which should work in your favor if you’re established as a proper business entity, and you’re keeping logs.
Don’t forget to keep a mileage log as well. Mark the miles driven as either personal or business miles. Keep gas receipts.
Tools & Apps That Help
Here are several tools and apps that can help you manage and track your finances. But again, if you take no action, nothing will happen. You must allocate some time to handling your money, or you will default to your old habits, whatever they may be. If you have good habits, no problem. If you have bad habits, watch out.
But I digress. Here are some resources that can help you gain control over your finances:
- Mileage log: You can find various mileage logs on Amazon (affiliate link), as well as at Staples. If you’re planning on writing off auto expenses at tax season, you must keep a record of how you’re using your car. If you’re not sure how to fill it out, ask your accountant (it’s not that difficult). There are also mileage logging apps, but they usually require you to pay, and may not be worth the money you spend on them.
- FreshBooks: I don’t use FreshBooks for everything, but I kind of wish I did. I think it’s a great app. It does pretty much everything accounting software for small businesses should do, including invoicing. I’ve heard good things about Xero as well.
- Mint: At the recommendation of a mentor, I used Mint for a while to track my expenses. You can connect it to your bank account, have it record your outgo, and have it send reports to you via email. I don’t have the need for it anymore, because I manage my finances manually (online banking), but it’s worth a try if you want to see where your money is going.
As a bonus tip, I would suggest keeping track of where your money is going for an entire month manually on a whiteboard or in a notebook. This exercise alone will teach you a lot about money.
Managing money isn’t the easiest thing to do. Just look at how many people out there are in debt, and you will begin to realize that few people do it well. And that’s one of the reasons you can’t take advice from just anyone – they don’t know any better than you do!
If you want to make your money work for you, make sure to commit to creating a plan. A half-hearted attempt at managing finances probably won’t get you the results you’re looking for.
Always remember to treat your music like a business, and you will be able to fund your ongoing activities. After all, you want to seize opportunity as it presents itself, and not have to turn down a chance at something you want to do because you don’t have the money.