Let's Talk About Money
In the early stages of your career as as creative, the elephant in the room can often be 'money'. For example, you've played a studio session for an artist, or co-written with a songwriter or you're asked to film or edit a video for a band. All of these tasks could be done for free but they could also be done for money. This article won't focus on what you should charge, how you should determine you value and when you should increase your rates, as an individual it's your responsibility to negotiate the above (though if readers are interested in this topic we could discuss it at a later point). What we'll try to establish with this post is a solid base for managing your money as a professional.
A lot of the articles found on Reload Sessions are targeted towards musicians or creatives who have maybe just left school/college or university and are hoping to make their mark on their industry and get noticed. Despite this, the following advice applies to everyone. Once you have a basic understanding on how to manage the culture around money, it's easier to keep a track of what comes in and tailor your goals along with your expenditure.
It doesn't matter if you charge £20 for a job or £2000, the following principles can and should be in the back of your mind.
The first on our list should really be a no-brainer. If you don't do any of the other things mentioned on this list make sure you set up online banking. Virtually all major banks have an online platform, meaning you can make payments and access your account online, no more queuing and going to the bank to make payments. Everything can be done from your computer or your phone. It might be the case that you deal with large amounts of cash, in which case online banking is still relevant once you've deposited your cash. Having unlimited access to your account is very important as it means you can keep track of the health of the account whenever and where ever. After all, it is your money so it's probably a good thing to stay up to date with the account. If this can't be set up straight away online visit or call your local branch and explain you'd like to set up an online account. Everything is very secure and safe and you'll likely be sent a keypad to help generate a code to access your funds. Once this is up and running you'll be able to manage the other points of this article with greater ease.
Pros: Access your account from laptops or mobile phones wherever you are in the world
Cons: You'll need to set it up and wait for a keypad to arrive before using the online feature.
With online banking up and running you can now consider how to keep track of what comes in and where it goes. When we first started Reload Sessions and overcame the grey-area that is asking for a fee someone replied with "No problem about the fee, send me an invoice". It may sound silly to say, but neither of us really knew what that meant. We looked at each other as if to say "er...sure..?", headed back home and googled 'How To Write An Invoice'. For a while we wrote invoices out with Google Docs, we found a generic template, put in the appropriate details and sent it off. No harm done and it certainly got the job done, but it didn't feed us information. It meant we had numerous invoices stored online but it didn't present us with any valuable data. We searched for an upgrade and finally came to find Wave - the free online invoice management system. Wave does numerous things, and is a great accounting website. You can manage receipts, invoices and expenditures via Wave. All your information is presented as data too so you can see different statistics for each month, a very helpful insight.
Wave does everything you'll need to do in the early stages of your career, it makes sure you keep track of what's coming in and what's going out, it's even better knowing it's 100% free and unrestricted, you can write as many invoices as you like as customise them too with your unique branding. It's definitely a website to keep in your favourites, don't forget to download the app on your phone too.
Pros: Invoicing and receipt management. Customisable invoices can be made and data analysis available too. Unlimited usage for free.
Cons: Honestly, I can't think of any cons. Unless you have an accountant or using a programme which does the same, there's no reason not to use Wave if you're writing out invoices.
Uh oh. The dreaded tax returns. You might not have to deal with it just yet but when you do have to file your returns if you're from the UK you'll want to have SimpleTax on your side. Honestly, with SimpleTax it's not nearly as big as an issue as people make it out to be. The downside is you do have to pay £18 to submit your data, however - hand on my heart I can genuinely say it's worth it. SimpleTax has a very user-friendly interface, one which puts HMRC to shame, it's all very straight forward and everything that's scary about working with HMRC is missing from SimpleTax. Select the desired financial year, input income and expenses, add a few personal details and you're good to go. With great reviews from The Metro and Macworld, SimpleTax can't be doing much wrong. SimpleTax runs numerous error checks too making sure that you've filled everything in as properly as can be, it also means you don't have to deal with HMRC too which is a perk.
When we first started filing tax returns we were worried as we've heard all the stories too, but maybe it's possible that the people that started the stories didn't have Wave or SimpleTax on their side. If you charter your progress step by step, even month by month then there won't be a huge rush at the end of the year to fill everything in.
SimpleTax is well worth the £18 price tag. It's a fantastic website to use to help keep track of your money and grow the business side of what you do.
Pros: It files your tax returns and turns all the headachey stuff into nice and easy data entry
Cons: The £18 filing fee. But it's totally worth it.
All of the above apps are your friends, we've used quite a few different tools, apps and programmes over the years and the ones listed in this article are the stand-out ones for us. They've genuinely contributed to making our business run smoother and allowing us to develop and maintain our understanding of how money moves in and out of our business - something which is vital if you want to grow. Even if you're just starting out it's still a great practise to get used to so when the big money comes in you know how to look after it in the right way.
If you think we've forgotten any good simple-but-effective tools feel free to give us a shout.