Money Management for the Creative Class

A Q&A with Elaine Grogan Luttrull, Author of “Arts & Numbers”

  • By Sandy M. Fernandez
  • May 16, 2013


One of the things you suggest is having a career mix of what you call “starring roles” (novelist, for example), “supporting roles” (writing teacher) and “production assistant roles” (say, working in a stationery store). But isn't the point to be a star all the time?

I wasn't prescribing the idea of a portfolio career for everyone. The beauty of the entrepreneurial marketplace is that there aren't absolute answers for everyone. I was simply presenting a way of thinking about different ways of sustaining and building a career without limiting opportunities to only starring role work. I have found it to be fulfilling to do tax work (my starring role), but I also love the supporting roles (teaching, writing, etc.). Sometimes we have to have the other stuff to make ends meet, and I'd prefer to think of them as tools or stepping stones, rather than failures.

As you point out, we don’t always run to engage with our finances. How do you get someone to value money management?

I think creative entrepreneurs are becoming more comfortable with numbers generally. The economic downturn was a big wake-up call. Also, particularly with younger entrepreneurs who have a natural comfort with technology, they are willing to engage with analytical tasks (including numerical ones!) in a way that might be more off-putting to entrepreneurs who are less tech-savvy. But it is also hard to get from simply valuing something to taking action on it. We’re so busy juggling professional and personal obligations that it’s easy to put off tasks like saving or budgeting, especially when it's not something we really want to do anyway.

When I'm speaking with entrepreneurs who are relatively new to the field, I remind them that being an entrepreneur or a freelancer doesn't mean you get to do what you want to do all the time, whether it is writing or painting or dancing, etc. In running an entrepreneurial business, upwards of 50 percent of my time early on was spent doing administrative-type tasks like reaching out to clients, following up on opportunities, applying for gigs, etc. That fact often surprises them, but it gives them permission to spend some of their time doing things like budgeting, tracking expenses, and even saving. And the math behind compound interest really seals the deal as well!

Read an excerpt from her book here.

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