The most effective way to become a free creative is to continually build then leverage successes in each of the three practice areas: economic, strategic, artistic.
Leverage means using something to maximum advantage.
For example, an Olympic weight lifter can only lift great weights by leveraging a number of things at once: all the muscles in their body (to lift then jerk the bar over their heads); momentum (to get the weight off the ground and up onto their chest then into the air); timing and speed (to get under the bar); balance (to steady the bar and hold it steady); willpower and endurance (to complete the lift).
Anything can be turned into a lever that may help you to reduce the amount of exertion needed to achieve your goals. For example, a musician uses busking to gain practice, experience, exposure and some income.
In finance the word “leverage” means to use the value of your assets to borrow more money for investment purposes. In other words, taking advantage of your current wealth to create more wealth.
As a free creative you are encouraged to develop strategies to free up your time so that you can spend more of it practicing your art. One of these strategies may be to reduce your expenses so that you can go part time at work. Provided you actually spend this time practicing your art—you are employing a strategic practice to leverage an economic practice that will enhance your artistic practice.
You can fast track your progress toward creative freedom by thinking of ways your can leverage investments of your time, energy and money.
It refers to the money you have invested to provide an income. This investment may be in assets like real estate or shares.
Once the income from your capital is sufficient to cover your expenses (after accounting for inflation and a safety margin), you have reached the ‘crossover point’, and the highest definition of ‘Financial Independence‘.
It refers to the skills you have which save you money.
These skills may include the ability to cook. To grow your own food. Perform maintenance on your car or computer. Cut your own hair. Or even, skills you can swap with others. Some of your artistic skills may fall into this category.
Mastery is being adept in your art—skilled, proficient, expert—and taking ownership of your creativity and the direction you want to head in.
Attaining mastery usually involves surpassing your teachers and feeling like you are in control of your creativity. As a master it’s not that you have no more lessons to learn or skills to develop, but rather that you have taken charge of your creative career.
Sometimes people undertake actual Masters degrees at university to take their skills and career to the next level, but mostly your creative practice becomes a career through being your principal occupation.
Your lifework: master creatives often find that their work becomes a calling. They are driven by a strong impulse to push through the learning process and overcome the challenges in order to find their own style, voice or expression. Without this type of internal motivation it would be difficult to complete a course of studies or to find the courage needed to progress down the path towards mastery.
At some point the emerging master will confront the potential of turning professional—the choice to make a living from their art. The word professional has many meanings, but in the Art world it usually refers to accepting money for your work. The transition from amateur to professional is a huge step, not just in skills and confidence, but also in terms of personal philosophy.
Portfolio = your possessions, investments, assets and education.
In the design world a portfolio is what a designer puts together to demonstrate their work and their skills. It used to be an impressive leather bound case with a golden zip, containing sheets of paper with pictures, drawings and designs. Now it is also digital.
As designers go along they earmark pieces of work for inclusion in their portfolio. “Oh, I really enjoyed making this and I am proud of how it turned out—so it’s going into my portfolio.”
At some point they will go to the trouble of printing it out or marking it up for presentation purposes. This is a commitment to the future. It assumes that future employers and clients will want to see it. That it will be relevant for future interviews and sales pitches. Which, in a way, determines which potential employers and clients will get to see it. There is a subliminal decision being made about where their career is headed, based on what they have most liked doing.
In the world of finance a portfolio is the total holding of securities, commercial paper, etc., of an investor.
Both the design and the investment portfolios are very fluid. They are always changing. They both require continual trimming, tweaking and reevaluation.
A portfolio is also the office or post of a minister of government. And is sometimes used to describe a range of duties or work for a range of employers.
At creatementality portfolio means all these things. Think of it as the kit of skills, resources, assets and knowledge that you are developing to keep your edge. To increase your mastery.
Your portfolio contains the things that really matter—those things into which you invest your time, energy and hopes for the future.
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ before. And that’s essentially what diversification is all about.
‘Diversification‘ is a risk management strategy, usually applied to investment portfolios. But it’s important for us to consider as individuals as well, in relation to our income.
Consider two couples. Abby and Bobby run a business, from which they bring home $132,000 a year ($50k in salaries each, plus $32k in profits).
Carrie on the other hand earns a $45k salary (working for Abby and Bobby), and $1k selling handprinted t-shirts. Carrie’s partner Derrie earns $25k at a part-time job, and together they earn $2k an year in dividends. Their total income is $66,000.
You don’t need to be a maths whizz to know that Abby and Bobby earn a lot more than Carrie and Derrie. (Twice as much, in fact).
But Carrie and Derrie have four sources of income. Abby and Bobby have only one.
If Abby and Bobby’s store closes, Carrie and Derrie will suffer, too. Their income will be reduced from $66k to $21k.
If you’ve been looking at your Financial Foundations and discovered that all or most of your income comes from a single source, then there are a range of actions you can take to make your situation more robust. Here are some ideas:
Make a list of your assets, and identify those you could easily turn into cash. Make a reasonable estimate of what you could sell these assets for quickly, if you had to, in an emergency. I’m not suggestion you actually sell these items (unless you discover some you aren’t using and would be better of transformed into cash!). It is simply good to know what safety nets you have in case you ever need them. The Net Worth Calculator on Enrichmentality may help you in preparing your list.
Consider whether you might need income protection insurance. This is especially important if you have any outstanding debts like a home or car loan, which you may be unable to make payments on if your income disappeared. Ensure that you obtain trustworthy, unbiased advice (i.e. not from someone selling insurance or who will receive a commission), and that you read the fine print carefully. Some kinds of insurance are of limited use to certain individuals, for example, they won’t pay out if you are already ahead in your mortgage payments. It is also possible that you’re already covered. You may find the post ‘Do I need insurance?‘ on Enrichmentality useful.
Think about other income options. Could you get a part-time job? Work online? Make and sell things? Start your own business?
Applying diversification elsewhere
The concept of diversification is important in other contexts as well. Consider the following questions
Do you have all of your money in the one account? If so, would it be a good idea to invest some elsewhere?
Are you considering any big purchases or upgrades? If so, would buying a smaller apartment to live in, and one as an investment, be more sensible than ‘upgrading’ your home?
And it’s not just financial situations that diversification is applicable to.
You can apply it to your creative work, as well.
For example, I wanted to pick up a musical instrument after almost two decades of not playing. My first choice was to go straight back to the violin. And I did. But then, as soon as my husband and I decided to start traveling, violin was no longer an option for me, and I lost all ability to play music.
At least, until I diversified – I picked up a fife made of lightweight, strong plastic, in the same key as a violin – perfect for traveling, and for keeping up my music-reading practice.
In engineering, this is referred to as a redundancy. The goal is to look for critical components of your life, and build in a backup or fail-safe which performs the same functions, but is distinct from the original component.
Your boss giving you a pay raise is great, but unless you’re investing the extra cash in something that will provide an additional income stream, it won’t make you any less fragile. Backing up your novel on an external drive… that you keep in next to your computer… won’t save your work if there’s a fire in your office. And buying a second drum kit won’t give you any more opportunity to practice – especially if your neighbors complain. You would have been better off getting an electronic set.
Jot down now three ways that you can improve the diversification in your life, to strengthen your economic and creative foundations.