What is it about September? People walk a little more quickly. Long evenings under the stars with friends become nights at home in front of the computer. Kids go back to school. Client work picks up. Projects roll. The world shifts into gear again.
This is a time for productivity. It’s a time to set up a successful move for your art. If you’re going to celebrate a great 2012, this is the time to clean up your financial picture so you can focus on your craft, your clients, and your career.
1) Write out your goals. In the book The E-Myth, author Michael Gerber points out that most small businesses fail because they don’t have set workflow practices. Don’t just jot down some 1,000 foot goals, get your hands dirty!
– What are you going to do each day to reach your goal?
– What milestones along the way will you set to stay on track?
– How much is each goal going to cost?
2) Set up your budget and direct deposit schemes. By automating your financial picture you’ll be able to focus on your art instead of on a stack of energy-draining “to do’s.” If you have a side-hustle job to pay the bills, direct deposit this money into a savings account, then set up an automatic transfer of enough to live into your checking. Use online tools such as Mint or Yodlee to plan your budget parameters. Once you’ve written out your expenses, you’ll be much more comfortable in your financial shoes.
3) Create an automatic savings plan. If you don’t have an emergency fund, this is job #1. Automatically direct deposit money into a separate account for emergencies or opportunities so you don’t fall into the trap of telling yourself “I’ll save money later.” By saving a little bit each time you’re paid, your savings will expand without a big hit to your budget.
4) Cut household expenses. Do you need a cell and home phone? How about your heating bill? Do you have a programmable thermostat to lower your heating/air conditioning expenses when you aren’t around? How often do you use that cable television, Netflix and Hulu subscription? Decide which outlets you use for fun and eliminate the rest.
5) Evaluate your investments. Historically, September is the worst month of the year for the financial markets and if things go correctly, it’ll be your busiest month of all because you followed my advice here and were rolling into your art! Make changes in August so that you’re positioned well for the fall. If you aren’t sure if your funds are good or not, use websites such as Morningstar to check out how your investments stack up with others in their category.
6) Separate your artistic savings from your personal savings. Why do so many artistic people commingle their funds? Don’t fall into that trap. By separating your artistic expenses from your groceries, you’ll quickly identify how much you spent on your craft and make wise business decisions for the future. Set up a separate business checking account.
7) Set alerts. Financial programs such as Mint have the ability to sent you notifications when your bank account is cratering, bills come due, or you overstep a part of your budget. This might be the best piece of advice in this whole piece. By using technology, you’ll stay focused on your craft until you really need to be looking at your financial picture. This’ll help you gain new clients, foster relationships and dream up bigger projects.