TAs Thriving: Tip #7 Establish a business bank account and pay yourself a weekly or monthly salary

Ah – tax day!

As an independent contractor, it gets complicated but…

Let’s talk money!

I don’t want to be a millionaire
I just want my proper share
We need money! (We need money!)
Talkin’ about money, money, money! (Talkin’ about money, money, money!)
I don’t need that wealth or fame
I just want enough to play the game
We need money! (We need some money!)
Talkin’ about money, money, money! (Talkin’ about money, money, money!)

Chuck brown
tax documents on the table
Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich on Pexels.com

Take a look at your 2021 tax filing. What was your annual income? Divide that by 52.

If you had a full-time salaried job this is what your employer would owe you (along with benefits) on a weekly basis. Usually, employers pay employees every other week.

Imagine the business of YOU paying you as an employee that amount every week. It may be difficult for you to think like this. Teaching artists often juggle weeks and even months of dry spells while other weeks are abundantly flowing. This challenges personal budgeting, leaving teaching artists to live gig to gig.

Paying yourself a weekly, bimonthly, or monthly paycheck helps stabilize your personal finances. It’s something I’ve been doing for quite a while. While it may be daunting to set this up, I know you can do it.

If you need help, reach out. Better yet, find yourself a financial advisor!

You deserve it.

7. Establish a business bank account and pay yourself a weekly or monthly salary.

The first step is to open up a business bank account to keep your business income and expenses separate from your personal costs and savings. Truthfully I learned this lesson during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, I used a second savings account as my business account. It worked for me. But then the pandemic hit, and I missed out on a ton of free money because I lacked a business bank account.

It is essential as a business owner, which you are, to establish a relationship with a bank and a line of credit. Also, a business bank account protects your personal assets if you are sued or encounter other legal challenges.

Next, set up bill payments or transfers to pay yourself. Like I said, I have done this for a while using a second personal savings account. It stabilized my finances, especially when dry spells occurred. A dry bit always hits me in September through to November, when schools restart. I had a regular paycheck coming to me by paying myself a biweekly paycheck and never experienced those months as financial hardship.

Getting to that point does take time.

It is necessary and appropriate to start small. Pay yourself a fraction of the weekly salary you calculated using your annual income figure. A payment of even $20 or $50 goes a long way to improve your self-worth and increase your bottomline. As you pay yourself, put an equal amount into a business savings account so that you can work towards delivering yourself that full paycheck in the future.

Of course, your bank account should never define your worth. Paying yourself is about defining the boundaries of our work and how that work is valued. We live in a world that doesn’t fully appreciate our contributions as teaching artists, which informs us and subtly tells us we are unworthy.

You are.

If you hired someone for your business to be an administrative aid, would you pay them for the menial tasks they do to keep your business running smoothly and efficiently? Of course, you would. Why do you allow yourself to go unpaid?

This action of paying yourself is a positive cue about your contributions. Tell yourself you are worthy. Financially compensate yourself for all the things you do for your business. All tasks, regardless of if contracts mention them, must be done to complete projects, keep clients happy, and keep your business open. Tasks that I’ve heard colleagues mention are:

  • Emailing teachers and participants
  • Signing contracts and submitting invoices
  • Filling up your gas tank two or three times a week because you drive a lot
  • Sitting in traffic
  • 8PM run to the Dollar Store to get something for tomorrow’s residency session
  • Washing and storing materials/tools that participants in a residency used, for the next time
  • Researching a new topic or participant group
  • Getting a background check for a school or county that is new to your business
  • Strategizing about your next marketing promotion
  • Putting something up on social media to promote your business
  • Pay your quarterly taxes

Annually Reassess and Give Yourself A Raise

When you file your taxes, take a look at your annual income and give yourself a raise every year. You deserve it! A 3% pay increase is pretty standard. Here are two examples of how you calculate a raise for someone who made $18,000 in 2021 and someone who made $55,000 that same year.

Annual Income from 20212021 Weekly Paycheck3% Pay Increase2022 Weekly Paycheck
$18,000$346$450$354
$55,000$1,057$1,650$1,089

Annual raises may not seem that much, but your salary will grow over time. Looking at our income like this signals your self-worth. This cue empowers you to recognize your growing experience, expertise, and skillsets. It will raise the standards for how teaching artists conduct business, shift how we set our prices, the boundaries we put in place about client expectations, and so much more!

I’ll be dropping a post titled “Budgets Are Moral Documents” in about a week. The arts sector needs to ask better questions, especially those executive arts leaders. In April/May 2020, I was planning a workshop with Teaching Artists of the Mid-Atlantic on the ethics of teaching artistry. We postponed programming when the pandemic hit, but I want to return to it now. 

In the meantime, ask yourself questions to challenge current trends and standards for the business of teaching artistry, such as:

  • Is there a moral question about how much (or how little) I set my fees for my practice?
  • Is it okay and fair to depend on my partner to enable my teaching artistry?
  • Are the field standards (locally and beyond) set at living wages?
  • Is it okay for me to make this much money?

It is okay to make a living wage.

It is okay to thrive.

You deserve it.

You are worthy.

Have you looked at the 990s of arts organizations in your local area to know how much top executives are making? What ethical questions should they ask themselves?

Deal with yourself as a individual, worthy of respect and make everyone else deal with you the same way.

Nikki Giovanni

Published by jlridgway

Theatre Teaching Artist | activating artistry and moving the collective soul

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