Bullish: How to Make Money as an Artsy-Artist Commie Pinko Weirdo, Part I

Have you ever read a “How to Get Ahead in Your Field in 90 Days or Less Using Negotiating Techniques/Mind Control/Fairy Dust” article or book and just sort of let the advice glance off, assuming that it doesn’t really apply to you because you don’t wear a suit and look like a businesslady stock photo?

I live on Wall Street, and once walked up out of the subway to see a movie being filmed on Wall Street. It was a Saturday, and all the besuited people were actors. It looked just like … well, a movie. Because everyone was very young and attractive, and also carrying briefcases — rich, shiny leather, or gleaming chrome. Briefcases. No one does that. Not even on Wall Street. This was some Platonic ideal of Wall Street, minus all the grumpy older men with bad skin and frowzy trenchcoats who try to cut the line at Starbucks.

Are you are imagining “business” exclusively the way it is portrayed in the movies, or — even better — the movies of your formative years? Like Wall Street or Boiler Room or even What Women Want (gross when it came out, and even grosser now, Mel Gibson). I have found myself doing this. For instance, certainly you’ve heard the advice to make friends with gatekeepers, to always be nice to the receptionist. It’s easy to see myself doing this on Mad Men. She has a beehive and a prim little suit and would like it if you sent flowers. But in real life, the person at the front desk is almost certainly a 23 year old who is always on Facebook. She is wearing leggings. So, yes, that is the person you are supposed to be nice to. (For the record, if I made less than $15 an hour, I would wear leggings too, just to stay sane.)

So, here are some thoughts about making money without becoming a Republican. Because we’re all in business, even those of us with neck tattoos.

Find a millionaire you don’t hate.

Many liberal-types say “rich person” the way we also say “racist.” This is probably not so good for you. Recently, a friend posted to Facebook Bernie Sanders’ speech in Congress about the widening rich-poor gap in America. Some Glenn Beck-loving yahoo posted some shit that went like this:

Excue me, let me get this straight, if I’m fortuante enough to save some money through my hard work and good investments for children and grand children I’m suppose to just willingly give this to a country to let them sh.. on it and put it in a museom and call it art?

And — I wouldn’t recount a Facebook conversation unless something happened other than 50 smart people jumped all over this guy — a friend of a friend (a gay man in an artistic field) posted this:

OK, so I am a millionaire and guess what. My business continues to blossom and life is great. I get so many tax write offs I hardly pay any money to uncle sam. Are you making more money now than 2 years ago? I am. How are your investments? Mine are fabulous. Would I be willing to pay a couple percentage points more to dig us out of this mess? Absolutely. I have worked very hard for many years to accumulate what I have and am more than willing to do my part to help the 98% percent of the American population suffering.

That’s worth waving a fucking flag about, isn’t it? It is!

Liberals are probably more likely to hide, rather than brag about, their millionaire status. But there are actually totally awesome, ethical people out there who are rich. So, don’t hate rich people, because you’ll probably constantly undermine your own business, career, and negotiations in a million small ways. Hate assholes, some of whom are rich and some of whom are not.

Find a rich person you admire. They are out there, and in many cases the non-famous contingent of admirable rich people would really enjoy being acknowledged by someone like you — after all, it takes skill to make seven figures, and it’s the sort of skill you can’t talk freely about in most social situations.

If you’re lucky, you might end up with a mentor.

Get a real accountant.

If you have a natural aversion to this idea, I assure you that you can actually just wear your normal clothes to your accountant’s office and talk at great length about your burlesque-dancing career or your business making “This is what a feminist looks like” jock straps, etc. You don’t have to morph into a “person who has an accountant.” It’s just like how everybody should have a dentist.

To jump back a bit: If you are a lovable artsy weirdo, you are almost certainly self-employed, and hence are supposed to pay quarterly estimated tax. Filing your taxes four times a year? Personally, I think taxes should be on a less frequent schedule than Botox, thankyouverymuch.

If you also have a regular job, however, one incredible time-saving measure you can take is to have extra taxes taken out so you don’t have to pay quarterly estimated tax on your business. According to the IRS, you’re supposed to pay estimated tax if you expect to owe at least $1,000 at the end of the year after subtracting withholding and credits. So it’s not about your employment status, so much as just about the fact that, if you owe the government money, they want it sooner rather than later. You can pay this extra cash out of your regular job by taking 0 exemptions and/or electing to take out an extra dollar amount from each paycheck. From the IRS:

If you receive salaries and wages, you can avoid having to pay estimated tax by asking your employer to take more tax out of your earnings. To do this, file a new Form W-4 (PDF) with your employer. There is a special line on Form W-4 for you to enter the additional amount you want your employer to withhold.

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    • A

      This is such a great column. Why didn’t someone teach me all of this in my fancy liberal arts school hmmm?

    • Jessica

      Another great article, Jen, way to crank ‘em out.