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

If you’re not sure of how to do the math (if you make very little from your sideline, taking zero exemptions might be enough, but if you make half your income from your sideline, you would need to take a very large chunk of money out of your regular-job paychecks), an accountant will help you set this up.

Relatedly, if you’re using a home office for something that is generating income and you’re not confident enough to figure a home office deduction on your own, that would be a good time to hire an accountant. I had been filing my own taxes online (It’s so easy, you just fill out a form and they tell you pay a lot of money! Like a free whack to the head — it totally sucks, but it’s FREE, ACT NOW!) for years, when my BFF insisted I see her accountant. He asked if I worked at home. I said, “Most days, from about 8am to 3pm.” And he said, “Do you have a special area of the house where you do your work?” And I described the part with the desk and file cabinet and printer and bookcase full of 200 pounds of test prep books. And he said “Why are you not taking a home office deduction?” In my head I had some answer about how people who work at home had fax machines and took conference calls, and I never did those things, but I couldn’t say that because it was stupid, so I sort of shrugged and winced and hummed a little song while my accountant filled out my taxes for me and saved me thousands of dollars. (He also had me deduct the bookcase.) And this is why I have an accountant.

I was raised with a pretty literal view of money — you make a certain number of dollars, you pay your bills, and then you have a certain number of dollars left to spend, so don’t go over. As I talked about in Social Class in the Office, a good test of social class is whether you’ve ever seen your parents shake hands (I never did growing up). If your parents don’t shake hands, they probably never say “It takes money to make money,” nor do they “manage wealth.” (If you were not raised among the wealthy, ask yourself if, deep down, you don’t maybe feel that investing is cheating. That would be a good view to get over.) In any case, if you were raised with a very literal time-for-dollars view of money, then you feel like a big fuckin’ bigshot when you give someone a $475 check in exchange for saving you $4,000.

You are networking, even if it involves Facebook and having sex.

When I ran a company in Virginia, I really did go to networking events (“The Chamber of Commerce will be having its September mixer at Goldstein Eye and Ear!”) in well-lit rooms where everyone shook hands and gave their thirty-second elevator pitches and politely exchanged business cards. These events are a really good way to meet salespeople.

Networking events are to networking as speed dating is to dating. Some people do meet the love of their life during an event where everyone wears a nametag, but that’s hardly all there is.

The first five or more years of my career, I had serious misconceptions about networking. I was the first person in my family to go to college, and when, four years later, I was running a small company and there was no magical nexus of powerful 40-year-old Dartmouth alums ready and willing to help me out, I assumed that the Ivy League just hadn’t stuck to me, that I was made of some kind of white-trash-Teflon that caused my hard-won education to slide right off.

It turns out, I was supposed to spend my college years making actual friends, and then waiting until they got old enough to have powerful jobs. Oops!

My point is, I do think that nearly all of the old-school networking advice still applies, even if business cards are now kind of lame and much of your networking takes place when you are drunk and sweaty. You are still supposed to be a little fake, by which I mean pretend to take an interest in things that you don’t really, and practice memorizing things you will want to be able to mention later. People you meet at Williamsburg loft parties where everyone wears retro roller skates and a costume still like it when you remember their birthdays and vote for their SXSW panels.

Come back next week for “How to Make Money as an Artsy-Artist Commie Pinko Weirdo, Part II”: how to break away from your peers in your industry, how to schedule creativity, and how to set prices for creative work.

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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.