2 min read

You don't have to starve to be an artist

A live video q&a with Francis Chouler about how to manage your money as a creative freelancer.
You don't have to starve to be an artist

Making money through a creative career can seem mysterious, or like your only two options are:

1. die of starvation in an artist's garret before being posthumously lauded as a creative genius, or

2. become a sellout who enslaves their artistic energy to The Man selling - I don't know - Coca-Cola-flavoured toothpaste or something.

This week, I sat down with actor and financial-savvy creative freelancer Francis Chouler to discuss all of the LESS DRAMATIC options between 1 and 2.

I fell out of the stream halfway through (thanks, Internet) but Francis did a magnificent job sharing practical tips for managing your money as an artist, and how being in control of your finances can help you to live a more liberated creative life.

As Francis so eloquently put it:

I didn't want to be a poor artist. I was very clear about that. My mother used to tell people that I was going to study acting, and they used to respond and say, 'But Francis got seven As for matric!', as if that's the thing you did because you couldn't get into a better degree. I really wanted to prove to those people - and to myself - that I could do something that I love and be financially stable and successful. And now, 14 years later, I understand that in order to be a successful artist you need to give yourself the gift of financial stability.

You can watch the full chat here.

The questions we discuss:

  1. The sad reality in South Africa is that artists live from paycheck to paycheck.  What practical advice would you give to artists to break this cycle?
  2. How do you budget if you have an erratic income?
  3. What is a credit score, and how do you build one as a freelance artist?
  4. I know it’s important to save but as a young freelancer my income won’t be consistent. If I can’t know in advance how much I will get each month, is it better to invest in something where I pay SMALL amounts regularly OR BIG lump, sums irregularly (and whenever I can)?
  5. Should I have a side-hustle?
  6. Does the industry have a retirement fund that artists could belong to? As a creative freelancer, how do I save for retirement?
  7. What insurance policies should I have, as a creative freelancer?
  8. Can I trust financial advisors and brokers?
  9. How should I deal with taxes?
  10. I've been actively saving extra money in my house access bond. In my experience the interest on a bond is so high over time it makes sense to chop that down as fast as possible and then start saving elsewhere for independence. Considering I'm able to access the funds at any point, does this sound like a good plan?
  11. How do you avoid people taking advantage of you?

Most of these questions came from the brilliant, talented young theatre students from Oakfields College.

And hey, if you've got a few spare bucks lying around, please consider making a donation to the Theatre Benevolent Fund, which aims to support all workers in the South African entertainment industry during times of need.