The Challenge of Being Self-Employed

Squaw Valley
Squaw Valley

One of the biggest issues for any employed person, (heck any living being) is having enough money/resources to live on. When you work for a company, you get paid a wage and hopefully benefits and some sort of profit-sharing or pension plan. From my various straw polls of people over the years, I’d say about 1/3 are satisfied with their take-home pay and benefits.

Now us mavericks out on the fringes must supply all of this ourselves and that unfortunately is where a lot of self-employed creatives fall terminally short, (if they even think about the self-funding issues of health benefits and retirement resources at all).

What am I talking about? I’m talking about developing the discipline of putting some of your income aside for the day when the storm hits (like now). For ten years my wife and I socked away 70% of every dollar (during that time) that came into our home. Shooting fees, licensing fees, consulting fees and teaching income generated enough cash flow to allow us to bank big bucks for a decade. Life was good. Of course back then our nut was smaller, we rented an apartment and Nat hadn’t showed up yet, but we still had food, insurance, taxes, lab fees and retirement goals, and they all had their hands out for our greenbacks. It was relentless pressure and stress. I know what you’re about to say…. “I don’t make enough money now to pay my bills and you want me to start saving for a rainy day? Get outta here dude!” (Am I close?)

Start with 5 bucks a week. Do this for a month. Add another 5 the next month and so on. Over time you’ll see real dollars in a real savings account. If you don’t do it, who will? Obviously the more you put away, the faster it accumulates. Cut back on the things you want to do, (gourmet coffees, movies, fancy food, etc.) and you will gain in both the short run and the long run. The money is there if you have the resolve and self-love to take care of your self. Take care of your self and you can (in turn) take care of the ones who matter to you most. You have to work at it weekly, monthly and yearly. Again, if you don’t, who will? It isn’t always easy but you must be positive and move forward.

I mentioned earlier that we made a lot of money and life was good. Today, (temporarily) we don’t make as much, but we are doing OK because we have self-made and self-saved resources that in this time of need are called upon (and relied upon) to help us through these funky times.

One has to be strong, positive and self-advocating to succeed as a professional artist. Sometimes, even aggressive. Those of us who are doing the self-employed thing, know what I’m saying. Those who draw a regular paycheck and benefits may also appreciate my comments. Here’s to a better future and a better process for all concerned.

Michael Stern

My work depicts, appreciates and honors the people who build. Their specialized equipment and stunning challenges are marvels I behold and get paid to interpret. Hope you enjoy this site.

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