Survive and Thrive: Making the Most of “Money Jobs” To Support an Artistic or Freelance Career

Artists and other freelancers often take on ‘survival’ or ‘money’ jobs to tide them through periods of time when incoming cash is ebbing rather than flowing.  Using these moments of steady income to strengthen overall financial wellness is crucial to providing more solid footing in the future.  Often, these jobs provide opportunities, in addition to earnings, which should be  taken advantage of to the greatest possible extent.  This can help to make time spent away from primary freelance endeavors less difficult to endure and can create a supportive foundation to help weather the next period of limited income flow.

One prominent reason for taking on a money job is to pay down debt that has accumulated while building a freelance business or during slow income months.  Reducing debt is nearly always financially beneficial.  However, combining debt repayment with the building of reserves and assets that will help during the next slower income period may reduce the need to take on a future temporary survival job.  Taken together, these measures may help to prevent—or at least lessen—the amount of debt you take on during the next down cycle, while improving your overall financial well-being with strengthened available assets.

For example, a strong emergency cash reserve provides a wonderful buffer against periods when income is lagging.  Building and enhancing a reserve at the same time that debt is being paid down may be easier to do while working a survival job because earnings are coming in at a more steady pace.  Earmarking a portion of your earnings for both paying down accumulated debt and beefing up your cash stash will help in achieving this.  For artists and other freelancers, keeping an eye on creating a ten- to twelve-month cash stash should be the goal.  Having a buffer that will provide a strong level of security may delay or even eliminate the need for a money job between gigs in the future.

Building other assets—especially income-producing ones—may be another important step to take while earning steady income from a survival job.  These assets—which can be thought of as extremely low-maintenance “employees”—can build and grow on their own due to reinvestment of proceeds during times of higher cash flow.  When the tide shifts, they may then provide a useful revenue stream to dip into.  Working in a new environment may also lead to discovering new ideas for investments and new investment strategies.  Maintaining awareness of alternative thoughts and approaches to investing may invoke creative explorations to further strengthen financial wellness.

In addition to these benefits, there are other perks to keep an eye out for at a money job.  Recent changes in retirement plans have opened up the possibility that many part-time and temporary workers may have access to a company’s 401(k) or 403(b) plan.  These plans can offer a wonderful opportunity to invest pre-tax wages in tax sheltered accounts.  After leaving a company, the plans can typically be easily rolled over into a self-directed IRA, if desired, that can continue to be contributed to and provide a resource of crucial post-working years assets.  Some other potential benefits to inquire about at a survival job are access to health insurance plans and discounts on goods or services provided by the company.

Importantly, don’t give in to the ‘feast’ mentality while working a survival job.  Try to stick to your monthly nut—and goals—so that the time spent at the money job provides the greatest financial wellness benefit.  Using only the earnings needed to take care of essentials while dividing the excess between debt repayment, strengthening an emergency cash stash and beefing up investments will provide a strategy for a solid financial foundation that will aid in weathering any future downturns.  There is no shame in working survival jobs.  Making the most of the resources provided while doing them will allow for greater satisfaction and provide reinforcement to your financial safety net—and more financial stability in the future.


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