Creative Insubordination

strategies for becoming an independent creator

Creative Insubordination - strategies for becoming an independent creator

Time Is Money: Cry Your Own Tears

Over the weekend, I went grocery shopping. And while I was in the Produce section, I came across a 6 oz plastic clamshell package filled with chopped onions. It was selling for $2.48. An aisle over, fresh onions were selling for 80 cents a pound. What would prompt someone to pay eight times as much for an onion in a plastic container? Convenience. Apparently, some people are willing to pay much, much more for someone else to chop an onion. They’ll pay someone else to cry for them.

It’s not just onions. When you swing by Subway to buy a footlong sandwich with hardly any meat in it for $5 — a sandwich you could have made yourself for less than half that amount — you’re paying someone else to cry for you, i.e., to do your work. When you buy the frozen steak fries from the freezer section, when you buy the microwave burrito, when you buy the rotisserie chicken you’re paying someone else to cry for you. “But I don’t have time to make my own sandwich,” you protest. But how much time do you spend walking or driving to Subway, standing in line, and walking or driving back to work? More than it would take to make a sandwich. What you think of as lacking time is actually lacking the discipline to plan ahead. And you are willing to work more hours at your crummy day job to allow you to avoid planning.

This isn’t about The System, this is about you. It is about how much you value having the time needed to be creative. This is a change in your approach to personal finance that will have a direct and substantial impact on your ability to pursue your goals.

If you want to be an Independent Artist, cry your own tears.

Business Model: Know Your Audience

I’ve been taking advantage of a snow day to catch up on my reading, including blog reading. I know this is another Seth Godin post, but bear with me because it connects to the last post on the basics of business  models.

In a post entitled “You can’t change everything or everyone, but you can change the people who matter,” Godin addresses several aspects of the business model in a way that reflects what I believe is the new reality for the arts (and, really, for most business). He wants you to define your audience very specifically: “So the first, most important question is, “who do we want to change?” If you can’t answer this specifically, do not proceed to the rest. By who, I mean, “give me a name.” Or, if you can’t give me a name, then a persona, a tribe, a spot in the hierarchy, a set of people who share particular worldviews.”

Most of the time, when we try to, say, promote a show we are doing, we don’t get that specific. We just put an ad in a newspaper and hope we reach someone, anyone, preferably a stranger because for some reason we don’t think having an audience filled with people we know is worthy. To be a Real Artist, we have to play to strangers.

This is silly. And so…20th century!

Know your audience, your “customer segments.” Know them by name, know them by tribe, but know them. Start with one person and work out from there. Build your 1000 true fans one at a time.

But you can’t stop there.

Godin goes on:

 Then, be really clear about:

What does he already believe?

What is he afraid of?

What does he think he wants?

What does he actually want?

What stories have resonated with him in the past?

Who does he follow and emulate and look up to?

What is his relationship with money?

What channel has his permission? Where do messages that resonate with him come from? Who does he trust and who does he pay attention to?

What is the source of his urgency—why will he change now rather than later?

After he has changed, what will he tell his friends?

Now that you know these things, go make a product and a service and a story that works.

As you think about what you have to offer — your personal and unique value proposition — consider those with whom you most want to communicate. If they’re a faceless Them, you’re doomed.

Business Models — The Basics

I’m one of the people that Michael Kaiser, the President of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in DC, is complaining about. Eight months ago, in an article entitled “The New Model, Part 1” on Huffington Post, Kaiser got, well, all huffy:

If I hear one more pundit or read one more blog suggesting that ‘old models’ of arts organizations are dying and that ‘new models’ are needed I am going to scream. Expert after expert are calling for ‘new models’ without explaining what these new models are or what specifically they are meant to address, except for a vague unhappiness with how things are working (or not working) now.

He followed this with a bunch of rhetorical questions (“Do they mean that arts organizations are all going to die and that there will be no more arts institutions in the future?”) that showed that he had no grasp of just what the heck a business model is, or any awareness of how the overall economy has changed not just for the arts but for the business world as a whole.

But I don’t want to argue with Kaiser — well, I do, but not here. Rather, I want to make the first step in examining the concept of the business model, which is an important tool that is needed by the independent artist who is trying to free themselves from the lumbering institutions serving as gatekeepers to creative activity.

Below is a 3-minute video that lays out the process pretty clearly, and it isn’t hard to understand. It’s not MBA mumbo jumbo — rather it is a series of very clear questions that, if answered with creative reflection and a willingness to suspend one’s knowledge of “the way things are done” and think through possibilities from first principles, could lead to you to an approach to your creativity that is dynamic and sustainable. Here’s the video, entitled “What Is a Business Model?” by Gavin Wedell:

When you finish, go to this link (mentioned at the end of the video), where you will find a worksheet that asks the same basic questions using other words. It is called “The Business Model Canvas.”

The problem with the current business model — the one that Michael Kaiser apparently thinks is so strong that it cannot be questioned — is scattered throughout the form, but one major one is in the lower right-hand corner box labeled “Revenue Streams.” For arts institutions like the Kennedy Center, one huge revenue stream is “unearned income” — grants from foundations, government programs, donations from rich people. According to the Grantmakers in the Arts report “An Overview of Revenue Streams for NonProfit Arts Organizations,”

Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in the U.S. obtain their revenues from three major sources: earned income, philanthropic contributions from private donors, and direct government subsidies. Earned income — composed of program service revenues (ticket sales, admissions, subscriptions, program ads, and gift shop sales) along with investment income and dues and assessments — account for approximately one-half of all revenue. Contributions from private donors (individuals, foundations, and corporations) account for about two-fifths. Government sources provide the remaining roughly one-tenth of revenue.

To my mind, an independent artist needs to dump this business model like a hot potato. You can’t be independent if you are constantly having

to beg for charity in order to survive. It makes you dependent on pleasing rich people, in essence having to ask their permission to practice your art — the very thing we are trying to avoid.

So don’t give yourself that out. Work on your business model as if the option of grants and contributions doesn’t exist.


Keep Your Green Jacket

In my “Strategies for Becoming an Independent Artist” class this afternoon, we watched the trailer for Seth Godin’s newest book The Icarus Deception:

Afterwards, a student commented that if everyone put on a green jacket, then everybody would be wearing a green jacket and nobody would be special. Very true.

But here’s the thing: there’s another way of looking at this final image that actually reflects reality much more accurately.

The one guy in the green jacket — he didn’t put that on to be “different,” to stand out from the crowd. No, he was born with a green jacket. Everybody is. Every person in the world is born with a different color jacket — billions of colors of every hue and shade and tint. Uniqueness is our birthright.

What society does is spend the first 22 years of your life (or longer) getting you to put on a black jacket. One message at a time at school, on TV, in music, at home, we’re bombarded with the message that we need to take off that green jacket and don a black one. That’s what education from kindergarten to graduate school is all about — getting you to put away your unique jacket and conform. The primary subject we take in school isn’t math, science, English, or history — but Compliance. It is taught is every single course we take. We tell you over and over to wear the black jacket, that colorful jackets are childish, silly, pretentious. That part of being a responsible grown-up is eliminating individuality in favor of conformity.

The problem is that the new economy calls for green jackets.

Keep yours on.

Class Post: Saving Money (Part 2)

More research on money-saving ideas from the members of “Strategies for Becoming an Independent Artist.” — sw

Adam Wise article is all about how to be prepared for natural disasters. We all know that natural disasters are going to costly but the best way to help save money is to be prepared. I really liked the section on having a home inventory which can help with insurance claims and staying up to date with insurance policies. I think this goes a little further than just natural disasters as some of it is also useful information in case of burglary.
How to Start an Emergency Fund on any Budget article goes over tips and why an emergency fund is important. I think we all know that financial emergencies are going to happen and an emergency can help cover those costs. As an independent artist I think that it is important that we fincially safeguard ourselfs in anyway possible and this article outlines step by step on how to start that process.
How to Save Money on Laundry article is a cool little money saving technique. It goes overs many ways to cut out little costs associated with laundry. Costs that add up pretty quickly. I think it is important for anyone trying to save money to know these kinds of things because they do add up.
Pack a carry-on suitcase for a 10 day trip like this article because as an independent artist you might have to travel to different places and travel costs really add up. This just another cool trick that shaves some money off traveling. It details some cool tricks for packing a suitcase for maximum space use.
Ten Tips To Nurture Your Network is very important and can be very difficult. This article outlines how to expand the networking area. Some times this may be the only way to get jobs is by knowing certain people. I think it goes over some tips that may be rarely thought about but can be very, very useful tools for work.
Brad Mercier
I was a heavy meat eater until my sophomore year of college. It was then, in a desire to lose weight and get healthier, that I cut meat out of my diet entirely. It worked. I’m glad to know that eating vegetarian also can stave off the threat of heart disease, or at least lessen the risk, because that is something that runs in my family (all heavy meat eaters.) Also, post-sophomore year, I can’t imagine paying for all that meat. IT’S EXPENSIVE. According to this article it could add up to two dollars just for every meal I eat. I’ve had some tight budget months recently, and if I were eating meat I’d be in even more dire straits than I was before. It’s good to know that as a college student watching every dollar, going meatless may have benefited me in ways I didn’t even initially realize.

Entertainment is truthfully probably one of the biggest suckers of money in my budget. I’ve been seeing a lot more movies recently, going out to see a lot more friend’s plays, etc., etc. It’s something I need to cut back on assuredly, and this article gives some great tips and reminders. BOOKS ARE FREE. I love comic books, but comic books are expensive. But here’s the thing – I buy more comic books than I have time to read. I probably have hundreds of thousands of pages of comics (in various forms) completely unread, that have been sitting around for years! Instead of going and buying overpriced single issues, I could instead just go into our spare room here and pick out a graphic novel I haven’t yet read. When it comes to music, I still haven’t jumped on the Spotify train but I’ve seen it multiple times this week and I’m just amazed by it. It seems like magic. Also, you want free, new entertainment? Get into podcasts! Free, well-produced entertainment on an endless amount of topics released weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, whatever. It’s a bounty of entertainment and information totally free. Museums are great for cheap, fun dates! You can explore entire cities (and Carson and I have) for free hanging out at art museums and public parks. This is a great reminder that we could do that more often if we wanted to take trips to cities but didn’t want to spend too much.

Again, as mentioned, I like going to the movies and have seen an increase in doing such recently. And yeah, the best thing to do to save money is just stop going so much, as this article suggests. Stay home. Watch movies here. Not only do I have a library of my favorite titles (presumably because I want to watch them more than other films!), I have some classics that I’ve never seen still sitting around (Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I’m lookin’ at you). Additionally, there’s Netflix Instant. It’s amazing. 1000′s of movies and television shows, for 8 dollars a month. That’s it. For less than a ticket to a movie, you’ve got an endless supply of films to watch. Matinees are also something to look into, because they often give discounted snacks as well (I’ve got a snacking at the movies problem too).
As someone who IS vegetarian, a fair criticism is we have to spend extra money on spices to “liven up” our meals. So this is a great article to give me cheap ideas (some that I’ve never heard of before) to experience some new tastes. Some I’m familiar with already though – Sriracha sauce is a godsend. A huge bottle is only a few dollars, we use it all the time here. And barely any is gone, since a little goes such a long ways. Spicy spaghetti? Regular pasta sauce with a squirt of Sriracha in it. A new dish! Mix it with ranch for a spicy dipping sauce for pizza!
I love my friends; I love giving gifts. But gifts DON’T have to be lots of money. My mom for the past few years has been doing the thing they mention in this article – Giving out preserves and homemade jams as presents. I’ve gotten some from other people and they’re always appreciated – Peanut butter and jellies are a staple here and variety is welcome! Also, I really think it’s true. Expensive gifts can often be nice, but heartfelt, personal things usually end up being the most memorable. Carson for Christmas wrote me a story that touched me so incredibly, it’s one of my most treasured presents ever. One thing I’ve gone back to is painting! If you get a bunch of paint, some basic brushes, and a bunch of nice paper, you’re out probably around twenty dollars but have materials for gifts galore, and as long as you’re sincere with your art, it’s sure to be appreciated. I’ve also mainly cut out wrapping paper – regular bags work, or creative packaging – drawing over paper, using old comics pages or magazines (maybe something the person you’re giving the gift to is interested in!)
We never finish cereal boxes, it seems. Almost, but usually some left over right at the bottom. We never seem to toss away the boxes, either. Maybe we could use these tips to finally get rid of them – Using them in other recipes. Maybe adding Reeses Pieces crumbles to our next batch of cookies? Or taking it on our trip to the FREE park?! Bird feed!


Class Post: Saving Money

The first assignment in the “Strategies for Becoming an Independent Artist” project involved examining some websites containin suggestions about how to save money and live a more frugal yet satisfying lifestyle. Each student was asked to investigate at least one website and provide 6 or more links with their comments on why the link is important.

Alwyn Mothershed

So this post is about how this couple started an independent business in 2002, and were ravaged with debt and growing pains and general bad luck for many years, but eventually the business got into a steady rhythm and they started making profit. However, instead of using this new money splurge on things and maybe increase their standard of living, they continued to live as frugally as ever, because they were motivated by their long-term goals. Namely, paying off their mortgage. They said it’s easy not to spend when they focus on watching that balance decrease and they become closer to a life without a mortgage debt. This is important for us, too, if we want utter independence in our endeavors. Instead of getting ahead of ourselves, focus on eliminating the financial things holding us back.

This post is in a similar vein, but it gives tips on how to organize your money when you’re in debt. There’s a great piece of advice that is essentially, “put all the money for bills in a separate account, and if there’s any left over after they are paid, but it towards eliminating some debt.” Organizing the money into different accounts — for paying of debt, bills, cost of living, saving, etc. is pragmatic and seems highly effective.

Again, similar post but it has another nifty tip: track everything you spend from the moment you get paid. That way, not only do you know exactly how much money you have, but you can also find places to cut back spending. My dad once told me that when Bill Gates was a kid, he would record in a journal every single time he spent money or owed someone so that he always knew exactly where he was financially. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but this blog post made me think of it, and then added the information about knowing when the cut back.

This post chronicles an email back and forth between Frugal Babe and Kate, a reader who says that, “Just because you can pay for something doesn’t mean you can afford it,” and that she’s settling for a “good enough” house for a great life making memories with her family. Not only is this inspirational, but it makes such sense! Both women say they make around the same income as their friends, but live in much smaller houses and thus enjoy greater financial security. Frugal Babe makes a great point about how one day she wants to be able to work because she WANTS to and not because she has to to pay the bills. As independent artists, don’t we want to create because we want to and not because we have to?

I’m something of a packrat, so this fresh perspective on saving things made me rethink some things. Frugal Babe says to save things you KNOW you’ll need for the future, rather than things you THINK you’ll need that end up cluttering your house and wasting space. I think this is also a good perspective to help curb spending, so you’ll buy things you know you’ll need rather than things that you sort of want or will possibly need. Also, the more she talks about Goodwill and yard sales (things I love, for the record), the more I wonder why I ever shop anywhere else.

Frugal Babe and Frugal Husband started their own business over ten years ago, and eventually it became something they can depend on for a living. As someone who wants to start my own theatre company one day, the steps they took to start their business are so valuable to me. There’s the obvious — lots of money will be spent on marketing, stay honest, ease your way out of your old job, don’t have kids when you start, etc. There’s also advice I had never thought of, like incorporating and paying yourself first before worrying about savings or retirement funds (though she also says those are important and eventually need to be accommodated.)

Kyle Blank

Wise bread’s slogan is living large on a small budget, this is something that I feel is important for everyone not just artists. That being budgeted and being frugal does not have to be boring and does not have to be a true punishment. While this site does have articles about careers, home management, and life hacks, I will be mainly focusing on the food aspects of it. How people should shop and what how to make the most food for the least money.

Wise bread’s slogan is living large on a small budget, this is something that I feel is important for everyone not just artists. That being budgeted and being frugal does not have to be boring and does not have to be a true punishment. While this site does have articles about careers, home management, and life hacks, I will be mainly focusing on the food aspects of it. How people should shop and what how to make the most food for the least money.

If someone is working at an office or a job that requires a lunch hour most people spend money out. The amount of money spent on eating out builds up over time and one simply can’t keep eating out at work to truly earn their hourly wage. This list is simply an efficient easy to read list of items that require little cash and little time. The key here being time, as many who eat out simply do it out of convenience. How ever convenience can be a burdon on your wallet. Also the list gives you room to go for, as with the problem with many food sites is telling you a recipe and refusing to grow. While this one in a few of them links to other blogs to help you get more ideas. The key here is to grow a thought for food and to enjoy the food that you eat. Cheap ingredients and eating your own food will not only be healthier in the long wrong but it will take a burdon off of your wallet.

“Americans throw away 40% of the food that is produced in this country every year. While there is plenty of waste that happens before the food ever gets to our dinner tables, according to the latest reports from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the average American family of four throws away $2,275 dollars in food annually!“
This is simply an unacceptable statistic. In order to live a well budgeted or as some would say frugal life style the food we eat throw out needs to be looked at. If we are throwing out 40% of our food thats 40% of our grocery bill that is thrown out as well. Almost half of the food we buy we do not keep and this article helps with that. While its aimed more towards holiday items the theme transcends holidays. For example don’t waste money on expensive teas when you can boil an apple core and use that to flavor. Helping you get the most out of that apple and not have to waste money on the more expensive flavored tea. The idea is to get creative with your food, if you add a little imagination you can save a ton of money simply by reusing and not throwing out 40% of your money. Here is another article to help with the throwing out of food, and the use of left overs.

This article simply states things that are more expensive at grocery stores. While this in of its self seems very simple its more complex than that because it teaches you what else you should do. Do not buy meat for stews, plan for another meal then use the left over for the stew so that way you can save money. Milk is half the price at warehouse stores than it is at the grocery store. So while it may be more convenient to buy your items in one place, if you truly want to save money and be frugal with your food purchases you have to move around a little.

This is an article I feel almost aimed at the independent artist. They are quick efficient and cheap meals for one. After a long day of work, rehearsal etc its hard to get the motivation to cook but these are fast and easy, with the ability to be frozen. They also serve one, meaning no left over and excess ingredients to waste money on. With helpful cooking adviced mixed in the article its definitely a useful tool for someone living by themselves trying to pinch the most pennies. Such as cook a meatloaf in muffin tins so that you can freeze the single servings in the freezer for another day. The key here is little work for a lot of reward, allowing you to not take too much time out of your day to make a good healthy and cheap meal.

This article is a helpful almost educational collum on how to shop at grocery stores. That there are tricks in the business to get people to spend more money and how simply being aware of these tricks can help one save as much money as possible and watch out for these things in the future. For example 10 for 10$ does not mean that you have to get 10, you get the savings even if you only get one thing but the store normally does not specify that. Stores want you to spend money and our goal as starving artists has to be to not spend as much as they want.

There are so many tools and objects for cooking its unfathomable. This list compiles what you do need and what you definitely do not need and its actually pretty surprising. For example of the things you do not need the first example is a dish washer. That its something that people waste so much money on that is simply a luxury. As people on a budget we have to determine what is luxury and what is core so that we can avoid what is unneeded as much as we can. For example a high quality knife while more expensive in the long run will last longer and do a better job saving you money in the long run. To cook at home an investment is needed how ever the benefits are literally limitless for someone on a budget.

Charlie Napier

Homesessive  (on the blog it was listed as DIY but has since undergone a name change) is a website with several articles about how to save money around your house. I feel like this would be really helpful for an independent artist to learn, as it can teach you how to solve problems yourself.  You can be able to handle any problems around your home for cheap instead of spending more on professionals or products.
The term “manly” is used in this article as a joke, as this is for anyone who wants to save money and be a more ‘do it yourself’ kind of person. You would save money not having to hire someone to fix these problems and feel especially independent. Some of these tasks may seem daunting at first, but personally I’d recommend you and your friends helping each other at first on these projects. After you attempt these in a group enough times, you’ll eventually have enough experience to attempt these things alone.

One the opposite side of the spectrum is 10 projects you should not attempt alone. These are for various reasons such as spending more money fixing your screw ups, not having equipment that a license professional would have, or may risk possible injury. It is always important to know your limitations, and this list sets a good boundary.

Brightnest is a partner site of Homesessive that also have several home based money saving techniques. This shows how you can save some bucks on a money drainer we all do on a regular basis. It is a little more work, but end result of saving money can make it worth the effort.

When we need something, we usually go straight to store and pay full price. This shows some things we can buy used to save money. While we may not need exactly the 10 items they listed, it still gives a good basis of things you can buy used. These include, things you are not going to be using on a regular basis and sturdy equipment more based on function the appearance.

This winter has been especially cold, so as a result we all are probably spending more money on heating. This shows just simple things that can be done in the house that can keep you warm and hopefully keep your bills down. The key to this style of saving is preventing unwanted air the house and closing up unused area of the house (oh and don’t forget warm drinks and cuddling).

Much like previous article, this one list both energy and money wasters that you probably did not even consider. They may seem small but they can go a long say in saving money, especially if you makes these actions a regular routine.

Carson Funk

I picked “And Then We Saved.” I was immediately drawn to it by its description on the top 50 site: 

From the start, I thought that this related to a lot of the things brought up in your blog post “How Much Do You REALLY Make Per Hour?” Clearly, one of the major similarities was money. The macro in this blog post ( succinctly describes the intent of the spending fast. “Want too many things. Need to want less.”

It’s similar to the cute pair of shoes dilemma. You want the cute pair of shoes. But is it really worth the 11 hours of work it took for you to get that money? That’s what the Spending Fast is, but on overdrive. You really only spend money on the necessities. That means no movies, no eating out, no coffee at coffee shops, no fancy makeup.

The “About The Spending Fast” blog post (linked above) provides a comprehensive guide for debt payment – a huge reason that I picked this. As students, many of us have student loans that will need to be paid off before we’re 80 years old. And this woman paid off her 24k debt in 15 months, which is rather impressive! So she must have some good things to say.

Some of the advice in the post which I thought was most helpful was organizing your bill payments from rank of highest interest rate to lowest interest rate, and paying them in that order. Also, setting a time frame for paying off your debt. Although a year might sound hard – and there will be slip-ups, as she says – it will go by quicker than anticipated.

This blog post talks about urban myths about money. It gives practical advice about spending too! For instance, it provides a comprehensive list of debts that are not wiped clean when declaring bankruptcy… and there are a LOT of debts that are not wiped clean, student loans being one of them. Another knowledge nugget is that buying in bulk is not always a better deal. Generally, things that are packaged in bulk are made for parties or family gatherings. Like – do you really want that 100 can pack of chickpeas? Are you really going to eat that 20 lb bag of potatoes? Such pieces of advice help keep your spending in check, rather than allowing you to fall into common misconceptions such as more for your buck is ALWAYS better.

This post is about food – delicious food you can make on a budget! I love that this site is not just about where to pinch your pennies, but how you can pinch your pennies and not live a horrible and self-imposed-impoverished life. Although you probably won’t want to eat rice and beans every night, it provides perspective. Rice and beans are incredibly cheap ingredients, and with a little sprucing up can be made into something spectacular. For a budding artist who wants to live off of 180 dollars a week, using a little creativity with blase ingredients is a great way to save.

Continuing on the food theme, here is a list of foods that can be made for under $5. While some of them are a little lackluster (i.e. a bowl of cereal is listed under breakfast), some of them are really clever and sound awesome. In the same vein as the above post, it shows you that living to save does always mean you have to live poorly. You can eat deliciously and still pay off all your debts.

This is another testimonial from someone (not the owner of the blog) that did the Spending Fast. She provides a comprehensive rundown of her experience with the Spending Fast. She had more loans to pay off than the blog owner, and she did it with her partner.

Something that really stood out for me was #2 on her list: “Ask yourself what are your priorities?” She writes that she and her partner both made a list of what was most important to them. They both valued time with family and friends… travel… and nowhere on the list was fancy clothes or luxury goods. So they made a budget that reflected their values! Yes, they might miss luxury goods, but at the heart of things, they didn’t really care about them…

This is an important post because – if one of us were to undergo this Spending Fast in order to free ourselves of the shackles of debt and truly call ourselves Independent Artists – it’s important to see the end outcome.

The blog owner (after completing her Spending Fast) explains how it feels to be without debt collectors sniffing around her pockets. The assertion that most stood out to me was “What’s Yours is Yours!” Money is yours, which means your time is yours. You’re no longer giving away your hours of work to other people! That’s something to look forward to. And that really helps put into perspective the independence of the Independent Artist. You can’t be free if you’re in debt to someone else… you can’t create if you’re in debt to someone else!

Hannah Pollard

The 99 Cent Chef is a blog designed by a chef who decided to see how many recipes he could make with ingredients that only cost 99 cents or less. That’s pretty much it! The blog is all his recipes, various tips and tricks, and ratings of local restaurants (he lives in Los Angeles).

For example, I don’t know about anyone else in the class, but I adore breakfast biscuits. Even though they aren’t the healthiest thing on the planet, they’re really tasty, and I don’t know what I’d do without them. For people like me, who just want something quick and fast but want to save even more money, there are recipes like how to make a homemade Egg McMuffin with ham.

Even though you might think Egg McMuffins are cheap and simple, this blog shows how you can save money in ways you might not expect. Egg McMuffins are about $2 per muffin, but you can make about six of them for $4 with this recipe. On top of that, you don’t have to waste time or money in the McDonald’s drive through line on your way to work.

If you don’t want to make an approximation of McDonald’s food, though, there are other, actually pretty healthy recipes on the site. The chef lives in Los Angeles, so a lot of his recipes are based around prices that aren’t necessarily applicable, but he encourages readers to do whatever works best for them. And really, grocery stores aren’t all that different – every time he says Albertsons, just replace it with Food Lion. This recipe for beef and broccoli stir fry breaks down how to tell what is the best cut of beef for each price.

The site also has recipes like how to make a Thanksgiving/Christmas/general holiday dinner on a budget, including things like desserts and even homemade eggnog. He doesn’t mind linking to other chefs if he thinks they can do a better job explaining than he can, and he also tries to make sure that all the meals actually feel homemade and like real Thanksgiving dishes, instead of something you whipped up because you had the ingredients on hand.

But if you really don’t feel like cooking, he also does reviews of what microwave dinners are worth buying, and which aren’t. No one expects microwave dinners to be wonderful, but it can be really disappointing when you’re dead tired and you just heat something up and then it comes out looking and tasting terrible. Looking at his reviews can help you find what’s the best out of the frozen food section.

He’s also just stared a new series reviewing local redcurrants that are cheap. Again, this won’t be entirely helpful to anyone who doesn’t live in Los Angeles, but his first post is about Wendy’s, and I think it will be helpful to people who are trying to get something that tastes good for as little as possible. I don’t use fast food restaurants very much, but I’m not above it, and so I would like to know which are the best, even if none of them are not that great.

Lastly, a lot of people are intimidated by cooking. If you have never cooked before, it is difficult to know where to start or what to do, and so many people default to eating fast food, or microwave dinners. While that’s fine, especially if you’re tired, one of the things I really like about the 99 cent chef is that he never forgets that people who are looking at his blog could be beginners. To that end, a lot of his recipes have small stop motion animations that go along with them to better illustrate his points.

If you’re intimidated by making pork stir fry, this video starts off with all the green beans lined up in a row, and then the stems getting broken off and all huddling in a pile and running away, with the caption ‘remove stems.’ Steps like this are easy to follow, and make cooking available for anyone on a budget.

Maggie Wasielewski

This site is aimed toward improving finances and overall, you life. These are tips about saving money and how to inspire yourself to keep going.

Ten Pieces of Inspiration is basically ten quotes meant to keep you on track with a little boost. After reading them, I found them to be very helpful and if I were stuggling these quotes would get me back to keeping my goals in mind and encourage me to keep going when you don’t have someone physical to turn to for this type of support.

This is a simple idea that always turns out to be harder than it sounds. These are some tips on how to do exactly that–Spend Less Than You Earn. This is useful to always keep on the front of the brain.

This goes along with the idea of how much do you REALLY make and gives advice on how to spend time wisely and as a result you are a healthier person who has more time to make money.

As Independent Artists we are going to have to talk about our money problems so we can get to a solution. This link shows some steps as to who to talk to and about what and different ways to get to the solution or on your way to one.

Essentially, BE INDEPENDENT! Mike Wiley also talked about how he did things himself and this is a bit more general and detailed about what you can do for yourself, therefore not spending money to have someone else do it.

Relationships, friendships, connections. These are crucial to being an Independent Artist. Who you know can get you far and ahead sometimes and having that tree of connections is important. This link gives advice on how to create those relationships.

Learn to Cook — Then Cook!

I always love the time around Thanksgiving when many of my Facebook friends post descriptions or pictures of what they and their family are making for their holiday dinner. Everyone oohs and ahhs about how yummy is all sounds.

What happens to that realization during the other 364 days of the year?

When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, my group of friends often went out to eat several times a day — a late breakfast, lunch, maybe supper, and definitely out for beer after rehearsal. It was an opportunity for everyone to gossip and joke. And none of us could think of an alternative — after all, there wasn’t anyplace to refrigerate a lunch or even keep it while you were in class.

But it was expensive. I didn’t have money to buy new shoes when the pair I was wearing developed cracks in the soles so that water leaked in when it rained. I just put the wrappers from individual American cheese slices in there and kept going.

Students use restaurants because it is too hard to go home to eat. And because it’s fun.

People in the performing arts — really, anyone in our work work work society – uses restaurants and microwavable food as a time saver. When you work until 5:00 and have a 7:00 rehearsal, it is easier to grab something out rather than trying to cook something. “I don’t have TIME to cook,” we cry — and everyone nods in sympathy. And in the morning, we grab a cheesecake brownie and caramel macchiato on the way to work. And packing a lunch takes too much time and planning, so we run out for lunch or get something from a machine…

You know where this is all going, right?

If you went through the process I discussed in “How Much Do You REALLY Make Per Hour?,” you know that these purchases have to be paid for not with money but with time — YOUR time. Your “life energy.” Right?

I know, I know. Eating out is a reward for having to put up with all the frustration you have after eight hours at your day job, and it’s a chance to see friends and relax. But in reality, these purchases are making sure you get to have that frustration week after week world without end amen. Is that really what you want?

Let me give you an example: breakfast. First of all, don’t buy breakfast cereals — they are expensive per serving. Make some pancakes from scratch (you can make a large batch in advance and just make them as you need them — or make up a bunch in advance and microwave them), scramble an egg or two, if you eat meat have a couple slices of bacon or sausage, make yourself a big cup of coffee and an orange. How much would you pay for that at your favorite breakfast place, including a tip? Now, how much would it cost you to make it? I estimate a buck fifty at most, and way less if you don’t have meat. Multiply the difference times however many times you get breakfast out over the course of a month, and you will likely have a sizable amount. Divide it by how much you REALLY make per hour and ask yourself: does that breakfast deliver the enjoyment to balance the amount of my life energy I have to spend and the amount of frustration those hours cost me? Plus — is that cheesecake brownie and caramel macchiato really a healthy breakfast?

Lunch and supper is the same, only the savings are even greater, especially is you make easy meals from scratch — they are yummy and not very expensive. And the reality is that basic meals don’t take much time to make, really.

You don’t have to deny yourself eating out completely. But make it intentional, make it an event, make it purposeful. When it becomes something you do regularly, it loses its value.

The way you respond to this post should be an indication of how serious you are about being an independent artist. If you can’t imagine giving up your Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuit in order to buy yourself some time to create, well then maybe you’re just not serious…

Don’t sell your creativity so cheaply.

Seth Godin Interview: The Art of Noticing and Then Creating

I have written about Seth Godin on this blog before. He is someone who seems to me to be truly liberatory (a combination of liberating and celebratory). This week, he did a rare interview with Krista Tippet on her American Public Media radio show On Being. Godin is so effective at finding analogies and metaphors

that explain in a memorable way how the changes our society has and is going through means there are opportunities available for us all to make a contribution. If you are interested in becoming an independent artist, I believe that listening to Seth Godin speak and reading what he’s written is an important first step to getting used to thinking differently about the world and your place in it.

Or if you prefer, here is a link to the transcript.

More on Independence

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post defining “independence” for this project. Today, I received an email from John Clancy, the co-founder and Executive Director of the League of Independent Theater in NYC. Three days ago, he published “A Declaration of Independence” on the Clyde Fitch Report blog. I urge you to read the whole thing — several times.

Here is a taste:

My ability to produce my work is not dependent on the approval or endorsement of any artistic director, literary manager or other gatekeeper of the American regional theater system, which includes the established nonprofit Off-Broadway companies. If my work finds its way to their stages, I am happy, but I am independent of the regional theater universe.

I create my own opportunities and market my own work. I get myself gigs. I am not dependent on any American literary, theatrical agency or management company to find me work. I am independent of agents and managers.

I am an independent theater artist.

There’s a lot more where that came from.

This is the attitude that I believe is necessary to achieve creative independence. Many artists are taught to view their work instrumentally, as if each project is an audition for the next level “up.” Instead, an independent artist focuses on his or her work as intrinsically good, as an end in itself, not a means to advancement.

This is not to say that advancement isn’t possible — an independent artist doesn’t object to having the work experienced by a growing audience — but rather advancement is a side benefit rather than the goal. The focus is on the work itself.

Perhaps something is in the wind! At least two of us are declaring independence the goal!

Free On-Line Course/Project: Strategies for Becoming an Independent Artist

I am creating an on-line course/project called “Strategies for Becoming an Independent Artist” that will focus on pulling together ideas and resources for creative people to have more time to do their art and more control over the work they do. This is in conjunction with an on-campus course I am teaching. If you are interested in participating (it is free and flexible), or know of someone who would, add your name and email in the comments below (I have to moderate them, so I won’t put them up but just grab the info) or email me at I am adding people into the module over the next few days.