Investment & Saving as a Freelance Artist
New year new goals!
As a young artist whose focus is creating, it isn’t easy for me (and I imagine many of you) when I have to address the nitty-gritty true business side of things. Even more simplistically, it can be hard to just master the idea of saving money. Even when we are doing well and have money coming in, it usually gets spent on expenses, new gear, lots of hard drives and backups, travel, marketing expenses, insurance, healthcare and so on. Many of the clients we deal with don’t fully understand how much extra cash we have to spend every month to run a small independent business our own. Sometimes we score and make three or four month’s worth of income on one project, and sometimes we don’t make any money at all for months at a time. For every artist it is different, and it can be really inconsistent, stressful and sometimes scary.
The reason I wanted to write this is to shed light on different things beyond the artistic side, and the other stuff that has flooded our industry. Everyone is releasing editing tutorials, workshops, prints, trip updates and much more of that angle, but how many of them are teaching the business side, giving tips on how to invest some of your savings, with even just a little cash here and there? Not nearly as many. Maybe because it’s less “sizzle” and is something none of us want to think about, but you can’t expect to succeed as a full time artist without the business knowledge.
I should also note, I am in no way an expert on this, just speaking from my experience and what works for me. That said, please do research beyond me, I just wanted to start the conversation. I know there are plenty of other ways to do this and plenty of other services that may offer the same thing. I feel pretty good about the resources I’m recommending, but don’t feel like you have to get exactly what I use.
I use a lot of apps to manage my finances. Why? First I like to spread things around a bit instead of consolidating into one thing (except for the last app I listed, which is just a view of everything that I have spread out). Some stocks/funds can drop, while some can take off. And I am not trying to “get rich” off this method (would be nice), but just trying to put my savings somewhere that can safely grow in value with much bigger returns that just letting money sit in your bank account. Now beware, with any investing, you can get take a hit and lose money (like if you invested early with GoPro stock). That’s why I have many different investments, that do very well and make up for the losses. Over time, I got better and smarter as well.
Another tip to bear in mind is not to let yourself get too greedy. If the research shows that a stock is gonna burst at a certain point and you already made a pretty great return, look into selling before it’s too late- a lot of people learned that very hard lesson with bitcoin last year! A final thing to remember is not to sell too early just because it goes down a bit. Don’t let the ebb and flow of stocks spook you. If it’s a long term investment, just ignore those stocks for the most part. They will go up and down all the time, and you will go nuts if you worry about them too much. Just leave them be.
My number one goal here is mainly long term investments. I put a lot into companies and industries in which I believe and see a future. I also do a fair bit of online research, getting multiple perspective before I put money on something. Again, this method works for me. I know I could probably make more doing other things, but then I am taking more time away from my main business goals with Planet Unicorn and my personal business. For me, it’s about balancing time investment with results.
Below are the 4 of the apps I use to not only save but also invest.
1) Stash App (Investment)
Invite Link: http://get.stashinvest.com/toby049qi
Joined: December 2015
Right now, this is my favorite app for investing. I started with Acorns, but when Stash came out I grew to like it far better. I love being about to pick which mutual funds I can put money into. With Acorns, you just pick what is called your investment “aggressiveness” level, and they do the rest. That’s nice for some, especially if you have no idea what you want to invest in, or no idea about anything at all, but with Stash I get to spread my money out across a lot of funds, some with very high risk and some with little risk. Basically, it gives you more options. Using Stash, in 2016 I was up around 12%, and I have made some new moves here and hope to be up around 20% by end of 2017.
$1 per month, with no additional commissions or trading fees.
As always, your first 3 months are free.*
Portfolios $5,000 and over are charged 0.25% per year
(that’s $12.50 a year for a $5,000 portfolio).
2) Digit App (Just Cash/Savings)
Invite Link: https://digit.co/r/V7tr35JbS?wn
Joined: December 2014
Two years ago my buddy Casey McCallister turned me on to this app and I have been sold ever since. I use this app as a hidden savings account or rainy day fund. I have found that it is a great place to just hide money and not look at it. Every two or three days, Digit will automatically transfer some money (usually $5-50) from your checking account to your Digit savings. They will never transfer more than you can afford, so you don’t have to worry about overdrafting your account- They even have a no-overdraft guarantee. If you use it like me, I put 10% to 20% from most of my paychecks in here to save for times when I need to pay off higher credit cards fees or taxes. They also recently added a bonus: Every 3 months you will automatically receive a Savings Bonus based on your average Digit balance over the last 3 months. You’ll get 5 cents for every $100. Not much, but hey, free money!
3) Robinhood App (Stocks)
Joined: February 2015
This is great if you want to get into stocks and learn the basics. First of all, it’s free! It’s an app, it’s easy to use, and just gets the job done. However, I’ve found that you can definitely find yourself swimming into the deep end of the pool pretty quickly. Unlike Stash or Acorns, you pick each stock here yourself: it’s all on you. It takes more time to research the markets and know when to sell and when to hold. At first I probably got a bit carried away: I lost a little, gained a little. But Robinhood has taught me to be a smarter investor, what to follow and look for. I don’t go after many short term investments (that would be more of a day trader job) but instead I invest more for long term. That means I will hold on to 80% of what I buy for 10+ years. Imagine investing in netflix 5 years ago? Your return right now would be over 1,000%!
4) Acorns App (Investment)
Invite Link: https://acorns.com/invite/6N79JG
Joined: February 2015
I mentioned this app earlier, and it is essentially like Stash as far as the funds your money goes into. However with Acorns, they take a much broader approach. You answer the questions about you and your financials and goals and then you pick your aggressiveness of investment, and Acrons will do the rest. It essentially takes spare change from your bank account and works similar to Digit where it pulls automatically without you noticing much in your bank account. You also have the option to deposit larger sums to grow it faster. The already small fee goes down further after $5,000. With Acorns, my investments are up around 10% overall, but as I mentioned I stopped putting money here and put it into Stash more because I prefer Stash’s flexibility in choosing my funds. They are both great for different reasons and honestly both give me similar return.
For accounts of $5,000 or more, pay only 0.25% per year. And really cool that they offer free accounts for college students with a valid .edu address for up to four years from date of registration.
5) Bonus App: Personal Capital (Free Portfolio Management)
Invite Link: https://www.personalcapital.com
This app I really love. Now that I have all the above. I add all my bank accounts, credit cards, investing apps (Unfortunately Robinhood and Stash are not supported through API and you will have to manually put stuff in stock by stock). It is great to see everything in one place and in such an easy-to-use platform. It gives you tons of insights as well. I know, the privacy people will hate this one because of how it has its fingers in everything, but I don’t let that bother me. This app is free to use unless you want to use their advisor add on, which may even be a good call for some. Otherwise the app has tons of learning sections such as one for retirement planning, investment checkup, etc. All these resources are there to help you better understand all your investments at a glance (if you added all the information that is).I personally have a UBS investment portfolio which I have had forever, but may be moving all that over to be managed by personal Capital because I like their approach better.
6) Bonus: Robo-Advisor Portfolio Management Platforms
For other portfolio management services, be sure to checkout this great article by Nerd Wallet that breaks them all down by what they offer and what they may charge, if any. https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/investing/best-robo-advisors/
I think this can all sound boring, but I hope I sparked some interest in getting you into investing more. I love this type of stuff, even if I am no expert. It’s fun to play, learn, get involved, win and even fail!