Financial Strategies for Freelance Artists in a Time of Crisis #ArtistResource on 26 March 2020

ANNOUNCER: All right We are preparing the live stream meeting, should be about three seconds away And we’re live Excellent Welcome, friends My name is Hannah Fenlon, my pronouns are she, her, and hers, and I am one of the producers of today’s session, along with my most excellent colleagues Hi, I’m Abigail Vega, she/her Hey, I’m Ann Marie Lonsdale, she/her pronouns Nicole Brewer, she/her pronoun Excellent And we’re glad you’ve joined us this afternoon to explore financial strategies for individual artists with the brilliant and generous Amy Smith This is the second in a series of online events that’s focused on serving the needs of individual and freelance U.S.-based artists and culture makers in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis Our first session dealt with a broad spectrum of urgent topics that included emergency funding, legal support, online gathering strategies, and national advocacy You can see that at And our colleague, Amy, spoke briefly on that panel with some important advice for managing your finances at this moment We’ve asked her to dive a little bit deeper with us today as we noted this issue is exceedingly important to our community We’ve already received numerous questions from across the country, and we are acknowledging and breathing into the anxiety that folks are currently feeling So, as we get started, let’s actually just take a moment to acknowledge ourselves, all of you joining us today for being here, for taking care of your financial health And we want you to remember that whatever you’re feeling, however you’re processing is important, and it needs to happen in this moment So, if you’re like us, speaking for the four of us in our producing team, you probably miss good hugs So, we’re all gonna go ahead, and we can’t see you, so you can do this in your own individual space, gonna go ahead and wrap our arms around ourselves, if you’re able, for just a moment Give a little self hug, you can squeeze, you can add a massage, or a back pat if it feels good Really give yourself a little bit of love for three, two, one (sighs) Good Beautiful Show yourself a little love whenever you can Show that gratitude for yourself, and I’d also like to just share some more gratitude for Amy, as well as our colleagues at HowlRound, Vijay Mathew, JD Stokely, and Thea Rogers in particular for the vital roles they’re playing in transferring this information to the arts and culture community And additionally, we are so grateful to the ASL interpreters who are collaborating with us today, as well as the National Captioning Institute, which is providing the live captions for our session Before we go any further, we’d like to offer a land acknowledgement and some additional context for this afternoon’s presentation Nicole Hello, everyone So, as we have gathered digitally, we’ll be honoring the many Indigenous peoples whose land the facilitators and our speaker today is gathered on We do this practice as a way of acknowledging the people who were present on Turtle Island as the past, present, and future caretakers of the land I invite you to breathe as you hear these names I, Nicole, am calling in from the Yemassee and Muscogee lands, known as Savannah, Georgia I’m Amy Smith, I’m calling from outside of Philadelphia, which is Lenni Lenape land I’m Hannah Fenlon, I’m calling from Central Indiana, which is Kiikaapoi Kickapoo, and Miami land I’m Ann Marie Lonsdale calling from Chochenyo and Ohlone land, those people who still thrive here in Oakland, California Hi, it’s Abigail, I’m calling in from Coahuiltecan lands, which is now known as San Antonio, Texas,

and on behalf of the staff of HowlRound Theatre Commons at Emerson College, they wish to respectfully acknowledge that their offices are situated on land stolen from its original holders, the Massachuset and the Wompanoag people They wish to pay their respects to their people, past, present, and future Adrienne Wong of SpiderWebShow in Ontario has written this digital land acknowledgement, which we also like to share Since our activities are shared digitally on the internet, let’s also take a moment to consider the legacy of colonization embedded within the technologies, structures, and ways of thinking we use every day We are using equipment and high speed internet not available in many Indigenous communities Even the technologies that are central to much of the art that we make leaves significant carbon footprints contributing to changing climates that disproportionately affect Indigenous peoples worldwide I invite you to join me in acknowledging all of this, as well as our shared responsibility, to make good of this time, and for each of us to consider our roles in reconciliation, decolonization, and allyship Thank you, Abigail So, speaking of technology, I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that each of us has different level of connectivity, and we invite all of you to when and if your internet freezes, or our internet freezes, to take a breath and do a body scan, and just release and relax the really held parts of your body I carry a lot of tension in my jaw, so I might go, ah It might be beneficial also for you to reflect on what’s being said so far, and where those ideas are landing for you while we figure out our technological difficulties We also want you to know that you are in good company today Tons of viewers from all across The States and even internationally are currently tuning in So, we invite you to Tweet, or post on social media and tell us that you’re here Give us your name, your location, and you can use the hashtags ArtistResource and HowlRound, and then you can follow that thread either on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, or another way better social media platform that we haven’t heard of yet, TikTok, to get a sense of who we are, and who’s with us today We also wanted to invite you to submit questions Many of you have already done this, and we really appreciate you getting your questions to us in advance Please email your questions and comments for Amy Smith, or any of the facilitators to So, that’s ArtistResource, no spaces,, and we will do our best to address them during the session As we share resources throughout the session, we’re gonna post them on the HowlRound Twitter account, which is @HowlRound @H-O-W-L-R-O-U-N-D And now I’m gonna pass it off to Nicole Great, thank you so much And so, throughout Amy’s talk this afternoon we are going to be engaging in a reflective five So, we’ll be pausing in between sections of Amy’s talk to reflect on different financial provocations The prompt will be shared, then you’ll be invited to inhale to the count of five, hold five, exhale five An example might be, setting an attention right now, just as we’re getting ready to hear from Amy around what you want to get from this talk, or how you might wanna use this resource So, then I would say “Inhale, one, two, three, four, five, “hold, five, four, three, two, one, “exhale, one, two, three four, five.” Thank you So, there is such a strong, and there is, excuse me, such strong and toxic messaging in this country around money I think there’s a huge imbalance of power, power, for me, meaning knowledge, when it comes to financial literacy and understanding how money works for us,

and against us every day My mother prioritized teaching my brother and I how to balance checkbooks, save money, create budgets, and respect our credit score Thanks, Zefra. (laughs) What I had to unlearn in adulthood is believing working hard correlates to the amount of money earned This kind of thinking often isolates inequitable structures, distracted and consumed by the mantra “Work harder.” I earned two degrees and racked up $90,000 of student loan debt, that is today $143,000 It was only after I finished my graduate degree, became a cultural worker, and struggled to support myself and be financially responsible that I understood how much not knowing how money interacts with my various identities could hurt my bottom line The most radical thing I’ve done to combat the shame and guilt I feel when talking about money is to ask my community for support, educate myself on what money is, and evaluate my relationship to what my skillset is worth Now, talking about money, which I just did, is really complicated, brings up a lot But we’re in this together, and we believe that there is no way we can move through this moment without transparency and opportunity to share experiences and feelings with one another So, let’s go for it I am happy and full of gratitude to bring my friend, my colleague, my future, and former, present, past movement worker, Amy Smith, to the virtual stage Amy Thank you so much, Nicole It’s such an honor and pleasure to be here with you, and thank you, everyone, who has made this possible I’m so filled with gratitude right now So, I would like to start with a quote from Grace Lee Boggs, who is an activist in Detroit in the Civil Rights era and through to the 80s, 90s, and aughties “Every crisis, actual or impending, “needs to be viewed as an opportunity “to bring about profound changes in our society “Going beyond protest organizing, “visionary organizing begins by creating images “and stories of the future “that help us imagine and create alternatives “to the existing system.” So, with those wonderful words from Grace Lee Boggs, I wanna start by saying that you are not alone You are physically distant from each other right now, but you are not alone There are many people going through what you are going through right now We are all grieving, and we are all feeling loss, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better But this pandemic will eventually get better, and right now we have an opportunity to build community and build power, and use our power as artists to imagine and create new structures Many of us feel embarrassed to talk about financial vulnerability because neoliberal capitalism tells us that we should be climbing a ladder toward financial success, and that our successes and failures are indicative of our individual strength or weakness Your debt is not shameful Your financial reality is not shameful Your precarity is not shameful It is not of your making The system is designed to funnel wealth toward the owning class And it is working exactly as it was designed Capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism, and white supremacy all work together to ensure the flow of wealth into the hands of white people in the owning class, and no amount of individual knowledge, or strength, or perseverance guarantees upward mobility But I believe that we can share resources and form coalitions to achieve personal family and community wellbeing We have to come together to demand more humane policies from our government, even as we create more robust structures of mutual aid for ourselves And whatever gains we do make in this time, like hopefully decarceration, better resources for hungry and homeless people,

freeing detained asylum seekers, student loan forgiveness, et cetera, we cannot let our government take those gains back We’ve been getting a lot of questions about unemployment compensation, so I want to address that issue first Right now it looks like the bill going through congress will make it possible for self-employed people to access unemployment benefits It will also increase the weekly payments, and extend the time that you can stay on unemployment This is a massive change And frankly, our state unemployment agencies are gonna have a hard time ramping up to meet the need Keep yourself informed by reading reputable news sources, like The New York Times, and checking with your state’s UC websites for updates And prepare now for how you’re going to demonstrate your past self-employment income and your current situation by creating profit and loss statements for 2019 and 2020, and I will share a sample profit and loss statement later I am not an expert in unemployment compensation, and it varies state by state, so I cannot answer specific questions about it, but I will try to answer general questions about it in the Q and A One thing I do have experience with is employers mischaracterizing their employees as independent contractors That has been a serious problem for decades, and now the chickens are coming home to roost What happens is, employers try to avoid paying their share of social security and Medicare, and avoid making worker protections, like unemployment compensation and workers comp available to their employees by paying them as independent contractors, mischaracterizing them as independent contractors Let me give an example One of my tax clients is an actor who was working for a local cable station as a performer on a kid’s TV show She was essentially working full-time, but the station was paying her as an independent contractor I coached her into going to them and demanding to be put on payroll, and they did But I have seen this over and over again If you go to the IRS website,, and look up the form SS-8 SS-8 It provides some questions about the relationship between payer and payee that can help you make a determination about whether the person paying you should be paying you as an employee or an independent contractor And of course, there is a gray area But I know that a lot of artists have been getting 1099s when they should have been getting W-2s And you may feel reluctant to file for your own unemployment because you’re worried about triggering scrutiny of the person or entity that has been paying you, or even facing retaliation for doing so I can’t make that decision for you, but I would encourage you to use the unemployment compensation system as it was designed, which is to get cash in your hands now for your basic needs Another thing in the emergency relief bill, as I’m sure you’ve heard by now, is a one-time payment of $1200 for each taxpayer Once the $1,200 payment arrives, my advice is, don’t use it to pay down debt Use it for your most pressing needs, food, medicine, housing, et cetera Now, I wanna talk about a few things that are getting in the way of our ability to ask for help when we need it As I mentioned before, capitalism and structural oppression makes us feel ashamed to access social safety net programs or take on debt to cover our basic needs The idea that not paying your rent or student loans

in a crisis makes your irresponsible The three things I’m thinking about are the myth of individuality, imposter syndrome, and scarcity mentality Let’s start with the myth of individuality There’s a great article called “Social Justice in a Time of Social Distancing” by Kenneth Bailey and Lori Lobenstine, I believe we will be Tweeting out that link “Social Justice in a Time of Social Distancing” Quote, “As long as we function as individuals, “our ability to solve complex social problems will fail us “With the coronavirus spreading across the globe, “we literally have a social emergency “that makes us wanna wrap ourselves “safely away from others “These so-called solutions, wearing masks, “working from home, canceling travel, “make sense to us at one level, “because our lives and daily habits “are already arranged this way “The habits of individual and personal solutions precede us, “however, at a deeper level “we feel the distance between the growing “and more intense social emergency “and the organizations of our daily lives “Individual solutions feel incommensurate and isolating.” End quote So again, neoliberal capitalism has intentionally moved us as workers away from collective problem solving and collective action Think about union busting is only one example, and towards a myth that our problems are our fault, and that we must solve them individually Let’s talk about imposter experience I’m sure many of you are familiar with the term imposter syndrome, or as Dr. Pauline Clance, who’s one of the women who coined that phrase wishes she’d called it, imposter experience Imposter experience makes us doubt our accomplishments, and creates a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud, or as not belonging A lot of artists I know, especially women, artists of color, and other folks who’ve been structurally oppressed have experienced this and are made to feel this way by toxic work environments in academia and in the nonprofit industrial complex There’s a great article by a scientists named Christine Lieu that we’ll Tweet out on the HowlRound Twitter feed, who writes quote, “By framing feelings on inadequacy “as a personal flaw that needs to be worked on, “we let the toxic culture “in academic research off the hook “This culture encourages over work and under compensation “under the guise that if you are a real scientist “your dedication will compensate for your needs for rest, “money, and self-acceptance “As young scientists, we’re fooled into working “harder and longer to live up to sky-high expectations, “and encouraged to feel inadequate,” end quote Sound familiar to anyone? (laughs) and all of this has been exacerbated by the past 30 years of academia moving towards contingent faculty and the nonprofit industrial complex exploiting workers with unpaid internships and low pay, and our country’s trend toward the gig economy, which means fewer workers have the protections that employment offers The third thing I’m thinking about is scarcity mentality Scarcity mentality is zero-sum thinking It’s the belief that there will never be enough of the things we need and want Here’s how the visual artist, Christine Garvey, talks about scarcity mentality And we’ll Tweet out this article on the HowlRound Twitter feed Number one, we engage in tunneling We get obsessed with solving the problem

When we’re in the tunnel we have blinders on to everything else We end up missing meetings, forgetting to pay a bill, or are unable to see other opportunities Number two, we lose our bandwidth Bandwidth is our fluid intelligence, ability to problem solve, plus our self-control, ability to avoid impulsive decisions These functions diminish significantly when we feel scarce And number three, we do trade off thinking We think about things in an either/or versus a this/and framework We don’t allow for many possible solutions Either/or thinking is an aspect of white supremacy culture I always think of my friend Shavon Norris, when I think of either/or thinking She started noticing how often she used the word but, and decided to practice using the word and instead Try it. (laughs) And try these antidotes to either/or thinking from Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones’ article, “White Supremacy Culture”, which will also be Tweeted out Quote, “Notice when people are simplifying complex issues, “particularly when the stakes seem high, “or an urgent decision needs to be made “Slow it down and encourage people “to do a deeper analysis “When people are faced with an urgent decision, “take a break and give people some breathing room “to think creatively “Avoid making decisions under extreme pressure If we can learn to recognize the patterns of scarcity mentality in ourselves and others, we can start to move toward healthier attitudes and collective power In a time of crisis, I’m not sure we can realistically move toward abundance thinking, but we need to be asking, what is enough? And make sure we share resources so that everyone has enough and survives together with minimal trauma And I wanna take a breath here and invite Nicole to help us take a breath together Thank you, Amy Though a lot comes up for that, we will engage in a reflective five This reflective five is around money shame When we feel shame about money, the system is working as it was intended Where does shame live in you, and how can you begin to shift the stories you tell yourself about money to alleviate that shame? Inhale, one, two, three, four, five Hold, five, four, three, two, one Exhale, one, two, three, four, five Thank you So, now I wanna talk about solidarity and redistribution of wealth To be in solidarity with each other, we need to be honest with each other Those of us with the ability to redistribute our wealth, now is the time I started my life as an artist with many privileges I am white, I went to an elite college, I collaborated with two white men I had family members who had knowledge to share about business and finance I went from being working class with a safety net in my 20s, to being now middle class with inherited family wealth And I acknowledge the advantages of my birth, the support of my community, and the work that I have put in toward my learning My personal way of being in solidarity is that I’m trying to give away my money in direct proportion to my white privilege and unearned wealth This happens in two ways for me 0% interest loans and cash gifts via Venmo, mostly to black and brown artists in my community I encourage any of you who are in a position to do this

to consider how you can redistribute your own wealth in this time of great need But I also understand that there are many, many people on this call who are in a position of needing that help and needing that support I believe in radical transparency, and I think it breeds solidarity I want to name two dance artists whose work around financial transparency have really inspired me Jumatatu Poe, also from Philadelphia, published an economic profile on his website, which we’ll Tweet out on the Twitter feed, and New York artist Sydnie Mosley did the same They provide two very different models to learn from, and they model how we as artists can be clear and honest about how we are subsidizing our work, and making our lives work financially I believe that our silence and shame about how artists are making their lives work perpetuates the existing power structure, and that to undo those structures, we must get used to naming our financial realities without shame, whether we have class privilege or not Emergency funds and safety nets When you don’t have an emergency fund, you cannot survive unexpected losses of income, like many of us are experiencing right now Personal finance experts recommend having three to six month’s worth of expenses in a savings account, money market, or other steady account From my experience, that is pretty hard for most low income, middle income artists to achieve, so I always recommend one to three month’s worth So for example, if you’re living on $36,000 a year, that’s a savings of 3,000 to $9,000 Even before this pandemic, 40% of the people in the U.S Did not have $400 in the bank to cover an emergency I’m gonna say that again 40% of people in the U.S. did not have $400 in the bank to cover an emergency And the legacy of structural racism, lending discrimination and redlining means that for every $100 of wealth in a white family, a black family owns $5 Many artists I know have inherited family wealth, or at the very least have a family with the resources to lend, or give them money in a time of need Our arts ecosystem was built by and for these folks I’m thinking about a New York Times Magazine article I read some years ago about a choreographer whose work I admire where it’s revealed that his partner is a banker, and he talks about having a cook, a dog walker, and a house cleaner Or I think about the Yale mafia for theater directors and designers Mostly white men who are making real money and hiring each other Porsche McGovern is doing great work analyzing the data of who is getting hired and paid well in theater, and the gender inequality, while improving, is still terrible And we will Tweet out her HowlRound article (laughs) on the HowlRound Twitter feed Many artists I know have no family wealth and have to figure out how to enter into a system that was not built with them in mind Sometimes literally, and often figuratively, not speaking the language of grants and funders, and who can’t afford to do an unpaid internship

Many of these artists are entering the field with staggering student loan debt And there are other issues that compound the problems I met an artist recently who was about to get married to an immigrant, and she doesn’t feel safe accessing government safety net programs for fear of Trump’s ridiculous public charge rule The trick with emergency funding, and building an emergency fund, is that you have to start saving before you have paid down debt, which feels somehow wrong because of what our culture tells us about debt being shameful Once we get through this current crisis, plan for the next one by slowly building up an emergency fund And while we’re in this crisis, we need to do some redistribution of wealth inside our arts communities and local communities to fill the gaps of government programs and provide assistance to those most vulnerable And just to be clear, those most vulnerable are black, Indigenous, people of color, trans artists, undocumented artists, and artists with disabilities We who have class privilege need to put our money where our mouth is There are also a bunch of community funds and mutual aid maps being set up in response to this pandemic It’s great that so many artists are contributing, and it’s also great to reach out to those funds if you need the support There are also a lot of people starting these funds who are self-appointed, and doing it without any accountability So, I’m concerned about that trend For me, the bottom line is, I’m going to prioritize giving to funds that are run by people of color and funding people of color And we’ll Tweet out the list of resources that includes a lot of emergency funds that was put together by some of my Art Equity colleagues, who also put this talk together Safety nets There is nothing wrong with having a safety net And no shame in using a safety net if you have one We are in a crisis, and now is the time to use that safety net If you can access them, access Medicaid and SNAP, aka food stamps and other government safety net programs I’ll talk more about them later If you have a family safety net and you have resources to share, share those resources with others in your circle I wanna talk about ethical cancellations We are in some uncharted territory here, and I know many of you live on both sides of this, having things canceled on you, and having to cancel things yourself Again, my advice is always more transparency and more collective action I wanna quote a letter that Jumatatu Poe, my friend from Philadelphia, drafted to presenters talking about the lack of safety net, and requesting ethical cancellation Quote, “The ramifications of the pandemic “create conditions to unfairly punish artists, “artists who vitally follow their call to agitate, “to run counter, to status quo dicta, “in order to promote,” sorry, “to propose new truths about our human selves “in order to propose new alternatives for futures “when we are in such desperate need “of hope and reflection and momentum “Artists who frequently hurl themselves “into the throes of social vulnerability “because the worlds that they commit to realizing

“have not yet arrived “Artists who have the layered labor “of doing the difficult work of manifestation, “and hustling to convince the world “that this work is valuable “and should be compensated with resources,” end quote If you run or work for a nonprofit, there are emergency loans available from the Small Business Administration Take advantage of that program to keep people on payroll and honor your obligations to artists We should not be pushing down the burden of this crisis to those least able to weather it And we’ll Tweet out a link to the website that has information about those emergency loans The U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives has some great resources on their websites for cooperatives, small businesses, and individuals I dream of a future reality where nonprofits become worker co-ops, and arts workers have more decision making power But that’s a conversation for another day. (laughs) And we’ll Tweet out the link to the U.S. Federation of Worker Co-Ops’ COVID-19 page So, I wanna pause here and take a couple of questions I think Abigail is going to guide us through that Right Thank you so much, Amy Before we get– Oh, Nicole We will just do a reflective five That was a lot of information that you gave us So, the provocation Oprah, Ellen, Bill Gates, the lottery, ticket sales, subscribers, they are not coming to save your finances, and you don’t need them to How are we reimagining money flow? Yeah Inhale, one, two, three, four, five Hold, five, four, three, two, one Exhale, one, two, three, four, five Yeah Thank you, Amy Thank you, Nicole So, we’re just jumping in, Abigail and I, with a couple of questions, some of which we received prior to the talk I’m gonna start with one that’s sort of a collaboration of a couple of questions, Amy And I know you’re gonna talk a little bit about negotiating in a bit, but we have had some questions from independent contractors who are regular contractors with nonprofit organizations So for example, an organist at a church, a teaching artist who work often, but obviously on a 1099, and are finding that those organizations have either refused to talk to them or communicate with them about lost future wages, and/or refuse outright to compensate them for that time And these folks are obviously not employees, but contractors with a regular relationship with these nonprofits Any suggestions for folks in this particular situation? Yeah It’s so awful ’cause a lot of relationships are gonna be severely damaged by this pandemic, and I wish more organizations were being transparent and being communicative with the people that they’re laying off, or canceling relationships with or discontinuing relationships with, but unfortunately, that’s not the case So, I guess my advice is, it’s my understanding that unemployment compensation will be available to self-employed 1099 people, and what’s going to be necessary to access those funds is some demonstration of how much you were receiving from these entities So, that can be in the form of a profit and loss statement that you create I also recommend keeping records of when entities or people cancel on you, keeping that email or even text as proof or demonstration that you lost that income, and then keeping a running tally of places that you have lost income from so you can have a running total

of how much lost income you’ve suffered already Great, thank you So, we have another question that came in This person’s asking, they’re an independent performing artist and all of their gigs are canceled, and the income, of course, is gone that came along with that They’re looking into SBA loans, but wondering if they’ll be eligible since they don’t have payroll, and they are an LLC Do you know if that scenario fits into this criteria? I’m not an expert on these SBA loans, but my understanding is that they are for incorporated entities So, there are LLCs that file as incorporated entities, but most artists I know are filing as single owner LLCs, which basically means you’re essentially a self-employed, independent contractor, so I doubt those folks will be able to access those SBA loans But, like I said before, hopefully, we think, they’ll be able to access unemployment benefits Great, thanks, Amy You touched on a lot of the questions that we were getting at the top, which have to do with applying for unemployment benefits, and we’re actually gonna use this next question as a transition because this person did not know that you were going to talk specifically about renegotiating debt So, this question is specifically about mortgage payments, any sense of what lenders are game for in terms of renegotiation, lessening the amount of cash per month, et cetera, and we can just use that line of questioning to lead us into our next section Great, excellent Thank you so much Thank you So yeah, I wanna talk about debt management in crisis times So, the first thing I wanna say about this is, all debt is negotiable This is something that rich people know from experience I learned it myself because one of my day jobs was working for a private investigations firm Part of my job was calling clients, who were mostly attorneys, and asking them to pay our bills I would say, “Hey, you still owe this bill for $10,000 “we sent you three months ago.” And they’d say, “Oh, okay, how ’bout I pay you $5,000 “and you write off the other $5,000?” And I’d say, “How ’bout you pay $7,000?” And they’d pay $7,000 and I’d write off the $3,000 just to be done with it So, I learned from that experience that I can do the same with debts that I owe, and I did So, many low income artists don’t realize that lenders have all budgeted for writing off bad debt It’s a line item in their budgets Call your lenders Tell them you have lost income due to the coronavirus and ask them to write off a portion of your debt, lower your APR, et cetera First though, (laughs) do a calculation of your lost income Like I said, create a folder called Lost Income, save all of your cancellation emails, and keep a running tally of all your lost income in a spreadsheet so you can start the conversation from a place of knowing, and using real numbers Then, call your landlord or mortgage lender and ask for reduced rent, or no rent for a couple of months, or an interest freeze on your mortgage Already there are many eviction freezes, foreclosure freezes, and forbearance plans in place in different cities and states around the country Call your internet provider to see if they offer free internet during the crisis Call your auto loan provider, see if they can give you a lower APR, or a forbearance, or a pause on your insurance Ask your credit card company or student loan lender, even if it’s a private loan, for a rate reduction or forbearance And even if they don’t accept your offer, don’t pay student loans during this crisis Student loans should not be your priority right now And if enough Americans stop paying them, they will finally give borrowers the terms and rates we should have been getting all along

Sign up for Medicaid, Obamacare, or other health insurance using your new income numbers And if you’re primarily self-employed, create a profit and loss statement for 2019 and one for 2020 so you can demonstrate your new financial reality to those programs And I’m gonna do a screen share and show a sample profit and loss statement So, a profit and loss statement, simply put, is a spreadsheet or document that lists your self-employment income and amounts, and totals your income Then it lists deductible expenses, totals the expenses, and at the bottom shows a net profit or loss So, this is one that I basically used last December to apply for Obamacare It shows my tax prep, arts consulting and writing income for a total of $27,000 It has a bunch of deductions that I’m gonna deduct on my Schedule C, we’ll talk about that later, totaling $17,000, and then has a net profit of $10,350 But this is just an example of what you can put together for last year, and then make another one for 2020 to demonstrate how your income numbers have changed You can also use this time to consolidate loans Using a lower interest loan to pay off higher interest ones And consider declaring bankruptcy It’s nothing to be ashamed of It’s a smart move if you’re overwhelmed with debt I have a friend who did it a couple of years ago and she tells everyone she knows about how great it is (laughs) to declare bankruptcy and get out from under some of these lenders If you work with a credit counseling agency, make sure it is a nonprofit There are a lot of for-profit entities out there presenting themselves as credit counseling agencies that do not have your best interests in mind, so make sure you’re working with a nonprofit is a good place to start And you can also go to the resources page of my website, which is, for more resources And we’ll Tweet these out on the HowlRound Twitter, and my website is I had to use my middle name ’cause I couldn’t afford Alrighty So, I wanna just mention credit scores because I get a lot of questions when I start telling people to stop paying what they owe. (laughs) Everyone’s credit score is going to go down in this crisis, so please don’t prioritize keeping a good credit score right now And also remember, you are not your credit score Now, I know that budgeting is hard, and not everyone is in the practice of budgeting, so I wanna take a look at a personal budget that’s also a way to think about how to put a dollar value on your time And I’m gonna share a worksheet that I call Valuing Your Time and Prioritizing Spending So, this is a worksheet I’ve been using for a while, but I’ve modified it a bit in response to our pandemic The general purpose of this is to help you get to a number for yourself, which is, how much do you need to live without financial panic? How much do you need to earn every year? And then you can use that number to determine what your hourly, daily, and weekly rates should be And also as you’re making project budgets for your artistic practice Because we’re in a moment of crisis and everything is upended right now and we all need to be prioritizing spending with lost income, the items in parentheses

are things that you can reduce or even eliminate during the crisis The items in bold are those that you can likely negotiate with the lender So, I mentioned some of those before And again, the first thing is to do a rough estimate of your lost income, and then talk to these people and say, “Hey, I’ve lost $10,000 worth of income “What can you do for me, student lender?” And then once this crisis has passed, you can use this worksheet to figure out what your life costs, which helps you budget projects, it helps you negotiate with people offering you opportunities or work, and most importantly, it helps you say no to opportunities that neither compensate you adequately for your time, nor provide a clear, measurable impact on your artistic practice So, you add up all of these monthly numbers and a couple of yearly numbers like vacation, and get a big number, or a small number, you get a number, my life costs X per year, divide that by 1,500 to get your hourly rate, multiply that by eight to get your daily rate, and multiply that by five to get your weekly rate So, I want to talk about taxes It was tax season, and now it’s suddenly not tax season anymore. (laughs) So, that’s been interesting for me as a tax preparer And it gives us all a little more time to respond to what’s been going on in this quickly-moving moment So, (laughs) the IRS has changed the deadline for filing and paying 2019 taxes until July 15th If you think you might be eligible for a refund, you should still file as soon as you can to get that refund And if you can’t pay your 2019 tax liability in full by July 15th, pay what you can then, and then either set up a payment plan, or just pay the remainder when you can My prediction is that there is more relief on the way, and the IRS is already seriously understaffed, so they are not likely to be pursuing individual tax bills due until at least October or November Most states have followed suit with the new deadline, but check with your state’s Department of Revenue to make sure And for people who pay quarterly estimated payments, that has also been extended right now by three months to July 15th, the April 15th estimated payment deadline has been moved to July 15th, and may also move to October 15th if this bill passes Additionally, most self-employed people are going to have lower income in 2020, so the estimated quarterlies you thought you were gonna pay, you can probably pay less than you planned If you cannot afford tax prep there are some free file options on the IRS website Some of them also have free state filing, but not all You can also ask your current preparer for a discount, or propose a barter I myself barter tax prep for Pilates, acupuncture, baked goods, art, all kinds of things And you can find a business deductions worksheet to use for your Schedule C if you don’t have one already on my tax team’s website, which is So, getting ready for 2020, there is a lot of uncertainty in this moment, but there are also a lot of ideas in the air about how the tax code may adjust to prepare for, and take into account the financial losses that most artists are facing right now So again, keeping track of your lost income is really important I wanna talk a little bit about the tax implications of giving or receiving relief funds If you received a gift of money from another person, or you get funds from someone’s GoFundMe, that is not a taxable event unless the amount that changes hands is more that $14,000

in a calendar year If it’s over $14,000, the giver of the gift must report it and pay gift tax If you receive an emergency grant from a nonprofit, that is likely reportable You will likely get a 1099 for that amount in 2021, but you can also deduct artistic expenses against it on Schedule C, so don’t panic about that being taxable income If you yourself start a GoFundMe and give away all of the funds raised, there’s no tax liability for you because there’s no net profit And if you donate to a GoFundMe, there is no tax benefit for you as opposed to donating to a 501c3 Now, a couple of things that are sort of generally true about taxes that I wanna go over Putting my tax preparer hat on for a moment It really helps a lot at tax time if you separate your artistic and personal finances So, I started doing this myself after many years of looking at receipts and being like, was I buying costumes or clothes for myself this day? I can’t remember And I finally realized, I can open a separate checking account, my same bank, and use this card when I’m buying costumes, and use this card when I’m buying clothes for myself So, that helped me a lot, and now I can use this 12 bank statements to understand how much I spent on my artistic practice for the year I wanna talk briefly about itemized deductions versus business deductions because I get a lot of questions about this, especially after the Trump tax bill that went into effect in 2018 Schedule A is a schedule where you itemize deductions if they exceed the threshold that is called the standard deduction The standard deduction essentially doubled So, now a single person’s standard deduction is $12,200, and a married couple filing jointly has a deduction of $24,400 So, if the following things add up to more than those thresholds, it gives you a tax benefit Medical expenses that exceed 7% of your adjusted gross income, state and local taxes, including property taxes, although those are capped at $10,000, mortgage interest, and charitable contributions So, those things have to be higher than $12,000, or $24,000 to affect your tax return And as of tax year 2018, unreimbursed employee expenses are no longer deductible on Schedule A, so you have to put them on Schedule C Schedule C is where you report your income and your expenses from your artistic practice on your federal form As an artist, you are always considered a self-employed person if you’re making even a little bit of self-employment income, or a sole proprietor, independent contractor, whatever you wanna call it And whatever remains after you deduct your expenses from your income is your net profit And as a self-employed person, you must pay self-employment tax on that net profit, it’s 15.3%, looks like there’s a little typo in my worksheet, sorry about that 15.3% above and beyond the regular taxes you owe on your other income And that self-employment tax is basically putting money into social security and Medicare So, it kinda sucks, but you’re also investing in your future self and your retirement I want to underline the idea that the IRS is not out to get you A lot of artists I know, (laughs) a lot of artists I know carry a lot of fear about the IRS and think that the IRS can somehow look into your bank account, which they cannot unless you’re being investigated for fraud, which you will not be Well, I can’t promise that, but I imagine that you won’t And your chance of audit are so slim, so please don’t let fear of the IRS, or fear of audit prevent you from deducting ordinary and necessary deductions on Schedule C Anything that you spend money on for your artistic practice

which is ordinary to spend money on as an artist and necessary to your work as an artist is a deductible expense So, make sure you deduct those so you’re not paying too much in taxes So, I’m going to go back to my regular screen, and I know that the Twitter feed will Tweet out links to those worksheets, which, by the way, are open source, so please share them with your artistic communities as well I wanna talk a little bit about collectives before we finish this portion I’m really inspired by people who formed collectives to address community needs One of the oldest forms that I know about is the Susu, or Tanda These are lending circles where people contribute a small amount each month, and each month the whole kitty goes to one person Susu is West African term, and Tanda is the South American term Mutual aid societies The Free African Society was founded here in Philadelphia in 1787 by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones And the idea of a mutual aid society transformed over time into insurance companies, credit unions, trade unions, even coworking spaces I’m inspired by cooperatives like Fannie Lou Hamer’s Freedom Farm Cooperative, founded in 1969 And community land trusts, many of which were founded during the civil rights movement and still exist today, and have often been powerful ways for folks to resits gentrification I’m inspired by artist collectives, like the Maydew Collective and 13P, and the Jubilee movement, which came out of the Occupy movement, and is all about buying up old debt and discharging it Individual artists can and should come together to build collectives to help us survive this moment, but I also call on institutions to come together as well We have five LORT theaters in Philadelphia What if all five EDs came together to brainstorm how to support the whole community of theater artists? What if equity demanded the theaters pay out existing contracts for actors and designers, and made sure that no one loses their equity health insurance because of canceled contracts? What if universities decided now to guarantee fall semester employment for all arts adjunct faculty currently teaching? And what if all nonprofit EDs agreed to cut their own salaries so they can keep paying the person who cleans their office and the actor who is suddenly in dire straits? I hope we can use this crisis to create new structures, more humane policies, and collective networks that help all artists thrive, not just those that are over-advantaged like me I really believe that our collective power can do this, and that we can dream new ways of being into reality And I wanna close with some words from Adrienne Maree Brown, who wrote my favorite book, “Emergent Strategy” “I am living a life I don’t regret “A life that will resonate with my ancestors, “and with as many generations forward as I can imagine “I am attending to the crises of my time “with my best self

“I am of communities that are doing our collective best “to honor our ancestors and all humans to come.” Thank you so much, Amy We have about 10 to 15 minutes for questions, so remember to email them to But before we head there, we’re gonna take a moment, I need it, for another reflective five, and to breathe in the depth of information that Amy’s just shared What’s your number? We’ve been conditioned to believe a million is what we need to be successful, secure, and happy Calculating your number, as Amy walked us through, can be a useful tool to grounding yourself and what the lifestyle you want actually costs, and helping to focus your intention to get there Inhale, one, two, three, four, five Hold, five, four, three, two, one Exhale, one, two, three, four, five Thanks, Nicole Great So, we have a couple of questions teed up and we are watching the question inbox as we go So, we’re gonna start with some we have, and then as more come up for folks, feel free to just send them to us at that email address, The first question is not a question, it’s a success, because Amy, as you were talking about renegotiating debt, wanted to share that someone wrote in that they got their mortgage lender to give them a forbearance for three months, which could be extended up to 12 months And they say “They almost promised me “I’d then be able to modify my mortgage “and roll the missed payments into a new loan, “essentially restarting my mortgage.” So, just sharing an experience from someone who’s watching live right now That’s great Yeah, I think a lot of people, I mean, with good reason, are reluctant to call their lenders You don’t wanna pick up the phone and call your mortgage company, but now is the time to do it And for the most part, in my experience, when you call someone who works for a credit card company or a mortgage company, I mean of course, (laughs) their charge from their employer is to not roll over immediately, but most of the time they will work with you, and if you’re persistent, you can get to a mutually-agreeable compromise, or some kind of reduction in what you owe But the first step, the biggest hurdle really, is picking up the phone to call So, it’s great to hear these stories from folks that have successfully done that Great Next question If you are a self-employed artist and are fortunate enough to have a regular salary position in addition to your art income, do you think it’s ethical to apply for funds to mitigate your lost artist income right now? Mm, god, that’s such a good question I think it is if If you need that unemployment compensation to get you through this upcoming time So, I’ll use myself as an example. (laughs) For a very long time, I was an employee, I was a co-director of a dance company, 501c3 arts organization, and I received about 75% of my salary, about 75% of my income annually came from that W-2, and then the other 25% came from self-employment So, I could survive without that self-employment, and in my case, I probably wouldn’t apply for benefits because I’m married to a teacher who has a reliable income and health insurance, but if it was 50/50, I would definitely apply for benefits, and if I wasn’t married, I would definitely apply for benefits So, of course it’s an individual question, but yeah, I think I would just do a personal assessment of how much you need that support, and then if you need it, ask for it Thanks, Amy

So, this next person seems to be in a slightly similar position, and is asking, “I have both W-2 and 1099 income “In terms of 1099, can I file for UI on income “I’ve already made as I’ve done with the W-2? “I know I will lose income, “but at the moment, none of my 1099 contractors “have communicated with me “about the status of these projects, “projecting future loss.” Yeah, there’s so much that’s up in the air about how the state unemployment agencies will handle, or how much they will require of us to demonstrate lost income The way it works currently with W-2s, is when you are laid off from a job, you give them your pay stubs, and sort of demonstrate your employment numbers and they give you a percentage of benefits based on those numbers But of course, that’s much harder with self-employment Likely you’ll be able to use 1099s, your Schedule C from last year, which is your federal form recording your self-employment income and expenses, and as I said, some kind of profit and loss statement showing what your new expected reality for 2020 is going to be It’ll likely be somewhere in that realm that the state unemployment agencies will ask for that kind of thing to be able to assess how much you need But we really don’t know, there’s so much up in the air right now, it’s hard to predict exactly what they’ll be asking for And I imagine, I have heard, (laughs) that they will seriously lower the bar of expectation of how much we, the benefit receiver, need to provide Thank you Okay, we have a question from Twitter Breaking the rules, and I don’t hate it This is about negotiating debt with lenders I also have this question If a lender writes off your debt as bad debt, can this negatively impact your credit score, drastically sometimes? Yes. (laughs) Yeah, I mean, it can But again, I think we’re in such uncharted territories, and I could even imagine a world where the federal government flexes its muscle to require the credit agencies, the three credit agencies, TransUnion, Equifax, Experian, to adjust their assessments of people’s credit scores because everything’s gonna be up in the air for a while So, either everyone’s score will plummet, or things will stay the same because we’ll adjust our criteria for determining what someone’s A credit score is really just a shorthand way for one lender to consider your loan worthiness, and you are not your credit score So, it’s gonna be very unpredictable for a while That said, I don’t think it’s worth worrying about what’s gonna happen to your credit unless you’re getting ready to buy a house It’s not worth worrying about what’s gonna happen to your credit, it’s worth figuring out how to get through the next six months, yeah, year and a half And another thing I wanna mention, this is just one of the weirdest aspects of our tax code (laughs) If a credit card company writes off bad debt, you will get a form called a 1099-C that basically reports that bad debt write off to the IRS, who treats it as income Weird But that’s just something you should know when you finish the process of negotiation, in January of the following year you will perhaps get one of these 1099-C forms Super Thanks, Amy So the next question I wanna preface by saying, I think that we would probably

encourage this person to talk to someone in the legal field who has some experience around contractual law But, Amy, you are also a producer and a performing artist yourself, so would love to hear your take on this This person is letting us know that they just lost a gig in Toronto The theater has said they intend to remount the production next season and have given the current cast right of first refusal, but on the condition that we agree to forego the two week’s salary that we would get under a normal termination So, the question is, does this person have any recourse if the production is not remounted? And then also, the additional question is, they assume they’re not eligible for any unemployment for this gig because it was out of the U.S Is this correct? Again, I’m not an unemployment compensation expert, so I can’t speak to that, whether that income would be considered by unemployment compensation I know that as a U.S. taxpayer, you’re liable to pay taxes on your income wherever in the world you earned it, so perhaps the UC folks would consider that, but I just don’t know enough about how the system works to know And I guess maybe, I mean that first part of the question, to me it feels more like a heart question, or a relationship question If you care about continuing a relationship with this presenter and you want to preserve that relationship, and you can figure out a way to get through, or to put off that two week’s worth of income, I think it might be worth saying yes to that offer knowing that that future income is coming your way But if this feels like it’s a an unequal or problematic relationship, and this presenter is trying to take advantage of you, I would cut ties and see what you can do to recoup that two week’s termination Yeah, and I wanna also just add that on our first webinar in this series we did hear from Avita Delerme, who’s the general counsel at the Public Theater in New York City, and she had a lot of information along these lines that might be useful, as is the advocacy legal and financial page on our resource website, which will be Tweeted again and again And there’s lots of links there for volunteer lawyers for the arts in various communities So, all of that might be helpful in this situation Great I also just wanna note that there’s a lot of questions coming in about these documents that Amy has been putting up They’re all on her website, but we will also be including them, and a link to her website as well, on the resource site that Nicole, and Ann Marie, and Hannah, and I are sort of managing right now So, those will be made available within the hour after this being finished Okay, I think this might be our final question So, this comes from somebody They say, “I really need a financial advisor “I am from a low income background, “and I understand none of this stuff “Is that a thing that exists? “How can I find one, “especially when I have such little funds?” That’s such an important question And there’s a bit of a catch-22 in our current reality, which is that, to get unmitigated advice from a certified financial planner, or CFP, you have to go to someone who’s called a fee-only CFP This is someone who you hire by the hour and who doesn’t work for a brokerage firm But most of those people won’t talk to you unless you have $200,000 to invest with them, or some significant amount of money So, it really sucks (laughs) because to get the good information, you need to have the money to get the good information So, I feel like the answer to that is self-empowerment, sharing knowledge and resources It’s something that I care really deeply about, as I’m sure you can glean from this time that we’ve spent together It’s my personal mission to help other artists improve their financial literacy and improve their financial wellbeing

so that all artists can have sustainable lives as artists So, whoever asked that question, please go check out my website and send me an email and maybe we can work together, or I can help point you to someone who can help you Beautiful Thank you, Amy And I wanna invite Nicole and Ann Marie to come back to the screen with us– Boom To close us out Thank you all so, so very much for being with us today Amy, we are just forever grateful to you in bringing us your wisdom We as a group of producers, the four of us, we welcome feedback that can make our conversations stronger, our next conversations, and we’re continuing this series So, if you have it, you can send it to that same email address that folks have been using for questions,, and that’ll be available on the page, that email address will be available on the livestream page as well We’ll be continuing the conversations in this time of crisis every Tuesday So, today was an exception, a Thursday, but from now on, every Tuesday at two p.m. eastern one p.m. central, 12 p.m. mountain, 11 a.m. Pacific, starting next week So, we hope that you join us on Tuesday, March 31st for our conversation led by Brian Joseph Lee of the Public Theater in New York with some other brilliant contributors called Come Together, The Art of Gathering in a Time of Crisis, which will focus on how artists can cultivate virtual spaces with purpose, intention, and structure The conversation will be both tactical and philosophical, and it will be intended to expand our vision of what’s possible We’ll be announcing more Tuesday conversations really soon, they’ll be on our website, our COVID artist resource freelance page website, as well as on HowlRounds’ website, and we really hope you’ll join us We wanna give another shoutout to our wonderful partner, HowlRound (laughing) They provided us with a platform, the technology, and funds for the ASL interpreters and captioners, as well as some baseline support for Amy’s time today HowlRound is also modeling a commons, which is predicated on the assumption of abundance over scarcity These are scary times Right now it feels like the best thing to do is to look out for yourself and your family unit, and the rules of social distancing and stay at home orders seem to support that, but this deep sense of self-preservation at the peril of others can have disastrous consequences In the United States we are lucky not to have many disruptions to our food and grocery supply, and yet, images of empty grocery store shelves abound This is another example of scarcity mentality in action We are weaker when we are separated, and the times of crisis often reveal cracks in our systems that have been there for a long time So, what if we imagined that there was enough? What if we prioritized the community over our individual experience, like people across the world are doing when they stay inside, even when they are healthy and low risk? What if we only bought one gallon of milk, or one package of toilet paper this week because we trust the grocery stores to restock as they have been, and our neighbors to only buy what they need right now? What if we believed that together we are stronger, and that taking care of each other, while maintaining six feet of distance, would actually allow our community, our field, our economy, our society, to bounce back faster? What if we trusted our communities on the ties that bind us to them more than the forces that want to pull us apart and separate us? The commons assumes that abundance is our norm, so we’re applying that to this conversation directly Amy does this work for a living, and it might look like she just gave it all away to hundreds if not thousands of folks, but if we follow the logic of abundance, Amy has not lost anything today So, we said this, HowlRound is putting some money towards this, we are raising some money on Venmo to help support her and this series, and if you feel compelled, you can contribute to that But most importantly, all of us are becoming more financially savvy In today’s session, we have added to the collective knowledge and resource bank, which benefits our community at large

Rising tides lift all ships, and the more knowledge only makes us more powerful and more aware of our rights And at some point, like Amy said, this will get better We will go back to work, our children will go back to school, but we are not going back to the old normal We will be better Ugh, I just wanna take a minute for that That is so powerful Thank you, Abigail So, if you want to contribute a dollar, or $3, however much your cup of coffee costs in the morning towards this effort and the efforts of maintaining the online resource list, we invite you to Venmo us directly at @COV19-FAR That’s @C-O-V-1-9 dash F-A-R The name associated with the account is Call Producer Abigail Vega These funds will actually not go to HowlRound, they will be split equitably according to need among the freelance facilitators and producers for this series of panels on the WordPress resource site, which is You can see a link to our funds raised and who they went to in a Google spreadsheet We are committed to 100% transparency in this process, and as such, we will also be closing the Venmo handle at three p.m. Eastern tomorrow, which is March 27th So, it will be open for 24 hours And don’t stress if you can’t give We are all in this together, so please give according to your ability, and we’re really grateful for your support Thank you for that The most important thing is to remember– PRESENTERS: You are not alone! You are not alone (Nicole laughs) I love it Keep organizing, connecting, and let’s hold each other during this time, remotely, of course Social distancing is super important, right? Remember, in reciprocity, giving is also sharing this talk, it’s sharing Amy’s website, it’s showing up and just supporting us That kind of giving is also valued highly amongst us So, please send us feedback, and you can watch the recording of this panel on within about a day, and you can see the transcript within a couple of days And we really encourage you to join HowlRound’s mailing list so you can be advised of future conversations Many thanks to the incredible Amy Smith (cheering) And seriously– Legend Thank you all for spending time with us today Take care, everybody Give yourself a big hug, and we’ll talk again on Tuesday Bye Bye Bye Bye (chuckling)