I’m waiting on the phone to ring to find out about a project I pitched yesterday while simultaneously scheduling a pitch meeting around another pitch meeting I already have set, one that is effectively killing my original plans to attend a friend’s wedding, which leads me to answering an excellent question about money with a whole lot of words on juggling multiple projects.
Heidi writes in the comments section of this entry:
If I may ask a question about the super secret fantasy life of a writer — how do you budget financially during the jags where you’re working flat out for free until you can catch your breath and the unexpected income arrives? …I’ve found my own 1099 income years to be sort of jarring, so I wondered.
I’m sure there are many ways to do this. Unfortunately, I am not blessed with the “Rich Uncle” version, so I had to go about it differently.
My very first day of my very first tv show job, one of the more established writers said to me, “Save your money, kid.” He didn’t have to do that. I’m pretty sure I didn’t ask for any advice at all. Because of that, I thought, “That man is telling me something he wishes someone had said to him. He is literally trying to pay it backward.” So I do try to always save, particularly when I’m on a show that’s paying me every week. I put a lot of that away, knowing it’s my paycheck when I’m not staffed or waiting on a check from all my other writing, which pays about maybe four times a year.
Making it work while you’re working for free takes some discipline, some planning, and still a bit of luck. But it can happen!
If I’d been fortunate enough to be on a show that lasted more than a couple of seasons, I could tell you, “Residuals.” That’s one of the reasons we were striking so hard those few years ago.
Samantha Who? still plays in other countries, and is on Netflix streaming, so every once in a while a “little green envelope” comes in the mail from the Writer’s Guild that is my tiny cut of that pie. A very, very tiny cut. My last LGE was for around three hundred dollars, after taxes. I might get another one next year for less than that. But that show wasn’t on for very long, and I wasn’t at producer level. Someone more established on a show that lasts four seasons or five or is on multiple networks — those residuals keep you going during the times when you aren’t on staff, when you are “working flat out for free.”
But that’s not me, either. I’m going to try to answer your question with the four rules I keep in mind when I’m doing this job.