One of the current conversation topics among my dance friends is how would you actually go about making a living while dancing and travelling as much as possible. Obviously making dancing your career is one way to go about it and I always try to encourage my friends to pursue that path if that is where their passion is. Like sports however, not everybody can be Kobe or a Messi, and that’s okay! An aspiring dance career doesn’t even necessarily mean being the top ranked international dance instructor flying around the world and winning all the competitions. There is money to be made from just doing things that you like doing and working really hard.
For me however, just like most people I know, making money through dance is not really the goal. We do it because we love it not because it’s the path to easy money. Yet, to continue to fuel our addiction, there has always been this little voice inside my head reminding us that I should probably start being an adult and make a living (also to go to the bank, clean, and such).
It was easy to ignore that little voice when I was still in university, I would just tell myself that I’m supposed to be broke. That’s part of the university life. The charm. Admittedly it was also a little too easy to be broke bum also during the first couple of years after university. “I’m supposed to be poor, I just finished university”.
It was not really until I moved to Toronto that I realized that it was probably a good idea to start making a career for myself not only to have a consistent paycheck but also really to travel and dance more. I wanted to go to all the events!
[fast forward a bit…]
Last month was my one one year anniversary of fully embracing my new vagabond work lifestyle. I still work for an awesome technology company that drew me to move to Toronto in the first place, but now I’m living in a different city. I am what you would probably term as a “remote worker” but I like to think about is as more of a vagabond because I can bring work with me when I travel and sometimes even have work send me travelling.
Now I should probably clarify as to what I mean by vagabonding since I’m going to assume that it’s different from general idea of what real vagabonding actually means. I am not a dance gipsy nor am I couch surfing my way throughout the country. I work pretty much the same hours as everybody else (with some leeway for flex-time) and have the usual common workplace challenges that every other blue-collared worker has – meeting deadlines, making it through meetings, and executing on deliverables.
What I’ve found to work for me really well though, that I believe is different from other remote workers, is turning some of my hobbies into something that could also make me some extra income while holding down my regular job. An awesome aspect of being part of the global dance community is the never ending amount of opportunities in meeting people and sharing what you are passionate about. Eventually, if you are really into something and keep working at it, someone is going to pay you for what you do.
Tools for Helping You Get Paid
How exactly do you get paid though? Well, that’s not really the question to be perfectly honest. If you do things that you like doing on a consistent basis, you’ll just get better and better at it and organically a way of making money will happen. The question really is how do you get paid in the most efficient and less time consuming way as possible. You have to start thinking about the goal being to spend as much time as possible doing things you actually like doing and by association hopefully making some more scratch and NOT spending copious amounts of time doing admin work.
Obviously the easiest method is to just collect cash payments and keep it all under the table, but when tax month comes and you haven’t kept any records, you’ll be fuuuckkked. Time to be an adult! Sooner or later not keeping track of your income and expenses will be catch up with you – wikipedia up Al Capone. Being an adult means knowing that the short term pain of keeping track of your finances is actually a liberating experience as you can actually start forecasting where your money is hopefully going to come from and where it is going.
I’m a big fan of cloud applications because it means that no matter where I am, I’m always using the most up-to-date version and it’s always being constantly saved. So these are the tools I highly recommend using:
* FreshBooks.com – send invoices to your clients like a real professional. The key feature of this application really is the ability to send invoices to your clients and keep track of money coming in. So say you get asked to do a photo-gig or private dance lesson for a client, you can immediately send them an invoice and have them pay you online (through a payment gateway such as Paypal) and immediately have it being tracked.
Obviously I’m a big advocate of FreshBooks not only because I work for this great company but also because I use it for myself on a daily basis. Without going too much into the application and having this blog sound like an infomercial, if you are freelancing or contracting out work, you should already be sending invoices to your clients. So use the best and easiest application out there. It’s ten times better than sending out Microsoft word invoices yourself and at least hundred times better than not doing anything it all (ed. no refunds on hyperboles).
* Shoeboxed.com – if you are travelling a lot, chances are you that you are racking up expenses such as lodging, telecommunication devices (phone, internet) supplies (printing) and of course getting to places through busses/trains/planes. The great thing about being an independent freelancer is that majority of those expenses are tax deductible. That is of course if you declare it.
Let me just reiterate that – expenses that you incur in the pursuit of your calling and profession is directly deductible from your income tax. As another point that is interesting, in Canada, 50% of food and beverages that you incur through these travels can be deductible.
I’ve met many dance teachers who simply never keep their receipts or have a way to keep track of what they are paying for while out “on business”.
While you do not need to know the intricacies of what is deductible or not for freelancers, what you do need to know is that it always beneficial to simply just keep track of expenses.
Shoeboxed is a great tool to help you out. Simply take a picture of your expense with your iPhone or mobile device and directly uploading to the website. Shoeboxed automatically converts it for you in a digital format from which you can download and organize it later.
I remember my parents hunched over the dining room table with a mountain of receipts every April painstakingly going through them all. Well, all of that now can be automated. We live in an amazing time period :-)
* Mint.com – everybody has heard of Mint.com and I’ll be surprised if you are not already using it. More or less Mint.com connects to your bank account and allows you to categorize what you are paying for and you are making from work.
What I really use it for is for the trend graphs feature. It’s amazing to see the increase or decrease of your overall net worth (or debt!) based on your activities. Sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow when you see where exactly your money is going and just how much of a percentage it is compared to what you are bringing in but it’s a good tough love in my opinion.
Working Away from Home – Coworking Spaces
When you are not at a regular office or home, it’s sometimes hard to be productive. The most common work places that I have seen other vagabonds using are cafes. While it is great to explore around the city and find neat little cafes to pull out your laptop, it actually is not the best place if you want to get an entire day of productivity.
Sometimes cafes have no internet or power plugs. Sometimes cafes are just not open to having you sit there for hours on end slowly sipping your latte (ed. boo-urns!).
With the rise of traveling working class though, a new awesome concept have been sprouting up all around the world – coworking spaces. Very simply – coworking spaces look just like regular tech company offices except there is no one company that is using it. Good coworking spaces have multiple types of desks available for you to use. Great coworking spaces have “meeting rooms” that you can use for even more quiet time or when you have to skype into a virtual meeting.
They do cost a bit more than cafes though – about $15-20 a day. However, when I think about how much more productive I am in a space where everyone else is actually working compared to a cafe, the extra $10 dollars I’m spending to be there is a steal.
To find a coworking space in a city, simply google up “Coworking Space [yourcity]”.
Another great benefit of working at a coworking space instead of a cafe is that you might actually make some connections that might prove to be beneficial down the line. Vagabonds by nature I think are very curious creatures and want to know what other vagabonds are up to :-).
Productivity Simplified – Workflowy.com
There are a lot of project management producivity tools out there on the internet. The best one really is the most simple in my opinion – Workflowy.com.
It’s a website where you can have checklist of things that you need to do. Amazing.
Being a vagabond is not for everyone. There really is a certain type of comfort knowing that work is from nine to five in a specific location and after you are done, you don’t have to think about work anymore. However, I believe that working for a company without having to clock in everyday is more and more becoming the norm instead of just super special exception. Just like how having one job your entire life is no longer what people expect from work, being tied down to a specific location is also going to slowly be an old way of working.
For me – I love traveling and generally just exploring the world. I also like to have money in my pocket and not have to live paycheck to paycheck. The key is finding a lifestyle that allows you to have both. Ever since I’ve started doing this I have found that the change of pace of my day to day work has renewed my sense of purpose and direction for my career. I’ve also gone to pursue my hobbies in a bit more serious manner because it has actually given me a second source of income.
The most fascinating aspect of being a vagabond for me is that the more disciplined I get in terms of getting work done and being productive, the more time I actually have to just go dancing. And really, isn’t that the whole point?