Cash-strapped yet mak­ing good money? Lon­don-based free­lance il­lus­tra­tor Ben Tal­lon of­fers his fi­nan­cial strat­egy for suriv­ing longterm projects that make you sweat for pay­ment

Computer Arts - - Contents - How do you mit­i­gate a cash drought dur­ing a long-term pro­ject? Tweet @Com­put­erArts us­ing #De­signMat­ters

Lon­don­based il­lus­tra­tor Ben Tal­lon of­fers his free­lance strat­egy for sur­vival in the face of late-pay­ing clients

Con­fes­sion: I’ve never been any good at cash­flow. When I was 13 I would ask for 90p ad­vances for my pa­per round so that I could take home Match mag­a­zine on the day of pub­li­ca­tion and then, come the week­end, have enough to make tough choices such as, on one oc­ca­sion, ei­ther go on the date I had lined up with a lo­cal girl or buy fish and chips af­ter swimming.

The only trou­ble is, as a free­lanc­ing adult, the con­se­quences are a lit­tle more dan­ger­ous than teenage ro­mance and fried food. Now it’s rent pay­ments and credit rat­ings. 2010/11’s tax bill was paid on time thanks only to an out­landish and spec­u­la­tive football ac­cu­mu­la­tor bet win. Since the panic of that year, I’ve taken to piling away an ex­cess of tax money upon pay­ment for my com­mis­sioned work, opt­ing for ‘just in case’ over ‘it’ll be fine’.

Early on, my work came more or less ex­clu­sively from ed­i­to­rial clients. It is fast-paced, re­volv­ing-door kind of work and you’re never far from two or three pay­ments at once. So I’d op­er­ate al­ways un­der the as­sur­ance that no mat­ter how deep into the over­draft I’d delve, the next in­voices were due. My tax ac­count grew fat­ter and come Jan­uary, my over-com­pen­sa­tion would soothe any cash flow dis­crep­an­cies that might oc­cur over the next 12 months.

Just re­cently, how­ever, there’s been a shift in the na­ture of my projects. More con­fi­dence in my work and stylis­tic im­prove­ments has brought about more di­verse work for clients with longer turn­arounds. With ev­ery con­firmed com­mis­sion came a nice fee and an over­all in­crease in earn­ings on pa­per, but af­ter six weeks and the jobs still in­com­plete/not in­voiced, I’ve spent all my emer­gency tax sav­ings on my sav­age Lon­don rent and stu­dio, not to men­tion bills and en­ter­tain­ment. You can’t rely on football re­sults – that’s not how gam­bling works – so I’ve been treat­ing my ed­i­to­rial clients like my old pa­per-round boss, gen­tly ask­ing for speedy pay­ments or ad­vances with as much po­lite­ness as re­quired to mask my ur­gency.

In an ideal world, I’d con­cen­trate on these big­ger projects, but we’re all at the mercy of pay­ment runs (most com­pa­nies do a reg­u­lar monthly sched­ule on a set day of the month, so a badly timed in­voice can lead to a longer wait than your stip­u­lated 30-day pay­ment term) so I try to keep the smaller, faster jobs com­ing in and I get in­creas­ingly ruth­less with the late pay­ers. More im­por­tantly, I have to be a com­plete tyrant with my­self. Smug­gled hip flask to counter the £5 Lon­don pint scan­dal? It wouldn’t be the first time. Ac­count­ing skills are alien to the ma­jor­ity of us cre­atives, so the fac­tor­ing of any job fees into my fi­nan­cial plans hap­pens only upon pay­ment. Spread­sheets have in­fil­trated my life, but if they aid my ef­fort to treat the football re­sults as only a plea­sur­able in­ter­est in ath­leti­cism and ram­pant un­pre­dictabil­ity which I try to keep sep­a­rate from my fi­nances, then bring it on.

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