Cashing in on Your Creativity:
Two Ways to Look at It
“Cashing in on your creativity” is a phrase that fits our current economy and most everyone’s need today to both MAKE and SAVE money. This article includes special tips on bartering.
WHEN I WAS CONSIDERING our deplorable economy in 2008 and the financial difficulties of so many small business owners and families in general, I began to think about what it really means to be creative. As the author of several trade books for individuals in the arts & crafts industries, “cashing in on your creativity” is a phrase I often used in connection with the idea of building a business around the creation and manufacture of handmade items and related services.
But “cashing in on your creativity” is a phrase also that fits our current “after Covid 19” economy and most everyone’s need today to both MAKE and SAVE money, as well as figure out new ways to do many things we all once took for granted. We quickly saw a burst of creativity in how people became entertainers overnight with YouTube videos people could see all over the world. New ways of electronic communication were developed, and many families had to learn how to teach their children when schools were closed. “Working from home” also took on new meaning in 2020 as small and large businesses alike lost a way to generate income the way they’d been doing for years. As the months passed, many self-employed people with a presence on the web began to look for new ways to make money by adding new products and services to their website.
Two Profitable Ways to Look at Being Creative
YOU CAN PROFIT by offering a creative service or making a new product to sell, but you can also profit by doing something that saves you money. In essence, the more you can save, the less money you may need to squeak by each month until things get better financially.
You both profit and save whenever you make something for yourself that you don’t have to buy, or you make something as a gift that costs you nothing but time because you already have materials on hand. And “cashing in on your creativity” again conveys both the idea of making money from your creative talents and know-how and SAVING money because you possess that kind of know-how to begin with.
If you need something you must buy, you can “cash in” by being a savvy shopper and looking for ways to obtain what you want at lower cost. For example, one year when I could no longer tolerate the color of my old couch but couldn’t find a new one with a design I liked as much, I decided to have it refurbished and upholstered. If I had gone with the first quote I got from a local upholsterer, this job would have cost me $2150. If I had gone with the second upholsterer, the job would have cost me $1820.
But not being able to justify that much money, I kept looking and finally located an experienced upholsterer who had a full-time job as an upholsterer but also did upholstery as a part-time business after regular work hours. He was happy to get $800 for the upholstery work, was willing to let me supply the fabric, and guaranteed satisfaction. (He didn’t even ask for a deposit.) I watched for a sale at Jo-Ann Fabrics and found exactly the upholstery material I wanted at a 50 percent discount, with the result being that my creativity in “shopping around” got me a new couch for just $1,050 that looks like it cost three times as much.
The Secret to “Cashing In”
YOU’RE CASHING IN on your creativity and also saving money every time you give a handmade greeting card or gift; every time you can think of a new way to use your existing inventory of raw materials; every time you can fix something that’s broken.
You’re cashing in when you wait for something to go on sale before you buy it. And you’re also cashing in whenever you can find things you need at a garage sale, resale shop, or in someone’s public trash. Once it’s on the street in the public parkway, anyone can take it. I live in a neighborhood with a lot of million-dollar+ homes, and such people often discard perfectly good furniture, tools, equipment, lamps, artwork, etc. simply because they can afford to buy something they like better. You might be surprised by the number of eBay sellers who regularly shop garage sales and pick up discards people put out on the street for garbage pickup every week. One of my neighbors makes a tidy sum by driving through the neighborhood on garbage pickup days, often coming home with a “big find” he knows he can package and ship anywhere in the U.S. He cleans it up, fixes anything that might need fixing, and posts it for sale.
Do It Yourself and Save Big Time
MANY YEARS AGO, I read a book that described the hundreds of ways people save money, and how much more money we would need if we had to hire out all the things we were unable to do ourselves. In hard economic times, being creative automatically puts you way ahead of most of the population that can’t do dozens of simple things that many creative people take for granted.
After reading the above-mentioned book and adding up the value of all the creative and handyman things my husband and I were then doing to save money, I realized that we were able to live comfortably on half the income many other couples needed because they couldn’t do those things themselves. if you really want to feel good about your current financial situation and perhaps your shortage of cash now, add up the value of all the things you are doing that you don’t have to hire out, and then consider how you might live on even less income if you could learn to do a few things more.
You wouldn’t believe how many people can’t even sew on a button, take in a seam, or lower or raise a hemline. Anyone who knows how to cut hair is saving a fortune these days. If you can do any kind of repair work around the house, whether it’s replacing an electric outlet, fixing a leaky faucet, installing a new garbage disposal or sump pump, or making other minor household repairs, you are probably saving from $45-$75/hour by doing it yourself.
How-to books on every topic abound, and the purchase of one or two now might well save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over time. For example, I’ve cut my own hair for fifty years, and I also cut my husband’s hair for twenty years (after he let his crew cut grow out). You only need to estimate the cash the Brabecs saved here to understand how just ONE creative skill can save you thousands of dollars over time.
I’ve been reading how-to books all my life, not only because I simply wanted to acquire new skills, but because I knew the value of being able to do most everything myself without the need to hire anyone for the job. Truth be told, I like being in control and enjoy the creative process of all the work I do. I’m more grateful than ever to be completely self-taught in all areas related to my work, from writing, editing, book design, and self-publishing to developing and managing my own websites through the years. (I admit, however, that I needed help from a WordPress designer to get me set up with the basic structure of this site, decide what plugins I would need for an efficiently run site, and then learn all the ins and outs of managing the site after it was opened,)
Bartering: Another Creative Money-Saving Option
ESTABLISHING FRIENDSHIPS with other creative people or those with handyman skills can also be advantageous these days because then you can barter some services or products. In fact, bartering made a big comeback in 2008 when our economy crashed, and a search for “bartering economy in 2020” yielded nearly a million web pages of articles on this topic. A search today will turn up the best articles relative to the year. This one, “How to Barter for Things when Money is Tight,” offers some practical tips and strategies.
“The propensity to truck, barter and exchange one thing for another is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals.” – Adam Smith, Scottish philosopher and economist (1723-1790)
There are tax considerations to think about when you regularly barter business products and services, but many of us can do simple barter exchanges without worrying about tax consequences. For example, in the past I’ve bartered with friends who did the following jobs for me in return for some books, CDs, or tools I was planning to sell, or just a treat from my kitchen:
» Repaired a section of dry wall after a foundation leak was fixed
» Installed a new cartridge and needle in my LP player
» Installed a new garbage disposal
» Installed a new sump pump
» Cut down an evergreen bush that had grown into an ugly tree, and hauled all the branches out to the street for the annual shrub pickup by the city.
Add up what it would have cost to pay service providers for all of the above and you’re talking more than a thousand dollars. I almost fell over when the guy who sold me the sump pump—the same guy who fixed the foundation leak that ruined my dry wall—said he would have to charge me $350 to install it. “Thanks,” I said, “but I have a friend who will do it for a cake his wife won’t make for him.”
Now if that’s not thinking creatively and cashing in accordingly, I don’t know what is.
For books on the many ways people are using skills and talents to make money these days, just search Amazon for such keywords as how to learn to cut hair, make home repairs, learn to sew, and so on.
How to Turn a Hobby into a Profitable Business at Home. 10 Start-up Tips from Barbara.