Hello, do you have a job?
A well-paid job? One that allows you to pay bills, rent, food, and still have money left over for new season Zimmerman?
Then this article is not for you. Go away. Go play in your sumptuous wardrobe.
For the rest of you, welcome. This is a safe space when we are all allowed to moan about being fiscally-challenged millennials, cash-starved creatives, broke AF beauties who are just trying to get by without resorting to homebrand bread.
When I started out as a freelancer, I had wild visions of tapping away on my laptop in the late morning sun, frequently breaking to stroll around my garden and wait for inspiration to arrive. What I did not envision, however, was sitting at my living room table at 6am, pumping out 600 words on motor vehicle insurance before I ran to a new client meeting on the other side of town which had a 98% certainty of ending in, well, nothing.
Fair to say that the early days were spent desperately broke. A whisker above student-level broke, but still, pretty bloody poor.
When you have no money, the biggest thing on your mind is food
You obsess over it. Was I thin? No, on the contrary, I was rather portly.
Given a handful of gold coins to find lunch with doesn’t exactly lend itself to a lush quinoa salad with a personally customised dressing. It means pastry, and it means cheese. Because God is cruel, she has made the cheapest food the most fattening; meaning that broke ass creatives like myself not only had to battle writer’s block demons, but the lure of Cheesymite Scrolls, too.
One positive aspect of having a stint as a dirt-poor diva is learning the underrated skill of fiscal avoidance, also known as “I transferred my rent last week, I promise.”
Whether it was my landlord, my phone carrier company, my bank, my local bar (tabs are bad, kids) or my flatmate; I learnt quickly how to hustle. It’s all about managing expectations, see. Some people have a short fuse, whilst others are more laid back about repayments – and it’s a skill I have carried on through the years as I now manage a small business. Cash flow isn’t as, er, evaporated as it was in those days, but it remains a fine skill to have.
The next thing you have to worry about is learning to evade public transport. Because seriously, the last place you want to drop your limited cash is in the hands of the state government, right? To this day, I still take a seat on the tram so that I can keep a watchful eye on the upcoming stop for ticket inspectors, those crafty snipes. Hot tip: perfect a non-English speaking accent, and you can generally bamboozle them for long enough to weasel your way out of a fine before running at the next stop.
Just because you’re poor, doesn’t mean that your fashion needs to suffer. If one chooses a passion over a safe career, after all, one must learn to properly trawl op-shops with skill. It’s a two-for-one rule: for every outfit, you can match two op-shop items to one new.
If you’re still reading this, chances are you’re cry-laughing by now at how hilariously awful it is to be broke
But hang in there, pal, because being poor isn’t a state of being, it’s a mindset (copyright Tony Robbins 1992). You’re not poor. You’re just in the early days of your business, giving all the time, money, and perfectly good drinking hours you’ve got in the day to creating something that is going to one day be your own empire.
So eat that sugary home-brand bread for breakfast with a smile on your face, knowing that one day you’ll miss it when your fridge is full of $12 soy and linseed bread from the boutique baker.
Just try and skip the pie for lunch.
Looking for a job on the side?
Just make sure your cover letter isn’t as bad as this one.