Staying Creative + Financially Diverse in 2020

Kelsey Peterson
Mar 25, 2020 · 8 min read

Thinking creatively + creating together — how to stay afloat as a creative during COVID-19 and beyond.

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Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

These are unprecedented times, folks. When SXSW 2020 was cancelled, our hometown of Austin, Texas was hit hard — very hard. GoFundMe fundraisers were created; bars, venues, restaurants everywhere were faced with a difficult reality; musicians, videographers, photographers lost their gigs. And this was only the beginning.

While I’m sure there’s a lot more being said about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) itself, our team at Day Dreamer is on the hunt for new, creative ways we can all keep our incomes afloat and make sure we’re set up for success once this all (hopefully) goes back to normal.

If we missed anything you think should on this list, please comment below! We want to make sure this list is collaborative + is inclusive for everyone.

Protect your personal assets

What better time than now to become a business! Receive personal liability protection, legal benefits, as well as tax benefits. If you register in 2020, that means you can receive tax credits when you do your taxes in early 2021. Additionally, from the date you register as a business, you will also be able to deduct a lot of every day expenses from your income.

For instance:

  • If you’re a 4-piece band, with members that are consistently involved, you can register the band as an LLC + list everyone’s role within the Operating Agreement. Let’s say one of you manages the finances while another is the booking agent. You can even setup the structure of how royalties are treated so everyone is protected (% each person earns). Even further, if you all purchase musical equipment, rent or buy a tour van, stay at hotels, eat out, and more for shows, these are all deductible expenses.
  • If you’re a solo musician or the leader of a band (with inconsistent members), you could set yourself up as either a Sole Proprietor or an LLC under the band’s name (with you as the sole director). There are pros + cons with being a Sole Proprietor, so make sure to see if that’s advantageous for you. If you go the LLC route and need to add other members or directors to the LLC, that comes with additional steps to ensure everything is handled correctly. Consider reviewing this list from LegalZoom.
  • If you’re a muralist or a painter delivery large pieces of work, let’s say you make $10,000 in 2020. If you’re setup as a business (LLC), you are personally protected if anything happens within your business (i.e. your personal assets). But where do you work on your art? If you have a bedroom in your apartment or house (either rented or owned), you can deduct that room from your living expenses. If you have a car setup especially for deliveries or large pieces of equipment (ladder, wood panels, etc), you can then deduct the gas, mileage, or even the car payments themselves (similar to what you would do when driving for Lyft or Uber).

There are a plethora of ways where you can save on your expenses + takeaway more income throughout the year. If you treat yourself like a business, you can then enjoy the benefits of being a business. Protect your personal assets while also protecting your creative craft.

Note: these are just scenarios, we are not accountants or lawyers. Consult with an accountant or lawyer you trust — even better, find someone who understands the creative + entertainment sectors. Here’s a list we recommend: Amy Northard, CPA; TALA (Texas); Lawyers for the Creative Arts (Illinois); Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (nationwide list).

Set your Rate

This is the time, right now, to stop performing or providing services for free or for exposure. Period.

Yes, there are definitely ways to give exceptions, like providing in-kind services for brand marketing (again, think like a business), donating your time for non-profits so you can deduct this on your business taxes (see the above section), or helping for other charitable programs.

But these exceptions should not happen for businesses or venues, especially right now with COVID-19. That’s why it’s important to use this time to figure out what your rate should be (if you don’t know that yet).

Often, even when our team works with or hires creatives, we see rates too low. Actually, majority of the time these rates are way too low. For instance, we were hiring a jazz trio for a recent party and after getting 4 different bids we saw this happen:

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For the same 3-piece band, 1920s theme-attire, and for 4 hours, we had a huge different in price. Two bands gave us $300, another gave us $1,600, and the 4th gave us $2,000. That’s a huge difference.

After seeing all of them live to make sure they were the right fit, we ended up hiring one of the bands that quoted us at $300. Even further, after seeing if they could also learn 10–12 pop culture songs in a 1920s style, they still gave us the quote of $300. But because we believe in paying fairly, and know how much time it takes to learn, rehearse, and prepare 10–12 new songs in a week’s time, we ended up bringing up their fee to $700.

But remember — not everyone understands this. Actually, majority of businesses and people hiring creatives don’t get it, and they’d much rather pay less. Know your worth + set your rate based on what they need.

Day Dreamer App’s new Set Your Rate feature. Download now:
Day Dreamer App’s new Set Your Rate feature. Download now:
Day Dreamer App’s new Set Your Rate feature. Download now.

With the new rate feature in the Day Dreamer app, you can now add your rate (either per hour or per project) and see how others are rating themselves.

Plus, the more we see user rates in the app, we can put out regular market research to make sure you’re better informed. Remember, businesses rely on data to make sure they’re staying ahead of the market. With the right data, you can, too!

Here’s a good way of calculating this out:


  • ([# of performers] * [$$ rate per performer]) * [# of hours]
  • Ex: $50 for events (2 hour min.), $45 for concerts (1 hour min) — these rates are generally per performer. Consider charging more if you’re a larger band.


  • ([sq. of space] — [sq. ft. of any blockage]) * $25 (avg. rate per hour)
  • Ex:


  • [# of hours filming] + [# of hours editing]
  • Ex. the average cost for a videographer is $950. For events, the average is $700–1,000 for filming.

Graphic Designer:

  • [# of hours estimated] * [$75-$150 avg. hourly rate]
  • Ex: these rates also should include time, materials, and 2–3 edits. If you want to make sure your clients don’t go over those edits, you should add a fee for any additional edits. We often see $25-$50 per additional edit.

Are you under these rates? That’s okay! Especially when you’re starting out, it’s best to be competitive to make sure you’re adding more to your resume + portfolio. Staying competitive in a market that is always changing is one of the best ways to see your work as a business.

Apply for Grants

Relying too much on unsteady income from gigs, shows, freelance work, or part-time jobs? Diversify your income by applying for local, state-wide, or federal grants. There are plenty out there that are specific to the arts and could put a lot of money back into your projects or fund your life to stay afloat. The trickiest part of grants is knowing where to look + putting together the application. But, a lot of the below links also have resources for preparing + submitting a grant proposal (see: Grantspace).

Note: the fiscal year for federal + state grants are usually October 1st-September 30th each year. This means that many of the available grants have already closed. However, below are some national + state-wide grant resources we recommend you look at in the meantime to best prepare for the next wave of applications. Some of the below links do show grants that are still available.


  • Artwork Archive — there are endless opportunities for artists who know where to look. They update this list throughout the year, so if the deadline has already passed, keep scrolling through for mid-year grants + those later on in 2020.
  • — search by
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • Grantspace — resources for fundraising + applying for grants.

Texas Commission for the Arts — funds a wide variety of arts and cultural activities across the state.

Texas Grant Watch

Think virtually + out of the box

Consider new ways to build your income while you’re at home:

  • Offer online lessons — whether it’s teaching how to sing, play the guitar, photography, editing videos, designing with Adobe Creative Cloud products, painting, and so much more! Technology is at our fingertips more than ever before + you could even do this via Twitch. You could also create your very own course on Udemy.
  • Consider putting on a regular #QuarantineConcert from your home. Another idea: produce loops or soundscapes to license out for films + TV. Our friends at SoundSync help creatives in Austin + beyond licensed for film, TV, and in-store media.
  • Collaborate with others in your local community to do something vastly different. Recently, a member of our community, a musician, teamed up with his graphic designer roommate to put together Tune & Toon (@tuneandtoon) to provide a one-of-a-kind drawing of your pet with an accompanying song. There’s also no set fee at the moment, but they are taking donations to stay afloat.
  • This is also the best time to work on that album, book, logo, social media content, and film you’ve been wanting to do. Our team struggles with the kind of commitments that keep us out of our creative space just like everyone else. But now that we’re home, let’s get to business. Stay tuned for an upcoming series I’ll be putting together on budgeting, goal-setting, and releasing my very first album. My goal: keep everything under $3,000.

Now, with the COVID-19 occurring all over the world, here are some US resources that are available to creatives, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, small businesses, venues, and anyone else impacted by the pandemic:

  • Billboard — this is a phenomenal list for national + state-wide programs!
  • Bandcamp — they are waiving their fees so all artists + musicians on their site receive 100% of each sale made. Put your music up on Bandcamp to get in on this action + make sure to promote your music on all social media.
  • Grammy Recording Academy — released their COVID-19 Relief Fund.
  • Austin Music Foundation — a list of free apps to stay musical during COVID-19. KORG and Mini-Moog are a few that our team has been utilizing throughout these circumstances.
  • Equal Sound — Corona Relief Fund application
  • Able to give back? Consider donating to the Banding Together and #StandwithAustin funds to help others impacted by the pandemic. Additionally, consider donating what you can to Feeding America or your local food depository.

Have any other tips for staying creative + collaborative during COVID-19? We’d love to hear ‘em! Comment below so we can keep this an interactive place for all strategies.

Don’t forget to download the Day Dreamer app to find local creatives in your area. Right now is a great time to chat, interact, and see other portfolios to make sure you’re one step closer to finishing those projects!

Day Dreamer App

Day Dreamer is an application that helps creatives connect…

Kelsey Peterson

Written by

Founder, singer-songwriter, thriving cat mom. Culture + HR at Square Root. Lover of scones with the perfect cup of tea.

Day Dreamer App

Day Dreamer is an application that helps creatives connect & get hired in their local area. Across a variety of artistic mediums, our communities thrive when we create together.

Kelsey Peterson

Written by

Founder, singer-songwriter, thriving cat mom. Culture + HR at Square Root. Lover of scones with the perfect cup of tea.

Day Dreamer App

Day Dreamer is an application that helps creatives connect & get hired in their local area. Across a variety of artistic mediums, our communities thrive when we create together.

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