Researching Makers’ Financial Attitudes and Behaviors: Part One

Kyle, Lauren, and I are working on a new project, partnering with local nonprofit JUST to learn more about financial attitudes and behaviors. JUST helps female, Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs build confidence and community via financial education and loans, and they are looking into how they can help other unique populations build confidence and financial security.

Our Project

Our immediate interest was to learn how people with contract-based employment are able to financially plan their lives. As we all work regular day jobs, this type of work intrigued us, and we wanted to learn more. We further narrowed our focus to artists and “makers,” conceived broadly, as we each have creative backgrounds and admire this population and the risks they take to pursue their art and craft full-time and on their own terms. With this in mind, we crafted the following focus statement:

Focus Statement: The focus of our research is to understand how “makers” whose primary income stems from variable, contract-based employment think about and make financial decisions.

Our concept of makers includes artists, musicians, creative tech workers, construction workers, craftspeople, and anyone with a specialized skill set who creates tangible products. We focused on contractors, as opposed to employees, a distinction captured in the following graphic:

Employees vs. Contractors

Our Methodology

For this project, we will be conducting 60- to 90-minute interviews with our target population. We will be speaking broadly to participants’ financial attitudes and behaviors, specifically with an eye toward understanding how variable and unpredictable income affects their attitudes toward spending and saving. We will be asking about any tools and techniques they use to aid in their financial planning, and we will be employing activities such as a “Dream Web” (pictured below) to help understand their aspirations and see how they envision their futures. With these interviews, we aim to understand how finances affect participants’ confidence and creativity, how agency and freedom impact their decisions, and how self-investment factors into their behavior.

Our Goals

  • To understand participants’ financial behaviors and motivations around future purchases 
  • To understand their attitudes about income, spending, and saving
  • To understand their sense of satisfaction with their financial and employment situation
  • To understand any financial strategies and tools they use to manage money

Our Progress

This week, we spoke to three artists working in various creative tech industries, including audio/visual tech, photography, sculpture, and music video production.

Lindsay dream web

Participant Lindsay filling out a dream web

Each artist had a unique perspective regarding spending and saving, but all agreed that having variable income made it difficult to plan. All participants conveyed the importance in investing in themselves as artists, in their tools and in their skills. All also mentioned that they enjoyed the freedom to pursue their dreams and work on their own schedules, although we heard that they would frequently jump at any work opportunity, no matter how short of notice, which adds some complexity to the concept of freedom.

Next Steps

As we continue in our research, we will be looking to better understand how finances influence creativity and confidence. We also hope to identify patterns in attitude and behavior that may speak to how artists are able to successfully create space for themselves in these industries and potentially move to more steady and/or stable employment. We also hope to understand how stress and anxiety affects these workers in particular, and how their risk tolerance allows them to operate in this space.